Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The monkey and the drowsy chaperone

Pickleville Playhouse shows are always crazy fun but this summer's offerings are so silly your face hurts afterward from all the smiling.
And when you're not smiling, you're laughing out loud.
Jordan Todd Brown is completely out of control in both shows — "The Drowsy Chaperone" and  alongside T.J. Davis as Juanito Bandito in "The One With the Monkey" is his usual Spanglish-speaking, hilarious outlaw now announcing his retirement.
If you attend both shows on consecutive nights, be prepared for nonstop nonsense.
In "The Drowsy Chaperone" Brown plays the Man in the Chair but with more heart, more dorkiness and more fearlessness than usual.
He jumps on the sofa, plays on the counter and improvises so much he cracks everybody up.
He says he hates the theater which immediately bonds him to those in the audience who aren't sure they wanted to be in the audience.
But he loves his records, especially this one about true love and sacrifice as the actress, Janet Van De Graff, (played by Whitley O. Davis) tries to give up the stage to marry Robert Martin (played by Derek Davis).
The story proves to be a grand mix of goofiness and story with "Trix the Aviatrix" somehow saving the day while "The Drowsy Chaperone" drunkenly and weakly performs her part in making sure the bride and groom can marry.
See a clip on YouTube:
One of the standouts in this show is Aldopho (played by Tony Carter). He's suave and smooth. He almost upstages the Bandito in the Saturday monkey business show.
Speaking of which, the monkey show seems to have been written to feature Chester, the monkey, played by Thomas Belliston.
After the initial foray into the public forum where the Bandito tries to explain that he's giving up the outlaw business to be a rapper who used to be a criminal, the show becomes pretty much all about the monkey.
It's silly and at some points, contrived, but for a Bear Lake crowd coming in off the lake for a fun evening, it's perfect.
It makes one laugh. It's engaging, a little over the top, but side-splittingly entertaining.
The game of "Happy Sultan" is a unique piece of fun that obviously has come from the mind of Brown who is completely out of his mind.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Now you see it, now you wonder

I promised the publicist for "The Illusionists" I would write a review on their show when we talked about my doing an advance for The Deseret News.
I would have written one anyway because I liked their show, a lot!
And that's considering I hadn't heard about this group of magical people before I was asked to do a piece about their stop in Salt Lake.
I had to look them up and read press releases and talk to John Tellum and to Kevin James (who plays "The Inventor" in the show).
I found out about their appearances on "America's Got Talent" and the many, MANY, awards and prizes they've won across the globe competing in various magic contests.
Yu Ho-Jin, known in the group as "The Manipulator" is just a teenager from South Korea...who must have the ability to hide multiple decks of cards in his open hands because he keeps bringing another one out.
Jeff Hobson, "The Trickster," is a kind of Liberace clone who is funny, warm and good with magic as well. (Just ask the people from whom he lifted watches while everyone was looking on!)
He and "The Futurist" make the show fun with a variety of mind-blowing tricks that are one thing on television, quite another in real life.
I enjoyed Dan Sperry, "The Anti-Conjourist," when I didn't expect to. He's painted and shaved and has long greasy-looking hair and basically resembles a movie zombie but he's funny and sweet.
I grew to look forward to his appearances on stage even though some of his tricks were gross...pulling a string from his mouth and then a vein in his forehead and eating razor blades that he later retrieved in a line.
"The Weaponist" had an interesting attitude also as he brought a couple up to help him perform dangerous tricks with an arrow and an apple.
 "The Inventor" somehow helped a young girl from the audience make the clump of paper in her hand wiggle and squirm. Then it turned into a real rose.
He made snow fall up.
The only one I had trouble watching was "The Escapologist." I hate those kinds of tricks because there's too much of a chance that something could go wrong and I would have watched someone die. (Spoiler alert: Andrew Basso doesn't die. He gets out of the water, the handcuffs, and the foot locks just in time!)
The show is over in Salt Lake but they have a tour starting up again in September with shows that are fairly close.
If you get the chance, take it and go see these guys:
They can make a whole train appear with them on stage.
They can cut people in half and staple the pieces back together. They can build a little person out of spare parts.
They are professional, creative, funny and totally engaging.
It's magic that entrances.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Moving in Maui

And suddenly, you realize you can't look at the sun

I was actually fairly alarmed when my husband told me about the bike ride down the volcano in Maui.
He was so excited that he didn't even consider I wouldn't want to go with him.
He practically had his biking gear all packed before I could even go on the website to check it out.
A 26-mile downhill run from the summit of the Haleakala volcano to the center of the island at Paia, what could go wrong?
I signed on before I  really thought it through.
But for weeks afterward I'd go to bed reminding myself that I didn't have to worry about it yet. It was a long way off.
Then in late March it dawned on me: if I was going to ride a bicycle for that long of a ways I would have to prepare.
I realized I needed to get on my bike at least every other day and work out enough that it didn't kill me to go for a 26-mile stretch.
We got me some biking pants that didn't tangle with my spokes. I started wearing my helmet and I began to plan my wardrobe.
Since the ride started before sunrise it would be cold, then warm, then really warm.
A pair of kids in Maui, right?
I would need to layer and wear clothes that didn't necessarily co-ordinate color-wise.
I needed to get used to wearing closed-toed shoes instead of sandals or thongs.
(I know, these are basics for serious riding, huh?)
We watched a movie on the plane over to Maui where the coach was telling the kids on his running team., "Get to where when you see a hill (to run over), you smile!)"
I reached that point, I'm happy to say.
After the van picked us up (at 2 a.m.) and the staff handed out our bikes, our helmets and our outergear, I marshaled my courage and my wits and took off, smiling.
It turned out that we weren't riding in a straight, fast line to the bottom of a crater.
We headed out in kind of a single file herd down paved roads with a lot of curves.
Basically our guide wanted us to lean in and keep our wits about us.
Our bikes were heavy and came with wide saddles (thankfully) and drum brakes.
I was pretty proud of myself for a while there, riding along without trouble and mostly trying not to run into the lady in front of me. (She'd been put there with others who looked like they might need the guide's help and guidance.)
I figured I looked like I knew what I was doing. I wasn't crashing or veering or tensing up.
Or so I thought.
Partway through we stopped for a water break and the guide said, "Good! You are all doing well. Sharon, let's move you up to the front, ok?"
Oh well. OK.
It was still a beautiful, refreshing, remarkable ride.
I recommend it.
It's cold in the morning at the top of a volcano

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Leaf 2, the sequel

I've promised a bunch of people I would keep them posted on our Leaf and how it's going.
Since we bought this beautiful little electric car, we been asked a lot of questions.
"What happens when it rains?" from a concerned granddaughter.
"How far can you go before it dies?"
"What if it stops on you out in the country?"
"How much is your power bill going to be?
All good questions and I don't have all the answers yet.
We do know that it's working just fine so far to simply plug it into the regular house outlet in the garage. And it didn't explode in the last thunderstorm.
Every morning we start out with about 100 miles to go on a charge.
Then as I drive around doing my chores, I come home with about 100 miles left. (The kinetic energy generated from braking builds up the battery.)
If we go on the freeway or if we haul a load of kids up and down hills, we use more miles, not a lot but more.
The closest I've come to running out of battery power was coming home from shopping in Salt Lake. The light on the dashboard starting blinking and telling me I had 14 miles to go but when I stopped at my daughter's house, her neighbor came over to share Leaf stories and told me he has a dedicated 240 plug that I could use when I'm running low.
We've checked out the charging stations nearby. The Nissan dealership even told us to drive right up on the sidewalk to plug in (for free).
The Walgreen's store in Springville acknowledged our SemaConnect card and charged us up for $1.18.
We haven't been overly worried but we have been doing an unusual amount of adding and subtracting. We're also having a great time earning trees! (The car keeps track of economical driving habits and rewards us with trees when we do a good job!)
We are also making new friends. There's kind of a subculture of people who own and drive electric cars. If we wanted we could even join PlugShare where people offer their home chargers to strangers in need of a little power.
We are a teeny bit concerned about the tow hinge and the tow rope and assorted towing equipment that comes free with the car.
And when we asked about the spare tire, the service manager showed us the complimentary patch kit that comes packed in the side panel.
He reassured me — after I must have blanched — that our free roadside assistance and 3-year warranty would take care of anything like that.
So on we go.
We haven't had a power bill yet but we've been told not to worry. Our insurance went up a little bit but our gasoline bill is way down.
It'll all work out.
It'll be fine.
We'll see and I'll let you know!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Share and share alike

So we're at the parade in Cedar Hills.
Our grandson was marching with the Lone Peak High School band so we hopped on our bikes and pedaled over to see it and specifically him.
We parked and grabbed a patch of grass, put down a blanket and settled in, right next to a family with two little girls who came for the candy of which there was an abundance.
(A lot of kids came for the candy. You could tell by the plastic bags they had ready for holding their loot.)
The older girl was maybe 8 or 9 years old and clearly more experienced at grabbing candy.
The younger one (probably around 5 or 6) was new at this.
She'd hang back and wait to see if the candy landed  right in front of her feet. Then she'd reach for it.
Usually she lost the prize because she wasn't aggressive enough quickly enough.
Other kids around her were faster or her big sister took what she was headed for.
We watched this go on for a while and despite the father's urging, the littler girl mostly waited too long.
We helped when we could by handing her whatever landed in our laps.
But still, by the end of the parade, her bag was only a third as full as her sister's.
They weren't my grandchildren so I didn't feel like I could noticeably intervene but I was increasingly annoyed that the big sister wasn't being nice. She didn't help the little sister out.
I thought she was unkind to race in and take whatever the little one had in her sights.
Sometimes she just reached in and snatched the candy without any apology.
But finally, somebody tossing treats at the kids noticed the smaller girl and threw a nice snack-size candy bar right at her.
She caught it and dropped it into her bag. She smiled.
The big sister noticed but she didn't dare just take it from her because the dad was watching.
However, she didn't like that the younger one got something she wanted.
She stood there a minute and then she said to her sibling, looking at the two bags.
"We're sharing, right?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Going blue and green

Grandma's new ride
It wasn't really my plan to go green when we bought our new car.
We just paid off our SUV and my little Mazda 3 had 120,000 miles on it so we went "shopping" to see what was out there.
I had noticed the Nissan Juke cars running around and was curious about the space inside and what it cost. I wanted to know if it came in chocolate brown.
That's when the salesman showed us a Leaf in the line next to the Jukes.
Marc was especially intrigued.
I agreed to a test drive where we noticed two things, it drove really well and it was so quiet that the teenager in the road in front of us didn't move for us until we honked.
But it is an all-electric car and we really knew nothing about them.
And we were on our way to other things (like a vacation to Maui) so we couldn't stay around and chat.
We left but not before the salesman pointed out we could get around $8,000 in tax breaks, never have to buy gas or oil again and help save the environment.
We went home thinking.
Everywhere we looked in Hawaii there were Leaf cars.
We started researching the possibilities.
Seems these have been for sale since 2011 and each year, the range of distance one can go between charges improves. One can plan on about 85 miles at a go between charges and there are various ways and plentiful ways to charge them.
We looked at the ways and means including the cost of putting a charge port in our garage and/or converting a standard plug to 220.
Marc checked out the less important things like how they work and perform. I wanted to know if I could get it in light blue and how my CDs would sound in it.
We came back to our salesman to get some answers and now we are the proud lessees of a pretty blue 2015 Nissan Leaf.
In some ways it feels like we just bought a grown-up toy though it drives and feels like a real car.
In other ways, we feel like we're moving into the future, changing and evolving. We're getting into the habit of plugging in our car each night and driving a sweet ride that makes no noise.
The back side
We're excited and proud and scared to death!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Snorkeling along

The kid was understandably annoyed with me.
He'd been whistling at me for 10 minutes and I had been ignoring him.
When I finally surfaced and peered at him from behind my snorkeling mask, he was ready to bench me.
I had apparently been heading the wrong way into the ocean, kicking merrily away and risking life and limb.
I thought I was doing good.
It was my third attempt at snorkeling in Maui.
The first time, Marc and I tried to just walk by ourselves into the ocean at Makena beach and the waves promptly knocked me flat.
I staggered out and tried to recover on my towel. I was covered in sand from head to toe and my pride was badly wounded.
Everybody on the beach that morning witnessed my humiliation. It was pretty sad.
I just didn't realize how different it would be to try snorkeling from a standing position. (I've done it once or twice before but once by tipping backwards from a boat and another in a bay of still water.)
The second time on this trip we signed up for a tour. I walked down the stairs from the deck and I had people around me to save me from disaster. I had a wet suit on and a noodle to rely on. Marc had shown me how to fit my bottom lip over the mouthpiece which worked better than just trying to bite harder and cover it with my hand.
I really wanted to succeed at snorkeling this time around.
It's never been easy for me. I always take on sea water but I'm older and wiser now, I thought, so I should  be able to handle it.
My biggest worry was about sharks. Some lady got bitten a couple of weeks earlier at the beach near Makena. I figured if there was one around, it would know I would be easy prey.
I didn't see any but I did see blue fish and yellow fish and little black ones with white edging. I was moving along steadily this time, breathing cleanly and avoiding panic.
Turns out my biggest fear should have been my lack of sense of direction.
"You should be more aware!" said the Hawaiian boy who was sent to fetch me. "We've been trying to get your attention for a while!"
I really thought the whistling was all about turtles. The Molokina Crater we were in has a lot, apparently.
I appreciated him coming after me. I didn't want to die or get washed out to sea. I didn't want to bang into the coral reef. I didn't want to get tangled up with anyone else or lose sight of the boat.
In fact, when you think about it, I might be a little offended. I doubt anyone in the ocean that day was more aware of the things going on around me than me!