Thursday, August 30, 2007

Time to Play!

Today I am fully adjusted to East Coast time. Woke up around 8am, and after lazing around all morning long figuring out what we wanted to do, Andrew and I went over to Rochester's own Strong National Museum of Play. That's right, of play. It's not exactly a full-fledged children's museum, but it's mostly a place where parents with children would go. Fortunately, Andrew and I like to play nearly as much as little kids do, so we fit right in.

Words can't exactly do the place justice, so I'll refer you to my photo archives for a detailed trip report. But some of the highlights included:
  • Sesame Street - a reasonably accurate replica of Sesame Street itself, complete with lots of interesting history and facts about the show, and of course hands on fun for the kids.
  • National Toy Hall of Fame - some of the finest collections of classic toys and games you'll ever find. We had fun walking a Slinky down the stairs, as well as building some fine Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys stuff along the way. Fun stuff.

After spending close to 4 hours at the museum, we left and came back home. The rest of the evening was pretty laid back, relaxing and pretending we're on vacation. Sometimes vacations can just be relaxing.

Tomorrow we will eventually head over to Syracuse for the big game. Game starts at 8pm Eastern, so it will be a late night getting home. Hopefully a victory for the Dawgs, but then an hour and a half drive back, will be nothing short of a late night arrival back in Rochester. Saturday should be a somewhat recovery day before we head up to Niagra Falls on Sunday.

Until then... Go Dawgs!

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Yes, that's a complete grammatically correct sentence, and a fitting start to my Upstate New York trip blog.

It was the best of flights, it was the worst of flights. It all began with a red-eye flight out of Seattle on Tuesday night. My $200 roundtrip flight to Buffalo, NY makes up for the fact that it was a) a red-eye, b) Seattle - Buffalo, with a 3-hour early-morning layover in Atlanta, and c) AirTran Airlines. All things considered, it worked out pretty well. My flight left on time, if not a bit early at 9:45pm on Tuesday night, and it was a pretty peaceful flight, on which I sat in the exit row next to the window. This has its advantages, and its disadvantages. I had plenty of leg room, so could easily stretch out and not feel squished in like sardines. However... being next to the window exit, way up in the sky it was surprisingly cold. Which was fine until you leaned against the side of the airplane, and nearly froze your leg off. Either way, after arriving in Atlanta a full 30+ minutes early (not exactly an advantage when you already have a scheduled 3-hour layover), I wandered around the surprisingly busy airport at 5:30am, found myself some early morning Chick-Fil-A breakfast, and pretended I wasn't really still awake at 3am Pacific Time.

Truth be told... I was really still awake at 3am Pacific Time... and 4am... and 5am, when finally my flight from Atlanta to Buffalo left. As I boarded the plane and made my way back to my seat in 18A, a little boy was sitting in my seat next to his mom. She asked if she could trade seats with me so she could sit next to her son. I was happy to help, and she gave me her seat in 1C, at the very front of the plane in "Business Class". Honestly, I would have probably traded seats with her regardless of where her seat was, but this was just icing on the cake.

Now, AirTran's "Business Class" is nothing to be too excited about. The seats are larger and have a bit more leg room (though probably no more leg room than my exit row seat did on the previous flight), and you get free booze. Well, that's great, but at 8am EDT, or 5am PDT, I was not really there to take advantage of the free alcohol. I did, however, sleep almost the entire 1.5 hour flight to Buffalo.

All in, I probably slept about 3.5 hours over the course of the night. I made it to Buffalo, and Andrew, who had coordinated his flight from Birmingham to arrive nearly the same time as mine, arrived shortly after, and his mom had come to pick us up from the airport.

We drove back to Rochester, though I saw no winged buffalo along the way, and then spent the day exploring around Rochester, and going grocery shopping. Normally grocery shopping isn't too noteworthy, but we went to Wegman's. Now, Wegman's is a chain of grocery stores that started in Rochester, but now has stores as far south as Virginia, and is often ranked the best supermarket chain in the US. We went to the Cadillac of Wegman's, their flagship store. This place is like a Costco-sized Whole Foods, only not quite as creepy as either. I took a handful of pictures, before they threw me out of the store for taking pictures. OK, I didn't quite get thrown out, but they man at the Cheeses of the World counter told me I couldn't take pictures in the store. I still never understand why some stores have those silly policies, but I guess whatever makes them happy.

Back to the house we came. Now, the best way I can describe this house is if you've ever seen a classic brick rowhouse somewhere in New England, with all its old-world charm and style, like you'd see on an episode of This Old House, but before it gets renovated. :) This specific 3-story house has been turned over the years into a 3-unit building, with Andrew's parents currently residing on the first floor. It's actually a pretty nice place, though Norm Abram and Bob Vila could turn this place into a palace, if they really wanted to.

After dinner, my lack of sleep from my travels caught up with me, and off to bed I went. More days of vacation to come.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Young Frankenstein

Tonight I went to see Mel Brooks' new world premiere musical Young Frankenstein at the Paramount Theatre. In a rare, yet becoming more common, pre-Broadway premiere here in Seattle before it heads to New York, it proved to be all that you would expect from a Broadway musical.

Based on the classic movie created in 1974, it is typical Mel Brooks vaudevillian, often slapstick comedy filled with innuendo, repeating gags, and one-liners. Now, this doesn't typically fall into my preferred comedic genre, but I still found it quite entertaining. As expected, near constant laughter filled the theatre. A Broadway-caliber cast including Megan Mullally, best known as Karen Walker from the sitcom Will & Grace, was one of the headliners, though really only because she was one of the biggest names in the cast. Her actual role was incidental to the plot, and in fact she only was on stage for perhaps one-quarter of the entire 2.5 hour show. The real showstopping performance for me was Andrea Martin, who may not have much name recognition, but made a big name for herself as crazy Aunt Voula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She provided and outstanding and absolutely hilarious performance in her supporting role.

The music, also completely composed by Mel Brooks, was as unique as the dialogue. However not particularly diverse in its style. With many recent musicals trying to set themselves apart from others by using unique styles and themes, this was a refreshing return to more traditional musical numbers. The emphasis is on the words, not the music. Though filled with musical numbers, the music isn't what defines this show.

As for the technical aspects of the show, it was probably one of the finest I have ever seen in Seattle. Its Broadway-bound budget was apparent throughout, from the sets to the costumes, and especially in some not-to-be-missed special effects that several times made me believe I was watching a movie, rather than a musical. I had several "how'd they do that?" moments.

And on to my ratings:

Script - 3 stars - I can't say I'm a big fan of this story. The movie has achieved cult-classic status, which is probably the only reason this story was compelled to become a musical.
Cast - 4 stars - This is the epitome of a Broadway cast. With a bonus 5th star to Andrea Martin.
Technical - 5+ stars - One of, if not absolutely, the finest technical production I have seen.
Music - 4 stars - Filled with songs, but none of which meet my primary criteria of being stuck in my head as I left the theatre.
Overall - 4 stars - I can't say I'd pay to see this again. The show wasn't particularly compelling to me. But it was so well produced I can't say it's not worth seeing once.