Superior Donuts?

Garrison Keillor has a great sketch about a teenage boy who believes that his parents picked up the wrong baby when they left the hospital. His parents are dull mid-Westerners with no interest in culture while he is a thwarted artist living in their stifling prison of normalcy.

I live a variation of that story but mine is climate related. Neither my parents nor my children love hot weather the way I do. If I could have my way I would live someplace where the temperature stayed between 80-90⁰ day in and day out. Seasons are overrated in my estimation. The last three years in Saigon were nearly ideal – sometimes a little too hot and sometimes a little too humid – but I’d rather be hot and sticky in flip flops and shorts than shivering in a down parka.

What’s this weather riff about? It’s about Surviving Seattle. I don’t do cold and wet very well. For half the year here I have to hesitate before I open the door. Even when it’s not raining the chill gets to me. I need relief. I’m not Seattle person by temperament, but I’ve made peace with it. Real Seattleites don’t mind the cold and wet. They don’t know the value of a good umbrella. I don’t think I ever saw one when I was growing up, and after a 40 year break I still don’t see many but every day I see commuters riding their bikes in the driving rain as if it were perfectly normal. I still get out to ride on sunny days this time of year but I’m swathed in fleece and ready to fly home or duck into a Starbucks at the hint of rain.

The good news is that there is life (for me) when the weather shifts to cold, dark, and wet. I belong to a full service gym with a pool, covered tennis and squash courts, state of the art exercise machines and classes from spinning and yoga to Pilates. And, when the body is satisfied there is always the life of the mind. I read the NY Times every morning by the fire and I buy way too many books because I love the way they feel and the worlds they transport me to. And, I go to the theater.

Seattle has a vibrant theater scene with both depth and variety. Minneapolis has the Guthrie and Chicago has Second City and Steppenwolf, but I think Seattle theater can go toe to toe with any city in America except New York.

In the last two months Marilynn and I have seen four plays in four different theaters. We’ve seen a virtuoso solo performance, Uncle Sam to Uncle Ho, about one man’s Vietnamese immigrant experience, a polished but troubling musical about the Pullman Company’s porters called Pullman Porter Blues, an ambitious telling of the Asian myth of Ramayana, and Superior Donuts, a play by Tracy Letts, the author of the Tony Award winning August: Osage County and one of the leads in Broadway’s current remake of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Pretty good stuff for soggy old Seattle. And, it’s good value.

Marilynn and I are going to New York in a couple of weeks. We’re all amped up to see the museums, Christmas decorations, some live theater, and to chow down on a real Reuben and some real bagels. But, there’s definitely a price difference. I just spent $1100 online for tickets to a musical, The Book of Mormon, a play, The Anarchist, and an opera at the Met, Don Giovanni. The four Seattle plays came to roughly $300.

I’m not a theater critic, but I was knocked out by the quality of the Seattle performances, especially Superior Donuts. I like small independent films and plays with a handful of actors who tell a story that holds my attention for two hours. In those two hours I get taken to another place by people and situations that are not part of my daily life. The story and the characters talk to me about universal themes and situations. I aspire to that in my own writing but I have a long way to go and much to learn. I’m hoping for a short winter but there are consolations in learning to survive Seattle. I might even learn something new.


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