Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Way to San Jose

TVFMHRW - San Diego at Sunset

Once again, rather than brave the airport, I opted to drive through California to reach my next stop of the tour. Jason and I packed up a rental car and treked up I-5 en route from San Diego to San Jose. We stopped for lunch just north of LA in Chatsworth, CA at a classic roadfood joint: the Munch Box. This shack serves up burgers and fries from within a 50's looking yellow stucco box with patio seating surrounding it. The menu is strictly burgers, dogs, fries, sodas and shakes - they're serving up what they know!

North of Los Angeles, I-5 takes an inland route to the north, running east of California's costal mountains. It was a very different landscape from the one I enjoyed on Route 1. Jason and I enjoyed driving through the fields that grow seemingly everything available on the modern American supermarket shelves and trying to guess exactly what was in each field. We also passed through huge dairy and beef operations as well as the "Garlic Capital of the World": Gilroy, CA. It was easy to identify Gilroy by the smell! Of course, all this agriculture is made possible by water brought from far away places. The trip up I-5 was a lesson in the clash of Mulholland-era water policies with modern ones: plenty of fields were empty dustbowls (often right next to bright green irrigated plots).

Our theatre-home for the week was the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. The Center for the Performing Arts is another city-owned venue. The building's architecture is more inventive than many such places - it was designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundations in the style of Lloyd Wright's Gammage Memorial Auditorium at Arizona State University. The building looked like a wedding cake decorated with lollipops. It's round shape made for an unusual backstage space, but there was room for everybody and everything.

The San Jose Center for the Performing Arts

The presenters and crew in San Jose were quite friendly and welcoming. before the show on opening night there was a big medieval themed reception in front of the theatre:

Gurr snapped this picture on his way to work

And they threw us quite the opening night party after the show at a local restaurant. Our opening night was also attended by a large group of Monty Python fans. They contacted Chris Gurr (who played the King in San Diego, San Jose and Tucson) in advance via his Twitter account and told him how excited they were to be seeing our little skit. Gurr, being the good guy that he is, offered to meet up with them after the show.

Several other cast-members joined in for a photo with the "Knights of the Mathematical Table"

On Wednesday, Sheila Marie's Great-Aunt and Uncle treated me to home-cooked lunch! Dean and June Andrus make their home in nearby Saratoga, CA. They were kind enough to collect me at the hotel and open their home to me for the afternoon. They are both very actively retired and have a number of great hobbies that I was happy to learn more about. Their home overflows with paintings, baskets and weaving that June has made as well as wood turnings and mechanisms that Dean has put together. They fed me a lunch (much of which was the late harvest of their garden) and showed me around the Silicon Valley. It was a wonderful visit!

My big tourist outing in San Jose was to the infamous Winchester Mystery House. The mansion was the home of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester (the second President of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company). Mrs. Winchester moved to California upon the advice of a medium who allegedly told her that the spirits of those killed with Winchester arms were seeking vengeance. Mrs. Winchester believed that those spirits were responsible for the deaths of her daughter and husband. She also believed that constant construction on her home could confuse those spirits and prevent them from wreaking their vengeance on her. She bought a farmhouse in the countryside and kept up construction continuously for more than 38 years - construction continued past her death.

The resulting house is a labyrinth. It is composed of more than 160 rooms including 40 bedrooms. Rooms were constantly being added and remodeled. After an earthquake in 1906 trapped Mrs. Winchester in her bedroom, she abandoned the entire front half of the house, boarding it up and leaving much of the earthquake damage unrepaired. She spent the remaining 16 years constructing a new, larger mansion off the back of the old one.

The house is full of wackado things like this stairway that dead ends into the ceiling

And this second floor doorway that opens onto nothing

I toured the Winchester Mystery House with Lenny, Roy and Jason. We were all amazed by the place and spent several hours exploring.

Lenny, Roy & Jason in the mansion's back courtyard

After the show on Friday night, I jumped in my rental car and headed north to Berkeley, CA. My friend Cody was in Berkeley working on American Idiot at Berkeley Rep. He's was there as part of the sound design team for the new musical based on the album of the same name by Green Day. I regret that I couldn't see the show, but Cody's had a blast living la vida loca in the Bay Area and hanging out with honest to goodness rock 'n roll stars. We hung out with some of the show's on-stage band and got caught up. It was great to see a face from home!

I had a couple of foodie adventures in San Jose. The first was a barbecue delight: Henry's Hi-Life. Henry's has been smoking meat, grilling steaks and pouring beer in San Jose since 1960. Their menu is written out on a board in the bar and is simple fare from the barbecue grill done exceptionally well. I enjoyed a plate of ribs as much as I dug the whole atmosphere of the place.

Near our hotel, in downtown San Jose, was a mexican restaurant serving the cuisine of the Oaxaca region. Mezcal served all manner of specialties from the south of Mexico including an array of mole sauces. The place was the talk of the tour not for the wide variety of moles, but for another southern Mexican specialty: chapulines - toasted grasshoppers. Word quickly spread around the theatre when Miss Suzanne brought in a container of them. Everybody was in the hair room checking them out, but not so many folks were up for trying them. Never fear - team Stage Management was game:

Yup, that's all three of us with bugs in our mouths. The grasshoppers are toasted with lime, chili powder and salt and end up sort of nutty tasting. If you can get past the act of putting a bug in your mouth, they're tasty bar snacks. I only wish I had video of Ken wigging out - he never did eat his.

I mailed home a fair sized box of stuff from Silicon Valley - all the stuff that weeks of driving from place to place let me carry, but that plane travel wouldn't accommodate. For the first time in months I would have to head to the airport to make our next jump. Tucson was just too far to contemplate driving. I wasn't the only one at the Fed-Ex drop off on Saturday; as the end of the tour draws nearer, many of us as shipping stuff back home.



Author's note: Much of this post was composed in 2009 (in tour real time). I discovered it, lo these many months later, as I returned to the blog at the urging of some of my family and friends. Even 18 months after the tour has ended I still get asked if I'll ever finish the blog. I'm finally getting around to it! This blog is as good a way for me to remember the 2 years and 8 months I spent with my Spamily as it was to share it with everyone else. So, before I forget much of it, I had better get it recorded.