The Beatles – Love – Cirque du Soleil

downloadI’d seen the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show called Love many years ago and knew that Cathryn would love to see it while we were in Vegas on our detour from Route 66. We’re both Cirque fans and everyone knows the Beatles music, so you can easily sing along. We got married in Vegas six years ago and were too busy to catch a show. This time we had no excuse.

The show is still at the Mirage and it promised to be bigger, better, and bolder, having been redone since my last viewing. I wasn’t convinced when we first sat down, the seats were smaller than I remembered and there had been speakers built into the headrest for surround sound. None of that mattered once the show started.

Typical Cirque characters got the production started, then came the music, color, acrobatics and the awesome music of the Beatles. There was confetti that fell from the rafters, bubbles from that lingered in the air, and a giant sheet of silk that covered the whole stage and stretched out into the audience.

Of course there were a couple VW Beetle Bugs and a van. The acts performed were top notch and blended with the theme of the music. The costume and set colors jumped right into your lap. The stage itself was a giant machine, with sections that opened up and parts that moved actors up and down and in and out of sight.

Love wasn’t as heavily weighted with acrobatics or circus-style acts as other shows, it had just the right amount of song and dance and action to keep your eyes wandering around the stage to see what was going on in all corners. It definitely lived up to its promise of being bigger, bolder and better. We both loved the show and easily rated it a 10 out of 10.

Everyday People – Everywhere

IMG_2954 (1)Once again, while travelling Route 66 from Chicago to L.A., Cathryn and I have had our faith in humanity renewed. There really are friendly people left in the world, all you have to do is say hello and talk to them.

Who’d have thunk there’d be anyone willing to talk to you in a metropolis like Chicago – it’s one of those places you’re programmed to think that you can’t make eye contact with anyone for fear of them saying, “What are you looking at?” So much for preconceived ideas. Our first glaring example was at the Congress Plaza Hotel in the windy city.

IMG_2992We were wandering around the turn-of-the-century hotel and saw photos of the grand ballroom but had no idea where it was. The front desk and concierge were busy so I looked to a stern-faced security guard, who looked more like a state trooper, with his back glued to the wall so he could take in the room.

“Do you want to see it?” Pete asked, when we inquired. He snapped to and headed off down the main hallway with us in tow. Pete walked us into a dark banquet hall and went to a breaker panel to turn the lights on so we could see the ornate ballroom that boasted the first air conditioning in the country and noted guests like Al Capone. Turns out Pete was a good story teller too, having actually been shot in the face when he was a Chicago cop.

Taking a cab in any big city has become a concern, but not when our driver from Ghana chatted us up, telling us how he visits home every year and that he’d been a hack for twenty years. Too bad Uber is making guys like him a rarity, his knowledge of the city was a boon for us.

IMG_3094Even in the Capitol building in Springfield Illinois we found cordial staff – from the security guards manning the metal detectors to the custodians polishing the brass. Without being asked, they took pause and offered us directions and made suggestions on how to tour and enjoy the building. We’ve never encountered this behavior in any gov’t buildings at home.

On Route 66 near Carthage Missouri, we met a character named George who tended to an old gas bar loaded with antique vehicles and memorabilia. Busy with his chores, he took time out to give us a tour and write down names of people and places to see and visit in town. His suggestion took us to Boots Court where Clark Gable spent his honeymoon. Debbie, the proprietor there apologized for being booked and called a place down the highway for us.

IMG_3237We stayed at the Best Budget Inn, a pleasantly surprising roadside motel beside a scenic lake. They had a patio with barbecue facilities out back that allowed us to cook up a couple steaks for dinner. The owner, Paula, came out to visit and light the tiki-torches around the pool. She sat and chatted with us as if we were long-lost friends.

Acting on another of George’s recommendations we visited a tiny re-built town called Red Oak II. The land owner was dismayed at how his home town had closed down and the buildings were abandoned so he bought them all and relocated them to his own land. We strolled the lane way and admired the turn-of-the-century buildings that would have weathered away into oblivion had they not been rescued.

IMG_3263While admiring a rustic but newer home, a voice called out from the veranda. Jim invited us onto his porch to set for a while, as if we were neighbors. We chatted about the town and owner, who was a friend of his and local artist responsible for all of the metal art in the area. Jim was the former mayor of Carthage and a retired travelling salesman who covered eight states.

After dinner in Kingman Arizona we strolled the old downtown where many shops played on the Route 66 theme. We stopped at a storefront where a woman had just removed the paper from the windows of a new shop that she was about to open. When we asked about it she gave us a condensed history of the city and other businesses in the area. She went further, inviting us to her grand opening if we were still in town.

IMG_3603And even in Las Vegas, where you are normally just money in a slot machine, we were greeted at the front desk of the Silver Sevens Casino by Bianca. She seamlessly checked us in early at eleven a.m. and comped the refrigerator I’d requested for our room for our two day stay. She asked where we’d like our room to be and located us within fifty feet of our car. Later, she helped me with an email and fax I needed to send back home.

These are just a few glaring examples of some of the polite and kind folks we’ve met on this trip. It doesn’t seem to matter what city or state they live in, or what age or color or religion we may or may not have had in common with them. They really are out there, just say hello and talk to them.

The Mother Road Part 1 – Chicago to Amarillo Texas

IMG_2950In 1926 new horseless carriages created a need for a network of roads for people to drive them on. Thus the federal highway system was launched with Route 66, dubbed The Mother Road or Will Rogers Highway, being the path west from Chicago to L.A. Folks were already heading west for land, jobs, and to find their fortune in one way or another.

Cathryn and I packed up the Impala and headed to Chicago on June 10th. We headed to Chicago, where Route 66 originates, and walked around downtown. A beer and a cheeseborger at the Billy Goat gave us the fuel to carry on and check out the Riverwalk. We had dinner and finished the night at Andy’s Jazz bar, a great send off from the windy city.

We stayed at the Congress Plaza, a beautiful turn-of-the-century hotel near the waterfront. Pete, the hotel security guard took us on a private tour showing us the first air-conditioned ballroom in the U..S. and a backroom where Al Capone hung out and played cards. Apparently him and Elliott Ness stayed in the same hotel at the same time, unknown to the Treasury Agent.

Continue reading “The Mother Road Part 1 – Chicago to Amarillo Texas”

Featured

Rocketman

uploadscardimage9964749ca94b84-337b-4fee-b183-e5172f15b6c5.jpg950x534__filtersquality80I had to think about this movie for a couple days to let it sink in. Given that time to mull it over I have to say I was not impressed by Rocketman – the story of Elton John. Cathryn loved the movie so this review will give you both perspectives. She liked the music selection and thought the actors playing John as a child and adult (Taron Egerton) did a fabulous job.

The film accurately mimicked many of the rock star’s wild and crazy outfits, but made no attempt to play his music in the order the songs were released. Theatrical creativity must have been the point since the song lyrics were used to describe the events of the artist’s stage in life. Oddly enough, it was Bernie Taupin who wrote the lyrics and Elton added the music.

For me the story dwells too long on Reg Dwight’s (Elton John) woe is me childhood. They show us how he came up with his stage name – the second half taken from John Lennon, but that fact in not true. Granted, John was executive producer of the movie, but he obviously decided to portray his life as he perceived it and not as how it actually happened. Thus there are other historical inaccuracies.

I was also unimpressed with the movie being a fantasy musical. I thought it took away from many of the great songs that I love. Nothing in the reviews I read said anything about the format. Overall the movie was still entertaining with a couple of zen moments to put you in the zone.

I rated it a 5 and Cathryn a 10 out of 10.

John Wick – 300 (Parabellum)

WickI use the number 300 instead of 3 – for the third installment of the John Wick, the master assassin. Seeing the film with an action-appreciating buddy, we couldn’t keep track of the bad guys killed by Wick. He commented later that it was the highest body count he’d ever seen in a movie, a bold statement considering other slaughter movies we’d seen, like Rambo 3 or Hacksaw Ridge.

I’ve always liked Keanu Reeves and that includes his John Wick character, but I started to chuckle after his first 30 or 40 kills. The man deserves credit for the way he handles himself in the action sequences – basically a two hour long chase and fight scene. He masterfully handles an assortment of weapons that must have taken hours of practice to successfully operate.

If you don’t mind a few dozen blood-spattering head shots and an overly violent plot, this movie could be for you. I do find it odd though, in this day and age, how movie makers can present us with such mindless slaughter, and add a dry touch of humor to make the film more entertaining. In a way this movie reminded me of the Walking Dead – the bad guys weren’t dead until you shot them in the head, in many cases more than once.

Enough about the violence. The movie has a highly paid all-star cast, perhaps to give the flick some credibility with movie buffs. I have to say I was shocked at the other online reviews I read from sites like Roger Ebert and company. So maybe it was just me…and my buddy, who thought there was enough carnage to call the John Wick movies a trilogy and leave it at that.

Cathryn could never have sat through this movie with her eyes open. I don’t think my buddy was too impressed. For the sake of mindless entertainment I give it 5 out of 10.

Cross Fire – James Patterson

7856305Cross Fire (Alex Cross, #17) 
by

James Patterson (Goodreads Author)

 

15204490

Edmond Gagnon‘s review

May 19, 2019  


This was not my favorite Alex Cross story by any means…I’d have to go with Kiss the Girls or Along came a spider. Not to say Cross Fire is not a good novel. It was a good rainy weekend read. Maybe I like the other stories because Cross’ family wasn’t dragged into the plot so much…too familiar of a psych-thriller tale, where the protagonists family is targeted or threatened.
As far as this story goes, it moved well with lots of action to keep me turning pages and even chapters, since Patterson likes to keep them to two or three pages. The plot revolves around one particular serial killer but subplots and other serial killers make the read a bit more complicated, but fun.

The New Old Elora Mill

IMG_2932 (2)Cathryn had dropped a few hints that we were over due for a mystery date (an overnight at an undisclosed destination), the comments directed in my direction for her birthday month. It had been a whole two months since our return from Egypt and Africa so I almost felt sorry for her and decided to surf the web for an idea to satisfy her wanderlust itch.

One of my cousins posted on Facebook that she was at the spa in the Elora Mill. The last time Cathryn and I dropped by the village of Elora the Mill was closed, fenced in and under construction. We tried to peek through the fence but couldn’t see what was in the works. I messaged my cousin who said the Mill was newly renovated and open for business.

I browsed the internet and checked the web site, balking at the listed price for spending one night in a hotel room. Reading on I was able to get into the last night of an off-season promotion that made the cost more palatable. Just because I thought my wife deserved a treat I shelled out $350 banana peels for a room in the mill. The clincher for me was a complimentary bottle of premium wine in the room and a hundred bucks off our food and beverage bill in either the lounge or restaurant.

Continue reading “The New Old Elora Mill”