December 18th, 2003

Dec 5, Salon, Travel and Food

For Sue Blom's Salon on Friday night, we decided to leave politics for a while, and instead concentrate on telling stories of travel to other places, and especially strange things eaten there. Georgie and I had pretty much gone over Ireland informally last time, so we shared stories of our trips to Britain and Toronto, plus some of our "weird food" adventures with "Klingon Kafe" at past Mad Media cons. Chuck Tritt and Julie Ann Hunter had entertaining reminiscences of travel to Egypt (with pictures) and the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, Russian traveler Tom Klein was down with a cold and didn't make it, but others chimed in with anecdotes as inspiration struck them. It was a very pleasant and generally upbeat evening.

Dec. 6: Madison trip, Milwaukee party

We were up early and on the road to Madison for out annual Christmas shopping expedition to the Farmer's Market and State Street. As usual, our first stop was at Clausen's German Bakery on the far west side, where we loaded up on their delicious tortes, bread, and Christmas cookies. By ten, we were at the Farmer's Market, which is now indoors for the winter. At the market, we rendezvoused with Madison fans Tracy Benton and Bill Bodden. We had previously arranged to meet them so that we could see "Bubba Ho-Tep" together. (Bill and Tracy were particularly interested in seeing it, and it sounded amusing to us, as well.) At the market, we bought cheese, buffalo, lamb, venison, beef sausage, and popcorn. We were disappointed that the Summer Kitchen sellers of jams and jellies weren't there, but we have alternate sources for jam.

Them with Bill and Tracy, we stopped at Wintersilks and made a first pass at the State Street stores on the way down to Kabul for lunch. Kabul is an Afgani restaurant that combines ethnic specialties with some nouvelle cuisine. We like the food there, and lunched happily on kabob sandwiches and khofta karayai, which is meatballs in sauce with peppers and tomatoes, accompanied by two poached eggs.

After lunch, we went back to the Orpheum Theatre for the 1:00PM movie. "Bubba Ho-Tep" is a weird little picture. The trailer made it look rather like an "Indiana Jones" parody, but in fact it owes much more to the Universal Pictures "Mummy Returns" series of movies. Premise: Modern day. THE Elvis Presley is residing in a run-down nursing home in East Texas, mourning his physical (especially sexual) and spiritual decrepitude. He had done a "Prince and the Pauper" identity switch with an Elvis impersonator. The impersonator died while Elvis was in a coma himself after a fall from a stage, which left Elvis stuck with the impersonator's identity. Elvis notices strange phenomena beginning to occur: deaths at an accelerated rate, and an infestation of giant scarab beetles, among other things. With the help of another resident, "Jack" (Ocie Davis) a black man who is nevertheless convinced he is JFK, Elvis determines that the residents of the home are being preyed upon by an "Egyptian soul-sucker," whom he christens "Bubba Ho-Tep," and that the two old men must rally their resources to combat the evil mummy and defend the only home they have left to them. The film combines the "mummy walks" and "old guys go down fighting" themes with a bit of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" as Elvis combats the corrosive condescension of the home staff, personified by 'big nurse' ________. Although the film has no sex, and the violence is positively tame by modern movie standards, there is considerable profanity and sexual innuendos, and ________ internal monologues on his sexual dysfunction, while frequently hilarious, are DEFINITELY not for children.

We hadn't been into the Orpheum Theatre for years, and were impressed by the metamorphosis of the cavernous lobby into a cafe and bar. However, "Bubba Ho-Tep" was running in the old "Stage Door" space which is as gritty as ever and harks back to the chop-socky days when it was first converted from the Opheum's backstage. While waiting for the film to start, we SMOFed next year's WISCON fancy dress party, and decided that it would be great fun to do a "pirate" theme. (pirates, space pirates, spice pirates, music pirates, what have you.)

Then, back to shopping for Land's End, Art Gecko, Soap Opera, Blue Dog games, a couple of retro clothing stores, and anything else that looked interesting. We called it a day about 5:00PM, said good-bye to Bill and Tracy, and took the road back to Milwaukee.

Once home, we rested a bit, washed and changed, and headed out to a holiday party given by two of our Burrahobbit friends, Don and Rich. Georgie took along the Dobosh torte we had bought at Clausen's, earlier. They have a lovely home in the Sherman Park neighborhood, decorated with their usual large tree and collection of Santa Claus figures. (There were over 150 Santas on the tree alone--.) Lots of friends and interesting people cycle through during an evening. We got there about eight and stayed only till after ten due to the long day we'd had, but had a very nice time.