Where We Went This Year! (22,000 miles of driving!)

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Sunday, October 19, 2008


First day in Seattle was a bit sleepy. Or a lot sleepy.

Having arrived in town the night before, we were a bit worn out. And as the rainymistygrey stalked the streets, leaking light through the cell block number 5 window of our hotel room, it was all the more encouragement to just take the dog out to pee and head right back in and under the covers.

Also, Eva Maciek, our wardrobe supervisor, is the other dog owner on the tour, and her dog Crackers, freshly angst-riddled from ungodly loud jets in San Francisco's naval airshow for fleet week, and from the flight from San Fran to Seattle, needed a watcher for the day, which we were only too happy to oblige. And so, Crackers, Angie, Butley, and I all chillaxed in bed (or around it) watching Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," feeling like the rainy Salem weather matched that of Seattle's quite nicely. Crackers in particular enjoyed the comfort of a stinky pair of shoes...

Being back in Seattle, I found the "Twelve Angry Men" poster we left here two years ago. And, of course, it's the same dressers, who all remembered spraying us down with spray bottles every night before the show, trying to make it look like the hottest day of summer in the middle of a Washington winter evening. The next day we went for a walk around Pike Street Market -

- home of monkfish-throwing seafood merchants, cheap but beautiful flowers, specialty shoppes (that can only be spelled with the extra "-pe" at the end), and the original Starbucks store which, to walk into, closely approximates the sense of walking directly into page seven of the Orvis catalog.

We visited Scobie Puchtler, oh he the mechanical magician of Yale University/Prism Kiteworks/youwantitibuildit fame, and saw the very cool alternative school he teaches at full time now, Puget Sound Community School. And somewhere between teaching classes in building an actual radio-controlled airplane model, designed & fabricated by the students themselves with his supervision, and renovating a brand new building they're relocated themselves to, he finds time for a proper homelife with his wife Sarah and son Brayden.

We took Butley to a park near where Scobie lives, the Gas Works, which is an old industrial site where coal used to be converted to natural gas. It was highly, highly toxic until the city set about reclaiming it, de-toxifying what they could, sealing up what was best left alone, and re-sodding everything until now it stands as an amazing testament to the possibilities of urban renewal. it's about the size of three football fields, and the old mechanical architecture still lying around is both haunting & beautiful, adding a uniquely historical identity to the park.

We returned to the Gas Works couple days later, to give Butley a chance to tear up some grass and burn off some energy. We met this great couple whose frisbee-fetching dog was a good playmate for Butley, and spent about an hour chatting about a Vaudeville festival they run annually here in Seattle - apparently the largest of its kind in the world. It's called the Moisture Festival because of the fact that it's a Springtime event in Seattle, but being a vaudeville festival, there's probably more to it than that. At any rate, we were all good & tired by the end of the day and stopped to pose for photo before heading home to rest up for the show.

Also, as we were immediately adjacent to Fremont, Seattle's answer to Berkeley, CA, we drove by the "Fremont Troll," a sculpture underneath a major bridge in Fremont where a local artist was commissioned to craft a substructural inhabitant for the community. Apparently there was some disagreement between the artist and the mayor and, after a failed attempt to have his work finished by another person, the mayor dragged the original artist back to finish the job. The original artist, somehow incensed at the imposition, decided to add his Volkswagen bug, filled with concrete, to the troll's left hand. So, in the photo, you get a sense of the fellow's size by knowing that the VW in his hand is real - and that's an actual hubcap for his left eye...

We visited the Experience Music Project, the brainchild and beneficiary of Microsoft's Paul Allen, on a company visit. After joining the kids for the requisite high-school-musical-esque recording of a SPRING AWAKENING in the museum's "record a CD exhibit", Angie and I went exploring. I, of course, ended up downstairs in the Science Fiction Museum. Way cool, particularly to see the original props & costumes from Blade Runner, the manuscripts of various original sci-fi classics, and the exhibit on changing images of utopia & dystopia in sci-fi over time.

Sunday morning, joined Angie's friend Dan Tierney for breakfast back in Fremont at Norm's Eatery & Ale House, a dog-friendly restaurant that has everything for the perfect Sunday afternoon: great food, beer on tap, big comfy sofas, flat screen television, and lighting that just makes you want to stay and stay. But we had a matinee, so..

We've been enjoying our daily walks around the Seattle Center, right next to the hotel.

It's a big tourist park and centralized location for Seattle Repertory Theater, the Intiman, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, etc. And there are more shoppes (yes, the -pe again), carnival games & rides, a boarding platform for the Monorail, and a big fountain that does synchronized water shows to orchestral greatest hits. (NB: I have no idea who the guy in the jester's hat is...)

After our last show, Angie and I went up to the top of the Space needle and had a last look around the city, lit up as it was night.

Meanwhile, with all this travel, Butley's decided - he's going into sales.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Last week in San Francisco - Driving to Seattle

Apologies for the delay in posting, gentle readers. You may attribute it to the following:

1) Packing a corporate apartment full of six weeks' worth of accumulated unpacking,
2) Placing same apartment's worth of belongings into a car still left out in Berkeley,
3) Fifteen hours and 800 miles of driving or stopping/eating/relieving/dog walking between San Francisco & Seattle,
4) A remarkable amount of lethargy which, after said packing, loading, and driving, can have a cumulative effect when combined with the following,
5) Seattle weather, mid-Fall, full rain and gray matter until just yesterday.

Our last couple weeks in San Francisco were great. We sampled some more of the local cuisine, and we entertained yet more family, as Angie's brother Brian and his wife Tammy came into town - Brian once again sponging off the largesse of FedEx to 'dead-head' his way to our little corner of the world. Lest you be mistaken, Brian was not donning tie-dye and driving a VW bus to follow a favorite band, but instead exercising his right as a FedEx pilot to catch a free ride, making or a much cheaper trip to wine country for him and Tammy, who apparently brought a small vineyard back with them. They met us after a show one Sunday night and the four of us had a late dinner at Rue St. Jacques. Brian practiced his French, confident that one day he will in fact have use for the Rosetta Stone CD's he bought & assiduously studied, while Tammy and Angie charmed our host & the owner, a significantly tattooed Frenchman a good playlist on his iPod who cheerfully let us stay long after they had shut their doors...

My cousin Lisa brought Alyssa again and also her mom Nancy, this time. Afterwards we all went out to The Hidden Vine for a drink (where we also met Henry Stram, Kate Fuglei, and Ben Lively from our show). it was nice to finally meet Nancy, and I happened to have my computer with me, so I spent the evening showing Nancy, Alyssa, and Lisa photos of family gatherings from the East Coast branch.

And the final week, the adults all went out to Berkeley for dinner at Chez Panisse, which I knew nothing about but which Henry and Kate were all excited about because of it being Alice Waters' restaurant (who, apparently among cognoscenti, is well-regarded for her insistence on using locally-grown food, on working with farmers use ecologically-sustainable farming techniques, and yadda yadda kinda stuff). I will say, for the record, it was durn tasty. Pretty reasonably priced too. And nestled as it is in lotus-eating Berkeley (or as Peter Foley calls it, Berzerk-ly), it was a very whole-grain-goodness evening through and through.

Now I know what you're thinking - that all we did while we were in San Francisco was eat out. But the reality is I just learned how to paste links in this blog and the restaurants are most of the things that have websites, so it's just easier to write about them. I mean, we did make sure to take advantage of what the city had to offer, but we made good use of our kitchen back at the apartment, don't worry Mom.

The last week in San Francisco passed a bit like a blur, and when the weekend came, neither Angie nor I was remarkably inspired to do a very good job of packing. But we got the stuff in the car well enough, and after the matinee on Sunday (there was no evening show), we headed North to Seattle. We got about four hours of road behind us by the time we decided to pull off for the night. Thanks to the GPS, we just looked up the hotels immediately on the way, and ended up at the Cave Springs Motel, a very cool, old-timey, black-and-white-memory-inspiring kind of roadside hotel nestled a couple miles off the I-5 in Dunsmuir, CA and in the shadow of Mount Shasta, as we discovered the following morning (and as we had suspected that night, looking out into the black sky and trying to discern whether the white fluff on the horizon was clouds or snowfall - turned out to be the latter).

Cave Springs has been in the family for generations, having started around something like 1929. The current owner/manager (yes, his actual name is Louis Dewey) is a former dancer, having trod Hollywood and Vegas stages before returning to the very place he grew up, as the scion of the former owners of Cave Springs. The whole story is on the website, and if you like - after reading this tome - you can read that one as well.

Very simple rooms, but well-taken care of. High ceiling, king-sized bed, railroad-style motel straight out of "The Grifters," but with a 1970's Holiday-Inn-cum-hunting-lodge panache. And directly adjacent to a beautiful state park, with a prototypical babbling brook, replete with plaques placed in honor of all the fly-fishers who harvested the waters there in days gone by. In fact, the whole little area is well-aware of all its history, not for any particular selling point but just because, one gets the sense, that it's a community that's small enough to have its history written nearly completely, and just large enough to have people there still who care.

We took Butley on a great walk that morning, and we got the photos to prove it.

Then we headed on. Monday was the big day of driving. Eight hours of driving, probably. Stopped in Ashland, OR for lunch. Somewhere you would have thought would have been dog-friendly enough to let you bring your dog into the patio seating area of a restaurant. But no, Ashland has a city-wide ban on dogs at any eating establishment. So we got salads at a groovynuttyhomegrown shoppe and ate in the park. Butley, as always, made fans out of every simple passer-by.

And once in Seattle, we unloaded into our hotel room at the Quality Inn - which we've re-named the "Squalidly Inn". In a nutshell: two double beds, NO drawers (that weren't immediately in front of a bed and rendered inoperable), one miserable little window overlooking the highway, a bathroom that looked like it had been recaulked a few too many times, no tub, no fridge, no microwave, and no room to move around.

Tired as we were, we just said the hell with it and crashed. The next day, though, we made sure to find another room. We went to the front desk & explained our situation to the goth-chick attendant. "Oh, yeah, the pet rooms suck," she said plainly and empathetically. When we told her just which pet room we were in, she empathized still further. "Oh yeah, that room REALLY sucks." Long story short, under cover of a late-night hour and a manager's distraction, she upgraded us from a room that was miserable to one that is simply decent, but it felt like first class to us after where we'd come from and we've enjoyed its legroom, its bath tub, its view of the Space Needle, and its desk (o ye luxury of luxuries).

So, here we are, in the Emerald City, the Sleepless City, the home of grunge music, caffeine as a food group, and flannel as formal wear. Stay tuned for our misadventures in this town next week, gentle readers.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Family, food, and long, long walks...

Things are going well in San Francisco. Audiences are still loving the show & we're getting all kinds of great response. Last week our resident director was in town & we had the first full put-in for understudies. It was with full costume, lights, tech, and the entire band. Considering we understudies had only been through any scenes twice (and through the show as a whole only once) we did pretty well. And it's good to have gone through it once.

Meanwhile, we've been sampling some of the local fare. Up in Nob Hill, where we're living, it's a mostly residential neighborhood, but there are some restaurants that occupy the one, first floor corner unit. One of our favorites is Allegro Romano, situated on top of a nearby neighborhood called Russian Hill that slopes down in all four directions. They only serve dinner, and the host there chats with everyone, makes suggestions, fills everyone's glass with port at the end of the meal. Their prices are very reasonable, and there are probably only fifteen tables, so even if it's full, it just feels like a big family room.

On Saturday, my cousin Lisa, her husband Leonard, and their daughter Alyssa came to see the show. Afterwards, we all went out to The Grand Cafe, just a few doors down from the Curran Theatre, where we're performing. Great food (and a great selection of scotch). We had a really nice evening, and it was fun to spend some time getting to know this side of the family (Lisa is my Uncle Don's daughter), as I've never met Lisa (as an adult) before this week. Hopefully, Lisa & Alyssa (and Lisa's mom) are going to come back to see the show in a couple weeks. And it was fun for them to see their cousin-in-law do her thing (as I do the slacker thing downstairs)...

We had a great day off, this last Monday. At Lisa’s suggestion, we went to visit them in their grand palais in Tiburon, a gorgeous little community just over the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. We drove up late Monday morning and went straight to Stinson Beach, a dog-friendly beach just west of Muir Woods.

We walked the whole length of the beach & back, encountering a sunbathing sea lion on the beach, just lying out. We thought it maybe looked a little thin & weary, but locals assured us that sometimes they just come & hang out, particularly when it's empty, like it was on Monday (one of the advantages of having Monday as your day off). (The flowers were left there by someone who wanted to beautify the sea lion's respite, apparently).

We spent the night at Lisa & Leonard's swank-ola pad, enjoying their jacuzzi for a late-night soak before nodding off at the unheard-of early hour of 11pm. That morning, we went for a hike in the hills just behind the house.

And also the view of San Francisco, from the summit of the hill.

It was a long, 2 1/2 hour hike, up the hill & over the other side. The whole weekend was really pretty, but that day in particular was a little warm. Not to mention how windy it was and how steep the climb. You can see here the view back at Lisa & Leonard's house. Lots of dramatic scenery along the way.

And man, Butley was WORN OUT when we got back.

Back into San Francisco Tuesday afternoon & we unloaded our things and one verrrry pooped pup back at the apartment & went to the show. Week Number Five, coming up...