Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mazel Tov!

Big congratulations to Mary and John, who got engaged last week!

I had a feeling this was in the works, so I've been sitting on some very special footage of the two of them for just this occasion.

Mary and John, you've done your time, you've taken your chances, and clearly you've got the skill to survive...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meet Me At The Luau

This family I married into? I'll tell you one thing. They know how to throw a party.

Last month we made the pilgrimage to New Jersey to visit the good folks of The Compound for their annual celebration that is so much more than any family get-together you TRAVELMONKEYS readers can imagine.

The theme was LUAU, and there was everything that word conjures, and so much more.

Picture tiki huts and margarita machines, massive piles of pulled pork and about twenty other kinds of meat. Picture dogs wearing leis and women wearing flowers and men wearing pirate hats--because this year, the idea was that the luau was overtaken by pirates.

There's Uncle Dick, looking none-too-menacing. Arrrrr.

Now picture being greeted upon entry by a massive boat, decked out with an actual anchor and a wheel that really turns, and a massive black pirate sail--all built so that guests could have their pictures taken as a memento.

...and so that as the contents of the margarita machines dipped lower, they could re-enact their Titanic fantasies.

Now imagine that there is also a pool, for overheated guests and hyperactive kids.

And now imagine that there's an enormous treasure chest outside, and when opened, it reveals every kind of novelty ice cream bar you can imagine--even the ChocoTaco.

A live band? Of course.

Daring feats of strength? You bet.

An incredibly meticulous cake featuring three completely different layers, bedecked with a treasure chest made of chocolate and studded with gold? Oh, sure.

There were over 200 people there, many of whom I never even met, but all of whom knew Baci's name because he went from table to table, introducing himself and begging for scraps. The poor boy wasn't right for the next 48 hours, but now when he's yipping in his sleep, I know exactly what he's dreaming about.

I wish I had a group picture of all the folks who worked so hard to pull this epic event together--Martin, who built the ship and ice cream chest, Aunt Angela, who must have cooked and cleaned for a week straight, David, who was the sound engineer for the karaoke and live band and the go-to-guy for just about everything else, Connor and Amanda and Uncle Dick (all pictured in various shots above), who all gave enormously of their time and talents.

But being a director myself, I have to give special mention to Kris, who really was the mastermind behind the operation, overseeing this epic event from start to finish, and somehow managing to never lose her cool or forget to have fun.

We had a blast, and can only begin to image what the gang is going to come up with for next year's party. Whatever it is, and whenever it is, we'll do our best to aim our ship straight toward it so we don't miss out on the fun.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Things To Do In Bangor

First things first, stay at the Charles Inn, in the heart of downtown. Connie will set you up nicely, and if you've got a stowaway pug...

...he can play with Lacey, the resident Boston Terrier. (Can you spot her in the painting below?)

Staying downtown means you'll encounter statues and old cannons and neat walkways like this one.

It also means you can walk to important destinations like the Friar's Bakehouse.

This is not only one of the finest bakeries I've ever encountered (and home of the very best blueberry muffin I've ever had), but it's also run by two joyful friars who wear their full friar regalia (long brown robes) and who, being Franciscans, adore animals and so came out to administer cheese to Baci when he and I were waiting for Michael on the sidewalk.

Also, their whoopie pies are out of this world. (And if you haven't had a whoopie pie yet, you probably haven't been to Maine.)

Next, develop a new show, and workshop it with Penobscot Theatre as part of their Northern Writes Festival.

They did a beautiful job restoring the marquee of the old Bangor Opera House, and their staff is as wonderful and supportive as their audiences are.

Third, eat a lobster. Or two. The price of lobster is at an all-time low now, forcing lobstermen to sell their catch directly from the back of their trucks in some cases. I figure this is one tasty way to help spread the wealth.

(Note that the lack of proper utensils didn't scare us off. Turns out a hammer and pliers will do just fine.)

Fourth, see a Grange Hall musical.

We had to travel a good hour into the woods to see the Marsh River Theater's production of "Into the Woods," and we ate at Ralph's Cafe, where we were served by the mother of the musical director (and grandmother of three of the cast members).

It's amazing to experience the level of connection between the people in the audience and the people on stage--and then to watch all barriers dissolve during intermission, when the actors walked right out into the house and Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf waited in the concessions line right next to us. Meanwhile, Rapunzel was sipping Diet Coke through a straw.

And finally, see some family. (Note that this is easier to do if you married someone from Maine who happens to have a bunch of family in the Bangor area.) (Note also that by making this fifth I am not saying this is the lowest priority--I'm simply saving the best for last.)