Back to back weekends out of town eating, watching plays, and having too much fun can be tiring. We needed some down time in addition to on-the-go things to do. We found a good combination in our two day trip to Olympia.
Although I had a couple of ginger snaps with my morning coffee and Pepsi, I was hungry as we scurried out of Tacoma just after noon. Peg had only eaten a banana, so we only made it as far as Old Town and our favorite haunt, Café Divino.
We're settling into a few favorite selections without trying for a wider variety, but it's working for us. We ordered three appetizers: crab cakes, brie and chutney, and seared ahi. Since Peg and I share, the three appetizers fill us up and hopefully not out to far. The ahi tastes so fresh and wonderful. The only addition I make for the perfect meal would be a small Caesar to share.
Although our meal costs several times more than lunch at Micky D's I feel virtuous after eating at Café Divino . . . and full.
We arrived in Olympia and began picking up our "on call" tickets at Harlequin Productions and the Washington Center for Performing Arts. Across the street from WCPA I saw someone actually doing what I have recommended to a number of clients.
The Christian Science Reading Room has a big screen TV in their display window broadcasting their advertising message to anyone who walks or drives by. I keep telling business people this is a great way to catch the eye of people, tell a marketing story, and the cost is relatively low.
The TV screen can be connected to a DVD player, to a laptop or directly to an old PC. From slide shows to full-fledged video presentations a business owner can send out messages and change the messages as often as needed or wanted.
After we had tickets in hand, Peg and I checked into the Phoenix Inn. Our room was waiting, even though we checked in about an hour early.
We had time to unpack and take a nap. We took advantage of a prepaid special. We were able to reserve a King Suite for $96.00 a night. There is a no-refund policy on the special, but since we had concert and play tickets, we knew we wouldn't be changing our minds. Since there is no parking fee and breakfast is thrown in it's a pretty good deal. We've stayed at the Phoenix many times over the years.
The Phoenix Inn is only a few blocks from the entertainment center of Olympia in one direction and the Olympia Farmer's Market in the other. Great Location! We were having dinner with Nita and Robert Sell and Richard and Nelwynn Brady.
Nita and Robert were waiting for us at the Acqua Via, which was just around the corner from the Washington Center for Performing Arts, where we would all be going next. Nelwynn and Richard soon joined us for dinner. This was our second time at the restaurant, but the first time for the other two couples. Everyone seemed to enjoy their dinners. I had the scallops with cream sauce and faro. I learned I don't like the chewiness of faro, so next time I will order something else.
Peg had the Spanish Rice, which was accompanied by the largest scallop I've ever seen served in a restaurant. It was about the same size as a muffin without the top. Peg loved it. My three scallops were not as huge, but tasty.
We finished in a hurry. I initially had problems with our seating for the Marcia Ball concert at the WCPA, but it was all worked out nearly two months in advance. Peg and I were given "loge" section seats, while there were two seats in the front row (right). I requested a change to the front row and we had A#1 seats. Nita and Robert were in the front row (left). Richard and Nelwynn were in the "loge" section with some local friends.
This whole adventure began when Nita and Robert casually mentioned the name Marcia Ball and how much they enjoyed her performances. Peg and I Having seen her on Austin City Limits thus began a conversation about attending the Olympia concert. Peg already had some CDs. Tickets weren't available in October when I initially tried to order. As I waited, my friend Richard mentioned at a Rotary meeting that he was thrilled to hear that Marcia Ball was coming to Olympia. Richard and Nelwynn are from Lubbock, Texas and Marcia used to tour on a circuit through there. Our concert group was formed.
Joining Marcia were the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars, who opened the concert. The All-Stars were touring to raise money to save the wetlands around New Orleans from destruction by storm, global warming, and oil leaks. Tab Benoit (guitar) and Waylon Thibodeaux (violin & washboard) were Peg's favorites. Tab mentioned that he grew up with Waylon and as boys they both played drums. But drums take a lot of hauling and since they were only eight or ten, they were too young to own trucks. They both chose other instruments that were easier to carry around. Waylon with his bowling shirt, a pony tail beneath his cowboy hat, and hiking boots, was a cutie on stage. He had the audience join him in the song Row that Peyroux. He played wonderful electric fiddle.
The first number by Voice of the Wetlands nearly blew us and the Sells out of the auditorium. During the applause a technician came on stage and had the lead guitar player turn down his amp. They were still loud, but my ears didn't hurt anymore. It was a three hour concert divided by Voice and Marcia Ball. Once Marcia began playing all was right with the world. Although I enjoyed Voice of the Wetlands, Marcia's song Louisiana, 1927 connected with the heart better than anything else about New Orleans.
Marcia started with blues and rocked us all night long. I was amazed that, as she pounded the keyboard, it never seemed to waver or shake. She must have the master's touch. Marcia has such stage presence as she crosses her long legs and bounces her foot to the rhythm of each tune. We had a great profile view of Marcia and her legs. She was only about twenty feet away from us. She was probably looking directly out to Nita and Robert, but I bet they couldn't see her legs like we could.
Marcia had a great combo with her (lead guitar, tenor saxophone, and drums). The group each had time to shine on their own. They had fun, Marcia had fun, and we had a Ball.
After the concert the Bradys and the Domans bought CDs and waited in the lobby for Marcia to join us. She did not disappoint. She was really tall in person. She was so nice as she happily to chatted with everyone. She took time to listen to comments and pose for photographs. I was surprised that none of the members of Voice of the Wetlands came to the lobby to sign autographs and mix with the crowd. They certainly would have been welcome.
Peg left the theater with one more Marcia Ball CD (autographed with a message) and a Waylon Thibodeaux CD. Nita and Robert went directly home. Nita claims she swigged down half a bottle of cough syrup to make it through the concert. Since I didn't hear her cough, it must have worked. We returned to our room happy and exhausted.
We had a great time at dinner and the concert, but I didn't get a chance to talk with Nelwynn hardly at all. I had met her years before on a trip to Olympia as well, but it is difficult to know someone with only a few sentences of conversation every few years or so.
Saturday morning breakfast at the Phoenix Inn was a huge disappointment. Although, I knew they had switched to Promise (a buttery spread) from real butter I still looked forward to a great waffle. I poured the waffle mix into the griddle and spun the grill and waited. Time went by with no "done" alarm. I gave up and opened the iron to see a really, really brown waffle. I peeled it off and sat down at a table and sulked. Upon hearing someone else get a "done" alarm and a perfect waffle I returned to the iron and tried a second time. My waffle was good, but my mood was unchanged. I grabbed some scrambled eggs from the buffet and my mood went further down hill. The eggs were probably the worst scrambled effs I've ever had. Icky, icky, icky.
We had a relaxing day reading, working on the laptop, and laying around. I took Peg to the local Thriftway, where she bought a salad. I bought some Olympic Mountain Gellato and then called my friend Donn Irwin to make him jealous. "Guess what I'm doing." I'm sure he was glad of the call. I ordered the double cup containing pistachio and lemon chiffon. Soooooooo smooooooooth.
For dinner we drove the few blocks to McMenamins Spar Café, which is probably less than fifty yards from the Harlequin Productions theater. Peg and I shared a Brewer's Salad, which was excellent. Hazelnuts and cheese grace a perfect mix of greens. Along with the salad, we ordered Dungeness crab cakes, and an excellent fondue dip of crab and shrimp. The rounds of crusty bread served with the fondue were great to spoon the slightly spicy dip onto AND the bread that came with the salad was even better. Peg's Shiraz was a little sharp, but the waitress quickly offered her another red, which was better. Later we discussed the wine, and the flavor of the original glass may have been slightly reduced by tooth paste. Peg's, not the waitress's.
Finishing dinner we had plenty of time to wander around. Peg was anxious to see if her favorite (okay, one of her Olympia favorites) Last Word Bookstore in Olympia was open. It was. While Peg wandered the aisles searching for interesting titles, I sat in an easy chair and looked around. I managed to snap a shot of the black cat that owned the store. Peg found several books for herself and for grandchildren. She read one to me later in the evening "Hank the Cowdog" about a dog detective. It's funny. We recommend it for chapter-book-reading kids.
While sitting in my chair and waiting I reached forward and took a book out of a turn-round book stand. The book contained magic tricks. I learned how to slice a banana, while it's still completely inside the peel. Amaze Your Friends! When someone peels the banana they find the banana already sliced for their cereal. Simply take a fairly ripe banana and insert a needle into the a dark ridge. You only need to move the needle horizontally while rolling the needle between your finger and thumb to create a slice. You work your way down the ridge making slice after slice and then smooth over the puncture marks. I can hardly wait to try the banana trick on a grandchild.
We left the bookstore and walked across the street to the Harlequin. Once inside we bought a chocolate chip cookie and a snickerdoodle, which we left with the volunteer behind the refreshment counter. to be retrieved at intermission. We took our seats and looked over the set. Our seats were front row, center. It doesn't get much better for me than that. The set was wonderful. It was a two-story house in the Catskills. I could reach out and touch the living room floor. There was a dining area and stairs up to the bedrooms. The detail of the set rivaled the work done at Seattle Rep. Time passing was done via light moving across the stage as the sun would move across the sky, lighting and casting shadows that drift over the furniture in the room. Very nicely done.
The play concerned a Jewish family on the Yahrzeit, the one year anniversary of their father's death. At turns the play was hilarious and heartbreaking. The actors did an excellent job. At the end there was a standing ovation. It was well deserved.
Initially, when I began looking for Saturday night entertainment I was in a quandary whether to see The Last Schwartz or a play at the Capitol Playhouse, which Peg and I had never visited before. In the end, we chose The Last Schwartz because we found out one of the female leads, Ann Flannigan, was the daughter of our friend Denny Flannigan and then we found out that one of the male leads was my friend Scott C. Brown.
Peg and I chose a great play to see. At intermission I grabbed our reserved two cookies at the refreshment stand and went out side to eat mine, while I watched the counter through the glass doors. I quickly ate my excellent chocolate chip cookie and I expected to see Peg go up and ask for her cookie and be refused, but Peg never went looking for her cookie. As I gave up waiting, a homeless person asked for some change to get something to eat. I gave her Peg's snickerdoodle. Taking my seat in the theatre Peg joined me and asked about the smirk on my face. I explained what I had done. She had forgotten about the cookie. We had a little laugh and the next day I pointed out the women who dined on her snickerdoodle.
Two weeks before seeing the play I interviewed Scott about his latest work and the upcoming performance.
After the play, Scott and the other actors came out to the lobby. Actors always look so different in street clothes. Well, Scott always looks like Scott to us, but the others were different.
Scott walked up and said, "Front row center? Front row center?" As soon as he saw us from the stage sitting in the audience, he knew he had a problem. The final scene contained a graveside gathering and he had to look front row center down into the grave. I could see his eyes look right at me. In my younger days I might have done something to break him up, but it just didn't seem right. Besides, it might have spoiled the standing ovation.
The overall performances were outstanding. One of the funniest scenes featured Scott arguing with his sister about resting his feet on the family coffee table. Hopping on top of the table after throwing money at his older sister to pay for it as his share of his father's inheritance, he first danced and then stumbled. He fell off the table hurting his leg. Hobbling over to the easy chair in apparent pain he sat down and then put his feet back up on the coffee table and picked up a copy of The Wall Street Journal and began reading, which is how the argument started in the first place. Nicely done.
Sunday morning, I decided I didn't want to eat the free breakfast at the Phoenix Inn. Actually, I thought first of taking a couple of bananas from the Phoenix buffet and slicing them in their peels with a needle and placing them back on the buffet, but decided against it. I think it would have been funny to watch people open their bananas, but tampering with the public food supply seemed foolhardy. Besides, it was probably a lot funnier in my head than it would have been in reality. Life is sometimes like that.
Instead of staying in Olympia, I went searching for an interesting place for breakfast. I was wanting to find someplace close by, but even a few miles away didn't matter that much. I drove almost to Lacey and found a place called Frankie's. I got a kick out of their sign. I also really liked that they provided food to people who are out of work. That's nice.
There were only two other diners in the bar & grill. I took a seat in a booth and was quickly served coffee and chit-chat. In a few minutes the waitress was filling the coffee cups of the couple two booths down and looked over my way. I responded, "Still fresh." She replied, "Me or the coffee?" I laughed and looking out at the road sign asked, "Where's your bikini?" "That's not until eleven and my bikini's under my clothes, where no one will see ever see it." I rejoined, "Mine, too."
A few minutes later I could hear the waitress call out, "Owner in the building. Everyone look happy." A few minutes later, Frankie walked by. I'm guessing it was Frankie. He wore a faded red baseball cup as he balanced a cup of coffee and a pile of bills in his hands. Since I was sitting directly under the TV he stopped and asked if I was keeping track of the protests in Wisconsin. He then talked about government waste. He was objecting to letters that are sent to bars and taverns with information about possible family deadbeats who owe for child support. "Think how much it costs to mail out 6,000 letters." I did think about it and I do now wonder if there is any significant return on investment (ROI in business terms). Oh, well.
I had ordered two $3.75 breakfasts: a waffle with one sausage link and a half order of biscuits and sausage gravy with two slices of bacon. Handing out the bill to the couple in the booth in front of me, the waitress eyed my dishes with most of the food left on them. Giving me my check, she said, "We didn't do too well." I remarked that it was no big deal and said, "Well, I could have had a free breakfast at the hotel." She asked a few questions about why I was in Olympia and then pleasantly wished me a good morning as I left.
The sausage had been over cooked and the waffle tasted more like a pancake. A "burnt, burnt, burnt, burnt" request on my hash browns had gone unheeded just like most other restaurants. I never expect good biscuits, but I always try them out just in case. One must always have hope. On return visits I usually request sourdough toast instead of biscuits AND I am more forceful on the request for better browned hashbrowns. I do like them crispy, but not burnt. On subsequent visits I am usually rewarded with food more to my liking. If not, then I no longer visit that restaurant. I'll try Frankie's, again.
Returning to Tacoma, Peg and I unpacked and then headed downtown to Theater on the Square for the production My Name is Asher Lev, which is a collaboration between the Broadway Center for Performing Arts and Lakewood Playhouse. It was almost like a Rotary meeting. I saw many of my friends there.
Peg and I had good seats in the middle of the house, but the seats don't have that much legroom, which always bothers me. The play has no intermission and runs for ninety minutes. I could just feel my right knee objecting. I didn't want to fight down the row to get out if I had a cramp. Instead, I abandoned Peg and asked the usher if I could sit in back of the house. Just before curtain time, the usher explained that two seats had just opened on the aisle in the front row. A double score. Peg was stuck in the middle of the "G" row, but I hurried down to the front row and ended up on the aisle with plenty of legroom plus an empty seat beside me. I was in heaven.
We really enjoyed the play. It concerned an observant Jew and how he reconciled his art to his own family and the religious community. With Asher and Schwartz this was an enjoyable and thought provoking Jewish weekend . . . except for the Louisiana Blues, of course. It was nice seeing Theater on the Square back in operation and I hope the Broadway Center and Lakewood Playhouse continue collaborating.
After the play in downtown Tacoma, Peg and I went to dinner out near the Tacoma Mall. At dinner Peg called our friend Jan and found out that she and her husband and our friends Donn and Debbie were at La Fondita Mexican Restaurant in the Proctor District for dinner. We packed up our doggie bag from Wendy's II Vietnamese Restaurant and left for North Proctor.
We walked in and surprised our friends. Everyone has been so busy lately, we've missed our friends. I pulled up two chairs for Peg and me to the four-topper and we sat down and joined them. Donn shared the story of my taunting call on Saturday when I phoned him just to tell him I was eating gelato in Olympia. He laughed and said, "That's something I would have done." If you can't torment your friends, who can you torment?
When we had all been in Italy together, the day was not done until we had ice cream or gelato. Even though gelato is Italian, the Olympic Mountain Gelato Lemon Chiffon is the absolute best I have ever tasted. I am thankful the closest place to get it is in Olympia. I didn't mention that I had just had some again at lunch on Sunday . Why rub it in?
Mike held up a glass of beer. It looked as if he were thinking, "Is this glass of beer almost empty, or not nearly full enough." In the end it was not full enough and he ordered another beer for himself as well as one for Peg and one for me. I wanted something a little healthier, so I asked for lime wedges as well.
We all joked around as our friends ate their Mexican dinners. Peg had a bite of Debbie's steak and pronounced it excellent. I could not have eaten another bite of anything. I left most of my beer, while Peg left maybe a third of hers.
I was sorry to leave the warmth and fellowship, but I was dragging my tail. Peg and I headed for home. The minute we both settled into bed to watch the latest Masterpiece Theatre production I drifted off to sleep.