Friday, November 18, 2011

Night at the Theater: The Foreigner

Donna and I attended our third theatrical production at ASU (Angelo State University) last night. We had a good time.

This event was a dinner theater, so the night began about 7:00 PM as we were served a Southern style dinner of barbequed chicken, fried catfish, and trimmings.

The real fun began with the play. The Foreigner, a comedy written by Larry Shue, is a 2-act play set at Betty Meeks' Fishing Lodge Resort in Tilghman County, Georgia, sometime "in the recent past." Based upon references in the play, I'd estimate that "recent past" to be the early 1980s.

The lodge is often visited by "Froggy" LeSeuer, a British demolition expert who occasionally runs training sessions at a nearby army base. This time Froggy has brought along a friend, a pathologically shy young man named Charlie who is overcome with fear at the thought of making conversation with strangers. So Froggy, before departing, tells Betty, the owner of the lodge, that Charlie is from an exotic foreign country and speaks no English. As a result, Charlie soon finds himself privy to assorted secrets and scandals freely discussed in front of him by the other visitors — the evil plans of a sinister, two-faced minister and his redneck associate; the fact that the minister's pretty fiancĂ© is pregnant; and many other revelations made with the thought that Charlie doesn't understand a word being said. That he does understand fuels the remainder of the play.

The play is well written, with many cleverly written lines and numerous funny situations. I found myself laughing out loud more than once, and I normally don't laugh much at productions, whether live plays or movies or TV shows. In fact, this play is the winner of two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play and Best Off-Broadway Production. 

This is the best play we've seen produced at ASU so far. The acting was much more natural, especially by supporting cast members. Actors who had to use accents/dialects were very convincing considering the amateur status of the cast. And the set design was well done.

If The Foreigner should happen to be performed near you, I highly recommend that you make every attempt to see it; I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chicken Farm and Water Lilies

The first Saturday of each month is a special time at the Old Chicken Farm Art Center in the north part of San Angelo. Right after moving in, Donna and I visited the Center during the week, but things were relatively quiet, so we planned to go back on the first Saturday of either October or November, once the weather cooled off.

The Old Chicken Farm Art Center is a ramshackle collection of galleries and other artisan shops. You can find anything from used books to pottery there. There's even a restaurant and a bed and breakfast. On the first Saturday of each month, the artists come out and set up booths while musicians gather to pick and grin for a few hours. It's something that my good friend Jay Olson would enjoy.

After strolling through the complex and visiting a few of the shops, we decided to then go to the International Water Lily Collection near the Concho River. We had never visited the site, and we really were impressed by the collection and the grounds. The water lily garden is located on a creek that drains into another creek, which then empties into the Concho River near downtown San Angelo.

Rather than tell you about the place, I'll let some pictures do the talking for me.

View of the water lily collection from the street.

View of the water lily collection from near the rose garden

I don't know the names of these large pads, but they are impressive.

If you look closely, you can see the tendrils under the water that feed the lilies

Park area downstream from the water lily collection. The bridge crosses the creek that forms the water lily collection.

Donna on the bridge over the creek that feeds into the Concho River. The creek is currently dry as a result of dredging being done.

The rose garden next to the water lily collection.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Day in the Life

So, how does an old retired couple spend their time?

We've been retired now for about 9 months, and we are just now beginning to develop a rhythm, I think. We don't have fixed schedules, and we still enjoy getting up and taking trips when we want, but there are some routines that we seem to be developing.

I still get up early, normally around 6:00 or 6:30 AM, and spend a little time at the computer. I like to check a few sites first thing each day, such as the weather. I keep hoping something will come along to break this drought, but I continue to be disappointed.

After that, I go outside and get the paper. I don't always read the paper immediately. It may be later in the day when I finally get around to reading it. And when I do get around to reading it, I normally take my time and cover it thoroughly. I've also started doing the crossword in the paper almost everyday. I think it is important to keep your mind active as you age.My father suffered from dementia in his final years, and I noticed that the disease seemed to accelerate once he stopped doing mental activities.

Once we both get rolling and get our limbs loosened up, we sometimes go for a 3 mile walk, which takes us about 55 minutes. By the time we return, it may be 9:00 AM or later. On the days we don't walk, I often head outside to do some yard work. This could be mowing and trimming, or it could be getting beds ready for my upcoming garden. My normal process is to turn a patch of soil over by hand (yes, by hand; keeps me in shape). Once the ground is broken, then I add to it. I start by dumping grass clippings on the target patch, then I add some topsoil I purchased. I have an active compost pile, and as that material becomes ready, I work it in as well.

Sometimes I work in the garage trying to get things organized. I like for everything to have a place and for everything to be in its place. I enjoy working in the garage for I can turn on the radio and listen while I work. Now that the weather is cooling off, the garage is a nice place to work because it is out of the wind. I also have a great view of the neighborhood from the garage, so I can see everything that is going on.

While I'm working outside, Donna is usually busy in the house. She may be cleaning, but she is usually cooking. She has really been experimenting since we moved here. We've had numerous interesting dishes in the past few months, and I look forward to more good stuff in the months and years to come. Those of you who know us know that we like exotic dishes. Our time in the Middle East introduced us to various cuisines, and we yearn for these foods. Donna does a really good job reproducing many of these dishes.

Once I finish outside, I come in, take a shower, then sit down to a great meal. Immediately afterwards, I head to the bedroom for a short power nap. After I get up, it's time to collect the mail and pay bills. Although we have tried to set everything up for automatic payment, we still seem to get lots of things that require attention.

I like to visit our local library about every two weeks or so. I usually check out 2 or 3 books at a time. Donna likes a day out from time to time as well. She likes to make the round of stores such as Micheal's, Hobby Lobby, Kirkland's, and similar places. We both usually go together to do the grocery shopping. Grocery ads from H.E.B., Albertson's, and Lowe's (grocery store, not hardware store) come in the Wednesday paper, so we usually make our list on Wednesday for shopping on Thursday or Friday.

And there is some night life we enjoy. During the summer, we really enjoyed attending San Angelo Colts'  baseball games. They have a good team and won their division, but were swept in the playoffs. We also purchased season tickets to the Angelo State University theater productions as well as the local community theater, so we attend plays quite frequently.

We have other things on our calendar as well. The second Saturday of each month, there is a guided bird tour at the state park. Throughout the month, there are various happenings at the Chicken Farm (I'll write more on this in a later column) as well. We hope to visit the planetarium at ASU soon as well as the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts.

And then there are all those eating places we want to visit . . . . .

And when we aren't doing things locally, then we are traveling. We have monthly trips planned for several months in advance, and I'll post entries for them as they occur.

So, how do we spend our time since we've retired? We spend it doing things we really enjoy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Trees for the Backyard

Our new trees arrived last week. Both trees are bur oaks. The bur oak can grow to about 100 feet in height with a trunk diameter reaching 3 feet. It is slow growing, but very drought tolerant due to its massive taproot. It can live up to 400 years.

Please note the correct spelling is "bur", not "burr". Bur oaks are often called white oaks as well.

Picture of a mature bur oak; this is NOT one of our trees

I planted our new trees in the back half of our backyard. In the summer, they will block the early morning sun as it peeps over our back fence.

Our new bur oak trees

One of the bur oaks we received was not as healthy looking as the other. I really don't remember it looking that way at the nursery. However, I enjoy a good challenge, so I'm ready to see if I can revive it and produce a beautiful tree.

Our healthy bur oak.

The white items at the base of the trees are gallon milk jugs. I like to take milk jugs, punch small holes in them, then "plant" them with trees, large shrubs, and other plants of size. I then put fertilizer in the jugs and fill them with water. The water mixes with the fertilizer and slowly leeches out near the roots of the plants, thereby delivering water exactly where it does the most good. This is also a water saving method as water is not wasted on top soil; it also is not subject to evaporation.

I'm now spending my time preparing a bed along the northeast fence. So far, I've dug out 4 feet from the fence and I'm cleaning out the grass and the rock. Next, I'll start working in compost, then build a border. I hope to have this 4 ft. by 50 ft. bed ready by late January or early February for planting onions and other cool weather vegetables (tender greens, beets, radishes, etc.).