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Getting there

Day 1 - Nishi-Tachikawa to Fort Lauderdale


The older I become, the more of a Luddite I become. I make no bones about preferring the old days and this I readily admit is largely to me and phone being mortal enemies. I hate it and it hates me back. It will gladly, download Apps that every company tells me I need and then cruelly refuse to activate them. Hence, setting out from my home I have five newly installed Apps from the Norwegian Cruise Line, Delta Airlines, Sony Bank, Outlook and Expedia, none of which are working. I couldn’t care less; I have printed out everything I need for the Cruise to the Edge, 2024.


Progressive Rock has been ridiculed and dismissed for decades by the ignorant but the very fact that there is a cruise devoted to it speaks volumes in itself. Many other popular genres do not have that honour and every year it is sold out, months before sailing date. I have been invited along by Lifesigns, who are decade-old veterans of CttE, moving up the bill every time they play it. Jumping ahead a bit, I spoke to a few Prog Rockers in the hotel a couple of nights before we set sail and they told me that Lifesigns has become a foundation of the Cruise, they look forward to seeing them every time and are not to be missed. Impressive for a band who have only released three studio albums.


From my home in Nishi-Tachikawa to my first hotel is twenty-six hours trip and it will be punctuated with beer. My first beer is actually at home half an hour before I leave as there was one lonely one left in the fridge from the night before and I felt a bit sad for it, the thought of it being on its own for two weeks with no friends to talk to. My second and third are at Haneda airport. I had already sent a quick note via the Lifesigns Cruise Party messenger group (one App that I actually did get going) that I was on route and Sam had quipped back ‘Do they have porters at that airport to give you a haneda with your luggage?’ The tour banter has begun.


Banter runs rife on a tour. A band entourage has its own life and every tour that any band does, has a different life. Newcomers to the fold need to learn quick. There are nicknames, aliases, in-jokes, ways of doing things, habits and nuances unique to the group and you need to learn and adapt where necessary. You will be ribbed, made fun of, set-up for gags and be the burden of practical jokes. It is done in good fun and makes you part of the team. More of all that later.


Meanwhile back at Haneda, I am waiting to board. All airlines have a system of boarding their passengers these days but Delta seem to have taken it to the extreme. First there is Delta One, A.K.A. First Class which is followed by Diamond and then Sky Priority. The next four categories are Comfort Plus, Main 1, Main 2 and 3. Last is Basic which was me and a few stragglers and the attention Basic passengers were given compared to the previous ones could be described as not wanted on voyage or persona non grata…ballast even. The flight itself was passable. After one Japanese beer and an unpalatable red wine, most of which got flushed, I did manage a few hours’ sleep although not consecutive. At Minneapolis, the transfer was smooth and it must be said, the volunteer staff there were exceptional. Friendly, witty and wonderfully helpful, I cannot praise them enough. At the gate, there is a Craft Beer bar and with three hours before boarding I decide to sample a few of the local brews. Alas, Minneapolis airport eateries are now in QR hell – just scan it on your phone and blah blah blah. I ask the barman if it’s possible to drink and pay cash and he offers to help me with my phone. He gives up after a few minutes of trying to decipher why my Japanese phone won’t work in his bar and says ‘For you, I’ll take cash and for what it’s worth, I hate this crap.’  The middle-aged lady at the end of the bar smiles at me knowingly.


The three hours and forty minutes on the plane to Fort Lauderdale felt a lot longer than three hours and forty minutes. Firstly, a woman decided to bring a pizza on the plane. Words fail me. Next, the captain announces that there will be fifty minutes of turbulence followed by an hour of smooth flying and then another fifty minutes of turbulence which prompts a woman two rows up to vomit into the aisle. It is explained by her friend that she has a fear of flying and that the mere mentioning of turbulence (actually, Delta use the word ‘weather’ instead as if that somehow masks what it actually is) causes her to go into a nervous state. They are moved further up the plane and the woman sitting behind her takes a picture of her puke. She sees me looking at her as she does so and I ask what she did that for. ‘To put on Instagram’ she replied in a tone that implied ‘How fucking stupid are you?’ We finally get underway after the cleaners have done their thing and it is a bit of a rough ascent but as rough ascents go, not worth mentioning unlike the temperature of the cabin that was so cold we all had to rug up for the duration. There were a few minutes more ‘weather’ later but again, nothing alarming. Thankfully, the landing, collecting baggage and taxi to the hotel all went quickly and smoothly. It was midnight when I checked in, handing over my printed-out reservation and the lady at the reception was pleasant but I couldn’t understand a word she said. There was something about a car, then something about finding a quarter in her pocket that morning and finally that she had never been to Arizona. Quite if any of it had anything to do with me, I will never know but anyway, I bought a bottle of beer for a nightcap and headed off to my room. Spacious, comfortable with a king size bed, I was ready for some proper rest.


Hello jetlag.


Day 2 - A day off in Fort Lauderdale


I finally dozed off about 4:30am and was awake again at 8am, in time for breakfast after which, I slept for another three hours. This was always going to be an email and writing day and there’s not much around the hotel to see or do anyway so I put the telly on the History channel and chill. There are some whacky adverts. One shouts ‘Stop Joe Biden’s Gun Grabbing Agenda’. Another is for a lawnmower from a company called Ego that is trying to sell a machine that is quite obviously for your average man in mid-life crisis who can’t afford a 911 but the majority of ads are ironically split between medical insurance and food that will cause you to need that medical insurance. Messages are coming in on the group chat about who is where doing what. I keep an eye on the proceedings throughout the afternoon whilst tapping away until teatime when I wander down to a place called Millers Ale House for dinner. The one thing you can say about America is that if you ignore all the junk food places, they do still make a cracking burger. I order one of their specialities, the Cue Bacon Cheeseburger and a large local beer to go with it – both are delicious. Back at the hotel I fight and fail to beat the tiredness that suddenly washes over me, waking up at 9pm, starfished on the bed. A few beers, some writing, asleep again at 3:30am.


Day 3 Pt 1 - Fort Lauderdale to Miami


Up until 11am, pretty much the same as yesterday. I check Messenger to see any updates. Ray and Sally’s flight has been delayed three and a half hours and have missed connections so they will be arriving much later than planned. After that, I pack, check-out and catch the shuttle bus to the airport. From there I take another shuttle to the Tri-rail station. I line up at the ticket booth. A young American girl walks to the front and oblivious of the queue or just arrogant and conceited I couldn’t say – probably a combination of all three - pushes in. My turn and I ask for a ticket to Miami Airport. “Three sevenny-faaayve, stay on this track, departs one-oh-six” the lady tells me without prompting. It starts to rain and it feels good. When it arrives, the train is a magnificent two storey beast decorated with blue sky, fluffy clouds and palm trees. I take a seat upstairs. It’s about forty-five minutes to Miami International and I gaze out of the window at places and people I will probably never see again. At the airport, I go to a desk with ‘Information’ written on the front and tell the lady I am staying at the Hyatt Place Airport West, showing her the printed address. She studies it for a moment and says “There’s probably a shuttle bus to the hotel. Outside, Stand 7.”



“Probably, yes”

“You don’t know?”


“Is this the information desk?”

“Do you have a list of airport shuttle buses?”



I stand at Stand 7 for half an hour. A couple of dozen shuttle buses with hotel names on come and go but no Hyatt and then I start to recognise ones that came thirty minutes ago so I opt for a taxi. On the way to the taxi stand I see a few people boarding a bus with gear and ask who they are. ‘Klone’ they reply and I tell them I like their stuff and am looking forward to seeing them play. The taxi takes twenty minutes, costs $36 and I am the first of the entourage to arrive. The bar is conveniently located next to the reception so I order a beer and check Messenger for updates. Ray and Sally’s situation has worsened, they are now stranded at Heathrow as the computer system is down. Thy won’t arrive until tomorrow. Ten minutes later, a minibus with blacked-out windows pulls up in the forecourt.

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This bloke sat outside my hotel window for a few hours.

Ft Lauderdale hotel breakfast times.

Cruise to the Edge Part 1(クルーズ・トゥ・ジ・エッジ パート1)






 歳をとればとるほど、私はラッダイト(機械破壊主義者)になる。私は昔の方が良かったと言うつもりはないが、これは私と電話が宿命的な敵同士であることが大きい。私はそれを憎み、それは私を憎み返す。あらゆる企業が私に必要だと言うアプリを嬉々としてダウンロードさせ、そして残酷にも活用を拒否するのだ。それゆえ、自宅から出かける際、ノルウェージャンクルーズライン、デルタ航空、ソニー銀行、アウトルック、エクスペディアの5つのアプリを新たにインストールしたが、どれも動作しない。もはやそんなことはどうでもいい; 2024年の「クルーズ・トゥ・ザ・エッジ」に必要なものはすべてプリントアウトしてある。


 プログレッシブ・ロックは、何十年もの間、無知な人たちによって嘲笑され、否定されてきたが、このロックに捧げられたクルーズが存在するという事実自体が、その価値を物語っている。他の多くの人気ジャンルにはその栄誉はない。このクルーズは毎年、出航日の数カ月前に完売している。私は、クルーズ・トゥ・ジ・エッジ(以下 CttE)の10年来のベテランであり、CttEで演奏するたびにファンを増やしているライフサインズに招待された。少し話は飛ぶが、出航の2、3日前の夜、ホテルで何人かのプログレ・ロッカーに話を聞いたところ、ライフサインズはこのクルーズの基盤になっており、毎回彼らに会うのを楽しみにしていて、見逃すことはできないとのことだった。わずか3枚のスタジオ・アルバムしかリリースしていないバンドとしては非常に印象的な話だ。








 フォートローダーデイルまでの飛行機での3時間40分は、実際の3時間40分よりもずっと長く感じた。まず、ある女性が飛行機にピザを持ち込もうとした。言葉足らずだな。次に機長は、50分間乱気流があり、その後1時間順調に飛行してから、さらに50分間乱気流が続くと告げ、2列前のその女性が通路に嘔吐した。彼女は飛行機恐怖症で、乱気流(実際には、デルタ航空は "天候 "という単語を代わりに使っている。)が彼女を緊張状態に陥らせた。搭乗スタッフたちはさらに忙しく機内を動き回り、彼女の後ろに座っていた女性が彼女のゲロの写真を撮る。彼女を見つめている私と目が合ったので、私は彼女に何のためにそんなことをしたのかと尋ねた。「インスタグラムに載せるためよ。」と彼女は答えた。「どんだけ君はバカなんだ?」ということをほのめかしてやった。清掃係が仕事を終えてからようやく出発し、少々ドタバタした離陸となったが、キャビンの中があまりに寒かったため、全員がその間、毛布をかけなければならなかったことを除けば、ドタバタした離陸としては他に特筆すべきことはない。その後、さらに数分そんな「天候」が続いたが、特に憂慮するようなことはなかった。ありがたいことに、着陸、荷物の受け取り、ホテルまでのタクシーはすべて迅速かつスムーズに進んだ。チェックインしたのは真夜中で、プリントアウトした予約票を手渡した。レセプションの女性は感じのいい人だったが、彼女の言うことは一言も理解できなかった。車がどうとか、その朝ポケットに25セント硬貨が入っていたとか、最後には、アリゾナに行ったことがないとか・・・。それが私と関係があったのかどうかは分からないが、とにかく、私は晩酌用のビールを1本買って部屋に向かった。広々として快適なキングサイズのベッドで、ゆっくり休む準備ができた。












 午前11時までは昨日とほとんど同じだった。メッセンジャーをチェックして、何かアップデートがないか確認する。レイとサリーのフライトは3時間半遅れ、乗り継ぎに失敗したため、到着は予定よりかなり遅くなるとのこと。その後、荷造りをしてチェックアウトし、空港行きのシャトルバスに乗る。そこからまたシャトルでトライレールの駅に向かう。 チケット売り場に並ぶ。若いアメリカ人の少女が順番を守らず、前に割り込む。列を気にしていないか、あるいは傲慢なのか、うぬぼれ屋なのか、私には分からないが、恐らくこの3つすべての組み合わせだろう。私はマイアミ空港行きの切符を頼んだ。「スリー・セブンニー・ファエイブ!この線路に居て。ワンオーシックス(1:06分)に発車します。」 その女性は、訊かずともそう伝えてくれた。雨が降り始めてきたが、気持ちがいい。乗り込む列車が到着すると、その列車は、青い空、ふわふわの雲、ヤシの木で飾られた壮大な2階建ての獣のようだった。私は2階の席に座る。マイアミ国際空港までは約45分。私は窓から、おそらく二度と見ることのない場所や人々を眺めた。空港で『インフォメーション』と書かれたデスクに行き、印刷された住所を見せながら、ハイアット・プレイス・エアポート・ウエストに泊まることを女性に告げた。それをしばらく眺め、彼女は「多分ホテル行きのシャトルバスがあるはずよ。外の7番乗り場よ。」と言った。



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