Postcard From USA

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

 

          So it’s already Day 6 of my 14-day journey to California, escaping the tail end of one of Britain’s longest cold spells in almost 30 years.  It’s considerably warmer here than in UK, but not enough to keep me from wishing it was March or April already. Plus, Northern California is expected to be hit by a series of at least four storms that will bring much wind and rain over the next week. Well, joy abounding!

             Good thing I plan to go to LA for a couple of days this week. Most likely this Wednesday night, I’ll get to see the official premiere of the new Pee Wee Herman Show at the Nokia Theatre in LA. This may be bittersweet, as I was in the original some 29 years ago, and there was a possibility of me and my old partner Ruby (Monica Ganas) reprising our roles as the singing neighbors, Mr. & Mrs. Jelly Donut. But I knew back in September that the bit that we’d done for the show was going to be too dated, and that there wouldn’t be available time or resources to write and rehearse a new bit that would be up to snuff. Kinda tough when you’re living 6000 miles away! So Mrs. JD and I, along with her husband, will be there merely as spectators, though it promises to be a Hollywood shmoozefest, the likes of which I haven’t attended in quite a while.

             Meanwhile, I’ve gotten to see bad improv, then accompany better improv, the last three days. What makes BAD improv? How about when all the individual members try too hard to get the single punch line out, rather than listen to each other and try to build the scene to something credible? Or milk a premise that wasn’t that funny to begin with? Or, when taking audience suggestions, ignore them until they get something they feel cozy with, rather than accept the challenge? This group did all that and more. What was nice about the bad improv was that it wasn’t my only option. The venue was the SF Academy of Sciences, who on Thursdays have been opening the building to the public, offering a bar and entertainment. Thus if you found the improv as dull as I did, at least you had an African animals exhibit in the same room, or a fully re-created rain forest, or various natural history exhibits as alternate choices. Somehow the sleeping geckos and hidden-in-brush tarantulas were a welcome change.

                More interesting was backing Bay Area Theatre Sports in their Rock & Roll themed improv. This offered a chance not only for me to be playing and getting a little bit of pay and recognition for something other than my act, it allowed me to flex creative muscles I hadn’t used for awhile. I was required to play intro-outro music for scenes with my other partner, keyboardist Joshua Raoul Brody, who’s been working with them for years. On Friday, we also had a drummer to augment it even more. It’s a tough task to seize a single word or phrase from a set up, and have only a few seconds to run through the musical rolodex to find a specific tune that not only reflects the theme of the scene, but one that is recognizable by any percentage of the audience. Overall, we probably scored around 50%, not bad where improv is concerned, as the actors on a good day would be overjoyed with that tally. Only downside is I’d forgotten what a bitch it is to have a guitar, especially one as heavy as a Les Paul, slung over your shoulder for a couple of hours. I’m feeling it today.

                 So far working with BATS has been the highlight of my trip, though I have an actual Rick Right gig on Tuesday that is one of the few US venues I still play on any regular basis, the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley. If it goes well, I’ll have new video footage for the website and Youtube, thank god. (Oh, yeah, what is this bullshit about Facebook becoming a paid subscriber service in July?)

               When I come back to UK on the 26th, I have to immediately start packing for my move back to the place I thought I’d seen the back of, Dagenham, Essex. I’ve told various entities that I plan to be moved in by the 1st of February, giving me about 6 days maximum to box and move 30000 vinyl records. I’ve also got gigs around those crucial days to cut into my overall available time, but at a time when gigs seem to be at a premium, I can’t really cancel any of the ones I get, though that horrendous weather managed to cancel a couple of them anyway.  

                  I’m not sure why, but in spite of being back in the US for the first time since September, and maybe no further trips out there until next September, I shouldn’t be so looking forward to returning to UK as I am. Don’t like the weather, have only learned to tolerate the food, pro soccer will never replace baseball in my sporting interest, and I still have trouble adapting to re-learning the English language just so I can be understood. Perhaps it’s just because it’s where I’ve been for most of the last decade, and where more opportunities exist, though there’s been less to be optimistic about in recent months. And at this very moment, just as I’m on the fence about where I belong vs. where I am, it’s just started pissing rain here in San Fran. OK, then. 

 

  



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