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Dinger vs. Buzzer

8 Sep

Last Saturday night I volunteered to go on-stage during an improv show.  It was only the second-ever improv show for me and I admit, I was only there because I was being nice to a dear friend who was visiting.  I don’t know what possessed me to volunteer.  I think I was worried that no one else would.  Anyway, I was there because the troupe included a high school buddy of my friend and yadda, yadda, there I was on-stage being interviewed. 

“Do you have any children?”  she politely started.  “Yes, I have two boys.  The oldest is living with me, the youngest is at UNC-W.”  “Oh,” she went on, “What does he do?” “He’s a barrista at a local coffee shop.”  “And what do you do?”  “I teach 8th grade.”  “Are you married?”  “Yes, my husband is currently living in London.” And so it went for a few more questions, when I it suddenly dawned on me. “Oh my god.  Are you going to act out my life?”  

It turns out that they were indeed going to attempt to recreate the mayhem that is my life, on stage as an improv act, but they wanted me to guide the acting.  They sat me at a small table with a bell and buzzer. I was instructed to ring the bell when they got it right, or hit the buzzer when they were off track.  DInging would cause them to continue in that direction even pouring it on a little more, and buzzing would cause them to correct the course.  

The act opened with a very sexy Latino man promenading across the stage.  My first thought was “Who is he supposed to be?”  Ha!  Me?  “Can I ding the choice of players?  If I do will look more like him?”  Then, he pretended to write on a chalkboard. Bzzz.  <course correction>  He opens a laptop.  Thank you, this is 2012.  Ding!  He addresses the class and I ding him into being nice and enjoying it. There were a few laughs.

The second act included two lanky guys pretending to make espresso and discussing “Hey dude,  what should we get Mom for her birthday.”  BUZZZZZZZZZZZ!  -as if my boys even realize I have a birthday.  <course correction> “Hey dude, I think we missed Mom’s birthday.” Ding! Ding!  The audience started to get into it.

The finale was a raucous depiction of my home life that included a woman pretending to be Steve on Skype while Mr. Handsome pretended to drink coffee.  I liked it!  Ding, ding, ding.  Then Steve and I were totally upstaged by the dogs humping each other with great gusto.  Ding! Ding! Ding!  That about summed it up.  I have to admit, laughing at the absurdity of it all made facing Monday much easier!

Pickles and Onions on Herring – Oh my!

27 Jun

Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling to Amsterdam for the first time.  My son, who is 19 talked me into making the trek from London to Holland so he could visit a friend.  His friend was a girl who had come to live in Mebane, NC (our hometown) as an exchange student.  Initially, the thought of being in Amsterdam with my teen-aged son and other young folks made me apprehensive to say the least.  When I was last in Europe in 1989, Amsterdam was known only for the hash and the red light district.  I’m writing this post to document the error of my prejudices about the city.  From now on, when I think of Amsterdam, I will think of water and houseboats and pickled herring, and bicycles.

The red light district is still there, don’t get me wrong.  And of course, we took a stroll through it just to say we had.  It was dirty and weird and not all like the part of the city we spent the majority of our time in.  But to have the impression that Amsterdam is the red light district is like thinking that South Carolina is Myrtle Beach. As a native of the Carolinas, I can tell you, there are vast and beautiful places that bear no resemblance to the touristy craziness of Myrtle, and so is the case in Amsterdam. We toured all around the city on rented bicycles and enjoyed gorgeous views of renovated buildings, quaint sidewalk cafes, flower markets, and of course, canals lined with houseboats.

My new, informed take on the Venice of the Netherlands is that it is the most quiet and polite city I have traveled in.  I did not hear a single car horn in the whole four days – only the ping of bicycle bells.  My biggest and favorite surprise was the amazing cycling culture.  Women in heels, men in suits, fathers toting up to three kids on a single bike, people with their pets in baskets, all chugging along the cobble stone streets and extensive network of bike lanes.  There were bikes in all shapes with a number of ingenious ways to carry things from here to there.  My favorite was the one with the integrated box on the front.  I saw this style of bike used to shuttle dogs, school aged children, lumber, furniture, and groceries.  It is the minivan of the Netherlands.

My second favorite surprise was how much I enjoyed the food.  I’m guessing fresh produce is good just about everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere in late June, but I had forgotten about Dutch apple pie.  Other staples like bread, cheese and beer were also delicious. Finally, the pickled herring.  Topped with chopped onions and pickles, it is a flavor explosion of a very pleasing combination.

Finally, while Holland is famous for tulips, in June it’s the Hollyhocks that steal the show.  They pushed up between the cracks of the sidewalk next to buildings where they were not purposefully planted.  Hydrangeas and trailing roses were also featured foliage providing a soft and delicate edge to the sharpness of all the brick and pavement.  All in all, I have to say, Amsterdam will be high on the list of places to re-visit.