In love with 'Waitress'

So Kates and I saw “Waitress” – the musical – today in Omaha.

As always, there’s a backstory.

Quickly after we began our subscription to Apple music last spring and started binging on new music and stuff we had long wanted but didn’t have in our library, we got a hold of the “Waitress” albums. Sara Bareilles, who I adore – it’s a full-fledged crush, really – wrote the music and released an album of her own recordings of the songs, which I preferred. Kates preferred the Broadway cast recording. Either way, we both found ourselves falling in love with the music and listening to the albums on and off for weeks.

Then a few weeks ago a former student who writes about entertainment in the Des Moines area posted an interview he did with Sara in conjunction with the show’s touring version stopping there.

As often happens in these situations, I immediately searched for the tour schedule and saw it was coming to Omaha this week. Kates and I compared the dates with our calendars and bought a pair of tickets for this afternoon’s matinee. … It also was a wonderful end-of-the-semester treat for me, having gotten past a barrage of final projects this week and the university’s commencement ceremonies yesterday.

We set our alarms for 7:30 this morning to get ready while the girls slept in – a rarity for a Saturday morning. But then again, we were up late last night watching “The Force Awakens” in preparation for seeing “The Last Jedi.”  Kates sent me out to grab some groceries and Starbucks for us at 9 while she tidied up the house. And the babysitters – twin girls who are family friends from our church – arrived around 10.

We’ve had unseasonably warm weather this winter, and it made for a wonderful day to be out and driving. It was a bright, sunny day, and we soaked it in. We took a longer route, taking a full two hours to drive up through southwest Iowa before cutting across to Omaha.

In Omaha, I wanted to introduce Kates to the charm of the Old Market.

We found a public parking lot, and Kates quickly pointed to an appealing brewery across the street. Upstream Brewing Company, and it was awesome. She had the beer battered fish and chips. I had the Brewer’s Pork Sandwich – a fried pork tenderloin medallion with mustard slaw and garlic aioli on a house-baked bun.

With our bellies full and the mild, sunny weather, it was an easy decision to walk the half-dozen or so blocks up to the Orpheum Theater. Inside we took in the ornate vaudeville décor and then found our seats, a couple rows into the balcony, just off stage left. It’s an intimate theater, and yet I don’t know that we could have had a better view of the action.

The show was, in a word, amazing. From the Omaha World-Herald
Some exceptional performances and sensational sets and lighting finish this confection, which features excellent music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, songs that are somewhat unconventional for musical theater. Sometimes they’re mere snippets, such as the clever “Club Knocked Up,” a ditty sung with fabulous harmony in cowboy-swing style when Jenna, the title character, learns she’s pregnant. Others are long form show-stoppers, such as “She Used to Be Mine,” Jenna’s compelling ballad.
And yet, not even that review does it justice.

Even after falling in love with the music during the last several months, Kates and I had no clue we were going to enjoy it so much. The music and scenes flow so seamlessly that I never once felt the need to check my program to see how far along the show was.

“Opening Up” and “Bad Idea,” with the band fully on the stage and the background vocalists clapping their hands in circles, were every bit the big numbers we imagined them being and more.

But we didn’t expect to laugh so much, and so hard. There are some hilarious moments in the show, and every character has their share of scene stealing exchanges – from Jenna's comrades at the diner, Becky and Dawn, to Dr. Pomatter and his nurse. Ogie’s introduction in the diner during “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” was a riot, and “I Didn’t Plan It,” which opens the second act also was a comedic high.

The southern sass of Desi Oakley’s Jenna reminded me of Emma Stone’s Skeeter in “The Help.” … But, oh, did she bring the house down during “She Used to Be Mine.” And when she dismissed Earl, the crowd clapped and shouted him off the stage as if they were Jenna’s best girlfriends, too.

As if the sets weren’t colorful and dazzling enough during the show, the finale – with Jenna’s new diner and a sparkling new sign – was the cherry on top. I was overwhelmed with emotion as the cast sang and danced the reprise of “Opening Up,” and little Lulu bounced around the stage with them. Tears of joy began streaming down my cheeks, and the audience showed its appreciation with an instant standing ovation.

As the house lights came up, Kates and I turned to each other with the biggest smiles on our faces and shared a kiss. … We were so glad we made the trip and got to have that experience today.

If it wasn't for 'Hamilton,' Kates and I sighed as we walked through the lobby ... figuring “Waitress” would have won the Tony last year for Best Musical.

And there’s little doubt we’ll be listening to “Waitress” a lot more this next week.


Beat the November Blues...

My dad sent forwarded this to me and encouraged Kates to try some of this on her students. I would love to see it.

Funny stuff.


Man Resolves To Read The Wikipedia Tabs He Already Has Open Before Starting New Ones

Onion headlines are even funnier when it references something I do myself ...
HILLSBORO, TX—Stopping mid-click and forcing himself to finish the entry for Motown, local man Keith Hayes resolved on Friday to get through the six Wikipedia tabs he already had open in his browser before starting any new ones. “No, no, no. I can’t just keep firing up new tabs whenever something in the text seems interesting,” said Hayes, adding that the entry for The Funk Brothers would have to wait until he’d completed those for Agent Orange, Jim Thorpe, Pseudoscience, Machu Picchu, and The Gemini Program first. “I need to get it together and have some discipline. It’s already crowded up there. One or two more tabs, and I won’t even be able to see what’s what anymore.” At press time, Hayes had clicked a link under References and was sucked into an entirely new website.


Feeling blue

So the Houston Astros won the World Series last night.


After an undeniably thrilling series ...

... the Dodgers had nothing left for Game 7. Yu Darvish, who certainly didn't have my confidence after Game 3, was terrible and helped seal the Dodgers' fate. It didn't help, either, that L.A. couldn't get the big hits when they needed them. Cody Bellinger couldn't seem to hit a grapefruit.

Had someone hit a gap or dropped a home run in the seats when the bases were full of Dodger runners during those first three innings, this would be a far different post. It was a series of lost opportunities for the Dodgers.

I thought it was most anti-climactic, worst Game 7. Ever.

Yeah, it was fun to see the Astros win. It was a long time coming for them. They have a great team with fun-to-watch, young talent. It's great for the city of Houston, after all its people have been put through since Hurricane Harvey. ... And there's the whole Sports Illustrated prediction thing. I vividly remember receiving that edition and thinking at the time, "What the ...!?" It was fresh on my mind throughout this series and now it's legend.

But I really wanted to see the Dodgers win, and -- after watching so much of their dream season -- I truly believed they would. Maybe next year. ... Even though Sports Illustrated already is picking an Astros repeat. (Is it me or doesn't that happen after every World Series - that some analyst caught in the glory of "the best series we've seen in recent memory" proclaims "This is a talented team that is built to win for a long time and I believe the will be back here next year!" I'm pretty sure we heard it last year with the Cubs, the Royals and numerous teams before them ... )

Here's a fun Astros' fans guide to glory. I can definitely relate to this after the Royals' big win in 2015.

Still, let's all remember we are in a Golden Era of Cubs baseball, too.


Happy Halloween!

Oh, man, we have a Game 7.

The sweetest and most anticipated game of a baseball season. It would be wrong to have it any other way after this season, this postseason and this series.

And after this night.

We did the whole trick-or-treating thing tonight -- for the second consecutive night. The 'Ville has a unique trick-or-treating culture in that the community and the university step up big time to provide kids and their families with safe and fun environments to do the traditional dress-up and candy collecting stuff -- which renders the traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating almost pointless.

We spent Saturday at a farm outside of town that opens each fall as a Halloween-season wonderland with a large pumpkin patch, corn maze and a load of kid-friendly activities that include rubber duck races, a huge slide, pumpkin bowling and mini train rides. This year there was an air gun that the girls especially enjoyed, shooting tennis balls at targets posted at various distances across the field. ... We spent so much time there Saturday afternoon and had so much fun that we skipped our annual trip to the trick-or-treating and haunted campground tour at the city's recreation area.

Last night was the annual downtown trick-or-treat. Kates packed the girls' costumes in their backpacks when we left the house yesterday morning for school. They changed into the costumes after the school day, we rushed from our respective places and met in the church parking lot at 5 p.m. to join the downtown crowd. For the downtown trick-or-treat, the city's square is sprawling with activity as all of the businesses open their front doors and invite children to step inside for candy and treats. A police and fire departments park their vehicles along the streets and hand out goodies. Mascot greet children and pose for pictures at the corners. Last night temperatures in the 40s made it easily the coldest one we've done, but the girls were troopers and would have visited several more businesses had Kates and I not forced them to cut some corners and stay on one side of the road at times.

And that brings me to tonight -- trick-or-treating in the university residence halls. It's another fun Halloween event that we took forward to each fall when the students on campus open their doors and hand out candy to the visiting children. Some of them even dress up, and it's fun to see them "awww" at the kids' costumes as they walk the halls and visit each room for candy. But after an hour or so of trick-or-treating -- and their classroom parties during the school day, not to mention the trick-or-treating Monday night -- the girls were done. The feet were getting heavier. The tears were starting to flow. And I was frustrated that they wouldn't pose for me to take a photo of them in their classrooms.

They were mermaids this year. Kates' mom crocheted mermaid tails for each of the them that were open at the feet but designed the fins so they covered their shoes. They had matching bikinis tops and crocheted flowers to place in their hair as well. Kates got matching pink shirts for both girls to wear. And they were adorable. But no picture.

Suffice to say, I could hardly wait to get them to bed so I could hide away to watch Game 6 and hope for a Dodgers win.

And they came through. Say all you want about Justin Verlander -- I agree, he's one of the greatest pitchers of his era and I enjoy watching him -- but the Dodgers got to him in Game 2, and I was confident going in the Dodgers could get to him tonight.
For five innings, Verlander was awful hard on the Dodgers. Yasiel Puig's single in the second gave them their only baserunner in that span, and George Springer's solo shot in the third seemed as if it might stand as the only run the Astros would need. 
But then came Austin Barnes' at-bat to start the sixth. When he worked the count to 2-0, it was just the fifth time all night that a Dodgers hitter had been in an advantageous count. And Barnes took advantage by anticipating that run and ride, staying on top of the 94-mph four-seamer that came his way and smacking it to left for a leadoff single.

Then Chase Utley -- one of my favorite players of this generation, I'm really disappointed he hasn't seen more playing time this series -- was hit by a pitch, and Chris Taylor -- who has seemed to come up with so many key hits in this series -- Taylor hit the game-tying double. Corey Seager hit a huge sacrifice fly to score Utley. The Dodgers -- with some fine glove work by Cody Bellinger -- went on to win 3-1 and all was swell.

Good reads ...


‘Will & Grace’ Is Back.

Monday morning.

The kids don’t have school today because the schools have a professional development day. Which means I’m home with them while Kates attends meetings all day.

Right now, the kids are watching Nickelodeon. Which means I get to have some time reading and writing.

This piece about “Will & Grace” ran in The New York Times over the weekend, and I am laughing out loud just imagining how the characters will act in today’s “Age of Rage.”

Count me and Kates as viewers who will “gobble whole … At a time of political upheaval and civil unrest, liberal network programmers are betting that — like themselves — the masses are wistful for the Bill Clinton 1990s.”

I loved seeing the cast reunite for last year’s election video and I about jumped out of my chair when I read that NBC was bringing the series back. Shows like “Will & Grace,” “Friends,” “Frasier” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” helped me laugh my way through college. Although reruns are plentiful, having “Will & Grace” back on primetime will be a thankful sort-of escape to simpler times.

And speaking of “Friends,” the show is helping Latin players in Major League Baseball perfect their English. Who knew!?


Summer vacation, day 7: Happy 50th, Summerfest

Seven days into our summer vacation and I finally got to join the Summerfest party tonight.

The Big Gig is turning 50 this year, and I was determined not to miss it. Living eight hours away and having a growing family has made it more difficult in recent years. Due to the girls' summer activities this year and our travel schedule for this vacation, tonight was the earliest I could get here.

After Summerfest announced this year's headliners in the spring, I was whining out loud to Kates about all the great bands I was going to miss during the first half of the festival. The Moody Blues. Toto. Hanson. My beloved Guster. Paul Simon played the Marcus Amphitheater.

"We could move back to Wisconsin," Kates said. And my whining stopped right then and there. I love my job too much and am not ready to have that conversation yet.

Sunday night we were in town, and I debated coming down to the festival to catch Steve Miller Band. But I opted instead for a quiet night with the girls and several episodes of "Fuller House."

So tonight was the night. I really wanted to see Tegan and Sara. I've enjoyed their stuff for more than a decade now and, after a few missed opportunities, wanted to be a part of their Summerfest stop this year.

I left Kates and the girls this afternoon with Kates' parents on the other side of the state. I met rush hour traffic in Milwaukee, found a parking garage near the art museum and was on the grounds around 6:30.

I went true Wisconsin for dinner and got myself a Usinger's Italian sausage covered with marinara sauce and grilled onions. With a Mountain Dew, of course.

From there, I explored the grounds. I passed through the Summerfest store to see if I could pick up anything unique to mark Summerfest's big 5-0, but the merchandise was way overpriced - $50 t-shirts! $30 for a commemorative guitar pick! I paged through the commemorative book, and it also was a major disappointment, filled with large photos and little written content. It lacked any creative design and looked like some kid made it by importing Summerfest's photo collection into some Shutterfly photo book software and clicking the order button.

Further lowering my expectations of any interesting or attention-grabbing output from Summerfest's creative or archiving staff was the "Summerfest 50" history exhibit, which I should note was created in partnership with the Milwaukee County Historical Society - and you'd think that partnership would help raise the bar. ... But it was nothing more than a series of banners printed with photos and some captions, mostly copied straight from the commemorative book. The exhibit was meant to be a chronological history, but some of the photos - based on my own Summerfest history knowledge and what I had just seen in the book - were clearly out of order. No Summerfest memorabilia either. My history faculty friends at the university and their students would have put that exhibit to shame.

I explored the grounds a little longer. I saw a bikini-clad woman hipping a hula hoop while playing a saxophone.

A woman painted in gold and wearing a suit, performing as a statue in the middle of the lakeshore walking path. And a young man repeatedly juggling for a minute or so before turning into a statue, a sign on the ground in front of him asking passersby to drop money in his bucket to see him come alive.

I also heard two covers of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" within my first hour on the grounds. ... The crowd was noticeably sparse tonight, compared to most Summerfest nights, though. After all, the ground headliners were lightweights, with REO Speedwagon being, arguably, the major draw at the BMO Harris Pavilion, while Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers was playing at the Marcus. There were Plenty of good seats available for Tegan and Sara.

A semi-cool guy rock band - King Washington whose sound reminded me of the BoDeans - played at 8.

It was Tegan and Sara's turn at 10, and what can I say? They were a pleasure to see and hear.

Rainbow lights moved over the stage - which was set with three huge beachy inflatables spelling out T-&-S - as the band came on to the sound of Le Tigre's "I'm So Excited." I'm not sure that was planned, but it was a fitting introduction.

The show took on a relaxed, chilled vibe as their synth pop and layered vocals filled the space. The girls - conceding they are 37 years old, though they still look like 18 - bee-bopped and twirled around the stage while they sang. They were cute. And genuine with the crowd as they shared about their exploration of Milwaukee earlier in the day and complimented the crowd on having a beautiful city. At one point they gave a shout-out to all of the single people in the crowd and tried playing matchmaker - "90s-style." They proclaimed their open support for the LGBTQ community without getting political. "There's lots of love to go around at a Tegan and Sara concert," Tegan said.

The show really hit its stride when Tegan moved away from her Korg synthesizer, strapped on a guitar and the band banged out the thumping "Northshore." They followed it with an equally thunderous "Living  Room," which is one of my favorites. Here's a snippet ...

In honor of 10 years since releasing "The Con," they announced plans to perform the full album and stripped-down version of those songs during upcoming shows. They proceeded to go acoustic on their next three songs, "The Con," "Call It Off" and "Nineteen."

The acoustic set was just enough of an interlude before they got back to their electronics and turned the volume back up with a series of songs from their latest album, "Love You to Death," including "Hang on to the Night," "BWU," "Stop Desire" and "U-turn."

Of course, they ended their set with "Boyfriend" ...

And "Closer" ...

Two of their biggest hits, there was no other way out. And they sounded great.

And that was it. An efficient exploration of the best material in their catalogue that lasted barely an hour. But it was a pleasure.

Here's the setlist ...

1. “Back in Your Head”
2. “How Come You Don't Want Me”
3. “I Couldn't Be Your Friend”
4. “Goodbye, Goodbye”
5. “Drove Me Wild”
6. “I Was A Fool”
7. “Shock To Your System”
8. “Alligator”
9. “Northshore”
10. “Living Room”
11. “The Con”
12. “Call It Off”
13. “Nineteen”
14. "Hang on to the Night"
15. “BWU”
16. “Stop Desire”
17. “U-turn”
18. “Boyfriend”
19. “Closer”


Egg Yolk Dripping All Over Sandwich

Biting into an egg, cheese and bacon sandwich, and then having the egg yoke break and ooze through the rest of the sandwich, has to rank high on my list of favorite foodie sensations.

So from The Onion this week ...
SARASOTA, FL—Saying that the plump liquid center had been broken and was trickling warm yellow goo on all sides, a report released Thursday found that, oh, fuck yeah, an egg yolk was dripping all over a sandwich. “Oh baby, just look at that,” the report read in part, adding that, hell yes, every ingredient in the sandwich was now soaked in the stuff. “Man oh man, it’s flowing onto the plate now. So goddamn tasty.” The report went on to say—sweet Jesus fucking yes—that a piece of crispy bacon had fallen out of the sandwich and could be dipped into the yolk.


Saturday morning reading

It’s Saturday morning.

Kates is in bed, trying to bat away a head cold that’s plagued her the last few days.

Faye was up, as usual, at the crack of dawn – preventing me from getting a head start on the day and trying to accomplish some things before the rest of the house awoke. Now she’s cozied up in a chair, watching her Saturday morning Disney cartoons. “My Friends Tigger & Pooh.” “PJ Masks.” “Mickey and the Roadster Racers.”

Phoebe is still sleeping, recovering from a night of bowling with the families of my office colleagues. The big drama in her world last night was that, in the three games we bowled, she failed to get a strike.

I am sitting at our dining room table, basking in the sunlight – the cats are doing the same in their lounge areas beside me – and reveling in the fact that temperatures are going to approach a high of 70 degrees today.

I’m also loving The New York Times’ political coverage these days, particularly its commentary about the new administration.

Today’s revelations …

Tom Brokaw was asked in 1969 to be President Nixon’s press secretary.

A PBS station in San Antonio censored a commentary addressing the Republican themes of stifling mainstream media, only to realize its mistake and let the commentary piece air later.

The longtime friendship of Jorge Pérez and Donald Trump is now cold as a result of the administration’s controversial policies and rhetoric.

Kellyanne Conway. Nothing more to say on that topic.

And from the amazing Gail Collins, James Buchanan’s days as the worst president in American history may be numbered. (Newsweek has a story about the presidential survey, in which Obama fell just short of the top 10 in his first appearance in the ballot. Sigh.)
I know some of you are worried that the president is losing his mind. Perhaps you think that he’s depressed over the fact that his first four weeks in power have been marked by a disastrous attempt at immigration control, the axing of the national security adviser, the ignominious retreat of a nominee for labor secretary and a failed military raid in Yemen.

No. “I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done,” Trump said at his press conference. Remember, this is not a man who does self-deprecating irony.

Oh, and the 25th Amendment may be a thing.

Time for me to get outside.