Sunday, June 27, 2010

Good Old Funky Music

Dear friends, the Weisenheimer and I have been married for nearly 17 years now, and we're entering a delicate negotiation in our relationship. It involves a lot of talk, quite a bit of argument, and a considerable amount of dancing. We're talking about compiling our top 100 tracks lists.

100 tracks fills up quickly. The first question is what genres are included. We agreed no classical and no Christmas. Which saves us arguing over movie music like John Williams and Gustav Holst, or filling up 75 slots with Johann Sebastian Bach and another 75 with Russian composers (Sweetie only) and using up slots on the entire Julie Andrews Firestone Christmas album, and deciding which version of Carol of the Bells (Leonard Bernstein or Trans-Siberian Orchestra?) and whether to include the little drummer boy duet with Bing Crosby and David Bowie.

We also decided vocals only. This cut deep. On the one hand, it means none of the Weisenheimer's Miles Davis, hooray. (I realize I just lost the respect of many of our friends, most of whom have excellent taste). But it's a trade-off, so it's fair - it also means none of my bluegrass guitar and fiddle. (I realize I just lost the respect of even more of our friends, most of whom have excellent taste). And no Bach chorales on the pipe organ. (I realize I just redeemed myself with a vanishingly small group of friends who are current- and ex-Lutherans, with no accounting for taste).

We're trying to decide what the right number is. Maybe we should do 250 or 500 tracks. I mean, with only 100 slots, half of those could be taken up by Ray Charles. Maybe certain artists can just be given one spot for their whole Ray, Elvis, Beatles, Temptations, Ella Fitzgerald. Or maybe whole albums could get one spot, like Sgt. Peppers or Dark Side of the Moon or Eliminator or Achtung Baby or Pearl or Thriller or Purple Rain or Born to Run or Physical Graffiti or Folsom Prison or Dixie Chicken or Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or Absolute Torch and Twang or Avalon or Blood on the Tracks or Grease or Darkness on the Edge of Town or Document or Girls Go Wild or Heartattack and Vine or How Will The Wolf Survive or Once Upon A Time or Monty Python Sings. And once we get through our top artists and albums, how do we make sure we have a slot for Eli's Coming? This isn't going to be easy....

The Weisenheimer asked what happens if our individual top 100 lists turn out to be exactly the same. I replied that in that case, we've become hopelessly boring and need to go to our threesome lists to spice things up. He can invite Salma Hayek if I get to invite Terri Weagant.

I asked what happens if we have to get divorced after sharing our top 100 lists with each other. And the Wisey replied, in that case, let's run away and elope this time. OK! 

I see real potential in this exercise for taking our relationship to the next level. For years we've argued about the best and worst US presidents. All the Weisenheimer has to do is say "Lyndon B. Johnson" and I get all riled up and the only way we can resolve it is to go to bed. With any luck this list will work the same way.

Should be fun, Wisey. The beat goes on.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cider House Rules a triumph at Book-It

A compelling tale, a stunning cast, and marvelous direction add up to some fantastic theater at Book-It, which is returning to its beginnings with a production of John Irving's The Cider House Rules, directed by Jane Jones. The Book-It script was adapted by Peter Parnell from Irving's novel, and this direction is based on the original by Tom Hulce and Jones from 1996. The current production covers part one, and part two is coming from Book-It in September.

When we call the cast "stunning" we mean it. There's not a weak performance from Bayley to Wright. Three performances stand out in particular:

  • Peter Crook as Dr. Wilbur Larch. We've been wild about Crook since we first saw him eons ago in Lonely Planet, the first production ever staged at ArtsWest. He's a commanding presence as Dr. Larch, even as his confidence in the high calling of his work is challenged, as his ether addiction escalates, and his protege bolts for greener orchards.
  • Connor Toms as Homer Wells. Toms is rapidly becoming a favorite, with super performances recently in Two Gents at Seattle Shakes and at January's 14/48 Festival. Toms displays great range as he plays Homer literally from birth--he springs fully grown from under the clinic table on which his mother is in labor--to age 20-ish when, questioning his role at St. Clouds, he bolts, for a couple of days, with Wally and Candy.
  • Terri Weagant as Melony. Weagant is an F5 tornado as the incredibly angry young woman with a thing for Homer. She absolutely owns the stage whenever she's on it, or even above it looking out her window at the orphanage. Weagant received a Wisey nomination for best actress for The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe last August at Balagan Theatre.
Props to director Jones for keeping the action on stage moving at a usually frantic pace, with astonishing choreography that has folks moving from office to clinic to sleeping quarters to train station to abandoned logging barracks to the coast all on a spartan set. The production also includes countless little moments that display marvelous thought and attention to detail, and add some levity to what becomes a pretty heavy discussion on birth, abortion, adoption, and morality and happiness.

We're coming up on the midway point in 2010. My Sweetie, the official scorer, and I have seen nearly 50 plays (counting the 28 one-acts of 14/48 individually) and The Cider House Rules ranks among the best of them. Get out to see it at Book-It through July 11, and catch part two in September.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Our Sunday ritual at the "Boho"

If you're looking for Weisenheimer and my Sweetie, the official scorer, on Sunday mornings, you'll find us at The Bohemian. We've been having Sunday brunch there weekly for at least six months, and the Boho is the bomb! It's got it all: Great food, outstanding soundtrack, fun art from local artists, and support for local musicians. They're coming up on two years in business in West Seattle.

The Bohemian is at 3405 California
Avenue SW in West Seattle. We have
Sunday brunch there virtually every
week. We may be in a rut, but it's a
damn fine rut!
For my Sweetie, it all starts with the decaf Americano. She says the Bohemian has the best espresso in town. Being a regular Joe, I just have regular drip, and it's super fine. The menu hasn't changed a whit, though upon opening it I always observe that "they've switched to the spring menu!" Weisenheimer's favorites include the "salmon duo," a bagel with chevre, lox, smoked salmon, and all the fixin's; the "cast iron" breakfast, a scramble with potatoes, spinach, and choices of meat and cheese; dang fine crepes (I had the crab crepes this morning and they were de-lish); and house-made granola. Sweetie has been ordering the benedicts often of late, though she's also gone with the crepes, cast iron, or stuffed French toast.

The Bohemian is run by a couple of brothers. Eirik is the front-of-house guy and mixologist, while Jason, who used to be a chef for Paul Allen, we're told, mans the kitchen. Eirik knows our java order, just as Sarah, the bartender at Jak's, knows our drink order (Maker's Mark Manhattan for Sweetie, Hendrick's martini for Weisenheimer.)

Kudos to whomever picks the soundtrack at The Bohemian. It's never the same and always fabulous. You have a good chance to hear the Temptations, Billie Holiday, Miles, and Motown classics. This morning, for example, we heard "Lady Marmalade" by LaBelle, as well as a really fine cover of the Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway hit "Where is the Love?" by Jesse Campbell and Trina Barnette. I figured it was a "new" recording, and it turns out it was done in 1995, part of the soundtrack for the flick Dead Presidents. I had never heard the song or heard of the movie before. As opposite of the Mariel Hemingway character in Woody Allen's film Manhattan, it may be that I'm becoming unaware of any musical act POST-Paul McCartney.

Anyway, the Boho has marvelous food, good coffee, a kick-ass Bloody Mary, great taste in music, and is a nice 20-minute walk from our house, just the right amount to get the blood pumping on Sunday morning. They won second place in the West Seattle Herald's "best brunch" vote, in which Salty's came first. This is sort of like the ridiculous Seattle Weekly polls in which the mundane Pagliacci's wins best pizza year after year. The Bohemian puts on an amazing brunch in a great place, and we always get out of there for less than $40. See you there next Sunday!

Good wine, good cause at E.B. Foote

Burien, Washington isn't the first town one thinks of when one considers wine making and tasting. But when our friends Noel and Charlene invited us to a tasting at E.B. Foote winery in Burien, having won the same in a charity auction, my Sweetie, the official scorer, and I were game. We came away impressed, and with a case of nice juice.

You probably haven't seen E.B. Foote at your local wine shop or on a restaurant wine list. They only make about 2,000 cases of wine each year, and while a few bottles do go out to local eateries, the majority of sales are right out of their basement facility in Burien. They do online sales as well, and can ship to Washington addresses.

The label of Remembrance
features a photo of Rich
Higginbotham, former co-
owner of E.B. Foote who died
of Alzheimer's in 2008. Half
of the proceeds from sales of
Remembrance go to Alz-
heimer's research.
E.B. Foote makes mostly red wines from grapes grown in and shipped to Burien from the Columbia Valley. One of the white exceptions is "Sweet Sherill," a chardonnay with 2.5 percent residual sugar. Named after E.B. Foote owner and winemaker Sherill Miller. A sweet chardonnay was not planned, just a botched batch, but it caught on and has been a perennial favorite.

We were more attracted to the reds we tasted, particularly the 2006 "Perfect a Trois," a blend of 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot, and 10 percent Cab Franc. Yummy.  The 2007 vintage, with a touch more Merlot and a bit less Cab, is called "Remembrance" in honor of Miller's husband, business partner, and co-winemaker Rich Higginbotham, who died of Alzheimer's Disease in 2008. Miller now donates half of all proceeds from Remembrance to Alzheimer's research at the UW. Her story was touching as she told it during a run-down of the wines featured at the tasting.

Also yummy were ETC, a five-red blend that is 63 percent Zinfandel; Rainy Day Red, a blend that's 86 percent Syrah and 14 percent Cab; a delightful, tasty Merlot; and Northwest Duet, a Cab/Merlot blend.

All of E.B. Foote's offerings are under $20. The winery's motto is, "Producing quality wines at an affordable price, because it's not about what it costs, it's about how it tastes." Miller, her small staff, and an army of volunteers deliver on that mission. E.B. Foote also hosts jazz shows and theater events, both paired with wine tasting as well. Check 'em out.