After a day of very light travel (Chicago to Milwaukee), we’re back at driving routine again. It’s a 5 hour drive west from Milwaukee to Minneapolis. My expectations with regards to a sleepless night in Milwaukee have not failed me and I woke up after a couple of hours sleep, really weary and tired.
Weather didn’t seem to co‐operate either; it’s been raining since last night I believe; the sky was grey, the air damp and foggy.
Clearly, the stars have aligned themselves just right. Long drive, ugly weather, tiredness… what else could one wish for. I was looking forward for breakfast; you know, sometimes, a good breakfast is really your only hope for things to get better.
Sunday morning, hardly a soul in downtown Milwaukee. We stopped at Cafe Mocha, adjacent to the Riverside Theatre where the concert took place last night. They had millions types of coffee but only one poorly‐looking sandwich.
Frustrated, we left the store. One should not have his morning coffee on an empty stomach. Looking around trying to find a place to eat, my eyes suddenly landed on a sign saying “sandwiches”. Right across the road from Cafe Mocha, there’s a place called “Potbelly’s” which claimed to be serving good sandwiches.
I felt obligated to check whether they know what they’re talking about.
Large store, hip interior. Three people in their twenties working there, really gives you the feeling as if you have just shed a few years off your life. A couple of minutes later, the sandwich was ready.
And I wouldn’t have told you about this experience had it not been one of the grandest, most delicious sandwiches I have ever had the pleasure to wrap my mouth around. Jeroen and I looked at each other with astonishment right after the first bite; perfect, no other way to describe it. Whoever been around Europe (or Montréal, or Québec City) knows how hard it is to find perfect bread in North America; thousands of Subway stores consistently fail to deliver and here’s this place, a chain I had never heard of, doing it better than any other sandwich store I had been to. I took the Italian Sandwich, containing all bunch of cold‐cuts in a hot, fresh bun.
We vowed to return to this place on our way back from Minneapolis to Ann‐Arbor (passing through Milwaukee).
Finally a good sign for perhaps a better day. Crossed the street back to Cafe Mocha for my coffee to go, and within minutes we were back in the car, ready to drive to Minneapolis.
Not much to tell about the drive except that it has been raining almost non‐stop pretty much the entire way. Landscape here is very familiar to whomever had the chance to drive in south‐western Ontario—I guess we’re not up to any dramatic changes in landscape until we cross the border south of Montréal back to the USA (I’m pretty sure we’re going to cross wonderful Vermont? have to check the map).
We lost about 45 minutes on our way to Minneapolis due to the I‐90 / I‐94 westbound being effectively closed for traffic, and the eastbound lanes split into east/west lanes. Two lanes in each direction had to merge into one, and that usually doesn’t work very fast, especially when you factor the rain into the equation. Good thing we left early.
I was looking forward to meet Nir, his wife and baby girl whom I met in Chicago two days before, in a freaky, completely coincidental encounter in the elevator leading to my hotel.
I don’t know much about Minnesota, but something tells me that religion may be popular here. Seen quite a few signs warning me that Jesus is watching me, that when I die I’ll meet with God, and other sorts of propaganda telling me how exciting my life is going to be when I’m dead. Gee thanks.
We finally made it to a big city; Jeroen took a bunch of skyline pictures:
… only to realize later that that wasn’t really Minneapolis, but Saint Paul. Another 15–20km drive and we were in downtown Minneapolis, at the Holiday Inn Express hotel on 11th street—supposedly right downtown. We were both looking forward for some action in a big city after this long driving day.
Jeroen found it necessary to take a picture of this; I can’t recall being offered so many bath accessories in a hotel before.
Boring as hell on a freezing day, at least on Sunday evenings.
I have been here only once before—summer of 2008, during the Kill to Get Crimson tour; the concert then took place at the Orpheum Theatre, just across the street from the State Theatre. I don’t have the fondest memories from that visit; I seem to recall getting lost due to endless road construction, as well as being starving before the show and having to walk about 2km to find a decent place for food. I do recall though that people were nice, which may be the most important thing after all.
But boring as hell. Left the hotel towards the venue to collect the tickets (front row, best seats in the house again), then consulted the BlackBerry about where to have some coffee. Almost everything was closed, except for a Panera Breads store down in Nicolette Mall street.
I remembered Panera Breads from my visit to Nashville, also during the Kill to Get Crimson tour. I was looking forward to using my teeth to chew on their fresh breads; unfortunately, since it was about an hour before closing, I got a mediocre sandwich and a roll of bread as a side—I literally couldn’t chew it, it was a brick. Yuck. Bah. Never again.
An order of a cappuccino has been fulfilled with way too much milk in it. I think they literally went away and milked a cow especially for my cup of coffee. That’s another thing that really annoys me in the espresso industry in North America: step into ten different coffee shops, ask for a cappuccino—and you’ll get ten different combinations of espresso and milk. That sort of confusion really doesn’t exist anywhere else but in North America—the reason being that the espresso market here is relatively new.
At some point Jeroen left to see the opening act; I had to stay at the cafe to continue working on my side‐projects. Shortly after, I accidentally turned my head around towards the cashier—don’t know why, because I didn’t really expect anything too pleasing to the eye there—and noticed a couple and a baby. They seemed awfully familiar… well, I guess this world is even smaller than I thought. It was Nir, his wife and baby girl, whom I met in Chicago completely by accident. I knew we were all going to meet at the concert, but the fact that we all met at the same coffee place prior to the show, is yet another freakish coincident.
And so we passed the time with a lovely conversation, during which I held their wonderful baby girl (who later became famous—read below) so the nice couple could get something to eat without having to worry about things being thrown off the table by the little hands of a micro human being. The baby and I bonded real quickly.
We then made our way towards the State Theatre, a short walk away. At the venue I received yet additional reinforcement to this blog’s popularity as nice people came by and introduced themselves to me, enthusiastically mentioning how they like this very blog you’re reading now. Thanks for the support, folks, much appreciated.
A few minutes of chit‐chat between the five of us (Jeroen, the family of three and myself) and the show started. The show was great, but I was in another world, folks; I was very tired. As a matter of fact, I was so tired that I barely found the strength to cheer—even though I wanted to, because the show was indeed a great success. Funnily enough, even when I’m not the only driver in this trip, still it is much harder for me than the previous one. Distances here are just so great and there’s much that occupies my mind that I find it really hard to get a good night sleep.
Mark did remember, though, that he’s in Minneapolis, and made it clear in his speech to the crowd. No setlist surprises today, and having passed the half‐way mark of the North American tour, I’m pretty sure no such surprise will take place in North America—I am very curious to see, though, what the European tour will bring.
The much disciplined crowd was anti‐standing this time, which I find ridiculous as Piper to the End is, as I said, a national anthem rather than a song.
Jeroen took some photos during this show. Apparently he received some photo‐taking advice from his friend Lennart, and he was eager to employ the newly‐learned techniques. Thanks Lennart for the tips:
After the last song, my friend Nir carried his baby girl to the front of the crowd, much to Mark’s joy (he appears to love little kids). I wrote, in my last post, that the baby girl had some good Knopfler experience as she was listening to him while still being an embryo, plus she met him during the unveiling of the Dire Straits plaque in the UK a few months ago (she was maybe two months old). Such a sweet baby, that I effectively stole it from her father’s hands and held her while we were leaving the concert hall, and while Nir was molesting the merchandise stand buying all bunch of goodies.
I also met Eric—a reader of this blog with whom I had a nice chat; he provided us with a very important and appreciated tip—where to get some good coffee around here. Much appreciated, Eric; good to see you.
About half an hour after the show ended, I had to return the baby to her rightful “owner” (she seemed happy with it, though. Little kids like me, but up to a point, I guess). Was great to meet Nir & his family, and sucked really hard to bid them goodbye.
Israelis know it better than anyone… when Israelis meet abroad, they can become friends in an instant. There are various reasons for that; I’ll keep it to a later post. At the meantime, whenever you hear about Israel—the country or its people—try to think beyond what you hear in the news or what you get from all sorts of propaganda; it’s a beautiful country, and even though its people may be perceived as too straightforward (sometimes maybe rude), there’s this special kind of warmth in this country’s people that you are unlikely to find anywhere else.
Went back to the hotel, walking about 10 minutes in a really boring street. Made some good progress with one of my side‐projects, and went to sleep. Nothing to exciting.
Tomorrow (Monday) there’s no show, but we’ll drive to Milwaukee and spend the night there before proceeding towards Ann‐Arbor, Michigan on Tuesday.