Monday, December 28, 2009

Last 2 Reads of 2009

Finished Andy Williams' autographed memoir, "Moon River and Me" which I bought in Branson at his theater.   Absolutely enjoyable reading and a keeper.   I loved it.  I have long been a fan and if you read my posts on this blog about Branson and our experience at his show/theater, you know that. 
I did not know as much about Andy but learned he is from a small town, Wall City Iowa and Des Moines was the first big city for the Williams Brothers to hitch their star. Their father was the driving force. Andy is now 82 and a true legend of our lifetime. Reading this memoir, I learned he is a perfectionist to whom good enough never occurs and he remains a workaholic. He describes in detail his early hard way to go on the road in 1954 while in Cleveland and he eats dog food. Sadly some of the worst times were in Pittsburgh (my home area) and to this day he’s averse to going there. In his early days he is quite drawn to older women, some are 20+ years older than himself. But later in life that changes where today now with his 2nd wife where he is the certain  elder.

Poignant chapters about Andy’s life endeared him more so to me. There is humor, for example, when he is in Paris France working with Quincy Jones to produce his first album. Persistently knocking on the wrong apartment door for the key gets him kicked n the shins! The retreat to enjoy hot buttered rums in the lodge while golfing with friends and how Fred Mac Murray who was tighter that  the skin on a wiener loses dice three times in a row to buy the rounds is a hoot.

I  had forgotten that he and his brothers sing the background on  "Would You like to  Swing ona Star" with Bing Crosby.  This is one of the first songs I rmember singing and something that stayed with me all my life.  I have a pair of  earrings with angels sitting on the side of the moon ready to swing on a star and a pin a long gone friend, Roberta, bought me  with the star dangling and the angel ready to take off and swing on it.   No wonder I love Andy, he's part of  my circle of life.

There is pathos when he describes his father’s death and his eldest brother’s dementia. There is example after example of his perseverance. There is history when he descries the early days of his San Diego golf tournament and how these came to be sponsored and then directed by commercial venues. Over several chapters, Andy describes his deep friendship with Bobby Kennedy; they were in Los Angeles at the hotel waiting to join him for dinner when Bobby was killed. He sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic at Bobby’s funeral, something he did with a heavy heart and tears. It’s interesting how a Republican became so close to Bobby but also demonstrates that Bobby Kennedy was idealistic and beyond a party. Andy writes about his first marriage to Claudine Longet, his children and accepts total responsibility for the end of that marriage as he was working all the time. He also shares the tragedy when Claudine shoots Spider Savich in Aspen, CO. I had forgotten that story.

So many wonderful chapters were favorites but perhaps the best was reading the details about how he came to Branson and his efforts (perfectionist top notch) engaged in construction of his magnificent Moon River Theater. His interest in artwork and paintings derives from his early days of poverty where he spent time visiting any and all galleries and museums. Today he is an avid collector. Many treasures are displayed in his Theater in Branson. Today he is at the point of contentment in his life which he divides between Branson, MO & La Quinta, CA. I treasured every page and recommend this book to anyone who likes to read biographies. I learned a lot about Andy and enjoyed this immensely. I am going to write a fan letter to Andy about this book and our experience at his theater. I have never done that in my adult life and we will see if I get a reply. Our next trip to Branson, we are going back and will stop at his Moon River Grill. Andy visits it almost daily, when in Branson, he says, because the food is free!

Andy Williams is a dear man who is not bitter but who is I am sure very demanding.  Most perfectionist are.  But what a voice! 

In order to read Andy's memoir, I had to finish Sarah Pailin's "Going Rogue." It was a coincidence that she was speaking at the college of the Ozarks in Branson when we were there. I had her book with me and if we had not already purchased tickets to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, we would have gone to hear Sarah. When John McCain chose her as his running mate, VP, I vacillated between puzzled and miffed. I now believe she made the most positive difference in the campaign and if she had been given a freer reign, McCain could have done better. Maybe no one would have beat Obsama and the Bush hating media, but Sarah is a force. Maybe she won't run again, but she is going to be active and  will not go away!

I usually don’t buy books as soon as they are released, but when I saw this in Sam’s that day I put it in my shopping cart to support her. Contrary to what the hateful liberal critics say, I did not read any whining in this book. She is merely getting her side out there. Because I spent a long career in high levels of CA state government in several departments I absolutely believe what she says. I encountered some of the very same situations in my career. I know it happens. She is a woman of her word, unusual in politics. When Sarah says she will do something, count on it. Her allegiance to principles made many enemies for her early on in Alaska, even in her own Republican party. It certainly upset the Exxon oil company. I believe many of the difficulties she encounters still today have deep roots there. Repercussions of messing with big oil? I can believe it.

I now understand why she resigned as Governor, though I still wish she could have toughed it out. She was absolutely paralyzed by the ethics charges filed left and right by the DNC and the liberals. Alaska law allows anyone to file these, regardless of whether or not they are an Alaskan citizen.

I have been intrigued by her marriage to a blue collar guy because I have lived similarly with marriage Jerry for 42+ years. There is not the breadth of personal information in this book that I might have preferred. There is a bit about her childhood in Alaska and her college years and many photos. Most of the book is about her political experiences which are good reading too. She does describe life in the salmon fisheries, dog sledding, the Iditarod and life in Alaska. Nevertheless I absolutely enjoyed this book and it will remain among my collection. One of my favorite quotes is on page 386 where she espouses her belief that the “role of government is to protect us not to perfect us.” I hope her dad is right on when he says that, “Don’t worry about Sarah. She is not retreating, she’s just reloading!”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Signs and reasons

Day after Christmas, the sun is shining with diamond like sparkles glistening outside as I try to pay attention to my tasks at hand. Being a likely ADD though never diagnosed, I find it so easy to wander from blog to Face book to internet searches to other activities.

I believe strongly in signs and intuition. However, I don’t always recognize these nor do I follow them when I do recognize them. The times in my life where I have had big whopping doozies of difficulty occurred when I did not follow my intuition. It’s those times when I knew better but listened to the arguments in my own head saying, “.. give it/him/her/them a chance..” “another chance..”…” this won’t be so bad…” and the worst of all for someone like me who has a lifetime of knowing better, “just be nice…”

This must be why on tests and quizzes the professionals say go with your first choice, trust your gut. Many times I’ve ignored my gut, reasoning myself into trouble. So here I sit fingers on keyboard when I would rather find something outside to do. I am avoiding any after Christmas sale shopping today. But I am also pondering about writing.

I always told my friends and co-workers I would write a book. I have played various titles and topics through my head,
  • “Commuters” which would have been about the many and sundry characters I met commuting from Newcastle to downtown Sacramento, first by vanpool and then by bus for almost 30 years.
  • “Life in the Bureaucrazy” which is not misspelled. My 31+ year government career certainly provided me with no end of material. I fancied this might become a sitcom which would be most humorous to those of us inside bureaucracies. Then I thought that surely it would be viewed as absolute fiction by those who made their livings in the private sector. Well, the Brits beat me to it with “The Office” a TV sitcom which I find stupid, but which is seen as humorous by many.
  • “Growing up among the Ethnics” because in PA while I was Polish there were many ethnicities in our town, the Italians, the Jews, the Irish, the Syrians, and more….I had good friends in each of these groups, so I became interested in different cultures. I also became quite tolerant of foreign accents because my own grandparents had them as did of my friends’ grandparents.
  •  “The Great Mistake.” This would have detailed my 19 year old escapade, dropping out of a semi-Ivy League college, kicking a fully paid 4 year scholarship in the ass to marry who turned out to be a real jerk and to flee to CA. Water under the bridge but how I stayed across the country from all family and survived and thrived without any form of welfare might be good reading. This would be kind of like the perils of Pat at times, and include my grandmother to the rescue. It’s a rough thing to wake up across the country one morning when you should be getting ready to return to college and saying, “What the hell is this!” Fortunately for me, somewhere the stamina, perseverance and solid faith turned that brief first marriage upside down, inside out and set me about right. It is why I am so vehemently against young girls marrying. Anyone with any sense and anyone who does not saddle herself with child after child soon awaken to know she is changing immensely between the ages of 18 and 23. I have analyzed chapters in this book repeatedly as to why and how I could have been so dumb.
  •  "How could I have been so dumb?"  Easy writing about  living my life.  This can be about other whoppers, some if which I came out the other side smarter, some of which I came out the other side barely and stinging. 
  •  "People come and go"  This one would be about the losses of  my closest friends, family.  And it would start with memories about my father whom I never knew.   
There have been other book titles in my head, which I do not readily recall. Regardless I have not written any book. But lately so many people have been pestering me about writing that I am beginning to wonder if I am getting signs that I am ignoring? Carlie, Annette, Sandy, Sharon, Sherrie, Carla and others repeatedly tell me, “write that story….” Or “you really should be writing..” or “ I shared that with so and so and they really enjoyed reading it…” “you have a way with words…” This is all very flattering, but then I reason, “nah, I know good writing, after all I am a prolific reader, and my writing is not that good. Maybe it’s interesting to my friends, but, well, really?

A couple years ago I took a literature class at UW La Crosse for which we had to write a short essay about a photo. At the time I was pondering and working on a 50th anniversary photo album for our friends. I used a photo from that collection and wrote about my hair styles over the years, titled, “Hair Scapades” The instructor and women in the class loved it. The instructor asked me if I ever considered publishing some stories.

But lately the signs continue. Just Tuesday the local paper carried a story about a group with the headline, “Writer’s Block in Retirement?” ; it’s a group who gather to write and critique each other’s work. They are inviting other aspiring writers or story tellers from the greater La Crosse area to join them. There’s the sign and then here’s the reason, the group consists of five men, all retirees and one a former reporter. I am for not darn sure I want to go sit with some old men….I know some widows who would jump at that chance, but I turn up my nose. Perhaps my curiosity will get the best of me and I’ll try to go one time. Maybe I can learn something from them. Maybe it won’t be as bad as I can imagine. Perhaps I can find that story I wrote about “My Search for a Church” that cracked Annette up and made her share it with her friends who don’t even know me. That’s the chore, where is it? I suspect it was an email long gone. I also recall that it was about my expulsion from a women’s bible study! That was funny~

The facts are that writing has generally always come easily to me whether it is a letter, a short tale of amusement, or in my career a dissertation and or technical analysis. Words come easily. And I can edit something to death and back. However, words do not always pop up like toast! Sometimes there is a blank spot, writer’s block. Sometimes there is just too much fidgetiness in me to sit still at a keyboard and write. Now is that a sign (like don’t waste time) or is that the reason (like why it won’t work)? I don’t know but I will try to pursue this and do better in 2010. OMG a New Year’s resolution—I gave those up long ago when it wasn’t even Lent!  

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Most Wonderful Time of the Year ? Really

I love that song, especially when sung by Andy Williams, but I the last two days make me realize something is not jiving with the lyrics. Yesterday in the grocery store in La Crosse, I encountered one of the rudest fools I've ever encountered, and you know being from crowded CA land of the fruit and nuts I have met many!

I was in the checkout lane and the bagger was bagging my groceries into my own bags which I take dutifully in so as to not overuse the plastic ones. I was entering my pin into the machine for the ATM card to pay for my groceries when, WHOP, the man behind me whacked me with his cart. I looked at him thinking it was probably an accident and surely he would apologize. He did not. I began to continue to enter my pin and WHOP again. Same man, same cart, same side of me! This is annoying!

Well, with this I turn at him and say in my most annoyed tone, “What is wrong with you!” To which he replies, “Can’t you move up, I’m in a hurry!” I glare and say, “Everyone is but I have nowhere to go! The girl is loading my groceries into my cart which is in front of me.” “Oh, he says, I didn’t see her!” I’m really annoyed beyond now, so I glare at him again. And he continues, “We have to get out children!” He and his wife are somewhere in their 20’s I gauge and now he is almost hyperventilating. I think to myself, but I was restrained by my powers proof once again that there is a Higher Power and My People, that I will soon give him a reason to hyperventilate if he does not quit shoving me.  Wonder how he will like a black leather shoulder bag across the head?

The cashier whose mouth had fallen open explains to him that we must first finish my transaction and he will have to wait. This generates his frantic loud wail, “Well we have to get our children, children are being killed all the time. We have to pick them up.” I am now ready to move on as my last bag is in my cart but I do this casually while glaring at him and saying, “Then what the hell are you doing in the store! And Merry Christmas!” The cashier is now smiling and the bag girl has stepped aside covering her mouth and trying to keep from laughing. Meantime, this dope continues his mad hatter imitation, wailing, “Our children, we must get our children!” I take one final look at his wife who must bemany cards short of the full deck too because she appears oblivious. Why the mentally ill are allowed to run loose, and further why are they allowed to reproduce themselves freely? Can you imagine the life progeny of that fool and his spouse have? I saw them in the parking lot as I returned my cart to the cart collection. Hope no one go in their way because he was pedal to the medal out along the busy street!

When I got home and told Jerry he said, “You should have told him, sure I’ll move and you pay for my groceries, jackass!” That would have been fitting too.

Last night, I installed Windows 7 onto our new laptop. Mistake which took from 5:00PM till 10:30 PM. First I had to backup the files, which was time consuming and meant changing discs five times. Then the Windows7 installation and replacing Windows Vista was another long process. Finally I had to download Windows Live because Windows 7 does not have an email application. Now that really did it! I do not like Windows live. I do not like Windows 7. I will uninstall the whole mess and go back to the way it was! Now I sound like Sam I Am who does not like green eggs or ham! Such a waste of time and more annoyance, courtesy of that bazillionaire Bill Gates and Microsoft! Bah!

Today I had some long distance calls to make which is why I have my blackberry. I thought it was odd last night that Pearly was not jingling signaling my receipt of emails from my gmail. But I didn’t think too much about it. Likely no one is emailing, it’s too close to Christmas and most folks are as busy as me! But when I went to make a call, something was not happening. Checking the screen, I notice no connection. Nada, zip, zero, not! How can this be, Pearl had reception in the Red Rock Mountains of Colorado. Well there is a nasty winter storm descending on us, could that affect it? I have to know and Jerry is saying, maybe the server is down. Well, I think how dumb is that, Blackberry always works! I finally use our home phone and call the center in La Crosse. The man tells me that there is a global issue with Blackberry and all the servers are down with no estimated fix time! I mention that I had no email last night and he tells me that this phenomenon occurred between 5:30-6:00PM last night. So nothing to do but wait and at least be thankful that we are not traveling when cell is our only phone service. And then I think it could be far worse, we could be among those who have forfeited their landlines and rely only on cell! This is a very good reason to maintain a home phone. Who would ever have thought this! But wait just a minute! I understand our president, Obsama, spender in chief uses a blackberry. Has he known about this? Is this a way to push more of his agenda? They already control the media and presstitudes of mainstream reporting. What if they are now controlling the air ways….for those who believe he is the antichrist, the Darth Vader, villain of the La Haye, Left Behind Series, maybe. But for now, I will go along, not panic and trust that Blackberry Global outage will soon be restored.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, I don’t think so. Not today, not yesterday either. Enough of this, time for a good glass of wine!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Retirement and relocations

I talked to a friend from my CA career days last week who lives in Arkansas. We'd not been in touch for several months because I thought she was moving back to CA and was waiting to hear her new address from her. Her Annual Christmas letter came revealing that she was still in Arkansas. She still plans to return to CA because she wants to be around her long time friends and just has not felt at home in the south. It's not that she cannot adjust; it's that what may be around for her to adjust to is boring to her. But now she will not be moving until April, after winter.

I can understand her reasons; she is an educated well read woman who would like to discuss news, views, something of interest besides families and grand children ad nauseum. She likes good conversation and just  exchanging ideas.  When you have had an interesting life long career (different than just going to work) you develop a far different perspective than those who are just in the job market to make a wage. And you certainly have a different perspective than those who never ventured from their home hearth concentrating instead on raising children, grandchildren, etc. I talked to Annette about this and she felt that was a big part of it. It would be similar to melding LA Law characters with those of Leave it to Beaver.

Her interests are broad. Although she loves the house they have, at 78 she finds it's time to return to CA as upside down as it is so that she can enjoy friendships. It just has not happened in her two years in Arkansas. I know others like Annette who regret their moves. It is so difficult to assimilate into an area of entrenched families. I think that is one other reason why the senior areas like Sun Cities are attractive to retirees. I would have been interested in a venue like that but Jerry absolutely did not would not! I have many friends who have all moved out of CA and we stay in touch on the computer or by cell phone, so I do not feel as out of it. If all I relied on for friendship was right here, I could be feeling like Annette.

Sometimes I have thought we made a mistake moving here to La Crescent, a tiny Midwest town of entrenched families and wives, mothers, etc. I miss those good conversations with people who have a basis for opinion.  I have a few friends here with whom I can talk.  When we determined to move from CA we chose MN for several reasons:

  • Jerry thought it would be neat to return to his hometown;
  • It's in the central part of the country which can facilitate our motor home travel.
  • My mother was still alive in PA when we bought here in 2002. This is closer
  • Better quality of life in Midwest than crazee  CA.
  • Finally, Jerry's now 92 year old mother; wherever we went she had to go too. She was willing to come to her old home town. Now as life has turned, here our leisure travel is greatly restricted due to the responsibility of her. She refuses to go into an assisted living and this ties us down. We would both love to leave for part of the winter, but not so. I am almost to the point of being resentful about this. A woman at a party Saturday night advised; well just go on with your life. She had hers and why should she get to rule yours now, you worked for you fun. Well, we know that too but here it is another retirement plan on hold or in need of downward adjustment! (We plan and God laughs!) Oh it's not fair, or sure, she has two other adult children. Neither of them is going to take on the Florence dilemma, while they sympathize about us, they live an easy life not compounded with her daily eccentricities and worse.

But back to the dilemma of assimilating into an area. I talked to my childhood friend, Dayna, in PA who moved back to our home town 9 years ago. She complained it took her a long time to reengage with family and build friendships. Seems it's the same old story--people are only concerned with themselves. We found this very different in California where people were not living where they'd grown up and were more conciliatory to others. Many of us who became close friends joked that we had no families there so we made our own of each other. Afterall there is a distinct advantage to choosing family!

I think Jerry has this right when he reminds me that the relocation isn't the full cause of feeling alone. Retiring is part of it. Things change. We no longer have the stimulation and agitation of daily career encounters. But after a lifelong career around people we find a big difference when we retire. If we don't have hobbies and interests, we will easily feel out of place, ignored, not comfortable at best. With us, I always had different interests like rose gardening, poetry groups, attending theater and was able to do those; Jerry and I did not live in each other's pocket. Now I find I do miss my friends with whom I could do those things. I have not built that type of group around here. But those friends are no longer in CA either, they have moved and some have died. So it's a challenge. I am fortunate in my ability to entertain myself at great length with a book and on this computer and writing which I have neglected. 

Matter of fact that was what I started to write about today. Annette strongly suggested to me that I seek publication on some of what I write. She also encouraged me to write more and use my talents. She particularly likes an email I sent years ago about my encounters searching for a church and Bible study. She said that was just so good that she shared it with her friends who don't know me but reportedly enjoyed my writing. Now I have four people who have mentioned this strongly and who continue to prod me. Maybe they have something there. Maybe if I could just find the time to sit still and concentrate I could do that. I have always enjoyed writing and many times have been complimented on writings whether letters or analytical papers for my profession or articles about gardening and rose growing.

I know one thing, when I don't take advantage of what is in front of me, I regret it. Perhaps it is a suggestion to which I should pay attention. Heaven knows that here in retirement I don't have people running in and out of my home, I guess I could use some of my time to write about our lives, travels, you name it. And I am still cogitating on writing something for our 50th high school class reunion; I have until closer to 2012 for that! Actually this blog became my outlet and even then I don't keep it up consistently.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Babushka's for me!?

I know it's my Medicare arrival year.  But am I really aging that much?   I'm pondering this question because,  I do not want to don a babushka!

I felt I was coming down with an ear ache.  I have not had one of these since  childhood.  Back then they said it was from not covering up my head and ears in the winter. My mom and grandmother always scolded me about that.  Didin't matter, once I got out of sight, off came the knit hat and or ear muffs--freedom for the hair! Stuffed them into pockets and off I went debonair and free hairing.   I have always  preferred my head uncovered and that worked most of my life. Hats in the summer to keep the sun off my head affect me the same way.  All those  40+ years in CA and who really needs to cover their head there even in the damp cold fog of Sacramento?

Here in the MN  tundra winter that appears imminent again with temperatures of  below zero, 15 degrees and  20's-- which feel warm,-- I neglect to  cover my head.  Running errands, in and out of the car, who thinks of these  things?  Yesterday though while picking up some presents at Woodmen's I felt that sharp piecing ache in the ear that  goes down through the gland.  Ooops.  This is not good.  "Cover your head, Patty" came the voice from the past.  I pulled up my eskimo hood on my jacket.  While entering the store I noticed an old lady with a babushka scarf on her head tied under her chin, hobbling along.  Flash back to PA, that's how all the old women dressed.  My grandma would no more have gone out without her babushka and heavy hat over it than she'd have ice skated across the  railroad  tracks.  My mom and aunt did the same.  My aunt particularly in her last years would tell me when we talked to "be sure to cover you head, because you never were very good at listening to that and you will get sick!"  

Well I will try to cover up with the eskimo hood from now on.  The cold wind is just too bitter and maybe I'm not as likely to go bare headed....but please just don't  make me become a babushka woman! 

I can vaguely recall an old tale/skit that I performed in Girl Scout Days, about Babuska, the rabbit eating flowers....Hmm will have ot think on that...

Saturday, December 5, 2009


That’s the word I made up to describe Andy Williams' show! He deserves his own word because regular words cannot describe his performance. No intermission, two hours of show primarily all Andy. A full theater which must seat nearly 3000 was enthralled the entire time. One routine was his new song, at least new to me, "Words" done to Ode to Joy, Beethoven's 9th I believe. One phrase there is, .."We have one life to live but words will last forever...” You know how I love words, reading and writing so this song really struck home with me. I'll look for that on the internet after we return home. Now that lovely melody is running in my mind.

We were surprised that Andy is such a small man, but as Jerry said, "we are not all basketball players." Andy is shorter than Jerry, maybe 5' 5", white hair which reminded both of us of Rick Bruni the first time he walked on stage. But as far as I know, Rick does not sing, maybe they have golf in common though. Andy is 82, having just celebrated his birthday. He is quite agile and not humped or slumped or slow and stands the entire time. I could see that his hands are wrinkled like someone in their 80's but otherwise who would know?

I purchased an autographed copy of his new memoir which was just released in October. He discussed that it took him over a year to write it and his efforts at sitting down to write. I appreciated that because sometimes these words come and sometimes blank. These books were available throughout the theater. The gift shop was so full that I did not spend much time there. Wish there had been a booklet about the complex which is the finest we have seen anywhere! Classy place with antique Navaho rugs hanging along a wall into one door of the seating. Japanese silk kimonos are encased along the back of the theater .Photos of Andy through his life and with ever so many entertainers are displayed everywhere in the lobby.

Other performers included his full accompaniment band on stage in a gorgeous white snowy setting, dressed in white; Andy is a contrast in his black tux; the Warlock sisters who are a quartet of young women singers and part of his vocal back up, whom Andy introduces as his new Osmond brothers; a couple who were Russian Bolshoi ballet dancers, the woman changed costumes so many times on stage with the wave of feathers and silk right before our eyes leaving us all gasping in wonder at how she changed instantly in front of us, we lost count of the costume changes; and an outstanding male vocalist whose name I don't recall but who sang along with Andy in one number where Andy reminisced whom he'd select if he were to do an album of duets. This man sang perfect imitations of all the other singers, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, and even Andy himself! Hearing Andy in a duet with Andy was beyond.

I am so thoroughly pleased with myself for the array of venues I chose and for getting us tickets to Andy who can't be topped so it is just as well that we leave today. Oh my hand is now tired from patting myself on my back. Earlier this week when we went to get tickets to Andy, the box office said there were 475 seats left. There was not an empty seat last night in the beautiful Moon River Theater with the exquisite sound system. One regret is I did not take my camera. Every show cautions people to not take photos nor to record and to turn off cell phones. So I did not see any reason to take the camera. We were the third row and could have reached out to touch his hand when he walked along People were snapping photos all over. We were appalled but it seemed to be permissible. Drats! We have to rely on our memories.

We did not notice as many busloads herded to this performance. Perhaps because the tickets are among the most expensive in Branson. Our seats were $46 each. Arriving inside requires walking through acres of hundreds of trees all strung with white lights. It's quite a hike so there were not as many feeble folks at the performance, though we did notice a wheel chair or two. Busses cannot drive up to the doors of Moon River. Andy's Moon River restaurant looks quite the place too and is adjacent to the theater. He says this place is his pride and joy and we can fully understand that. For a boy from Iowa farmland, Andy Williams has triumphed.

When he sang Ave Maria with angelic ballet dancers down the aisles in white filmy apparel the entire theater hushed with awe. I kept my eyes on him nearly the entire time in wonder at where that magnificent voice came from, such a small man in stature with the most magnificent voice! Have always been a fan of Mr. Moon River, but seeing him in person is almost indescribable. We have seen shows all over the country, Tahoe, La Vegas, even Broadway, but this performance has to be the top or right among top three. For the entire time, no intermission, Andy entertained and sang. His only breaks were when the sisters performed a micro selection from Sound of Music, tho' he vocalized "Do, a Deer" with them then stepped aside, and when the Russian clothes change artistic dancers performed. Stamina personified in the Voice! Moon River was nearly his last number and that brought the audience to our feet!

We are preparing to leave Branson now, so I cannot continue to write more about Andy Williams. Anyone who gets the chance to see him should do it immediately. He is someone we would see again. I still cannot figure out how that voice comes from that small man! Such are the miracles of life!

A fine way to wrap up our visit and entertainment of the week! I have seen nearly every Andy Williams TV Christmas show, but this tops that. I am thankful for the experience and better for it!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Branson Update 12-4 Friday

Back in our motor home now recovering from the morning business & resting up for tonight’s Andy Williams' Christmas show. Andy Williams’s birthday was yesterday and he is 82 or 83! That is hard to believe, Mr. Moon River is an octogenarian. That happens to be the name of his theater too, Moon River. What a place it is, one of the most magnificent here in Branson. Waterfalls, cliffs, ornamental huge statutes of moose, deer, more wrought iron and brass outside and all around the area thousands of trees with white lights. When I picked up our tickets yesterday, the box office said there were 400 seats left. I don't know the seating capacity but will ask. We are in the third row from the front. Lucky, but picture taking has been prohibited in all the shows so cannot imagine that Andy Williams venue will be different.
The Twelve Irish Tenors were superb entertainers. In an over two hour long show, they performed a great array of wonderful songs: (well yes there were arias in that array. yuk, yuk. Enough with the corniness, I have been hanging around the Branson shows too long. There are usually several corny jokes...this is an encouraging influence for someone like me who thrives on that type of play.)

• Irish medleys including Danny Boy and McNamara's Band which has been wandering through my head ever since we heard it yesterday; why do some things stick in the head?

• Pavarotti's selections from Puccini;

• Tributes to Mario Lanza'(memories of my grandmother who idolized Mario );

• Beatles Medley;

• Barry Mani low songs;

• Christmas songs including an Irish drinking song;

• Frank Sinatra songs;

• Josh Groan songs including my favorite "You Raise Me Up";

• And my tear jerker’s, "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel; (This was my mom's favorite. I used it at her funeral and at Steve's service.). The other, "I Believe" another that Mom liked and one I have often hummed to myself when I could call up music in the dark times of my life. Why does this one remind me of the old TV show, Hit Parade? Must have heard it a lot then.

• Too many more to list.

The Branson Variety Theater seats 1600, but was only about half full and most of that with busloads. I have friends in La Crescent who have been to Branson on these bus tours. We have ever slightly considered doing that. Right decision because after observing the herds of elderlies on these tour busses, we would not be happy! Got to hand it to the folks, at least they are getting out, but several can barely walk and many look like they don't know where they are. Some use a cane or walker with someone on each side to hold them up. Looks like they emptied out care facilities. On the other hand Baptist churches from Texas, Arkansas, and Arizona and all over bring bus loads.

We drove over to the Lawrence Welk Theater, far outside the main Branson strip. The Welk resort is another small town, with condos and a gold course. My 92 year old friend Rena, from CA called me with a request when she got the email that we were going to Branson. Another assignment from Rena! I used to tease her that I was moving out of CA to avoid further assignments from her. She is a dear friend and up to teasing. It's the way this southern lady asks, no one ever refuses her. She is quite active and can keep her family and many of us friends busy. It was Rena who lured me to the Rose Societies and had me elected president twice! I have known her for a long time. She invited me to Business and Professional Women in the late 70's and had me elected President, and then expected me to go on to be district president. She was just waiting for me to retire to join the Arrangers Guild and the Garden Clubs. Ash, Rena is a story unto herself. But she wanted a Christmas CD by the Lennon sisters and cannot find one in CA, can I find out. Of course we would. Jerry likes her as much as I do, and remembered we had a task from Rena. The Welk Theater is where the Lennons perform along with Tony Orlando, the "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" guy. The Christmas show is on now. While I cruised the gift shop, Jerry checked out the auditorium--he said it must seat 3000. And the busloads were pouring in! But when did Tony Orlando, my contemporary reach the age of Welk performance? My 92 year old mother in law delights in Lawrence Welk reruns on PBS. When did Tony Orlando get so old? This is getting scary. I know I and my friends have our Medicare cards, but come on....we're not that old!

I just asked Jerry what has been his favorite so far and he concluded that it is impossible to pick a favorite. Each show has been so different that they can't be compared. He was stuck before he said it's not possible to choose one. The Duttons are a talented family of 4 generations now with the grandkids being added to the singing dancing, song writing, instruments; The Stampede was fun and western; the Tenors have magnificent voices, this morning's Christmas show was spectacular. Nope can't just pick one! This makes me smile and say, "YES" I selected these for an array of entertainment and we got it! I did well if I do say so meself...

One short coming was my booking us into this morning's Christmas show at 10:00. The show was the Broadway review of singers, dancers, costumes, and a mime and put the holiday mood into our hearts. But we had to get up and be about this morning before we wanted to do so. It has been freezing cold here and we'd have been happy to stay inside till later in the day. We came south for warm weather but MO has been colder than MN. These same phenomena occurred in 2004 when we went to spend Christmas in Louisiana with our friends and it froze. That year it snowed in New Orleans and Houston! We will be happy to head to the warmth of the north!

The Broadway Branson Christmas show was delightful from opening curtain. We were surprised when we noticed three of the Irish tenors in the cast; why not though, the pay must be better to perform in two venues. I noticed that most all the performers are small people, with the exception of the one tall blond tenor who is over 6'. Most appeared 5' 8" max with the girls maybe. How different from the Radio City Rockettes all of whom are to be minimum 5' 9" if I recall correctly, the taller the better. Costume changes and sequins galore. Sparkles for the season. This is the same theater where the tenors perform. Busloads came in for this performance too. We were familiar with our seat area from yesterday so we were standing for a bit because it would be a long time in the seats and ours were at the end of the row, so we were letting the row fill up.

It really is a small world, and I can hear God say, "I know, I made it!" We were talking with another couple from Mission, TX discussing the different venues. Most frequently when we say we are from La Crescent, MN no one has ever heard of it. But this man smiled. "So do you know Mac Dahl?" With mouth wide open and Jerry laughing, I replied, "very well. We go to the same church. We are frequently at the Legion together. Barb, his wife and I have the same birthday!" He revealed they are cousins! Can't wait to share that story back home.

Last night we ate at Starvin' Marvin's a Cajun seafood buffet among other foods. We got the senior discount of $19 each at the seafood buffet which included crab legs, fried catfish, boiled crawdads, shrimp (fried and boiled), other fish, and frog’s legs. For non seafood eaters or to balance out the proteins, fried chicken, and pork ribs Umm umm umm, Did we ever fill up! Hush puppies, fried okra, potatoes, green beans, giant size onion rings. Salad bar was full with veggies and all the expected standards and the very best ranch dressing I have ever had! Well I love crab but hate cracking it. Jerry usually foregoes the experience. The crab was so good that I got into it and then some, cracking and pulling it through the shell, dipping it into butter. Not only did I feast, I wore that crab! Although a roll of paper towels is provided it does get messy. I've not had crawdads since our Louisiana trips. Most of us just eat the meat from the tails, but we talked about our friend Marilyn who likes to suck out the bodies! After all that food, vanilla ice cream and choice of fresh cobbler. We both chose blackberry. Was it any wonder I had indigestion last night requiring dousing with Canada Dry ginger ale? I never have indigestion, so this was an event. I made a trip to the ladies room to scrub up and woke right up, only cold water wash! I really scrubbed up when we got home, had to get that crab, shrimp, fish smell gone! Worth the experience one time!

We will top all this with Andy Williams tonight. It has been a pleasurable trip and we are glad we came in the off season. Our short visit to Dick's 5 and 10 in old downtown Branson today sent us gladly to the motor home. Just seeing 5 and 10 advertised took me back to the glory days of New Kensington and Murphy's 5 & 10. Dick's is a massive variety store, a full city block. The herds of folks discouraged me from looking too long. Weekend is arriving and the final crowds for the season are arriving. Sadly I noticed most items made in China, so much for 5 & 10! Have not bought trinkets this trip. Only my two tops at Dressin Gaudy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Still Branson 12-3

Yesterday, Wednesday,  I found the neatest women's botique, Dressin' Gaudy!  All things glitz and bling.  I passed up all the costume jewelry easily because of my accumulation at home, but  I did buy two tops with sequins that I can wear most anywhere.  I asked if they have a website and unfortunately they do not but have been in business in Branson for  nearly 20 years.  Although the crowds are small here now, the shop was busy with women, many older than me buying and browsing.  Jackets were paired with tops and skirts and jewelry to give shoppers ideas for the entire ensemble.   Clever marketing strategy because it works.  I saw many women buying the entire outfit from necklace to purse and all else!  I'd noticed this shop on the Branson Info Mercial TV channel that we can pick up here in the RV park.  Could not remember where it was but yesterday driving around looking for a post office, which was in a bank, I spotted it in the same center.

That is another strange thing about Branson--we have not seen a single post office! I had some postcards to mail.  We have seen mail boxes, just no post offices.   I inquired in the Stone Hedge Winery where we'd stopped so I could pick up some Missouri wine.  I was sure surprised when the woman said to go to the bank which had a teller counter set up as a post office.  Bank tellers also worked the post office window.  That was something I have never seen anyplace.  Private sector employees taking over the post office?  I bet those tellers wish they had the UPS benefits!  Earlier we had noticed several banks with flags outside and thought those were post offices but as we drove by we noticed they were banks.  Maybe they too had post offices inside thier banks.

We drove all over yesterday to see the scenery.  It is lovely here but so many of the hillsides have been carved out into making new  roads.  Lots of development  going on,.  Hope it does not overtake the Ozark setting and become like Lake Tahoe, over commercialized.  Table Lake Mt. and the Lake were gorgeous.  But lots of condos  going up; big places many many stories high.  We also checked out other RV parks and likely we would use ABC next Branson trip.  Shenanigans, where we are is ok, peaceful, but very tight spaces.  If we wanted to we could not put ot the awning on our motor home.  There are few of us here this time of year.  Someone really used imagination and planning to carve these spots out of the hillside!

The Dixie Stampede last night was quite an experience.  At the pre show we met Curt, a reitred Merced, CA fireman who will be leaving CA too.  He'd been in TN & most recently in Arkansas helping a sick friend.  He's on his way back to CA to wrap things up before moving out.  We  talked about the decline of CA.  He is a rare breed, a CA native, raised in Castro Valley and  lived in Merced & Atwater as a fire captain.  Newly divorced.  His ex-wife lives in Lincoln.  He said we were fortunate to get out when we did to which we couldn't have agreed more!

The Dolly Parton Stampede show was super.  It was the first venue we have attended that  was full, sold out.  Much to see and absorb, with all the horses, pig races by some cute little pot bellieds, miniature horse races, trick riding,Skeeter the clown  and more.  The nativity was beyond-beyond.  I have seen and enjoyed many live nativity portrayals, but this one took the cake!  Live camels carried the Magi into the manger setting.  Shepherds herded in real flocks of many many sheep.  It was magnificent.  An angel descended from the ceiling and at the end a white homing pigeon released from somewhere flew into the angel's outstretched hands while Alleluias played.  Very touching.  Very Christian. 

However this was a dinner show and as we were warned there was plenty of food, all delicious.  BUT no forks or knives were provided.  All eating was to be done with fingers.  We were seated next to a couple from Okibijiwe (sp?) Iowa.  She and I looked for our soup spoons as our  bowls were filled with a scrumptious creamy soup.  Huh?  No one had any utensils.  Well, we could drink that from the  bowls, just not  all of it.  Delicious cheesy biscuit reminiscent of what Red Lobster serves.  No problem eating that with our fingers.  Next came a full rotisserie chicken to each one of us.  Now we were really puzzled. 

The servers each carried huge trays and placed the food on our plates.  It was very well done as our food arrived plenty hot!  We were still looking for our forks!  The emcee invited us to dig in, use your fingers. Dixie style!  I could not believe this!    We were served more food, a slice of pork tenderloin, a half huge  potato slatered in butter, an ear of corn on the cob.  I just did not like pulling that chicken apart with my fingers.  Luckily I had some  clean wipes in my purse.  Jerry was not at all happy about this either.  But what to do, dig in! 

I should not have been so apalled because all my life I had to be reminded to keep my fingers out of my food.  As a kid growing up, I was always being swatted to keep my fingers out of my food.  A few years back inPA I was eating with my Aunt Jinx when she reached over and swatted my fingers which had found their way onto something on my plate!  I don't even realize when I do this. Jinx commented, "Patty, you always did pick around with your fingers!  You never did out grow that bad habit! I thought by now you woudl not have your fingers poking around your food!"  Well I am quite proper eating out, etc, but there are just times when these fingers go for something! But to eat an entire meal without any utensils!   Nah, that's too okie for me.   Besides we have okie friends and I have  never seen them gnaw into food without utensils, and they all set a nice table with knives, forks, and spoons.  Jerry said for the price they could have given us platic at least.  I suppose this is easier and less mess for the crew. Less danger of anything making its way into the arena.  We were in front row seats and  close enough to touch the horses if we stood up.   It was all efficiently served. Just this morning, Jerry noticed that the envelope with our tickets said, Come prepared to eat with your fingers, Dixie Stampede style."  He said he's have taken his fold up multi purpose all in one  tool with him ,had he read that ahead of time. 

 Plenty of coffee, Pepsi, tea, water to drink.  That caused me concern, how would I get out of such a long table.  It is theater seating with rails and long tables.  Maybe 20 some people, no room to get out.  As we were coming in I remarked to Jerry, "Now just what will I do if I have to go to the bathroom?"  The couple from Iowa heard me and said, "we can move down so you can sit on this end."  Wasn't that nice!  Here  in the Midwest people are so accommodating.

Dessert was a scrumptious apple turnover, flaky melt in the mouth crust and full of apples. That was easy to eat by hand.  Most of us had take out bags, except Jerry who managed to pack away his meal.  When our server came by for our dessert plates, she commented, "well you didn't eat all your food but you sure did that dessert."  It was a one time experience, glad we did it, but not one to repeat.    

We ate breakfast this morning at the Plantation restaurant, upp the hill.  A good buffet spread which will keep us going all day.  This afternoon is the 12 Irish Tenors show.  I do not have time now to proof or spell scheck,  so will post this and edit way later. 

We are enjoying our stay and loving Branson.  A clean place.  Many elderly people are here by the busloads.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First Day out around Branson

We arrived yesterday afternoon at the Shenanigan's RV Park.  It is lovely driving into Branson.  Although this is reportedly 3 blocks from the strip, we walked yesterday and it is up some very steep hills..quite a trek that we really don't care to repeat.  Even as athletic (?) as we are, nope.  There are cabs and shuttles, too but after considering all options, we want a car to come and go as we like.  Spoiled that way.  "Should have towed," Jerry remarked.  Oh well we knew we could rent  and so called Enterprise today for a rental. First question after where we were staying so they could pick us up, "are you a veteran?" "Yes, my husband is." "Well, mam that entitles you to another 5% discount on the rental." Branson is BIG on veterans....Very big, places welcoming vets all over. We had a 10% discount from the RV park as well as 10% Good Sam...on the rental which we will keep till Saturday AM. Enterprise accepted all discounts where most places will only give one discount. Hooray for Branson hospitality. We are driving a Hyundai (sp?) Elan....shudder.  It will be fine for these  4 days.

I learned today when I went to pick up our tickets for the Dolly Parton Christmas Stampede that the show includes dinner. In fact the cordial young lady at the box office told me, "Y'all come hungry now...there is a 4 course meal served during the show. It starts with a choice of soup, then three salads, chicken, beef and vegetables, potatoes grits and gravy, and pie and cake for dessert And we give you choice of coffee or sweet tea too.!" I thanked her for warning me as I didn't expect we'd be fed. The place is huge and we will take a photo of the outside tomorrow when we have the bigger camera with us. We walked along and saw the horses in the stables for what seemed like a mile outside. Dolly P is doing well--inside it says there is a Dolly Stampede home in Myrtle Beach, SC too...these in addition to her own Dollywood in the Smokie Mts. So our two tickets for $89.26 including our discount coupon from the RV park are quite a deal==the pre-show starts at 4:15, dinner show at 5:30. Will report on it Thursday but expect it to be spectacular. No photo taking allowed inside and of course they have their own gift shop.

Prices are very good here in Branson. We ate lunch to be our big meal today at Sadie's Sideboard, a bar-b-que buffet. We had a two for one coupon from the RV park so total for both was $14 including tip. Home made soups, salad bar and smorgasbord spread including pork ribs, sauerkraut and sausage, chicken livers, fried chicken, catfish, mashed potatoes, gravies (white and dark), macaroni and cheese,stuffings cornbread and sausage bread (I tried a dip of both), fried okra, carrots, green beans, baked beans, and more. I loved the okra and chicken and chicken livers. Jerry feasted on ribs, livers, chicken, potatoes, beans,and more. I had a small salad from the salad bar which he passed up. They had scrumptious pickled beets, one of my favorites, and all the greens, veggies, pastas, pickled okra, which I also sampled, jello's & more. Then they had a dessert table too with steamers of 4 cobblers--peach, cherry, apple, blackberry and chocolate cakes. We each had some cobbler, cherry for me, berry and apple for Jerry. We waddled out of Sadie's to the rental car and cruised more of Branson. As much as we try we just can't pack much away at those buffets. I find that even regular order off the menu restaurants serve too much food for me.

Then we spotted the Veterans' Museum. We spent several hours in there. That leaves tomorrow afternoon open as we'd planned to spend Wednesday there. It is a private museum and I just cannot say enough about it! $29 admission for veteran (Jerry) & spouse. (Includes veteran discount)

No government funds used in anyway or received to this museum. In the entry is a lifesize bronze statue of 3 soldiers in combat gear. Ten halls dedicated to soldiers and our armed forces beginning with WWI and through Iraq  now Afghanistan.  Numerous artifacts and  all sorts of exhibits. That 70 foot long statute of 50 life size soldiers in one of the WWII rooms, took my breath away when I stepped into that room.  Even though I knew about it, it is magnificent.  I was teary eyed when I looked at that massive wall with the names of 400,000 killed in WWII. I found my dad's name right away, still teary. You'd think I'd be over this after 65 years!

I took some pictures which I have not yet downloaded and will wait till we get home. The exhibits of uniforms and memorabilia donated by people from all over are interesting. There is a write up about each individual. There is one window dedicated to George Herbert Bush and his days as a Navy pilot and the bronze model bust which was the first cast for the original now in his presidential library. I was astounded when I saw the exhibit of the "underaged" in WWII 14 and 15 year olds (from Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas,) who lied about their age and went to defend this country. I keep learning new things about WWII as much as I've read, there is always more. By comparison we have cowards in this country who stick their head in the sand rather than enlist, they look the other way and have no sense of patriotism or duty. They are there for a handout and demand student grants though so they can go to college! What a different world. Not better! My soapbox please! Jerry remarked that there was not as much on the Korean War. The Vietnam War hall is bigger. By far WWII has the most halls. Men and women have contributed part or all of their collections. An array of uniforms, medals, documents, photots, etc. Many rifles, guns, weapons of all kinds. Even a room of German exhibits, Nazi uniforms, Japanese and Russian pilots uniforms, medical equipment, and more. The very last room exhibits photos of Arlington and foreign cemeteries where our soldiers are buried and graves memorialized--France, Philippines,, In the center is a big wooden box with a folded flag It is one of two surviving boxes in which the bodies of those killed in WWII were shipped home. Gulp and a few more tears.

One observation I had among many--the uniforms of the Americans are tiny! We had lots of small men and women in the services in WWI & WWII. The SS & Nazi uniforms are way bigger. Even their shoes are bigger. I know there were all sizes, but for some reason we look little.

We both liked the exhibit of the WWII ski patrol soldier, hunched over,Eskimo like, white uniform to blend in snow. Jerry's Uncle Joe who received bronze stars and purple hearts from WWII did that as well as other things. Jerry looked at it and said, "Uncle Joe!"

I expected to find a book available about the museum in the gift shop but there were none. Fred Hoppe who sculpted the statutes and spear headed the museum effort deserves an award. The gift shop did have postcards of the statue and lots of t-shirts and hats for the services. I told Jerry we should buy one that says, "Dysfunctional veteran, leave me alone!" for my Uncle Carl..We did find a WWII Veteran cap for him, but I know he will tuck it away in his room. Sending it to him anyway.

I told the nice young man in the gift shop that I'd like to get a photo of my dad's name on the WWII wall but that I didn't think they would appreciate my moving the bench in that room and climbing on it. I am amazed at my self control. Of course, Jerry was near by and would not have permitted that eccentric act! My dad's name is near the top and three names in from the right side in that column. This young man didn't blink but said, "well I can help you with that, let me get the ladder." He went to a closet, returned with a ladder and back we went to the room with the walls of 400,000 names and statute. I pointed it out, he climbed up with my camera and snapped photo's for me. He said he is allowed to climb but I cannot!

On our way to the Dutton family show now.  So much to chose from here that it is really difficult to decide.  But I have made some selections.  A show a day shoudl be enogh, but we may be tempted to more!

My AWON group had a conference in Branson in 2002 and presented a plaque of appreciation to the museum for remembering our dads. I intend to send them some additional $$ next year. The WWII museum in New Orleans is magnificent but this is smaller scale and done with love in the effort. It was not busy in there as this is an off time for Branson but there were several folks wandering through. I think we spent the longest time in there. I would go back again. Not this trip but another time.