Monday, June 23, 2014

The Lion King: Shock and Awe


Based on my favorite words of wisdom-Only put off until tomorrow that which you are willing to die having left undone-I made the executive decision to travel to New York to see the Broadway production of The Lion King before its run was over. I wanted to take the whole family, but for a variety of reasons it was AJ, Erin, Maya, and Ben who made the trip with me this go-round. We made all the tourist stops while in New York, but that’s another story. The Lion King was the main topic.

A night at the theatre deserves going to the trouble to shuck the shorts and T-shirts and dressing up for the occasion, which we did.

We had good seats and were anxious for the show to get started. Not the best picture of AJ, but hey, three out of four’s not bad.


The curtain was decorated with symbols that appeared in several scenes as the play progressed. Notice the alcoves on either side which contained drums and other instruments used for rhythm and special musical effects.


Of course, no photographs were allowed after the curtain rose, but this sign and ticket brochure below do show some of the costumes and animal props that were very effective. People with masks and appropriate costumes inhabit the bodies of the animals. Zazu, the bird who is Mafusa’s right-hand man, is actually a hand puppet held by the actor dressed in a dark blue-green body suit; the eye sees him but the brain ignores him and the bird is real. The mind over matter effect was amazing and the whole thing worked beautifully. No one cared that the people portraying the animals were not completely camouflaged; the animals came to life. If I had tried to take pictures of all this during the performance, I would have missed the performance! It was more important to live the moment and become engrossed in the action.


And what a performance. Just as in the original animated movie version, the opening number is the show-stopper. As Rafiki is singing The Circle of Life, animals are making their way to the stage by coming down both aisles. I watched Ben, who was sitting next to me, as he watched in fascination the animals to our right, but as I saw an almost full-size elephant in the aisle to our left, I motioned for him to look that direction. In disbelief, his eyes opened wide, his mouth dropped at the sight, and that eight year-old stood up and leaned over to get a better look. Shock and awe. Made the whole trip worth it. And just like in the movie, when the baby Simba is presented to the animal kingdom, a cliff magically rises from the center of the stage, and the final lyrics are sung, ---the circle of life---followed by that final note-BOOM!, it takes a few seconds for the audience to catch its breath, and then pandemonium breaks loose with resounding applause. Shock and awe.

I have always been a fan of the story and the music of The Lion King. I enjoyed the movie soundtrack so much that I also bought the Rhythm of the Pride Lands CD, and some of that music was added to the Broadway production. So it should be no surprise that I bought the musical’s soundtrack as my main souvenir. Well, that and a couple of T-shirts, a poster, and some tote bags…

There are certain scenes that hold special meaning for me. When Pumbaa, Timon, and the young Simba are singing Hakuna Matata and we see a representation of Simba growing up, that strikes a special memory with me as I think of my children growing up as I watched and wished they could stay young forever. The scene of Mafusa appearing in the sky to the lonesome adult Simba is special to me as well. The opening number when baby Simba is presented sets the tone of the whole play for me. I love it all.

But it’s the music that gathers all my emotions, puts them in my heart that swells to the point of bursting, and the only release is in the tears that flow uncontrollably as the music affects my whole being. The only other person I know for whom music has that effect is my mother, God love her. I am so glad she bequeathed that gift to me. Music is special. She would have loved The Lion King.

I listened to the CD nonstop as I drove from home from Austin after we came back to Texas. I haven’t been able to get the music out of my head. And that’s okay. If you have only chance to see a Broadway musical, this is the one you need to see.

But don’t wait too late. Some day it will indeed be gone. And what a shame that would be for you to miss it.


Shock and awe.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Relay for Life and the Yard Tour

Muleshoe’s annual Relay for Life was held Friday, June 6th at the Bailey County Coliseum. I attended last year (see “Muleshoe Does Relay for Life,” June 12, 2013”) but chose to support the fight against cancer this year by purchasing a ticket to the yard tour organized by the Muleshoe Calvary Baptist Church. And I was glad I did. The weather was mild for outdoor activity, the recent rains had done their part to invigorate the lawns and plants, mosquitoes had been sprayed, and the yards were lovely.

The first stop was the home of Bob and Billie Graves. The back yard was the neat and tidy, green and manicured. And so was the area behind the back fence.





Next stop was the back yard of Marshall and Helen Cook. Larkspur and other flowering plants gave this yard more of an English garden feel to me. And then when walking through the back gate to the alley, you find a rock garden planted in xeriscape fashion! Quite a contrast.




The focal point of Kenneth and Darlene Henry’s back yard was this pair of lovely old trees holding the grandkids’ play deck and shading a lovely little playhouse. The area behind the fence next to the alley was manicured as well.




Next was Paul and Judy Wilbanks’ backyard, whhich had a large patio/pergola party/visiting area complimented with a large goldfish pool and waterfall.




Chase Garlington’s front yard was on display for the tour, with lots of interesting yard art surrounded by larkspur, lamb’s ear and a variety of other flowering plants. Chase’s use of wrought iron cemetery fencing was especially effective.




The last yard on the tour was the back yard of Chris and Adena Johnson. This yard also made use of interesting yard art, but its crowning glory was the huge fruitless mulberry tree in the center of everything.




These homeowners obviously put an amazing amount of time and effort into making their yards showplaces, and were willing to share them with us. If you didn’t go this year, I suspect there will be another yard tour next year. I recommend you plan on going. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

The USAF Flying Thunderbirds


The Flying Thunderbirds gave new meaning to the phrase shock and awe at the Cannon AFB air show we attended on May 24th (“Memorial Day 2014,” May 26, 2014). If you have never had the privilege of seeing them fly, add them to your bucket list.


According to Wikipedia, and I know  one has to read Wikipedia with caution, the USAF Demonstration Squadron was first envisioned at Kelly Field, Texas, on June 13, 1917. According to the program from the show, the group began in 1947 when the US Army’s Signal Corps saw a need for a dominant independent air arm of the armed forces and the Thunderbirds were born in 1953 at Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona. The group is now based at Nellis AFB, Nevada.


The Thunderbirds are named a USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, which means it does not have a numerical designation, and quite frankly, I am not sure what that implies in civilian language, but I do know that they are part of a USAF combat force that can be integrated into an operational fighter unit should the need arise. The aircraft currently used is an F-16C Fighting Falcon jet, which is usually just referred to as an F-16.


The Thunderbirds are appropriately named after the legendary bird that is important in the mythology of many Native American cultures, especially the Pacific Northwest Coast tribes and some from the Southwest and Plains groups, such as the Lakotas, Ojibwas, Algonquins, and Kwakwakas. The bird represents the natural forces forces of thunder, lightning, and storms. and protects humans by fighting evil spirits.


The thunderbird represents power and strength and its name comes from the belief that the beating of its enormous wings causes the thunder and stirs the wind. Experiencing the sound of the jets as they flew overhead, zoomed past the enthralled spectators, and in one maneuver, surprised us from behind, the jets  lived up to their namesake. And I will have to admit that it was not until I came home and looked at my pictures on the computer that I realized that, appropriately, the figure of a thunderbird appears on the bottom of each plane.


Speakers had been placed all along the air strip so an announcer could alert the crowd as to what direction the jets would be approaching and name each maneuver as Top Gun-style rock music was played, which really added to the excitement of the flying. I missed taking pictures of some of formations, like flying head-on only to miss each other at the last minute and zooming in upside down because I was so fascinated just watching them do all those amazing things with those airplanes. I didn’t want to miss a thing while trying to look through a camera. Actually seeing it was more important than filming it, and besides, pictures don’t do them justice. You have to be there. They ended the show with a female voice, alas, I did not know the artist, singing a heartfelt rendition of “God Bless America,” which put a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as the jets flew by one last time.


Major Michael Carletti, hometown San Antonio, Texas, signed autographs for Korben Kron, friend Nickolas, and Ty Kron.

After they landed, the Thunderbird pilots were swarmed be kids and adults wanting to bask in the glow and receive autographs of these men and women who flew with such precision and skill. They made us all proud and humbled to be Americans.



Top gun, indeed.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Heritage Center Open House


The Muleshoe Heritage Foundation hosted a right nice evening of food, entertainment, and viewing of the Heritage Center’s new office. An appreciative crowd gathered Saturday evening, May 31st, for a variety of activities, starting with a horsemanship demonstration given by Jared Lee and his horse Charlie Brown. I was a bit late, darn it, and missed the riding, so I don’t have an action shot to share with you.


Then everyone ate beans and cornbread in the Depot meeting room before moving outside for a light-hearted and fun hour of song and stories from R.J. Vandygriff entitled “The Cowboy Ain’t Dead Yet!”



R.J., who regaled us with anecdotes from his somewhat brief but memorable acting career spent working on the Walker, Texas Ranger set with Chuck Norris, as well as his other singing career highlights, shared insights on his cowboy life spent in LIpscomb County, Texas, near Canadian; population 29. His poem “Cowboy Thang,” along with the well-known country and cowboy songs were entertaining, familiar, and resonated with the West Texas crowd as they nestled comfortably in the shade and welcome soft breeze outside the Depot. We all chuckled at his story about getting lost in the country looking for a cemetery to sing at a funeral and singing “Amazing Grace” to a crew of septic tank workers he mistook for the grave diggers, liked the history linked to the songs about a rancher in Lipscomb County and enjoyed the history of the once-a-month cowboy dances during the summers. He even told an Aggie joke that was fun and even made the Aggies in attendance laugh!



Mr. Vandygriff’s trip to Muleshoe was made possible by a program sponsored by the Texas Commission for the Arts.


Sidewalks and borders have recently been added to the grounds around the new office building, and the landscaping is an ongoing project. The inside of the office is nicely furnished and usable and will house rotating displays and exhibits in the future.


The office and grounds are open for visitors. If you have not been there, check it out some day when you think there is nothing to do in Muleshoe. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that touring the historical homes is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.