Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trivia Newton John

The Lakewood was a disappointment. I had run as far as I had ever run from Dustin's apartment, and I felt I had been rewarded when Junius Street came to an end and the spire of an old theatre rose over the tree line, announcing itself in a vertical stack of neon letters as the Lakewood. I have a weakness for old movie theatres, but I like them best when they still show movies. But the Lakewood's marquee announced Burlesque Night and some local bands and I wrote it off as little more than a landmark.

Until I discovered the Arcade Bar.

Just as the Lakewood Theater was no longer a movie theater, the Arcade Bar was no longer an Arcade. Rather it was a long side room bar, and Greg and Lauren brought us in for Wednesday night pub trivia where we sit on one end and the lawyer who usually wins sits with a friend or two at the other. In between are two teams that compete mostly for the filthiest possible name they can get Dan to say out loud when he reads the scores. There's one more team behind us, between us and the door, the team so close we choose to whisper over whether the picture clue is for Rocky Horror or Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

We know we are in a place where we should be when Greg writes down our team name as Trivia Newton John, and we are sure of it when we are lauded as heroes for knowing the final round answer is "keel hauling" or "tungsten" or "rhubarb" meaning an argument. And when, after having been in third or fourth place all night, another team is read out for the third place spot, we are ecstatic to believe we have landed in second place. But when we aren't called for second place, either, we are slow to dawn on the fact that we have displaced the lawyer at the end of the bar. And the only thing more amazing will be the next week when we discover the popcorn machine at the back of the bar AND the Chex Mix free from the bar if you know to ask and that it is just as much fun when the lawyer wins because we know in our hearts how it feels to be the only one at the table to know the answer is fajitas or the KGB and to write it down before Dan has finished asking the question.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Texas Theater

The Texas Theater sells t-shirts. They're right there in the glass cases along with all the boxes of candy. And if you wore one, you might mean to celebrate the current Texas Theaterits local film festival and its swank retro bar in the lobby and its showing of Animal House next month followed by a real live toga party. It's certainly a place worth celebrating. It's a big old theater with hard little seats and a balcony, even if the public isn't allowed up there. The inside is white stucco and giant paintings of old movie posters high on the foyer walls. A projector in the lobby flickers away, flanked on the floor by red velvet couches low to the ground, the projector screening bits of a film you didn't come to see on the white stucco walls left blank. The whole thing is marvelous: old and a bit glamorous, stocked with a Ms. Pacman table game and the Robocop arcade game to keep you busy, you who remember when they were new.

I especially like the Robocop arcade game. I like the little pixelated super cop stomping around a city that was meant to be Detroit in the film but was actually shot in Dallas. I like that the reason I can drop in on a Monday night to see the new Star Trek movie is because half a dozen preservation efforts brought it back it turn from infamy and bankruptcy and fire and abandonment. But I can't make sense of the t-shirts, of what it means to wear the iconic marquee on your chest, to advertise that beautiful sign like it looks now, like it looked when it opened in 1931, like it looked fifty years ago on that Friday afternoon when Lee Harvey Oswald slipped inside without ever buying a ticket.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day

I was standing at the intersection, in the bit of shade cast by the thick pole that holds up the traffic signals, waiting to cross south and walk the last block home, when the men traveling west in the crosswalk approached me. One was tall with light skin and a baseball cap, the other was my height and dark skinned and wore magnificent green socks pulled up high as if trying to reach the green patterned shirt they matched. It was the man with green socks who said hello. I said hello to him, and he said, "You look like you must be sixteen, seventeen years old." Being twice that age, I started to say, "And you look like you must be a liar," and then edited in my head to, "And you look like a man who needs glasses," but thought better of it altogether and said nothing at all. I laughed, though, and the man with green socks continued as he stepped onto my curb. "Are you a mother? Happy Mother's Day, if you're a mother."

I wondered whether his second salvo was a kind of course correction, an admission of sorts that his first remark was so obviously, so necessarily, so patently untrueor if it was possible he might really believe in both my adolescence and my maternity. Texas is, after all, third in the nation for highest teen pregnancy rates. The Dallas Morning News tells me 2% of texas high schools skip sex education altogether and 94% are content with an abstinence-only curricula. Which is to say, only in Mississippi or Alabama might I be slightly more likely to have an encounter like the one at this intersection.

This was on Monday. People I didn't know had started wishing me a Happy Mother's Day the Thursday prior, and for all I know it will continue on tomorrow. I was once trying to catch a bus out of Dublin, and at first the schedules were off because of Good Friday. Then it had to do with what the clerk at the depot called Easter Saturday, followed by the well known Easter Sunday and the lesser known bank holiday Easter Monday. And then, so help me, I showed up on Tuesday and the Clerk shook his head. There would be no service to Belfast, he informed me, on account of Easter Tuesday. So maybe Mother's Day in Dallas is a similarly extended holiday. On Sunday a man with sunglasses and a barrel of a torso smiled at as we walked towards each other on the same stretch of sidewalk.

"Happy Mother's Day," he purred.
"Happy Mother's Day to you," I replied, and really meant it.
"I'm not a mother!" he corrected me.
"Neither am I," I pointed out.

So maybe we're not just a city that extendo-celebrates Mother's Day. Maybe we're just a town with a serious appreciation of mothers. I like to think that, that we're of concentration of appreciative folks whose mothers raised us right. Or maybe, should I ever be walking in the same direction as my interlocutor, there will be time to follow up the question, "Are you a mother?" with something along the lines of, "Would you like to be?"

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fire Hydrants

Last week the moat was across the street. Standing at the corner I could see five hydrants all open, a flood every block. And it stayed that way all day. Last week I put on sandals and went across the street, though there was nowhere to cross where I would not get wet, and I marveled that a city not known for its drought-resistance could gush and gush for hours.

This week, when the moat migrated, the same hydrant vented now to throw its river across the street, it was our block made island. I had expected the children in the neighborhood to take more interest, but they were unphased, drawn instead to the lawn by the recent acquisition of three pairs of big red boxing gloves. So I was alone when I took off my running shoes and sat at the edge of the storm drain, the water cold enough to turn my skin pink.

"Isn't it wonderful?" a woman called to me from the height of the SUV. I looked up and saw only the head of a very shaggy dog extending from the passenger side seat. I looked past the dog and saw the driver, still smiling. I agreed it was a sight to see, the water so welcome in its ripples up my ankle, and she stayed a long time before she finally pulled away.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sprinkles: Part II

They married on a Wednesday. Someone else brought up the walkie talkies. We were asked to ferry the cupcakes. The order was left in my name, not that of the bride and groom, and I said it like a code word, like a question, to the perky young woman behind the counter, who returned with a pair of bags. And then another pair, and another pair, and, don't go yet, another pair. They were mini-cupcakes, and there were so many of them, packed into boxes by flavor, the vegan ones set to the side because a butter frosting need not be chilled but a vegan frosting will come undone in the heat and so it goes right back in the icebox until it is ready to debut. Instead we put that bag, with the others, in the trunk and drove north. And though it had looked ready to rain all day, as we drove out of the city and into the pasturelands, the clouds began to lift. And at the wedding the clouds broke and the sun came through in fingers. And maybe they had blown away completely by the reception, when it was dark and the music was good and the bar was drunk dry and the bride and the groom had a moment to themselves, in which they picked through the last of the cupcakes.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sprinkles: Part I

The delivery fellow knew it was the wrong door when he knocked. But he seemed nothing but relieved when we answered, and he hardly waited for an answer before giving us the parcel intended for upstairs. We didn't want the responsibility of looking after it. But then we didn't want the responsibility of it left outside her door in the sun for who knows how long? Who knows what kind of person sends an order of cupcakes to a flight attendant and whether they check her flight schedule first? So, reluctantly, we became cupcake-sitters. This was more stressful than you might imagine, though it was just for the afternoon, it turned out. We were just wondering if it was time to slip the big paper bag in the refrigerator, drop the first shelf down a rung or two, when our neighbor came by and collected the Sprinkles delivery her sister had sent. She didn't mention the occasion, not when she took the cupcakes away and not when she came back downstairs to reward us with two red velvets for our trouble. We assume the cupcakes spelled out something like Best Wishes, given that Dustin got a candy T on the top and mine had a candy S, and they were so delicious it was easy to imagine how you might eat the B and the E before even thinking to share.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Since the beginning of March, the grocery store has been selling cartons of cascarones. I lasted only a week before buying a dozen of these confetti-filled eggshells, seduced as I was by their brilliant hues and feather weight and the pictures of cartoon children hitting each other over the head. A week after that I sent the carton home with friends visiting from Oregon, convinced as I was that this was one of the better souvenirs of Texas, and then I forgot to buy more and then it was Eastera fact I was reminded of when I came home from work and noticed a modest splash of pink confetti on our apartment steps. And I was disappointed with myself that I had forgotten to restock what was so clearly a perfect and joyous thing. And then I went for an evening walk, and today I went for another, and I am so much more delighted to know that there are traces of dyed eggshell and paper throughout the neighborhood, for a mile in any direction. And I see now how much better it is to discover these traces than it would have been, shell-against-skull, to have made them.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Steve Martin is from Waco

Five years ago, I recognized the origin of a stranger's 801 area code and she knew what an 805 area code said about me and almost immediately we were friends. I was, at the time, living in a 312 area code, and she was in the 202, but we met for the first time in 314. Now I live with the good people of 214 and she's joined the ranks of the 313. In honor of our anniversary, I would like to share with all of you something she was recently so kind as to share with me. From a Michigander, with love: "50 Sure Signs That Texas is Actually Utopia." If that sounds overwhelming, perhaps you will be satisfied just knowing that Steve Martin is one of ours.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Junk Mail

If I never left the apartment (and as a writer who works from home, this is an actual possibility on more days than I'd care to admit), if I never made it any further than the bank of mailboxes two giant steps away from my apartment's threshold, I would know the city. I would know Dallas by its junk mail.

Nowhere else I've lived has so distinguished itself through the things I throw away. I largely ignore the pulpy curl of of circulars, but the postcards are full of invitations. Any number of establishments would like the pleasure of whitening my teeth. More than a few churches would like me to drop by. I was particularly enchanted by a house of worship that was offering Saturday services in consideration of the marathon that routes through the neighborhoodpartly to bless the runners, and partly because Sunday parking, what with the road closures and all, would surely entice a person to take the lord's name in vain.

And though I tend to think of the neighborhood as chock-full of schools, every so often I get a governmental postcard advising me a sex offender has taken up residence somewhere nearby. It's such an intimate thing to be on the back of bulk rate mail: the picture and home address of someone I don't even know.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day

The only fire-breather I know lives in Texas. Also, the only woman I've ever met who didn't know she was pregnant until the baby was crowning. Also, the only person I know who owns an air cannon for the specific purpose of launching tee-shirts into a crowdthis person, too, lives in Texas.

I mention the last because Texas loves itself a St. Patrick's Day celebration. In Chicago, I never questioned the parades and the river dyed green, but the first time Dustin and I tried to take the light rail to the movie theater and found ourselves pressed among revelers in varying states of inebriation and Leprechaun-inspired costuming, I was unprepared.

I was also unprepared, a year later, when friends invited us down to the beach and we saw them next as pirates on a parade float, the green of green beads rubbing off on their sweaty necks, the pirates throwing more of the same to the outstretched hands lining the parade route, and from the prow of the boat twirling the ends of green feather boas. I had, until then, been most charmed by the golf cart resurfaced for the parade in an armor of green Solo cups, but upon seeing us, waiting as we were at the end of the route, our friends the pirates jumped off their pirate boat float and walked us back to the beach housebut only after the last green tee-shirt was launched, not at the boy yelling for it and standing close enough to take the apparel projectile point-blank in the chest, but over him, deeper into the crowd, the cannon launcher aiming towards us and connecting instead with the woman in front of us, who grasped the shirt in her green-painted fingernails and jumped up and down.

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Crush on Winston Churchill

In January the Dallas Museum of Art did something museums almost never do: it gave up charging for general admission. Since then, Dustin and I have been dropping in most weekends. We have learned the difference between American Art and Art of the Americas (no ceramics of two people joined by a common third leg in the former, no almost presidential bedroom sets in the latter). We have learned you can make a chair out of plush pandas. We have learned there is no adhesive holding together the cubic meter of toothpicks, that if you pay attention they are slowly, slowly falling loose.

We have learned galleries intersect in surprising, nonlinear ways, a gentle maze with myriad possible solutions. And shortly before I learned that "Water Spaniel Confronting a Heron" is an actual title to an actual painting, Dustin and I walked out of Japanese gallery, a hallway really, and stumbled into the Reves Collection: a celebration of decorative arts staged in a multi-room recreation of the Mediterranean estate Wendy and Emery Reves bought from its original owner, Coco Chanel. The guest room with its scores of black lacquered furniture and chairs with animal skin prints is bewildering. Why the pairs of shoes on the carpet? Why the lace and the place settings displayed on the facing wall?

We were feeling a bit more oriented by time we found ourselves looking in on the living room. "You can't go in," Dustin kept whispering, each time a bit more agitated. "You can't go in!" And of course we couldn't enter this recreation of a room meant entirely to receive guests. So we leaned over the barrier just enough to get a better look at the closer Renoirs, the near Seurat, and gave up on a dozen other paintings as too distant across the great room to admire.

I was, by then, working myself up about this collection. Museums have an understandably hard time saying no to donations, and while that may not have happened here, it would explain the disporporitonate amount of space accorded to, say, the nation of Japan versus the personal collection of an Dallas-born model from and the man she married after a twenty year acquaintance. I am probably just grouchy there's not more explanation to contextualize all these rooms and why they are here, when I wander into an alcove of Winston Churchill memorabilia. Churchill was a favorite guest at the estate, painting the twisting trees of the coast, going for walks. He sent letters and telegrams to the lady of the house, apologized for having "vexed" her. And I found myself softening, charmed at the whimsy of Churchill including the name of his parakeet, Toby, in the dedicating of a book holding a few of the bird's feathers between the pages. I was totally undone and won over after discovering a slip of paper, the size of a cocktail napkin, on which the dinner guests had been asked to draw their self-portraits for a parlor game. Churchill won the prize for finishing first, and he won it with a truly charming sketch of a pig. 

Monday, March 4, 2013


With Dustin home sick, we spent part of the weekend catching up on Texas cinema. Now with Dustin on the mend, I would like to share the highlights of our research:

1. "Bernie" is a fine film, which I love for this scene more than any other. But I feel kind of bad that, without any previous prejudice, I now want to refer to Houston as the "Carcinogen Coast."

2. Who knew "Reality Bites" was set in Houston? And, for its time, it features a truly Texas-saavy reference to the Austin-born grocery chain Whole Foods. Twenty years later, as a perky checker with bright blue hair rings up my loaf of Seeduction Bread at the Whole Foods near us, I have to agree with the film's observation that Ethan Hawke would not have been hired.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Free Glow Sticks

The Crow Collection of Asian Art waited until Friday to celebrate the Chinese New Year, which seems a little late, but if you're going to go to the trouble of closing off some streets and filling them with food trucks and photo booths and stations where you could color in a paper snake and then staple it to a hat, you might as well wait until the weekend.

I'd seen the strip of street between the Crow and the Nasher Sculpture Museum converted into a performance area before, so I should have remembered that it's nigh impossible to see anything if you arrive late. Even half an hour early it was already a perimeter of three or four deep, people standing on benches and garbage cans to gain a little height, visibility tolerable except for all the good parents lifting kids up on their shoulders. And so, for a time, our main entertainment was an overheard conversation about the performers having been told one time and the audience another. Which explained the lion heads arriving in plastic, the dancers first in sweats and then in hot pink get ups with fringe all up the pants. A woman with a bucket asked if we had glow sticks and before we could decide if we wanted to pay for such frivolity, we had said, "No," and she had given us two sticks each. Dustin joined them together to make a super necklace. I twisted mine into a crown. And everything was more bearable with them glowing; something to see when the martial artists dipped low or kicked not high enough and  for twenty minutes we knew they were there mostly by the occasional sound of vibration from their shiny, floppy swords. Which is why we hadn't left out of boredom by time the dragon dancers came on. It was hard to see the dancers, but the dragon they manipulated by poles into saunters and chases and dives, the dragon skimmed above the crowd line, chasing a ball.

And then the lion dancers came on, a pair to make up each lion, and the lions all flapping mouths and blinking eyes and wagging tails. We did not have an red envelope of money to feed the beasts, but stayed until the eight of them had worked the crowd, the lions on one end swallowing the envelopes from children and on the other end skillfully ignoring little hands trying to catch the swishing tails. We stayed until the crowd was gone and there was nothing left to see.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Drivers Blow Kisses To Me

The first time I was jogging in place, was waiting for the traffic light to change when I raised my hand up to shield my eyes from the dropping sun. The sweep of my arm caught the attention of the driver of a garbage truck, waiting to turn left, who answered the salute with a brief honk. Then he smiled and lifted his hand from the steering wheel to his mouth and blew me a kiss.

A few days later I was cooling down, walking the side streets near my apartment, when a driver of something low and old and maroon pulled up to a stop sign and waved. I waved back before realizing I don't know anyone here, and in return the driver blew me kiss, let it leave his hand through the open window as he drove away.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winspear Opera House

My mother likes to tell a story about a family car trip. She likes the part where we were driving through Las Vegas. She doesn't tell why we would have ever gotten off the freeway, why we would have taken the time to drive down the Vegas strip, but she'll tell you that there were lights everywhere. Every color of neon tube, endless round bulbs, all of it wired to blink and flash and spin. I remember our skin colored by the light. And my mother will say that she heard not a peep from the back seat until, in unison, my brother and I issued an awed "McDonald's!"

Her point is that surrounded by the spectacular, what we noticed was the familiar. My point, when I challenge her interpretation, is that the spectacle was clearly supposed to be spectacular, but a fancy McDonald's doesn't happen every day.

I mention this now because last night I went to the Winspear Opera House for the very first time. It's a handsome building, with a very pretty view of downtown out its glass shell. Inside it is five levels that rise ever steeper, cupped like a nest and filled with 4,500 people. The auditorium has a central chandelier that looks like fifty strands of metal dripping into light, and the whole thing retracts into the ceiling when the performance starts. Certainly these are the things I should mention, never mind the show we saw. But what I feel deserves note is the parking structure, receding into the earth, well run and comfortably designed with an attractive central escalator that doubles as a light well. And what I really want to say is that the Lexus Red parking structure has a special zone set aside just as you drive in marked "Lexus Parking"and sure enough it's already full up with Lexi! What an exotic and esoteric perk. It is indeed so random and ridiculous that I do not begrudge the privilege, am still smiling as I pullinto a corner of the bottom most level, flanked on either side by Lexus overflow.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dallas Black Dance Theatre

The Nasher Sculpture Center is always worth a visit, and one certainly can't complain on the first Saturday of the month when admission is free. We didn't mind the flush of families, or the one-day introduction of family-friendly little ropes pinning perimeters around the sculpture out in the garden, but as we discovered the inside galleries were all closed for installation, upstairs and down, we began to suspect we'd picked the wrong day to come. I had, in fact, just turned on my heel to confirm with Dustin it was time to go, when a man with a stack of programs asked if we'd come to see the dance.

"It's starting in just a moment," he said. We were won over by the serendipity, but hedged our bets by standing against the wall near an exit. Our last cultural experience of free dance performances featured girls age 5 to 15 in sparkle and spandex on a stage across the olde tyme Main Street from a general store. After the eighth straight song about jealousy, cheating, the desperation of needing a man, or the satisfaction of getting oneand the precocious choreography to match--I was confirmed as an old prude and had to retreat to the model train depot. At the Nasher, Dustin and I started to get nervous, our strategic position compromised in minutes as we were blocked in by strollers and a carpet of children filled in at our feet.

And then we were won over, hooting and whooping and chapping hard. In all, three companies from the Dallas Black Dance Theatre took to the marley, and each one charmed us, left us spellbound. How beautiful the movement of limbs! My breath caught in my throat with some of their leaps and lifts. The emcee joked at one point that DBDT is Dallas' best kept secret, and I tend to believe she's right.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I appreciate that Texas keeps things interesting. Having just missed the hottest summer on record, I moved here in time for a year of snow days, tornado, West Nile Virus, softball-sized hail, and now earthquakes. It's like playing apocalypse bingo. I didn't actually feel the 3.0 quake last night, nor did I notice the 3.1 and 3.4 quakes that happened in a span of four minutes last September. But I did take note when the radio reported that Dallas had never registered earthquakes like this before 2008. Who's to say, really, but it would seem to be a result of injection wells in the area designed to dispose of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. I wasn't worried about locusts coming, until I realized we can bring these things on ourselves.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


The thing about places that only get snow once or twice a year, is that it isn't worth investing in the equipment to swiftly remove that occasional snow. So, when we wake to white on everything, Dustin decides he isn't going to fool with the ice rink the streets have become, and we take a snow day. It's a snow morning, if we're being honest: by lunch there is only a thin lace of snow sunk into the lawn and just enough snow left on the car to have a five-snowball snowball fight before driving pristine streets to Uncle Uber's for sandwiches.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Texan Oscar Nominees

Today I clicked on the headline Texan Oscar Nominees. This is not news because it turns out the Lone Star State is lousy with Academy Award contenders. Just the opposite, in fact. My local NPR station, who posted the piece on their Art and Seek page, counts just two in the major categories. They haven't taken a fine-tooth comb to the minor categories yet, so there may be more. We, the public, are even invited to scour the list ourselves. I love that we are keeping track of this, especially when it is something we are apparently not that good at (no disrespect to Wes Anderson and Tommy Lee Jones). And I love that we care enough about our standing to mention it, but not enough to work very hard at boosting it up, and then we mention that, too.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Worms, Roxanne, Worms!

It rains in Texas. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. And in Dallas, where the sidewalk squares ram and butt and knock at angles, it's good puddle country. Which is what I am focused on while taking my evening walk. It is impossible at night to tell how deep any pool may be, and I step gently in the dark, though my galoshes cover up to my knees. And then on dry land I notice, at my feet, the longest worm I have ever seen. Longer than a strand of spaghetti. It is a shoelace of a worm. It is a worm to make you believe worms eat other worms and grow the length of their meal. It is a worm to make you wonder if might be true, after all, that one worm cut in half becomes two worms, because this worm could be quartered and and still be surprisingly long for worms. It is skinny and segmented and still pulsing its way to somewhere when I telescope my folding umbrella to measure its length. Translated to the measuring tape at home, it is nineteen inches worth of worm. I call to tell my mother what I saw in the rain, and she tells me of an even longer worm she once saw, a worm you could wear like a belt.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Wiffenpoofs Stop Here

Dustin likes to watch the weather map, the pixels sweeping in rainbow hooks as storms go by. This was not his hobby in gray drizzle of Seattle, but in Texas there are thunderstorms and hailstorms and tornadoes blowing through. We're at one end of tornado alley, and Dustin notes there is a pattern to the winds, that the nastiness that skirts past Dallas seems to him neighboring Dentin right in the face.

I had been told by a neighbor who works in a fancy hotel that the same thing happens to music, that tours have their own trade winds, and we get all the good stuff because they always blow through Dallas. This made sense to me, but I had not experienced it until the Wiffenpoofs winter tour stopped in Colorado and then Dallas on its way next to New Orleans. While other places I've been start the morning with a surf report or a fish report or even a farm report, KERA broadcasts a segment called Art and Seek, a brief rundown of cultural events in the city. Which is how this Monday we learned over breakfast that our fair city would be treated to the melodies and comic stylings of the nation's premiere college a cappella group.

If you weren't impressed at "Wiffenpoofs," there may be little more to say that would convey how singularly delightful it is to sit on the folding chairs of the Jewish Community Center and listen to fourteen very talented (and somewhat nerdy) Yale seniors do a skit about a spelling bee. I think it's quite possible you would have to be there to understand what it's like the first time they all remove the white glove from their right hand and begin to snap. But I trust you can imagine, in all its glory, the perfection of "Midnight Train to Georgia" performed complete with three de-jacketed men in their white shirts and white vests, synchnoized in their back-up dancing, pulling the same imaginary cord with their white gloved hands and back-up singing "whoo-whoo!"

*it won't have the flirty old man who sat in the folding chair next to me, but otherwise, a good facsimile of the experience can be found here. note: we didn't have Big Bird.