The man lies still on the street, his head ripped off beside his body. He doesn’t move in the heat of the afternoon. A mother and child check their step, and stare. Everybody else carries on, unmoved, in pursuit of the next big win at Blackjack. The child looks up at his mother for reassurance. She smiles, presses something into his hand and nudges him toward the man on the floor. Looking anxious as he passes the dismembered head, he summons up the courage to hand over the dollar bill clutched feverishly in his fist. The man on the floor opens his eyes, breathes out a rasp and takes a swig from a can of Red Bull. He raises himself to his feet, puts the dollar in his tip bag and picks up his head. The boy’s face turns to a smile as the man once more becomes Buzz Lightyear. Welcome to Las Vegas.
After the concert in Santa Barbara, we returned to the hotel in LA by bus. The following morning, before another bus trip to Costa Mesa, there is just time for breakfast. I wait for the elevator. Bing! The doors open and already inside are three women I don’t know and MTT.
“Good morning Gareth and how are we this morning?” he asks with a smile.
“I’m fine Michael thank you.”
We resume normal positions, all lined up like soldiers facing the front, not speaking; elevator etiquette is pretty much the same the world over. The doors close and we glide down towards the lobby in silence. Suddenly Michael speaks again to the lift.
“And...how was your ménage a trois last night Gareth?”
The women in the elevator shift uncomfortably. Silence.
We stop at the next floor, nobody gets in or out. The doors close again and we descend towards the lobby.
“I feel I should explain,’’ i say, still facing the front, “that ménage a trois was the name of the wine we were drinking last night.”
The atmosphere relaxes a little, but all the same, they leave promptly when we reach the lobby. Michael smiles a wicked smile and strides off in the other direction.
San Francisco evidently read my last blog. She didn’t want me to leave. At 8.30am yesterday morning we left for an 11am flight to Los Angeles. The shuttle to LA is such a popular route that there are often two planes an hour. The planes are small, two by two with a single aisle, it’s almost like getting the train to work. If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know how much I enjoy South West Trains daily challenges. Unfortunately, Delta airlines decided to take a leaf out of their book. We boarded a little late, I buckled up drifted off to sleep. I couldn’t believe it when I was awoken by the clicking of unfastening seat-belts, it’s not often I manage to sleep through a whole flight, even a short one. Sadly, all I’d slept through was the boarding process. Due to a fault, we had to ‘deplane’ and shortly afterwards, the flight was cancelled. LSO management went into overdrive and after a couple of hours waiting, boarding cards began to trickle out with instructions to either run to terminal 3, take a bus to San Jose or just wait around for the 4 o’clock flight. There was nothing I could do, I sat down to a burger and looked at Facebook as some of my more fortunate colleagues checked into the Biltmore in LA. I didn’t pay much attention to where anyone else was, or what flights they were on and so after I got bored of coffee refills, I walked out of the restaurant and was met with...well, nobody. I couldn’t see a single other LSO player. A prickle ran up my back. Had I misread my new boarding card? Had I missed my flight? Was I going to have to pay for a new ticket and miss the concert?
The sidewalk is blocked by a crowd. There is shouting and I stop to look. Two Chinese women are standing, arguing without a care over what seems to be a turnip. From the tone and volume of their voices, I’m guessing it’s an exceptional turnip. I walk on. A few minutes later, the pavement is once again blocked. Men in vests and shirts with rolled up sleeves are talking at speed in Italian. Although I’m not entirely sure what they are on about, the gesticulation, the differences in opinion and the passion flying across the corner cafe tables, means they can only be discussing one thing. Football. If you’re reading this in American, that’s soccer. I carry on up the same street and fairly soon, I’m one of a handful of people without a healthy beard and slightly too short trousers. The remains of the handful are women. The landscape is dominated by coffee shops. Not the ubiquitous costabucks, but independent, eco friendly, probably vegan and reassuringly expensive coffee shops. It’s a bit like being in Shoreditch but with post ironic sunshine. I arrive, hot and jet lagged at Fisherman's Wharf where the sweet smell of boiling shellfish overwhelms the early flowering Jasmine of the nearby residential roads. I skipped breakfast and the lure of the seafood is irresistible. I dive in to a restaurant, take a table looking out across the harbour where the towers of the Golden gate bridge thread through the masts of the fishing fleet. I order shrimp, and relax. I realise that for the last thirty minutes, I’ve been walking around with a huge grin on my face. San Francisco does that. The trouble with touring is that whilst I’m having a great time, at every turn I see something else that I wish my family were here to share. The criss cross slopes of Lombard street, the cable cars, the bridge, Davies Symphony Hall with our name on it, Alcatraz...and so it goes on, it’s easy to fall in love with this place and to be honest, if my family were here, I have a hard time of it. I left my heart in San Francisco, or so says the song. I love the city, I really do, but I left my heart somewhere in Surrey.
I always wish my grandparents were still alive when I visit Buckingham Palace. I know that my Gran would have been so impressed that I was going to see the Queen. The fact that I was simply playing in the orchestra whilst it was actually Simon Halsey who was being awarded the Queens Medal for Music would be a minor detail - by the time she’d told everyone, my 30 minute performance would most likely have been upgraded to a knighthood in the village. Still, without wishing to boast, I have had several brushes with royalty. It’s very interesting watching how people think they are going to react upon meeting the Queen and the way they actually react. Some people get terribly republican and mutter about not believing in the the system and so on. In my experience, when faced with royalty, they usually end up performing the most extravagant bow in the line up. I don’t know if it’s nerves, but I always seem to end up making a joke at an inappropriate moment.
This is my personal blog. All views are my own and are not endorsed by any of the organisations I work for.