Monday, May 30, 2011

Cirque du Soleil Alegria

Some months ago my brother Big Mike let it drop that Cirque du Soleil Alegria (def. as joy, cheer, happiness) was coming to Toledo and wondered if I'd like to go. Naturally, I accepted. I'd never seen Cirque but from what little I'd heard it was not a show to be missed without good reason, such as death or perhaps imminent death. As things turned out Main Lady did not share my enthusiasm and scheduled herself to be out of town that day. She, along with Flopsy and Cottontail, headed South to attend Mopsy's graduation. Mopsy is now a doctor and writes PhD after her name. That makes three doctors in the family; Main Lady, Mopsy and Cottontail. This is strong evidence that the familial environment has an impact on the educational achievements of an entire generation. Naturally I present evidence that refutes this theory, seeing that both my parents attained baccalaureate degrees as did my brothers Shotgun Bob, Big Mike and California Dave, and yet I am non-degreed. Big Mike has inferred that this is due to a distinct lack of intelligence on my part while my dear mother counters that Big Mike cannot outrun a load of rock salt as discharged from a twelve gauge double.

As usual, whenever Big Mike does anything he does it right. Nothing is left to chance, no obstacle remains intact and quality takes precedence over monetary considerations while remaining distinctly subservient to sound judgment. As a result of no small amount of social engineering coupled with a detailed knowledge of The Huntington Center, Big Mike obtained four tickets to the Saturday matinee show and reserved the best seats in the house - we were seated in the first row just off the floor and slightly stage right. Truly a magnificent accomplishment on his part.

Since Main Lady was out of town, I determined to take Mom along with me to Cirque. She'd enjoy the show and the four of us could have a nice dinner right afterward. Mike invited his own mother along, a handsome woman of saintly patience, benevolence and omnipresent fortitude whom I shall henceforth refer to as Mrs. Martini, and yes, it has everything to do with London Dry. All well and good, but as a belligerent tightwad once said, The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley, which can be rephrased as: There's no use cursing over spilled bourbon. Between the purchase of tickets and the rising of the curtain, I accepted a job in Memphis and moved into Shotgun Bob's house (at Bob's insistence) where I was slowly driven around the bend by The Girl, and where I finally came down with bronchitis that unsurprisingly developed into pneumonia. Desperate to suppress my own id1 in the face of a rapidly weakening super-ego, I collected my meager belongings and moved to a hotel in Memphis located about five minutes from my office, thus relieving myself of a one hour commute every morning and evening as well as the stress induced by living with someone (that would be The Girl) who would enjoy pushing me under a slowly moving freight train. I booked a flight home the week after I arrived in Memphis and I refused to cancel the festivities even if I had to attend Cirque in an oxygen tent.

The week of my trip home I'm still among the living, but only just. My lungs sound like the Franciscan All Boy's Junior High School Bagpipe Ensemble playing Nearer My God to Thee. The sawbones at the local ER wanted to stuff me in the hospital for 24 hours while he cured my breathing problems, but I declined and he mistrusted the look in my eye. Instead of complacently packing my hospital pajamas and checking in for a short stay, I obtain a nebulizer and the requisite medication to go along with it. The sawbones prescribes more steroids and another bottle of antibiotics before he kicks his most recent ingrateful habitué to the curb. The next day I pack three pounds of prescription drugs and one change of clothes before heading to the airport.

The airport in Memphis, Tennessee is a refreshing change from the norms of Detroit or Chicago. For one thing the people who work at Memphis International Airport (MEM) act like they are actually glad to see airline passengers, and they do this well enough to fool everyone passing through the gates, including a cynical curmudgeon like me. I get about half way through the official TSA security process before it occurs to me that I'm getting special treatment. The TSA agents help me with my carry-on luggage and point me to an area where I can sit and tie my shoes. It suddenly hits me that I'm an old person, or at least they believe I'm an old person. Possibly my illness has removed the spring from my step. More likely fifty years of clean living are beginning to catch up to me. Pardon me while I refresh my morning Manhattan. Having missed dinner, I stop for a sandwich after I locate the correct gate for my flight. The food is good and so is the service, which surprises me. Normally the culinary nightmares served up in a US airport would give Excellent Rachmaninoff a severe case of indigestion, but this is good stuff and the staff is nice. I'm flying Delta, and I make my flight without incident.

Big Mike both planned and handled logistics for our evening, which allowed everyone else to relax and enjoy themselves without worry. The four of us arrive at The Huntington Center in Mike's Chrysler 300, and since Mike has bothered to learn the area beforehand we don't have to search for parking. Our seats, as I may have mentioned earlier, are nothing short of stellar.

Cirque du Soleil is a circus for adults, although children will be absolutely enthralled by the performance as well. All the music is live and all the acts are very well rehearsed. We were treated to clowns that were actually funny as they supplemented their slapstick clown act with stand up comedy. The ringmaster spoke a few lines in French and was costumed as a potbellied, humpbacked gnome - he and his assistants strongly reminded me of the figures in The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch. We saw trapeze artists who worked without a net, acrobatic dancers and contortionists. The headliner consisted of a pair of oriental women contortionist-acrobats who were magnificent, and I should add that as a rule I do not enjoy watching contortionists. Another man performed a series of acrobatics on a set of pylons, finishing his act by balancing on one hand while he slowly rotated his body 360 degrees starting from a dead stop. I'd never seen this achieved before, and the amount of strength that it takes to hold yourself on one hand for several minutes is nothing short of phenomenal. The finale was a group of eight men who performed high bar gymnastics thirty feet off the ground and who were supplemented by two men on a trapeze about ten feet under the high bar performers. The gymnasts would perform standard dismounts and the trapeze artists would catch the gymnasts one at a time as they dismounted the high bars. All of these men were big fellows; I estimated their weight at over 175 pounds each, meaning that the catchers were handling a very significant amount of weight during the catch and subsequent swing. It's also worth noting that all the performers (I suspect all; certainly the majority) did double duty as stage hands, whether it was spotting other performers, changing sets or providing a distraction to the audience. All the performers worked all the time, which I find admirable. I would give Cirque du Soleil five stars out of five. It is truly a show that is not to be missed if at all possible.

We adjourned from the Hunting Center and had dinner at Manhattan's in downtown Toledo, which I will review separately (click here). One thing we could all agree on was that the show was truly magnificent.

I went home and after two sessions with my nebulizer was able to fall asleep. I finally got a decent night's sleep, the first in several days. Any of you out there who have had to deal with sleep deprivation know that it's a pain the royal venochie, and the only real cure is time in the sack.

The next day was Sunday, and for literary reasons I must confess that I've always wanted to win the lottery.  So a week or so ago when I was cleaning out my wallet I found a six months old lottery ticket that turned out to be a winner. One hundred and fifty dead presidents were now causing my mother's favorite son to develop a distinct list to starboard, so the only thing to do was lighten the load a bit. Now then, at our church is a nice couple who are very prolific, having some five daughters and two sons with the oldest son being recently engaged to a very nice lady, so for social purposes the family is ten in number. In spite of the fact that they are excellent people (they picked me up at DTW at 11:00 PM) they don't get invited out too often. For one thing, the kids eat. For another, there are a lot of them, so the cost tends to mount up a little. Since I have a free meal coming courtesy of the Ohio lottery and Divine Intervention, I take Mr. and Mrs. Prolific and the entire tribe out to lunch, and for fair measure and good value I invite the pastor and his wife to come with us. Mom comes along as well - you didn't think I'd leave her behind, did you?. We settle on  Shorty's True American Roadhouse for lunch, mainly because we all enjoy barbecue. I'll review Shorty's in a separate post (click here). Everyone enjoyed themselves and had a great lunch, and Sunday night the train wreck started.

I've been taking my medication like a good little boy, which is likely a huge part of the problem. The sawbones is feeding me steroids in tablet form labeled Prednisone. Check the side effects (my own comments in parenthesis):

Difficulty sleeping (yeah... check); feeling of a whirling motion (without benefit of liquor ingestion - I can deal with this); increased appetite (I am HUNGRY!); increased sweating (from all the exercise with my knife and fork); indigestion (over eating); mood changes (true - I am snappish and disagreeable, not that most people would notice); nervousness (I'm vibrating at high speed).
So no sleep for yours truly Sunday night or Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon finds me in Detroit Metro making my way past the TSA folks, all of whom are downtown Detroit natives and each and every one of whom hates whitey. If you're offended by this, rest assured that I am as well. That's why I wrote about it.

I board the plane and it's a sauna inside. The ground crew refuses to provide us with A/C and the plane develops a mechanical failure. We sit and sweat while the Captain calls AAA (or whatever the hell they call to fix the plane) and we finally disembark for a short time. We board again an hour later only to discover that while we've been sitting on the ground a storm system has moved in and we can't take off until it passes. We sit on the tarmac for three hours, then return to the dock. It seems we need a new captain, ours being unsuitable for some reason, and it will take three hours for our nice new captain to arrive. One of the passengers is a licensed commercial pilot, and I suggest that the airline slip him a few hundred to sit in the pilot's chair and get us to Memphis. I'm ignored. Delta offers us food vouchers so I organize a dinner among strangers in a nearby Mexican restaurant and three of us (me, Jill and Tim) have a nice time and interesting conversation. At 9:55 PM we board the plane and start taxing around DTW. I have a crazy idea we're actually going to taxi to Memphis, but I think that may be from lack of sleep. I start to ask the nice lady sitting next to me about the feasibility of taxiing to Memphis, and I catch myself. Do not ask goofy questions of people, Jack. The TSA loves smart asses like you - loves to hook them up to a Taser and make them do the funky chicken. I shut up, and pretty soon we're in the air. We touch down in Memphis sometime the next day. I don't look at the time until I hit my hotel room and discover it's two o'clock in the morning. I don't even remember if I went to work the next day.

And that's my trip. The sanity check I got from being at home among friends and family was worth every minute of misery at DTW, and if you don't believe me then you just try living in a house where one half of the adult population wants nothing more than to see you imitate the frog doing the backstroke in the pool. It tends to wear an old man down.

Footnotes:
  1. The id provides the impulse to pound the snot out of some jerk who desperately needs it. The ego evaluates the situation and provides a workable plan to achieve the somewhat impulsive goals set by the id, while the super-ego will often override or modify the plan according to the learned dictates of personal ethics and society.

1 comment:

Stephanie M. Lorée said...

I was at Cirque on their opening night here in town, and I really enjoyed it. Very impressive stuff.