Friday, March 30, 2012

So long Seuss-land

The most fantastical palm tree, with a bulbous trunk and leaves shaped like a ratted wig, sways next to the screened room of our winter getaway in the Keys. It looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. In many ways it symbolizes our storybook winter, with near perfect temperatures almost every day.

But it's time to pack up and say goodbye to Seuss-land. I'm in the midst of Snowbird Spring Cleaning, which means I'm giving our rented short-term home the kind of cleaning I could only wish it had before we arrived. I'm wiping out the cabinets and silverware drawer, mopping the floors, even under the beds where I've retrieved the hidden treasures of previous renters. Cleaning the window sills and wiping smudges off the woodwork. Getting up on a ladder to dust the fan blades. Erasing the evidence of our criminally ideal hibernation in this perpetual summer. After a three-day drive, we'll be back home and I'll enter the second stage of Snowbird Spring Cleaning, unpacking, restocking the fridge and returning to normal. Whatever that is.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Baby farewell

Baby wasn't supposed to be my cat. I sort of inherited her from my daughter-in-law eight or nine years ago. But with her pudgy little face and big green eyes, she easily nudged her way into my heart. We shared the same pillow many nights, and she was as much a part of watching television as the remote control. She's been my alarm clock for years, butting her head into mine precisely at 7 a.m. And when I was up late at night writing reviews from home, she would lay her head down on the keyboard and go to sleep.  She was always tiny, no more than 11 pounds, but she ruled the roost even after Cloudy, a tom cat twice her size, joined the family five years ago. She started loosing weight last fall and was barely over five pounds by January. Standard blood tests found no easy answers. We tried a few medications, dietary supplements. even found a vet to treat her during our three month stay in the Keys. She was weak and walked stiffly, but still managed to jump up on the sofa to watch television with me and climb into the bed at night. Until about 10 days ago. Since then we've been cheering every morsel we can convince her to swallow. This morning even giving her the daily medication seemed like too much to ask.  So I let Baby go. Baby Gray Cat, you will be so missed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Counting on sunshine

Rain  chased us off the beach today but before we got home, 10 miles away, it had stopped and the sun was shining. Spending three months in The Keys has changed my view of rain. It's always temporary. Usually very temporary. And it's changed my view of sunshine. I wake up in the morning expecting it. Demanding it. Clouds? Certainly only enough to make the skyscape interesting and provide a brief respite from the searing sun. It makes me wonder how much of our temperament is based on the weather. Perhaps, centuries of long winters have made Michiganders such sturdy stock, delighted with the briefest rays of sun. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I MISS WEST MICHIGAN THEATER! The Keys may have better weather, but Grand Rapids has better theater. Last night I went to see a local community theater production of "Once Upon a Mattress" and I can only say once was more than enough. I have never seen a production, high school or community, with such universally poor singing. I don't dare name the theater, since they didn't ask for my opinion, but I kept shaking my head one flat, weak solo after another. I tried to understand how everybody could be so off base and I decided it was probably the recorded accompaniment didn't provide an easy melody line for these voices, and clearly their rehearsal training hadn't provided adequate help. The few singers who managed to be on key were weak and lackluster.Of course, they weren't using microphones, which can often bolster and add a little pizzazz to weak voices. I longed for the west Michigan theaters that always use live accompaniment. even if it's just a piano or keyboard. Actors', Civic and Circle all have music directors working with the singers to help them to hear their parts and often transposing songs if needed to accommodate an actor's range. They have dedicated sound crews that blend voice and music. Even a small theater like Master Arts, which doesn't use microphones, provides live accompaniment and the vocal rehearsal necessary to deliver powerful performances.  I know that in most of my reviews of West Michigan productions I have failed to credit the wonderful work of the music directors and sound crews. A thousand pardons. But please know that when I see good performers I know it's the result of good support.