Cleveland, early on a Sunday morning. I feel fully recovered and in denial that this is the end of the road. The final venue is another damn supper club, The Music Box. There is a decent looking Sunday brunch on offer there but distressingly this will be accompanied either by a Doobie Brothers or a Crosby Stills Nash and Young tribute band depending on whether one chooses to eat upstairs or downstairs in the club. There is a long day ahead and this does not appeal to me as the most relaxing way to start it off. We are just across the river from The Flats where there seem to be a bunch of decent places to sit and chill with a coffee and a decent plate of food. The river taxi that would take me the 200m across the Cuyahoga River doesn’t run on Sundays but according to my phone it should only take 20 minutes to walk. Unfortunately the pedestrian bridge to downtown is shut for repairs and after forty minutes of going round in circles I am high up on the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway pretty much directly over where I started. I eventually make it across. It has taken me an hour to traverse the 200m. I find a shady table a chi-chi eaterie overlooking the river but the vibe is somewhat undermined by the fact that there are thousands of dead and dying fish floating on the surface. The canoeists and the scullers that pass by seem unperturbed by this but I have to consciously suppress being really creeped out—I would be utterly shocked to see this in the Clyde, or even in the Thames.
I can’t face the hour's walk back so after eating I call a taxi to take me back to the other side of the river. He gets lost in the roads under the freeway when his sat nav tires to direct him over the closed bridge. When I finally get back to the other side I find out that Jim, Buddy and Brian have all fallen foul of what appears to be the same thing that almost laid me low during the encore at the Carrboro Arts Center. Everybody is on their feet and putting a brave face on it. We can cover for Buddy or Brian if needs be, but we can’t do much without a drummer. Kris is terrified he’ll catch it and come down with it before the flight tomorrow (understandable—no one wants to spend a seven hour flight being ill) and is keeping his distance. There is nothing to be done except wait and see what the state of play is at showtime. Everyone gets through the sound check and by early evening it looks like everyone is going to make it to the stage one way or another.
When we walk out to play I am disconcerted that there are people at tables on three sides of the stage, something which always bothers me. (How can they see anything? It always makes me makes me feel as if I am in the way!) But the place seems to be full. There is nothing for it but to make like this is a proper rock and roll room and get on with it. Jim rises above his condition and the show turns out to be a worthy end to the tour. By the encores we are on top of our game and have the audience with us. Someone I don’t know gives me a bottle of Woodford Reserve. Beers and tequila shots are ordered up from the bar to the stage to toast a farewell to the continent before the equipment is whisked away back to the rental company and we board the bus for the overnight drive to the airport. I don’t really know what to feel, and it’s pretty obvious no one else does either. As the last few hundred miles to O’Hare International count down, arriving in Hollywood starts to seem like a lifetime ago. Justin is sitting up front drinking beer deep in conversation with Gary our bus driver. People drift to their bunks. Even without the norovirus casualties this was never going to be a night for partying. I crawl into my bunk and force myself to sleep. Six hours later I am standing with my suitcase on a sidewalk in front of a grim airport hotel watching the bus leave with a sense of panic in my heart wondering when I can do this all over again.