Note From Jon


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't Push Buttons on Turtles' Bellies

Next year could be interesting. So far I’ve about doubled my attendance at Fringe shows each year of the festival, from three to five to ten. The madness will have to end though as I’m on pace to see all hundred or so shows by 2011… unless the festival keeps growing—not unlike Telly the Turtle in Prototype 373-G. Telly began as a tiny turtle transported in a leftover Lo Mein box… and ended the play as a stage-filling Tortuga bent on world domination. That’s basically what my Fringe experience was like this year…

It started out all fun and innocent with the funtastic I Like Nuts! (the musical) and Love in the Time of GPS in Ball & Chain. Then somewhere between Through the Looking Glass and Power House: The Disco Energy Dance Along Show things got a little strange—just like when the protagonist in Prototype 373-G, Belly, finds a button on Telly the turtle’s tummy (you know the button that unleashes the evil—and hilarious—space turtle Shiggles, and gives him mind-control powers over Belly... who then becomes an interesting “Tube of Flesh” to pave the way for total-tortuga-domination, by readying her apartment for her insemination at the hands tail (I think) of Shiggles; He likes to munch on leafy greens during coitus, so in preparation Belly’s apartment is soon filled with plants, giant bowls of salad etc.… and an ever expanding Telly the turtle who Shiggles will eventually inhabit.) So yeah, it’s sort of like by going to Power House I unknowingly pushed a button that triggered me to become obsessed with Fringe shows and they took over my life this weekend (though hopefully without all of the insemination and turtle-takeover parallels). Well, something possessed me to see six more shows from Friday to Sunday.

Suddenly everything about my life related to Fringe, thanks to the next show I saw: Tales of Doomed Love. Tales and the next show Children of Medea each had links to the story of Medea, as did Argonautika from a few months ago. Tales also retold part of the Oresteia which I saw recently by Constellation Theatre… with the actress from Tales. Finally, Tales had the story of Tristan and Isolde which I was relieved to have no connection to… until it was the topic of a lecture I heard on Saturday! Tales definitely wins the award for most connections, but I wasn’t in love with the show. I found it most compelling when both actors were interacting to tell a story… unfortunately that only happened in one of the five tales.

The connections weren’t finished after Tales though, they kept going with Children of Medea which was the best (if not fringiest) piece that I have ever seen at Fringe. Among those connections:

  • Recurring scenes set in Wonderland (just like Sunday’s Through the Looking Glass), including a memorable scene where Alice meets the March Hare…a character I played in High School
  • I saw my favorite Fringe shows alone since Darren had opted out of both Nuts and Children of Medea… and would do so again the next day with another favorite, Gilgamesh (no protest by me since I’d picked up the trend and knew it would be good!)
  • Darren and I always check our programs for artists whose credits include our favorite TV show, The Wire. Since it was filmed in Baltimore nearly every show we see includes someone (although no one we ever recognize). Medea did not. However, in the audience for Medea was none other than Delaney Williams who plays McNaulty’s boss Sergeant Jay in all five seasons of The Wire. Now I knew Darren would be pissed he hadn’t stayed!

Friday’s final show Lebensraum was good, and the fact I don’t have more to say about it is not a reflection on Lebensraum but rather just how amazing four other shows I saw this weekend were. Children of Medea was the first of the four and was the clear winner for me… until I saw the next three. Now it’s all muddled again. Gilgamesh for example is exactly what I go to the Fringe festival hoping to see: An ensemble show like my high school theatre teacher Mr. Maiden used to take to the one-act competitions. I loved the rhythms the ensemble pounded out during the fight sequence, the interactions between the actors and the projected shadows, and learning about lacunae (gaps in a manuscript such as the epic of Gilgamesh… or detail about Lebensraum and Power House in this blog post).

Sunday broke the curse and I closed the Fringe out with two more fantastic shows… this time with Darren in attendance! We saw back-to-back shows at the Source Theatre: Prototype 373-G and Born Normal. In addition to having the best costumes of any Fringe show (and just about any other show I can think of) Prototype also included a reference to some of my favorite books growing up: The Choose Your Own Adventure series. The characters had a game of taking turns reading the adventures to each other and swapping when one’s choice led to death… unless they died on the very first decision which would trigger the controversial “Too Young To Die” rule!

  • If you decide to read more about Prototype 373-G, turn to page 1.
  • If you decide to read more about Born Normal, turn to the next page.

If I thought I was all laughed out after Prototype 373-G (and I should have been) I was quite wrong. There were still some connections to be revealed as well such as:

  • Both shows featured new kinds (well names at least) of cancer: Ass cancer in Prototype and Wing cancer in Born Normal.
  • Sitting down in Prototype 373-G I joked with Darren about whether there were any Wire cast members in THAT audience (he was, as expected, bitter to have missed Delany Williams on Friday). I turned around jokingly to scan the audience… and of course, Mr. Williams was once again in attendance!
  • Not only that but between shows we went to St. Ex where we met a chatty drunk woman who was there with her gay husband and his gay friends (no typos in there, just a unique woman). And while she was not at all interested in theatre (making snoring noises each time we discussed shows with a Fringe volunteer who we also met at the bar) her friends did seem to know Delaney Williams who came in for drinks as well!
  • The connections also led to a new friendship with Fringe volunteer Elizabeth at the bar who: gave us our tickets at Prototype, had been in the audience of Children of Medea with me, also had tickets to Born Normal, and is moving just down the street in September.

Oh yeah, I was talking about Born Normal; In which most of the characters are not born normal:

  • There’s the mother with wings
  • The older sister who can heal animals—provided they a) died of natural causes and b) are under 18 pounds, leading to such lines as “I’ve got a stack of parakeets in the corner I’ve been meaning to get to”
  • Younger brother Martin who’s born able to talk and therefore able to answer his mother’s question about his gender: “While I lack the manual dexterity to fully investigate the matter, I believe I am a boy”
  • And Sunshine… whose name might be a bit too “on the nose” as the mother would say since it is just a burning glow within swaddling clothes

And then there is daughter Jane who actually is born normal. It’s hard to say if I was more impressed with the cast’s acting which was, along with Medea’s Sue Jin Song and Prototype’s Hugh Nees, the most impressive of the festival (well my 10 show sampling of the festival), or the script which was written by Stephen Spotswood who is an MFA candidate at Catholic University. I will definitely be on the lookout for more work by all of them, although with 12 shows in 10 days (including Not the Messiah! at Wolf Trap and my sister Mimsi's terrific turn as Frog in Frog and Toad) I am officially going to take a break from theatre… for at least a week.

Notes to Jon:

  • If I hope to get to 20 shows next year I will need them to add shows back on Monday and Tuesday nights, which they took away this year (my biggest disappointment with the festival)
  • Supposedly my Fringe button is good for discounts at local eateries all year long and not just all festival long (I’ll let you know when I test that)
  • I walked up and purchased tickets to all three shows on Friday (despite rave reviews for Children of Medea) and Gilgamesh on Saturday night, but found many times that I wished I could have changed the tickets that I had already allocated from my 10-ticket passes. So my lesson for next year is to risk the sell outs and allocate the tickets from the passes on the day of the show (and frankly after I’ve read some reviews).
  • If I’m ever pulled on stage at the end of Power House, refuse to dance until they try “Contingency Plan 10” on me (aka seducing the dancer into continuing to produce energy). Other than "Contingency Plan 10", the highlight of the show was the Dharma-initiative-esque video in the beginning explaining how they now breed humans who can dance longer so as to generate energy… from the seismic energy produced by the feet, thermodynamic energy from body heat, and hydroelectric energy from collecting sweat (lovely)
  • Drama is harder to pull off than comedy (probably because it requires the audience to be fully invested) but Berlin in Ball & Chain and Children of Medea nailed it
  • Great comedy is still a hell of a lot of fun to go see and I Like Nuts, Love in the Time of GPS in Ball & Chain, Prototype 373-G, and Born Normal were all exceptional comedies
  • I’ll never think of the March Hare the same again after Children of Medea. My portrayal in high school was G Rated. Whereas Sue Jin Song’s NC-17 March Hare sung “You put the right ear in, you pull the right ear out… you put both ears in” etc. Quite the naughty hare.
  • Medea also contained other favorite scenes about expectations on children, where “Alice” has a nightmare in Wonderland about the SAT and is running across a giant scantron trying not to be sucked into the reader, and how parents named their children Yale, Princeton, and Harvard… and their fourth kid Bob. Sue Jin Song was at her strongest when switching into the character of Julie Ann, who was her family’s “Bob”.
  • I wish Darren got to see Gilgamesh, because it was like the theatre we did in high school, but also because it included the story of Shhh… or how The Flood was sent because humans talked so loud they woke the gods.

  • Most of the embedded photos are from the Fringe's official Photo blog and clicking on them will link to the photo blog for that play.
  • Go see any show with costumes done by the Crafts Action League. It’s tough for costumes to steal a show as good as Prototype 373-G but they nearly did: from the green dresses Belly wore, to the green underwear everyone wore, to the pull off shirt-pants-and-tie worn over identical shirt, pants, and tie, to the leafy green costumes of the ensemble in one scene, and most importantly to the turtle costumes of Shiggles and the ever expanding Telly—who at the very end got to be nearly as big as this blog entry… somebody get the water

Thursday, July 24, 2008

You are not "A Better Bag"!

A few months ago, on the way to see Lighting to Unite, we stopped by Whole Foods to pick up dinner. I didn’t have a grocery bag with me, and decided to purchase the latest reusable bag I had been seeing around: the Oysters bag… but they didn’t have it. They only had a slippery and obnoxiously-colored Apple bag with the pronouncement “A Better Bag” on the side.

Better than what? Definitely not better than the perfectly designed retro bags that Whole Foods has been selling for several years. Those retro bags are huge and they stretch, they have the perfect handle length and are durable (my Sack-o-Potatoes bag has already served me well for a couple of years), and the designs are fun, yet neutral enough that anyone could be happy to carry one around. Not so with this new plasticky sack. The “Better” bag doesn’t stretch and more importantly neither do the handles so they aren’t the right length for carrying on your shoulder. But even if the unpleasant feel and improper proportions were fixed, this bag would clearly never work. Look at it. The bag is way too perky. I can not walk around carrying that.

Hopefully this was just a one-off bag created to satisfy the niche market of overly-perky people. Surely the retro bags aren’t being replaced by this “Better” bag… then I remembered this is the same company that closed down my beloved Jamba Juice bar inside their store. They really could be that stupid. I turned to the internet to find out; convinced there would be hordes of outraged shoppers like myself. I’ve never felt more alone. Even people who are looking for someone to eat can find likeminded nuts on the internet, but no one was talking about the potential demise of the polyfabric Whole Foods bag. In fact, no one seemed to have talked much about them at all. I couldn’t even find out which ones were out there. People had talked about an “I am not a plastic bag” designer bag that had caused riots and was selling on eBay for hundreds of dollars, but really all that could be found about the retro bags was that the Reusable Bag Lady sells them on eBay.

So I am apparently the only person on the planet who cares about this, but I do have a blog so I decided to have some fun. My goal is to catalog all of the bags in the retro series… which means that I must first collect all of the bags in the series. A quick inventory indicated that I had Potatoes, Clementines, Lemons, Flour, and Grapes (which had even served as my extra luggage to bring back gifts from Russia!). I knew about Coffee, Honey, Apples and Oysters. Oysters was easy since it was still for sale at some Whole Foods (thus giving me hope that the series would continue).

Next was Apples (the cool Anniversary retro Apples, not the wannabe Apples on the “Better” bag) which turned out to be the most enjoyable of all. I mentioned my fun little obsession to Laura at a performance of Prairie Home Companion and she joined in whole-heartedly (see how angry she is about the impostor Apple "Better" bag!). We started noticing just how many of the different bags were represented there on the picnicker-packed lawn at Wolf Trap. Towards the end of the show we stood and sang the Star-spangled Banner… and as we did a Honey walked by! Resisting the unpatriotic urge to rush after it, we waited until the song finished… but couldn’t find Honey anymore. Then suddenly Laura was up and running after an Apples she had just spotted. A minute later she came back to grab the Oysters we had brought to carry our picnic. Apples was willing to trade for Oysters! Laura really came though and as much as I enjoyed getting Apples, I think the family we traded with were just as excited to be helping in the quest to collect them all. We talked to them for quite a bit afterwards; about the bag quest, about their recent trip to Italy, and we found out that they received news during the show about the newest addition to their extended family (and even managed to get Garrison Keiller to announce it during intermission).

Turns out we were right to continue singing the National Anthem as I was doubly-covered on Honey when the very next day my sister (who was now also in on the hunt) informed me that she had a Honey she could give me, and at virtually the same moment I received a text from Laura that she had managed to get Honey off of a customer at Starbucks. Only Coffee remained.

That same night at Jeff’s block party, Mattalie showed up carrying a Coffee that belonged to Jeff. Since Jeff had forgotten he’d left it with them in the first place, he eventually decided I should have it to complete the collection. Finally, Sara came through with a refresh for my Clementines which had sat out in the weather for the past two years as the official Bocce ball carrier. The collection was complete.

Thanks to all of you who played along with me in trying to document these great bags. That basically wraps up the standard collection which I have documented below but I’ve since learned about an insulated Pickles bag, a Banana-Split cooler, and the limited-edition Ohio-only Buckeyes bag! While I could “Buy it Now” for about $20 from the Reusable Bag Lady on eBay that seems like cheating so I will instead rely on my friends or try to hunt down the elusive Buckeye on my own when I attend a wedding in Ohio in mid-August. Update: And of course I chose wisely!

Sadly, my hopes that the “Better” bag was a mistake that Whole Foods would abandon in favor of continuing the superior retro series were shattered at Jazz in the Sculpture Garden last Friday. I saw the new I-used-to-be-a-plastic-bottle “Better” bag. Thankfully the colors are not as obnoxious, but I still feel much cooler carrying around the retro bags (what do you mean they all look like a purse on my shoulder anyway… and that I’ve never looked more foolish than when I brought one to carry my lunch on a climbing trip—before learning I’d need to have both hands free to hike to the base of the cliffs—hey, I looked stupid alright, but the stretchy straps do allow it to be worn as a backpack! Try that with the “Better” bag).

Why am I so vehemently against the “Better” bag? Well, mainly because it is fun. But also because I really did find the old bags more versatile and fashion-acceptable and don’t care much about the supposed improvements of the “Better” bag:
  • It is washable: Frankly I’ve never felt inclined to wash the old bags, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they held up just fine too.
  • It is made from recycled bottles (well 80%): Great, no wonder it feels like a plastic bottle—which is not a pleasant feeling for a bag. For the number of times I reuse these bags, it’s more important how well they work than how they are made.

But for all my mock hatred of the “Better” bags they are much better than disposable plastic bags (which Whole Foods has stopped using) and that really is the most important point. If you don’t know why check out the plastic soup that’s twice the size of the continental U.S. Thanks to my friend at Ocean Conservancy (do I have the updated name right Sarah :-) ) for pointing that out.

Below are the fruits (and other assorted foods) of our labor. Ideally I’d like to include the order and time period that each of the bags was released, so if any readers have that information please pass it along. All I know is that Potatoes was first, I think Clementines was second, Grapes was next to last and Oysters was last.

Viva la Whole Foods retro bags!

#1 Potatoes (Released 2005)

#2 Flour (Released 2005)

#3 Apples (Released 2005)
Bag provided by Laura

#4 Coffee (Released 2005)
Bag provided by Jeffrey

#5 Lemons (Released 2006)

#6 Pickles (Insulated Lunch Bag-smaller) (Released 2006)
Bag provided by Mimsi

#7 Clementines (Released 2006)
Bag provided by Sara

#8 Honey (Released 2007)
Bag provided by Laura and Mimsi

Still looking for #9, the Banana Split cooler and limited edition place mats!

#10 Grapes (Released 2007)

#11 Buckeye (Limited Edition for Columbus, Ohio only) (Released 2007)
Bag provided by Natalie!

#12 Trick or Treat Bag (smaller) (Released 2007)
Bag provided by Mimsi

#13 Oysters (Released 2007)

#14 Earth Banana (Released October 2008)
Bag provided by Jeffrey

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Virile as a particularly attractive mountain lion

It’s generally a good thing when you leave a musical and find yourself singing the closing number as you exit the theatre. It can be a bit disconcerting though when that theatre is near Dupont Circle and the chorus of the song is “I like nuts! I like nuts in my mouth”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s not the attention I am looking for.

So what had me singing in the streets? I like Nuts! (the musical). The first of three Capital Fringe Festival shows I checked out this weekend. Nuts was my favorite and only a notch below last year’s favorite Cautionary Tales For Adults and the Many Adventures of Trixie Tickles. For me, Nuts was basically Trixie Tickles without the clever props and my audience crush on the lead actresses. Featuring a quest for Nutty Knowledge to secure a job in a nut factory, the cast included two angry squirrels, a pirate, a robot, and a vegan vampire—and the show was just as delightfully ridiculous as it sounds. From a staging perspective, it was one of the few shows I’ve seen that was in the round, so between laughs I was fascinated to see how they set up the blocking so the entire audience could enjoy the show (exit aisles in each corner are key). While I can’t say I gained any enlightenment (other than some useful trivia regarding legumes, drupes and seeds) I was laughing hysterically for most of the hour. That’s well worth the price of admission and probably a much healthier way to spend an hour than at Anger Therapy—which the squirrels want to start so they can share their hatred with the world.

Saturday night was Journeymen Threater’s Ball & Chain at The Universe, which as the house manager stated “is warm” and he was glad to see we had all received our “fans” (the programs) at the door (The Universe is the basement of a church without AC … and highs on Saturday topped 100°). The show was actually seven mini-shows which had been written about the theme of love and marriage, and while not all seven lived up to the caliber of the hilarious introduction by the house manager (technically I believe I recall he was Marketing Director Matt Dunphy) a couple of them more than made up for the rest. Michael Harris’ Love in the Time of GPS highlighted the humorous side of love. Illustrating what might happen if your GPS was in love with you and got jealous of the new girl—[Proceed straight for 100 yards, and drive over that pulsating red mass in the road… that is my heart]. Or if you threatened to toss the jealous GPS (which has been bitterly insulting you) right out the window and she needs to recant she might say—[You are virile as a particularly attractive mountain lion]. Admittedly I have a much higher standard for enjoying a dramatic piece than a comic one but as I failed to get drawn into some of the more dramatic mini-plays in Ball & Chain, I wondered if that standard was unrealistic… until the final piece, Emily Steel’s Berlin, restored my faith. This poignant piece juxtaposes a girl’s obsession with Berlin with the divisions—and hope for reunification—of her divorced parents. It was a simple but powerful connection. Playwrights outnumbered actors in Ball & Chain 7 to 2 and I fear that ratio may increase if they don’t get a new costume for Krista Cowan (there is a legitimate danger that The Universe will melt her in that sweater). While I still yearn for a piece to rival Journeymen’s 2006 Fringe entry Bartleby, those two sections made Ball & Chain worth enduring the heat (plus, unlike the actors, we were given fans!)

Omniumgatherum’s Through the Looking Glass rounded out the weekend. I had mixed opinions about this show. On the one hand it was an ensemble piece where the actors create the set pieces, which is the type of theatre that I particularly enjoy (and don’t get to see much of outside of Fringe). In addition I have fond memories of bounding around stage in a six-foot rabbit suit as the March Hare for our high school production of Alice. Unfortunately the show was rather short and not as whimsical as I had hoped it would be (most likely because my Alice impressions are colored by Disney more than Lewis Caroll), but mainly I found myself frustrated by the blocking which left me craning to see a scene in the center aisle (while the stage behind lay empty) or staring at the actors backs. Nonetheless, there were plenty of interesting moments to sooth my initial terror when I realized from the program that everyone in the production seemed associated with University of Maryland Theatre. While I am sure they have a great program, my only association with their theatre is the 2006 Fringe show, The Play About the Hurricane, that Darren and I use as our baseline of unpleasant theatre-going experiences. This was no Hurricane and had plenty of fun moments including:

  • Representing Alice’s reflection by pushing a mask into an elastic silver cloth creating an effect reminiscent of the water creature from Abyss.

  • Two Wonderland creatures do battle by contorting themselves around each other without touching until one loses their balance and falls over
  • Having the cast create a door where two members represent the frame, one the door in the middle, and another sticking an arm though to serve as a doorknob which Alice turns
  • An exchange along these lines between Alice and talking flowers in a garden:
    • Alice: How come you talk and other flowers don’t?
    • Flowers: Feel down there
    • Alice (feeling the dirt): It’s hard
    • Flowers: Yes. Most flower beds are soft… so the flowers are asleep

I’ve learned some more lessons about how to better enjoy the Fringe festival but I’ll save them for my conclusions after next weekend’s round of shows.

Monday, July 21, 2008

60-Finger Salute

Congratulations to 60-Finger Sanchez (Mary's volleyball team that I've been subbing for) for not only making it to the playoffs for the first time in their storied franchise history but for advancing all the way to the championship game (what happened after that is sort of irrelevant). The victorious season was not without consequences though as both Mary and Aaron now share matching fractured ankles :-( I believe Sanchez plans to revel in this season's success and regroup for another run at the championship in the fall. In the mean time we've got plenty of work to do to get Casual Sets into the playoffs in our Wednesday league on the Mall. While I won't claim any credit for being the reason that Sanchez got to the championship game this season, I also won't take any blame for the discovery yesterday that my former softball team (Raising Arizona) is now suddenly in first place in the Congressional League... the year after I stopped playing!

Enjoy a few of Mary and Sara's photos from the Pat Powers clinic and Sanchez's run at the title (note how I move so fast that the camera can't even keep up with me :-p) Ole!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Team Extreme at Assateague

We’ve returned from the annual camping trip to Assateague National Seashore and I can report that the bathrooms are getting better and the mosquitoes are getting worse. Everything else is as good as ever. The biggest change this year turned out to be that we arranged meals with our carpools rather than as one massive group of 30 (or one year 80) hungry campers. That had to be easier on trip organizers Jamie and Krista, and it was perfect for the Saturday bike riders because we missed breakfast and lunch last year anyway. It did mean, at least in our case, that you spent more time with your carpool than the full group. Hence as you can tell from the photos it was the weekend of Jon, Sara and Darren… not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Highlights included spending Friday night at Ocean City which Darren and I had last visited in 1994. We found Hooper’s Crab House which has a $28 all-you-can-eat crab/shrimp/chicken dinner. This was the exact same place we had eaten 14 years ago… except that from a newspaper clipping on the wall we learned that it had completely burned down and been rebuilt in that time!

On Saturday a group of us set out on various bike rides around the lovely town of Berlin (which has a billboard advertising that it was the town where Julia Roberts and Richard Gere filmed Runaway Bride). I did the same 30 mile loop as last year (though I felt considerably faster) but I definitely have some serious riding to do to get ready for my first Century in September. Gulp. I am sure I can ride the 100 miles though if it is followed by a meal at Saturday’s lunch spot Rayne’s Reef (aka The Falcon Diner in Runaway Bride). You can’t beat a post-ride burger and milkshake at this establishment in the heart of Berlin. Too bad my century finishes hundreds of miles away from there…

Saturday afternoon it was back to the beach for some sun, sand, and small-court volleyball. We’d forgotten to pack the volleyball net that Joel recently left with us but another group had set one up and Sara, Darren and I decided to crash their court. It made for a memorable afternoon. The net belonged to a group of hilarious Marines from Philly who dubbed themselves “Team Extreme”. Team Extreme sported torso-covering tattoos and invented force-of-nature names for their serves. While attempting some sort of arm/chest roll they would warn us to “Beware the Hurricane!” (sometimes they called the exact same move “The Tornado”). Other times they pantomimed drizzling lava on the ball. Of course we had secret-weapon Sara who combined her sizzling softball serve with a blue bikini that proved far more distracting to the Marines than any of their natural disaster antics did to us. Although we won all but the first game it was more about having fun than playing volleyball and we definitely accomplished that. After all you have to understand that the court was about one-quarter regulation size and it was necessary to engage in a lengthy discussion with Team Extreme to reach agreement that a team would only be allowed three hits per side…

Notes to Jon:

  • Wear Aqua socks when playing sand volleyball. I survived Team Extreme’s serves but thought I broke my big toe by slamming it into Darren’s heel. I guess I could also try to improve my “periphial” vision.
  • Cambridge is the town that has the shopping center we always stop at with a Food Lion, Liquor store, and Taco Bell/KFC.
  • The waitress at Hooper's made my weekend by delivering a basket of what she called condiments, which included (drumroll please) BUTTER! You of course have to understand that Darren, Sara and I have had ongoing debates over the past month regarding the question “Is butter a condiment?”. Resolved that butter can be a condiment!
  • The joys of condimentary butter aside, I prefer crab dipped in vinegar.
  • Don’t be suckered in by the heaping plate of corn, hush puppies, chicken and ribs that is first delivered to the table, they are just trying to fill you up so you won’t eat as many of the delicious shrimp and crabs!
  • The port-o-potty and wooden shower stalls at the Oceanside group sites have been replaced with concrete buildings and real doors. Sure there’s no electricity or hot water but it feels much classier.
  • Jeffrey and his magical packing powers once again defeated us and despite our own personal best time for departing Assateague on Sunday morning (8:36 am), their car rolled out before ours. I blame my busted foot for forcing me to limp my luggage between the tent and the car…

Monday, July 14, 2008

Darrenism-a-Day 2008

Darrenisms abound. Perhaps it is because I’ve fallen behind on my blog, or maybe Darren is making them deliberately in an attempt to reclaim the #1 ranking (thanks to a link in a DC art forum, Darrenisms have fallen behind my Artomatic post), but I think the reason for the recent Darrenism surge is simple: I’ve hired a new assistant to track Darrenisms. Darren thinks of Sara as his girlfriend but really that is her secondary role, her primary responsibility is to inform me of any new Darrenisms that slip out. I believe she has caught the last nine of them, so clearly we have the right woman for the job(s).

As a result of this new arrangement (and my tardiness in posting as Sara reported them) we can now celebrate this week with the inaugural Darrenism-a-Day campaign! These Darrenisms run the gamut from the original word-mash Darrenism (e.g. Astrocity) to celebrity Darrenisms, mixed idiom Darrenisms, and we’ll even be introducing slang Darrenisms.

To start things off we’ll show that Darren doesn’t limit his Darrenisms to the English language and will happily skewer some Hawai’ian words as well… each day’s Darrenism can be found at the bottom of the Darrenism archive (to ensure that it regains the lead from the Artomatic post!)

Monday, July 7, 2008


Two speeding tickets, two rainstorms, and two hours longer than usual on the river... and we had a great time. Like they say, even bad tubing is still pretty good... or is that something else.

Notes to Jon:
  • Bring a mini-squeegee for the lens on Darren's waterproof (but clearly not fog proof) camera.

  • Watch out for the Rappahannock County "toll booth" on Rt. 211 between Warrenton and Sperryville. It's generally hidden behind a hill just inside the county line. 66% of our caravan paid a visit. At least Mary and I have the same court date if we decide to make a day out of it. Happy Fourth of July officer...

  • When sunglasses get sacrificed to the river (as they have on at least four of our trips), immediately look at the banks to get a bearing of where they were dropped. With your face close to the river you can see the bottom so if you note the general area you'll be able to get them back. I didn't do that this time and hence my once flawless record of sunglasses recovery has now dropped to 2-2. I did however recover two pairs of sunglasses that previous tubers had dropped, so overall we have dropped 4 pairs and recovered 4 pairs. Which leads me to...

  • Sunglasses that have been in the river for a little while really smell like fish... and it's entirely possible that disturbing their sacrifices angers the river gods enough for them to call down their rainstorm wrath.

  • It took the rainstorm about 10 seconds to move across the river, so we had plenty of time after hearing the screams of the first victims on the far bank to watch the rain splashes make their way inexorably toward us.

  • Don't tie all 11 tubes together to float down the river unless you don't care that it will take six hours (at normal water height).

  • This year the trip was from mile marker 16 to 19. A little way after marker 17 is a rope swing and "rapids". The river was slowest between marker 17 and 18, and fairly fast (maybe 45 minutes) between 18 and 19.

  • We met at 7:30 and were on the road with the coolers arranged and packed with ice shortly after 8, but due to an extra pickup at the Vienna metro our car wasn't back on 66 until 8:50... and we managed to pull into Shenandoah River Outfitters at 10:31 (despite about a 5 minute stop at the "toll booth"). On the way home we left about 6 and got back to Arlington at 8:10, which gave us just enough time to shower and bike down to Iwo Jima to see the fireworks. Of course we had a much more luxurious view this year thanks to Kristin's parents roof deck (thank you!)