Arizona to California, via Stormgilla

by Lenny Hughes

LeavingArizona-California Dead Ahead

Our weekend in Arizona was beautiful, but not without its little challenges. Naturally.

We almost didn't make it back. Lewis, John and I hit the airport Sunday in Phoenix just as the last east-bound flights of the day were pulling onto the tarmac. Another snowstorm was threatening the northeast, and everything was shutting down, including the airports.

But after another blizzard break, here we are, some of us 30,000 feet in the air, getting ready to converge at LAX for the show in Anaheim tomorrow night.

Sorry I didn't get the chance to "take you along" on the Arizona tour, but I'll try to hit the highlights.

The first show was in Tucson, and the folks there were true-Lew fans, judging from the demand for those fashionable T-shirts and classic media. We almost sold out of "Stark Raving Black" DVDs, which include a mini-poster that Lew likes to sign, so I left a pile for him to autograph for the first Phoenix show.

Next night, Frank brought them in, and I realized Lewis had signed the boxes they come in, rather than the posters. After some panicking, I got them back to him, and they returned to the Merch desk, all lovingly signed UPSIDE DOWN. Hooohahaha. Rarities worth a fortune! Naturally, they sold out immediately.

Meanwhile, at one of the two Phoenix shows, a man with a prominent head of white hair was furious over a mix-up with his ticket. He'd come all the way from New York to see the show, and the box office couldn't find his seat. Turns out, it was the famous actor Tony Roberts, star of "Annie Hall" and a slew of other Woody Allen flicks.

Well, they found him a seat, and all was well.

Though John was a little bemused.

"Tony Roberts JUMPED me!" he told me later with a laugh. Evidently, Roberts thought John was connected with the theater, and he went off on the first person who seemed to have authority.

"That was the closest I've ever come to being in a Woody Allen movie."

There's not much between Phoenix and Tucson, along Interstate-10. I fantasized of continuing on, through the Lone Star State, the bayou country of Louisiana, and winding up in New Orleans, but that never came to pass. The brown flat desert, punctuated by cacti and occasionally flanked by rocky mountains grew a bit monotonous. There was an intriguing adult entertainment shop in the middle of it all, just outside Tucson, but we had no time to sight-see.

Phoenix itself is a sprawling city, with enormous gleaming-new skyscrapers that seem to have sprouted out of the desert only in the past few years. It's the modern-day version of what happened out west when miners struck gold and silver in the 19th Century. Giant photos of what the place looked like years ago adorned one of the new buildings.

I had to get out to the Real neighborhood.

The day of the last show was threatening to be swamped by a monster storm that had soaked Los Angeles the night before. I stayed in the hotel watching the sky, fretting (tempted by the three bikes the hotel offered its patrons for free). I watched three hours of "NCIS LA," until I decided to chance it.

I took a Specialized hybrid-olive green, with front shocks-and struck out for the antique stores in the old section called Melrose. I didn't realize it was 10 miles away, out past I-10. But Arizona is flat country, and the weather was near-perfect.

Loved Melrose. Stopped in at the Rebel Vintage [Collectibles and Hair] Salon, hit a couple funky antique shops, and ended up with a Gene Autry raincoat from the '50s and a toy roulette wheel from the '60s-made by the "Nintendo Company" when they were only dreaming of electronic PlayStations.

While I was in the last shop, the rain poured down like a firehose, but I waited it out, then sped back to the hotel in time to catch the Bus for the last show.

Sadly, I didn't have time for a snack at Long Wong's, out on 7th Avenue, but I'll send you a picture.

Looks like we're about to make our approach into LAX, so I'll break it off here.

Stay tuned for more, from California.