Monday, February 28, 2011

Local Art for Locals

Writing about the New York City Opera (Onstage with the People's Opera, Harpers Magazine, March 2011), Christopher R. Beha precisely phrases the difference I see between Bend's music scene and the scene in San Diego (and probably Los Angeles).

In November of 2009, City Opera, located next door to the Metropolitan Opera House, where the world's largest opera company is housed, was just about out of business.

He writes
I couldn't say exactly what would be lost if City Opera stopped going about its comparatively modest business. Something more than the survival of one institution seemed at stake. As a native New Yorker, I came to think that the company's disappearance would be of a piece with the shuttering of independent theaters, the replacement of [iconic music club] CBGB with a high-end clothing boutique, the exodus of artistic excitement from the city of my birth--where locals making art for locals have been replaced by corporations making entertainment for tourists.
(emphasis mine)


In SoCal, locals no longer make music for locals. Most nightclubs got rid of their performance stages and lighting gear a few decades ago, to be replaced by the scourge of karaoke, which promises that anyone can sing if they get drunk enough, and will sound great as long as the audience is just as drunk.

Venues for musicians and bands to play have vanished.

The only places to hear live music are smack in the tourist areas, like San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter where high-priced club bands play to tourists.

There are no places for locals to go to hear locals. There are no clubs where young musicians learn to polish their craft onstage.

Mrs Elliott was out on Friday night, putting up fliers in front of stores promoting a KPOV (community radio, 106.7) event.

"I could hardly find a place to post anything," she said. "I am blown away with how much music there is in this town!"

I like living in a town which provides so many opportunities for music to be heard.

Postscript: I can't speak of the other arts in town. I was a musician, neither a painter nor poet am I. Near as I can see much of the local paintings are hung in shops for tourists, but I don't know, locals might buy a lot of canvases. Poetry is probably not a tourist draw anywhere, so it has to be for locals.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscar Bait, Wining, Dining Downtown & A Frozen Pipe

Mrs Elliott is on a drive to catch up on as many Oscar-grade movies as she can, so we saw "Rabbit Hole" last night. It was brilliant. The acting, pacing, characters . . . pretty much everything was perfect. It is also a very trying movie, one that takes the audience through a lot of pain and struggle.

Would I recommend it? Yes, if you're looking for a real good drama. Slow paced, a struggle, but pitch-perfect.

Or nearly so. We were both bothered by one detail. While they didn't tart up the highly tart-up-able Ms. Kidman (she looked almost dowdy, with flat, mussed hair and little makeup, something that Hollywood usually screws up, using, as they do, spectacularly good-looking actors to portray average people), her Restalyn-plumped lips were very distracting. Who thinks that look is even remotely human?

I'll tell you who: women who hang around other women with fake faces. Do their men ever get used to it, or do they go "yikes!" every time they come across their wives? 

We were planning to see "Barney's Version" this afternoon.
(Synopsis: Take a ride through the life and memories of Barney Panofsky, a hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, foulmouthed 65-year old hockey fanatic and television producer, as he reflects on his life's successes and (numerous) gaffes and failures as the final chapters of his own existence come sharply into focus.)
Which sounds like a film for adults.

But Mrs Elliott is suffering some vague ailment today. So we're staying home instead and she's watching her ladyshows on TV. Sniffling.

"Social Network," despite being mainly made-up and a poor depiction of the company's startup, was a fun roller-coaster.

"The King's Speech."differently Very very good, very very British, very very inaccurate, very very feel good. Great for America's anglophiles, great cast. But ultimately it's a Mighty Ducks story. Karate Kid, etc. Pure Oscar-bait.

I thoroughly enjoyed "Black Swan." I didn't expect to, but did mightily. Professional ballet dancers might feel differently.

So what about Best Picture? Which picture would I want audiences in the future to consider 2010's best picture? Me, I'd pick either "Winter's Bone" or "Up." I liked them both.

We had dinner at the Bond Street Grill, né The Decoy. Chris, the new owner, felt the old name was a little too "hunting club" in tone, and wanted something a little more blue collar. The place was filled when we arrived at the tail end of happy hour, two waitstaff doing a yeoman's job of keeping the ale, cocktails, appetizers and meals coming. The blackened chicken was quite good (ordered it sans the mashed potatoes) and the blackened ahi on a bed of veggies was excellent. 

And Now With Less Cold!

My favorite downtown establishment, The Wine Shop and Tasting Bar, has a new heating system. Instead of being chilly inside during this winter, as it has been for the previous two, it is now comfortably warm. Mrs Elliott, who chills easily, has never found the place very inviting. But last night she came in, took off her coat, sat down and stayed for over an hour chatting with a couple who have a condo here in Bend.

And of course it turned out that the woman with whom Mrs Elliott was conversing had met one of Mrs Elliott's sisters a few years ago. Two degrees of separation. 

I swear we could survive a shipwreck and wash ashore a desert island with eight other people and it would turn out that one of them went to Mrs Elliott's high school.

And while I'm on the subject of two degrees, it got down to a frigid 2 degrees here last night. Pipe feeding one of our toilets froze. As the house warmed up due to the sun, and the W.C. warmed up due to a little electric heater, I waited for the line to thaw and to see where the water came out. Thankfully it came out in the toilet tank, not the wall. I'll keep it on trickle tonight.

Snow shoveling, firewood hauling, sidewalk salting. These and other manly chores took me outdoors where the warm sun soon had me taking off my coat. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

45 Degrees of Cool

Following up on my earlier post about sleeping in a cold room, I don't want to give the impression that I've somehow built up superhuman tolerance to cold. There are limits.

Yesterday, Bruce Miller and I met at O'Kane's to play our weekly game of chess, smoke cigars, sip something alcoholic (single malt for Mr. Miller, their house pinot for me), crack knock-knock jokes, and complain about the miserable Dead music.

They open at 4, and that's when we get there so we can score the table next to the wood stove. It's the only source of heat for the place. When we sat down, lit our cigars and set up the pieces, the place was 45 degrees. (This according to my Harbor Freight IR thermometer which I'm carrying around these days to see where Bend restaurants and other establishments keep the thermostat set.)

The fellow that opened the place could not get the fire started in the wood stove. He had chunks of wood and newspaper, and one could coax a fire into life without kindling if one builds his fire carefully, but his fire-building skills were lacking.

McMenamin's generally provides firestarters, but they were out. So no fire was happening. He struggled with the thing for about 20 minutes. Other men stood around, offering advice. But no go. The place was going to stay at 45 for the duration.

Mr. Miller and I decided that playing chess with cold-numbed fingers was not going to be pleasant, so we declared a draw and decided to leave in search of someplace warmer. The bartender comped us our drinks, I tipped him nicely for the effort and courtesy.

"I was brought up without a father figure," he muttered. Fathers being, of course, the source of the manlier arts, like reloading rounds, handling bullies, dressing deer, knot-tying, advice about dating, fishing, and, among a myriad of other butch skills, building fires.

He looked embarrassed. I got momentarily nosy and asked whether this was something that made him feel inadequate. He said it was.

I hope he got it sorted out.

Overnight Lows in the Low 50s

Mrs Elliott and I have taken to sleeping with the window a little bit open this winter.

Last fall she came home with a down-filled duvet cover insert.

"We'll use this in winter," she said.

So when the temperatures took a turn toward the freezing point on a consistent basis, we pulled out the lightweight polyester insert and reloaded the cover with the new down insert. The polyester insert is now somewhere in the linens closet with its frighteningly overpacked shelves bulging with towels and sheet sets.

The new insert has totally changed how we sleep. We are no longer sealing the sliding glass door at night, but leaving it open a bit. As the season progressed we learned that we slept well with the room just under 60 degrees. And as the weather has cooled more, we've adjusted the opening in the sliding glass door for even lower temperature.

Under that snuggly cover, we've never felt the least cold. In fact, sleeping in the cold has made me feel this season's cold far less. It doesn't feel cold when I get up to pee in the middle of the night.

Even Mrs Elliott seems to be less sensitive to the cold. Yesterday afternoon she walked from her car to a store wearing only a light sweater. It was snowing and around 30.

"It doesn't feel cold," she said.

Last year she would have put on an expedition jacket when the temperature dropped below 40.

Left the window open about a finger's width last night. This morning the room was at 51. And it felt fine.

Maybe having one's face exposed to colder air at night reduces one's sensitivity to cold. Maybe not, could be my imagination. But it feels good and seems to contribute to better sleep.

That's good enough for me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Partner Massage Class for Valentine's Day

From the Making The Rest Of You Look Bad Dept.: Mrs Elliott and I took an all-day class at COCC yesterday. "Partner Table Massage," it was. Tonight we give each other massages. For Valentine's Day.

Pause for a moment and let these words sink in. I have tens of readers in Bend and nearby. Many of them are women. With husbands. You may be married to one of those women. And right now she's thinking, "George never does anything that sweet for me." I am, to be clear, making you look like a pathetic, unimaginative, lazy yutz with your $30 worth of predicable cards, flowers, the cheap waxy Russell Stover chocolates you picked up from Rite Aid at lunchtime, and dinner at the Black Bear Diner. 

But don't blame me. I can't help what an awesome husband I am! I can't be responsible for your lack of awareness of how goddam important this holiday is to women. It's Love! Romance! Being treated like someone Special!

I've done what I can. Questions?

You, with your hand up. Yes you. No, not the person behind you, you! Your question?

Right, yes, I understand that Love! Romance! and that special thing are female fantasies.

You want to know what you get besides a lighter wallet?

First, you're an unromantic lout. Second, you forget that a happy wife means a happy life.

But if you need something more, you juvenile selfish pig, and hanker for something a little more concrete, look ahead, my friend, to March 14. It's Steak & a B.J. Day.

But you must be deserving.

Are you deserving?

Get cracking. You've got until 6 o' clock to make plans and track down the required tools and matériel. 
(Note: any place that does not take reservations isn't suitable for Valentine's Day. If you don't already have reservations you have two choices: offer to cook a gourmet dinner for your loved one [That's my plan -- Ed.], or get struck by a car while crossing the street and go to the ER.)

You're welcome.
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