“Hi… Mike Fornatale here” — By Mike Fornatale – Part One
October 28, 2003
Well, I really do have to weigh in now. I would have done this from the road, but we were horribly Tech-Deprived most of the time — one of the Violin Goddesses (Paula) had a laptop, a Wi-Fi connection, and about a thousand pieces of humming/beeping/glowing gadgetry, and was thus even more popular during the trip than she would have otherwise been, which is plenty enough. Even given that, the only place where we had a decent (read: “free”) phone connection was at the venue in DC (Virginia, actually) and Paula’s laptop was hissing and crackling under the strain of overuse by thirteen e-mail-starved travelers. So I limited my usage of same to the simple examination of my e-mail inbox (three days away from home — total number of incomings: 142!!) and I just sat there absent-mindedly clicking “delete”….. “delete”….. “delete”….. “delete” on all of the helpful advertisements promising to add two inches onto me. Hell, if I had answered all of them, I’d probably be able to reach my wife with “it” all the way from DC — but, you see, there was no time.
Where was I? Oh, yeah — hi. Mike Fornatale here. Who am I and why am I writing this? You can catch up here if you like:
“The Red Telephone” was happy with my work at Town Hall NYC in June, so he asked me to be guitar tech/backline tech for this little mini-tour. And, of course, to have the bonus perk of singing at the sound checks in Arthur’s stead, again. Also, I’d be the one driving either the cargo van or the 15-passenger van with the band and orchestra in it. I chose the passenger van. Why? Because I love people so much, I guess. And to further the cause of World Peace. And because right now, at this moment in history, it’s a piece of cake to make fun of Californians. Like shooting fish in a barrel, really.
Anyway, Mike Randle has asked me to supplement/complement his own diary entries, while I collect my thoughts to write a larger piece that’ll be available in a week or two, along with pictures. Immediately some things have to be said, I see, regarding both the Philadelphia show and the comparison of Swedish Orchestra vs. US Orchestra. First of all, Philadelphia.
Me and The Red Telephone (and a friend of his, in the third vehicle) rolled into Philly at midafternoon on Saturday. We took the third guy to the train station (he was heading home to go to the World Series game that night) and then headed off to the airport to pick up the band, the orchestra, Arthur, and Arthur’s cousin/assistant Leon. Got to the airport easily, without incident, and waited by the baggage carousels for about half an hour.
Randle was the first to appear. I’m told this is the way it usually goes. We had a big hug, made fun of each other’s hair (HE STARTED IT! HE STARTED IT!) and waited for the rest of the weary travelers. Finally collected ’em all, and against all odds managed to fit all their luggage into the two vehicles. (I know you THINK you know how much space a cello takes up — but trust me, you don’t.)
And of course, on the way back from the airport, we promptly got lost. Went past the exit we wanted — twice. I am blameless. I was following The Red Telephone, or in this case The Red Minivan.
Chapple was sitting up front with me, and Arthur was right behind us in the middle seat. (He was supposed to have gone in the much-more-comfortable minivan, but he jumped in with us instead.) My iPod was blaring “Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke. Arthur shouted out “Who is that, do you know?” at Chapple. I answered, before I could stop myself. Arthur then said “I know YOU know, I wanna see if HE knows.” (Well, Dave knew, of course, but he’s from California and therefore I’m quicker than he.) I then managed to get myself into a small but polite argument with Arthur immediately (how DO I keep doing this?? It’s just a gift, I guess) when he opined that the Left Banke were from San Francisco. Finally I laughed and said “Oh, no, you’re not doing this to me again! You got me on Skip Spence, but not this time!” He laughed too and said “Well, you’ve taught me something today!”
That night, just about everyone showed up in the sports bar at the hotel, to eat and to watch Game One of the World Series, including Arthur. It was quite heartening to hear all these California Folks rooting hard for my beloved NY Yankees — I did not expect that. Then I remembered the disdain that Californians feel for all things Florida. (Motto: “The OTHER Place That Grows Oranges.”)
Well, we lost, of course. And that was the only game we actually got to watch, on the entire tour!
The next afternoon, we got to the venue. What a gorgeous place. About 150+ years old, I’ll guess, and obviously a converted opera house with the seats taken out. Gorgeous carved-wood balcony. And full to the gills with the kind of ghosts, ambience, and smells that a theatre of that age has. I loved it. It compensated (partially) for the slimy Dinner-Voucher concept discussed elsewhere by Randle. (Me, I didn’t get to eat. There was only one non-sit-down place on the ticket — a pizza/sandwich place — and after I walked the four blocks to its FORMER location, I found that it no longer existed. Rock and roll. I wasn’t gonna have time to sit down and eat the way the orchestra ladies did, so I just went up to the dressing room and made a Rider Sandwich.)
This entry is getting way too long so I’ll skip the show itself for now (I know you don’t care about that anyway) and simply address a couple of things that Mr. Randle has said elsewhere:
<< then this one guy separates from the pack and makes his request known at the top of his lungs "THROW THE CELLO PLAYER DOWN!" Rusty and i were practically in tears laughing our asses off! Well....being the cheeky f*cker i am, i go and get Ana, our Cello player >>
Unbeknownst to Randle, this is actually the END of the story. The story actually starts out IN the house, after most of the audience had left, and Pete (the front-of-house man) and I were packing up the equipment. Two of these boneheads were jammed up against the stage yelling for “Cello Lady! Cello Lady!” They got pretty annoying, and at one point even demanded of me that I go back and get “Cello Lady” and bring her to them. On a plate, I guess.
Finally I said, “I think she’s a couple of ticks out of your league, fellas.” Which, frankly, I would also have said had they been asking me to bring them Joan Rivers, they were that hopeless-looking.
At that moment, Viola Goddess Heather came out of the back to search for some lost item or other, and my two New Best Friends started bellowing “VIOLIN LADY! VIOLIN LADY! WE WANT YOU!”
Clue number 688: when you’re trying to impress a girl, don’t call her by the wrong instrument.
The subtext here (which is really insulting!) is that, after they were thwarted in their quest for their first choice (Ana) they were obviously willing to “settle” for Heather (or, I guess, whomever walked out next.) F*ckheads. I was folding up cymbal stands while all this was taking place (and Heather, by the way, was NOT particularly amused) and my Macho Douchebag Older Brother Instinct started welling up inside me, and I had a good mind to pierce his f*cking skull with the javelin-like implement I was holding. I passed, though. No point in getting arrested the FIRST night!