Monday, March 30, 2009

Little Trip to the Prairie

Click here to see a fun YouTube clip to get you in the mood for Easter!

Wasn't that fun! If you liked that one, try this. In the search field at the top of YouTube, type in Howard's Big Dig. I tried to embed the videos for you, but haven't figured out how. Maybe next time!


My morning ritual involves toast, coffee, and frantic switching among the three major morning shows and local news. This morning, as always, bad news took center stage...stabbings, random attacks on innocent people, missing children, foreclosures. Even the local station led with accounts of weekend traffic accidents, and robberies. Enough already! In what way does other people's sadness help us? Starting tomorrow, I will wake up with 6 A.M. reruns of "The Golden Girls" and "Mayberry RFD." I will share my morning joe with Blanch, Dorothy, Sophia and Rose as they eat cheesecake and talk about their carefree lives in the Florida sunshine. Floyd Thebarber (yes, I believe his last name truly is "Thebarber") will rant about the town's plans to put up a parking meter right in front of his shop, surly cutting down on his bustling business of cutting all the heads in Mayberry, sweeping away the tickley bits and patting on tonics. Those sound like better ways to leave pleasant dreams behind and step into my day.

On Saturday night, I escaped the harbingers of gloom and doom and spent three relaxing hours at Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion show at Appleton's PAC. There was no rolling laughter, or uninhibited belly laughs that night...just a theatre filled with relaxed faces of all ages, taking in the gentle wit, and stories reminding us that there is good in the world, and that good is right under our noses.

But, let me start a little further back. We had dinner at a Mexican Catina in Neenah called salsa ever! Our server happened to be the new owner, so we got top notch treatment. He even re-positioned the ridiculously huge TV set so I didn't have to strain my neck to watch the Ricky Martin videos! I started the night clean, but before long, salsa rolled down my shirt, leaving a telltale red trail. I knew I would have to sit in the theatre all night with my winter jacket tightly buttoned. Shortly after the spillage, our server stopped by. His heavy accent added to the authenticity of the meal, but when when he asked "Do you care for dessert?" I thought he said "Can I wash your shirt." I figured that either he was being a bit too forward, or he was offering a unique service due to the cuisine's characteristic messiness.

Episode 2! It's PHC, right? How fancy-pants can that be, right? That's what I thought, and so I figured jeans (clean ones) would be OK, - after all , the star goes on stage in red socks and red, suede Adidas. Boy, was I wrong. Bling! Everywhere. Bling! Blinding Bling! Not much I could do, so Chris and I grabbed a table in the lobby, and waited for the doors to open. Wouldn't you know, a fancy couple decided to join us. She was wearing some sort of white animal pelt, and he sported a wrinkle-free, (and stain free) crisp, white shirt, YSL tie, British driving cap, and camel overcoat. But, they turned out to be the nicest people, and I am sorry I didn't get their names. The Mr. was loaded with Ole and Lena jokes while the Mrs. wife sat quietly with that "Oh no, here he goes again" look in her eyes. Turns out they are from Green Bay, and know several people in Manitowoc. They attend the Manitowoc symphony, and the Lakeshore Wind Ensemble performances, and spoke highly of our downtown. They said they'd stop by the store to visit on their next trip through. I hope they do.

Now, on to the show. If you've listen to A Prairie Home Companion on public radio, you pretty much have the picture. Lots of nice music, and casual storytelling. Nothing fancy, or big, just simple humor. On Saturday, Keillor counted on his audience being highly culturally literate; the show was heavily laden with skits based on great works of literature, and satirical comments about the complexities of literary fiction. He seamlessly incorporated four local musical acts into the show. What I enjoyed best was watching the show biz part of the production. The stage manager appeared several time in a headset, to place, or move set pieces as needed. Guest performers could be seen waiting in the wings, and the sound technicians' table was on stage right where I could watch them fiddle with the mic balances.
Garrison Keillor is not a young guy, yet he did two three-hour shows on Saturday, with a casual half-hour Q&A between them. I was at the 8:30 show, which he kept fresh by making last minute substitutions..different stories, different songs...than the first show. There were some fun cat and mouse interactions, where other cast members tried to anticipate where he was going next and , guessing wrong, worked hard to find their places and to match his stride.
Summer in these parts is packed with great escape opportunities, many right here at home...Metro Jam, Acoustic Fest, Krazy Daze, weekly band concerts, Peter Quince Performing Compny's annual musical, and our own Tom Drill's hometown, riverside talent extravaganza , showtime. If you're up for a road trip, check out the quality production at Peninsula Players www,
*****What am I reading? Honestly, I'm exploring the world of graphic novels. It's not going well. I need a kid to explain them to me.
Check back later this week. I have a post from guest blogger, Steve Head, queued up to go...but it's the end o' the month and there are bills to pay first. GRRRRR!