Woke up this morning in Somerville, MA to a bright sunny day, toward which I was completely oblivious for the first couple of hours because I was exhausted due to lack of sleep the night before. The only thing I can remember about today’s first couple of hours was (you guessed it) breakfast.
Already have mastered the art of packing quickly, we left the hotel as soon as humanly possible (that rude front‐desk girl was there. I wanted to see whether her rude attitude was anecdotal or systematic; I checked; it’s systematic). As I was only 10% awake, Jeroen did the driving to a breakfast place he had read reviews about—Ball Square Cafe in downtown Somerville.
Oh, finally, having great breakfast. After some colossal culinary failures, we finally landed on a good place. Drinks are free (except for espresso‐based products), and their menu wasn’t limited to the standard American breakfast menu. Great service, and I had a delicious smoked salmon omelette, baked potato… just enough to start the day.
(Or, as it turned out quite shortly after, fall asleep again in the car)
I don’t really know what happened during the next hour or two as Jeroen was driving us away from Massachusetts; I was half asleep, in need of caffeine (that good breakfast place boasted some terrible cappuccino that I couldn’t drink. You want to heat the milk, not cook it. Someone please write that sentence on a huge placard and hang it just above their espresso machine); I do remember though that at some point we switched, and I found myself in the driver’s seat.
The ride from Massachusetts towards Connecticut is very pleasant (we’ve been here before… just a couple of days ago), with scenery getting quite impressive once you hit Connecticut. Such a beautiful state, I fail to understand how during my 8 years in North America I never got around to tour around.
Zero traffic jams, as we chose a slightly longer ride—rather than taking the straight way down to New‐Jersey, we took the I‐84, I‐287 towards Morristown—bypassing NYC and neighbouring traffic altogether. Brilliant weather, can’t think of better weather for a convertible ride.
As we were just about to leave Connecticut, I decided to have some coffee in that beautiful state before I kiss it goodbye. A search for cafe’s on our route showed just under five billion Starbucks stores, but I did find one entry there for a local cafe.
Mocha Coffee House (Google Maps & reviews, website), located at Sandy Hook, CT, is a superb coffee house offering interesting drinks, comfortable indoor seating and a gorgeous patio overlooking a peaceful river running next to impressive greenery. Taking a look at the view, I really didn’t want to go anywhere else. I was more than willing to park my ass on one of those tall metal seats in the patio, shift to relaxation mode and the hell with everything else.
Being there made me feel bad about the proliferation of chain cafe’s and restaurants, on the expense of locally‐owned, authentic establishments. Granted, buying coffee at Starbucks may save you a few pennies on your coffee; so the coffee costs you less, but over time, you lose something else which you cannot possibly buy back with the money you saved: you lose sight of the small details, of the small establishments, of variety. Now how ironic is that… the so‐called “free market” eventually leads to the lack of freedom in choosing where to dine, because people apply market rules on their dining choices (why eat in a slightly more expensive local establishment, if I can eat at some lousy chain for less money and I know what I’m getting).
After a total of about 5–6 hours of driving through green landscapes, lakes, rivers and hills, we finally arrived at Red Bank, NJ—not before we experienced some slow traffic but nothing too harsh.
Red Bank, NJ (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Bank,_New_Jersey) is a tiny town off the southern bank of the Navesink River. It used to be a major economic center until the 1987 recession which lead to a significant decline in the town’s economy.
As we were going to spend the night at a hotel near Newark airport, we drove directly to Red Bank with all of our belongings; that required us to change in the car, once we parked. At least I didn’t feel like going to a Mark Knopfler concert wearing shorts, a T‐shirt and sandals.
The Count Basie Theatre (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Count_Basie_Theatre) is located right at the intersection of Monmouth Street & Maple Avenue, which is the west part of Red Bank’s downtown area. At first glance at the exterior revealed nothing to be too excited about:
Had some time to kill so we were looking for a place to sit down and have a normal dinner once and for all. Just across the street, we found a place called “Eurasian Eatery”.
Fabulous dinner. If ever in the area, go there. They have dumplings worth dying for. Great meal kept me full till about 10 minutes ago (the time now is 3:49am).
Picked up the tickets from the box office—best seats in the house, front row seats 107 & 108. I had to work on a few things so I split to a nearby Starbucks (the only other cafe within walking distance, which wasn’t a Starbucks, was closed. “No Joe’s Cafe”. I liked the name) and hammered on my Netbook doing some… well… never mind.
Went back to the venue 20 minutes before the concert started. Was good to see Nancy again—she brought her son with her this time. I encourage that: bring your children to Knopfler’s shows, maybe that will make them stop listening to trash.
The theatre itself is much more impressive than last night’s venue (Boston’s Orpheum Theatre), yet not as impressive as, say, Hollywood’s Pantages. Still a good balance I think. Decent venue.
At 8:50pm, the show started.
Over the last week or so, since Mark pinched that nerve in his back, I have been receiving all sorts of emails expressing concern over Mark’s condition. Well, while he still requires some assistance walking to his chair, allow me to assure you that you should not have any concern about his performance. True, that pinched nerve did affect a few performances, but the Boston concert was a great improvement and today’s show in Red Bank was so good that you can hardly tell that Mark is under a lot of pain anymore.
Same setlist as the night before, no surprises there—although the Pensa did make it again to be played during Prairie Wedding. I mentioned yesterday that I liked that switch (according to Richard Bennett’s diary, the guitar switch was done in order to cope with the poor wiring at the Orpheum Theatre which caused some electrical buzz), sounded great today as well.
The band seemed to be in a good mood, playing very well. A very entertaining moment was during Donegan’s Gone, when the Mark & Tim “guitar talk” was suddenly stopped—along with all other instruments—giving Glenn Worf a few seconds of definite solo performance on the upright bass. Not sure if Glenn really anticipated it, he looked a bit surprised, much to the other band‐members’ pleasure (and the audience’s).
Another great story with this performance was the crowd. Cheery, dynamic crowd. Lots of people were dancing during certain songs, moving various body parts not necessarily in tempo with the music—yielding quite the entertaining sight.
Next to me, there was seated a couple, probably older than my parents (say around 60 years old), who didn’t stop moving with the music for even one second. They were totally into it, ecstatic with every minute of the show. The woman was actually so into it that her legs were actually moving in random directions, in the air, as if she’s on a pendulum. It was endearing to see such a sight. I like it when people are completely into the music.
Show ended with the usual encore and a very happy crowd.
After the show, 68℉ outside and a pleasant convertible ride to Country Inn & Suites at Newark airport, where we will base for the next four nights. We’ll do short day‐trips to NYC, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City.
Very excited about tomorrow. For once, this will be the first day during the tour which will include no driving at all—we’ll take the train from the airport directly to Penn Station. Looking forward for a day of fun in Manhattan. Already have a restaurant I need to check out, plus I’ll pay a visit to B&H to buy a camera.
Stay tuned for updates. Good night from Newark!