Tour Report: New York and Philly

Since last Monday internet access has been spotty, so this entry will be a long one. Quick overview: Amtrak follow-up, New York and Philly shows, and my experience at the Occupy Wall Street protest.

I’m writing this from an train from New York to New Orleans (there is no wi-fi on the train, so it’ll be published when I arrive in NOLA). The way the situation ultimately resolved was this. Despite my clamoring on social media, and the kind-retweeting of my plight by many of my follower friends, I received no call from Amtrak saying, “So sorry, please stop giving us a black eye and we’ll replace your pass free of charge.” So I was at an impasse whether to continue my tour or go home. Of course I was loathe to choose the latter (and obviously I didn’t), but I felt like it was the responsible thing at least to consider it, since racking up credit card debt is not the sort of adventure I had in mind for this tour; I’ve already been on that ride. But I realized that any path I took was going to cost me something I didn’t count on, and a plane ride back to the Bay would probably be at least a couple hundred dollars. I would only need to purchase a 30-day pass to complete the tour, which costs $579, so really we’re looking at only $250-300 more than it would cost me to get home. That’s probably a few months of credit card payments, but I also already spent a ton of time over the course of three months planning this thing. So then the choice seemed to be between taking on some debt versus throwing away time already invested, and that was an easy pick.

Thursday I called Amtrak, ready to pull the trigger, but I end up back on the phone with customer service, and they make me this offer. Repurchase the original 45-day pass–$749, not $579–and then at the end of my travel, mail the pass back to them. If it all looks above board, nothing fraudulent, then I get a voucher for $749, to be used within a year. Now, I had already decided it was worth it to cough up $579 to finish the tour, so now the real decision was whether to drop another $170 to get a voucher for $749. You could look at it as a Groupon, or as a total con on Amtrak’s part. Either way, I took it. Because as much of a headache as this lost pass thing has been, the fact is that I do love riding the rails. And committing to doing another train tour within a year is not a bad thing; I already have several ideas for how I could do it differently, by which I mean better.

Anyway. New York was terrific, and I wish I could have stayed longer. I had a great time playing both the shows, especially Northeast Kingdom, which may have been my favorite show of tour. There was a great turnout by my New York friends, plus plenty of folks I didn’t know, and the bill was terrific, curated and headlined by the always wonderful Brittain Ashford, who also gave me a warm introduction to the room. I think this is really the best formula for a great tour show and one that I can hopefully duplicate more in the future.

Philadelphia was also very nice, and much MUCH too short. I arrived at 1:30 in the afternoon and only stayed the night. The show was a little strange: I had booked it with the club owner or manager or something to play the featured slot at an open mic. He apparently neglected to tell the open mic host, even after I had confirmed again a week prior. So, there was another featured performer to play that slot. Now at this particular open mic they do three songs each, and the feature does six. The host gave me the best offer he could: play in two different slots, one early and one late, and get an extra song in each. So, two sets of four songs, which is more than I would have played originally, but divided in two, and a few of my friends whom I had told the earlier time only caught the latter. But I guess on balance it was fine.

Looking at the length of this now, I think I’ll break here and put all the Occupy Wall Street stuff into another post.

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