Thursday, April 19, 2018

Jeeves and the Golden Arches

Many years ago, I was challenged to write a restaurant review in the style of a famous writer. I think it was for a contest for the San Francisco Examiner, so it would have been 1992 or 1993.

I, of course, chose PG Wodehouse, with whom I am enamored.

I ended up writing this.  Recently found it, and thought I'd resurrect it onto the internet.

Enjoy!   (And if you'd care to take the challenge of writing a restaurant review in the style of a famous writer, I would love to read it!)


Jeeves and the Golden Arches




Nobody is more alive than I am to the possibilities of a well-turned out breakfast. If there is one thing that old Bertram can be counted on for in the clutch, it is the enjoyment of a solid slice of toast with butter, followed by a precisely measured swallow of tea, and then soundly supported by the well fried egg and bacon sandwich. I have always said that if you give a man an egg, he will be confused; give a man a fried egg sandwich, and his mind will remain sparkling clear.

With this thought in mind we entered the Golden Arches. There was something slightly Moroccan about the decor: Bright orange walls, a subtle air of mystery, and chaps in little hats bustling around. Quite exotic, I thought.

"What ho, Jeeves! This place is a bit of a pip. I quite like it here. Rather cheery."

"If I may be so bold, sir, I might suggest that our appetites will be better served at another culinary establishment."

"Oh come now, Jeeves. It's not quite so bad. I overheard old Fosly-Postlewaite talking about it just the other day, and he said he had a Chopped Meat Something or Other that was quite tasty. Rather hit the spot, he said."

"True, sir, but I had occasion to speak with Mr. Fosly-Postlewaite's man-servant, who spoke rather disparagingly of the bacterial content contained within the victuals. It seems that Mr. Fosly-Postlewaite managed to contract a case of what is euphemistically known as The Arch Revenge."

I did not like the man's attitude. I detected a glimmer of disdain in his approach. I decided to put my foot down.

"I rather like it, here, Jeeves, and Revenge or no Revenge, I shall have the Egg Sandwich upon a muffin, with a spot of sausage as well." The ice in my voice was extraordinary. When a Wooster is determined, he can be firm.

"Very good sir" Jeeves went and ordered from the server, a dour-looking matron with a hideous smile on her face. He brought back the food on a plastic tray.

"Breakfast is served."

"There, you see Jeeves. Not so bad, is it? No revenge or other silly nonsense happening. I haven't turned into a werewolf or anything like that."

The man was silent. Positively sullen.

"This seems a perfectly respectable sandwich. And now for the eating. What is it that that poet said? Something about his kingly breaches?"

"I believe that would be Shakespeare's Henry V, "Once more unto the breach my friends."

"Exactly. Couldn't have said it better, myself." I took my first bite. "And furthermore---"

I gagged. The taste of fried rubber was all throughout my lower larynx. With the reflexes that made me the champion gobber at school, I spit out the so-called sandwich.

"Jeeves. Start the car. We must leave this place at once."

"The roadster is already started, sir."

"Jeeves! But how did you know?"

"I endeavor to give satisfaction, sir."

Thursday, April 5, 2018

RIP: Uncle Ricky

Today is both a happy day and a sad day.  It's our 10 year anniversary (see previous post:  That's the happy part)  And the sad part is that I just got word that Stephanie's Uncle Rick passed away today.

The first time I met Ricky he challenged me to a game of Scrabble.

A lot was on the line.  I was dating his niece, and he'd heard I was good at Scrabble. and he wanted to see for himself.  He prided himself on being a good Scrabble player, and he needed to see if I cut the mustard.  I gamely agreed to play him, but I warned him in advance that I was going to bring the heat.  As an avid sports fan, (and a Cubs fanatic) I think he liked that metaphor and I scored some points with him.  That, and the fact that I liked TAB cola.

This is not our board, but it might have been.
As promised, I showed no quarter, and I scored more points with him when I won the game in a come from behind victory not unlike his beloved Cubs had a few years ago.  I don't remember the details, but I think I was down by 45 points, and I scored 53 to win on a bingo.  We played a few more times, and I think it was always pretty close, but I managed to win a few more times.   We talked about it almost everytime we saw each other, but somehow we stopped playing.


ABOVE:Uncle Ricky reading us his poem at our wedding
BELOW: Group hug with Uncle Ricky at our wedding.

We saw each other at lots of family events, including our wedding, where he gave us one of his patented poems (super corny, extra long, and filled with terrible rhymes and heartfelt sentiments.)  We also took in a couple of sports activities, including a soccer game and a couple of Saluki games.  He was a huge Saluki fan (he and his wife travelled all over the country watching the Salukis play)  

When he visited us in New York, I was at a loss of where to take him- he's not much of an art museum guy.  Fortunately, I discovered the NY Sports Museum of America (which closed 6 months later) where we had a fantastic time looking through the room of Heisman winners, seeing one of Shaq's shoes, while Ricky regaled me with tales of bowling leagues and trophies  (He was a bonafide sports nut!)

I thought of Ricky when I was recently at Northbrook for a speedskating match. They had a wall of fame to the lost art of ice barrel jumping. I wanted to find out if he knew about it (apparently it was a big sport once upon a time, especially big in Northbrook, and it has now since become a former sport.)  But it used to have its own television specials. It was just the kind of quirky sport that Ricky would have liked, and known all about. I'm sad I never asked him about it.

Here's some of the photos of barrel jumping from the Northbrook Speedskating Hall of Fame that made me think of Rick.



 
 


Ricky was a true mensch.  Soft-spoken, and humble,  he was a great listener, who always asked good questions, and wanted to know what other people thought.  He loved chatting, and Tab cola, and whenever we met up we'd always drink a Tab and talk.  He was also a big fan of the restaurant Fuddruckers, which he once treated us to a lunch when we happened to be not so far from him. He was a gentle guy, and always a gentleman.  He was a good soul.

Ricky always had a kind and encouraging word for nearly everybody, (except for maybe Donald Trump, who he detested.) The last time I saw Ricky was last Friday night at the Family Seder at his house.  There were 26 people there, and Ricky was in his element, greeting people, laughing, and telling a self-effacing joke.  He led the Seder off with a rather long but impassioned comparison of Trump's America to North Korea, and while it was a little weird to start off the Seder there, everyone at the table knew that it was all heartfelt.  The seder continued, and the food was great, the company was great, and everything was just hunkydory.

As we said goodbye, he clapped me on the shoulder and said maybe we'd play Scrabble again.  I agreed gamely.

Unfortunately, on Sunday, Ricky had a sudden and massive heart attack while napping, and he was not able to recover.  I will update this post with the funeral information.

Hopefully, there is a heaven, and Ricky is up there right now, getting  Ernie Banks's autograph and bemoaning the choices of the Saluki's coach, drinking TAB and playing Scrabble. And maybe even learning more about Barrel Jumping.

Godspeed, Uncle Ricky!

UPDATE:

The obituary from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Schwab, Richard D. Of St. John, IN, died on April 5. He was 71. Rick spent 49 years in the insurance industry, nearly 40 of them as an agent at Rick Schwab State Farm Insurance in Glenwood, IL, the town where he and treasured wife Diane raised their two sons, Danny and Jay. Rick was born in Chicago and spent most of his youth living on the south side of the city, unaware that the love of his life and wife of 41 years was growing up just a few blocks away. Many days of his childhood were spent playing neighborhood ballgames and skipping class in favor of rooting on his Cubbies at Wrigley Field. Rick was a sports fanatic with a penchant for backing the underdog. He was especially enraptured with the Cubs - even authoring a book, "Stuck on the Cubs," a humorous take on the life of a Cubs fan. His passion ran equally deep for his beloved Salukis, the sports teams of his alma mater, Southern Illinois University. He also was a horse racing enthusiast and lover of bowling. Rick was known for his extreme generosity, be it with loved ones or even strangers on the street. His perfect day would include a piping hot pizza, an ice cold can of Tab and reliving stories of beloved athletes such as Ernie Banks and Walt Frazier, surrounded by family and friends. What else made Rick beam? A hot blackjack streak in Las Vegas, a homecoming parade in Carbondale, a musical that kept him awake until at least intermission, and virtually anything uttered by his three grandchildren. He had little use for iPhones or social media, believing that preferable forms of communication included a well-crafted letter, a nightly newscast and a good, old-fashioned newspaper. Rick is survived by Diane; by his two sons, Danny (Emmy) and Jay (Alexa); siblings Steven (Nancy) and Melinda (the late Alan Goldberg); his grandchildren, Sarah, Gabriel and Audrey; his mother, Gertrude Metzger; a beloved circle of extended family and friends, and his "granddogs," Sadie and Walter. He was preceded in death by his father, Hank Schwab, and his in-laws, Harry and Magrit Sugar. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Southern Illinois University Foundation or JDRF. Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, April 9 at B'nai Yehuda Beth Shalom, 1424 W. 183rd St., in Homewood, Ill. Burial will follow at Jewish Oakridge Cemetery in Hillside, IL. For funeral information, 847-256-5700.
Published in Chicago Sun-Times on Apr. 6, 2018



Ten Years Ago I got Married:

Today marks my ten year wedding anniversary.

The time seems to have done two things simultaneously.  It seems to have whisked by in a heartbeat (well, not quite a heartbeat, but certainly not 3652 days, give or take the odd meridians)  And at the same time, it seems forever.  Not in a bad sense, mind you.  It's just that I have a hard time remembering what it was like not to be married.



Our first dance as a married couple.  Of course, it was probably our last dance as well!
Oh, I remember that I wasn't married.  I have lots of great memories of things I did with previous girlfriends, or friends, or  with family, or solo, when I traveled on tour with one of a few circuses I traveled with, or when I toured my show internationally, or the summer I lived in Picton Ontario, or the summer I worked for the Guthrie Theater.





But it's just hard to imagine now not being married.  Being married to my wife seems very natural, like the natural order of things. (And that's not something I thought I'd be saying 10 years ago, at that beautiful antique ballroom in Yonkers, with many of my friends and family gathered around, listening to Klezmer and watching friends stand up and do little pieces of comedy for us, as the NY Times looked on.  Yes, we were in the NY Times for our marriage.  Twice.


Here's the VOWS article:  https://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/fashion/weddings/13vows.html
Here's the 3 years later article: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/fashion/weddings/01UNIONS.html

And here's the NYTimes video that tells our story:



I'm not going to pretend that there aren't problems or that there haven't been problems or that there might not continue to be problems.  Problems are part of the human condition.  Those that think they don't have problems probably aren't thinking too hard about what's going on or are ignoring them hoping they will go away.  I have done both in the past and will probably continue in the future. 

But my point is that problems are normal and to be expected.  As are joys.  And are sorrows.  And all of the other emotions that humans have. 

And on balance, we've had more of the latter than the former. So our balance book is not too shabby. 

So far we've managed to work away through most of our problems, and it is my hope (and my life's work, I guess you could go so far as to say) to continue to do so.

Here's to another 10 years! (And then more, after that!)




Saturday, March 31, 2018

REVIEW: An Epic Tale of Scale- Through April 8

An Epic Tale of Scale is an interactive kids theatre show that makes great use of the Chicago Children's Theatre space to create a site specific performance that roams all over their new venue The Station.  It's fun, imaginatively done, and a great use of theatrical architecture.

Unlike most plays, the show is done by appointment- audiences are limited to groups of 20, with entry times every 15 minutes.  The show itself goes through 8 or 9 different areas of the theatre, using non-conventional theatre spaces in the theatre.  The design of the different areas is mostly fantastic (designed by Chicago Children's Theatre Community Programs Artistic Director Frank Maugieri)

After checking in, you first enter into a strange curio shop, manned by a curious Professor character.  The curios, are all on loan from the Field Museum and feature crazy collections of bugs, old-fashioned skulls, a couple of ancient typewriters. The space (usually the lobby) is completely transformed.  There, one person in your group accidentally swallows an important object that we are told is essential to the saving of the universe, and the rest of the show is a tour through the body (using a shrink ray) to try and find it. Later, you are unshrunk and sent via transport into outerspace, and you learn (SPOILER ALERT) that the thing your compadre swallowed was a message that needs to be given to a weird alien disco race.

The scenic design is fantastic, especially in the first three spaces.  The curio shop, followed by the shrink ray area (done with projections) and then the elevator, which is beautifully repurposed with a puppet element that is surprising and amazing.  After this, the design gets a little more pedestrian. There's a couple of obstacle courses through the intestine,   It's functional and fun, but not nearly as surprising.  By the end of the show (which ends as an intergalactic dance party in a black box room), the design is barebones.  I felt it was almost as if they ran out of build time, so the last half of the spaces got short shrift from the designers.


The acting is fine throughout, with a special kudo to the professor in the beginning, who was a great improviser. The second actor (who shrunk people) wore a clown nose, which I thought was a weird choice. No one else wore a clown nose, and it was not clear why she was wearing the nose other than one joke she made.

The story is serviceable, bordering on clever,  but I was disappointed by the ending.  At one point you are invited to create messages to give to the aliens, but then those messages are not incorporated into the show.  I would have loved it if they had been able to incorporate the messages (which were supposed to save the universe) into the show, and actually make it important.  Somehow, this message, which was supposed to be so important throughout the show, turns out to not be very important at all.

Overall, the show is ingenious and well worth checking out.  It ends on April 8, so make sure to check it out.  Tickets are $47 to attend, which is a little pricey, but they have over 20 performers working the show, so it makes sense. I do wish that for that kind of money a snack was included. The day we went we were pretty hungry and paid extra for snacks. (which are available at the beginning and at a middle part of the show)

Here's a little video of some snippets of the show that I took while watching the show.



An Epic Tale of Scale

March 10 - April 8 
Recommended for Ages 6 and up
Created and Directed by Jo Cattell and Henry Wishcamper
Designed by Frank Maugeri
Music and Lyrics by Gabe Ruiz
Special thanks to The Field Museum












Friday, March 23, 2018

Spring Break Camps Chicago

This post is modified from a post I wrote for our school blog. (Yes, I write blogs for other people and occasionally repurpose them!)


Chicago's Spring Break starts tonight!
Well, officially it starts on Monday, but this weekend is all part of it too!
The break goes for one week.  March 26-30 and school will resume on Monday April 2.  (And the day before is Easter, and the days before that it's Passover.  Everything is coming together beautifully.  (And of course, if you live somewhere else, your break might be different, like next week for the Easter Holiday.  Don't worry, we've got you covered!
We are traveling for part of spring break (seeing family!), and then coming home to be with family for Passover.  #familyfamilyfamily  What plans do you have for your spring break?
If you are not going away, you might try one of these spring break camps that are offered by local arts and science organizations.  I’ve selected a few below, but there’s a whole list available below.  Some of these require preregistration, and some are for the whole week, but many will go day at a time, and many of them still have capacity.  Also, because some of Chicagoland has break April 2-6, most of these organizations have Spring Break camp for two weeks.  Check in with them before signing up!

Chicspring_botanic.jpgago Botanic Garden 
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
Camp for grades K-5 run March 26-30. 9:30am – 3pm. Children will engage in exciting indoor and outdoor activities while exploring the Garden, with experienced teachers who use inquiry-based, hands-on activities. Camp is 63.00 Member | $79.00 Non Member per day. (847) 835-8361. Learn more…

Chicago KICS United FC
Chicago Indoor Sports, 3900 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago
spring_kick$175.00 before March 26, $195.00 after. Camp is held outdoors at the Dunbar Park Sports Park Complex (if good weather), or indoors (if bad weather). Players enjoy the sport of soccer and learn individual techniques, skill and tactics through creative and motivating activities that will increase a player’s passion for the game. Camp is held March 26-30 and April 2-6 from 9am – 12pm. For ages 5-14 years.
Learn more…
Inside Out Art Studio
4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
summer-camp-photo.jpgSpring Break Art Camp for ages 5 and up runs March 26 – 30 from 9 AM to 2:00 PM. $45/day; 3 days $120; $35/ day for 4 or more. Imagine making fun art all day. Never more than 12 students per teacher means individual attention from professional teaching/artists. Learn Art history and terminology while practicing important skills. $40/day ~ 3 days $110 ~ $35/ day for 4 or more (773) 697-5012. Learn more..
The Kids’ Table: Build It, Eat It, Love It 
2337 W. North Ave., Chicago
2864 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago
spring_food_camp.jpgKids can tap into their inner chef this spring break. In this special “build-your-own” week, kids get to make their own signature creations from our base recipe. We’ve got big plans outside the kitchen too, including field day games in the park (weather permitting), kitchen science experiments, building projects, crafty creations and dance parties. March 26-30 & April 2-6. 9am-3pm $90/day. Lakeview locations for ages 4-10 and Wicker Park location for ages 5-11. (773) 235-COOK (2665). Learn more… Learn more…

spring_glassLookingglass Theatre – Spring Break Camp: Treasure Island
821 N Michigan Ave, Chicago
Lookingglass brings the fun of Summergglass Camp to a week-long Spring Break Camp! Mornings are spent learning physical theatre skills, which may include juggling, tumbling, and stage combat. During the afternoons, campers adapt their own versions of past Lookingglass production, Treasure Island. For grades K-4. March 26-30. $325. (773) 477-9257. Learn more…

This is just a selection, check out many more possible camps below:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

REVIEW: You Think It's Easy Being The Tooth Fairy?

We got an opportunity to see the World Premiere of a new kid's musical last week called You Think It's Easy Being The Tooth Fairy?  It's at the Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park until April 22 on Saturdays and Sundays, as part of their KidSeries.

 The show was fun and funny and well done and worth seeing!  It's aimed at kids that are five and over, although I think that younger kids with attention spans would like it, and my son (age 9 going on 19)  liked it too, although he thought it might be a little babyish. But the show is funny enough to be compelling for all ages.




The Tooth Fairy and her faithful helpers the Fireflies.

Get the book on Amazon.

It's based on the book by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt.  The basic story is that a brand new fairy named DewDrop auditions to be the next Tooth Fairy.  She has all sorts of ideas about what it will entail (mostly glamor and dresses and adoration from children)  But as she learns, things are not always what you expect.  Being the Tooth Fairy is not all glitz and glamor.  In fact it's mostly not.  You have to sneak into children's houses while they are asleep, avoid their pets, find the tooth and extract it from the pillow and leave the quarter behind. And it takes muscles to lift quarters and teeth when you are a fairy.  But through grit, determination, fast thinking improvisation, and  the help and encouragement of the Tooth Fairies firefly assistants, she manages to get the job done... But will she be happy?


The acting is mostly delightful, and the plot and music moves along.  The music is not very Broadwayesque-- more gospelly R&B.  The singers do a great job, and while the songs themselves are not particularly memorable (I don't think I can hum one right now) they tell the story really well, and deliver laughter when required.    All of the actors do a great job, especially the three lighnting bugs (all male) who do a sort of reverse parody of a girl group.  The three bugs also have very distinct and comical personalities.

The only real problem for us is that I think that we've told my son different things about the Tooth Fairy than what is in the show.  But he's 9.5, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't actually believe in the tooth fairy anymore (but he says he does, because he loves to receive financial rewards!)  And we've graduated to a dollar rather than a quarter per tooth.  He still enjoyed the show (and he'd lost two teeth the week before, so it was particularly apropos) But for younger kids especially kids who are still believing, this show is engaging, fun, funny, and a winner.

Dewdrop has to do some serious training for the rigors of being the Tooth Fairy

I also want to commend Lifeline for doing great work to make sure that they are accessible to all audience members.  The theater is wheelchair accessible.  They also offer a number of accessible performances.  This weekend they will have performances accessible to blind and deaf patrons.  Saturday March 24, both shows (11 am and 1 pm) will feature open captioning for deaf or hard of hearing patrons. On Sunday March 25, the 11 am show will have a pre-show touch tour as well as live audio description for patrons who are blind or have low vision.   And there will be an added autism/sensory-friendly performance on Sunday, April 15 at 3 p.m. for patrons with social and/or cognitive disabilities. For more information about Lifeline’s accessibility services, please contact Accessibility Coordinator Erica Foster at 773.761.4477 x703 or at access@lifelinetheatre.com



Here's a sample video:


You Think It's Easy Being The Tooth Fairy? (excerpt from "Lookin' Good" song)

You Think It’s Easy Being The Tooth Fairy? runs through Sunday, April 22 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave. Regular performance times are Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (Previews are Saturday, March 17 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and Sunday, March 18 at 11 a.m.)
Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the Lifeline Theatre Box Office, 773.761.4477, or by visiting www.lifelinetheatre.com.

Lifeline Theatre also offers “Name Your Price” tickets a half-hour before the show (subject to availability), group rates and other discounts available upon request.

 At 12 pm in between shows there will be a special Stories Come Alive! Hour. Children will enjoy an interactive storytelling session and on-your-feet theatre games. The cost is only $5 per child. Reservations for this extra session are recommended, though not required.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Meet Olympic Speedskaters!

As you might know, my son is a speedskater. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet some of the Olympian Speedskaters and find out more about the sport!




  In partnership with US Speedskating, The Glen Ellyn Speed Skating Club is hosting an opportunity for skaters young and old to meet current members of U.S. Speed Skating Team just back from PyeongChang.

This will be the only Chicago area stop of the 19 city tour.

On Wednesday April 4 from 3:30-6 pm, come and watch some of the best speedskaters in the world as they tell you their stories, provide a speedskating demo, and give advice on how to be the best speedskater you can be! Olympians at the Glen Ellyn event will include three-time Olympian Mitch Whitmore (Waukesha, Wisc.) and 2018 Olympian Aaron Tran (Federal Way, Wash.)

Admission is free so bring your friends, your family, and anyone who is interested in the sport of speedskating.

Free Admission. All ages. No skating experience required.


The 2018 US Speedskating Team

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

  • Meet and Greet
  • Q&A with Olympians
  • Try Speed Skating
  • Demonstration Race/Relay
Checkin is from 3:30 pm-4pm.
Ice time from 4-5:30 pm,
and the Q& A will go from 5:30pm-6pm.


Bring a helmet and your own skates (Hockey or Figure Skates are fine) or let them  know on the registration form if you need to rent skates. ”Walk-ins” are welcome, but pre-registration is strongly recommended.   To register, visit https://asai.wufoo.com/forms/tour-of-olympians/

Parents must be present to sign a waiver at check-in for anyone age 18 and under. Parents of those age 13 and under must stay for the duration of the program.


WHEN:  April 4 from 3:30 pm-6 pm
WHERE:  Triphahn Ice Arena--1685 W. Higgins Road, Hoffman Estates, Illinois 60169
COST:  Free.
REGISTER:  Not required, but highly recommended. REGISTER ONLINE
FOR MORE INFO:  email glenellynspeedskating@gmail.com or visit http://glenellynspeedskating.org/



The tour will visit 18 other cities:  Here are the other dates.
Find out more on the US Speedskating site

Tour Dates / City (subject to change)
March 23-25 / Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
March 26 / Walpole, Mass.
March 27 / Shelton, Conn.
March 28 / West Orange, N.J.
March 29 / Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
March 31 / Anacostia, Washington D.C.
April 2 / Cleveland Heights, Ohio
April 3 / Midland, Mich.
April 4 / Glen Ellyn, Ill.
April 5 / Milwaukee, Wisc.
April 6 / Green Bay, Wisc.
April 8 / Madison, Wisc.
April 9 / Champaign, Ill.
April 10 / St. Louis, Mo.