Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Coffee Table

Coffee Table, originally uploaded by evens.john.

I believe in enriching my stay in the USA by partaking in activities enjoyed by the everyday American. This weekend I experienced another all-American, down-home, good-ole-boy pastime; browsing yard sales. I've been on the lookout for a coffee table on Craigslist for several weeks, but none of my enquiries were ripening into deals. We wanted a simple wooden table, and it seemed mostly likely that we find one sitting out on someone's front yard on a Saturday morning. I tried to be authentic as possible, so I donned sweatpants and climbed into the truck. However, to avoid buying a ton of crap, we would crawl by each yard, and if no coffee table was apparent, keep on moving! I had a list of about six sales, and the addresses, but we quickly put the list aside and just followed the signs as we saw them. Yard sales are everywhere! We probably drove past five or six spots, all tucked away in cute neighborhoods that we would never have any other reason to visit. Despite having no luck finding our desired item, we were having a lot of fun. Finally we found what we we looking for, and picked up a coffee table and side table for the princely sum of twenty bucks. The worst did almost happen when a little person started grilling us about dog ownership, and began suggesting several other items we might like to take off his hands. Luckily, we managed to avoid both admitting we don't own a dog without breaking the facade of all-Americanism, and buying more random household goods.

A bit of a sanding, and a lick of stain, and we have a rather fetching set of rustic looking tables!

You Can't Take it With You

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. As I've often said about blogging: Either nothing interesting is happening or I'm so busy with blog-worthy activities that there is no time to write. I now have a backlog of recent events to publish on the web, beginning here with a trip to the playhouse.

You can blame 250+ cable channels for the fact that young people don't go out to see plays anymore. I can't say that I'll go out of my way in search of amateur dramatics, but there's something about the words 'free tickets' that piques my interest. So my Grandparents had a couple of spare tickets to a play. On an army base. The driver would be here at seven. Were we interested?

I stared the gift-horse straight in the face - and blinked first. How bad could it possibly be? The details were hazy, but would you believe it was the best offer we had for our Friday night! Thus we departed for Fort Lee (just outside Petersburg) to see the local Morale Welfare and Recreation Theater Company, and their production of Hart and Kaufman's You Can't Take it With You.

Perhaps to continue the theme of having absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves in for, we took our seats without picking up a programme. I detest programmes, and the way everyone sits there with their noses stuck in them until the curtain goes up. A glance around the auditorium confirmed that we were easily the youngest members of the audience (with the exception of another couple just a few rows away, who turned out to be friends of ours!). Minutes into the play we began to wish we had the programme. What the blazes was this foolishness all about? The jokes were so awkward it was like it had been written in the 1930s or something!

OK, it turns out it was written in the '30s. How was I to know?! However, by the intermission we were still none the wiser. A whole family of insane characters had been introduced, followed by more characters, then more...the doorbell would ring every two minutes, and here would be some other acquaintance, stopping by to add to the confusion. We took heart from discovering that the more seasoned theater-goers accompanying us were jest as baffled. Refreshments were definitely called for, and the army clearly knew how to make you feel welcome. Wine was $1.50 a glass! Perhaps a swift drink would bring the insanity into focus.

The second half got rolling, and pieces started falling into place. The daughter of this free-thinking family was engaged to the son of a high-flying Wall Street Banker. Could the two families ever see eye-to-eye? Probably not, is the answer, especially after the Feds burst in a cart the entire cast off to Jail for the night! I predicted that the play would conclude with a philosophical monologue by the Grandpa, but instead we were treated to a dialogue between the Grandpa and the Wall Street Banker, with interjections from a house-guest who happened to be the cousin of the deposed Russian Tsar (and cafe waitress)! It probably spoke louder in it's time, but had an uncanny resonance considering the current turmoil on Wall St. Most importantly, it turned out to be warmly entertaining, and executed with a genuine enthusiasm that tends to exude from amateur groups. My favorite part was probably when the Russian dance instructor informs the Wall Street man that he has the perfect build for wrestling, then immediately leaps across the the room, tackles the unsuspecting banker and pins him to the floor to prove his point. Physical comedy is timeless!