Alfred, New York, Alfred University

It's always good to be home. The last two days have been spent driving from NYC to Chicago through some of the most rural land I've seen. Late last night, driving away from Alfred on Highway 17, our van was perfectly alone on the four-lane highway. It was like driving through Wyoming at night, just empty and quiet, a lonely car passing by every mile or two... but all along the road there are clearly houses, and even little towns. There were people, you just couldn't see any of them. It felt desolate. It even felt frightening.

Alfred would be the most desolate and frightening of them all if it weren't dominated by two massive schools, one a college, one a university - which means, I believe, that one is more expensive than the other. We played the expensive one, the art one, the one with the ceramics program and the carillon high up on the hill. We played on the third floor... and what to say? These college shows are enjoyable, but so strange. We played a big room, everyone sat in lecture-hall chairs, we played... we played. We played for quite a while. It was more enjoyable than the show in Brooklyn, but that's not to say it was... well. It's strange to be performing to a room full of kids who didn't pay to get in, most of whom probably don't care a whole lot about who's playing, they're just stopping in - so when they're asked questions, like "what did you have for dinner tonight?" they reply with stunned silence. It's a stupid question, it's true; but such silence! It was funny. I do find it funny. Strange, but fun in its own way. Tim broke about 23 strings, so there was much room for witty banter - which, in this case, was pure self-indulgence, since all efforts to establish a rapport with the kids was met with a calm, curious silence.

I don't want to sound like I'm ragging on these kids. I liked playing to them, and I even liked their silence. But I did find it funny. A few folks came from great distances to see this strange show, and I must say, I was glad they came. The few times when the sedate response of the local crowd bewildered me to the point of mild exasperation, the great-distance-driving folks kept me alert.

So it's been a good trip, and it's good to be home. My ass is well aware of how much driving I've done in the past five days. The weather in Chicago is remarkably tame compared to what's happening further North and East, though I'm sure that'll change soon enough. My cats left a mess like none I've seen before, but it's taken care of. Soon there will be a real night's sleep, in a real bed that I know well. Hallelujah!

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