Monday, January 8, 2018

The House on Christmas Street Tour By the Numbers

HI again...

Well, I've been home now for a couple of weeks and am finally starting to feel like myself again. The cold I ended the tour with became a sinus infection so I've been on antibiotics for the past four days. Now my husband is sick! But it was all worth it.  I had a wonderful tour and so I thought, in the tradition of my lifelong friend David Brancaccio (host of Marketplace on Public Radio), I would break it down by the numbers.

25:  Number of days I was gone
17: Number of concerts
22: Number of different beds I slept in
5: Number of friends/family members who let me crash at their places for the night
5: Number of dogs who licked my face (I loved it!)
1: Number of dogs who ate their way through my tote bag to get to a granola bar
1: Number of fire trucks I rode on!
4: Number of times I hung out with Santa Claus
1: Number of leg lamps I had my picture taken with
1: Number of problems I had with the van (battery died cause I left my lights on while I napped with the keys in the ignition)
1: Number of President Trump bobbleheads whose heads fell off while I was looking at them
9,976: Number of miles I drove
29: Number of states I visited
2: Number of times I threw up
$1616.05: amount of money I received from sponsorships after PayPal took their cut
$973.30: amount of money spent on gas that was not paid for by gift cards people gave me
$325.40: amount I spent on food.  Many thanks to the people who treated me to meals!
$259.30: amount of money I personally spent on 3 hotels (in other words, that hosts didn't provide)
$93.38: tolls
2: barrels filled with donations for food pantries
Over $7,000: amount of money raised for charity (the exact total I have is $7027 but there were some stops I haven't gotten a total from)

I'm very very grateful for all of you who pitched in to help. From the folks who sponsored the tour from the beginning, to the hosts who treated me so kindly, people along the way who just generously handed me cash or gift cards for gas or food, and the people who gave me candy, and cookies, and gifts and ribbon was all wonderful and I was so honored and I appreciated every single thing.  I shall cherish all of the memorable gifts I received and think of you when I look at each one.  As I write this all of your faces are flashing before my eyes and I'm thinking about how blessed I was to be able to do this.  I cannot ever thank you all enough.

And on that note, I must announce that this was the last tour I can do like this.  This one took a lot out of me, and I have to admit that even though I'm in pretty good shape, I'm getting a lot more tired at 58 than I was at 51 when I first did this.  Not that I'm an old fogey!  I just found that I was much more exhausted at the end of the days and by the last part of the tour I just didn't feel well at all.  I had a terrible cold and laryngitis by the time I got home.  So I don't anticipate that I will do this again unless some miracle happens and I get a tour bus and a driver and all that stuff. That's not likely to happen, but you never know.

I will miss all the wonderful decorator friends I've made, and I will miss your magnificent, creative, festive and amazing displays. They have brought so much joy to my heart over the years.  I could never have imagined that I would be so blessed as to have seen so much Christmas festivity, to be a part of it, to have my music in it, to see so many people smiling and having fun and really sharing the spirit of the season.  God bless you all.  And now I'm getting all teary eyed and so I'm going to close for now....

But I have one last thing for you guys. I've written a book. It's called "The House on Christmas Street" and it is dedicated to all of the decorators I've come to know and love over the years. It is the story of a decorator from Florida who moves to Maine for a number of reasons, but who really wants to see his display in the snow. Of course, there's a crabby neighbor who wants to shut him down....but the story is about much more than that.  I think you're gonna love it if you ever get the chance to read it.  I'm starting to query agents this month, so keep your fingers crossed! And thanks for the inspiration, and for making my song a hit all over the world. I really and truly love you all.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Last Concert of the Tour: Krasley Christmas in Manheim PA

Well, I did it.  I'm here in my hotel room, and I feel weird.  It's all done.  Tomorrow morning at six I get up, get out of the wonderful hotel room Don Krasley got for me, and I head for Brooklyn to pick up my girls.  Youngest has to work until six and then we're heading home to NH.  By midnight I'll be back where I started from on November 29th.

On Christmas Eve I'll have a lot of wrapping to do of all the presents that have been arriving in packages at home.  Thank goodness for online shopping.  Today I did stop at a Barnes & Noble in Harrisburg, PA to pick up a few last minute gifts and it's all done.  I had the lady at the store who was from the local library and wrapping for donations wrap those up for me.  The only problem was, now I don't know what's in each package and I'm not sure who gets what! Oh well, it will be a problem for Santa to sort out!

Before I get to the concert tonight I want to let you know that Terri Keeling got in touch to say that we raised over $1700 for the Clifty School Park at the concert in Kentucky two nights ago.  Hooray! That was because of the efforts of the whole gang putting together a big night around my concert.  Good going, folks!

The concert tonight was wonderful, because it was at the home of the Krasley family. This was my third time performing at their display. The first time was in 2012, and Tammy had just been diagnosed with cancer. Things didn't look good. Now here it is five years later and thank God she is still with us and doing great!  Don's display pays tribute to her with pink lights and angels and a pink light ribbon and Sarah McLaughlin's song "Angel."  It's really and truly beautiful.

Despite my gargling with warm water, salt, honey and baking soda every two hours last night and today, my voice was still shot, but I managed to get through the concert, although I'm not sure how good it was.  I was very very happy to see Rich and Wendy Motz from Lititz, where I began my tour over three weeks ago, and their friends who came to see the show.  Also in attendance was Dave Russell and his lovely wife Diane from the local radio station, WARM 103.3.  Dave and I go way back to my early radio days in Maine, but I hadn't seen him in a very long time.  They are playing "The House on Christmas Street" on his station and I am VERY grateful!  It was a good crowd and there were some fun kids there who were dancing and singing, and a very sweet young lady named Madden who came up and did a great job on "Frosty the Snowman."  It was a wonderful way to end the tour with Don's fantastic display and a lot of fun!

I had dinner at a cool little barbecue joint near the hotel with Dave and Diane and we did a little catching up.  It was my first time meeting Diane and I felt like I had known her all my life. It's too bad we live so far away from each other.

This makes me think of all the great people I've seen in the past three weeks who have been important in my life over the past 58 years. How lucky I am to have had the chance to spend a little time with them on this fantastic journey.   All of my hosts, of course, but also Carolyn and Larry Heard, Mary D'Agostino, Becka Bossons and her kids,  Carla and Jerry Dicken, Dave Kinnoin, Michael Simmons, Mary and Jay Lane, Randy Schmidt, Joe Lansdale, Jamie Feinberg, Stephen Meadows, Ron Bunt, The NH contingency who came to my concert at Mickey's Home (thank you SO MUCH Nancy Kelleher for putting that together!), Terri Keeling, and Dave Russell.

I want to say another round of thanks to all of the hosts:  Rich and Wendy Motz, Jason Reph and his folks, Gary and Billi Mayfield, Bobby and Roxanne Dicken, Brian and Danielle Wagner, Tyson Schmidt and family, Mark and Tracy Zembruski, Paul Aziz and Mary Carter, Dr. Bob and Marianne Brescia and the whole crew at the University of Texas of the Permean Basin, Tim Bryant of The Bosslight in Nacogdoches, TX, Jim Dennis, Calvin Slater and family and neighbors on Jeater Bend, Mickey and Minnie Baus, Terri and Travis Keeling and the whole Keeling clan, and last but not least, Don and Tammy Krasley.  Don was also a big sponsor of the tour and for that I am very very grateful.

And that leads me to saying I want to thank again all of the sponsors who made this tour possible. Whether your contribution was small or large it was all very important in helping this all happen. You made hundreds of people happy and helped out a whole bunch of charities and I am very grateful.

I am going to write one last post here next week with some statistics on the tour, but for now I'm going to go to bed because I am POOPED>  Thank you for coming along on this amazing journey with me. And to all a very merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I'm in a hotel room in Clarksburg, West Virginia and I am so excited that after this I only have one more night in  hotel room and then I sleep in my own bed again. This tour has been an amazing experience and the people I've interacted with have been wonderful. It's been a great chance to participate in happiness all over the country, plus catch up with so many old friends.  I was thinking today that the one thing that has been missing is snow!  I think I only hit snow once, and very briefly, when I was on the first leg of the tour.  Now watch, I'll end up driving into a huge snowstorm on the way home just because I said that!  But anyway, I am excited nonetheless to be going home to my husband and to get my kids on the way and bring them home for Christmas. I'm worried that my dog and my cats have forgotten about me. It will be a wonderful reunion on Saturday!

Yesterday I arrived in Clifty, KY, which is miles out in the country, at the home of my friends Terri and Travis Keeling, around 1:30pm and Terri took me to lunch at a great old fashioned soda fountain in a pharmacy in the town of Elkton. Then we went back to her place and I caught up on the blog before we headed out to "A Clifty Christmas."

When I had first reached out to Terri about the tour she asked me if I'd be willing to do a concert in a park, or if it had to be a decorator's home. I said I'd be glad to do a concert in a park if there were Christmas lights and if it benefited a charity.  So Terri and her husband Travis and their family and friends put together a whole event to benefit the local park, which was once the site of the school that burned down several years ago.  They are raising money to improve the playground at the park.  They had a tree lighting, and people could purchase ornaments and have the name of a loved one who has passed written on the ornament and put on the town tree, and there were free cookies and hot chocolate, and Santa and Mrs. Claus and an elf and a REAL reindeer and a miniature pony!  There were people singing Christmas carols and the names of the loved ones from the ornaments were read during a special ceremony on the stage.  The whole thing wrapped up with my concert at 7.  Unfortunately, most of the people who'd brought their kids to see Santa had left by then, so we learned that next time Santa has to come after the concert! Still, there was a nice crowd that stayed.  Unfortunately, when I opened my mouth to sing the sore throat I'd had all day really affected the quality of my voice.  I did my best, but I couldn't hit all the notes and I felt like my voice only had half of its usual power.  The people were very kind, though, and they participated in the singalong and Sheila, who got up to sing Frosty, was wonderful!

After the concert I was given a giant bag of goodies from the community which included a Clifty Christmas ornament and lots of other great stuff, plus some gas cards and a Wendy's gift card!  Terri made me some soup and we watched "Elf" together before saying goodnight.

This morning I was up and out by 8:30, saying "goodbye" once again to a great friend who has been a godsend on the road.  I looked at my route and decided to drive to Clarksburg, West Virginia, before stopping for the night. The guy at the bar downstairs in this hotel gave me a cup of hot water and lemon and I put some honey and salt in it and have been gargling like crazy.  Tomorrow night is the final show of the tour and I'm praying that my voice comes back! I want to go out with a bang, not a whimper!

Good night!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Catching up on the Blog: Sunday, December 17th: Mickey's Home

A few years ago I performed at the annual Christmas Expo (a convention of Christmas decorating enthusiasts) in the summer, and I met a gentleman named Mickey Baus.  I'd met  Mickey online before, as he had already commissioned a customized version of "The House on Christmas Street" for his display (I can't recall what year it was that we did that), but it was the first time I'd met him in person.  He asked me to come to his display on the Sunday before Christmas, which is when he and his wife, Minnie (yes, that's her real name) hold their annual carnival. They have games and activities for kids and all the proceeds go to "Give Kids the World," which is a charity that brings ill children to Disney World.  It didn't work out that I could come on my last tour, but when I was planning this tour I started with that date and worked everything else around it.  That's how I wound up performing at their display last Sunday.

But first I have to tell you about earlier in the day.  Several months ago, my friend Nancy told me that she was planning something extra special for her daughter's birthday.  Her daughter, Christina, has been best friends with my daughter, Emma, and another girl named Jocelyn since they were in first grade. They are still thick as thieves even though Emma lives in New York, Christina lives in New Orleans and Jocelyn still lives in New Hampshire.  Nancy's other daughter is my movie buddy, Megan.  Nancy was planning a BIG TRIP  to Florida for the birthday and she was going to bring Megan, Megan's friend Tessa, Christina, Jocelyn, Emma, and another friend of Christina's from college.  AND IT JUST HAPPENED that the dates she was planning on would coincide with my dates of performing in Florida!!!  So we made a plan to surprise Emma and I actually KEPT A SECRET for months about this, figuring that Emma is so busy she probably wouldn't check my calendar or know where I was on any given day. I was to meet them at their vacation condo Sunday morning and join them for a day at Sea World. We kept that secret for months and then NANCY spilled the beans THAT MORNING!!! Still, it was a great reunion and we had a WONDERFUL time at Sea World!  It was so great to be with my daughter and everyone in the group and I even went on a ride and I just can't say enough how wonderful it was!!

Then I left them around five and headed for Mickey's home and was blown away by his amazing display.  It's HUGE and beautiful and there were a bazillion people there plus a ton of teen volunteers and a very festive atmosphere!  Plus Nancy and all the girls came to the concert too, along with my friend Ron Bunt, who is a Carpenters fan, and Ron took a lot of video and pictures and posted them on my facebook page.  The audience was so hepped up and responsive that they even asked for an encore, which was a first on the tour. It made me super happy!  I have to thank Mickey and Minnie for a wonderful time!

There was only one thing that was kind of a downer, and I feel I have to write about it.  After the show Minnie said, "You did CHRISTMAS MUSIC!" like she was surprised.  I was so confused. I didn't understand...of course I did Christmas music.  But Mickey and Minnie told me they had not known what to expect from my concert because they had heard rumors from other decorators that because I am a children's musician that my concerts at decorator's houses were all just children's music and not Christmas music. NOT TRUE!  It's a Christmas concert!   I do a variety of original Christmas songs from my two Christmas albums plus Christmas standards, and this year I have added a sing along portion at the end of the show, before I sing "The House on Christmas Street."  I know Mickey and Minnie didn't mean to upset me, they were just wonderful and so nice, but they were so surprised that I did all Christmas music and it really made me wonder how these rumors got started. They said some decorators were reluctant to invite me because they didn't think I was doing Christmas concerts. I do not get that.  The only thing I can think of is that I've done my song "Candy" in the past on these tours and that's not exactly a Christmas song but I do it because it's about candy (and who doesn't love candy at Christmas?)  and it's a good audience participation song. But even if you say that's just a kids' song that has nothing to do with Christmas, it's just one song out of a whole concert of Christmas songs.  I know I shouldn't let this bother me but it does because they said decorators were saying they weren't going to invite me because of it.   I mean, I work so hard on these tours to give a great, Christmassy experience to people all over the country, and to help raise donations for charity, and sometimes it's exhausting but I love it,  and it's hurtful to think that people are saying negative things about it.  Again, I want to point out that I am sure that Mickey and Minnie had no idea it was going to bother me so much when they told me that.  They were so nice and happy and said they were pleased with the concert and it was a WONDERFUL evening for me aside from that one thing.

So in closing I just want to say a couple of things:
1:  Don't start rumors if you don't know what you're talking about. There are many decorators who have invited me over and over again, and if you are wondering what my concerts are like just ASK them.
2.  My Christmas concerts are filled with Christmas music!!!

3.  THANK YOU Mickey and Minnie Baus for a wonderful evening.  Your display a wonder and the event was everything you said it would be!! xoxoxo and Merry Christmas!!

And finally, the next day I started off the day visiting with my friend Jamie from NH and had a lovely time with her, and then I drove to my friend Maxine's house in Jacksonville and spend the rest of the day and night with her and it was homey and relaxing and we had a great time together.  The next day, yesterday, my show in Alabama was cancelled due to rain.

Now I am in Clifty, KY with my friend Terri from NH who lives here now and we are about to go out and celebrate "A Clifty Christmas!" with Santa Claus, cookies, fun and a Judy Pancoast CHRISTMAS concert!!!!!


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Catching up on the Blog: Saturday, December 16th

As I said in the last blog post, I couldn't get out of Motel Hell fast enough.  I threw my bags in the car and peeled out of there.  By then I was close to the highway and it was a hop, skip and long drive down to Florida, to the Orlando area.  Before too long it got sunny and warm and beautiful and you could just feel that it was Florida even before crossing the border.

I do want to mention that on these last couple of drives I'd been listening to an audiobook called "Lily and the Octopus."  I had read a great review of this book but I didn't know what it was about.  Well, it turned out it was the story of this lonely gay man and his mini-dachsund named Lily and it was just SUCH A BEAUTIFUL STORY! I highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever loved a dog! It will make you laugh and cry...and I mean really cry, especially if (SPOILER) you've ever had to have a dog put down.  But even with that sadness it's still a beautiful little book and someone I love is getting it for Christmas.

Okay, enough about that.  My ordeal the previous night was not in vain. I made it to the Orlando area (passing though all their ridiculous tolls every five minutes) in time to get to the hotel ( a beautiful, clean, comfortable, wonderful, amazing hotel), take a shower and get gussied up to go to Celebration, the Disney planned community right across the way from the hotel. I'd been there before on another tour and remember Calvin Slater very well. Plus his Lights on Jeater Bend, which involves several houses on the block (was it 11?  I can't recall the exact number and they all have synchronized lights) was on The Great Christmas Light Fight as well.  Calvin had set up a stage and the whole street was just so beautiful and it was a really exciting atmosphere. I was pumped. The concert was terrific!  I mean, I don't know if I was terrific but it was terrific for me! My dear friend Jamie Feinberg- an original member of the Judy Crew- who is now living in an RV on an adventure with her husband, came to the show.  And so did Stephen Meadows, who up to now I have only known online but who has supported my tours and sent me a lot of very nice messages.  He discovered "The House on Christmas Street" on a compilation CD that was released in 2009 by The Sounds of Christmas internet radio station. He got it because he is a Huey Lewis & the News fan, and there is a song on there from them, but he also discovered my song and really loves it.  I was really happy to have the chance to sing it for him in person. The crowd was lovely, and Anna and Elsa and Olaf from Frozen showed up, as well as Santa Claus, and they were all in front of me dancing with the kids for "The House on Christmas Street."  It was just one of those moments that make it all worthwhile for me, to see everyone so happy and having fun! And when I asked for a volunteer to sing "Frosty the Snowman" Jamie came up and that was super fun too! She knows all the words!!!  In all it was an A+++++ event and I owe Calvin and everyone on Jeater Bend a great big THANK YOU.  Beautiful people, a beautiful town, and beautiful lights. It was a wonderful Christmas time night! And so nice that I didn't have to wear a coat!

After the show I got back to the hotel and had a nice, relaxing evening, blogged a bit to catch up and then got a good night's sleep because the next day was really going to be jam-packed!  And I'll write more about that tomorrow because my eyes are starting to close now. I'm almost caught up but I can't stay awake any longer.

Thank you for keeping up with me and I hope you have your ribbon candy ready for Ribbon Candy Day on Thursday!

Catching Up on the Blog: Friday, December 15th: Childersburg, AL

It's now Tuesday, and my show for tonight was cancelled, so I drove for about 7 hours and have landed in Chattanooga TN, and am trying to catch up on the blog a little bit more.  I'm up to Friday, December 15th.

I'd estimated on Mapquest that the drive from Nacogdoches, TX to Childersburg, AL was about nine hours, so I was up and out the door of the Lansdale's home just before 7am.  They were still asleep.  Of course, then I was horrified to discover that I'd left my phone and glasses sitting on a table in the guest room, so I had to knock on the door and wake Karen up and I felt like a total doofus. But she is so sweet and gracious and she made sure to say that she was up anyway and to come back anytime and even bring my husband!  I would LOVE to bring my husband!!!

So I hit the road.  It was a looooooong drive through East Texas and then Mississippi and Louisiana (where gas was under $2/gallon!!!) and then to Alabama and I stopped a couple of times for car naps.  I brought a blanket and pillows with me just for this purpose and when I am tired I can fall asleep in my car faster than I do in my own bed!  The traffic was worse than I had anticipated and I didn't have time to check into the hotel before I had to get to the show.  Jim Dennis had told me Christmas in the Pines was a huge display set up in park in Alabama and I had pictured something like Larry and Rachel Charpiat's Pilot Mt. Christmas, which I performed at several times before they retired from decorating.

Anyhow, I arrived and found the park and Jim's HUGE display which also featured a live Santa stationed at a covered bridge. For a second I thought I was back in New Hampshire!  The park already has a performance area with bleachers and Jim helped me get set up, and the show went off without a hitch.  The only problem was that there was not much of a crowd. However, some of the vendors who were there (the display is so big that Jim has invited vendors to set up and sell crafts and food) listened to the show and participated, and a few people dropped in.  Jim said he had been disappointed with the attendance this year but it's the first year he's had the display at the park and it is  quite a ways off the beaten path so I'm hoping for him that word will get around and it will do better next year. But I had fun anyway! There were two teenage boys who were especially fun and dancing and hey, as long as I have one or two people who are having fun then I'm okay with that!!  After the concert one of the vendors who sells homemade soap and stuff sent me down a little goodie bag. People have been so nice to me on this tour!

After the concert Jim took me and a lovely little family who was visiting on a hayride through the displays. It was beautiful!  He had somehow rigged those projection lights in the trees and they looked like millions of green fireflies ...or, as I told the little girl...Christmas fairies. It was just gorgeous and unlike anything I'd seen before.

Unfortunately, after  I left the park is when things went awry.  I  drove over to the hotel, which was about 15 minutes away from the display.  I didn't check in right away, though, because I was hungry and indecisive about what to eat. There were a few fast food places with greasy fried stuff and I didn't want that, so I went over across the way to a Subway and got a sandwich to eat in my room.  BUT when I got back to the hotel I discovered that I didn't have a room! The clerk had no record of a reservation for me, let alone a paid one!  I tried to contact Jim but he wasn't answering his phone or text.  I waited about ten minutes and I felt like a complete moron standing there in the lobby, so I decided on the spur of the moment to start the ride on to Florida at that point.  I knew I had a ten hour drive the next day and I was going to be racing against time going into another time zone, so I decided to get a couple of hours in and then get a hotel along the route.  Little did I know that I was going into the TWILIGHT ZONE.

About a half hour down the road I heard from Jim and he was very apologetic. His fiancee had made the reservation but she didn't make it at the hotel he thought she was going to make it at, and wires got crossed and that's how I ended up at the wrong place.  But it was too late to turn back, I was almost out of Alabama by then.  Jim felt really bad and promised it wouldn't happen again as I was scheduled to go back there on the following Tuesday again (which is tonight...but that show got cancelled because of rain).  Well, I drove and drove and drove and checked out my atlas and discovered that there is basically nothing but peanut farms in northeast Georgia!  I finally reached a little town with an Econo-Lodge that got decent reviews online so I stopped there.  I paid $55 for the room- you get what you pay for...and by this time I'd crossed into the next time zone so it was one am.  I went into the room and the toilet was NASTY.  SO NASTY that I actually gagged.  I went back to the office and I should have asked for my money back but I just didn't have the energy to get back into the car and drive on, so I told him about the situation and he moved me to a different room. The next room at least was cleaner, but I was worried about skittering little creatures coming out to play in the night, so I kept shutting the light off and then turning it back on to see if I'd spy any. I didn't, luckily, and I finally fell asleep but it was a fitful sleep!  It was after two when I last looked at the clock, and I was rudely awakened at 7 by the yokels in the room next to me laughing and having a great time.  URGH!  So I didn't shower or anything, I just got up and left and was happy to see MOTEL HELL in my rearview mirror! (Motel Hell was an 80s horror movie about a farmer who makes the most delicious sausage in the land......).

And that was my visit to Alabama! It was a whirlwind and I was happy to do it.  I wish Jim the best of luck with his endeavor and hope that Christmas in the Pines becomes just as much of a local treasure as Pilot Mt. Christmas was for years and years!

Catching up on the Blog: Thursday, December 14th

I'm sitting in a Starbucks just below the Georgia border.  Tonight's show just got canceled due to rain, so I thought I'd catch up the blog a bit as I am now waaaaay behind.  So here we go....

Randy Schmidt and I have known each other for about 22 years....I met him online when he had a Carpenters listserv and we had just purchased our first computer.  Of course I went searching for Carpenters stuff!  Randy was such a die-hard fan which was amazing to me because he wasn't even around when Karen and Richard were at the height of their fame.  At one point he asked me if I had all of my old clippings and fan club newsletters from back in the 70s and I did, and he asked me to photocopy them for him, which I did. Little did I know that he was writing a book!

Shortly after that we moved to NH and I was finishing my Masters Degree and the kids were getting active with stuff so I just lost track of Randy.  Years later I found him on Facebook and discovered that he'd written a book about Karen Carpenter, entitled "Little Girl Blue: the Life of Karen Carpenter."  Of course I got it right away and was really thrilled at how well written and packed with info it was!  Since then Randy and I have stayed in touch and I went down to NYC to meet him when he was doing a bookstore appearance there...I think that was about four years ago.  Randy lives in TX, and that was the one and only time we'd met.

Several weeks ago he contacted me with a project for us to work on together.  He'd found my audiobook narrator profile online and thought I would be perfect to narrate his children's book about Judy Garland, entitled "Becoming Judy Garland."  I was delighted!  The book is now available for purchase on Randy's website and each book comes with a CD with the audiobook.  So, of course, when I realized that it was possible, I made plans to visit Randy while I was in TX.

The challenge was this:  Randy is a school teacher in a town north of Dallas, and he only had from 10:30am-11:30 free.  So I vowed I would get there by 10:30.  Even after my pain-filled night with the ankle problems, I dragged myself out of bed early, showered and hit the road by five.  I drove until just about when the sun came up, and then I couldn't drive any more because my eyes were closing.  I pulled off at an exit with one gas station and a boarded up restaurant. I parked next to the restaurant, shut off the van, put my seat back and konked out.  I woke up some time later to discover that the VAN WOULDN"T START!!!!  I'd left the lights on, and even though they shut off automatically I guess they don't do that unless you remove the keys from the ignition, which I had not done.  So I dragged myself into the gas station and asked the two young people working there if one of them could give me a jump.  A young woman who looked very unhappy came out, pulled her truck up, connected her jumper cables and got the van going.  I reached into my wallet and the smallest bill I had was a twenty, so I handed it to her because she'd done me such a huge favor.  At that point this unhappy looking woman broke into a big smile and said, "Oh thank you, you don't know how much I really need that!"  That proved once again to me that God works in mysterious ways.

I texted Randy that I wouldn't get there until after noon and he said to come on anyway, so I did and I visited with the two classed that he had during the hour I was there. I did some songs with them and we had a really fun time!  It was GREAT to see Randy and I appreciate him taking the time for me as he had his chorus concert and show that afternoon for the school and then again that night for the community.  Randy, I hope FA LA LA LAND went super well and thank you for a really super time with you and your kids! And I would LOVE to come back and do a full assembly for the school!

After I left Randy I trekked East to Nacogdoches. This is a town that used to be mythical to me but I have now visited three times!  My friend, the world-renowned author Joe R. Lansdale (Hap & Leonard, Bubbo Ho Tep) lives there and I am collaborating with him on a musical version of his novella "Christmas with the Dead."  I'd been there in July for a play reading, which took place in a book store/arts center, and I'd met the proprietor, a musician and author named Tim Bryant.  When I realized that it would be possible, I asked him if he'd like to host a concert to benefit the arts space when I was on my tour. So that's how I came to be in Nacogdoches on The House on Christmas Street 2017 Charity Tour!  It turned out that we had a small  crowd, and I was actually nervous.  Joe and his wife Karen came, along with his son Keith and his fiancee Danni, and then three other folks who I hadn't previously known, plus Tim.  Like I said, it was a small crowd, and suddenly I got very nervous. First of all, I consider Joe Lansdale to be one of the COOLEST guys I've ever met.  I mean, he is JOE COOL in the flesh.  Now here I was, about to sing my un-ironic and totally uncool Christmas concert and I just suddenly froze up.  However, almost as soon as I started singing everything was okay.  Joe was smiling, Karen was smiling, everybody started smiling and singing along.  And then, after I sang the second song, my original, "Santa Whatcha Got," Keith reminded me that it was one of the songs on the "Christmas with the Dead" movie soundtrack, which was how I got to meet all these folks in the first place.  From that point on the whole concert was a blast. I don't know how much was donated to the arts space, but I saw some folks put money in the donation jar so at least it was a little, and Joe wrote to me after to tell me what a good time everybody had, and that's what it's all about.  Joe and Karen hosted me at their home that night and I got a much-needed GREAT night's sleep, and I got to see their insane dog, Nicky, who is just a big old loveable goofball.  I've met some terrific pets on this trip, including Kelsey, a Cava-doodle at my friend Max's house last night.  It makes me miss my doggie even more!!!  I hope she doesn't sense all these other dogs and cats on me and think I've been unfaithful to her!

So that takes care of on to Friday in the next post!