Becky and Joel’s Spring 2017: In Pictures

When I checked our blog and realized that we haven’t published since April 4th and here it is May 30th. Joel and I have been doing so many activities in the past month and a half that it will take several blogs to catch up. But, for now, we’d like to give you an update in pictures.

April 3: The Red Sox began their 2017 season. This year marks my 14th season as a Red Sox fan and the first one where Big Papi is no longer in the line up. I admit many Bo Sox players have come and gone in those 14 years; ever since Jason Varitek, my favorite player of all time, retired in 2011, I learned being a baseball fan means you are a fan of the team and not just individual players.  In a past blog, I wrote about how important baseball is to me:

I love so many things about baseball. I count down to when the pitchers and catchers report to spring training and then the count down to opening day. I count down until the Red Sox arrive in the Twin Cities, and I count down to the pennant race. Pieces of it are about baseball, other pieces are about my ability to cope. I count down to pitchers and catchers report because that means that one day, in what feels like a god forsaken tundra, spring will come. Other pieces are about hope. After a team wins the pennant in October, we all go back to 0 wins, 0 losses. We start fresh and new and are reminded again and again until Opening Day.

The whole world remembers the end of the 2016 baseball season as the Cubs won after the miracle rain delay.


Some people wondered if I was upset once the Red Sox were out of the playoffs in 2016, and I admit I was devastated because their last game was the last game to watch Big Papi play. But… then the Cubs won. And to ANY baseball fan, the magic and miracle that occurred for them could never be denied. They reminded everyone how perfect baseball can be. We were fortunate enough to watch the 2016 Cubs players when we visited Chicago in June 2016.

Joel here. I know it’s heretical, but I’m not a fan of any team. I love going to ballgames, I love sitting with Becky and seeing her delight or devastation depending on which way the winds are going in the game. I’ll wear the Red Sox gear, but just seeing players doing amazing things is enough for me. Getting to see the Cubs and visit Wrigley Field for the first time last year was a highlight. 

But, on November 3rd, we wiped the slate clean, 0 wins, 0 losses, and I began the count downs to pitchers and catchers report: February 14, 2017, and the count down to Opening Day, April 3, 2017.

This year, Joel and I took off half a day at work to come home and watch the Red Sox first game on MLB TV. We celebrated Opening Day like it is Christmas Day! 

I even got new shoes this year!

I didn’t leave my co-workers out of the celebration. I brought in peanuts, cracker jacks, pretzels and a giant cookie for them to enjoy. Joel and I watched the Red Sox win 5-3 against the Pirates. It was an awesome start to the season, and since I have MLB TV, I can listen to Red Sox games as I work each day, learning the players, making lists of my favorites and feeling like I’m a part of that magical world once again.

April 8: At dusk we finally got the chance to visit the MN Arboretum’s winter light art exhibit. This art exhibit ran from November until April 9 and featured light pieces by Bruce Monroe. According to the plaques, many of the pieces were inspired by The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Yeah, the Narnia thing was odd. The first time it came up seemed fine, but that it kept coming up I got to a point where I was like, dude, read another book! 

People loved the exhibit, from Minneapolis St. Paul magazine to the Star Tribune. We were lead to believe that the light exhibit would look like this:

But instead, we got this:

 

 

Joel remained positive about the pieces, but I did not. I think when photographs are better than the real thing, there is a problem. I will say, perhaps they looked better with snow on the ground. We were there at the end; maybe the LED lights were wearing out. I think the most painful part of this experience was that it was at the Arboretum. I go to the Arboretum to commune in nature. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Arboretum is like communing in the wilderness; I’m perfectly aware of how the Arboretum is manicured nature. But it’s nature, and it’s enough for me to rejuvenate. The problem with this art exhibit is that it didn’t use the natural surroundings in any way. Instead, these were just giant, ugly light figures slapped down onto the ground by a pretentious man from Australia.

Becky’s spot on about the exhibit not connecting well. It’s weird, because there’s a sculpture garden at the Arboretum with amazing pieces, one of which literally frames nature. I think overall, it was the dimness of the whole thing that underwhelmed us. 

April 14: We went to see comedian Roy Wood Jr.

at the Minneapolis Women’s Club. He is mostly known as a current Daily Show Correspondent. Both him and his opening act made for an amazing night; however, we’re working on a blog that will come out in a few weeks about comedy and its importance in our life.

May 5: 32 Days after Opening Day, the Red Sox came to the Twin Cities.

This year we decided to do one game instead of two, so we could pool our money and get the best seats we have ever gotten. We were about 20 rows away from home plate, sitting a few sections over on the first base line. I like sitting on the first base line because then I can look into the Red Sox dugout and watch them. This year I invested in face paint, and Joel did his best to paint a Boston “B” on my cheek.

My best?! That B was PERFECT! 

I don’t think I will ever understand people who don’t show up to a game at least an hour early to see all the essential baseball rituals: the first pitches, introduction of players and the Star Spangled Banner. So for a few innings, Joel and I were the only ones in our row. Somewhere in the middle of the 3rd or 4th inning we were joined by a family to the right of us. An older man sat down next to me, saw the face paint, and said “Sitting next to a fan cheering for the right team!” Turns out he’s originally from Connecticut and moved here to be closer to his kids.

At baseball games, unlike the opera or the orchestra or a show, the environment lends itself to meeting the person next to you. I suppose I could talk to the person sitting next to me at the opera during an intermission. However, if someone talked to me, I would just feel awkward. But at a baseball game, the rules are different. We bond together for something greater than us. I cherish the Twins / Red Sox games I get to go to because it combines where I live and where my heart remains, in Red Sox Territory. I get just a glimpse of the members of Red Sox Nation that live here too, and I don’t feel so alone.

Now, when it comes to having the Red Sox win every game I see in real life, I firmly believe the team that plays the best gets to win. Good baseball will and should always outweigh fandom. I freely admit during this game, the Red Sox were not at their best. Crazy mistakes left and right. In the first inning, the Twins scored 2. We got 1 in the 3rd. And when the Twins scored 1 in the 7th, I assumed we were done. I accepted it. But then…MAGIC.

In the top of the ninth inning, we tied it up! My motto in baseball and in life is never leave before the end of the 9th inning. You never know what can happen. During the rally, I screamed out “LET’S GO RED SOX” and “THE” clap: X X XXX. I wasn’t brave enough until 2013 to actually yell out like this at my game(s). Back then Joel’s reaction was to make me stop. To his credit, this year he didn’t bother trying to make me stop. I accepted the Twins fans’ glares, and how Joel lets me stand out on the edge of a limb, alone. I did the chant 4 times, hoping I was loud enough for other members of Red Sox Nation to join in. Instead, the man 2 rows down clapped a few times for no one to hear.  Since we were so close, I believe the Red Sox could hear me.

To be fair, I am a born and raised Minnesotan. Not some Kansas born, Boston influenced former cheerleader like Becky. We are a repressed people who don’t call attention to ourselves. Cheering for the other team out loud at a ballgame is simply not done. But, as a worldly gentleman, I appreciate other cultures!  

Going into the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox didn’t put their usual closer, Craig Kimbrel into the game. My guess is that since the Red Sox had just finished a grueling 4 game battle with the Baltimore Oriels, they needed Kimbrel to rest up. Instead, they threw Joe Kelly in to finish it up. Kelly is unusual because he wears glasses when he pitches. As the inning continued, the tension in the ball park grew. Then, MAGIC….for Joe Mauer and the Twins. Joe Mauer hit his first walk off home run so far in his 14 year career. AND ON TWO OUTS AND TWO STRIKES!  You can watch HERE

Here it was from our point of view:

 

See….MAGIC! Everyone was on their feet, even me, because hey a baseball miracle for the Twins is still a miracle and magic to watch!

May 12: MN Arboretum
In 2017, 84,000 tulips were used for the MN Arboretum’s tulip garden and around the facility. Each year the design of the tulips is different and this year, they stuck with a citrus theme.

 

While I wasn’t sure what to make of the citrus theme, my favorite color of tulips is purple and there were few to be seen, they included several species to achieve the effect they were reaching for


In addition to the tulips, they had several types of daffodils. I’m not usually a fan of daffodils because I’ve always thought they seemed to be the snooty flower of spring. I don’t pay much attention to them each year. But sometimes serendipity takes over. Joel and I were at the Arboretum after work and thought we’d run into the main building to get some water. We parked in a place we never park and took a side walk we don’t take. And behold: friendly daffodils:

 

May 13: La Boheme

We saw a performance of La Boheme performed by the Minnesota Opera. It was spectacular. Here is Joel’s take:

Becky and I were able to catch the last Opera of the season at the Minnesota Opera on May 13 – Puccini’s La Boheme. It’s our second Puccini opera. In fact, Puccini was our first Opera outing four years ago when we decided to try something neither of us had experienced before. We had our Pretty Woman moment where we either got it or didn’t. And we got it. Though the plots of operas have been pretty consistently ridiculous, the music and theatricality has been what brings us back to several shows a year.

La Boheme centers around a group of poor Parisian artists in the 1840s – mostly a painter (Marcello) and a poet (Rodolfo) and their loves. Rodolfo falls for Mimi, a seamstress with a cough. He pushes her away for a while because his sucky apartment’s cold and high floor level would kill her over time. But they get back together, stop again, and finally reunite just in time for Mimi to die. Marcello starts having lost his love, Musetta, but he gets her back and loses her during the opera.

If this sounds familiar – you may have seen Rent, the late 1990s version of this story told in Rock Opera form with more AIDS.

The Opera is in four acts, two of which matter. The first and fourth acts take place in Marcello and Rodolfo’s apartment. The set resembles a Van Gogh painting, with a slanted floor and 2-dimensional walls coming out at odd angles. It creates a mini-amphitheater for the singers as well as a general off-kilter feeling as these artists struggle to stay warm, find love, eat and express themselves.

This time we upped our tickets to the second to highest balcony. The view was better, but this also impacted the sound. So having the apartment help the singers project their voices was helpful. Most of acts two and three were hard to hear, particularly the bits with the chorus. Many of those pieces were also not subtitled. I’m not sure if our seat location was to blame or if it was the general volume of the orchestra washing out the singers.

The inspiration for this opera was a series of scenes that was first a play then a book before it was turned into an opera. Our program noted that in the end, very little survived from these existing materials. The first and fourth acts were the most coherent parts of the opera and taken by themselves tell the story of meeting one’s love and losing that love to disease. The middle two acts were invented by the librettists and do feel pretty random. I’d be hard pressed to tell you why they are there other than to just pack in more songs and give a chorus something to do. Puccini also apparently just cut out a middle act like words and plot mean nothing! In act 2, there’s eating out on the street, a parade, a toymaker comes in for no reason whatsoever, and other stuff happens that’s impossible to follow without subtitles. The highlight of these two acts was Musetta’s waltz where she uses her feminine wiles to catch Marcello’s attention (this is probably the song you’ve heard before as well).

Take just acts 1 and 4, and you have a delightful tale of meeting and falling in love then losing that love to disease. It’s moving and heartbreaking to witness. 

Also, fun side note – when your Opera has a major plot point around a singer coughing, and she coughs silently into her elbow, that just looks like she’s dabbing.

Becky back again. I disagree with Joel’s assessment of the 2 middle acts as being random. First of all, I would be crazy if I didn’t mention how the MN Opera’s performance of La Boheme was breath taking. Now, I know a lot of people use that term “breath taking” to describe several different feelings and emotions or throw that term around willy-nilly. In this case, I LITERALLY mean it was breath taking. The beauty of the building romance and the music had me holding my breath and crying like a child through most of the opera.

In order to know the Mimi character, the audience needs to see her in some of her interactions with other people than Rodolfo. If we only had the 1st and the 4th acts, she would be reduced to a sick woman in love in a small apartment. We would only be allowed to see how she and Rodolfo behave together. In act 2, Mimi pulls up a chair to feast with Rodolfo and his friend. Rodolfo exclaims “She is one of us!” By including her among the group of friends, she teases them and the friends (Marchello, Schaunard–the musician, Colline–a philosopher) become quite taken with her. She shows her compassion and giving of her friendship freely.

In the 3rd act, we see Mimi as desperate. She is terrified her Rodolfo no longer loves her, and the audience must witness how the sickness is getting worse and worse. She is beautifully vulnerable in this scene with Marchello first and then with her love: Rodolfo. This act shows her growing weakness and places her as an “underdog” character because it is her that Rodolfo is spurning upon first glance. Through this act we see how much Rodolfo loves Mimi that he would rather give her up than be the cause of her growing illness. (In this production, this act was especially well done because they had falling snow in the background. I love the effect this had.)

I argue the 4th act is about Rodolfo’s love and Mimi dying, but I think it is so much more. Up until this point, Musetta has been seen as flirtatious and selfish. In this act she is seen carrying Mimi up the stairs so that she can be with Rodolfo. When Mimi asks for a muff for her hands, Musetta takes off her earrings and asks Marchello to accompany her as she pawns them to get Mimi a muff. They also go to seek the help of the doctor.

Colline, fully aware that they will never be able to pay for the medicine or the doctor once he arrives, comes to the conclusion he must pawn his most prized possession: his coat. He has an amazing solo: Vecchia zimarra, where he sings about the love of his coat, but how a the love of a friend is so much more important. He is off to pawn his coat for Mimi’s medicine.

Mimi has influenced all of the characters to be less selfish, to discover what it means to love a friend (Mimi), and to love Rodolfo being in love. In the final moment of the opera, when Rodolfo realizes Mimi is no longer with him, the opera abruptly ends and the stage goes dark. Without Mimi there is only darkness. And, with this abruptness, there is no story or opera without her. Therefore, I believe the entire opera is Mimi and all 4 acts are necessary.

Becky, you make a strong argument. I bow to you.

It was a beautiful night for Opera, and we look forward to next year’s run, which will include The Marriage of Figaro, Rigoletto and Dead Man Walking.

 

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