No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 06, 2016


February 5, 2016

Johnnyswim and  Jonny P

Judy Blume

Terrence McNally



It is a very rare occurrence when I go see a concert having never seen or heard of the bands that are playing. I discover new bands as opening acts or at large festivals, but I rarely just take a shot in the dark. This week I did just that and I cannot express just how glad I am that I did so. The Key West Theater has been bringing top notch entertainment to Key West this year and it has been a pleasure to have tickets to their entire concert series. We bought the tickets just to support the Theater and those running it, in hopes that they will continue to bring such high quality shows to our island. That means we got tickets to a couple of shows where I had no idea who the bands that we would be going to see even were.


I pride myself on being fairly up on new bands, but the band Johnnyswim had somehow escaped my notice, so I had no idea what to expect when we settled in to our front row seats at the Key West Theater. It was obvious from the start that I was in the minority of the packed sold-out room. In fact many people had traveled great distances to be at the show and many were even wearing Johnnyswim T-shirts. I was a little taken aback, but also intrigued.

Jonny P

The opening act was a singer from New Orleans named Jonny P, He sang a folky blues rock mix of original songs that were fantastic. It was so impressive and I was already thinking it was so worth it to have gotten the tickets. Johnnyswim was out next to thunderous applause from the happy crowd and right away it was clear that I had been missing out by not being familiar with the band sooner. They were absolutely fantastic.

Playing a mix of folk, blues, soul and pop, singing duo of Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez were backed by a full band. But the married couple was the focus and they had terrific songs and great voices and the music was a real treat. Sudano is the daughter of 70s Disco Queen Donna Summer and musical prowess obviously runs in the family. Ramirez is the Cuban-American son of parents who came to the US during the Mariel boatlift in 1980. Their landing spot in the US was only a few blocks from where their son was now standing on stage playing a couple of Cuban songs in what was a truly magical moment.

Jonny P

The couple had a charisma and obvious chemistry that could not be ignored and the show was not just a wonderfully pleasant surprise but one of the best small venue shows that I have seen in ages. Really a fantastic night. Count me among the newest Johnnyswim fans and I would advise you to check them out as well, especially if they happen to be playing near you. The show was not the first event at the Key West Theater that I attended this week, that honor would go to the Friends of the Key West Library Lecture Series featuring my friend and fellow Literary Seminar Board member, Judy Blume.


Judy and Jenni

Judy Blume

While I no longer am in charge of organizing the lecture series (handing the reigns over to my more than capable friend Mark Hedden), I still like to attend, especially when my friends are speaking and this was the first opportunity for Judy to read locally from her latest novel. “In the Unlikely Event”. It was a great emotionally charged reading by Judy, who got very emotional presenting in front of so many fans and friends. Her husband George had prepared a wonderful pair of video presentations, one which played in advance and one to accompany the actual presentation and they were both charming and interesting as they featured photos depicting the actual locations found in the book.

Elena, Lea and Effie

Speaking of books, the newest cool addition to the cultural landscape celebrated its Grand Opening party this week. Books and Books, the wonderful Miami based book store opened a new branch in Key West. Owned and located at The Studios of Key West, and opened under the expert guidance of the Books and Books staff, Judy Blume and her husband George and the Studios staff. The opening was a cause for great celebration and the bookstore is fantastic. I attended the opening which was held in conjunction with a great art opening by the renowned printmaker, Lou Stovall. The opening was packed with thrilled locals and even some tourists all who were very excited by the new store.

George, Mia and Judy

With Doug's parents

Eugene Robinson with Lou Stovall and his wife

My friend Doug’s parents are in town from Minneapolis and I got to meet them for the first time at the opening. It is always nice to meet the family of my friends and it was easy to see where Doug gets his casual charm. After the opening, I headed over to see the play at the Waterfront Playhouse with my friend Effie to see the Terrence McNally play “Mothers and Sons”. It was a special production because the playwright and his producer husband Tom Kirdahy did a wonderful talk back session at the conclusion of the brilliant play. McNally, a four-time Tony Award winning playwright offered insight into his creative process and Tom added fascinating detail about bringing a play to life and getting it launched onto Broadway.

Terrence McNally

Terrence and Tom

Cast of "Mothers and Sons"

The play was outstanding and the cast which included a wonderful 8 year old local boy, was stellar. It was just the sort of amazing thing that seems to happen on a somewhat regular basis in this wonderful community. McNally and Kirdahy live here over the season and hearing them tell the audience why they love Key West so much was a real treat. I must say I share their feelings about this incredible community and feel so fortunate to live in a place full of so many brilliant and creative souls. McNally is correct in his statement that there is really no place like it anywhere.

Bill and Ian

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Live to Tell

January 24, 2016

Live to Tell

I recall very well the last and only time that I had seen Madonna live before, it was May of 1985 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, as part of her first ever tour, The Virgin Tour, which promoted her first two albums, “Madonna” and “Like A Virgin”. I wasn’t a huge Madonna fan, but she had two opening acts that I really wanted to see, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys and I recall getting seats pretty close to see Madonna. At the time, I had no idea that she was on her way to becoming a cultural icon,
though she was already extremely popular. Flash forward 31 years and I never imagined I would be going to see Madonna again or that she would have maintained her popularity after all this time. But when tickets went on sale last year, I thought to myself that I really would like to see Madonna and I know that Kathy would as well, so I ordered tickets and finally, many months later we were in Miami to see the show.

1985- Like A Virgin tour


The show was at the American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat, in downtown Miami. It was a crazy cold and blustery night with the temperature near 50 and high winds making it seem much colder, but inside the arena it was warm and packed crowded, as Madonna had sold out two nights at the AAA.  Our seats were excellent and we settled in to watch the opening act, as it was. It was a DJ playing very loud, fairly obnoxious music with flashing lights and all the tricks, but it was just terrible. I would say the DJ was terrible, which is most likely true, but the real issue was the venue.

While DJs work in smaller venues and even in large outdoor facilities, the arena in Miami is like one giant echo chamber and the music was way too loud, with too much echo off the ceiling and walls and in something that I have rarely if ever seen, the place just about emptied out during the hour long set. It was horrible, the concourse was packed and almost impassable as Madonna fans tried to escape the DJ. I almost felt bad for the guy, but it just did not work at all.

We had been warned by numerous people that Madonna is notorious for being late to the stage, apparently last time she played Miami, she kept fans waiting over three hours, so I guess we considered ourselves fortunate when the lights dimmed and the show started just after 10 PM only an hour after the DJ stopped. The horror that was the DJ was immediately forgotten as Madonna was lowered to the stage in a cage while her many dancers all dressed as sort of Egyptian Knights of some sort performed the first of what would be many incredible production numbers.

It became immediately evident that this was way more than a concert, but closer to a Broadway Musical featuring Madonna as the star. The set was huge, stretching out the length of the floor with incredible staging complete with components that raised and lowered, numerous trap doors and all manner of the most current effects. The Rebel Heart tour, as Madonna named this current tour is her tenth major tour and you can tell she has it down. She still looks fantastic and her voice (which was no doubt aided by vocal tracks) still sounded really good.

The stage was amazing as well, One of the main features of the stage is a complex machine like structure which enables the whole stage to become mobile and assume numerous shapes and sizes throughout the show. It consists of a video screen that was interchangeable into the main stage as flooring, as well as used for creating an elevated 8 feet platform, or a vertical wall that can be tilted from zero to 90 degrees within half-a-minute, or used as an angular wall for Madonna's dancers to sway to and fro. Watching the intricately planned and performed use of the space, you realize just how amazingly difficult it is to put together a show of this magnitude.

There were numerous costume changes and acrobatics that were more like a Cirque du Soleil show than the average concert, but at the heart of it all was the music. Madonna has remained relevant and has kept releasing popular albums since her first one back in 1984 and the most recent stuff hold up remarkably well with those classic Madonna songs of the eighties. Also holding up remarkably well is Madonna herself, she sings and dances with the vigor of performers half her age and looks fantastic as well.

The setlist consisted of newer songs like the opener, “Iconic” and “Bitch I’m Madonna” to her classics such as “Like A Virgin”, “Material Girl”, “Lucky Star” and “Holiday”. Having lived for many years in Miami and having many friends at the show including celebs like Ariana Grande, DJ Khaled and Gloria Estefan, she decided to play a few special songs that are not part of her normal set including an amazing version of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from the movie she starred in, “Evita”. She also played a great cover version of the classic French love song, “La Vie En Rose”. It was a fantastic experience and a great, great show.

Another highlight was the fact that it was the 10th birthday of Madonna’s daughter Mercy, and she was brought on stage to perform with Madonna for a song, get serenaded by the massive crowd singing Happy Birthday and to get presented with a cupcake and a huge gold chain from DJ Khaled. It was a cool moment and really seemed to humanize Madonna more than just about anything I have ever seen or heard about her.