Friday, August 31, 2007

Rocked Out

Here we go again, it's another exciting travel day, time for another episode of Blogging from the Bus! Where it's AT. It's exceptionally flat here in central Florida. Not that I expected the Rockies or anything, but maybe a little more hill-and-dale action. We managed to escape the rat's mouth before getting swallowed up and are now motoring on towards Tampa, where we have our last show in Florida tomorrow. Then, a Sunday hop to Atlanta, a final show there on Monday, and back home on Tuesday. As fun as it's been, I'm definitely ready for nearly a month of down-time.

What can one say about Boca? Like all of Florida at this time of the year, it's damn hot. Hot and sweaty. I haven't run outside in what feels like a couple months, but was really just Boston, a week and a half ago. And you know it's hot when I gravitate towards a treadmill. So what to do? One can only sun themselves by the pool for so long before succumbing to sunburn or heat stroke. At best, it's comfortable in the shade, but usually just tolerable. I've been pining for August in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan... 80 during the day, maybe a little humid but not too much, then chilly enough for pants and a jacket about an hour after sunset. * Sadly, it looks as if a UP run may not happen this year, which means that it'll just have to be epic next summer.

We were quartered this time around at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, an opulent, pink, and largely vacant rabbit-warren-within-golf-course dotted with palm trees and blue lounge chairs. Did I mention pink? Why it's such a prominent SoFlo adornment, I will always wonder (but rarely ponder). This was the kind of place where I thoroughly enjoyed walking around unshaven in a bathing suit and ratty t-shirt, despite the recommendation of "casual resort attire." Walking shorts and some wonky yellow polo shirt with a little alligator on the front? No thank you. I also enjoyed spending $3.73 on a cup of coffee. Luxury coffee. Because when you have to walk 15 minutes off the resort complex to find it anywhere else, they have the luxury of charging what they will. I am happy to report, though, that they got no more of my money than that.

All that aside, one would be a fool to gripe about the pool, situated along the Intracoastal Waterway, blessed with a constant breeze, water at a perfect, warm-yet-refreshing temperature. I spent a few hours out there, working on my burn-tan, reading a book, taking a dip as necessary. And thankfully, since one would have to be a little nuts to willingly vacation in Florida in August, there might have been 15-20 people there at its busiest despite a pool infrastructure designed to accommodate 100+ at any give time. Ahh, space.

The one fault, though, stuck out like a missing incisor on an otherwise flawless beauty. They had hired a guitar-wielding singer to play bland cabana-music sets along with a band-in-the-box setup. Horrible is a good place to start. He was batting around .230 with his guitar chops (if we may call them such), which may be acceptable in baseball but in music earns one a gong and a foot in the ass. After about an hour of wondering what a low, belabored moaning sound was, I finally identified it as the protest of melodies under duress. And then he started to sing. We've been trying to think of an appropriate analog in the performance world, even partial, but nothing has come to our collective mind. Conjuring my best powers of description, his tone of voice was hollow, wispy, and empty, and pitches as defined by the 12-tone system didn't happen often. Forget about rhythm. Imagine a deflated balloon trying to sing Santana. That comes close. If Christopher Guest were to follow Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind with a film about the sub-tropical entertainment business, this guy could definitely be a character. Not a main one, but he'd show up for a couple minutes here and there.

Before Boca came Orlando, where we had two full days off. No, I didn't go to any of the theme parks, despite the fact that we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel on the grounds of the Universal complex. I was quite happy to hang by the pool or at the pool bar, read a book, hang in my comfy room, hit the gym, and occasionally venture out for a stroll on the Citywalk or a quest for Indian food. "Having a day off" and "going on vacation," while not mutually exclusive, should not be treated as equivalent. I am not on vacation. I wanted days off, days which required little effort and involved neither bus ride nor performance. So days off are what I got.

While not exactly the shore of Lake Superior, or Franconia Notch, the Hard Rock was a fine place to spend some down time. Though Orlando surely thrives during the summer in a way Boca does not, the crowd of families thinned daily with Labor Day weekend fast approaching, kiddies bound for school once again. The crowd density lingered in that zone safely above deserted, nowhere near oppressive. Loosely packed, comfortable. The pool served its purpose, yet with a maximum depth of 3.5 feet and a temperature tepid enough to bring to mind the unscrupulous bladder control of those 10 and under left one wishing for a real pool. A man's pool, sans pee. Decor was classy-casual, hip enough to make people feel like they were rockin' with the in crowd, but cushy enough to assure them that they were getting their money's worth. Nowhere near as hip-casual as the Park Hyatt in DC, but that's a high bar.

Their Hard-Rockish, we're cool, cut-loose-and-have-fun branded vibe wore thin within the first day. It would be nice to escape it in at least a couple locations within the hotel (like, ahh, maybe... my room!?), but no, it's as pervasive as the Florida humidity is outside. Every time they have the chance to use a quote from some rock classic, you can bet it's there: the Eagles' "You can check out anytime you'd like, but you can never leave" printed on the express checkout card; Floyd's "Wish you were here" on postcards; John Lee Hooker's "One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer" on the bar napkins (but of course credited to George Thorogood), etc. It seems they've obtained every piece of rock n' roll memorabilia imaginable and display it prominently on every square foot of surface: Cliff Williams' bass in the lobby, a greeting from Live behind the front desk, a picture of Korn above your bed. And naturally, no one is safe from the music. Hard Rock ALL THE TIME. No moment of solace at the pool, it's Pantera again! What's that I hear from my room? It's a live band in the lobby at 10:00! And beware where you sit at the pool bar, you may receive an even mix between the pool speakers and the concert footage blaring from the TVs above the bar, which can be funny at times (ie. Queen on Prince) but generally has the effect of turning the brain into putty.

The one place safe from all things Hard Rock was the laundry room. If it had a window, I may have stayed there for longer than it took to wash, dry, and fold.

Related to the vibe and endlessly entertaining was the manner in which the toiletries were labeled in bold, block letters: "HAIR" for shampoo, "HANDS" and "FACE" for different soaps, "BODY" for lotion, and you get the idea. Had I another hour, I would have been tempted to take a sharpie to as many squares of TP as possible: "ASS." It's a good thing they didn't have condoms.

And that should about wrap it up, on a note of utmost maturity as always. Other mindly meanderings intended for this effort will have to be saved for something of a sequel, which will likely be soon 'cause I'm FEELIN' IT. As a good friend of mine once wrote, "ALLRIGHTY THEN!!! God have the longest recoil before the shot of anyone I know!! and then...kabbbbbbbbboooooooooooooooooooooooom. zowie." $10 for anyone who can correctly guess the author in question. Until next!

* For the purpose of this romanticization, I have omitted the mosquitoes.


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