Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sleepless in Seattle

Just got back from Seattle late (really late) Sunday night. We were supposed to return by dinnertime, but Someone (ahem) didn't leave enough time to get to the airport and they wouldn't let us on the plane even though it wasn't scheduled to depart for another 30 minutes. Fortunately Sea-Tac airport has a fully padded play space for hyperkinetic youths. Then we were selected (randomly, I think) for the Whole-Ball-of-Wax search, involving full-body pat-downs and swabbing our stuff for explosives residue. Fortunately we had answered the kids' questions about security with deliberate vagueness ("Oh, just to be sure you're not bringing anything... that's, you know, not allowed") since I could clearly envision one of them piping up "Mommy, are they looking for bombs? Do you have a bomb? I have one! In my stuffed kitty! Hee hee hee!" I can happily say that I am still walking free even though I had inadvertently left a small bottle of Purell hand-sanitizing gel in my knapsack, not to mention two small cartons of yogurt (gel-like semi-liquid! Hands against the wall!) that I swiped from the hotel breakfast buffet for onboard consumption And they didn't even confiscate the various goops. Thank God for West Coast mellow-osity.

Anyway, Seattle was nice -- lots of spruce trees, and plenty o' culture, though we didn't get a chance to go to any museums except the EMP (Experience Music Project). But... wow. Even from the outside. I thought MIT's Stata Center was weird-looking, but Frank Gehry miust have really amped up his intake of powerful hallucinogens when he designed the EMP, which makes Stata look like a Somerville three-decker. Fortunately money was no object for his client, Paul Allen, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and a huge fan of Seattle's own Jimi Hendrix (apparently the original idea was just a Hendrix museum until it expanded into a multimedia extravaganza). The inside was very cool -- a whole room full of antique guitars from the 1700s to the present, the excellent Hendrix exhibit (largely from Allen's own collection of memorabilia), and some nice uses of state-of-the-art technology -- well what would you expect -- so even utterly tone-deaf visitors can make music themselves. We visited booths where we could play real electric guitars and sing with the Heart sisters (on video, but hey). The best was "On Stage," where your group goes in and "performs" a song like karaoke, except you sue real instruments and they have a light show, fake crowd noie, etc. You're actually playing the instruments, except if you don't actually know how to play, you're drowned out by the real recording. Ben and I are total hams so we had to try it, belting out the Beatles' "Twist and Shout." Sarah loves music but was freaked out by the noise level so she crouched in a corner the whole time plugging her ears, so the lineup was Ben on keyboards and vocals, yours truly on guitar and vocals, and Becky on drums (think "Partidge Family").

I should also mention the actual reason we went to Seattle, which was for a family bat mitzvah, which was actually very fun. The synagogue was a modern Reform place with florr-to-ceiling glass in the back overlooking towering spruce trees, but more importantly the rabbi was, like, totally hip. He's a musician, you see, and being Reform, he's totally into modern versions of liturgical songs. He was accompanied on Friday night ("Shabbat Unplugged") by another guy on acoustic guitar and a woman (think Peter, Paul and Mary) and on Saturday morning by a whole ensemble, including electric bass, an acoustic/electric guitar, backing vocalists, drums, etc. This was what they call "Rock Shabbat." If you click on the link, that's the rabbi with long gray hair. Well, the purists, including Ben, are generally unhappy weith services that don't involve hours of singing and praying in Hebrew, but even he liked this. And it was in Hebrew too, but the tunes were at least finger-snappingly fun rather than the dirge-like melodies you ususally get. Judasim certainly has a lot of terrific things about it, but fun music isn't one of them (unless you go outside thre synagogue and check out Irving Berlin, Paul Simon, Leonard Bernstein, Yitzhak Prelman, etc.).

And finally I am able to understand the layers of meaning in the recondite, sometimes disturbing yet ultimately life-affirming meanings in Marmaduke.

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