MMT’s ‘Shrek’ Simply Sparkles

The big boy, himself.

My grandgirl’s final treat of her long and eventful summer vaca in the Roanoke Valley (and environs) came last night when we saw Mill Mountain Theatre’s lavish, entertaining production of “Shrek,” which featured 26 local actors, mostly kids.

The fact that they were children—for the most part—had little to do with the quality of the production, which was superb, top to bottom. The sets, the lighting, the costuming all stood alone in their importance to the production, while Travis Kendrick’s direction brought them together with universally good performances from the large trupe of actors.

Foremost among the actors was Cameron Reynolds, who played the part of the Donkey (Eddie Murphy in the movie) and he was outrageously funny and over the top, playing to Ryan Koch’s Scottish ogre and AnnEllese Galleo’s beautiful songbird Fiona. But the talent was deep and when Madeline Mae Walker’s Dragon was singing, everything and everybody stopped to listen. I was especially taken by young James Moledor’s Pinocchio and Cody Edwards as the ridiculous Farquad.

Most of the children had singular moments to shine and they did just that, even if it was playing without the ball while another actor had the spotlight. That’s excellent direction in my world.

This show, which is two acts, runs 1 hour, 25 minutes, which strikes me as a smidge long for a children’s show and it doesn’t begin until 7:30. The two children sitting in front of Maddie and me didn’t seem at all sleepy, though, sitting on the edge of their chairs, giggling and squealing throughout.

I liked the show, perhaps moreso with Madeline in tow, but she’s on the edge of being an adult and I wondered if Shrek would still appeal to her. It did. She was enthusiastic about it. You will be, too. And your kids … Ask them afterwards.

It continues through August 12. Get tickets at 540-342-5740 or here.

A Birthday Dinner to Remember

Christina and Maddie share a laugh … at Pampa’s expense, no doubt.

That’s my new coffee cup at my desk.

Had a swell birthday dinner at Olive Garden (pocket full of birthday gift cards) last night with my grandgirl, Madeline, and our favorite ex-wife, Christina Koomen.

You can tell from the photo above that there were laughs aplenty.

Maddie presented me with a coffee cup that said “My grandkids are amazing, brilliant and exceptional,” followed by “And obviously take after their grandfather.”

The kid knows me well. I could have/would have said exactly that.

Birthday gift in hand, Maddie and I head out to dinner.

 

Salvaging the Unthinkable

Burned boiled eggs aren’t a total loss.

Dang! I destroyed another basic cooking premise yesterday, the one that says emphatically, “You can’t burn a boiled egg.”

So I didn’t burn “a boiled egg,” I burned six of them. Forgot they were on the stove when I took a shower, got dressed and answered some email. I smelled something burning, said, “Oh, shit, the eggs,” and rushed to the kitchen to find my eggs burned.

But, all was not lost. I found they peeled fairly easily (always a challenge for me) and that if I cut them in half, eliminating the burned portion, they still made good deviled eggs. I used the burned half for egg salad, which has a toasted taste. Not so bad, I’d say.

Saved eggs, deviled.

For Journalism: A Ray of Hope

Many people in my profession–journalism–have been scratching their heads for the past 10 years or so, looking for a way to save the daily newspaper, regardless of the format that emerges.

Now, we have the state of New Jersey with the newest–and from what I see one of the most workable–effort: tax support for community journalism. The NYTimes has a piece about it here.

Essentially, “The legislation sets aside $5 million from the sale of old public television licenses, creating a nonprofit consortium that would fund reporting projects and bolster civic engagement.” That’s not a lot of money, but it’s a beginning and could create a test model to see if it can/will work. The major concern, of course, is government interference, which has always been at the top of the charts of any government support of public information (including Public TV and Radio, which went through a control crisis during the Bush Administration).

The Trump Administration with its strong anti-press pronouncements (“fake news,” “an enemy of the people”) has led many newspapers to a surge in subscriptions, but it isn’t enough to save the industry. What is desperately needed is a delivery system that isn’t expensive (Trump’s 30 percent–soon to be 50 percent–tariff on newsprint from Canada is shocking), polluting (paper and ink) and is more immediate. On-line journalism can be instantaneous and its video component can be a live feed from the site of the news.

I was at a book party the other night (Mary Bishop’s “Don’t You Ever”) and the room was filled with current and past employees of Roanoke’s daily paper. I suggested more than once that those in the room could put out a news section overnight that would embarrass the local daily with its quality and depth. Point being: there are a lot of journalists out there who love journalism and would jump at the chance to get back to it, even if only part-time.

(Graphic: slate.com)

Accidental Tourists: A Nice Find in Giles County

The Sinking Creek Bridge in Giles County is open to the public.

People love leaving their initials on the old wood.

Margie and I took off for Paint Bank in Craig County to have lunch at the General Store there yesterday, but because Miss Direction Smith can’t find his butt with both hands, we wound up 45 miles away in Newport, asking for directions.

It turned out to be a nice accident because we got to see the lovely Sinking Creek Bridge, a 70-foot-long wooden beauty with a tin roof that was built in 1916 and has been marvelously maintained–by the county, I would assume.

Margie looking pretty at the bridge.

In the same area are the covered wooden bridges Link Farm Bridge, 50 feet long, built in 1912; and the Reynolds Farm Bridge, which is 36 feet and was built in 1919 (it can be seen from U.S. 42). The Sinking Creek Bridge is the only one open to the public (for free) and it’s worth the drive, as you can see above.

We, of course, did not give up on lunch in Paint Bank at the General Store, not so much because the food is great (it is pedestrian, at best), but because it is a lovely place to share a little peaceful time in a beautiful setting (outside, on the porch).

My meatloaf with string fried onions wasn’t very good. But it was pretty.

Margie, of course, had her standard burger with greasy fries, and I tried the meatloaf (more filler than beef, I’d bet), fried onions, cole slaw (pretty good), baked potato (how can you screw up a baked potato?) and some rolls and cheese biscuits (both bland and cold).

Still, it’s a good place to land, especially after a false start.

A tall, handsome 60ish guy named Patrick shot this photo and told us that his dad was a combat photographer during WWII and Korea. I said he had to have brass balls to have done that.

 

Like Father, Like Son … Again

Evan with his squares…

… Me with my rounds.

My daughter-in-law likes to compare my son and me in all the ways we are similar, saying “like father, like son,” as she goes along. I was delighted Saturday when I got the chance to say it back.

Kara ran a photo of my son, Evan, on Facebook, showing off his new glasses. I got my new pair Saturday and did the same. Here we are, side-by-side, new glasses and all. The difference? His are square, mine are round. They both were ordered online from Zenni.

Oh, and by the way: Zenni has proved to be quite the entertainment value for Margie, who spent a good bit of time yesterday “trying on” glasses online. Zenni has a feature wherein you download a photo of yourself (with the proper pupillary distance–PD, which you get from your eye doc–noted), click the glasses you like and, viola! they are put on your face in the photo.

The glasses, themselves are so inexpensive ($30 for Evan’s, $32 for mine, both with bi-focal lenses) that you can buy several pairs at once, like buying non-prescription sunglasses. I have bought from Zenni twice already and the glasses each time were exactly as advertised–and they fit perfectly.

It’s a new world out there, boys and girls, and fathers and sons, mothers and daughters can explore it together..

A Lunch Celebration: 20 Years Friends

Old boys eating in downtown Rocky Mount.

Just had lunch in Rocky Mount with my old pal, the noted author Keith Ferrell (most recently, a NYTimes bestseller) and afterwards, I took him over to the downtown library and shot some portraits of him doing what he loves.

Keith is an old-style book worm and a member of the library board in Franklin County, a position in which he takes great pride.

“We have an outstanding library system,” he says with absolutely no hesitation and from what I’ve seen, he’s not overselling it at all. It is an active library that works especially hard for kids who have few options.

Here are Keith and me with some of the portraits.

Celebrating 20 years of friendship.

“Mem’ries, Like the Corners of My Mind …”

Suck it in, old man.

I have always been a sucker for a cool football jersey. I have a drawer full of them, but I rarely wear any of them outside my house because … well, hell, I’m an old man and they look stupid on me.

However … I found this one a little while ago and simply could not pass it by. It is an exact replica (including the number) of the jersey I wore in high school, save for the wildcat at the throat. However, the wildcat is a nice touch, since my high school team was the Cranberry Wildcats. (I will mention that the nylon mesh material is an update from the all cotton jersey material that was popular when I was 17.) Love the jersey, though. I’m sitting here typing in it.

Gratitude Today: Love ‘Mater, With Smile

Very often, garden veggies come with distinct personalities. This is the zillionth “Love Mater” I’ve grown over the years, for example, but it has a difference. That line in the middle represents a kind of Frankenstein smile (note the stitches) and is more Halloween than Valentine’s Day. But, it’s a German pink tomato and will simply be the love of my life for about 15 minutes when I convert the smile into a ‘mater sammich later on.

Maddie and Jazz: Not Quite Yet

Maddie and me at the jazz festival. Bored yet?

 

Roanoke’s best jazz band, the Lenny Marcus Trio (plus three tonight).

What I have to keep in mind always when I try something new with my grandgirl, Madeline, is that she may not like it, but that what’s important is exposure. Whether it’s food, music, travel, adventures or paddling a boat, it matters that she give it a try.

Tonight, we tried jazz. And failed. Miserably. Lasted 20 minutes at the Salem Jazz Festival before I heard this small voice saying, “I’m bored. Can we go now?” And so we did.

Didn’t give Lenny Marcus much of a chance to impress, but interpretive jazz is definitely an acquired taste (I still don’t like it; I prefer soft, melodic jazz) and Maddie hasn’t acquired it. Marcus is usually leader of the Lenny Marcus Trio–Roanoke’s best jazz band–and tonight he had three guests playing with the band. They were quite good, but not Maddie’s bag.

We gave it a shot and now she knows what it is. Maybe some day …

Lenny and the boys playing hot.