Archive for June 2004


Tuesday night we saw Comedy of Errors.  We hadn’t purchased tickets for it with our original order, as we’d seen it once or twice already, and it’s not all that magical in terms of language or subject matter.  However, a friend of our son’s (who is a drama production major) touted it because of the unique set (a Las Vegas-style casino) and the fact that each set of twins is played by a single actor rather than 4 different actors.

The basic plot: Syracuse and Ephesus have been at war, and laws have been promulgated in both lands that if a citizen of one is caught within the environs of the other, he will be executed.  Many years earlier, a Syracusan husband and wife gave birth to a set of identical twins (both named Antipholus - sounds like one of those malaria-carrying mosquitoes, no?).  They become possessed of a second set of identical twin orphans (both named Dromio), whom they adopt as servants for their own sons.  A shipwreck separates this genetic jumble into father, one son and one servant, and mother, the other son, the other servant.  The father’s contingent settles in Syracuse, the mother’s in Ephesus.  20-some years later, the father is trekking the world in search of the other contingent, and is captured in Syracuse and sentenced to die.  His tale impresses the Duke of Ephesus, however, and he is given until sundown to come up with his ransom.  Meanwhile, the father’s son and servant arrive in Syracuse, also in search of the lost brother.  As you may imagine, many iterations of mistaken identity ensue between wives, husbands, masters and servants until things get sorted out at the end.

There is some great opportunity for scenery-chewing, of course, and the Antipholus characters are played by one of our favorite actors here, Ray Porter.  At one point I had tears streaming down my face, I was laughing so hard.  The casino-set is also quite a bit of fun, because Ephesus, despite St. Paul’s epistolary injunctions to the contrary, was known as a bastion of witchcraft and evil.  They also had a bit of fun with the diction - the Ephesians spoke in a clipped, New York-style accent (the Duke of Ephesus and his guards are gotten up as mafiosi), while the Syracusans deliver their lines in a Texas-style drawl.

I’m really glad I kicked out the extra bucks for this - I wish I had it on DVD or tape.

On to The Royal Family and The Visit this afternoon and tonight.


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Somewhat recovered from Saturday night’s debauch, we took on a little harder hike Monday, the Wagner Butte trail just west of Ashland. It’s about 9 miles and 3,500 feet of elevation gain, but rewards at the end with a panoramic view north to Medford, east to Ashland and south to California and Mt. Shasta. This is the third year we’ve done this hike, and it’s a little bit different each year.
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At this time of year there are a ton of wildflowers on this hike, depending on the elevation band, including a form of bear grass, lupine meadows and sere pastures of paintbrush and blue poppies.
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Clouds started moving in as we descended, and delivered a memorable sunset when we returned to town.

Bumper Sticker of the Week

From a trailhead near Ashland, OR.  A picture named BumperSticker.jpgOne could quibble that this week’s bumper sticker should not come from someone driving such a behemoth (they were two 20-something guys).  I guess the positive spin is that the message has being taken by the non-Birkenstock crowd.  Maybe it was a mail-order purchase, they saw “Toyota” and didn’t know that the company would put the name of a fragile ecosystem on the engine of its destruction.  Whatever, I’ll take the support wherever it comes from.


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As I’ve mentioned, one of the big reasons we like Ashland is the outdoor recreation available in the area.  However, owing to our staying out drinking until 2:30 Sunday morning, we were a little slow out of the blocks to engage a gorgeous day.  Knowing where to nail down a righteous cup of espresso is essential in the amelioration of this condition, and Evo’s (right) tattooed baristas know what they’re doing.

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We finally found some mojo, and headed east of town for a 5-6 mile hike called Grizzly Peak. It has a lot of great vistas back to town, as well as of California’s Mt. Shasta to the south.

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I’ve added a category at the left for tales of our trip to Ashland, Oregon.


A picture named SquirrelNuts1.jpgWe arrived here Saturday, but through a quirk in our ticketing don’t see any plays until Tuesday night (Comedy of Errors).  However, we did meet a couple of my friends who had been here the week before on Saturday night.  We went to dinner and they gave us their impressions of what they had seen, and in one case laid on us the responsibility of arbiting a disagreement between them once we see The Visit.

We were sitting outside at a brewpub while having this high-minded conversation.  Meanwhile, in the tree canopy above us, a psychotic squirrel was cavorting from branch to branch, taking bites of green hickory nuts and then tossing them away.  “Away”, however, happened to be the vicinity of our table.  We took hasty measures to protect the beer supply, an indispensable component to the discussion.

Later, Mr. Squirrel rained down some less physically dangerous, but infinitely more disgusting, gifts on our table, and we asked for our check.

After they saw their evening play, we met again at a bar where many actors show up after the late performances, and tried not to stare like the rubes we are.  We stayed out way too late, made promises about meeting in Seattle for plays and dinners, and stumbled back to our lodgings.

On the Trail of the Bard

I don’t know what it is about VWs that stimulates the creative juices in their owners.  Maybe it’s more like creative types are more likely to buy a VW in order to play dress-up.  I encountered the two vehicles below within the last week, the beetle in a parking lot in Ashland, OR, and the Vanogan near Gasworks Park in Seattle.  While not up to Christopher Keyes’ vintage auto show photos, they definitely make you look twice (and hope not to be caught by their owners returning from a human sacrifice ritual in a nearby basement).

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On the Trail of the Bard

I feel the need to mention once again that we’re headed for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon tomorrow.  This will be our 11th year.  We started going when our son was in middle school and we tagged along with a group from his school.  After he graduated, we bought a membership and started going on our own.

Ashland is just south of Medford, and just north of the California border on I-5.  It’s a small, picturesque town whose main industry is the Shakespeare festival, which runs from February to November each year.  What’s terrific about it, in our estimation, is that you can walk up a street, verge onto a gravel road, and be walking on Forest Service land within a mile and a half.  The Pacific Crest Trail winds through the Siskiyou Mountains just outside town, and there are so many hikes in the area that we’ve extended our visits a little longer each year as we add them to our repertoire.

The last several years, we’ve also been taking a day to drive over to Crater Lake, which is a real treat, although snowpack around the lake may limit our hiking opportunities.

Oh, yeah.  We’re also going for the intellectual stimulation of the plays.  We’re seeing:

  • Henry VI, Parts I, II, and III
  • Comedy of Errors
  • The Visit, by Friedrich Durrenmatt
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
  • The Royal Family by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber

That’s a pretty full week of theater.  After seeing the Hanks above, we estimate that we have to see only one more Shakespeare play to “hit for the cycle”.

Our plane is at 10:30 tomorrow.  I’m PUMPED.  More later, from the road.


I believe I wrote my last tuition check today.  I’ve been writing them since 1987, for private elementary, middle and high schools.  Now, an intensive summer quarter of Spanish is all my son, my only child, needs to graduate from the University of Washington.  As well as he’s done since engaging his major (English/creative writing), I don’t envision him in graduate school real soon.  He hasn’t shown, so far, many signs of the “academic personality”, preferring action-oriented recreation and employment.

It’s not really that much of a fiscal relief - his private high school was much more expensive than the UW - but it will represent a sea change as we begin to disentangle our other financial interdependencies such as health insurance, car insurance and other expenses that I’ve paid while he’s been a student.  In this sense, I may be the patient, 22 years behind his mom, of post-partum issues.


Death Watch

Last night I bought an album from iTunes and was transferring it to my Archos Recorder 20 mp3 player when it made a couple of whimpering noises, stopped recording and displayed “HD Register Error”.  After repeated, unsuccessful attempts to revive it by cycling it on and off, I gave up in despair and decided to try it again in the morning after giving it a full charge.

This morning, after readjusting battery contacts and muttering imprecations I’ve found to be effective on electronic devices, I was able to coax it to register as a drive on my PC.  I’ve been tiptoeing around since then as I copy its contents to a spare hard drive on the PC.  I’d hate like the dickens to have to re-rip all those CDs.  I feel like I’m holding an injured bird in my hand, stroking its faltering heart while it whispers its final songs in my ear.

We’re leaving for a week-long trip tomorrow, and I’m not sure I can face travel of any kind without my cache of tunes.  I usually shop pretty carefully for things, but I can visualize myself walking into Best Buy and making a panic purchase of whatever mp3 player they have on their shelves (probably a Creative Nomad or an iPod, paying a lot more than what I’d pay online, plus sales tax.  Maybe I’ll just try to string the Archos out for one more trip.  Any suggestions?