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Our last two days in Chitown went quickly. On Monday after our workout we went to Glenn's Diner. This place is known for its seafood, and also for having a seasonal selection of cereal, of all things! Pretty neat place. Mrs. Boyce and I both got this amazing seafood salad, full of lobster and smoked trout and shrimp. I couldn't even finish mine and had to ask the boys to help polish it off!

From there we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's a small one but very good! They have several big cats, primates, reptiles, farm animals, and more. Plus the weather was fantastic, sunny but with a chill in the air, fall is definitely here!

Jameson and I feeding some cows :)

That evening after a wonderful dinner made by Mrs. Boyce, Mr. Boyce invited me along to his choir rehearsal! He sings with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, an amazing group that's been performing since 1872!! They were rehearsing for a concert and also a wedding, at a local community arts building. I picked out a seat in the back and settled in to listen. To my surprise, the first song they rehearsed was Eric Whitacre's "Alleluia"! This piece is very familiar to me, I played it in college wind ensemble with my graduating class, but that arrangement is known as "October". But it's the same piece, and a very nostalgic and wonderful memory for me. I was very happy to hear it again.

The rehearsal went for about three hours with some breaks in-between. I got to hear a reduced section of the chorus (including Mr. Boyce) rehearsing for the wedding...I took footage of this but as the wedding was that week, decided against posting it. They sounded great :) I love sitting in on rehearsals and seeing the process of refining music. It's a lot of work for everyone involved, but the results are absolutely worth it!

The next day was our last in Chicago. Mrs. Boyce found a ramen place called Strings that makes its own noodles(!) so we decided that would be perfect for lunch. And it was, oh my goodness! I've never had such awesome ramen. Chewy perfect noodles, delicious pork belly, and my favorite, soft-boiled egg poached in soy. So dang good!

Jameson got ramen with turkey, and Mrs. Boyce got yakisoba. Mr. Boyce got a "hell-level 2" ramen with Chinese and Thai chilis, I tried it and it was amazing, may get that next time! Jameson didn't like it :P Anyway, Strings Ramen. Remember the name. I'm going to!

We walked off our meal in Chinatown. There were lots of cool shops selling everything from asian hair products to asian cookware to asian candy. Asian candy! In bulk!!! Oh dear. The store is called Aji Ichiban. I had to go in.

(photo courtesy sweets.seriouseats.com)

There were dried fruits and vegetables, chips and Pocky and soda and all kinds of snacks! I exercised amazing self control and stuck to sweets, rounding up one of each kind of bulk candy. None were labeled in English, so it would be a fun guessing game to eat them later! I also found these famous candies featured in a Studio Ghibli film, they're pretty difficult to find in the US.

We went back to the condo and enjoyed a few of the candies, some of which were surprising flavors like sesame, toasted coconut, or sour plum. But all of them were good! That evening we had something very special lined up: dinner at a popup restaurant called The Max!

Or Saved By the Max actually! It's a Saved By the Bell-themed restaurant, open for a limited time only. And Jameson's parents managed to get reservations! The dining area is an exact replica of The Max diner featured in the popular tv show, even the tabletops and floors are exactly like on tv! The only real difference was the bar area and where the entrance was located.

(photo courtesy Saved By the Max)

Reservations are prepaid, so we could each have a drink, appetizer, entree, and dessert. Everything on the menu was named after a part of the show ("Mac n' Screech", "Bayside Burger", etc). There were four appetizers so we got one of each. Pork sliders, broccoli rabe, wings, and mac & cheese! For my entree I decided on "Tori's Fried Chicken": A Goose Island beer and coconut milk waffle with Korean fried chicken, spiced maple syrup, and another sauce that we suspect was gochujang. It was VERY good!

I think mine was probably the "fanciest" dish of the evening. In all honesty this is not some upscale food place or anything, it's just meant to be an all-around fun experience. Most menu items were classic diner fare, and everything was fresh and delicious. The Max has been extremely popular as a popup restaurant...I wonder if they will consider a permanent location?

We ended with some pretty awesome desserts, including a chocolate pie so dense it was practically bar chocolate, and twinkie ice cream. Yes, TWINKIE ICE CREAM! Jameson had that, and said it was amazing!

(photo courtesy Jameson)

The next morning we packed our bags and said goodbye to the dogs. After a stellar German pancake breakfast with Jameson's parents, it was time to go. Mr. and Mrs. Boyce were so incredibly generous, opening their home to me for an entire week and spoiling us with more amazing food and experiences than I've ever had at one time. Thank you both VERY much! I hope to repay you someday :)

With that, we were off. We reached the train about three hours later, went out for groceries, and came back to settle in. The first thing I noticed was that my lights were no longer flickering. I'd thought that the bulbs needed to be replaced, but apparently it was all due to the dying generator. I am so, so grateful that we've gotten a new generator, and hope that train crew won't have to deal with generator problems again anytime in the near future.

On opening day I took the bus in early, excited to check out the new trombone. First thing's first, getting all of these special instruments together in one room! For non-trombonists, let me explain that these instruments are difficult to find individually, and to have even two of them in the same room is a rare thing! So I wanted to document the occasion for all of the trombone fanatics. And I'm a giant nerd.

Photoshoot finished, it was time to take the Williams trombone for a spin. Brett (bandmaster and also trombonist) conveniently showed up right about then, so we had a blast geeking out together on what good condition it was in, the unique spit valve, etc etc. Yeah total nerds.

We noted that as far as bell size, Brett's Minick trombone is the largest, mine is the smallest, and the Williams falls between. But the Williams definitely has the widest bell throat, no question.
Brett sounded very smooth playing in the high register, everything just popped into place. We both agreed that this horn sounds more "dense" than the Minicks. And because the bell section is shorter than on the other trombones, this one needed an adjustment in playing in order to stay in tune. Not surprisingly then, when I played it for rehearsal I struggled a bit with tuning. But it was good to have time to work out the kinks and figure out what changes were needed before the show.
The show went much better than rehearsal. I had to pay close attention to stop using the bell as a gauge, but it worked. It will take a little while to get used to this horn and compare it properly, but I already feel that the Williams is quite different than the Minicks. Darker and denser. Really an interesting horn. Other than a few basic tuning issues and me shying away from certain notes for fear of sounding awful, it was a good first impression. It's a privelege to play these horns made by master craftsmen.

Friday was a one show day. It was rainy and dreary, so after a slow morning I dropped in on some of my favorite antique shops here in Grand Rapids. Usually I'll look for circus memorabilia, like programs and such. To my surprise, the owner informed me that a group of circus folks had already picked through the antiques, beating me to the punch! Dang! I scoured the place for over an hour and didn't find so much as a poster. Good job guys :D Our show that evening went well. Afterward a bunch of us went out to a nearby bar for drinks with Maddie (production) who will be leaving us to pursue other opportunities. We'll miss you Maddie!! Come visit us!!

(photo courtesy Maddie P.)

Saturday was a two-show day...these used to be rare and now they seem to be happening all the time. There were lots of people at our first show, it felt almost sold out! Part of the reason for the large crowd was because ArtPrize is going on here. Usually I set aside time to visit the exhibits, but this year the weather was really miserable, plus the plaza adjacent to the arena, which normally hosts many artists, is now home to some new high-rise. Boooo. Ah well, at least we drew a decent crowd! Thanks Grand Rapids!

On Sunday we only had one show. Afterward Jameson and I hit a record store, where he found quite a lot of great music for his collection! We also got to see some of the ArtPrize entries. There's some really great stuff this year! Still, I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't get to explore as much as I normally do and see the big sculptures and outdoor installations. Oh well, can't have it all!

Next up is Albany, NY!

Other stuff:

Maddie getting pied in the face by Lindsey. Great job Lindsey! That's what you get for leaving us Maddie!! :P

(photo courtesy Maddie P.)

Our drummer Chaz and a giant banjo :)

(photo courtesy Chaz)