My sunny sojourn to the west coast comes to an end today, and my alarm is set early so that I can finish packing and get to my flight. I put the TV on and the local ABC affiliate is talking about terrible traffic delays around Los Angeles and especially on the roads leading to LAX. I breathe a deep sigh of relief that this year I only need to drive for five minutes before arriving at the John Wayne Airport on the other side of the freeway.
There is quite a long line of cars filtering into the car rental return garage, which presumably will mean quite a long line at check-in and security. So it proves, but I have plenty of time in hand this morning.
Having eventually cleared all of the formalities I head for the nearest diner to get some breakfast: it is called Ruby’s which is rather nice, as Ruby is the name of our cat back home, and just seeing her name makes me smile.
On the table there is a little electronic device, which says PROMPT SERVICE, and then there are three buttons marked ‘Food and Beverage Service’. ‘Ready to Pay’ and ‘Cancel the Request’. What a good idea, so I press the first button and wait. And wait. And wait some more. Eventually a server is walking passed and sees me sitting there – ‘did you want a menu?’ So much for technology.
I order and eat my breakfast and when I am finished I decide to try button number 2. Nothing happens again, until the server appears asking ‘would you like more coffee?’ I don’t suppose number 3 works either, in that there is no point cancelling a request that nobody has ever received.
I walk to my gate (which is at the very far end of the terminal, so it feels as if I am half way to Minneapolis already), and wait for the boarding to commence. As I sit I pull out my full itinerary so I can get the schedule for the coming days into my head. I tend not to look too far ahead during my tours, and just concentrate on the next venue. For the next four days I will be performing in Omaha with my old friends at the Douglas County Historical Society. This year they have laid on quite a variety of venues for me to perform at, which will be fun.
The flight is called and I file on board with a full load of passengers. There are the usual delays as people try to fit impossibly large carry-on bags into impossibly small overhead bins, but it all gets sorted out eventually and away we go.
I have downloaded another film for this flight, ‘Elvis & Nixon’ which is the story of a brief meeting between those two icons of the 60s and 70s. Nixon is played by Kevin Spacey (it is odd to see him in The Oval Office not as Francis Underwood), and Elvis brilliantly portrayed by Michael Shannon. It is not a long film, and not much happens, but it is rather fun, and perfect for passing an hour or so at 37,000 feet.
Our flight path takes us over a flat, sandy desert, and then takes us over what I assume is the Grand Canyon, and that makes me think – where is the beginning of the Grand Canyon? I don’t mean the source of the river itself, but where in the desert does a little ledge drop down an inch, then 10 inches, then 6 feet, then a hundred feet…. where is that very first indentation?
For the remainder of the flight I resume my audiobook of Thunderball, which is excellent, although our descent into Minneapolis corresponds with the passage where the pilots of a military jet are murdered in the cockpit by poisonous gas – not an altogether comforting passage to be listening to.
In 2015 I premiered a new show in Minneapolis, called To Begin With (which I will be reprising in the Spring of 2017), and during the run Liz and I stayed in a magnificent modern apartment block on the edge of the City. It is with a great feeling of nostalgia that I notice we are flying in right over the top of our Minneapolis home.
We have arrived early, so I have a lot of time before my connecting flight to Omaha is due to leave, which is just as well for gate C20 is miles away (if I walked half-way here in California, I think I’ve walked half way back again now).
Over the years I have flown in and out of Minneapolis/St Paul airport in many occasions, but I have never before ventured to the C gates. I didn’t know this part of the airport existed before – maybe it is like Brigadoon, and only appears from the mist once in every hundred years. If that is so the people waiting at the gate next to mine are going to vanish back into the mist with it, for they are in for a long delay. There has been a shooting at Oklahoma airport this afternoon and the whole facility has been shut down until further notice. The gate agent is making every effort to keep the passengers informed, but the fact is there is no real news to give. I feel a little guilty as I board my flight, leaving them to the delights of terminal C for the next few hours.
The flight to Omaha is very short, and I listen to a little more of the audiobook, before my aching ears tell me that we are descending. We touch down and taxi to the gate and by the time I get to baggage claim my case is circulating impatiently, waiting for me to catch up.
The Omaha airport is a small one, so the car rental desk is right next to the carousel. I go to Avis to complete the paperwork, completely forgetting that last year Bob Byers signed me up to the Avis Preferred scheme, which means I can just walk straight to the garage and get on my way. In no time I am the temporary owner of a very high-end Camry and quite literally am driving into the sunset. I am very happy with the car, but even more happy that I am reunited with a Garmin GPS device: In California I had a Hertz unit, which I have never got on well with.
My hotel is in the Midtown Crossing area of the town, and it is where I stayed last year – Element. It is a modern, fresh chain and the rooms have full kitchen facilities and bright well designed décor. I loved staying here and am very glad to be back.
I go through the routine of hanging my crumpled costumes up, and spend some time answering emails and doing a little admin, before going out to dinner.
Midtown Crossing is a large, semi-circular development set on top of a hill which boasts a great many restaurants. I stroll from my hotel to The Black Oak Grill and do not need a sweater or a coat, for it is a lovely mild evening. Last year I made the same walk in light snow.
I don’t feel like a huge supper, so I order some soup followed by a salad. My order really tests my ability to speak American, as I decide to have the Tomato and Basil: 2 words that share a common spelling but not a pronunciation. ‘To-may-toe and Bay-sill soup please’
Having finished my simple meal, I return to my hotel room where I watch Mr Smith Goes to Washington, until I begin to doze. I get myself ready for bed, turn out the lights and let sleep take me properly.