Weekend with the Phantom

Last weekend was dubbed #phantomweekend by my friend Forsh and I, as I made the trek to St. Louis to see her and she treated me to one of the things I’ve always wanted to do: see Phantom of the Opera on stage. It’s currently touring the US, and I didn’t think I was going to get to see it, but she made it happen.

The weekend started on Friday morning with the drive to St. Louis. It had been a really long time since I’d made a substantial drive by myself, but I didn’t mind it. I had some podcasts downloaded, so I stayed entertained the whole way. FYI, Podcast Addict on Android has become one of my favorite apps.

I rolled in early in the afternoon and chilled for a bit with Forsh and Little Forsh. When Mr. Forsh got home, we went to one of the local restaurants, a pizza place called Deweys. The wait was a bit longish, but we drank beer and luckily I wasn’t having many pain issues, so it was all good. The pizza was great. I kept it simple since I’m picky and had their meatball pizza and a salad that completely rocked my world.

After dinner, we rolled back to their house and Forsh and I commenced watching the Phantom of the Opera movie, the one with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. I did some knitting, though most of that knitting was spent fighting with some cabling, which I’ll talk about more in another blog post.

Saturday morning was another relaxing one while we waited for the babysitter to get there. The site had warned play goers to get there early, so we made sure we had plenty of time to find it, get parking, and find our seats. Things couldn’t have worked out better. The drive wasn’t long, and even though we sat in long lines of traffic downtown, we still found parking and got into the theater with about a half hour until showtime.

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The Fabulous Fox Theatre is huge and gorgeous and the lighting was amazing and the seating was comfortable. We found the bathroom, which was this whole lounge area, then found our seats and settled in. I’ve mentioned my love of theater before, but the anticipation for this one kind of had me emotional, and when the play actually started (with that opening piece of Phantom that always does good things for me) I may have shed a few tears of happiness.

The view when you walk into the Fox theater. So awesome!
The view when you walk into the Fox theater. So awesome!

As expected, the show was wonderful and I enjoyed it thoroughly. At intermission, I went and bought one of their specialty drinks (appropriately named The Phantom), so I even got my drink on. The music was good, the actors were good, and the things they did with set and stage design blew my mind. The only thing I wasn’t expecting was the difference in how the guy playing Phantom sang his parts compared to every other version I’ve seen or heard: less angry, more manic. It was still good, though.

After the show, we had dinner at Sweetie Pie’s. I’m kind of out of the loop on anything having to do with the Food Network or endorsed by celebrities, so I hadn’t actually heard about this gem, but Forsh had and was super excited about trying it out.

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Sweetie Pies is a home cooking, cafeteria style type restaurant with cozy booths and friendly staff. I was feeling a little adventurous, so I tried the ribs. They were so good! The corn was also fantastic. Pretty much everything was delicious and the portions were huge, so much so that in not planning to take any with me, I ate too much and then was in a great deal of discomfort at our next stop, which was Trader Joe’s. Still worth it.

We finished the evening with Tangled and knitting and then I decided to start my second reading of Unmasqued since I was already in the Phantom zone. After a quick smoothie breakfast with Forsh the next morning, I headed home, finishing off some podcasts and feeling very happy, if not a little sad that the weekend had to end.

The weekend was awesome and I owe Forsh big time for helping me check something off my bucket list.

A.

Friday Night Date With Me

It’s almost 10 and I’m exhausted. Jon is gaming tonight, and though my original plan was to hit the gym, I’m feeling worn down enough to consider this a rest day. For whatever reason, I couldn’t sleep last night, so I’ve been running on about 4  hours all day.

However, being that it was Friday, I stuck it out to have a night out by myself while Jon went to the game store. I hung out at the library for about an hour for some reading time, then headed over to grab dinner at Arby’s before going to see The Conjuring.

Going to the movies by myself on a Friday night was a pretty big step against my anxiety, but I did okay. The anxiety hasn’t really been bad in awhile, but it does like to rear its ugly head at inopportune times. It peeked a little tonight, but never really found footing.

Waiting in the lobby, I saw someone from work and her boyfriend, and then I got carded to see the R rated movie. That was fun.

The movie was great. Despite the people on the theater being fairly obnoxious, parts of the film really did manage to scare me. The people directly around me weren’t horrible. They chatted some, and the girl down the aisle from me kept screaming, but the conversation pre-movie indicated that she had been coerced into going and was genuinely scared.

The people in the back, however, laughed through the movie like it was a comedy. Sure, there were a few moments that were laugh appropriate, but on the whole, they were just being jackasses.

But the movie was good and I was able to tune them out mostly, so it was worth the trip.

Besides checking in at the game store and grabbing a water from the gas station, that was my excitement. No links or fun videos tonight because I’m posting from my phone and haven’t figured those things out yet.

A.

Some People Do Go for the Wings

Allergies and all, I survived my day in Topeka yesterday. I messed up and threw myself even more of a challenge when I got starry eyed over some medicine deals at Walgreens and completely forgot to look for something non-drowsy. Luckily, I remained functional and didn’t fall asleep at the wheel.

We hit a local joint called Juice Stop for a smoothie breakfast and a stuffed pretzel (because I never get the opportunity to indulge in those) and I tried a shot of wheatgrass. It was grassy. I showed my ignorance by originally asking for it in my smoothie, but the staff was nice and set me straight on the fact that most people do shots and it would make a fruit smoothie taste like the ground. I’m glad they gave me the info.

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Sadly, this was the only adventure I was able to catch a pic for on this trip because I forgot to charge my phone overnight (this really isn’t my best weekend, mentally). Not really a big deal, though, since Topeka is a short drive and we’re already planning on going back to the Topeka Zoo, which was our second stop. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this zoo, and they all have merit. It was nice seeing some of the animals we don’t have in MHK, but everything felt a little dirty. Then again, it was raining and hot and muggy, so that might have contributed to it. All the animals were out, lazing around and doing as little as possible. We got the once over from a gorilla named Tiffani, and even though the zoo said we might be lucky enough to see it via a “sign” on their window, we missed out on seeing the mating of the tigers.

The third stop was to buy clothes for Jon. Nothing especially exciting happened there.

Our fourth stop was unplanned and mostly a means to kill time until the movie theater opened, but it was well worth the side trip. We checked out the Kansas Museum of History which included an exhibit on retro and antique furniture, a huge train that triggered my claustrophobia when I tried to walk through it, and all kinds of neat historical stuff. I’d actually like to go back and get pictures from there sometime.

We had lunch at Hooters, another new food experience for me. The food was delicious. I had one of the best grilled chicken sandwiches I’ve ever had. I realize people make Hooters jokes and all, and I guess I thought it would be a little more risque than it was. But it wasn’t uncomfortable and the service was good.

Our last Topeka stop was to the West Ridge 8 second run theater. It has been years since I’ve been to a “cheap seat” theater. Jon and I opted for different movies. He went with the newest Fast and the Furious flick and I went to see The Purge. In my last post, I complained about people talking , but for  two dollars, a lot can be overlooked. I was lucky in that there wasn’t a lot of talking in my theater, and what there was seemed fairly appropriate, including the moment when the theater was silent and after a pivotal scene in the movie, another movie goer said “Moron” out loud in reference to one of the characters. It was funny because I’m pretty sure everyone else was thinking the same thing. There was also a scene at the end of the movie where everyone busted out laughing. Humor aside…especially because it wasn’t supposed to be a funny movie…I enjoyed it. I didn’t so much enjoy the theater seats which leaned back way too far, but again, for two bucks, I dealt with it. And we’ll probably go back.

We drove home in more rain, made a Baskin Robbins stop, and came back to the house where we watched “Knocked Up” and part of “Sharknado,” which I’m sure will get its own post. Overall, it was a fun  and active day and even though we did a lot of walking, my soreness and stiffness is at a minimum.

A.

The Hills Are Alive…

Back in March (yes, I’m that behind on blogging), I took the opportunity to attend a play at The Columbian Theater in Wamego. I always liked The Sound of Music as a movie (most of it anyway), and I was interested to see how well it would translate to the stage. Plus, a co-worker’s daughter was playing one of the Von Trapp children, so it gave me a good excuse to show some support.
I didn’t take any pictures because I wasn’t entirely sure of the picture policy, so all I have for this outing is narration.
I arrived early to scope out the seats and get comfortable, a plan that altered due to sound check. Even though I arrived early, I still couldn’t go right in, so I waited in the lobby where I talked to a woman who was attending her first play ever to see her daughter act in this production.
Once inside the theater, the woman who sat next to me visited with me about the Columbian and mentioned some other theaters in the area that I might like to look into. She also showed me the trick of unhooking the seats to make things more comfortable so we weren’t all huddled together. I was pretty stoked at having scored a front row seat. J didn’t want to join me (he’s not a SoM fan), so I think I got bumped into one of those single chairs that are sometimes hard for theaters to fill. I will say the chairs with arms are a bit narrow for bigger butts like mine, but they do alternate with ones that have no arms. Next time I go, I’m going to look into getting mine changed for a roomier sitting space.
I’m not sure if this is a “me” thing or if other people experience it, but good live productions make me tear up. I attribute this to the ambience of the play: the anticipation of the crowd, the voices of the singers, and the atmosphere of live theater. The general vibe elicits emotion in me.
I really enjoyed this production. The cast was good and the singing was great. The woman playing Mother Superior had one of those emotion-inducing voices, and during intermission, I spoke with two women in the elevator about it. They, like me, welled up during “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” I never even did that during the movie.
Most of the love story was removed from the play, something I believe was done to save time.  It felt like there was a bigger focus on the children, which was good.  However,  I believe anyone who hasn’t seen the movie would be a little confused at what there was of the romantic storyline. The cast for the Von Trapp children was spot on, even to the point where some of the actors resembled the children from the movie. I love watching talented actors on stage, and it’s so cool to see young ones with that level of talent.
It was a fun first trip to the Columbian. There’s definitely a good chance I’ll go see another show there, and who knows? Maybe I can even drag J along with me to see the next one.

Flint Hills Discovery Center

Our original plan when visiting the Flint Hills Discovery Center was to check out the place where they’d be holding a lecture later that week. The problem with public lectures is often seating and comfort, so we wanted to check beforehand to make sure this was going to work for us.
Flint Hills Discovery Center
Flint Hills Discovery Center
After arriving there, we decided to go ahead and by a day pass to explore the museum. We started by seeing their film, which includes features such as blowing air and smoke to “immerse” the audience in the narration of the film. Then we explored the areas and looked at the exhibits about the Flint Hills and Kansas in general.
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It was a fun place to visit, and it would be fun to take my nephews or niece there if they were to come this way for a visit. It gave me a new perspective on Kansas, and the exhibits were interesting. There are certain areas that are free to the public, including the lobby, which has a kiosk that lets visitors plan an itinerary of other places to see in Kansas, and a third floor terrace which overlooks part of Manhattan and gives a distant view of the Hills.
At the time I originally wrote this blog, there were a few things I was kind of bummed about. One was the fact that the art gallery portion wasn’t open, but in order to visit it again, we’d have to pay the admission fee or purchase a membership. Because it didn’t strike us as the kind of place we’d visit multiple times, both options seemed a little iffy. I was also a little disappointed when they said they used “youth chairs” for their lectures. I can’t imagine anyone being comfortable in what I perceived as kid chairs, even smaller people than J and I.
However, in a weird twist of events, my point of view has changed a bit. Part of that was the fact that we did attend a lecture there and it turned out to be really comfortable. Kudos to the DC for having really good, sturdy chairs for their visitors.
The other part was that as part of one of his classes, J. ended up getting a membership, and we found out that the FHDC is part of a large network of museums, so this membership will allow us to visit other museums all over the country. And the privileges mean that I can attend other museums with him at no charge because it gives family benefits too.
However, after thinking about it, I’ve decided to go ahead and get a membership as well. It works out to less than a couple dollars a month, and it will allow us to see all the exhibits (the family benefits only kick in at museums that are over 90 miles a way from where we live). Plus, the charitable part of me wants to be able to say I contributed to something cool, and we can incorporate the Discovery Center as another place to take walks.
I’ll be signing up for a membership in a couple days, when the FHDC has its Discovery Day to celebrate being open a year. Admission is free, so even though signing up for the membership won’t really allow us to take advantage of that, we’re going to see some of the cool things they’re doing (plus we’ve planned for this to be our museum day in Manhattan. I’m currently nursing a bum foot, but praying it’ll be better in the next day or so, so I can go exploring).
Also, the terrace is amazingly calm. I plan to utilize this space for “down time” in the future.
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“Mama” and Movie Etiquette

A couple Tuesdays ago,  I went to see “Mama.”

I enjoyed the movie. It was creepy and had some spooky images. I’m not sure if the most well plotted movie nor do I think much time was spent getting us to really like the characters. But I enjoy the “haunted” quality of Guillermo Del Toro movies. In this one, I appreciated the fact that the “ghost” was subtle at first but eventually had a “reveal.” It’s not every movie where we actually get to see the ghost up close and personal.

The actual theater experience left a little to be desired this time. I think I get spoiled in that I’ve had a lot of good trips to the movies, so when I have one like this, it almost feels like a personal insult. I know it’s not, but seriously…what is wrong with people?

We chose our seats in the middle front part of the theater, not too close to the screen but close enough to get a good view, and pretty far away from anyone else. There were only a few people in the theater, which was awesome. I love being in a non-crowded theater. But just as the movie started, a group of people came in and sat behind us.

A whole theater, and they sat RIGHT behind us.

But okay, it’s cool, sit where you want, it’s a free country. Until the talking started.

Wasn’t there a time when it was considered rude to talk and make loud noises in a theater? Do people not get the fact that when you spend money to watch something, there’s a good chance you want to watch it and not listen to their weird commentary, inappropriate laughter, or…in some cases…strange grunts (not of a sexual kind…I hope).

There was nothing funny about the opening of the movie, yet these people managed to laugh and talk through it. I wondered if they were some of those people who get drunk and go to the movies to make fun of it because they think it’s hilarious (it’s not).

I’m not a confrontational person, so I just told my friends I was moving to the front because I didn’t pay money to listen to that the whole time. All three of us ended up sitting in the second row, and I escaped without a headache from movie screen overload. Moving up made it better, but we could still hear them during the quieter parts of the movie.

The thought occurred to me that maybe I should have moved back a few rows and found something heavy…like a brick…to help quiet things (I have a violent imagination). Of course, we survived the rough movie going experience and enjoyed the movie, but it doesn’t mean that it was okay.

Common courtesy, people. If you’re going to the movies, remember that other people in the theater might actually want to watch the film and not listen to you. If you can’t keep your trap shut, sit far away from others. Or better yet, wait for the DVD and go chat in a coffee shop where that’s welcomed. Because unless you’re in a crowded and fun movie like “The Avengers” where people expect noise or “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” where there’s all sorts of audience participation (also goes for musical movies…please don’t sing out loud when you watch Les Mis), then you’re not cool…you’re just kind of a douche.