Monday, May 16, 2011

Mr. Las Vegas in Mitchell

Ah, the last day of a stretch of time off, one that originally was going to be nine days long, then became eight, then finally one day off, one day at work, then six days off. Oh well, it was quite enjoyable anyway.

As usual, this vacation was coordinated with my wife's doctor's appointments in Sioux Falls, but also with a special event for her; a Wayne Newton concert at the Corn Palace (oops, that's The World's Only! Corn Palace) in Mitchell. My wife is a slobbering Wayne Newton fan. She's had a crush on him since she saw him on The Lucy Show in 1965. (Googling....yes, it's out there.) She saw him in Las Vegas just before he stopped his regular gigs there, and this was likely her last chance to see him again, so when I heard about this show and saw that the tickets weren't outlandishly expensive by today's frightening standards I jumped at it.

We got there about an hour early and there was already a crowd waiting for the doors to open. I noticed at least two charter buses of people from around the state. I also noticed that I was probably in the lower 20% agewise. (When Newton announced that a couple was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary I sensed a fair amount of "I remember when we hit 50 years" feeling in the crowd.) My wife purchased two souvenirs; a key chain with Newton's picture and a nightgown that has "I spent an evening with Wayne Newton" printed on it, augmenting her t-shirt from the previous concert and a poster for this one that she got from a Pierre restaurant.

As venues go, the Corn Palace is small, even by South Dakota standards. There are permanent seats on only one of the long sides of the main arena, with a stage opposite them and barely enough room for a basketball court in between (no seats on the ends of the court). This theater-like layout does, however, suit it well for shows like this one, when they put seats on the court. Our seats were straight out and just a bit above stage level (per the suggestion of the lady I talked to when I ordered the tickets back in December) which was just about right. The show started pretty close to on-time with a band that interestingly was over half local talent; Newton only travels with a small core of regulars.

This was my first live exposure to a Las Vegas-style act, and I immediately noticed a few things. First, Newton seemed to really enjoy himself. After so many years he could hardly be blamed for being a bit weary of the whole thing, but he came out with good energy and did his best to liven up the crowd, which responded as best they could for their age. Second, there must be certain standard songs, because Newton did a few that I had seen Elvis do in a movie of his show. In fact, I couldn't help but think about how Elvis might have looked if he had still been alive and performing at Newton's age (69).

My biggest impression was that Newton really is a multi-talented guy. He played a number of instruments, sang a wide variety of songs and told a few jokes. Like any performer of that type, though, he did some things better than others. I've never been that big a fan of his singing voice, and frankly I think he should re-examine some of his choices of material. I thought of George Jones, who we saw in 2008 and who is 11 years older than Newton. Jones is also not what he once was, but he sticks within his range and style and can still put on a good show; Newton could learn from that. On the other hand, Newton was quite competent on guitar and actually pretty good on violin. He also gave some of his backup talent a chance to show their stuff, and as you would expect they were excellent.

The show went for a little shy of 2 hours, and I got the feeling that his fans were quite happy with it. I know my wife thought it was great. That's really all any entertainer could hope to accomplish.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting Loaded

Sometimes I think Jon Carroll and I live the same life.

I am the chief dishwasher in this house, and I like to have some control over my territory. I like things in a certain order because (a) it's possible to get more stuff in the washer per load if Certain Rules are followed and (b) it's possible to unload the dishwasher more quickly if like objects are grouped together.

You probably noticed that when Jon refers to himself as a "dishwasher", he means "the person who sees to it that the dishes are washed" as opposed to "the person who washes the dishes".

I am the chief dishwasher facilitator (that seems to be a more accurate or at least more impressive-sounding description) here, mainly because I am also the primary cook. Somehow it feels more comfortable, more complete to do both jobs.

Unlike the manual dishwashing of old, when one person washed and other dried, this is not a group effort.

If, God forbid, someone should come in to offer help, we resist in the strongest possible terms.

I have strayed somewhat in this area on occasion, for the usual reason: Bean (Grandbaby's nickname, given to her by Grandma) likes to help once in a while, and making exceptions for grandchildren is part of The Code. Note, however, that this only applies to unloading.

Jon and I have also faced similar inquisitions.

We were sitting around the kitchen after dinner as I was doing the dishes, and the grandmother said something in French to the father, our translator for the weekend. They had a small hushed argument, and finally he said, "She wants to know why you wash the dishes before you put them in the machine that washes the dishes."

My daughters have been my interrogators on this subject, so I have been able to write it off as youthful ignorance of the tenacity of dried food on kitchenware, and the detrimental effects large pieces can have on on dishwasher innards. My younger daughter has since moved into an apartment with her own dishwasher, and with it has acquired maturity and understanding. I haven't seen her loading technique, so I haven't had a chance to offer advice, which may be for the best. As with many things, she should develop her own style.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Weather,Waltzing, and Wal-Mart

The weather continues its ups and downs as we head into May. Not long ago I was beginning to notice a slight defensiveness in the tone of the local TV weather people, as though they were weary of having to constantly bring bad news. It's hard to blame them after six months.

My wife recently received a collection of country music CDs which included the Patti Page song "Tennessee Waltz", which reminded me of a question I had often thought of exploring. Is there an actual Tennessee Waltz as mentioned in the song? If so, where can I find it? Google is silent on the matter as far as I can tell.

Once again, James Lileks strikes a nerve.

Went to the local Walgreen’s, where my suspicions of the last few weeks was confirmed: they appear to have dumped the house brand of popcorn. This is a problem.....Dismayed, I put back my empty basket, hoping I could find a manager who would assure me that it was just a supply problem, the popcorn would return, but I know better. And thus are my trips to Walgreen ended. I went for a particular item, and usually picked up more stuff. No more.

I frequently have the same problem here. The local Wal-Mart regularly stops carrying items we find desirable, items which are often available at Wal-Marts elsewhere. I sometimes think that this store is at the end of the truck route, and thus gets whatever is left.

I'm also annoyed at the unwillingness/inability of other stores to step into the gaps Wal-Mart leaves. K-mart in particular seems determined to stay just a little worse that Wal-Mart, like a runner who slows down to keep a gap when the runner in front stumbles. I have noticed that K-Mart has started expanding it's appliance offerings - no doubt trying to compensate for the absence of corporate mate Sears here - which could be a good idea, although I wonder how the support will be.

Got Him At Last

I must interrupt my usual blathering to note the killing of Osama bin Laden. (I was going to provide a link, but c''s everywhere.) Much will be said about this, so I will only offer congratulations to all involved for improving planetary quality.