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Well, here we are in sunny, warm and dry Tempe, Arizona. I’m very busy playing Phantom shows, hardly a chance to catch my breath. The show schedule is relentless!

I’m thankful to be employed by the Phantom touring company for the rest of the year, however. Durham NC from late Nov. – late Dec. and then Christmas Week in Ft. Lauderdale.

Perhaps my Dear Readers will be able to discern a slight change in our hair this week. I started using “product” to shape it past my ears a couple weeks ago, and have now begun parting it. Sort of.

James is a couple weeks behind me in hair growth, and has just started using “product” (i.e., Krew Komb). It is really interesting — to ME anyway — to see James’ hair longer than it’s ever been during our 11 year+ relationship. I feel like I’ve got a new boyfriend/plaything. 😉

Ha ha.

Well, this Hair Sunday thing is keeping me posting here at least once a week!

There’s much to tell y’all about, but I don’t feel like it right now.

Suffice it to say that James & I are back in B-ville, situated in the extreme southeastern portion of Arizona, for the first time in over two years.

It is very difficult to describe the conflicting, tumultuous feelings flowing through James and me as we experience being back in the town in which we thought we’d spend the rest of our lives.

It is strange, indeed.

We’re here to get the rest of our few belongings out of the house, and we listed it with an agent today. Next week we head to Tempe where I will play two weeks of “Phantom”.

As I wrote in a Facebook status update recently:

“Being back here is like getting together with a former sweetheart: old news, some regrets, appreciation of past beauty & good times, and they sort of got their act together after the divorce (at least as far as internet access at the RV park goes — they DIDN’T have it when we lived here!)”

The strangeness intensified on Friday when we walked up the main street of town to our house. The smell of seasoned, warm wood and old plaster hit me like a saucy, vivacious yet dysfunctional friend who’s no longer on speaking terms. The sight of bright red walls in the kitchen where James prepared many a delicious meal and I baked bread brought back pleasant and sad memories, all at once.

It feels like SUCH old news to be back here. Perhaps I am embarrassed to be so vividly reminded of past mistakes and past misperceptions. James and I fell in love with this town the moment we saw it, little realizing that the beauty was only skin-deep. From the highway, B-ville looks like the quaintest, cutest town on the face of the earth.

Well, it didn’t work out the way we’d hoped. This place definitely has a bittersweet tang of disappointment and unmet expectations. We can hardly wait to leave.

But I remind myself, and James, that we need to remember what we have RIGHT NOW — a wonderful life in Northern California, surrounded by family and friends, living in two excellent (and contrasting) environments — The Woods and The Ocean.

Now on to something more cheery and ridiculous: Hair Sunday!

This is by far the longest I’ve had my hair since 1997. Not very long at all, you’re thinking. But for me, I feel wooly and unkempt. Every morning is a Bad Hair Day until I tend to it — wetting it and/or slapping goop on it to keep it looking frightful — but NOT bad, at least.

Not exactly bad. I hope. Not quite frightful enough for Halloween yesterday, but sufficient to scare ME when I look in the mirror.

After an ambitious flurry of daily blog posts for over a week recently, I slacked off. BAD me!

I had hoped to wow and amaze all my readers with this new resolve to post daily, but it just ain’t gonna happen. Besides, none of you even really noticed.  😉

Anyway…it’s time for Hair Sunday again, which is getting me off my butt motivates me to post.

It’s been only a week since the Inaugural Hair Sunday and our hair has definitely GROWN in that time. Although it must look short to you, I am starting to get at that uncomfortably wooly stage in which I usually ask James to cut my hair.

Every day is a Bad Hair Day now. No more worry-free, no-fuss-no-mess routine.

After shampooing, I need to apply “krew comb styling prep” to train those recalcitrant sides under my ears. The first time I used this a few days ago, I applied far too much and not only was my head a sticky mess, it stank to high heaven.

My horn colleague in “South Pacific” made the mistake of noticing my new ‘do and exclaimed, “Oh, you got a haircut!” and proceeded to pat me on the head — she thought that the swoop of bristly brushy hair on top would be exciting to touch.

It was indeed more exciting than she bargained for — her hands now smelled like “krew comb” (which, by the way, you can find at any Sally Beauty Supply store) and she had to wash them. Ewww.

In other news….

Today is the last show of South Pacific. It’s been a great run of 52 performances, which started on September 18th here in San Francisco.

I’m looking forward to the Next Thing (7 consecutive weeks’ subbing with Phantom on the road: Tempe, Durham & Ft. Lauderdale) but I am also sad that South Pacific is ending. The 25-piece orchestra, so very rare in this age of greatly reduced live musicians and increased synthesizers, has been terrific to play in. I can say with confidence that this orchestra sounds every bit as good as the folks on Broadway. And everyone has been great to work with.

James and I “pull up stakes” and tow the Airstream down to Arizona on Tuesday, for the Next Thing aforementioned.

Tomorrow, we will host a day of playing recorders with our favorite folks in the Bay Area; six people from around the Bay area are scheduled to show up here at the Activity Room at the RV park to play through James’ and my original compositions. We always have a blast.

Okay, so here are today’s Hair Sunday Week #2 pictures:

There is a large homeless population in the city of San Francisco; the climate is temperate here and people can live on the streets without freezing to death.

I have always had mixed feelings about the homeless. My heart goes out to them; it is my belief that no-one in this country should be without a roof over their head or a meal in their belly.

Yet, I am unwilling to give them money when they beg for it, especially when they are aggressive.

They tend to be forward in San Francisco, on Market Street in particular. This street is amazingly diverse, containing everything from upscale shopping malls (Westfield, between 4th & 5th Sts.) to titty bars and Smoke shops selling drug paraphernalia only a few blocks away.

The sidewalks are full of homeless, usually propped up against the buildings, often with blankets over their heads like tents. When they hear someone approaching, their heads pop out like turtles from their shells.

“Spare CHANGE?!” they whisper or bark or in loud, accusatory tones.

The more aggressive people block your way on the sidewalk to ask for money. Mostly they step aside readily when they are ignored or refused. But some follow you down the street for a few steps.

After being refused, they often end their spiel with “God Bless You!” or “Have a nice day!”, but somehow the angry tone of their voices belie the kind sentiments.

Being confronted with the homeless issue constantly on the streets of San Francisco is difficult for me; it brings up all sorts of feelings — guilt, compassion, anger, annoyance. I am ashamed to say that I do not want to deal with this issue.

I had a particularly intense encounter with a homeless man on Saturday night, at the Civic Center BART station.

It was after work and I was writing in my journal, as usual. I like to recount the day’s happenings; how the show went that night and any notable interactions with musician colleagues I had.

I sat in my customary spot on the round concrete bench towards the far end of the station, situated in the area between the inbound and outbound tracks.

In the back of my consciousness I heard a commotion to my immediate left. At first I paid no attention to it, having become somewhat inured to the crazy eruptions from the more “out there” citizenry of this City.

But then the babbling became louder, and I looked up from my journal page to see a man sitting on the ground, leaning against a pillar next to the concrete bench. He appeared to be somewhere between his late 40s and death.

His ranting and raving suddenly escalated in both intensity and vitriol. The people crammed around the concrete bench left abruptly, leaving me more space.

I turned back to my writing and shut out the man’s self-dialogue. Then suddenly there was a movement out of the corner of my eye; the man had gotten off the ground and was approaching me.

“Excuse me, sir……sir……SIR!” He stood over me, swaying. I looked up into his faded, unfocused blue eyes, the whites streaked with red — lost-soul eyes, a burned-out, hopeless life flickering from their depths. A crazy, tortured look.

“I hate to disturb your writing, but I need eight dollars and forty cents!” the man screamed at me.

“I don’t carry cash, sorry”, I replied.

“Yeah right….” he said sarcastically, and stumbled away, mumbling, “fuckfuckfuckfuck you….” and then he approached an elderly couple standing next to the bench.

They were very well-dressed, he in suit and she in furs, obviously just having seen “Wicked” at the nearby Orpheum Theatre, programs clutched in their gnarled hands which trembled slightly upon the man’s approach.

The man mumbled something and the lady practically screamed, “What do you WANT?!” The crazy man said, “I’d like thirty dollars but you’re not going to give that to me, are ya?” He stumbled towards the woman, who shrank back against her husband, who brandished his cane at the man.

He suddenly veered off in another direction as though he had been struck by The Force, a scene out of Star Wars. He vanished.

I turned my attention back to my journal. The elderly couple continued to stand in front of me, whispering now. “What is he writing?” the woman murmured. “Probably about what just happened”, her husband ventured.

Twenty years ago today, the earth shook violently in San Francisco. The death toll was 62, 3757 people were injured and property damage exceeded eight billion dollars.

I lived in Sacramento at the time but just happened to be in San Francisco that day! Here is my journal entry written several days later:

Friday, October 20, 1989

We were in San Francisco on the fateful earthquake day of October 17th, 1989. We were in the City for appointments with a nutritionist that a friend had recommended.

We were done by 4 P.M., and decided to have an early dinner at the nearby Middle Eastern restaurant “La Mediterranee” on Noe St. before heading back to Sacramento.

Carl [a previous partner] & I were the only customers eating at that “in-between” hour, and had nearly finished the delicious meal when the earthquake struck! Our table started to shake vigorously which made it difficult to dip the “baba ganoush” into my mouth. The glasses behind the bar rattled and the floor swayed and buckled as the earth made curious roaring, rumbling sounds. The first shock was immediately followed by a heavier second one, whereupon Carl leaped from his chair, grabbed my knapsack and scurried to the front door. He tripped over himself in panic and knocked into a table on his way out, which crashed to the floor with a shower of glass.

I was surprisingly calm and walked out of the place as the earth continued to shake. Carl went into the street but ran back to grab my arm as I emerged, cautioning me about the possibility of flying glass from the front window. Carl was extremely upset and I wasn’t at all, for some reason. Mother Nature was doing her number and I couldn’t do anything about it – if I was supposed to die, well, then it was time to go…..I found myself fascinated by the whole thing.

Later, however, the gravity of the disaster sank in, and I apologized to Carl for criticizing his strong reactions to the quake.

We stood in front of the restaurant as the shaking stopped, and the entire city was shocked into silence for a moment. Then it erupted into screams and sirens and general pandemonium, which continued into the night.

Carl wanted to leave without paying for our dinner, which surprised me; he’s usually so honest. I still had another appetizer and half a beer to finish, so I went back into the restaurant to eat and pay the bill. The waitresses and cooks also went back inside, where they commented how this was the strongest quake they had ever experienced in the City. Carl, meanwhile, thought I was completely crazy to go back into the building, and paced nervously up and down the sidewalk. The restaurant didn’t suffer any damage that I could see; our food was still on the table and all pictures and ornaments were still on the walls. The only broken items were from Carl’s encounter with the front table; I thought it wryly amusing that he caused more damage to the restaurant than the quake had.

Of course, the power was off and the waitress couldn’t use the cash register, but the bill came to exactly $20 and she threw in the beer for free. I handed her the money and wished her luck. She laughed and replied, “I bet you didn’t think this visit would be so….eventful, huh?” I agreed with her.

I went outside and found Carl, and we decided to walk the three blocks up Noe St. to his parked car, sit inside and listen to the radio. We felt several strong aftershocks as the various reports of damage throughout the Bay Area trickled in. We watched people walking across the nearby intersection holding radios to their ears and open bottles of beer to their mouths, eyes glazed in shock from those fifteen seconds of Nature shaking her booty. I found it difficult to conceive of the quake’s powerful effect. How could something which lasted only a few seconds wreak such havoc?

The radio soon reported the horrible collapse of the Bay Bridge section and mile of Nimitz Freeway, along with the fires springing up in the Marina area. 60,000 baseball fans waited in Candlestick Park for the third game of the World Series to begin. Carl laughed, remarking how ludicrous it was for people to think about baseball at a time like this.

We sat in the car for over an hour listening to the news, then saw the nutritionist Irene passing by (since her apartment was down the block). Carl flagged her down to ask if we could hang out at her apartment while deciding what to do next, and Irene said, “Sure, join the crowd.”  She had been with two women clients when the quake hit, and I quipped, “They really got an earth-shaking nutritional reading today, didn’t they?”

Carl had no intention of trying to get back to Sacramento that night, so I suggested phoning my friend Paul to see if we could stay at his place. Luckily, the quake hadn’t seriously damaged the City’s phone system, so we were able to get through to Paul after waiting 20 seconds for a dial-tone. I told him that Carl & I would drive there after the heavy traffic had abated somewhat.

Irene’s upstairs apartment hadn’t suffered damage except for an overturned bookshelf. She left to check on some neighbors, so the two women clients sat with Carl & me on the front steps. That particular neighborhood of Noe St. just north of Market seemed fine, although the power was off. We watched the news on Irene’s next-door neighbor’s battery-operated TV, grimacing in horror as we saw the collapsed section of Oakland’s highway 880. Many folks congregated on the sidewalk in front of the neighbor’s tiny TV, many of them were in a mild form of shock. I realized that I must have been in a similar condition to have downplayed my reactions to the quake as I did when it was happening, for it was really quite a serious event. It hit me hard later.

It was soon dark —  very dark without electricity. We sat on the front steps and watched the groups of people walking by with flashlights and radios and candles.  Someone warned us that they had heard on TV that scientists were predicting a strong aftershock in about 45 minutes. One agreeable result of no electricity: the stars could be seen shining brightly in a clear sky. Luckily, temperatures were mild that night, after an unusually warm day.

Irene came back and went upstairs to her fridge, and brought down fruit popsicles for the gang. Carl & I thanked her for everything, then decided to drive to Paul’s. Carl allowed me to drive, and after looking carefully at a map determined the best way to go: south on Dolores, which turned into San Jose, on to Monterey and then to Paul’s on Staples. Traffic was light at 9 P.M. and we arrived safely. Amazingly, that part of the city had electricity; Paul & Liza said that the power had just come on five minutes before we got there.

Their house suffered no structural damage as far as they could tell — even their kitchen, an addition to the original house, was fine. Paul was in that room when the quake hit; only a few champagne and wine glasses crashed to the floor from a shelf.  He could hear things shattering in the livingroom, however, and discovered that Liza’s large grandfather clock had tumbled to the floor. Clay pots and knick-knacks on the mantel had fallen, but were cushioned by landing on the fireplace screen which had tipped over. A couple of pictures jumped off the walls, and that was the extent of the damage at Paul & Liza’s.

Liza, meanwhile, was on a MUNI train which had just arrived at the station where she usually gets off after work. No-one on the train actually felt the quake, and wondered why everything came to a grinding halt. Finally, an announcement was made about the quake; MUNI would follow “standard procedure” — sitting tight for the moment. The train hadn’t pulled into the station completely, so everyone evacuated from the front car. All sorts of wild thoughts went through Liza’s mind as she hurried home, and arrived to find that Paul had nearly finished cleaning up the mess. Relief!

By the time that Carl & I arrived, Liza had consumed a couple bottles of white wine and was feeling no pain. I decided to join her. It was wonderful to see Paul & Liza again, even under such bizarre circumstances, and we had much news to catch up on.

Liza reported that the San Francisco Opera House suffered extensive damage; the new additional building (behind the older, main section) had separated from it! So the current opera has been cancelled (and probably the rest of the season) as Management attempts to assess the damage. I asked what happens to the musicians, and Liza replied that everyone’s insured.

Everyone except me went to bed around midnight; I stayed up watching the news on TV, which was fascinating. As the hours went by, the quake information became more comprehensive. The news anchors did a wonderful job of on-the-spot reporting; they were very professional. Finally, at 3 A.M. I went to bed.

We slept late until 11. Paul had already returned from taking Liza to the airport, and he fixed us a delicious breakfast of pancakes and scrambled eggs.

Carl & I headed back to Sacramento at 1 o’clock. We had to figure out a good way to get to the Golden Gate Bridge; 19th Ave. was closed. We ended up driving along the ocean road, which eventually led us to the bridge. We breathed sighs of relief after successfully crossing the Golden Gate….then headed up Hwy. 101 to #37 to Vallejo and Hwy. 80. It was another unusually hot day, strange & oppressive.

We arrived in Sacramento at 3 P.M., two hours after leaving S.F. It was definitely a relief to be home, and we have spent many hours sleeping these past two days.

*     *     *     *     *

One of the things which strikes me the most, reading over this journal entry from twenty years ago, is that the earthquake itself lasted only the few seconds, but the aftermath lingered for much, much longer. For years — even to the present day.

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Tuesday through Sunday, I ride BART to the Civic Center station in the heart of downtown San Francisco from the Colma station, a few miles south of the City. It is only a seven-minute drive from our RV park in Pacifica.

The train ride usually takes sixteen minutes. You can practically count on it.

This lulls me into a false sense of complacency; the train schedule is regular enough to make me assume that it will always get me to work punctually.

But of course this is not true 100% of the time. There are occasional problems on the tracks: obstructions, fires or malfunctions, or problems with the brakes on the cars — or more rarely, “situations” with disruptive citizenry in the train stations.

It is amazing, actually, that BART provides as consistent service as it does.

Last night’s ride into work was a different experience, as though I was living in a subtly altered reality. It was not a dramatic departure from the usual routine, but just “off” enough for me to notice.

I arrived at the Colma station to the sound of a train pulling in. I didn’t know which direction it was coming from but I wanted to make sure to catch the train if it was going into the City.

I started to jog towards the escalator leading down to the tracks, but a station manager was standing nearby to wave me apologetically down the stairs, as the escalator was out-of-service.

Difference #1.

The train turned out to be coming from the City, disgorging a huge number of commuters after their long day at work. There were so many of them that they completely took over the stairs on their ascent, leaving me little space to walk down. I squeezed along the extreme righthand side of the stairwell, hugging the bannister as I inched my way through the surge of humanity coming up.

I felt like a salmon fighting my way against an inexorable current which was in danger of sweeping me along in its wake.

I probably should have turned around and gone back UP the stairs and waited for this rush of humanity to pass before trying to go down, but I was in the middle of the staircase when they had suddenly appeared. Besides that, I am stubborn. Committed!

Most of the commuters didn’t even LOOK up to see if anyone might be trying to descend the stairs. Perhaps they assumed that no-one would be going into the City during rush hour; what are you, crazy? What do you mean, you work a night job? This is not normal!

One man in particular was on a collision course with me. He kept his gaze studiously down on the steps he was climbing up, one by one, and I was being pulled into the middle of the current of humanity directly in front of him. He finally saw my feet appearing on the step just above him and he changed course at the last possible moment before disaster struck.

Difference #2.

I waited a few moments for the inbound train, which arrived on schedule. Everything ran smoothly until just after the 24th St./Mission station. The train was moving more slowly than usual and then it came to a full stop in the middle of the tunnel. Not once, not twice, but three times. I heard a faint click of the intercom in our car, then a brief rasping crackle of static on the speaker indicating that the train operator was making some sort of announcement — but the audio system wasn’t working in this particular car.

I briefly considered going to another car where the intercom worked — the knowledge of what was going on would somehow be reassuring, even if it didn’t make my arrival any faster — but in a few seconds the train slowly crawled into Civic Center station.

After a series of jerky stops and starts, it finally positioned itself along the tracks to let out the masses.

I was so anxious to get OUT of there that I didn’t notice the train had stopped in a completely different place than usual. The escalators weren’t working at this station, either. I saw what I thought was the staircase I usually used and went up it (I don’t ride the escalators most of the time, anyway), only to find that it was a different staircase which put me onto Market St. farther away from the theatre, and ten minutes later than usual.

Differences #3, #4 and #5.

This commute felt like one of those dreams when everything is a bit off, an altered atmosphere, almost like being in a parallel universe. Do any of you ever feel like that?

It seems that the “Creatures of Habit” theme is continuing in my life, with the reminder to maintain flexibility if at all possible!

Last night immediately after the show, I was struck by how it is human nature to have certain habits and routines.

The pit musicians have a space downstairs in the Golden Gate Theatre to store instruments and change clothes. We call it “The Bandroom”.

There are three separate spaces: the smallest room has cubbyholes and shelves to store the instruments. The middle space is the largest, where people usually congregate, eat or relax. This is where the main entrance to the bandroom is located. The third space on the opposite also has its own entrance, and is midway in size between the other two rooms.

As this run of South Pacific has progressed, each musician has designated his or her own “territory”, so to speak. I always put my knapsack, hat and coat in the same spot, on a high bass stool nearest the clothes rack in the largest, middle room.

Then I put my horn case in the smallest room with the cubbyholes, and have taken over a certain one which is big enough to store my particular instrument.

The third space is currently being used as the women’s dressing room, as the 25 musicians are evently divided between the sexes. The other two spaces have been taken over by the men.

Last night after the show, I was packing up my horn in the instrument storage room as usual, and was just about to store the case in the cubbyhole I’ve always used — when the flute player quickly shoved her case in it!

She must have sensed my faint annoyance because she asked, “Oh, did I take your spot?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“I’m sorry,” she said, on her way out of the room.

“No you’re NOT,” I rejoined, and we both laughed — as she continued to walk away.

So we tend to be creatures of habit, but can be adaptable when routines are disrupted.

I was in this frame of mind when I arrived at the BART station a few moments later.

I always catch the same train, so I have come to recognize a few of the regular riders who have a similar work schedule to mine.

One man always stands at the same black tile strip where the train doors open; there is a series of them along the track. I always stand at the adjacent strip next to him, because this particular door of the train opens immediately opposite the staircase at my destination.

Another man always waits for his train (a later one than mine; he never gets on when I do) at the foot of the nearby stairway which has a bannister made of stainless steel, which is wide enough to serve as a counter. He reads or plays with his PDA there.

I’ve also figured out that the Staircase Man is an usher for one of the theatres. He always wears black slacks, white shirt with a long black tie. The other night, he had two narrow, tall empty cardboard boxes marked “PLAYBILL” (the name of the show programs used in all the theatres around the country). So this made me realize that he’s an usher.

One night, my train was about to emerge from the tunnel at the end of the station. There is always a high wind which the trains push ahead of them, marking their imminent arrival. This wind is so strong that I have to hang onto my hat. It was also strong enough to blow those empty cardboard boxes marked “PLAYBILL” away from Staircase Man and rapidly towards me, standing right by the tracks.

I had to react quickly to save the boxes from tumbling down onto the tracks, recessed nearly five feet below me. I grabbed them and handed them back to Staircase Man, who smiled and thanked me. I didn’t have time to ask him which theatre he ushers — it’s either the Orpheum where a long-running production of “Wicked” is playing, or at the Golden Gate where “South Pacific” has a six-week run — because I had to get on my train.

It was interesting that the theme of “creatures of habit” came to me so vividly last night. But there are always variations, such as the flute player taking my cubbyhole and Staircase Man’s boxes blowing away.

James picked me up from the theatre immediately after yesterday’s matinee ended at five o’clock, and we made the four-hour drive back home to The Woods for my single day off today.

It took about forty-five minutes to get out of San Francisco and over the Bay Bridge; there was lots of traffic late Sunday afternoon. Hordes of people were leaving two major events, a baseball game and an air show put on by the Blue Angels.

One of my colleagues in the pit of South Pacific advised me to ‘put on my patience hat, there’s gonna be a LOT of traffic this afternoon!’ so I took her words to heart, and felt more relaxed about the stop/start aspect of our crawl out of the City because I was mentally prepared for it.

We arrived home to pitch black darkness at 9:30, and crisp cool temperatures in the 40s. It’s always such a shock to be drenched in such silence after being in an intense urban area. My mind seemed to race even more, against the backdrop of this contrast.

We couldn’t have picked two more different environments in which to live!

We needed to come home once more before we hit the road with Phantom, so that James could winterize the water pipes leading out from the well.

Fall has definitely come to The Woods. Splashes of yellow adorn the deciduous trees, and there are patches of golden pine needles sprinkled throughout the evergreens. The meadow grass is brown and crackly. The sound of birds is curiously absent; perhaps they have already migrated South.

This is the time of year just before the rains and snows set in. A time of waiting for the transition to Winter.

It will be interesting to see if we can bring the Airstream trailer back home in mid-January; it is entirely possible that the mile-long, steep, rutted dirt road will be impassable with ice and snow. It usually snows in early January, as much as two feet in a single storm.

When we get back to California sometime the second week of January, we will call the town postmaster — who is also one of our nearest neighbors — to ask about the road conditions. If it’s bad, then we’ll probably park the Airstream in my brother’s driveway in Sacramento for a week or so, before venturing up to The Woods. We did this last year, and had a lovely visit with the family.

So we are enjoying our brief time at home now, and will drive back to our City Life bright and early tomorrow morning. Back to work!

There are two weeks remaining of the run of South Pacific in San Francisco. I am already waxing nostalgic about it; this has been a wonderful production to be involved with. I will miss playing in this excellent orchestra. It’s very unusual to have twenty-five musicians (with NO synthesizers) in the pit for shows these days. I’m so glad that this full-scale revival of a Broadway classic is being done now!

On this foggy Saturday morning by the beach in Pacifica, I am prying my eyes open with a Japanese thermos full of hot black tea. I have time to noodle around on the computer for a couple of hours, then take the train into San Francisco to play the matinee of “South Pacific”.

The show schedule is intense with eight performances a week. This is the standard across the country, but most theatres do single evening shows Tuesday through Friday, then double shows on Saturdays and Sundays. Mondays are almost always off. (In theatre lingo, this is called “dark”.)

The show schedule for the San Francisco theatres is different than venues in the rest of the country. We’ve got double shows on Wednesday, and then only a matinee on Sunday.

This is both good and bad. The “bad” news first: there are only two consecutive evenings with single performances. The good news is that we get off work early enough on Sunday afternoon to actually have the semblance of a normal life; there is time to go out to dinner or a movie, or veg at home during prime-time TV.

In my case, getting off work on Sunday afternoon at around five o’clock gives James and me enough time to drive back home to The Woods, which takes about four hours from downtown San Francisco.

We usually arrive at 9 p.m. If there were an evening show, we wouldn’t get home until two in the morning. So the Sunday schedule works well.

We’ve been able to go home only once during this six-week run of South Pacific, a couple of Sundays ago. It was so nice to touch base, even though the visit was so brief; we had to drive back to the City on Tuesday morning.

We drive home again this Sunday for the last time before hitting the road in earnest. James needs to winterize the various water pipes (PVC) and the fittings near the well, since we won’t be back in The Woods until mid-January.

Today (Saturday) is a double show day. South Pacific is a three-hour show, so I don’t have time to take the train “home” to the beach to eat dinner and take a nap before the evening performance. A home-cooked dinner and nap is my usual routine whenever I play Phantom, which is twenty minutes shorter. It’s amazing that twenty minutes can make such a difference, but it does!

So James has been coming into the City to meet me for dinner between shows, which is a nice break for both of us. We’ve found three favorite restaurants not far from the theatre which are good and inexpensive: Indian, Middle-Eastern and Thai. We usually end up at the Indian restaurant, which is the most consistent, flavorful and overall best value. It’s also closest to the theatre.

We’ve been there often enough to be instantly recognized by the staff when we walk in. The one waitress always greets us with a smile.

Perhaps tonight we may try a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that’s next door to the Thai restaurant we’ve been to on several occasions. It’s been highly recommended by the three trumpet players who are on this show — they take their eating VERY seriously!

James will drive me to the Colma train station at about 12:20 this afternoon (only a seven-minute trip over the hill from the beach), and I won’t see the inside of our little Airstream home again until nearly midnight.

Both Wednesdays and Saturdays are very long days when I can’t come home in-between shows, but somehow I make it through.

In fact, I do feel very fortunate to be employed these days, challenging as the show schedule can be at times.

“You must WRITE more”, a little but persistent voice whispered to me over and over as I tossed and turned in bed last night.

Little Voice added, “You must also curtail playing games on Facebook — it’s a huge waste of time!”

My husband James reiterated this last sentiment to me only a few moments ago. So I know that I need to pay attention.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve felt so blocked writing in this blog, for months now. What’s going on with me?

Well…part of me wants to avoid the tendency to become mundane, which can happen in blogs. But people seem to like the day-to-day musings and ramblings of Life, even if they seem trite at times. Bloggers often refer to their posts being mundane, yet their readers always assure them that the posts are interesting.

Hmmm. So maybe I should just GO for it, and run the risk of being mundane.

The definition of “mundane” is indeed illuminating:

mun⋅dane [muhn-deyn, muhn-deyn]
–adjective
1.
of or pertaining to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; worldly; earthly: mundane affairs.
2.
common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative.
3.
of or pertaining to the world, universe, or earth.

So in other words, people are interested in feelings and events having to do with the world in which we live. And that’s exactly what a blog is.

(Lightbulb turns on.)

Perhaps what is ‘common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative’ to some people is not to others.

I was thinking the other day — always a dangerous enterprise — that blog-writing seems to be an all-or-nothing thing. Either post every day (or at least every other day) or don’t do it at all!

I believe that my many three faithful readers enjoy reading my very occasional postings. But there could be much more of a sense of continuity in my blog, a consistency, a regular “checking in” which has been absent thus far.

Well, we shall see.

So what am I thinking about, today?

Yesterday, I discovered a new place to hang out near the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. Occasionally I am able to catch an earlier train to work than I had planned to, which gives me enough time to sit down with a cup of coffee and write in my journal before heading to the theatre. I’ve done this at Starbuck’s on a few occasions, but it’s in the opposite direction from the theatre and I usually don’t have enough time to go there.

Yesterday I had an extra service-call which involved videotaping the entire cast in costume and orchestra in tuxes. We taped the most popular numbers from “South Pacific” for advertisement purposes. The call was from 1:30 to 5, followed by our usual show at 8. Busy day!

I emerged from BART onto Market St. and walked the two blocks towards the theatre. I took a slightly different route this time; usually I take a short-cut on Jones St., wending my way around the homeless lying on the sidewalk. But I stayed on Market St. in order to look for some place nearby to have a cup of coffee, since I had an extra half-hour.

There was a “donut”/coffee shop on the corner of Market and Golden Gate which I had never noticed before. It had about fifteen tables and picture windows giving out onto both streets, affording an excellent view of the colorful passerby.

For the life of me I don’t know why I hadn’t see this place before. It was as though it suddenly materialized out of thin air just when I needed it. I suppose that’s the way it is with many things; we tend not to see them until we look for them.

I went into the bright and airy room and walked up to the large glass counter containing many different kinds of doughnuts and pastries. I was reassured to see an espresso machine, so I could have a “specialized” coffee rather than just a cup of regular joe.

I ordered a capuccino and a butter croissant. The coffee was better than average and the croissant was pretty much just a big roll with a slight butter glaze, not at all like what I envision a croissant to be — flaky and buttery — but it was passable and accompanied the coffee nicely.

I found a tiny round table by the plate-glass window overlooking Market St. I could see the Golden Gate Theatre a half block beyond. I took a sip of cappuccino and a bite of the croissant and brought out my journal and pen from my knapsack.

Several working-class black men were talking in loud voices at the adjoining tables. They really didn’t have to speak at such a high volume; there wasn’t much ambient noise and the tables were close together, but this is the nature of people everywhere. I am often amazed at how unncessarily loudly most folks speak.

It’s as though they want an audience. But these men were in the middle of a conversation about one of their cronies, which I wouldn’t have been able to follow or relate to anyway.

One of the men left and the remaining two immediately started talking about him. “He’s juss like his biological father,” one of the guys stated. The other one responded emphatically, “Sho’ is!” Then the first one went into great detail about the father’s physical characteristics and tendencies to womanize, a bit more sotto voce. But I got the gist in spite of myself.

I wrote a few lines in my journal, took more sips of cappuccino and bites from the doughy roll. I looked out onto the Market St. sidewalk, where a parade of interesting characters ambled by. One middle-aged man, with greased-back dirty blond hair and attired in plaid shorts and clashing print shirt open to expose his fish-white Buddha belly, staggered up to a trash can and dug for treasure. Then he approached the plate-glass window with me on the other side and gestured at me…for something…maybe money? I contemplated giving him the rest of my croissant, but then the man abruptly staggered away from the window and ran across the street.

A group of German tourists arrived and sat down at a table, not realizing that they needed to go to the counter first to order. They sat there for the longest time before realization set in, whereupon one woman, serving as spokesperson and interpreter, got up and placed their order in a thick Teutonic accent. The man behind the counter responded in an equally thick Asian accent.

That’s what I love about San Francisco — the rich variety of people from all over the world. It’s truly a melting-pot; quite different from the almost exclusively white (and American) population of Nevada County where I usually call home.

As I got up from the table to go to the theatre, the more verbose of the black men nearby said with a smile, “Have a good day” and I responded, “And the same to you, sir”.

Yesterday was one of those days in which it was easy to embrace the City life and not feel overwhelmed by it, as I sometimes am. On its best days, I am wonderfully stimulated. I think it has something to do with being able to go with the often intense flow, instead of resisting it.