I am pleased to have been invited to be the first ever repeat guest blogger on Countdown to Curtain Up. I have actually been to Huntington once since my last guest blog. That was back in January and it was too miserably cold for me to take notes, so I skipped the guest blogging for that trip. Having vowed after my last visit to never again be in Indiana during winter, I was happy to return to Huntington in late August. My traveling companion once again was Dan. Immediately after arriving in Fort Wayne, the fun began with a trip to Lowes. The excitement of Lowes was followed by an experience I won’t soon forget – lunch at a barbecue chain called Smokey Bones. Dan and I are accustomed to dining in New York, where waiters are trained to be of service but otherwise keep their distance. They do not attempt to integrate themselves into your party and join in your conversations. This waitress would not leave us alone. I admit I’m long-winded, but I could not finish discussing a single topic without at least two visits from her. And she seemed extremely concerned not just with whether we were having a good meal but, more importantly, whether we were having the most fun we could possibly have. “Are you boys having a good time?” she would ask us, incessantly. And sometimes if one of us didn’t answer convincingly or was eating and unable to answer, she would re-direct the question solely to that individual just to be doubly sure that he was having the time of his life. Near the end of the meal, this question was directed to an obviously exasperated Dan, who replied, in that tone that indicates he is only seconds from snapping and is expending his last ounce of forced politeness, “Yes, I’m having a perfectly lovely time, thank you for asking.”
On my first trip to Huntington a year ago, I noticed a large yellow house just up the street from the theatre that looked to be one of the oldest structures in town. No offense to Peckerwood, but I decided this was my favorite house in Huntington. So, I was excited to learn that the owners of the home, Lee and Ray, had invited us to a dinner party. I can’t say that I’ve never walked into a stranger’s home and been greeted by the voice of Lorna Luft – but most of the times that has happened I have been dreaming. This time I wasn’t dreaming. Lorna was just about the first thing I noticed in the yellow house. Dan and I quickly surmised that this voice coming from the stereo was not merely Lorna, but Lorna performing with Rufus Wainwright at his Carnegie Hall concert in which he recreated Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall concert. So, it was instantly clear that Lee and Ray were our kind of people.
What a wonderful evening this was. Lee and Ray were very gracious hosts and really know how to entertain. The house is even more impressive inside than out. It feels like a home rather than a museum even though its filled with museum quality art and furnishings and could easily pass for a museum. The back room has a collection of exotic taxidermy on the walls and upstairs there were other collections such as antique children’s toys. The house has everything imaginable. I would not have been surprised to stumble upon the stuffed remains of Miss Joan Crawford (for the record, I did not visit the attic). Possibly my favorite room and certainly the one I visited most frequently was a room behind the kitchen that was devoted entirely to bar service. There is no cocktail that can’t be mixed with the contents of that room. Betty Ford’s White House was not this well stocked.
As we sat down to a gourmet meal, it was noted with disappointment by the hosts that Dan and I were sitting next to each other despite the hope that, for purposes of conversation-making, couples would not sit together. After the laugher of Joel and Rich died down, I learned that apparently, because we have appeared in blog entries together and have traveled to Huntington together twice now, some blog readers have the mistaken impression that any day now they might tune in CNN and spot us on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. Not true.
And now to the real reason for our trip: Po. She is barkier than I remembered. And she has become more violent in her attacks on her toys – a harmless stuffed raccoon was completely dismembered while we were away for the afternoon. I suspect this increased aggressiveness is her way of acting out the loneliness that she feels now that I no longer live next door.
Po likes me because she senses that I like her. She was so happy to see me that she was even willing to slip into her reindeer costume (my favorite) despite it being completely out of season.
Contrast this with Po’s slightly more strained relationship with Dan. There is of course Po’s lingering resentment and suspicion of Dan resulting from the untimely death of Dan’s former roommate, Cat, under mysterious circumstances. Po has been unable to put this issue to bed given Dan’s continued insistence that Cat is alive and well and living in Queens despite all evidence to the contrary. Perhaps Cat is somewhere happily purring on Isaac's lap. I think Po would be more accepting of Dan if he admitted his role in Cat’s disappearance and sought the forgiveness of Po and her friends in the animal kingdom….but these are complex issues that are beyond the scope of this blog. Fundamentally, I think Po senses that she isn’t Dan’s top priority, that he doesn’t “have her back”.
So, it was another wonderful trip to Huntington. It was good to see Jean Anne again as always and to finally meet the famous Rose of Visitor Center fame. Rose gave us a close-up view of the progress of the restoration of the Visitor Center just down the street from the theatre. We had happened to be next door at The Party Shop. Any place else, this would be a Starbucks. Its basically a coffee shop with lots of really good homemade candies and pastries and I highly recommend a visit.
I also finally got to visit the Sunken Garden which has everything a nice park needs except a public restroom. This does not work for me or Joel, as each of us are notorious for having bladders the size of peas – a fact which lead to the necessity of me and Joel returning to the theatre while leaving Dan and Rich at the Sunken Garden….and this meant that I actually rode in a motor vehicle driven by Joel. I admit to being terrified but I was very impressed with his skill, though I did have to give him directions back to his own home from a spot not two miles away. The progress on the theatre is impressive – the lobby looks even better in person than in pictures. But perhaps more impressive is the extent to which Joel and Rich have become so involved in every aspect of Huntington life. We couldn’t go anywhere without them running into someone important. And this lead me to suggest that Rich should someday run for public office.
I am happy to hint, however, that after Dan and my constant campaigning, The Supper club in Spring is going to welcome an entertainment comeback reincarnation of which we heartily approve.
See you in April... Winston.