24 December, 2019
Rat Fink

As I sit here working on Dinner Theatre arrangements and thinking about the last two years, my thoughts, of course, turn to Michael, and all that’s happened since his death on Christmas Eve 2017.

I suppose I’ll think these thoughts for a long time:

  • I miss his smart-aleck sense of humor, and how he drove us all crazy with his nonsense on the regular. I miss our talks and bantering, with me telling him he’s so full of crap, it’s a righteous wonder he has blue eyes, after which he’d laugh himself into a coughing fit.
  • Sometimes I resent having to make all the decisions myself.
  • My sons and sister are wonderful, of course; I don’t know what I’d do without them. But they do have to go home, and and as much as I tell myself — and everyone else — that it’s fine being alone, many times it’s not.
  • At times, I feel cheated out of the plans we had for when I retired from teaching: the traveling, the acquisition of more Aussies to love and raise, enjoying our grandchildren, spending time with family, and maybe picking up and moving to an exotic locale someday.
  • I still occasionally vacillate between self-pity and anger, albeit with periods of absolute joy and fun with my family, friends, colleagues, and students. I just wish he could be here to share it all.
  • I wonder if he can hear me when I talk to him, or if he’s frustrated that he can’t answer me.
  • I miss how he loved his own children, and remember fondly how he also loved my two sons — and their sons — like they were his own.
  • I will always marvel at how, during the six months between his diagnosis and the end of his life, he never once complained or gave up. There was one incident around Thanksgiving 2017 — and only one that I remember — when I walked into his room to check on him, and found him on the edge of his bed with his head down, struggling to breathe. I sat next to him and asked him what I could do for him, and he whispered, “I don’t know, sweety; I think this might be it.” But that was the only time. He was and remains the strongest person I ever knew.

I think I’m still trying to figure out this “moving on” thing. I’ve tried stuff that definitely didn’t work, and I’ve tried just letting things go and endeavoring to find joy in whatever time is left to me. Not sure I’ll ever master my thoughts during the alone times, when everyone’s gone home. Remy still provides me with snuggles and laughter and companionship; I don’t know what I’d do without him, either. I sometimes wonder if he remembers Michael. I hope he does. I hope many people do; I know I will forever.

There will be joy for me in the holiday season again. There is joy now, actually, as long as I’m busy and doing my thing. I don’t want my family/friends/students to ever think that I don’t enjoy their company and all the crazy things we do together, because I do. It’s probably the singular thing that keeps me on the rails. But it’ll never really be the same, and I guess I don’t want it to be, because it would mean I’ve shut a door. Can’t do that.

I plan to visit him at the military cemetery next week. I hear they’ve put beautiful wreaths on the gravestones. I’ll take a photo.

Meantime, I will enjoy my family at this special time of year. I hope you do, too! Hold everyone close. Tell your spouse and kids you love them.

I’ll also try to write to you more often. I miss it. :-)

Until next time…

Thursday Part II

27 July, 2019
Rat Fink

There are very few events I’ve experienced whereby my first thought upon leaving was getting in line to buy a ticket again. LOVE by Cirque du Soleil probably ranks #1 on that short list. But I’d have had to recover first. What a visually stunning, musically impressive, sonically amazing, and emotionally draining (for me, at least) production that was. I’ll never forget it.

My view of the right side of the stage

First — the visual component. Everything was blue. Nice choice, and no doubt deliberate. After all, blue is known for covering the basic spectrum of the human condition. According to color psychologists, blue can represent serenity, happiness, peace, and calm, but also loneliness, melancholy, sadness, and inner pain.

The costumes were straight out of an LSD trip. Unbelievably unique and fun. From tricycles pedaled by nothing but a pair of yellow rain boots, to suspended, floating transparent jellyfish that made it difficult to tell there was a human inside, to outrageous circus getups — it was not to be believed.

My view of the left side of the stage

The acrobatics were like nothing I’ve ever seen. They had it all: tumbling, flying on trapezes and bungee cords, jumping up from beneath the hydraulic stage, ballet, and even rollerbladers who totally smashed it on “Help!” I read recently that the average Cirque performer’s salary is $27,000. That’s a crime. What these folks do to their bodies six shows a week is incredible.

Volkswagen got lots of free press; the show featured two full-size Beetles and an old Van. And the lighting effects were second to none. You can see a bit of everything in their updated commercial:

The reenactment of John’s mother Julia getting hit by a car was devastating. Julia was dressed in all red. So much emotion…

And the super swirly, dizzy visual during “Within You Without You” was one of my favorite moments:

The sound — I was perhaps most impressed by this element. First, I know there were speakers behind the headrests of the seats. From the most hushed whisper to chest-vibrating low end, you were immersed in the music, and it in you; an absolute journey in sound.

I enjoyed hearing studio banter that this old Beatles war horse had never heard before. Fascinating! I’m sure some of it was from the newly-discovered Abbey Road tapes. I plan to see the film next year, as painful as it will be.

Most of all, the music was utterly transcendent. And not just the selection of songs (which, I understand, underwent an update, and I loved every choice), but their arrangement. So so SO clever.

The overlapping/medley-izing of Beatles tunes isn’t necessarily a monumental task. A sample (incomplete) breakdown is as follows with regard to how many songs the Beatles recorded in each key:

  • G major – 36
  • C major – 30
  • E major – 29
  • A major – 25

That’s easy enough. But the genius behind the actual connecting and threading and overdubbing/overlapping of the songs was absolutely brilliant. Using harmonies from one song over the intro to another; exchanging drum patterns, melding guitar solos…it blew this musician’s mind. And someone had the bright idea to blast the songs through the giant sound system 30 minutes before the show started – but with all vocals removed. Instant karaoke while you wait. :-)

There’s a dozen more paragraphs I could write, but it’s time to shut down and get packed and ready to meet the shuttle to go to the airport. I had a beautiful time in this crazy place, and I’ll remember it forever as my first trip to Vegas without the Thriller.

Now it’s back to reality — getting ready for school to start, complete with Sound of Music rehearsals starting. Oy…

Thanks for coming along on this “Odyssette.” Hugs…

Thursday Part I

26 July, 2019
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There is just so much to show and tell, I know I won’t be able to do it in one post (and not totally bore you in the process).

I will address LOVE in tomorrow’s ramblings. Suffice to say I bawled through most of it, and the other parts were just magical. But more on that tomorrow.  Yesterday was nonstop, and I have great pictures to share!

I started out by fully intending to take the 8:28 a.m. city bus downtown, as the stop is just a one-block walk from my hotel. I got all gussied, headed out the door, and was immediately faced with a decision: Do I start walking down LVB in this suffocating 104-degree heat to wait for the next bus, or do I simply open the door of this waiting air-conditioned taxi, located mere feet from my person?

I’ll let you guess which option I chose. ;-)

Forgot to take a photo of the entry sign, darn. Here’s a stolen version.

Founded in 1996 through a partnership between the Arts Council of Southern Nevada and the City of Las Vegas, the Neon Boneyard museum is a wonderful tribute to the golden era of Vegas (1940s-1970s, mostly). What a walk down Memory Lane it was for me to see super-up-close much of the signage I remember either seeing in person, or in movies as a kid.

They operate the place (located well away from the Strip, downtown) like a National Park, sort of. They have “rangers” stationed throughout the small space, ready to give quick facts about each sign, and to provide the much-needed service of posing as photographer.

Moulin Rouge sign, 1955

One ranger told me that the Moulin Rouge, opened in 1955, was the first racially integrated casino in the United States. Initially, I had to ask her what the sign said, and she explained that for some reason, the letters were reassembled in the wrong order. I guess I should have asked why they didn’t fix it…

Then there were the signs that I personally remembered from previous visits to Vegas:

The only disappointment was they didn’t have a remnant of the first Vegas hotel I ever stayed in: the Westward Ho. Bummer, because those rolling umbrella lights were iconic at the time; as recognizable as any other place on the Strip.

I have a ton more photos of the place, but you get the idea. Such a fun stroll — I told one of the rangers that now that they’re reclaiming the Sahara identity for the SLS Hotel (where I’m staying), I hope they totally embrace the iconic signage and 1950s Rat Pack feel the place had. He agreed.

After all the feelgood nostalgia, it was time to see some grisly history. I learned a lot at the American Museum of Organized Crime, and next time you’re in Vegas, it’s a stop I think you should fit into your schedule.

Since I’m pressed for time this morning (today is casino day, and I’m off off off the Strip for that), I’ll pass on a photo essay, but if there was ever any confusion about what a syndicate is with regard to criminal activity, this place clears it all up.

The exhibits cover gangster activity from Los Angeles to New York, Cleveland to Havana, and all places in between. The Prohibition exhibit is fascinating.

Although I said I wouldn’t post an essay, I will post a couple pictures here that I found exceptionally interesting/disturbing, however:

The skim at these places illustrates how clueless early auditors were, and how easy it was to get very rich, very fast.


Actual brick wall from Chicago’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 1929

Again, last night’s Cirque experience was so amazing that for a while, I was without words. I’ll fix that tomorrow. :-)

Off to my final day in “Lost Wages.” (eye roll) Hugs to all my fiends.


25 July, 2019
Rat Fink

First things first: I arrived safely in this cute little oasis in the middle of the desert, where it’s only 93 degrees at 6:30 a.m. But my room at the SLS (the former Sahara, and from what I was told, will be going back to Sahara after a huge renovation) is nice and cool, and the coffee’s hot and the chocolate croissant was tasty.

But let me tell you about the “getting here” part.

I chose Spirit Airlines because:

  1. I don’t eat or drink on a domestic flight, so I like not having to pay for others wanting to (they charge you for everything from meals to water in order to keep costs down)
  2. I don’t need a phone charging station for a 4-hour flight
  3. Since they’re no-frills, the cost is super cheap, especially when combined into an Expedia airfare/hotel deal
  4. They have the youngest fleet of all major US airlines
  5. The seat pitch is fixed, which is OK, because I never recline my seat anyway, and the width is fine and cushioning totally acceptable
  6. It was a direct flight from and back to Cleveland

And, as I discovered last night, every other weirdo like me in the universe also chose Spirit Airlines. To wit:

  1. I looked at the seating chart in realtime three hours before my flight. Cool — no one sitting next to me, and about 30 empty seats left on the 182-passenger Airbus A320 . In those three hours, everyone in Cleveland who said, “Hey dangit…I think I’ll go to Vegas tonight!” was on that plane. Not a single seat available. Ridic.
  2. There was a guy three rows in front of me with a nervous tic. Every 30 seconds or so, he’d sniff really hard four times. Every. Thirty. Seconds. For four hours.
  3. I was in seat 7A. Number 7C was occupied, and of course, one minute before they close the doors, Miss Twenty-Something I Just Woke Up 15 Minutes Ago stumbles in, wearing jogging shorts, flip-flops, and a hoodie, and there’s only one space left: 7B. She immediately put her head down on the tray table and fell asleep. She also froze to death, poor thing. She tried to put her entire body inside that hoodie. Someone obviously forgot to tell her that airplanes are flying refrigerators. I had a t-shirt, sweater, jeans, socks, and shoes on, and I was still cold.
  4. It was a nighttime flight that left Cleveland at 8:30. You’d think that as we got airborne and the crew turned off the cabin lights, that people would get the hint. Nothin’ doin’.  Apparently, the group of bros in row 30 thought those of us in the front needed to hear about their “dude weekend” in Vegas. Oy.
  5. The crew referred to the city as “Lost Wages” four times. *tWiTCh*
  6. Seat 7A is right over the port side engine. Ever hear one of those buzzy branch cutters that resonate through the entire neighborhood, making sure everyone’s awake at 7:30 on a Saturday morning? Yeah, that. I thought the entire wing was going to fall off. And me without my noise-canceling headphones, because I thought I wouldn’t need them…
  7. Instead of hailing a taxi (which would have cost me plenty, because my hotel is at the opposite end of the strip from the airport), I decided to book a shuttle. Malachai, our driver, was really nice, but he neeeevvvvveeerrrrrr stopppppped taaallllkkkinnnnngg for the entire 30-minute ride. Dude…it’s 10 p.m. (1 a.m. for my bod) and I’m still not checked in. Please refrain from pointing out every cool strip act and cannabis dispensary on the Strip. I’m good.

OK, so the trip was weird, but once I got inside the SLS, everything was great. Quick check-in, nice people, fun free upgrade, and a good night’s sleep.

Now I need to get out the door for today’s little adventure in the 106-degree coolness. I’ll report back tonight! Have fun, and stay outta the heat.


24 July, 2019
Rat Fink

Talk about “Lucky Jackson.” ;-)

Today’s the day! Mavis is taking me to the airport at 6 p.m., and I’ll try to snooze on the 4-hour direct flight as much as possible, because I’m scheduled to arrive at 10:00 local time. And I’m probably not going jump right into bed, so…


Vegas in the summertime — ha. Even though Europe is having a horrific heat wave right now, I think LV might still have them beat. Safe to say that I’m grateful for air-conditioned transportation to get me from indoor-place to indoor-place. That, and I probably shouldn’t be schlepping around the city late at night by myself. Who knows what might befall an innocent little old lady crossing the street, ya know?

Maybe I need a Gladys costume. *snicker*

Talk to you soon! Hugs