the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Making It So

Liz and I took a well-deserved three-day weekend trip to Ann Arbor to celebrate our anniversary a little early. It's hard to believe that six years of marriage have gone rocketing by so quickly!

Friday night we enjoyed a good wander around downtown Ann Arbor, discovered, to the peril of my credit cards, the Vault of Midnight, got a head start on our Christmas shopping, and met up with Kevin Dangoor and Mark Ramm at the Arbor Brewing Company, where a good time was had by all.

Saturday, after a spot of brunch and shopping (and discovering the hypnotic terror that is "Powerpuff Girls Z"), the main attraction began: a series of RSC shows featuring Patrick Stewart. First up was Julius Caesar, not featuring Patrick Stewart, but instead featuring buckets of blood, dogs of war, signs and portents, and all similar manner of treacherous goodness. We paused for a jaunt over to Vinology for dinner, followed by a quick bit of dessert at La Dolce Vita, then it was back to the theatre for Antony and Cleopatra, where I had a bit of a chuckle over Patrick Stewart's wig--I don't think I've ever seen him have that much hair before, unless you count the space-mullet he sported in Dune. This morning, we brunched again, then took in the third and final round, The Tempest, which had been done up as a rather cinematic affair in a barren land north of the Arctic circle, somewhere between King Kong and Neil Gaiman.

As expected, Patrick Stewart was thoroughly at home on the stage, and did not disappoint, in energy, in subtlety, in getting just the right nuance. And though he chewed a bit of scenery, he should be commended for making sure that his fellow players get chances to shine in their own right. We were especially impressed with Cleopatra, whose performance utterly defied words as it cascaded from girlish delight to bitter jealousy and rage, into despair, and finally, tragic, dignified resolve. Bravo!

And, just like that, the time has gone and now we're home again, making preparations to do battle with the week ahead. Oh, yes, there are still tickets available for some shows, if you find yourself of a mind to go. Even if your seats aren't the greatest, you won't regret it.

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And Suddenly Tuesday is Date Night

Liz and I manged to almost completely forget that MacHomer is playing this week at the Hanna Theatre. Luckily, we managed to remember in time to get tickets for this evening's show, which played to a surprisingly packed audience. If you enjoy "The Simpsons" and have read or seen "the Scottish play" at least once, you will probably get a sizeable kick out of this... Most of his voices are dead on--pretty much any character that wasn't Bart, Lisa, or (alas!) Homer was perfect. The whole thing is nicely integrated with a music and video track that really adds to the production--there are a lot of characters to keep track of, and there are some cute visual jokes. The ending is, as one might expect from a Shakespearean tragedy, pretty grim, so the audience receives as a bonus feature Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" as performed by 25 of rock's "most annoying voices."

We preceded the show with a bit of wine and food at Vinea, a fairly new place just down the block from Playhouse Square. I quite enjoyed the spinach salad (I have a weakness for cranberries and blue cheese) and was significantly awed by the "Italian Plate" appetizer which, after claiming in the menu to have a couple of cheeses, a couple of Italian meats, a loaf of bread for dipping in olive oil, and some olives, ended up being enough food for a modest paramilitary outfit, if not a small army. There was enough left over to make more than a full plate of the same thing at any other restaurant, and that's when the guilt really started to kick in--certainly there are some starving children who could use some sopresetta and smoked gouda?

All in all, it's been a better-than-typical Tuesday evening--which I think will get rounded out with the last chapter of Anansi Boys. Cheers!

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Catching Up: Turkey Day Weekend

So, I've been meaning to catch up on things since last week, and just too busy and burned out to get around to it. I figure it's about time, so here's a little bit about our Turkey Day weekend.

Thursday
We slept late. It felt incredibly good. I spent much of the day in PJ's, just being a big loafy bum.

Eventually we got cleaned up and drove out to Liz's cousin Rick's house. We got the tour from Rick while his wife Jennifer addressed Thanksgiving meal preparations. Liz and I chatted for a bit with various family members, and I took whatever breaks I could to watch Finding Nemo.

After about an hour and a half of visiting, it was time for us to hit the road, and we drove downtown to eat at Bin 36, a wine restaurant that was doing a special Thanksgiving dinner menu (scroll down a bit to "Thanksgiving Dinner at Bin 36 Chicago"). Liz and her mom had the porcini mushroom soup with a delightful sparkling wine from Albuqeurque, New Mexico, while I had the confit of goose salad with a perky Gewurtztraminer. For the second course, Liz and her mom had the grilled rosemary turkey with a luscious Zinfandel, and I had the chateau briand, which was paired with a killer Shiraz. For dessert, I had the apple pie with a Muscato d'asti, Liz had the banana bread pudding with a Port, and her mom had the pumpkin pie (also with Port, if I recall correctly). All were in agreement--dinner was delicious and quite a treat. We'll definitely be back.

Friday
Friday began much the same way that Thursday did, with much sleeping in and being lazy. Granted, Liz got up to go running with Chance, but I did enough lounging around to compensate and even up the average.

Friday afternoon we went to see Blue Man Group. It was a very fun show, firing on many different levels. You have the cool visual spectacle of things like the drumbone, the PVC pipes, and fun with paint; at the same time you have goofy slapstick humor that wavers between subtle and gross; and at the same time you have a powerful artistic statement about complex issues like modern western civilization, alienation, conformity, chaos, and information addiction. Oh, and they wrap things up with KLF's "Last Train to Trancentral," which is one of those rare and wonderful things whose quality increases in proportion with the volume at which it is experienced. It made me greatly happy indeed! And how can you not like a show which requires you to wrap your head with a strip of crinkly white paper, giving the feeling that the audience are a gaggle of escaped lobotomy patients? Very, very cool.

For dinner, we went to The Parthenon in Chicago's Greektown area. Apparently, this is the restaurant that invented saganaki, one of my favorite appetizers in the entire universe. You just can't go wrong when goat cheese is set on fire!! We ordered the "family style" for three, which meant that they brought us plate after plate of miscellaneous food, basically until we were about to pop. We had a bottle of nice dry red wine, something Greek and not very expensive whose name eludes me now, but it was a good match with the food.

Saturday
Did a little shopping downtown. I picked up four shirts at Marshall Field (surprisingly, none of them even remotely black). All of them looked great on me (yay!), and were even on sale (double yay!).

That afternoon we went to see One Man Star Wars, a fabulous one-man show that covers the original Star Wars trilogy over the course of 60 minutes. It's a high-energy laugh-athon that had me gasping for breath between his excellent and loving jabs at the classic films. I highly, highly recommend it to anyone who likes Star Wars; unless you are a giant nincompoop, you will enjoy it immensely.

We rounded out the evening with a visit to Sam's Wines, a giant warehouse-like wine purveyor in the outskirts of the downtown Chicago area. We picked up a few bottles of 2000 Bordeaux to age for a decade or two, then drove back to Anne's side of town for a late dinner at Chi Tung.

Sunday
We had the best, best, best luck with traffic on the way back. What is usually a six-hour drive we managed in under five. Don't ask me how, given that it was supposed to be the worst travel day of the year. The westbound lanes were not so fortunate, however; there were at least four 10-mile traffic jams that looked like absolute misery.

And, then... Hmm. We had a nice, relaxing evening, I think... It's kind of sad that I can't really put my finger on what I did just last weekend. Oh well. So it goes.

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Operation: Super-Secret Ninja Early Anniversary Celebration--GO!

BEGIN MISSION REPORT

SATURDAY, 11-08-2003

0829: Clean, dressed, packed, breakfast made and eaten. Operation: Super-Secret Ninja Early Anniversary Celebration is a GO!

1416: Morning beautification phase complete. Massage and facial treatments for Agents M and L; special eyebrow, hair, and toe glamorization applied to Agent L; aerodynamic dorsal modifications to Agent M successful, minimal damage incurred. Funds transfer and vehicle refueling complete. Will begin next phase of operations once Agent L's naptime is done.

1645: Checked into the Intercontinental Hotel. Dressed to kill. Dining phase to commence in 15 minutes, a multi-course gastronomic assault at Classics. Take no prisoners.

1909: Dining phase complete. Achieved the following mission objectives:

  • Amuse bouche: cucumber with parma ham, puff pastry with parmesan cheese
  • Wine: 1992 Signature pinot noir -- fruity, silky, marvelous
  • Bread: olive, whole-grain, raisin-walnut
  • Amuse bouche: crab meat gelee topped with salmon, creme fresch, Iranian beluga caviar
  • Agent M - appetizer: foie gras marinated in sauterne, served with apple marmalade, miniature greens, and warm toast
  • Agent L - appetizer: Charlotte gelee of blue crab
  • Agent M - salad: balsamic-glazed quail with roasted red pepper and greens
  • Agent L - salad: white truffles with porcini mushrooms and greens
  • Agent M - main course: long-bone veal chop, scallopped potatoes, chantrelle mushrooms, and mixed steamed vegetables
  • Agent L - main course: sea bass with tomato confit
  • Amuse bouche: Absolut lemon sorbet in flower-shaped shortbread cookie with raspberry sauce
  • Dessert: bananas Foster, accompanied by assorted miniature desserts
</code>

1947: Mission vehicle stowed securely at Playhouse Square Center parking lot. Tickets obtained, surprise sprung -- Agent L is treated to a night at the ballet.

2355: Cultural phase complete to the satisfaction of all parties. Returned to staging location at Intercontinental Hotel for mission debriefing over wine and chocolates.

SUNDAY 11-09-2003

1000: Post-mission wrap-up operations begin.

1130: Tear-down of staging location and packing of mission supplies complete.

1202: Emergency ration stop at Brendan O'Neills for brunch.

1305: All agents successfully returned to base -- MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

END MISSION REPORT

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Lazy Weekend

For the record, lazy weekends pretty much rule.

Friday night we watched Bowling for Columbine, which simply has to be seen to be believed. It's scathingly funny and incredibly depressing at the same time. Brilliant.

Saturday we slept super-late, which felt great. We went out for lunch, which turned out to be a disappointment, but the day was glorious, so the nice drive made up for the lackluster meal. After watching a little bit of "Monk" that had been TiVoed, Liz napped while I tried to read The Silmarillion and ended up napping. (I'm at a part where it goes for a LONG time without a break, and is really difficult.) Eventually, we woke up, and in a fit of being the most incredible woman in the universe, Liz insisted that we go to the local record store to see if they had broken the street date on The Two Towers. Alas, they hadn't, but she let me buy some records anyway, so I came away from it with the new Moby Jam for the Ladies single, the new Blues Traveler CD, and the new A3 CD. When we got back, it was time to make dinner, which turned out to be delicious tuna kabobs and a sauteed spinach and garlic salad. We then watched Read or Die, a fun little OAV anime series that we both enjoyed. Once that finished, we realized we needed to run for groceries, so we took a fun-filled late-night grocery trip. We had to go back to the store fairly promptly, though, as one of the nice bottles of wine that we picked up had torn straight through both the paper and plastic bags as soon as it was picked up, shooting straight to the concrete floor of our garage, where it shattered and spilled its contents like a wounded soldier. The manager said that she could only give us a replacement bottle, which was fine with us since it was exactly what we wanted. Given the choice between tasty wine and my money back, I'm going with the bottle of wine any day -- I was going to spend the money on it anyway! We finished the night with Neil Gaiman's new story book, The Wolves in the Walls, with which I am utterly delighted.

This morning, we popped out of bed bright and early for a stirring six-mile bike ride. I was invigorated for awhile, but somewhere on the return portion of our jaunt, that vigor turned into a Jello-like lethargy, and the day has been fairly relaxed since then. Liz made an excellent cheesy fritata and Canadian bacon breakfast that we both wolfed down. She's napped off and on, with a trip to the other grocery store in between, and is now downstairs knitting, while I am all arts-and-crafty upstairs. A few weeks ago, we picked up some collage picture frames from Joanne Etc., and I've finally gotten around to making the necessary measurements and Photoshop templates to allow me to start printing up some goodies. I've just completed printing a bunch of photos from our Alaska vacation, and will get the first collage all assembled and hung tonight. I figure I'll do one for each major trip that Liz and I have been on together: Italy, Alaska, Hawaii, and San Francisco/Napa. I'm not sure what all dinner is going to involve, but I do know it has to do with a flank steak that's currently soaking in a merlot mixture, so I suspect it's going to be pretty tasty. The rest of the evening should be pretty laid-back as well; though there's some laundry to complete, it's a fairly zen process and kind of relaxing.

I wish I could say the same for the coming work week -- the only upside of which is that I get my The Two Towers and Stitch: the Movie DVD's on Tuesday. Ah, well... Work is what pays for the DVD habit, so I guess it's a necessary evil.

Also, I really should write sometime about the trip to Stratford last week, what with all the good food, good plays, and huge power blackouts that were involved. It really was quite the adventure! Now, where did I leave my motivation...?

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All Out of Bubblegum

In general, there's been a general lack of bubblegum, and a corresponding abundance of ass-kicking this week:

  • Drove to Columbus with Liz last weekend
  • Had an awesome dinner at Martini's in Columbus. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Vino Nobile de Montepulciano on the wine list, and the server was extremely happy that I knew what it was without her having to recommend it to me. It went perfectly with what has to be the best filet mignon I've had in forever!
  • Cirque du Soleil was fun, although the little 8-year-old contortionist girl scared me.
  • Found a nice, light sport coat in my size, as well as nice, lightweight pants to go with it. And two new ties. And a shirt. And a couple pairs of very nice, comfortable shoes, which were way, way too expensive, but so far seem to be worth it.
  • We have curtain rods for our bedroom too! Now to sort out a treatmenty-sort-of-hangy-thing for them...
  • Cranked out two projects this week at work that both involved some tricky ninja magic design and coding. I had to speed up the work a bit in order to clear my schedule for my next huge projects, which look like they are starting sooner rather than later. But they both work, and that just plain rocks!
  • I got my mid-year review yesterday, and it was really quite good.
  • I found out during my review that one of the things I worked on this spring might get a patent. Not that I like the concept of software patents (in fact, I quite hate them and think they are the scourge of our industry), but I have to admit that in a dirty sort of way, it'll be kind of cool to have one.
  • I have finally got most of the printing done for the back-log of mix CD's (converted from old mix-tape playlists) that I owe my friend Cathe. I need to get some more labels, and get the tricky mix done, and then I can finally be done with the favor that I started on almost a year ago.
  • I got an old filling replaced this morning with a spiffy tooth-colored one. It feels a little weird, but it looks great, and I took it like a champ.
  • I spent today working from home so that we could get the new carpet installed in the bedroom! It's super-soft, and definitely the best carpet in the house now... Whee!
  • I've been listening to good music all day while I work. Yay!
  • Hey, it's like, the weekend and stuff! ROCK!!!

Okay, time to go annoy Liz with how bouncy I am. ;-) Peace.

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Better All The Time

Breakin' down the good stuff, old-school list-style for your reading enjoyment:

  • It's the weekend, yay!!
  • Liz is doing a LOT better, yay!!
  • The painters showed up and put our new shutters on the house, yay!!
  • Electrician dude fixed the one GFI outlet that was giving me troubles and replaced the one in the half bath for me, yay!!
  • We're packed and ready to head to Columbus to see Cirque du Soleil, yay!!
  • We'll stop at The Great Indoors on the way back and look for curtain rods (and maybe even curtainy things) for the master bedroom, yay!!
  • If I'm good, I might get to go to the Apple Store to drool, yay!!

Hope everyone has a good weekend; I certainly plan to.

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Ann Arbor/RSC Recap

There is next-to-nothing happening at work right now, so...

Saturday

Lunch

Once we got all of us cleaned up and dressed, Andy, Liz, and I joined up with Lauren to have lunch at Amer's, a deli place off of State. I had a moment of deja vu as I realized I'd been there before, in a time that now seems ages ago. After much consternation with their menu of too-many-choices, I ended up getting a club sandwich and a mango smoothie. Both were quite tasty, though the smoothie was much easier to consume, as my sandwich was far more massive than any of us had expected -- besides generous portions of ham, turkey, and tasty bacon, this club sported a middle layer of the same thick, highly dense, whole-wheat bread that provided the foundations of this mighty sandwich. It was huge, and heavy. It felt dangerous in my hands. All were suitably impressed that I was able to eat the whole thing.

Coriolanus

From there, Liz and I headed off to Coriolanus, which was playing at the Power Center (a weird pseudo-industrial building that looks sort of like it should be a power station, except that it's an auditorium), while Lauren and Andy headed off to kill time before dinner. We were shown to our seats and started getting comfortable, then we were shown to our real seats when the ushers discovered they'd put us one row behind where we should be. So we settled in again, eager to see what the Royal Shakespeare Company would do with this lesser-known, not often performed tragedy.

And then three and a half hours passed, during which time I grew progressively less eager. Now I understand why Coriolanus is only rarely performed.

First, the good points:

  • Excellent costumes. The play itself is set ca. 500 BC, when Rome is just one of several warring city-state tribes. To costume the play, a feudal Japanese look was chosen, with lovely kimonos for the manipulative ladies of Rome, elegant robes for the politicians, and samurai-styled garb (complete with katana) for Caius Martius Coriolanus and the other soldiers. The costuming really, really worked for me.
  • Sword fights. Could have been better, but definitely could have been far, far worse.
  • Blood. When Caius Martius is sacking the Volscian city all by himself, he gets to run around bare-chested, sword in hand, and covered in blood from head to waist. Damn, that looked cool on stage. Later, when he is assassinated, his buddy Aufidius cuts out Caius Martius' heart. Also kind of cool.
  • Menenius, a patrician of Rome. The only performance that I could latch onto, the only character for whom I felt any sympathy, the only reminder of Shakespeare's usual linguistic beauty.
  • The servants at Aufidius' residence who try to prevent Caius Martius' entrance. Their goofy, comic performances injected some much-needed life into the play (though I don't usually expect that the best thing about a tragedy will be a brief bit of comedy).

Unfortunately, talking about what was good inevitably means talking about what was bad. And there was an awful, awful lot of that.

  • The performances. Save for Menenius, the good-natured patrician, no one gave a performance that I felt was terribly engaging. Whether they raced through the dialogue as if it get it out of the way, or shuffled about like automata, most seemed too flat, or just "off". It seemed like no one had their heart in it.
  • The music. To accompany the samurai motif, we were presented with what presumed to be traditional Japanese music, the kind of stuff that sounds exactly like someone who doesn't understand the music trying too hard to be authentic. It came off like a combination of the bad horror movie which uses music to shock the audience and a bad samurai film. Long minutes of excruciatingly spartan dialogue, and worse, silences, would drag on and on, punctuated by a SUDDEN! LOUD! DIN! during scene changes. I suppose the intent was to do something musically to keep things interesting, ratchet up the tension, etc., but I felt that it failed, and failed badly.
  • The language. It is completely without lyrical feeling, bereft of lilt and life. There is no balcony speech, no "to be or not to be", no "sound and fury". Nothing that grabs you and smacks you upside with how wonderful the English language can be.
  • The play. Coriolanus is supposed to be a tragedy. In order for a tragedy to be successful, the playwright needs to establish sympathy between the audience and the character(s) who will meet an unfortante end. Unfortunately, Shakespeare does none of this. Caius Martius is nigh devoid of redeeming qualities that we as an audience might want to latch onto. He claims to love his mother, wife, and son, but spends the majority of his time being a stubborn, stuck-up, spitefully proud dimwit. He alienates the other characters -- and the audience! -- at every opportunity. He is not clever or funny. He just whines a lot, and gets angry. When Aufidius cuts out his heart, I nearly lept to my feet to yell, "THANK YOU!" for ending my suffering. This thing is just plain rotten. You may as well read the summary of the play, because it packs all of the salient details into a more engaging narrative than Shakespeare's hours of torment do; you will also have a lot more time to enjoy your afternoon.

Whew! I'm glad I got that off my chest.

Dinner, and After

After the ordeal was over, we joined Andy and Lauren at Gratzi, a lovely Italian restaurant on Main Street, for dinner. And dinner oh-so-completely made up for the play! I had quail for the first time (tasty, similar to turkey), and we split a most marvelous bottle of Chianti! It was a '97 Riserva (two great things that go great together -- 1997 is the best year for Chianti in recorded history, and they only make the Riservas in the best years, and only from the best grapes) that was surprisingly affordable given its quality. It had cellared wonderfully, and was as smooth as silk to drink. Faaaaaabulous!

We had a fun conversation -- it's great to be able to see Lauren when she's not sick, or a post-call zombie -- and grabbed dessert at the attached dessert place next door. Yum! Then it was time for Andy and Lauren to dash away to see The Merry Wives of Windsor, which they tell us was tremendously good. They obviously chose the correct play.

After dessert, Liz and I went back to Andy and Lauren's place, where we attempted to figure out how to get Andy's laptop to play DVD's on the TV. Due to a lack of useful places to pump the audio, and not terribly interested in having the sound come out of something other than what was showing the movie, we decided to watch their rental DVD of The Road Home on Liz's PowerBook. That worked fine for about 10 minutes, at which point her laptop decided the disc was too scratchy and smudgy to get any more data from. So instead we ended up watching the preview DVD's that accompany issues 1 and 2 of the American NewType anime magazine. Each one has several trailers, followed by the first 30 minute episode of a particular series. The first one featured episode 1 of "Noir", which seems really cool, and has great music; the second had "Wild Arms", which seems like it would be a fun little romp of a series, if only I never had to hear it in English. After that we surfed for a bit, talked with [info]sam16 over AIM, and Liz worked on her knitting.

Sunday

On Sunday, we slept in. And that was a good, good thing.

Had brunch at a place called Zanzibar, quite tasty. I need to go back and try more of their menu (as well as Gratzi). Stopped briefly at Wizzywig Collectibles, the local anime store, and picked up a couple of limited-edition DVD sets (".hack//SIGN", "Chobits", and "Noir") that came with extra goodies.

Then it was time to hit the road. The only item worthy of mention was the amount of snow between Ann Arbor and Toledo, and then again around Sandusky, none of which had shown up in the forecasts or radar earlier that morning.

Pixel cussed us out for being gone, but quickly was glad to have us back again. We had a nice, restful evening, sullied only by the fact that Monday was soon approaching.

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On the Road Again

Yay, it's my first live post from somewhere other than Cleveland -- hooray for laptops and wireless LANs! We're currently in Ann Arbor at Andy & Lauren's house. We drove up last night, and will probably stay tonight as well. I let Liz drive my car, since I was feeling like crap after my work week. It's always weird for me to be in the passenger seat of my own car; very strange. We crashed last night in what is certainly the warmest room in the house (since everything else feels pretty cold this morning!). Slept well. This afternoon we will see the RSC perform Coriolanus, which should be pretty cool. After that, I don't know... Maybe some tasty dinner, maybe a little visit to The Oasis, maybe driving back to Cleveland depending on what the weather wants to do.

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Betrayal, Murder, Public Blindings, and Other Cultural Delights

Okay, here's the story of our trip to Stratford!

I wonder how long this post will take....

Thursday

Thursday we packed up my Jetta and left town about 10 am. It was a lovely day, though hotter and more humid than the forecast had otherwise suggested. I managed to not kill either of us (or my already-replaced-once bumper) in Detroit when we had to dodge a fallen orange barrel in the narrow freeway detour route, and got my cardio at the same time.

After crossing the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor, we stopped at a Swiss Chalet for lunch -- probably the biggest food mistake I've made in awhile. I had the Grilled Santa Fe Chicken Breast Sandwich, which was sort of like a bizarre Canadian impressionist idea of what southwestern food might be like. Imagine a plain grilled chicken breast between two stale buns, with a single lonely roasted red pepper as its only topping. Now, serve that with the world's saddest tortilla chips -- drably off-color, crisp but slightly chewy to the tooth, and covered with salt as if to make up for these other shortcomings. The menu says "Santa Fe", so the chips have to come with salsa, which seems to essentially be watery ketchup with onions and pepper bits in it. And don't forget the mountain of fries. I now have a whole new respect for the crappy Mexican/southwest food that we get in Ohio; at least in Ohio there is a passing acquaintance with how the food might taste if it was made right.

We got into Stratford about four o'clock, checked into the B&B; where we were staying, and unwound for a while before going out to investigate the town. This B&B; completely exceeded both of our expectations -- we had apparently neglected to note that they were on four acres of grounds, where most houses in the area are on less than one-tenth of that. The house was immaculately kept, the grounds and garden were delightful (I am particularly fond of the lazy stream that runs through the edge of the property), and breakfasts were to die for. We stayed away from the newspapers and TV's, and quickly lost track of what day it was.

Since we had no play to see that night, we wandered through town a bit, visiting some very tempting art galleries, but finding the most fun at Family & Company, possibly the most fantastic toy store I have ever been to. Words cannot do the place justice. We picked up Christmas gifts for our nieces (hopefully not reading this), a Squidgie Ball, an aptly-named Boink, some Lilo & Stitch stickers, and a Nerds Rope for me. Woo!!!

We ate the first of our tasty dinners at Pazzo's, opting for the downstairs pizzeria. We had the Sophia Loren (smoked gouda, roasted red onion, pancetta and roasted red peppers), as well as tasty salads, and vanilla panna cotta and grappa for dessert. Grappa is very exciting stuff, and now I understand why Ohio doesn't let you bring it into the state. :-)

After all that excitement, it was time to get a good night's sleep, since we had a lot of hard work ahead of us... Four heavy, heavy Shakespare plays in two days!

Friday

Friday morning we poked around town a bit, generally trying to look without spending; since we were on foot the entire weekend, anything we bought had to get dragged to two plays and dinner with us.

That afternoon was the first of the plays we would see, Henry VI: Revenge in France. This play is a streamlining and deft edit of the original 1 Henry VI and 2 Henry VI, bringing them together to form one mean mother of a history. Saturday afternoon we would follow that with Henry VI: Revolt in England, the same director's condensed combination of 2 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI. These two plays proved to be the most magnificent gem of the festival for us, as they skillfully combined perfect costumes, dramatic lighting, special effects (smoke, blacklight, pyrotechnics, music and ambient sound effects), and the tighter, meaner plot to engulf the audience in the turmoil of Henry's reign. I never would have thought these particularly cumbersome histories would sizzle with such life.

Dinner on Friday was again from Pazzo's, this time the ristorante upstairs. Liz had the grouper, and I had the stuffed veal tenderloin. Yum!

After dinner we had to dash across town again for King Lear, the one disappointing play that we saw, and not just because it was the only one without any decapitations. Christopher Plummer as Lear was absolutely stunning, simply perfect. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast couldn't hold a candle to him, and many seemed to be in a hurry to rush through their lines so that Plummer would be onstage again and carry the show. There seemed also to be pieces left out that Liz and I missed, that would have given the performance a more complete feeling. I suspect that the festival schedule was simply too ambitious, with the talent spread thin across too many big plays. On the other hand, I can hardly complain if the worst thing I saw was Christopher Plummer playing Lear! And the play features an on-stage blinding, so that makes up somewhat for the lower blood level (as compared to all of the Wars of the Roses plays). I was expecting much more violence after having seen Ran first (probably my mistake there).

Saturday

Saturday, as mentioned above, we saw the second of the Henry VI plays, then had dinner at the dining room of Foster's Inn, where our meal was excellent save for the baffling choice of planting a giant dollop of sour cream atop my otherwise-perfect halibut. Then it was across the street to the theatre for Richard III: Reign of Terror, the conclusion of the "Wars of the Roses" and the last of the plays that we would see. It was a different company than that performing the Henry plays, so there were obvious discontinuities in staging (different theatre, for one!), costuming, style, and so forth -- most notably that the Richard from the afternoon's play was "affected" on the left side of his body, while the Richard from the evening was misshapen on the right! A few actors crossed over from other plays, and it was especially nice to see the same actor as both Henry VI in the matinees and Henry VI's ghost in Richard. All in all, it was a fine performance, but not quite as stunning and electric as Henry.

We picked up a "Wars of the Roses" poster to frame later, possibly with the covers from the playbills for the three plays, and a stylin' black "Wars of the Roses" t-shirt for me (sadly, no link).

Sunday

On Sunday we realized that we had to return to the real world, and so after another delicious breakfast, we hit the road for Cleveland. We stopped along the way for sandwiches at a Tim Horton's (marginally acceptable, but worlds better than Swiss Chalet).

We made it back across the bridge and border without incident, only to be caught in an hour-long traffic jam nightmare in Detroit. Due to the construction, they have closed the northbound I-75 to all vehicles save trucks and local traffic, and there is a well-marked detour route. However, they are also undertaking ghastly devastation to the southbound lanes as well, only without such a detour. Traffic was backed up for miles, and we eventually learned all the reasons why:

Traffic in four lanes had to converge to two lanes, but...

...after a mile or so traffic was again four lanes...

...only to become two lanes in half a mile...

...one of which was an impending exit-only...

...after which the one-lane road threaded its way past three or four different flaggers, who would jam things up long enough for construction equipment to sling movable wall segments across from one side of the road to another.

All the while, we could get no traffic news thanks to the Tigers game, and all we could do was crawl along and wonder if, in three days of not watching television, Detroit had been bombed without anyone having told us.

Finally we arrived back in Cleveland, exhausted but relaxed, and all was again well. We rounded out the night with a home-cooked meal and the latest episode of The Sopranos, then it was off to bed so that Liz could be off to Pittsburgh in the early morning.

...Whew! Only an hour and forty-five minutes!

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