Friday 13 November

Today I am to head west, and as my flight does not leave until early afternoon, I have a morning to catch up with a few things.

Blog, shower and breakfast are all accomplished without problem, and I turn my attention to an email from Pam Byers, detailing various issues for the forthcoming weeks.

Pam has been co-ordinating my tours for the last couple of years. The logistics of getting me to the right places at the right times, to do the right show, for the right people is immense and the document that contains all of the information is a truly impressive thing.

Of course, as a tour progresses, some things change: media interviews are planned and ideas for shows are slightly developed.

Today Pam has told me that one of the venues require a forty-five minute version of A Christmas Carol for some students to watch. My full version of the show is around eighty five minutes now, and the shortest edit I have is for an hour.  So, to lose another fifteen minutes will be an interesting challenge, and I need to start thinking about it straight away.

An empty morning also means one thing, as regular readers will know: laundry!

The Comfort Inn and Suites, Chanhassen, is a three story hotel, built in two wings, leading off from a central reception area.  I am staying on the second floor of the east wing, whereas the guest laundry is on the third floor of the west.  This means lots of long treks through the central area, until finally I have a bag of warm, clean, fresh clothing.

Now to pack my case: this all revolves around the top hat, which has to be protected at all costs.  First I stuff it with socks, to pad its shape from inside, and then I wrap my thick knitted woolly scarf around it, and position it on the base of the suitcase.  I pack more socks, and other small items around it, before packing white shirts behind it.  When the hat is fully protected on all sides I lay my waistcoat and frock coat over it and it is safely cocooned against the rigours of air travel.

Sadly I have one casualty in the laundry bag, as a favourite short of mine has shrunk, and the sleeves only make it about half way down my arms now. I bid it farewell and commit it to the rubbish bin in my room.

It is now time to check out and the day is a glorious one, with clear skies and warm (most un-Minnesotan) temperatures. As I drive away from the hotel I pass a branch of Lunds Grocery store, and I have a wave of happy nostalgia.  When Liz and I were in Minneapolis in February, Lunds became our local store, and it is magnificently stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables.

As I drive towards the airport I see a sign for Nicollet Avenue, which is where the Music Box Theatre is situated: another happy memory, and I am smiling as I reach the airport and drop my car off.

I unload my bags from the car and make my way into the terminal.

(I am writing these words on the following morning. Throughout the day I make lots of little notes on my phone, to remind me of the little details which would otherwise slip my memory.  As I read now I see that yesterday I wrote ‘BUSTY AIRPORT’.  I assume that is self-correcting for ‘busy’ for I do not recall being aware of the crowd being particularly busty!)

The terminal is so busy, there are crowds everywhere. The security line alone seems to wind throughout the building, without beginning or end.  Fortunately I have plenty of time, so I just wait it out until I am safely through.

(Much later in the day the frustration borne out of extra security measures will be brought into sharp relief)

The flight to Los Angeles looks as if it is going to be very full indeed, and the gate agent asks if anyone is willing to check their roller hand luggage, rather than carrying it on. I don’t need anything from my small case, so volunteer, and am rewarded by being boarded in Zone 1 (which ironically means that most of the overhead bins are empty)

The seats are in banks of three and I am rather squashed next to the window. My comfort isn’t helped by the fact that I have twinged my back this morning (probably loading or unloading my bags from the car), and I can feel it beginning to stiffen.

Recently Delta flights have been serving cookies, pretzels and peanuts as a snack, but the flight attendant announces that there will be no peanuts on this journey, as one passenger has a severe allergy, and to prevent the risk of any contamination which may affect him or her, the decision has been made to rid the entire plane of peanuts. That is a company who takes food issues very seriously, and a great credit to them.

I pass the flight by watching the last two episodes of House of Cards, and then admire the views below.  We are flying over the snow caped Rockies and the low setting sun casts a wonderful golden glow on the snow as well as creating long, deep eerie shadows.

Soon we are flying over a huge reservoir which in this part of the world can only mean one thing, and sure enough The Strip in Las Vegas is soon curling away in the middle of the desert.

We start to descend and on our right wing is another plane making his approach to the parallel runway. As we get to ground level it disappears behind the terminal building, but there is yet another runway next to us, where a third jet is taking off.  LAX is a truly frightening airport – there is so much going on.  I hope that their air traffic control software is up to date.

When we reach our gate I go to stand and my worst fears are realised. The pain from my back is extreme.  I wince and sweat, and can hardly breathe.  I have to say, this does not bode well for tomorrows shows.

As I exit the plane every twist and move sends fresh waves of pain through me and I move awkwardly, crab-like towards the baggage claim, where I have the unenviable task of hoiking two bags off.

I try to twist and exercise , get the muscles moving, before they spasm and lock completely, and manage to move a little more easily to the car rental desk, where I am quickly installed in a little Hyundai Saloon (not exciting enough to merit a name), and head out onto the highways of Los Angeles as 5pm.

Good Lord, I have never seen so many cars, all nose-to-tail, filling multiple-lane roads. At each overpass the road beneath is a canvas of white and red colour: modern art representing a million people desperate to get to somewhere, all of them pumping exhaust gasses into the atmosphere.

Oh, how lovely the Rockies were just an hour or so ago……

The traffic never lets up as I crawl past Long Beach and on towards my destination, the Ayres Resort hotel near Newport Beach.

As soon as I am in my room I run a scalding hot bath and relax my back into it. It seems to help, which is a good sign.

It is as I am laying in the bath that I first hear the truly terrible news from Paris.

What an awful world we live in, when such carefully planned and co-ordinated attacks can be levelled on a beautiful city at play for the weekend.

In the course of my trips I see happy, cheerful, loving, caring people. And then there is this: Sick, depraved hatred, targeting the innocent.

Suddenly a bad back is meaningless.

My thoughts go out to everyone in France, who have suffered so much over the last year. You will win through, goodness always does, but in these dark days the huge majority of the World is praying for you.

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