Updated: Jul 17, 2019
Day 7: Chicago, Illinois I awoke on a comfortable air mattress in a calm, dark room, with incredibly comfortable pillows. It took me a moment to orient myself. I checked my phone - 0830 hours - and found that the Captain had arrived back at McCormick Place by tow truck with the Tour Loaf in the early morning (0500 hours). While my body was rested, I still felt mentally exhausted. After a short meditation I contacted the rest of the crew and urged them to get back to the RV to be with the Captain, who was surely at the end of his rope. I handed off the responsibility of calling mobile RV repair to Megan. By 1000 hours the rest of the crew was together at the RV, awaiting the mobile RV repair team.
Meanwhile, Rachel and I had a leisurely morning. We tried a peculiar Matcha Green Tea waffle with pistachios along with our breakfast at a restaurant called Waffles, and then went our separate ways, with plans to meet up at the house concert this evening at 1900 hours. It was a warm, cloudless day with a fine breeze. I walked down to the lakeside by the aquarium to sit and admire the city and the water for a time, and continue to process my brush with mortality from the night before.
I learned from the crew that back at the Tour Loaf, the RV maintenance team had arrived. They rehung the drive shaft, which had been pulled off by the heavy hauler tow truck in the early morning, investigated the engine, left and returned with 7 gallons which had no effect, stayed for a couple hours and charged us heinously for their efforts. We had spent our emergency maintenance fund and were left without a diagnosis for the problem. Megan and the Captain called around to various repair shops, and learned that most RV repair shops only work on the house parts of the RV, rather than the engine or chassis or other areas of mechanical failure. The Captain eventually prevailed and arranged for us to be towed to a shop about 60 miles south of Chicago that specializes in both Chevrolet machines and RVs, since the Tour Loaf sits on a Chevy chassis. Since that would have to wait until Monday morning, the rest of the day was spent in preparation for our evening house concert and rethinking transport and lodging for the weekend's performances in Michigan.
next time, we will tow directly to a medium-sized repair shop (that repairs food trucks and the like), even if the shop is closed and it is the middle of the night.
AAA, while very slow at sending tow trucks, is worth the wait when the alternative is being charged for a tow truck, or being charged for a few emergency gallons of gasoline
A few key helpers facilitated the transport of our gear and ourselves to the show, which was to be held at a house venue near Wrigley Field. The house concert host, Karen, picked up Megan and JJ with the gear, while another local friend of mine, Katie, offered to drive the remaining crew members to the show a few hours later.
Katie picked me up from the aquarium and we spent some time chatting at her apartment before retrieving Molly and the Captain from the Tour Loaf and heading up to the house concert venue.
Karen's house - the venue - was a beautiful sight. Open concept design and floor-to-ceiling windows made for an airy, expansive atmosphere. A spiral staircase in the backyard led up to a rooftop terrace complete with a covered cushion lounge and a speaker disguised as a large rock. A small garden graced an alcove near the interior staircase under a skylight. With the crew reunited and a few hours left before showtime, we hastily made plans for the next few days. At first, it appeared we might have to cancel in Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor, where we were scheduled to play over the weekend. However, an offer from my sister to drive our gear sparked an idea for the Captain. One of the perks of his employment at Apple was access to a concierge, Janelle, who heroically found us a heavily discounted SUV to drive to our Michigan shows and back, and could be returned near the RV repair shop on Monday. We were overbudget, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to see my family and friends in Michigan. My sister awaited our arrival in Kalamazoo on Saturday, and my aunt was preparing to host us in Ann Arbor on Sunday.
The emotional fallout from the RV breakdown threatened to bring us all repeatedly to tears. Any kind act - an offer of money, housing for the night, rides to help us get around - brought at least one crew member close to crying. JJ spent time alone on the second story to collect himself.
We banded together to put on a good show. Guests began arriving at 1900 hours. Karen had prepared beverages and hors d'oeuvres, and we greeted the concertgoers as they arrived. Familiar faces were present, including Katie and her husband Danny, Rachel, and Megan's boyfriend's family. We were all bolstered by the energy of the crowd by the time the opening act, Jess Robbins, began playing. With an introduction from Karen, we took the stage and played a tighter and more focused set we have ever given, even though the Captain had not slept since St. Louis. The audience was incredibly supportive, and we shared snippets of our trials and tribulations as appropriate, paired with the songs "Beautiful Things" and "Life is Not Glass." We leaned into each other and the music, holding each other up, and infused our emotions into the performance.
Photographer Vin Reed expertly captured the essence of the performance. After the concert, we conversed with the enthusiastic friends and audience members and sold our wares. Once the crowd died down, we dispersed to different parts of the city to sleep. The Captain and Megan went to the home of Megan's boyfriend's sister, Molly and JJ stayed at Karen's, and I returned to Rachel's apartment for the night. We caught up a bit and drank some more tea on the couch, like we used to do in college, before heading to sleep.