Welcome to my Kill to Get Crimson 2008 tour blog!

My name is Isaac, 30 years old from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. I have set this blog up for the purpose of documenting the journey I am taking following Mark Knopfler’s Kill to Get Crimson tour in North America, in the summer of 2008.

The North American leg of the tour, as well as my journey, begins June 24th in Morrison, Colorado and ends on July 31st in Miami Beach, Florida.

Even though I intend to write on a daily basis, publishing the stories onto the server would be tricky. After all, we’re talking about vast distances which will be primarily crossed by driving, and there is no way for me to predict the availability of Internet connection throughout the way.

So… make yourself at home and feel free to drop a comment.

Yours,

Isaac

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New Jersey Performing Arts Centre, Newark, NJ

So the day started easy. Woke up at around 9:00am, then Jeroen and myself hit the Manhattan Diner for breakfast which was good. Then we returned to the hotel room, to make some final arrangements. Jeroen decided to join me at the Newark concert—poor guy, got a seat at the fourth tier—dead center though. I called my (never to be used again after this trip) travel agency to cancel flights that I am obviously not going to take.

Before leaving the hotel for good, I toyed with the idea of playing that piano again.

I didn’t mention it in my previous post, and perhaps I should: During my childhood, I used to play the keyboard a lot. It was a simple keyboard, that my wonderful dad bought for me when I was 4 years old. He bought it as he was returning from a draft military service during the 1982 Israel‐Lebanon war (he was later injured during that same war). Being 4 years old at that time, I didn’t really understand what “war” means and I further wasn’t able to appreciate how much time, money and effort it took him to do it.

So anyway, I happen to have a perfect pitch and an extremely developed “relative hearing”. As I was 4 years old and there was nobody to teach me how to read notes, I simply taught myself. So there I am, a 4 (or maybe 5) years old kid trying to understand the written language of music.

The way that I did it may sound a bit odd, but it worked. My parents happened to have an old Richard Clayderman record. I listened to it, and then asked my dad to go with me to buy the sheet music for the same songs played on that album. I then dedicated days and nights, listening to the album and trying to make sense of the sheet music, and haven’t given up until I figured it out. In a sense, I learned how to read notes simply by hearing and trying to synchronize what I’m hearing with what I’m reading, as well as trying playing it myself.

I really wanted a piano, however my family’s financial situation was not good at all (which also explains my attraction to the field of money management, investing etc., acquired later in life; perhaps in a separate post). They couldn’t afford it. As years went by, I ditched that keyboard however the knowledge of how to play the piano has remained. The passion has remained as well.

The number of times I actually sat down in front of a piano and played is, I would estimate, less than 100 in my entire life (there was an old piano in the neighbourhood's library, and my best friend in Israel had one at home that I seldom played).

Last night, I gave it a shot and decided to play my own custom piano version of Richard Bennett’s “A Face No More”, one of my favourite tracks of his first album. I have never played that song before, even on my guitar, let alone on any sort of keyboard. Yet it came out beautiful on that grand piano they had there in the hotel.

So, anyway.

I needed to get to the Newark airport to pick up the car. And who is better to advise me than the wonderful concierge in the hotel. Our options:

  1. Pay $80 for a private car service that will be ready upon a 2 hour (!!!) notice.
  2. Take a taxi cab and hope for good, because—and this is according to the concierge, I swear to God almighty that it’s an accurate quote—“they don’t like driving to Newark”.
  3. Pay $17 each and get there by public transit within an hour.

Now, Jeroen has a PhD in mathematics. I am very good in mathematics myself. Combining our two awesome brains together we arrived at the conclusion that the third option makes a bit more sense.

We walked to the subway station on West 79th and took route #1 to Penn Station. That was a very interesting experience due to the humongous load on my back, which forced me to manoeuvre myself as people boarded and left the subway. Finally we made it to Penn Station, bought tickets to the NJ Transit and waited for the next train, while I was devouring an Auntie Anne’s pretzel.

We left the station at 1:03pm en route to Newark Airport. The train ride starts underground, and is 20 minutes long. 5 minutes into the ride, it goes to ground level and you can’t believe your eyes. How different it is than NYC! No rush, no giant buildings... feels like home again.

From the Newark International Airport station, we took the AirTrain directly to the Newark Airport’s car rental location. The AirTrain thing is cool. In fact, I found the entire Newark Airport area to be rather clean and very well marked. You can’t get lost here.

Rented a car, a Chevrolet Cobalt, however its remote seemed to have been broken; car was exchanged to a Dodge Caliber which worked fine.

For some whatever reason, Jeroen and I decided it would be best to first drive to Philadelphia, unload our luggage, check into the hotel and go back to Newark, so we drove a few miles (well... 20) on the toll road before realizing that we are both extraordinarily stupid and turned back.

We went directly to the venue, which turned out later to be a very wise decision. We parked at the venue. A text‐message from my friend Alex Flagg (residing in San Francisco, we met in Boston after the concert), arriving about an hour after we parked, advised me that car theft rates in Newark are three times the national average and nine times that of NYC. As we had to leave our entire belongings in the car, security was a major concern. So it worked out nicely. As we came early, the venue’s parking lot was almost empty.

In the parking lot, I witnessed and extremely odd incident. I was going to pay for my parking pass. Suddenly some guy approached the person working at the parking garage, to ask him a question. He seemed to have tickets left at the Will Call for him, and asked for information where to pick up the tickets from.

The guy, seemed to be in his 50’s, looked at the requester with glazed eyes, and replied in a very deep and authoritative voice:

– “Do you have a parking pass?”

I was amazed, however not as much as the poor guy asking the question. He said “never mind” and left.

Yet another evidence to some people simply not caring for anything else in the world other than the specific function that they were destined to fulfill. That started yet another thought process in my head.

This really is a vicious cycle. People who don’t care and don’t see anything beyond the tip of their nose, typically are not promoted and are not given the chance to demonstrate more sophisticated abilities; and people who are being stuck with low‐end jobs and not being promoted and / or motivated are very likely to develop resentment towards the entire universe to the point that they completely lose interest in everything, except for what’s required for them to keep the job that they hate so much.

If it sounds confusing, then it’s because it really is.

But I think it’s true.

We took some stuff from the car with us and Jeroen wanted to pick his ticket up from the Will Call window, which, unlike the one in NYC, was very helpful except that they didn’t even bother asking him for ID—very strange. He then continued to ask if there’s any seat available which is better than the one he had. Some alternatives have been suggested, and he passed on all of them.

It was time to get a bite so we decided to hit what we thought was Newark’s cool downtown area. We walked from the venue to Broad Street which appeared to be the street where everything happens, only to find out that whatever happens there is not to our liking (involves people exchanging cash for some unidentifiable items). We switched direction and walked the other direction of Broad Street, just to get an even scarier image. Our mission to find a decent place to eat has failed miserably, and we had to choose between hitting Quizno’s Sub to going back to the venue and eating in the bistro they have there.

We went to the bistro.

Took us a few minutes to figure out that the outdoor seating is closed. It turned out that there are two parts to the eatery there: Theater Square Grill and Theater Square Bistro. The Grill was closed, the Bistro was open. As soon as we entered, we were asked by the hostess if we had a reservation. Here is what the place looked like:

IMG_1966

Impressed by the outstanding occupancy of the place, we said “no” and headed to the bar. The Bistro menu is very short however has some interesting items in it. I went for the trout salad and the burger, which were very good.

We had some time to kill so we headed back to Broad Street for a Starbucks. I asked the Barista there if we’re in a rough area of town. She smiled and said that Newark itself is a rough area of the world. It’s relatively unsafe anywhere in the downtown area. I thanked her for boosting my self confidence. We had our beverages and went back to the venue.

I wanted to check emails. The venue has some laptops adjacent to this cafe they have inside. The laptops are there to be used by patrons. Supposed to be free. Problem is that it didn’t work at all. It seemed like they were all connected wirelessly to their main router, but their main router failed to provide the machines with appropriate IP addresses, giving you that icon of “limited or no connectivity”. I notified the guy who worked there, who suddenly decided to appear knowledgeable, and went on to the most advanced level of computer systems troubleshooting—that of rebooting the laptops. Obviously that didn’t help. He then later told me that I’m the first who complained, in a tone that appeared to imply that I ruined it.

Geeeee.

I took some pictures of the venue:

IMG_1969IMG_1970

The venue, as well as its surroundings, is very impressive. It shows that people put a lot of effort and money into it. It is extremely clean, very well designed and it’s very easy to find your way around. The staff is courteous as well.

The doors opened at 7:30pm, half an hour before the opening act. I entered the venue and, guys, this venue is nothing short of breathtaking.

IMG_1972

What you see in this picture is the four tiers of this venue. I was seated front row, seat 115. The entire row had 16 seats and, really, no seat on that row is bad. Poor Jeroen, though, had to sit somewhere in the fourth tier. Look at it, it is so high. I suggested he rents some binoculars. He refused.

Jesca appeared on the stage at 8:00pm sharp, this time wearing jeans, some shirt and what appeared to be a bandanna on her head. As she approached the stage, I mistook the bandanna for some huge bandage and was really scared that maybe something horrible happened to her. I was relieved to find out this wasn’t the case.

Jesca performed her usual set which was good to my taste. I don’t recall which song it was when she suddenly realized she can’t remember the lyrics. She stopped for a second, then mentioned to us that she can’t remember the lyrics, got some good cheer and encouragement from the crowd and moved on. And she takes it all very lightly and easily! Amazing attitude.

During the break between the shows, I was approached to by a nice couple. The man asked me if I’m Isaac. I confirmed and then he introduced himself as Bill. Can’t recall his wife’s name (I told you all about 1,000 times before, I am terrible with names), but I’m pretty sure it was Carol. Bill told me that they have been reading my blog and enjoying it. We had a short chat that was interrupted by Paul’s authoritative voice asking people to shut off their cellphones and declaring war on filming.

I also met Nancy, a cool lady whom I’ve seen in two shows before—Las Vegas and (I think) Boston. We had a very short chat—she was seated a few seats away from me, until I realized (by the songs playing pre‐show) that the show is about to start in 10 seconds. I told them (she was there with a friend. Again, I’m terrible with names) that the show is about to start any second now and counted down with my fingers. They seemed to have thought I went completely bananas, however I ended up being correct so they laughed.

The show was great. Richard has mentioned in his previous blog that, as the tour is coming to an end, he becomes more and more tired. Well, even if it is true, it really isn’t reflected by the way he plays because he seemed as energetic and awesome as usual.

The set list was the usual one and the audience loved the show. The guy sitting next to me went completely ape sh*t during the show and appeared to be very excited about finally seeing these seven wonders perform.

Mark appeared to have rememorized the lyrics of So Far Away, as in the NYC show he played the wrong order (almost positive about it; checked with Jeroen, he thinks so too).

Awesome solo work during Hill Farmer’s Blues and Telegraph Road, and great acoustic work during Marbletown right before the interlude.

Everybody played very well. I think that at some point during the show there was a buzz emerging from one of the speakers, which has been fixed within seconds.

The sound was great in this venue. Speaking to Jeroen after the show, after he managed to come down from 30,000 feet above onto the ground floor, he told me that this was perhaps the best sound he ever experienced in a venue.

The problem in sitting in the front row is that you rarely get really, really good sound. More often than not, you get some noise as well. The noise level heard in the front row yesterday wasn’t that bad, however I’m sure that people sitting farther away from the stage got some great sound.

After the show, we went back to the car and drove all the way to Philadelphia. Tried to avoid the turnpike by setting my GPS’s preferences, only to find out that it takes us through US‐1 & 9 which has lots of traffic lights in it. We ended up going on the turnpike all the way to Philadelphia, for the staggering cost of $3.05. Took us some wandering around in downtown, as I took a wrong ramp into the lower level and my GPS thought that I’m the second level, asking me to make turns that I simply couldn’t as my car had no wings. We figured it out at the end.

Jeroen, being so kind as he is, also invited me to stay as a guest in his Philadelphia hotel. This turned out to be the Marriott Courtyard, right next to city hall. He got a room which is larger than some Toronto apartments I’ve seen. What a great room!

I asked about parking. The hotel offered a valet service, $40 for 24 hours. Or I can park my car in the parkade across the street for $30 a night. Outrageous, considering the fact I have to leave my car there for two nights. I was so tired so I took the car to the parkade. Upon returning to the room, I checked the parking situation over Google and found out that I could have parked my car in the JFK Plaza for $8.50 for the entire weekend. I started to wonder why is it that the receptionist didn’t tell me about that cheap & convenient option (the plaza is two blocks away). Then it occurred to me—well, she works for the hotel after all. The hotel needs to make money. Why would she tell me of a cost‐effective way to park my car, rather than boasting their valet service?

So first thing I did this morning was to take my car away from that parkade to the JFK plaza, where it is now. Then Jeroen and I went for some breakfast in a place called “Corner Bakery & Cafe”. Their Chicken Pomodoro sandwich is fantastic.

Went back to the hotel (where I am at the moment). Jeroen decided to board one of those funny tour buses, I decided to explore things by foot. I only have a few hours in this city until the show, and I have to leave tomorrow early morning to catch my flight from Newark to Charlotte.

Tonight I’m seated in row DD seat 108. Jeroen will be in the front row, he got it by ordering through the venue itself. Whoever of you attending the show tonight, feel free to drop by and say hello.

Later,
Isaac

2 comments:

Caryl said...

Isaac, it was a pleasure meeting you at the NJ PAC, and I actually am quite shocked that you DID remember my name...Carol (just spelled, Caryl)...Bill and I were on the lookout for you outside the venue before the show, but never did see you. Glad you have posted some pictures on the blog so we knew who we were looking for! Wish we had more time to chat, but like you said, PC came on to give the 'warning' so we went to our seats..which were, pretty good, right?!!! Unbelievable, actually!!! We are both really enjoying all of your entries in the blog. Hope to meet up with you at another MK show during a future tour. Get home safely!

Isaac said...

Hi Caryl,

You should, indeed, feel special. I am terrible, terrible with names. :-)

Thanks for the note!


Isaac