Saturday, May 31, 2008

Welcome Home Weekend

School is done, I've gotten my first grade/evaluation (Honors in Blue Collar Theology) and my beloved is thrilled to have me home for the summer. Up in the air is the question of whether I should get a summer job. The extra money would be nice in the face of alarming gas prices and ridiculously large child support payments. What is certain is that I will now have some time to unpack the house and read for frivolity's sake. We got the house-fixing-up underway with the deck...more on that later, though.

Friday night, J made me spaghetti with Italian sausage from the farmer's market. I puttered around unpacking some boxes in the kitchen while she cooked. We rounded out the night watching an Eddie Izzard special we just stumbled across on t.v. I am so glad Brendan & Laura introduced us to his work. He is screamingly funny and so smart. When J dozed off, I sneaked over to Larry King's interview with David Cook (and the other Idol contestants). When she awoke, she just rolled her eyes, unable to believe the monster my auntie has created. LOL!

Saturday morning, we lazed in bed, then hit the farmer's market and grocery store. We ran into an acquaintance from church and had a nice visit with her over the produce. It was time to start getting ready for the big night out when we returned, so we quick put away food and started showers. I got all gussied up in a grey skirt and grey velvet blazer while J wore a button-down with black velvet-trimmed jeans. She's gorgeous. We drove into Cleveland, through the crazy construction on Euclid, and pulled our little Hyundai up to the valet parking at Playhouse Square.

We were right on time for our reservation at Star at Playhouse Square, probably our last big restaurant splurge for awhile and well worth it. It was our first time dining there. Spurred on by Paula Deen-induced brie lust, we chose the baked brie with chutney and cinnamon toasts for our appetizer. I'm not a mixing-the-fruit-in-with-the-cheese guy and much prefer my brie melty & glorious in unadorned stinkiness. My wife, on the other hand, melts herself when the fruit mars the cheese perfection, so she was in heaven. I found it quite tolerable considering and the delicately crunchy little toasts were a delight. The Riesling was quite nice and I've forgotten what kind it was! Too long since I've done any real reviews, clearly. That would be a nice gig to follow my recent piece on Miami for Everywhere magazine. Anyway, we each chose the Maytag-crusted beef tenderloin for our entrée. It was a perfect medium-rare, hard to come by these days. The crust was thick and tangy, a perfect complement to the beef. The accompanying mashed potatoes weren't as good as mine, but with steak like that, who needs sides? The mint chip ice cream and the lovely sorbets were incredibly tempting, but I didn't feel like sitting through a show with an overly full belly, so I will be making us some espresso ice cream with chocolate-covered espresso beans this week instead. Thank you, Ina Garten.

From Star, we made our way into the theater for the Eddie Izzard show. It was wonderful to see so many people turning out to see him. Gives me some hope that there are still lots of intelligent people in the world, after all. Sometimes I worry. He was fabulous, as expected. Our son had pointedly warned us that "he's not a transvestite anymore, you know." On stage, at least. I guess he got tired of people thinking the women's clothing was part of the act, rather than just who he is. He looked splendid in the "bloke" get-up that he'd chosen, worn jeans and black tails with a scarlet lining. I want that outfit for myself! Just like I want David Cook's pointy-toed cowboy boots. Maybe in my next lifetime I want to be a bartender in Tulsa rather than a bull rider. Anyway, Eddie was brilliant and hilarious and I had to be very careful how I laughed to avoid going into a coughing fit. Lots of great theological points and insight on human nature, as well as a great riff on a giraffe seeing a tiger and not being able to warn the other giraffe properly.

After the show, we headed to The Nickel for a show of another stripe. There was a disappointingly small crowd out to see an "aggressive folk" band from Michigan called Nervous and Excited and a local grrl rock band called Early Girl. I really enjoyed the "aggressive folk" duo. Early Girl was not really to my taste, a little too hard-rocking for me. The Butchies was one of the bands they covered. However, it was excellent to see three women rocking out like that. One of these years, we'll get to Michigan Women's Music Fest. One of the women from the first band reminded me of a Charles de Lint character, someone who would play with Geordie and hang out with Jilly and her tribe of "small, fierce women." I could almost imagine folks from the spirit world settling in on bar stools to listen as she fiddled and played her mandolin with a restless twitchiness. Made me want to go back to Newford, my current favorite fictional place to hang out. Twas a good show, even the Wyclef Jean hip-hop song they covered. Seemed a strange choice, but turned out to be a really good commentary.

Sunday morning, we went to church for our pastor's last Sunday before he goes on sabbatical over the summer. Then, we had some cake and lots of conversation at a coffee hour to celebrate our friend Amber's graduation. Now, she just has to get a teaching job. She actually wants to teach middle school! Can you imagine? After church, we headed home and got the hammock stand put back together, the hammock hung, the table wiped down and cushions tied to the chairs. We made a quick trip to Marshall's for a hanging lantern after J made mac & cheese and baked beans. When we got back, J arranged a bunch of her special rocks along the deck railings and then got the grill going. We had hamburgers and hot dogs to break in the new deck, along with frozen cherry margaritas (remind me next time that Emeril likes his a lot stronger than I like mine!). I immersed myself in a mystery novel while J gently rocked in the hammock, dozing to the tune of the kennel dogs singing their loneliness for their humans over the holiday weekend. We ended the night by finally watching "Dan in Real Life" which I found appealing and J thought was somewhat trite. I'd no idea that Dane Cook was in it and it was fun to see him act. He was actually pretty good. I like his stand-up immensely, but had no idea he does straight roles as well.

Monday, we continued our holidays-without-the boys tradition of going to the zoo. The first 4th of July we lived in Cleveland, the boys went to hang with their father and we went to hang with the animals since neither boy wanted to go to the zoo with us. Who wouldn't want to go see animals? It was every bit as much fun this time, maybe even more so. I was thrilled by the chance to be mere feet from a cheetah. Had I been foolish, I could have stepped over the little guard rail, taken one or two steps and stuck my hand through the chain-link fence to feel its fur. I would probably also be minus a finger or three right now. We also saw a leopard very close-up. It kept doing this awful coughing thing that sounded like wood being cut with a two-person saw and made its stomach heave. I wondered if it was trying to get a hairball up. Do big cats get hairballs? It also kept doing this weird tic thing that I have now seen 3 animals do. We'd just spent quite a bit of time watching a bear walk over to a wall, put a paw up on the wall, fling its head back in an elaborate roll, walk away, then do it all over again and again and again. We said, "It's doing a llama!" after the llama we saw at Disney doing a similar thing with its neck and head. Now, the leopard did the same thing as the bear, albeit in its own feline way. Are they being driven crazy by captivity??? Or what??? Had a great time with the monkey-watching, as always, but have been spoiled by Monkey Jungle. I was astounded to see sloths on the move, though. I have never, ever seen one move and they looked so cool. There was even a mama sloth carrying a baby on her stomach. Wow, how cool! One of the tigers was sleeping with belly exposed and huge paws spread-eagle, just like our Fred-Fur. The polar bears were quite active, one utterly snowy and the other mud-dappled. The seals reminded us of good times in Monterey. Saw some amazing action over at the lion habitat. The female was reclining in the shade and a foolhardy bird kept landing near her. I thought, "My cats would definitely eat that bird." Sure enough, she got tired of watching it and lightning-speeded after it, just missing batting it out of the air with one enormous paw. We saw the hippo surface a couple times and enjoyed an Asian man's description, to his son, of the capybara: "It's a humongous rat!" We got to touch sharks, with their ancient-rock textured skin, and sting rays, with their velvet wings. I love the way they glide up over our hands as though they were soliciting touch. I can't imagine that they are, but perhaps. We both had soaked t-shirts after that experience.

After we tired ourselves out watching animals and people inside the zoo, we rode the tram to our parking lot (after a worrisome false start on another tram), dragged ourselves to the car, reparked closer to the picnic tables (making ourselves giggle enormously at our laziness) and carried our basket of goodies over for dinner. J had packed ham salad sandwiches, hummus, garlic pita chips, sundried tomato feta dip, veggie crackers (the sort that used to be shaped like peppers and onions and tomatoes when I was a kid, kin to chicken in a biskit crackers), all kinds of cut-up veggies, fuzzy water for her & cola for me and homemade brownies. We had fun watching people leaving the zoo and getting out for evening walks. We also saw deer leaping across the road. We assume they were wild deer and not from the zoo!

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