Singular Sensation

During the summer before my 10th grade year, my father and my brothers and I all climbed into dad’s 1986 Honda Accord, and hauled ourselves up the interstate highway into New York.  We stopped briefly to see dad’s cousin in Hyde Park, to visit dad’s cousin near the FDR Estate.  My flawed thirty-years-ago memory insists that dad’s cousin was a care-taker of the FDR estate, but I may not be remembering that correctly.

Ultimately, this trip took us into the city of New York.  We walked through central park more than once, due to mild lost-ness, and we also took in a show.  We took in this show:

chorus-line-schubert-1987
schubert-a_chorus_line-the-1980s-2016_09_04_15_18_32

This was the original run of A Chorus Line, which started on July 25, 1975, and was still going strong in 1987 when my brothers and I saw it in 1987.  I’m pretty sure dad was behind the camera on this one, because he was definitely with us.

a-chorus-line-schubert

A Chorus Line on Broadway ran until April 28, 1990.  When it ended its nearly fifteen year run, the Schubert theater had held more than 6,000 showings.  It held the honor of being the longest running show on Broadway, until Cats took the new record seven years later.  (Cats has since lost the title to the Phantom of the Opera.  There’s always something bigger.)

On the last day that A Chorus Line was running on Broadway, another much smaller production was doing its second to last day: Santaluces Community High School, in Lantana, Florida.

santaluces-chorus-line

In this production, a certain seventeen-year-old future blogger was cast in the role of Gregory Gardner.  Wikipedia hilariously describes the role as, “a sassy Jewish gay man who divulges his first experience with a woman.”

When I was a senior in high school, I didn’t know anything about gay people, so I had no idea that playing a gay person on a high school stage in 1990 was a big deal until years later.  What I did know was that I’m a mediocre tap dancer at best, and that I looked damn good in gold lamé.

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-3-32-58-pm screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-3-34-44-pm

I’ve been able to keep track of a few of the cast and crew members over the years, mostly through the evil web of Facebook.  A precious few of the folks in this photograph have been excellent friends to me for the entirety of the twenty-six years since the show (and high school) ended for me.  If you know where to look, my good friend, fellow blogger, and Huffington Post overnight editor Jade Walker is in the cast photo below.

As for me, I’m in the front row, fifth from the left.  And I still think I look good in gold lamé.

a_chorus_line_schs_1990

What was the first musical you saw on stage?  If you were in drama in school, what was the first show in which you took the stage?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

Lost Photo Post: Vaduz, Liechtenstein

It is once again time to add to my series of photo posts where I took a bunch of photographs, intending to make a blog post out of them, and then never got around to actually writing the post.

On April 24th of this year, I joined two colleagues from our German office for a car ride from Regensburg Germany to Zurich Switzerland to attend some meetings.   The gentlemen in the car with me were kind enough to allow me to persuade them to detour very slightly, around lunch-time, into my 28th country visited: Liechtenstein.

The Principality of Liechtenstein is a tiny landlocked country that sits between Austria on the northeast and Switzerland on the southwest.  The entire country is roughly 62 square miles in size, with an estimated population of about 37,000 people.  That’s one-eleventh the population of Miami, Florida!

vaduz1

The fact that Vaduz wasn’t a very lengthy detour helped me to persuade my colleagues.  Also beneficial to my request for a detour is the fact that both of them are fond of a good restaurant.  We set out to Vaduz to dine.  The choice was between Vaduz and neighboring Schaan, and I pushed for Vaduz.   The food at Restaurant Adler was just ok, but the decorations were fascinating.

vaduz2

I preferred Vaduz to Schaan because Vaduz is the capital city. In this case, the city is less than seven square miles in size, with a population of a little more than 5,000 people.

vaduz3

Liechtenstein is a very wealthy city, and while walking through the city center, we saw several banks, a Superdry store, and this Botero sculpture:

vaduz4

Lest you think it was all ritz and culture, there was also this giant Weber grill.

vaduz5

Liechtenstein is also a constitutional monarchy, and the most prominent landmark in Vaduz is Vaduz Castle, home of the current reigning prince.  The castle is sitting on a steep hill overlooking Vaduz, and you can see it from just about anywhere in the city.

vaduz6

Here’s a slightly more zoomed photo of Vaduz Castle, taken after lunch and just before we continued our drive into Switzerland.

vaduz7

Have you ever been to Liechtenstein?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

Fear is the worst reason not to travel.

My employer is sending me to Europe for some meetings at the end of April, and I shared my excitement to Facebook after I received my booking confirmation.  “Airfare for Germany: Booked. Bazinga!”   Most of the comments were the usual sort.  People want to know when and why I’m going.  A while after the initial post, one of my old buddies said this:

“Are you sure you wanna travel there right now?”

My initial response was flippant- “Germany and Switzerland are fine.  It’s not as if I have a business meeting in Syria.”    The more I thought about it though, the more I wonder how many of my friends truly think that the world is that scary right now.       This response, one of trepidation, is almost certainly because the Brussels bombings have been in the news for the last few days.  Before that, it was Charlie Hebdo.  Or the Boston bombing.  Or any number of attacks in various places that seem like they should be safe.  If you believe the news, everything is terrible and we’re all going to die any minute now.

If you watch the news in the US, it’s all fear, all the time. But that’s not the reality.  It’s no more dangerous to go abroad right now in most of Europe than it is to walk alone at night in a major city in the US.   Be aware of your surroundings.  Travel with common sense about your personal security.  And stop worrying about the statistical unlikelihood that you might meet a terrorist.

I’ve never felt uncomfortable or nervous anywhere I’ve been in Europe.  In Germany, I worked side by side with Muslims and I never felt like they were doing anything more objectionable due to their faith than abstaining from the wonderful German beer that was all around us.   Since 2011, I’ve traveled to more than two dozen countries.   The only time I’ve ever felt uncomfortable was in Cairo, and that was mostly because of the terrible terrible drivers.    And the pushy people along the Nile who want to sell you stuff.

Fear is the worst reason to stay at home.   There are so many wonderful things to see out there, and if you let the news give you nightmares, you’ll miss all of it.

Have you ever felt nervous in an unfamiliar city?

Leaving Japan (via the Skyclub!)

I did a great many things during my five weeks in Japan.  There are a few last things that I wanted to do, but I couldn’t schedule everything.

I wanted to go to the Ueno Park and Zoo. I was close to it many times, since the Ueno station was a major pivot point for my metro travels during the city.  I also had dinner once at the Hard Rock there.  I usually try not to eat food when I travel that I could easily get back home, but sometimes you have to make an exception for the local Hard Rock.

I wanted to stay one night in a capsule hotel.  Capsule hotels are all over Japan, and they’re most commonly found close to train stations.  When the trains stop running, someone who has been out to Nomikai and Sanjikai might want to stay out a bit longer.  If you’ve missed the last train back home, a capsule hotel is an inexpensive way to get some sleep before the morning trains start up.  Each capsule is a tiny space, and the hotel will have shared bathroom and shower facilities outside of the “room.”  If you’ve ever seen the movie The Fifth Element, then you have an idea of what these are like- little horizontal places to sleep without many frills.  Some capsule hotels have televisions inside the capsule, and they almost always have privacy screens on the door.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Daa Nell

I wanted to attend a Sumo match. I was in Japan during Sumo wrestling season.  I thought it would be fascinating to see a match.  However, many of the matches were sold out before I found out about them, and those that were not sold out were prohibitively expensive.  Luckily for me, the matches were often broadcast on television, and I was able to watch a series of matches on the television in my hotel room.   Sumo is really neat to watch, as it turns out, even though I don’t know much about the rules.

I wanted to attend a formal tea ceremony.  There were a few places I found in Japan where I could do this, but most of them were in hotels on work-days.  As it turns out, most of the people who want to attend formal tea ceremonies are tourists, which is why they were all in hotels.

That about wraps it up for my time in Japan, though.  All that’s left is the flight home.   I’m not one to resist a good instructional sign.

skylounge-0177

One of my colleagues in the Otemachi office gave me a day-pass to Delta’s Skyclub for me to use on my way out of town.   (Thanks, Chiba-san!)  Since it’s a 24 hour pass, I was able to use it to get away from the airport noise both in Tokyo and also on my layover back in the US.  Tokyo’s Skyclub was better.

skylounge-0180

This is a peaceful oasis compared to the noise of the International terminal.  Lots of places to sit, eat, read, or just stop for a bit.

skylounge-0179

Of course there was food and drink available.

skylounge-0181

If you have a flight longer than about twelve hours, I heartily recommend buying a Skyclub daypass-  the food alone makes up for the cost of it.  There were little salads, crescent rolls, fruit, and other edibles.   In Japan, there was sushi.  On my US layover, there was soup and meatballs.

skylounge-0182

In Tokyo, there were also little meat skewers and bananas.  I enjoyed the banana…  Bananas are good!

skylounge-0184

Isn’t this tiny bottle of soy sauce just the most adorable thing?  It’s a tiny salty capsule of squee!

skylounge-0178

The beverage selection was fantastic.

skylounge-0183

There were even little automatic beer pouring machines that tilt the glass to get the correct amount of foam in the finished pour.  Food automation is always fascinating to watch.

skylounge-0185

Have you ever seen such an adorable tiny container of soy sauce?

Akihabara and a Cat Cafe

Meanwhile, back in Japan…  Akihabara’s Electric City is an amazing place.  It is home to thousands of shops selling electronic gadgets, video games, anime and manga stuff, and more.

akihabara-daylight

When I first day in Tokyo, I went along with my colleague to Akihabara because he went there for souvenir shopping- there are tax and duty free shops near the main rail station for the area that are full of nifty things to bring home at reasonable prices.

akihabara-112

If you’re not sure that you’re in Akihabara, just look around.  Even the soda vending machines are decked out in Otaku themes.

akihabara-111

This vehicle was playing Japanese pop music very loudly as it passed by on the main street.  This is very typically Akihabara.

akihabara

One of the reasons that we went to Akihabara on that first day was that I had expressed curiosity about the local version of Denny’s.

dennys01

Based on the menu, I would say that Japanese Denny’s is Denny’s in name only.  However, their french toast was deliciously superior to anything I’ve had in the States.  Your mileage may vary.

dennys02

Another great thing that I enjoyed in Akihabara is a cat cafe called Neko Jalala.  The cafe is a short walk from the main Akihabara rail station, and it’s pretty easy to spot despite the nondescript brown wooden sliding door.

neko-cafe-1

Once you step inside the first door, you remove your shoes and put them in a cubby.  Next, you pay an entrance fee.  I paid for thirty minutes inside.  This little fuzzball was my favorite of the cats inside.

neko-cafe-2

There were about fifteen cats inside.  A binder was presented to me which detailed the names, ages, and personalities of each of the felines, along with a few photographs for easy identification.

neko-cafe-3

I also paid a small fee for a cup of cat treats.  This gentleman has a cup of treats in his hand, hence all the attention.

neko-cafe-4

As you can see, the cats all come out for treats.  They are most insistent.

neko-cafe-5

This kitty was one of two that spent time using me as a feeder.

neko-cafe-6

The other one was all stripey!  Since this is also an actual cafe, you can have a tasty cold beverage while you’re inside.  I selected apple juice, but their coffee drinks also looked delicious.

neko-cafe-7

During my afternoon visit, many of the cats were sleeping or just sitting around attentively.  Very few were active.

neko-cafe-8

The sleeping hideaways were tucked in every nook and cranny.

neko-cafe-9

This cat is the only one that seemed to be in a playful mood.

neko-cafe-10

The little plush cat-car is fantastic.

neko-cafe-11

This grumpy looking fellow was napping while I was in the cafe.

neko-cafe-12

Skritch skritch skritch!

neko-cafe-13

This tiny little girl was the sweetest cat.

neko-cafe-14

Just before I left, she deigned to allow me to pet her a tiny bit.

neko-cafe-15

Have you ever been to Akihabara?  Have you ever visited a Cat Cafe?