austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

I walk down the lane with a happy refrain

Saturday we got up a bit earlier than we might naturally have. I got dressed up to the level of formalness that I usually apply around the office --- dress slacks and a shirt which buttons all the way up, that is. My mother said I needed a dressing style between ``formal'' and ``sweatpants'', and bunny_hugger agreed. I don't see that I was dressing formally; after all, I wasn't putting on a jacket, or a tie, or even buttoning the top button. They also agreed I need a woman's touch, and I agree, for a specific toucher.

What had us dressing was my mother's suggested Saturday activity: taking in a Broadway play. My parents, and one of my mother's college friends who gets dubbed ``aunt'' because that's so much easier to say, love taking in ideally every play possible. Also my aunt was eager to meet bunny_hugger. I certainly understand that. When suggested we had as alternatives the newly-opened (in fact, it was still in ``previews'', and only the third day of that) Lend Me A Tenor, starring Tony Shalhoub, or else something with John Lithgow. As my failure to remember the other title implies, we went with Tenor, partly on bunny_hugger's mother's enthusiasm for Tony Shalhoub.

Since it was raining and pretty heavily, we thought for a while we wouldn't park in my mother's usual niche at the Port Authority, a segment of parking deck that's open to the sun. It turns out it's even harder to find a parking spot inside the deck when it's not sunny, though, so we ended up near her usual spot, even if not exactly that. The usually good view from the deck was washed out, of course. But there was a golf-style umbrella I took out of the car which would turn out to be quite usable except as an umbrella. It lacked the little lock which would hold it open. But with the alternatives of taking the rain directly or having some rain deflected if I applied both hands to the task of umbrella management I used both hands and resolved to throw out the umbrella after getting back to the Port Authority.

We didn't see my aunt before the show, or during it; we bought tickets separately and on the assumption we'd all find a way together afterwards, which would be done, but would involve cell phones. (My aunt's son was also there, although I hadn't expected him to come, based on past experience, or that even if he came into the city he'd leave before the show, or maybe dinner. He stayed for dinner.)

Lend Me A Tenor is a revival of a show from the 1930s, as might be implied from the plot, which involves a hopeful young nebbishy man's desires to sing for the Cleveland Opera company, and Tony Shalhoub playing the on-the-brink-of-panic director. What he has to panic about is first that the actual Italian tenor imported all the way by steamship and train from Italy is chronically late, hasn't even seen the theater where he's supposed to play Othello that evening, battling frantically with his wife, and by the end of the first act kind of dead. At the risk of spoiling things, it all works out pretty well for everybody involved, and my mother, bunny_hugger, and I spent some of the break between acts identifying just what the loose plot threads were at that point and making guesses about how they would fly back together. Our biggest miss was we expected some scene backstage at the opera; it was entirely set in the hotel suite of the tenor instead.

It's really bunny_hugger's place to say what she observed about her first Broadway play --- mine was so long ago (as a teen) that I couldn't really say anymore what my first impressions were --- although one of the most striking things is probably that the theater is smaller than you might imagine. As in, it probably doesn't seat as many people as the multiplex theater where we attempted to watch Alice in Wonderland did. The aisles are wider, but not nearly as deep, and they're divided by two levels. The decor is better than a cineplex's, naturally, with the sorts of moulding and light fixtures and proscenium that suggest without quite matching The Muppet Show theater (though I have seen plays in spots that almost look like they were built to the Muppet plans). Also in-between acts if you need to go to the bathroom, on the lower level, run to get there. We did and avoided the worst of the lines. The concession stand is also in the lower level, and it really doesn't feel like it fits the Broadway Theater milieu that you can buy boxes of Jujubees. Cocktail orders placed before the show, yes. Liquorice bites, no. But that's how they do things. (They also sell merchandise from scripts to refrigerator magnets, near the entrance.)

In all, the farce was a good choice, quite nicely set up with the sort of fast timing that makes for a satisfying performance. (In a neat closing touch, the flow of action of the whole play is recapitulated in about two minutes' worth of pantomime before the final bows are taken.) bunny_hugger's mother would probably have loved to be there.

Afterwards we waited for everyone in the theater to walk past us, in the lobby, before we found my aunt, who'd gone to the bathroom after the show and wasn't quite speedy enough to avoid the line. Our plans for dinner were to go to a French/Thai place not too far away, and given the increasing rains and accompanying chill it couldn't be too close. And indeed, just a block away was a promising-looking Thai restaurant which wasn't it. Another block west and there was another which wasn't it. I was surprised by the density of Thai restaurants along that street, but eventually we ran out of streets or restaurants and got to where our reservations were. We also were able to talk them into taking our coats, which were remarkably well-saturated and would stay so through to Wednesday.

One of the objectives my aunt had in mind in picking a restaurant was that it should be vegetarian-friendly, which Thai was taken to be. (It did have several pretty good alternatives.) They also offered spicy alternatives which proved to be just about the right level of spiciness for me. I grant my tastes were distorted by southeast Asian life, and I still miss chili catsup, but I'm also out of practice, and this was just right on the spot. Also right on the spot were desserts, which included a frightening yet wonderful-sounding fried cheesecake alternative that I did take. And bunny_hugger noticed before I did that they drizzled chocolate on the plate to draw the restaurant's logo, a touch I haven't seen, or at least haven't noticed, before.

In all, my aunt was very happy to meet bunny_hugger, and charmed by her. The charm would be lifted several days later when she sent my aunt a thank-you bouquet of flowers; in particular, my aunt phoned my mother and said, ``She's a keeper''. It's a good thing I love bunny_hugger so, or her campaign of winning over my family would put me under intolerable pressure.

The rain got a little less intense as we walked back to the Port Authority, mercifully, but in driving home it would get worse in quite a few stretches. My mother as usual listened to the unspeakably annoying 101.5 FM for traffic information, even though it wouldn't affect what route we took to get home (it never does), although this did warn us that there were blackouts all over the state. In fact, some of the towns south of where we'd turn off Route 9 were blacked out, as were towns we weren't going to be driving through.

It was as we got closer to home that we realized the excellent chance that we were blacked out too. For example, the last street lights before the development were completely out, and police cars were directing traffic. Yes, it turned out we didn't have any power. Fortunately I remembered I had a flashlight somewhere either in my room or in my car, left over from the times I'd have to sometimes crawl under the Sable to slap it into functioning again. Unfortunately I didn't remember where we might. But my hand phone came in useful again, since it provided a faint light making it easier to search around and find that we couldn't find any better sources of light. My mother went to bed, early but not outrageously early for her.

bunny_hugger and I meanwhile supposed that, well, if the power didn't stay out indefinitely long we could use portable consumer electronics to at least barely see by. We had three laptops to use, after all, possibly four if my father had his charged up and its battery was at all worthwhile. And she had a Nintendo portable thingy to show off, which might be charged up as well.

She's been playing a game called Scribblenauts, in which you try to complete various tasks such as gathering flowers in a basket while avoiding an irrationally angry bee by writing out the names of such things as ``net'' or ``beekeeper'' or ``ladder'' or ``communist''; nouns which appear in the database are then popped into existence and you can wield them to accomplish whatever the task might be. You get bonuses for creating something which hasn't been used before, and also for not killing anything on the screen, and also for vaguely defined style, which seems to connect to how cleverly you set up the task accomplishment. Doing it by unpromising-looking techniques is better than directly, in scoring terms, as best as we can figure. There's also points for completing a task using less than the par number of items.

You can imagine how addictive this sort of thing can be. After giving me some training in using such tools as ``university'' and ``philosopher'' and ``chinese dragon'' bunny_hugger turned it over to me. Many of the tasks were pretty straightforward. The aforementioned flower-gathering one, where I had to get flowers not just against an angry bee but also an angry pirana, was the toughest challenge and I kept coming back to it time and time and time and time again. Eventually, though, I did manage to beat it, and even using the ``humanitarian'' option in which I didn't kill either bee or pirana. The bee I was able to grab hold of and stuff into a conveniently located greenhouse. The pirana I was able to keep out of perilous range by accidentally dropping a set of stairs on it. (This would seem to be a problem for a fish, but it was apparently a strong pirana.)

Getting through all that was exhausting and left me ready for a little break from Scribblenauts for a while, although was there any chance of finding another game cartridge in the circumstances? Ah, but then --- the lights came back up. The great blackout of (March) 2010 was over, at least for us.

We also ate the bag of Reese's Pieces from the theater. The bag was one of those theoretically openable by hand, but it was stubbornly uncooperative with this goal. I was sorely tempted to find the scissors from the knife block in the kitchen, but as bunny_hugger pointed out, we wouldn't have had those if we'd tried opening this bag in the theater. After that it became a point of pride to open the bag using only what we had on hand or in pockets (not much) and without pulling hard enough to explode the bag and send Pieces flying over the living room. We did, ultimately, get it open, but boy would that have been agonizing to open in the movie theater.

Now that I think of it, the umbrella is still in the back of my mother's car.

Trivia: W H Smith first got the exclusive right to sell books and papers on the Birmingham Railway in 1848; his first bookstall was at Euston Station. Source: The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, Wolfgang Schivelbusch.

Currently Reading: The 1972 Annual World's Best SF, Editor Donald A Wollheim.

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