UPDATE: the lamb pictured below has been named. All hail "Queen Baa-thsheba"!

UPDATE 2: I heard it wrong! She's "Queen Baa-tifah"!

One of the dancers in the show has a cosmetology license and isn't afraid to use it. So I went up to her room for a 10 buck haircut, which was the bargain of the century, because it came with extras:

• a proud plug for her rock-star boyfriend's band, with the promise of an autograph for my daughter/fangirl;

• some delicious dish on who skeevs the dancers because he's always peeking while they change costumes;

• a glimpse into the roller-coaster life of a consummate professional, as she agonized over whether and when to call back a casting director who might have a part for her after this show ends. (A big Beatle fan, she's hoping for a part in Cirque de Soleil's Fab-Four-themed Vegas show.)

I had to renegotiate the parameters of my own mop top at one point, because she had created a bit of spikiness, which I had to tell her wasn't really me. (I'm a no-product, comb-it-with-a-towel, kind of guy.) She admitted that she has gotten used to cutting the gay-boy dancers' hair. Apparently they're more picky, less decisive, and much more willing to style themselves than I am - no surprises there.

My haircut came out really well! Thanks, K!

My adorable, massively-parallel-multitasking stylist was last seen thumbing away like crazy on the screen of her new iPhone, furiously competing head-to-head with her uber-skinny rocker in some sort of two-player game. Ah, the entertainment biz!

Today was Thanksgiving. Our company is in Cincinnati and the producers treated us to a yummy dinner on a riverboat. We rode to & from the wharf in our by-now-familiar bus convoy, and on the way back I happened to be on a bus predominately filled with our truck drivers, plus the crew responsible for the show's animals. We feature camels and sheep, including this new lamb, 1 week old yesterday.

Anyway, the truckers were all pretty drunk, and hilarity ensued:

Q: "What are the two sexiest farm animals?"
A: "Brown-chicken brown-cow!" (sing it out loud, rhymes with "Bow'm-chick-a-bow-bow)

" . . . Kansas hasn't been GPS'ed yet - the three people who live there know how to get where they're going . . . ."

Animal Wrangler: "One of my crew has to go to court when we get back off the road."
Trucker: "What are they saying he did?"
AW: "Statutory rape."
T: "Whoa! He's in pretty deep trouble!"
AW: "Yeah, turns out that goat was only a kid."

So, this Thanksgiving I'll say I'm grateful for dumb jokes, my faraway, but wonderful family, and the prospect of a new President with his own sharp sense of humor and beautiful family. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!


I witnessed something unusual today. It must be what it's like when two alternate realities collide.

I was off all afternoon, and I rambled out to see "Quantum Of Solace," which definitely holds its own within the action/James Bond/thriller genre. I arrived back at our hotel just as the cast returned from their afternoon performance. Simultaneously, a large and unusual group of visitors hit the lobby as well. Lots of squealed greetings, big hugs, and excited chatter ensued. I found myself wondering, "Who are all these NEW people?" And the visitors were seemingly doppelgangers for our cast: many dancers, with their characteristic posture, and the deadest giveaway: several Little People* whom I had never met. It's much too far along in the process for them to be replacing anybody, let alone several anybodies, I thought, leaving me perplexed.

The explanation: the show I'm traveling with has multiple companies in multiple cities. We're in Milwaukee, and tonight the nearby Chicago cast came to visit and watch the show. Some of our company has worked with members of theirs, and hence the excited reunions.

Myself, I thought I was in the middle of some sort of string-theoretical post-modern meltdown of the fabric of spacetime.

Christmas is magic, I guess.

* "Little People": The preferred term for people who are short of stature - in this show, several cast members who play Santa's helpers and teddy bears are LP's.


The group I'm traveling with includes a famous dance troupe, and their traveling support staff includes physical therapists to help heal the inevitable booboos and whatnot. I had occasion to bring one of my young students into the PT room yesterday - he had gotten a booboo himself.

The PTs have a grand assortment of muscle rollers, back stretching balls, and other props useful for stretching and working out knots.

So picture this scene: me lying on the floor cracking my back over a giant noodle, a bunch of dancers stretched out around me rolling their legs and icing their knees and feet, a 13-year-old boy regaling us with stories from his experiences on movie sets and musical theater. Some of his film work never got a theatrical release - them's the breaks in showbiz - but he got some small compensation in the form of cool stories. These included the time he got his eyes poked out in a horror movie, and his realistic assessment of his relationship with star Dakota Fanning: "I keep up with her, but she doesn't really keep up with me." He was pretty smooth, trying to impress the big girls, and they were eating it up.

Me, I just enjoyed the way my back was feeling.


The tour I'm on presents good, clean family entertainment, and I'm working with children, some as young as 10.

Which presents a problem - who's gonna be sarcastic and cynical enough for me to talk to?

Well, as it turns out, the band. These are some grizzled vets, with many a bus mile under their belts, and a jaded view to say the least. We've been having some fun in the back of the bus.

This all paid off yesterday when I got a phone call, telling me that my laptop (which I had needed to send back to Apple for repair) was going to require another round-trip back to the repair center. I started to sputter, "I'm traveling all over! And the one I got back is working fine! Can't I do this in January when I get home?" The reply, "No, sir, since you've turned it on already, there will have to be an additional charge if you keep it now."

I was perplexed. Before I could really get pissy, the show's violinist let me down easy - I had been punk'd!

Well, there's nothing like a prank call (unless it's a nickname, which I haven't got yet) to make you feel like one of the gang. I owe you guys one!

Today: Milwaukee USCellular Arena


I had an discussion at breakfast today with a sax player about the nature of mathematics as it relates to precision dance troupes.

He was saying that, unlike fellow reedman Artie Shaw, he had never really gotten very far with mathematics, and wished he had because he felt that mathematics was visible everywhere he looked. He wondered why so many people like himself "hit a wall" with learning math. I told him I thought it was because mathematics reward a high level of abstraction and that most people are much more comfortable with concreteness. I pointed out to him that when people speak of the "mathematical" precision of a group of dancers, they are picking up on the way that each dancer's identity has been sublimated to their part as a unit in a system, and that the payoff is watching a complex system strut its stuff in synchronization: a very mathematical idea.

Pretty deep stuff for a pair of strangers over their first cup of coffee . . . .


"Say you have money/Better be sure/Hard times'll kill you/Drive you so" - Skip James, "Hard Times Killing Floor Blues."

After last night's thrilling Obama victory, today's action continued apace. Hard times have driven me onto the road, where I will be working nonstop for two months tutoring young performers in a spectacular road show, visiting 18! count 'em! 18! cities before I come back home in the wee hours of 2009.

I took the cab to the plane to the cab to the Hilton Minneapolis hotel this morning, checked in, and met my new students. More about them another time. After that, I went upstairs to check email and there was a document attachment I wanted to print, so I scanned the network to see if there was a hotel printer I could hijack. Instead I came up with a printer labeled "something@Lucinda.Williams.Computer."

Hmm. I tried to use the printer to spit out a fan mail letter to the great singer/songwriter, but no dice. I looked online and found that, indeed, she was performing tonight about six blocks away.

I saw her terrific set, and her backing band Buick Six, and her support, Carrie Rodriguez (highly recommended: fiery Americana, what Ollabelle is supposed to sound like, if only they were any good.)

Blue Lu was her usual Grim Reaper presence but there was a slight newfound tinge of optimism - apparently she's been listening to the junior Illinois Senator's speeches lately. There were many highlights to her set, including a stomping rendition of the new song "Honey Bee" and a version of "Joy" that included a segue into "Riders On The Storm," well played Madame!

As an encore she brought out a guest, blues-harpist Tony Glover, and took it down into the Little Son Jackson, Skip James, and Howlin' Wolf songbooks. Splendid fun, and so much for getting to bed early my first night on the road.