Monday, May 5, 2014

Erica's #26 - Go to the Opera

I've seen a lot of things in theaters: concerts, plays, musicals, symphony performances, Broadway shows, local dance troupe performances, and an author event.  One thing I had yet to experience in a theater was the opera.  This might sound mind-numbingly boring to you (it honestly did a little to me too), but I was pleasantly surprised when we sat down to see "Girl of the Golden West" by Giacomo Puccini.

Westerns and operas aren't typically two things you see coalescing into one cohesive event.  Honestly, when I purchased tickets to this show, I had no clue what it would be about, but I did make one incorrect assumption - I assumed that it would be in English, given it's Western flair.  Turns out, I selected the one opera coming to Clowe's Memorial Hall in Indianapolis that WAS NOT in English this season.  Oh well, it felt like a much more authentic opera experience given that it was in Italian!

Lucky for us, there were English surtitles!  We accidentally arrived late for the first act, and had to sit in the very back as to not disturb others trying to find our seats closer to the stage.  This turned out to be perfect, as it was much easier to read the surtitles from the rear of the theater.  During the intermission between the first and second acts, we moseyed up to our actual seats, to find that they were in the third row!  The surtitles are above the action on the stage, so these seats actually made it much more difficult to read and follow along, but it was great to see the actors and sets in such detail.

Girl of the Golden West actually had some very amusing moments in it, and some even more amusing cultural misunderstandings written in by Puccini.  One that stands out is that during the poker-playing scenes, the dialog revolves around betting on high cards...I'm not sure Puccini really understood 5-card stud!  The plot revolved on Minnie - a strong, gun-toting, Wild West gal who runs the local saloon.  She falls in love with a wanted criminal, and does anything in her power to save him.

I had a feeling operas were long...but I had no clue it would involve 3 hour-long acts.  I am old, and therefore found it extremely difficult to keep my eyes open during the third act, which didn't wrap up until 11pm or a little later.  But it was an entertaining evening, and a good way to add more culture to our lives!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Erica's #27 - Tour a Cave

Tour a cave - strange goal, right?  I'm not sure where I got that one, but I remember distinctly having Mammoth Cave in mind when jotting that one down.  Mammoth is, obviously, one of the biggest caves you can tour, and is only about 3 hours away from Indy, so we could get down and back in the same day.  We picked a Sunday and, being the history geeks that we are, booked tickets for the Historic Tour.  Yay, a cave!

We headed down to Kentucky on the first Sunday in March, which was surprisingly warm, given the cold winter we've had this year!  Mammoth Cave stays a pretty constant temperature year round (55 degrees), so we knew we'd be fine in our sweatshirts without jackets.  I was pretty excited about this cave trip - I've lived so close to the cave but had never actually been in!  Mel had been before (next time you see her parents, ask them about a near accident involving one tiny human!), but it had been quite a while.

We checked out the visitor center first, which had some great history and geological exhibits about the system of caves that comprises Mammoth Cave, got the requisite stamp in our National Park passport, picked up our respective souvenirs (Mel collects National Park patches, I collect National Park magnets, and have a crap-ton of them displayed at my desk at work), then met up with our tour group to head on into the cave.

After heading down the staircase at the entrance, the first section of the cave that you come to is the portion where saltpeter was mined to support much of the gunpowder supply necessary to fight the war of 1812.  You can even see some of the hollowed-out logs that were used as pipes for the transportation of water during the mining process.  What an undertaking that must have been with lanterns as your only light source in the pitch-black of the caves!

At one point in the tour, the guides turn off all of the lights along the path so you can experience the complete and total darkness that exists in the bowels of a massive cave.  It really is unlike any other level of darkness  you can possibly imagine - even our interior cabin on Cayamo still had a small sliver of light peeking out from under the door.  In the cave though, you literally cannot see your hand directly in front of your face.  It's a pretty extreme experience!

It was neat to see the names burned onto the ceiling of the cave in soot from the lanterns of yesteryear.  Although this is clearly a form of graffiti, which would land someone in big trouble if the did the same in our modern era, you can't help but feel that it is also a very real connection with the cave's history, and those explorers who came before you.  It makes me wonder if people a century from now will feel the same way about our spray-painted graffiti on bridges and buildings.  Somehow I doubt it, but you never really know.  It is fairly mind-boggling to see a name with " '74' " in soot next to it, and realize this refers to 1874, not 1974.

We also got to wind our way through a tight little area with just enough room for your feet to shuffle through, having to bend down in the narrow tunnel at one point as well.  Just a few hundred feet further down the cave, you come across the bottomless pit, where there obviously is a bottom, but you can't see it.  Then you enter a room where the cave suddenly expands, and the next thing you know you're climbing hundreds of stairs back up to the original level of the cave you entered into.  Fun way to spend a Sunday!