Monday, June 29, 2009

Broadway in Baltimore

Last weekend i finally got a chance to go to the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore. It was renovated and reopened in 2004. I've always wanted to see the inside after the redo. It was beautiful. Why did i take no pictures, people? Plus the sound was excellent, which is always my concern in these old theaters. The Broadway Across America season is over at the Hippodrome, but there are various shows going on year round. Parking was reasonable for the city ($8) and even attached to the theater. You should go. I was able to finally see the inside because my high school best friend, Franci (no, not Francie in Belgium - she has an "E" and is in Belgium) won tickets to the Broadway traveling production of Spring Awakening. I'd never heard of it, but apparently it won 8 Tony Awards last year. Based on a play written in 1890 by Frank Wedekind it is coming of age story set in a provincial German town. Doesn't sound too interesting until you add that the original play was banned for years because it was considered too salacious. Sprinkle in rock music, nudity and teen-aged sex and you have a winner. I was a poster child for teenaged angst. It is hard to believe if you know me now, but at one time i found life meaningless, pined for my innocence and wrote terrible poetry that often featured blood and pain. Obviously i identified with most of the characters on stage. In fact, the plot was really nothing new : kids are confused, angry, and/or stressed and the adults range from loving, but unhelpful to outright cruel. We've seen variations of this story over and over again (especially when we GenXers started getting published) though i can see how it was groundbreaking in 1890. It was bittersweet to see the play sitting next to the person with whom i suffered much of my angst. We really rallied and kept each other afloat in high school and i was glad to briefly revisit that place and then look at the healthy, (mostly) sane adults we became. The music by Duncan Sheik (yes, that Duncan Sheik) was good, but not go-out-and-buy-the-CD great. Why, then, would i recommend that you see it? The staging is phenomenal. There are no set changes and most of the cast is on-stage during the entire performance. In fact, part of the audience even sits on stage. The lighting is jaw dropping. The choreography is marvelous. The band is incredible. And most importantly, the energy of the cast is infectious. There were some interesting choices made (like having all of the adult characters played by only 2 actors) and i can honestly say i have never seen anything quite like it. My only kvetches with the staging are that the nudity, though not at all gratuitous, felt like it was there simply to shock us, one pivotal scene between the leads about feeling pain being better than feeling nothing was rushed and a touch awkward, and there is one sequence of pointless and distracting hand/arm choreography that keeps cropping up like a bad rash. I'd like to see it again and sit on stage next time be in the midst the controlled chaos. The tour went to Philly after Baltimore and is in DC for an extended run next. The actor i saw play the main character Melchior, Kyle Riabko, is leaving the company and i know nothing about his replacement. However, if you can see it while Blake Bashoff is still playing Moritz you should - he was amazing as the best friend and often stole the show. Go relive those wonderful adolescent moments and come out thanking God you aren't there any more.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just not meant to be

I tried. I really, really tried. You remember my plant experiment, right? The one in the blue tin? At one point there were a dozen little green shoots reaching for the sky. I watered them, misted them, talked to and encouraged them. I put them out in the sun. I brought them in from the torrential rains. Then they died. Look at this. Pathetic. There is that one lonely scrub who is clinging tenaciously to life, trying to beat the odds. But let's face facts. I am some kind of botanical serial killer.

If it's not one thing

Summer programming is a completely different beast than school programming. We spend most of our time in libraries where you are either in a meeting room or among the stacks. Each library has a specific personality and sometimes that personality can be described as special. There is one place in rural Maryland where we preform in the stacks in the front window. Every year there is something interesting at this location, like the year we were attacked by a frog or the year the front of the library sign had been demolished by a delivery truck. Did i mention this location is in a strip mall? On Thursday i was supposed to have the day off, but a team member was ill so i went to this crazy library instead. Somehow after years of going to this location there are still surprises. We had to run our extension cord to the ceiling. I couldn't make this up. No joke. Team member Lindsey stood on a chair and was still 2 feet too short to reach it. So the librarian stood on the edge of a round table on his tip-toes while i counter-balanced the table to keep him from crashing through the plate glass window. Really. Never a dull moment, people.

Friday, June 26, 2009

mmmmmm... that feels good

Would you like to relax?
 Do you need to relax?
Have you been ordered by your doctor, your boss, your team, your family, your friends and random strangers on the street to relax?
Are you so Type-A that you have a comprehensive plan and schedule for relaxation?
Know what you need?
A massage.
 I could go for a massage right now.
I have found the most wonderful massage therapist named Lynn. She is co-owner of Massage Associates in Ellicott City, MD. My personal trainer gave me a gift certificate for Christmas that i finally got around to using in May. I have been back several times since then and love, love, love it.
The practice offers a range of massage services and types as well as several different therapists. Lynn's bodywork on me could be described as gentle Swedish massage. Some of the movements and manipulations are so small that at first part of my brain was wondering whether or not they were doing any good; that is, until i tried to stand up and my entire body was like warm rubber.
 Her room is exactly what you would expect: soft light, quiet music and aromatherapy. A cynic would think it looked like a cliched movie set, but no matter how jaded you might be, laying on the table between warm flannel sheets that smell wonderful with a bolster under your knees to keep your spine in proper alignment is like floating a freaking cloud - i swear it is worth the price of admission just to lay on the dang table.
Then she busts out the heated buckwheat booties and the eye mask.
I dare anyone to stay stressed out under those conditions. Even the new-agey music becomes soothing.
 Each time i've seen her, Lynn has done something a little different depending on what i needed at the moment : mint oil on my temples for relaxation, eucalyptus for revitalization, hot cloth for really bad muscle knots, buckwheat pillow on my tummy for, well i don't know what that was for but it was awesome.
I know some people are a little freaked out about letting a stranger touch them. I certainly felt the same way, but Jamie had recommended Lynn so highly that i trusted her. Plus Lynn herself has a way of just putting you at ease immediately.
There is a medical history form you fill out before your first massage and each time she sits with you for a few minutes before hand asking if there is anything bothering you or any muscles that need extra attention. I am sure that the other therapists are equally as good, but i can personally vouch for Lynn. I feel like she actually cares about my well-being.
If you've never had a massage you might be nervous about being undressed in front of someone you don't know. I am far less body-conscious than most people so it was no big deal to me, but it turns out there is no reason to worry at all. There is so much intricate draping with the sheets that there is no point where anything vital is really exposed. Most people strip down to underwear, but Lynn says she has worked around far more clothing than that.
Like any personal service massage is not cheap, but $80 an hour seems like a bargain for how good i feel when i leave. Since i was recently forced to downsize my income i am going to save up and use massage as my incentive to get back on my gym schedule without a trainer.
Plus i am going to treat myself to a Sweet Feet massage at the end of summer programming - an hour of foot massage and reflexology.
 You deserve a massage.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Water works

This weekend was the SilverDocs Film Festival in Silver Spring, MD. I normally wouldn't care about it cause documentaries aren't really my cup of tea (generally not enough explosions), but my friend Chris H came in from Texas to work the festival. His wife Christina and daughter Elizabeth came along to make it a working holiday and i got to spend some time with them on Sunday. We met at the Tastee Diner for breakfast. An original silver-sided diner this place is great; i highly recommend it. Then we walked to Downtown Silver Spring. Yes, it is capitalized like that. A revitalization project several years ago created a plaza out of a courtyard, complete with a lovely mosaiced open fountain. Since it was Father's Day they had all sorts of events going on, like music, a moonbounce and a cakewalk. But for Elizabeth, it was all about the fountain. Isn't she just a cutie patootie? Is it wrong for me to covet a 2 year old's hair-bobs? It was a beautiful day to sit in the sunshine, listen to a bit of jazz and catch up with old friends. Happy, but exhausted - you try to do DC with a toddler. The longer we stayed more and more kids played in the fountain, creating instant friends. I thought it would be nice to get some pictures of Elizabeth through the fountain but the wind had other ideas. A picture of Christina taking a picture - do i need a 12-step program? At one point Christina said "Don't you sometimes wish you were still 2?" and I answered as truthfully as i could, "Age wouldn't stop me; the only reason i'm not in the fountain with her is that i don't want to get my car seats wet." Next time, fountain; next time. Unfortuantely, they had to go back to Texas the next day. I will have to try to get to Austin to see them again soon. To see more pictures and follow the adventures of the lovely Miss Elizabeth check out Babies Can't Blog in my sidebar.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

I couldn't see my own father on Father's Day since he is in Florida, but i did get to spend it with a father. It never ceases to amaze me to see my friends, most of whom i've known since we were almost children ourselves, raise children of their own. The babies of our extended family make me feel like we are grown-ups. I was a Daddy's Girl and seeing Chris H with Elizabeth made me consider the magic of dads. Dad makes you giggle, even when you are trying to be mopey; Dad can be embarrassing in his silliness; [Chris let me know if you'd like a copy of this pic for the jacket of your next book] but in the end, it is your Daddy that makes you feel safe.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Summer programming at work started on Wednesday. I was in North Carolina so the season started without me. This is the first start of season i've missed since 1995, plus it was my favorite show at my favorite library. But when your doctor and your boss and even your own team gang up on you, there is really nothing that you can do. Anyhoo, now that we are back in the saddle you can look forward to more pictures like this That would be us driving through a lovely covered bridge in Dellsville, PA. Team members AJ and Amy and I went looking for covered bridges during lunch one day and found not only the Dellville Bridge, but the Rice Bridge in Landisburg, PA. Yep. We're getting paid in this picture.

Friday, June 19, 2009

don't call me tart

It's Friday night and you're looking for a new sensation. This isthe Apple Glow. It is ridiculously yummy. Mike B made it for me earlier this week when Ron and I invaded his house. It starts -as many great drinks do- with freezer cold Vox. Color and personality are supplied by Rose's sour apple mix and key lime soda is added to cut the tartness. The cherry garnish adds and extra color snap and more sweetness. The OSU glass is not necessary, but highly recommended.

Meet the Barrs

As you know, i've been in NC visiting Mel and Mike and meeting the twins. If you've been following along you already know that Matthew is doing well, but it has been a tough week for James as he's battling his second bout of NEC. I spent quite a bit of time in the NICU and it wasn't at all what i expected. Having spent more than my fair share of time in hospitals with my mom i find them to be depressing, antiseptic places that suck the vitality right out of your eyeballs. Not this place. I mean, yes, there was a low level of terror the whole time waiting to see how James was doing, but generally i found Pod F to be a bright and hopeful place. The nurses were amazing and the equipment was astonishing. People were friendly and genuinely interested and concerned by the twins' progress. The only really hard part for me was that i couldn't touch the boys as they are keeping contaminants to a minimum, which is perfectly understandable, but it took a force of will to not tuck Matthew's perfect little hands back into his swaddling or stroke James' head so that he would know he's not in this battle alone. We did spend a lot of time talking to both boys and one of my favorite moments was when i heard Mike singing the theme from I Dream of Jeannie to James. It was also nice to see Matthew come out of his isolette and be held by both mom and dad. I was also around for some of the breastfeeding practice, but needless to say there are no pics of that. To give you an idea of size, here is Matthew in relation to Mike's arm He's small, but both boys are bigger than what i was expecting. Neither one seems to be a big crier though Matthew does scream at diaper changes. It was a bit tough to get pictures in NICU (sorry for the blurriness, people) cause you shouldn't use a flash and it was generally dim in there. However, here -making their first Nikiverse appearance- are the Barr Twins Matthew, sometimes called Mattie, is pictured here inside his isolette sporting his cowboy footie pajamas. At 3 pounds, 11 ounces he likes being swaddled, mommy's milk (he is up to 30mL every 3 hours) and pooping. He hates the degradation of the ozone layer and tubes in his nose. James, never ever called Jim, Jimmie or the Jimster, is bulking up at 3 pounds, 9 ounces and goes for a more daring diaper-only look. He enjoys his heat lamp, transfusions and his daddy's singing. His turn-offs include mean people and incompetent X-ray techs. If you haven't been keeping up with the newest, tiniest members of the Nikiverse they can be found at their own blog, Raising the Barrs, which i added to my sidebar. Next time, i'm cuddling the heck out of them to make up for this time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

and think about what you've done

Poor, poor mini-Marshall. I don't know what it did to get sent to this corner of the rumpus room away from all the other amps, but i hope it is learning its lesson. At least Mike let the Stratocaster keep it company.

sleeping with drums

I have been visiting my friends Melanie and Mike for a few days in Chapel Hill, NC. Conveniently Ron was driving to his parent's house in FL and he offered to detour off of I-95 to bring me here. It is the first time i've been to this house, which is nestled on a hillside surrounded by forest. It is amazing; unfortunately, it has been raining since we got here so i can't get any shots of the landscape to share.
We arrived around 11:15pm Sunday night after a hellacious trip and everyone was pretty tired. At least everyone seemed pretty tired before Mike showed us where i would be staying - the music room. How cool is it that there is a guest bed in the middle of Mike's musical equipment? Especially if the guest in question is crazed music geek, like me?
I love that the guitars are used as decoration
and i would be sleeping with drums
Needless to say we'd lost Mike and Ron for the rest of the night.
Mike played guitar
Ron played the drums
and Stanley supervised.
We had hit a lot of traffic driving down and it was so relaxing to hang out while the boys jammed. Mike turned off the overhead lights for a while so there was only the light from the bathroom and the blue glow of the guitar clock.
  mmmmm... atmospheric
I tried to get some pics of them without being disruptive which was pretty easy with the guitar but a bit harder with the drums - every time i loved the shot he moved before it captured. This camera only has like a one second delay, but a drummer could move 5 times in that span and you can't very well tell him to hold still!
I decided to listen from the adjoining rumpus room so that i could read (kinda hard to see in the blue glow). Every so often i would hear a new mix of instruments as the boys changed up
and at one point they even joined me as the piano doesn't fit in the music room.
Melanie retired around 2:30 and i think the rest of us packed it in around 4am.
Have i mentioned how much i love music?

Monday, June 15, 2009

exit JET, stage west

Ron's band was playing Saturday night at a little place in Pasadena, MD called Billy V's so we went out to celebrate Justin's birthday before his imminent departure. First, there was shooting pool. Justin was rather skilled at sinking shots and he liked to call them. In fact, I spent most of my time at the table laughing as he explained in great detail his next shot As for my skill as a pool player, i'll say this I had really cute hair that night. I did manage to scratch in 5 out of the 6 pockets, which is impressive in its own way. After Ron finished his sound check he came to play with us. He also made me look bad. We like to refer to him as Bridge Man. Finally we were joined by Justin's amicably-parted ex-girlfriend Vanessa, whose skill in pool playing rivaled my own. After several games it was time for the band to go on so we moved up front. For several years Ron has played in an 80's hair cover band called One Louder, and my goodness they do indeed go to eleven. Though i have always known Ron as a drummer (sometime i will have to tell you about some of the other bands i've endured over the last 15 years) he actually plays keyboards and guitar with backing vocals in this band. One of things i love about One Louder is that they have great energy. If you didn't come to dance, go home. Dash, the lead singer, often wanders around the audience, as does you know who [i am indeed not biting him, people; it was a kiss that digital delay turned wonky] There is a fun vibe cause the band is serious about the music, but doesn't necessarily take themselves too seriously Given their attitude and the nature of the playlist One Louder also brings out some interesting behavior in otherwise sane people. This guy was serious about his dancing and some people -ahem- kept jumping into the shot Speaking of shots, we were doing various birthday shots when the band announced that it was Kevin's birthday. Who is Kevin? you ask. I have no idea, but since it was his birthday and we were celebrating Justin's birthday and he was conveniently sitting at the adjacent table i bought a round of shots for us Happy Birthday, Kevin - whoever you are. The night was a great way for us to celebrate and be together before Justin is Kentucky-bound. Good Luck, JET - we'll miss you!