Tony Penultimate

Day 2 Cullen Centre Houston

This was a busy day, its 3.30am (now) and I've woken up after five hours sleep, so I thought I might as well get this out of the way rather than staring at the ceiling for the next hour - so here goes. Above is the first of many pens that I will collect from this tour (Le Meridien, Houston).The day had started after getting a full seven hours sleep when I was first down at breakfast at 7 am, I had managed to stay awake till 10pm (Houston time) the night before. Slept till 6.30 then I was the first into breakfast - read up on the history of Houston on Wikipedia over my food - its the fourth most populous city in the US, it boomed in the '50s with the advent of air conditioning, which made the summers more bearable, and many businesses moved here: energy, medical, aeronautics, and transportation etc.After breakfast, went back to my room and took more power naps until it was time for us to assemble and walk to our workshop at the Cullen Centre at midday - here's the gang: I think I'm going to start calling the Ukes - 'the Gangbrand', as I'm never quite sure what we are - a group of friends or a business - travelling around the world, fulfilling 'demand' and satisfying customers 'entertainment needs' - oh well, in the words of the late great Kurt Cobain - 'whatever'The walk was about ten minutes and the streets were quiet, apart from some kind of a cycle race marathon in a nearby park - the town has a tram system, which according to Marie (Dave's girlfriend, a Texas native) was build to encourage more people to live downtown - she said 20 years ago it was all businesses, but now there are many more apartments.

Here's us getting ready to go into our workshop, I'm not sure what it was billed as, but we did what we always do: talked about how we play together as a group (don't all play the same thing - make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, park your performing ego at the door etc) and played a few common songs (eg Happy Birthday) in different styles etc.  The are plenty of active groups around here and we had attendees from the Houston, Dallas and Galveston ukulele clubs/societies, all with their own branded stickers, badges etc.Here's us briefly chatting at the end, before we had to rush off to soundcheck as we were doing an early gig (5.30pm - thank goodness).The obligatory soundcheck photo - the first of many such pictures I expect. The Cullen Theatre is an interesting place - the Houston ballet is resident here and, unlike Covent Garden or Dresden in Europe, where the Ballet and Opera house are in the same buidling, the Houston Opera is in a different theatre - there is obviously plenty of money in this town. Flipping through the brochure, past pictures of the dancers from all over the world (including a principal dancer from Birkenhead in England - a real life Billy Elliot!) are pictures of the sponsors - a selection of immaculately coiffed ladies and their husbands, who have made large behests to the place (many in excess of $100,000!). I was reminded of some of the 'meet and greets' we did straight after gigs on our 2016 tour, and feeling like a sweaty horse in a roomful of wealthy people!We'd done pretty well on the tickets (sold 1100 seats) and the gig was good - we all managed to get through it and the response was positive (standing ovation). Several old friends of the band, including Ricky Upton, had travelled long distances to see us (all the way from New Orleans, with his family - thank you Ricky!). As ever and somewhat sadly when we tour, there is never enough time to sit down and have a really good chat as we are always prepping for the next show and more travel.
On the walk back to the hotel, the town had livened up considerably from the afternoon (it was St Patricks Day after all) we walked past several erstatz 'Oirish' style bars - all with names like O'Crikeys and bursting with revellers in green clothing. I noticed the moon going over this residential skyscraper, each apartment with its own vertigo inducing balcony, one of which seems to have a swimming pool - presumably the penthouse.Me, Ben, Will and Doug, feeling hungry, decided to go fo a slice of pizza at Franks - recommended by lots of people - unfortunately the place was rammed with a huge queue, so we walked back to the hotel to have a drink and some food. 
And bumped into Dave, Ricky Upton and the rest of the Houston ukes for a drink before stumbling off to bed at 10am. We're travelling tomorrow up to Michigan (two flights) but no gig, but we will be back in Texas on the 25th at Boerne (pronounced 'Berner' according to our friends in the Houston Ukes) - I'm going back to bed - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
 

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