I’m just about to do the second preview performance of Ben Franklin: Unplugged at Portland Center Stage. I’ve been having a great time: the theater staff is amazingly friendly, helpful, and erudite; the first preview audience, last night, was warm and receptive; and, thrillingly, I’ve been able to hang out a bunch with my theatrical collaborator, director David Dower. (We used to see each other all the time, but then he moved from the Bay Area to work at Arena Stage in Washington D.C., where he’s been doing incredible things — albeit [*sniff*] 3,000 miles away.)
Some quick highlights from my first week here (mostly spent rehearsing):
- David and I wandered over to a local gym, and I happened to mention that I really missed my Berkeley-based personal trainer Georgia — who has made my life, previously beset by frequent back ailments, so much better. Almost as if by magic, a trainer named Von Ray appeared. Within a short time, somehow David and I had both committed to training with Von Ray while we’re here (seven more weeks for me, a few more days for David). A moment later, I found myself at Whole Foods with Von Ray helping me choose my exact meals for the next few days. Von Ray is a force of nature: yesterday was “Terrific Tuesday,” today is “Wonderful Wednesday.” He’s been working our asses off. Oh, and one other thing: He doesn’t allow cursing! I said, “Look, Von Ray, I’m from New York!” No sympathy. Every time I curse, I have to do 25 pushups. Yesterday, I had to do 50. Today I made myself say things like “Jiminy Crickets!” It felt weird. Golly.
- People at the theater told me I needed to check out Stumptown Roasters. I did, and their coffee does indeed rock. (As does their music: last time I was in there, I was delighted to hear them playing one of my all-time favorite albums, Television’s Marquee Moon.)
- Powell’s Books!!! In a rapidly digitizing world, it is a sensual thrill to wander through their “City of Books” (just a block from my hotel, and from the theater) and pick up actual, physical volumes. Heaven. (Plus, given the horrifyingly slow Internet service at my hotel, rather than Google, it’s often faster just to walk over to Powell’s and look something up. It might even be faster to walk to Tanzania, actually.)
And in two weeks, my wife and son come to visit me here! And today is the birthday of my youngest brother, Sam (hero of Citizen Josh)! And Joni Mitchell is playing on my computer’s tinny speakers (“People’s Parties,” one of my favorites), and she still sounds glorious!
Gosh darn, it’s enough to make you want to cuss for joy — but I don’t think my arm muscles can take anymore pushups today. So I’ll just sip some more Stumptown coffee, run down to get my laundry from the machines downstairs, and prepare for that second preview. (The official opening is on Friday.)
If you know Portland, I’d love your suggestions for places I should visit. And if you know people who live around here, please suggest that they come visit me at the theater — that would be way, um, friggin’ cool!