I awake in an exit row with the syrupy scent of deicing fluid coating the warm waffle of my mind. I awoke--earlier--to the rushing Iowa winter breezes singing plaintively over the hotel parking lot. The hotel clerk advised me to bake my own waffle (literally, not metaphorically) in the lobby before heading out for the day. And so I did; something about the blear-eyed pouring of batter was really amazing, a kind of lumpy, viscous torture for the soul. This is you, I thought, as I poured; you are being poured out of a styrofoam cup right now, at this very moment; this is your brain entering the day. The sizzling waffle iron of life awaits, receives you, browns you to a crisp.
We drove. We drove swiftly eastward across the Hawkeye Steppes, through the 2-degree air with brisk 40 mph winds that whisked snow across the highway in shiny, winking loops and squiggles. The sun bravely, sadly, shining from behind us, lengthening purple stick-shadows. We exited the car at the loading dock of the hall and suffered knowing how we suffered. Our hanging concert clothes froze into their wrinkles, my bag of snackish Sour Patch Kids screamed and stiffened in sour alarm, and with music and coats flapping, shivering, lugging our carryons, we hobbled up the stairs ...
It is amazing how on these tours you always seem to end up, after the rest stop, after the nearly missed connection, after the cab, at the same basic place, in the dressing room, in the loading dock, backstage in the dark, waiting to go on, waiting for the announcement and the thanking of donors to stop and for the music to begin. The page-turner hovers, nervously. You always end up looking at yourself, in the same flexible room of the mind, playing chess against yourself, psyching yourself up and down, wondering what the phrase would sound like if you had never played it before. Emerging from the fog of travel.
Transition: out of the chill, out of the car, into womblike warmth of the backstage and the warmth of the smiles, the incredibly warm Iowans, the warmth of human hospitality arrayed against the strip malls and off-ramps of the world. My dressing room smelled mysteriously of fennel. My suitcase yawned open, a sock or two dangling, saying "I dare you to pack me again." I showered and sang Schumann and Ives and ate delicious steamy spicy Thai food which burned me happily and made a little home of my little cubicle; I gnawed an apple, consumed brownies, shifted garments ... a million rituals, a million redemptive details ... my life. Let's play.