Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"...we should treat all the trivial things of life seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality."

As literature goes, one of the best things ever is well written satire. And that is why I have loved Oscar Wilde since I first read The Importance of Being Ernest a million years ago. I've always thought he would have made a riveting dissertation project. My dog, Baxter, was even almost named Bunbury. (Sadly, my mother, who was at the time woefully unfamiliar with the whole concept of Bunburying talked me out of it. I owed her one since she did allow me to pressure her into naming her cat Rudiger based on my fondness for a particular Simpson's episode.)

So, I was pretty excited to see Ernest was playing at
PCS this month. Not only was it a chance for me to see a favorite play, but if I could get a ticket for my mom too, I could rub in her nose the error of her Bunbury-hating ways. And so it was that we were able to make it to the Armory over the weekend just in time for one of the last few performances of its run. One of the great things about the venue is that it is just the right size. There is no Goldilocksian bullshit about "too big" or "too small" or "too close" or "too far away" because the whole place cuts right to "just right". Just about any seat you get is going to be a good one.

As it turned out, our seats were very close to the front. While my neck and I have to admit to a preference for seats just a little further back, sitting close enough to see the detail on the costumes (which were great!) was lovely too. It was also close enough to see the occasional bit of spittle fly from the actor's mouths, but what are you going to do?

It's all part of seeing a live performance. There is something so different from seeing a play as compared to watching a movie. You hope it won't happen, but there's always the chance that a tongue will trip over a line, a note will be a little off key. And when it doesn't, you feel part of the performance's success. A play seems somehow communal, while going to the movies feels like one of those inward, lone experiences that just happen to take place in a darkened room with a lot of other people around. Not that I don't like movies, but movies and t.v. have become so slick that there can be a distinctly human element missing from them. That humanness is part of the beauty of seeing a play. It is what creates the exchange of energy between performer and audience, and that is a special thing. Watching t.v. is (barely) an activity. Seeing a play is an experience.

If the play were still running, I would recommend it. If I were the kind ofperson prone to gloating, I would gloat that I saw it and you didn't. Instead, I will just say that if you have never read Ernest, you should. If you ever have a chance to see the play performed, you definitely should. And if you ever see it is again playing at PCS, you super should, because they are awesome that way. In fact, you should buy season tickets. You should buy me season tickets. Wouldn't that make you feel good? Giving is the greatest gift of all...

P.s. I think my parking karma still holds. I parked in the lot without doing a lot of searching for a parking spot, because it was pouring and it's just across from the theater, but it was a really good spot and it wasn't that expensive.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Winter Adieu (the "I bought you something, but I ate it!" edition)

Spring is finally here and snow (like my youth) is but distant memory for the guyliner sporting gnome that lives in my garden. A remnant from my childhood, he has been around since the tail end of the disco era. Luckily, neither of us has ever cared particularly much about age. It is a good thing, because it makes birthdays SO much more fun.

One of my favorite things about my birthday is that it falls on the first day of spring, which also coincides with Nowrūz (Persian New Year). While all birthdays are technically the beginning of a new year, having one that falls on the Vernal Equinox just seems symbolically lovely - spring starting, snow melting, flowers beginning to bud, everything awakening after the winter. That is not to say that I am not a little jealous of my summer birthday friends who get to have sunny picnics and barbeques to celebrate their existences. They don't have to deal with nature during "Faces of Eve" month.

I have seriously considered moving my birthday to May when the weather is warmer and more predictable. "March"/"May", it's only a few letters. And what are a couple months between friends? No one would even have to know. New friends would be easy. I would just tell them my birthday was in May. And the old ones? I'd borrow a page from the Bush/Cheney playbook and simply deny it despite the abundance of previously recorded evidence to the contrary. "I don't know what you're talking about! My birthday has always been in May. You are seriously misunderestimating how the calendar works, my friend! Say, what do you say we bomb an innocent country on Thursday and tell everyone they were plotting against us with our most hated enemy?"

But, you have to deal with what life gives you and what life gave me was the month when nature apparently has PMS ("I am sun and sweet little lambs frolicking in the meadow! No, I am rain, black clouds and gale force winds! What are you talking about? I'm NOT in a bad mood. I'll show you a bad mood! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch t.v., so I can cry at the sheer cuteness of the puppy in the "ain't no bugs on me" commercial...).

Life also gave me turning 40 this year. For the most part, I don't really care, but it still feels weird on my lips. "I am 40." Weirder still would be to lie about my age. I don't want to be one of those women to botoxes and surgically sculpts herself beyond recognition, so they can insist they're 29 when they're really 50 (though maybe I should keep my not yet duckified lips shut until I know how I will feel when I start looking old...). It is, however, weird to suddenly find myself "in my 40's". It's really not so much that I mind being 40, it's more that I wonder how it happened. It seems like a little monster crept up while I wasn't paying attention. ("Look! Over there! Something shiny! MWAHAHAHAHA! You are 40!!!)

Ultimately, 40 isn't so bad. I have a good life, good friends and family whose lunch and dinner invitations have ensured that I haven't had to cook for myself since I was in my 30's. Seriously! Birthday eve was Moe's with my coworkers. Friday, a shopping lunch of Chinese food and the best birthday dinner EVER with my primary birthday posse (minus one who was sick, but I hope the medicinal Black Forest Cake we sent home for her helped!) at Dar Essalam in Wilsonville. Then there was a Saturday post-tax appointment lunch salad at Marie Callender's (a new thing for a new decade, since I've neer previously eaten there) and oyster shooters and shrimp enchiladas and blackberry margarita's at El Tapatio. Tomorrow, I start a cleanse, but not before I attempt to talk someone into a goodbye dinner of Eggplant in Garlic Sauce at my favorite Thai restaurant...

P.s. I cannot say enough good things about Dar Essalam, which is my new favorite restaurant. Anyone in the Portland area seriously needs to avail themselves of a dinner there. I swear, you will thank me! And don't let the location fool you - once you step inside, the staff, the decor and the food are so lovely, you will completely forget that you are in office park/strip mall country. It is totally worth the drive!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

I want to suck your blood...

As anyone who knows about the saga of the multiplying Draculas knows, I do love me a good vampire story. In celebration of birthday month, I have contemplated availing myself of a copy of Many Bloody Returns, a collection of short stories about birthdays and the undead. Advancing on an age that would make me want to start counting backwards if I truly cared about that sort of thing, immortal youth just feels right. But first, there is the matter of finishing my current reading material - Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga.

The Twilight books are something I had actually avoided reading. In keeping with not liking it when (most) people try to tell me what to do, I find myself avoiding things that are too popular. Band wagons give me hives and "popular" doesn't necessarily mean well written. But then came February. February had me coughing like Camille on her deathbed. It wasn't really a good time to take sick leave at work, which left me even more tired. This called for something light and fun but non-taxing in my free time, and reading something like Twilight definitely fit the bill.

There is a lot about the series to recommend itself. The books are huge, but read fast in the way of escapist novels that suck you in even though your intellectual brain sheepishly thinks they probably shouldn't. There are a few cheesy aspects and there is the annoying addition in the 4th book of a precocious human-vampire hybrid love child - Renesmee (a combination of the names "Renee" and "Esme"that strikes me as more tedious than clever), but over all the books are fun. There is danger, romance, occasional international travel, and a host of requisite bad guy(s) to thwart. The drive to know what happens next has helped me plow through the first 664 pages of the final installment in about a week, and it's not like I've devoted all my free time to reading.

In many ways, the formula of the novels reminds me of Buffy with a little of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse thrown in. And it is formulaic (young, awkward, misfit who is not too misfitty but doesn't realize how pretty and fab she is moves to small town; finds brooding hottie soul mate who just happens to be a vampire but a good, vampire; heroine discovers she has hidden gifts of her own; otherworldy hijinx ensue and good triumphs over evil), but in the way of the Joss Whedon and Charlaine Harris worlds, it also sports plotlines that lend themselves to staving off the very human humdrum complaints of everyday life while at the same time exploring them (love, heartbreak, loyalty, conflict, responsiblity, growing up and leaving home) in mythological terms.

It is all very good versus evil with notions of what constitutes each turned on their heads. Bad things happen despite the best of intentions, (some) vampires are good and ethical, and werewolves protect people. Both groups have evolved societies with their own codes of ethics. And while that's all been done before, the notion of grey in matters of good and evil, right and wrong in a post-Bush cosmology is a welcome one (especially when it comes packaged in such a light, easly to read package).

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Happy March!

Welcome to birthday month! Tonight I celebrated the first of the last nineteen days of my 30's by going to see Itzhak Perlman play downtown at the Schnitzer. Like seeing Pavarotti sing shortly before his death, it was an unforgettable experience. There are some opportunities in life that one just doesn't pass up, and seeing Perlman play his famous Soil Stradivarius is one of them. The tone of this instrument, which was constructed during Stradivari's golden period, is simply sublime. It is truly saddening to think how few of its past owners have been musicians and how many of the gorgeous instruments is crafted are locked away behind glass in private collections, never to be played. Surely such masterpieces are made to be heard.

Perlman was in Portland as both conductor and soloist, but the high point for me really was his solo on Bach's Concerto No. 1 in A minor. The Schubert (Symphony No. 3 in D major, D. 200) and the Brahms (Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op.73) were lovely as well, but it is the Bach that I will remember most.

Since you couldn't all be there with me, I shall share with you a clip of him playing my favorite movement of what is probably my favorite piece for strings. It is one of those pieces that is for me a marriage of free standing beauty as well as personal sentimentality, which makes me love it all the more.