Last October, two speaking engagements at the Bridgewater Public Library in Massachusetts were cancelled because a burst pipe flooded the program room. And now yesterday my airbnb host for the night, Trent, cancelled after a burst pipe flooded his entire house. He wrote to me yesterday: "Unfortunately, the house is a disaster. I just got home, and am seeing the damage for myself for the first time. The house doesn't have water at the moment. We are staying with family this evening since the repairmen could not make it out until tomorrow. Once again, I am so sorry that this happened! I feel terrible about having thrown your arrangements out of whack."
That's bad news to receive while in the car driving to his house, but it's even worse for him!
Anyway, that left me in the predicament of having to find overnight accommodations for that evening. Pulling off the highway, I found a McDonalds with free WiFi. Gheorghe, a customer service representative of Airbnb, was kind enough to offer to cover the difference in cost between my original reservation and the cost of my last-minute substitute, and I found a place in Greensboro, NC. While slightly out of my way, the extra driving was worth the peace of mind knowing I had a place to sleep!
Crisis averted, I got back on the road and arrived in High Point, NC around 3pm. With a start time of 6pm at the High Point library, that gave me two hours to find a bite to eat before reporting to the library to set up. Now, granted, I only drove down one street, but that was main street, but the only restaurants I could find were fast food chains. It seemed like every single chain restaurant in existence could be found: I saw Wendy's, Arby's, Little Caesar's, Chick-Fil-A, Pizza Hut, Subway, Chipotle, Waffle House, Dunkin Donuts, Zaxby's, and McDonald's. But having had a Big Mac earlier, I wanted something other than more fast food. Wasn't there any decent place to eat??? Eventually I found Sumela, a Turkish and Mediterranean eatery (which happened to be just across the street from the library), and devoured a gyro in record time.
The program went exceptionally well. The crowd of maybe 40 or 45 was completely attentive and engaged, and asked some great questions afterward. I've found that the number and quality of questions asked is the best barometer of how engaged a crowd is, and this group didn't disappoint. In addition to the common questions, "How did you get so into the Beatles?" and "Who is your favorite Beatle?", one guy asked about George Harrison's album Wonderwall, which was the first solo Beatles album ever released. Another asked about how receptive English audiences were to my presentations last July (they were skeptical at first - even American audience are skeptical when they realize I didn't live through the Beatle years - but by the end of my programs I had won them over!). And one woman asked about the inspiration for the song "Eleanor Rigby", to which I responded by citing the grave with her name at St. Peter's church, where John and Paul met for the first time in 1957.
Today I backtrack a bit to Mt. Airy, NC for another "Band of the Sixties", and tomorrow I drive to Elkin, NC:
Saturday, 13 February 2016, 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Elkin Public Library 111 N Front St, Elkin, NC
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
Explore the music of The Beatles in this 60-minute multimedia presentation (part history and part musical analysis) spanning the full 1960's: beginning with the band's seminal visits to Hamburg, continuing through Beatlemania, and concluding with Abbey Road. The program will be supplemented with audio clips of music and excerpts from interviews with the band members.
This Elkin stop was the last to be added to my February schedule. Originally I had plans to speak at the Raleigh, NC library that day, but they flaked out on me, leaving no time to fill the spot as I typically book six months in advance. Then, out of the blue, Martha Smith, director of the Elkin Public Library, emailed me on January 28 asking if I could be there on February 13 - just two weeks later. Of course I could!