Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On Stage: Moonlight and Magnolias

Last Friday I had the pleasure of going to my favorite playhouse in town, the aptly-named              Santa Fe Playhouse.  It's a small location without a bad seat in the house and it's celebrating its 90th birthday.  Currently showing at the Playhouse is Moonlight and Magnolias, a four-man play billed as an "uproarious comedy."

Photo by Steve Collins c/o santafetravelers.com
Moonlight and Magnolias is a based on the true events leading up to the movie release of Gone With the Wind.  The first act begins with the high strung producer, David Selznick, announcing that he has shut down the movie only a few weeks in because he simply doesn't believe in the project.  This is clearly agonizing as the studio has fronted an ungodly sum of money to get this picture rolling.  Add to that pressure from the public that has read the best-selling book and are highly vested in the movie's outcome.  In other words, there is a lot of hype to live up to.

Selznick decides to bring in his screenwriting pal, Ben Hecht, to revamp the script.  Here's the catch- Hecht has never read the book and he only has three days to write the script.  Selznick also brings in Victor Fleming, a film director one week out from completing The Wizard of Oz.  Selznick traps all three of them inside his office for a three-day long screen writing marathon. Selznick and Fleming act out each scene while Hecht crafts the dialogue into a script.  They are only permitted to eat bananas and peanuts.  I don't know why, but them's the rules.  Hi-jinks ensue!

Ben Hecht in a much less frazzled state.

 So, did I like it?  Yes and no.  First the yes:  The actor who plays Hecht, Dan Gerrity, is fantastic.  He has great comedic timing and he really brought Hecht to life as a real person.  Fleming and Selznick tended toward caricature.  Sometimes caricature can be funny, and it is at times in Moonlight and Magnolias, but it does get tiresome over the course of the play.

The other "yes" was Hecht's objection to the racism contained in Gone With the Wind.  He argues with Selznick several times that, as Jewish Americans, they cannot produce a movie that glorifies slavery on moral and ethical grounds.  Selznick convinces Hecht that the movie is worth doing anyway as the story itself is compelling, not to mention the extraordinarily high stakes for his studio.  Selznick  argued that he can break out of the cage of his ethnic stereotype by producing something mainstream and loved by all.  Hecht disagreed and argued that by creating Gone With the Wind they were not "breaking free" of anything; rather, they were selling out, becoming assimilated, and losing their identities.  I felt this theme ought to have deserved more lip service as it was genuinely interesting.  Ultimately, Hecht decides to continue writing the screenplay because he does not want to leave Selznick high and dry and also because Selznick has offered him a princely sum.   Maybe that is the one true bleak & universal message- everyone has a price.  Hmm.  Despite my bleak realization right there, there are quite a number of good zingers, comedy, and levity in the play.  As I said, hi-jinks.

Now the no:  I have never read Gone With the Wind or seen Gone With the Wind.  Yeah. Kind of a big deal when going to see an entire play about the making of Gone With the Wind.  As GWTW is enough of a cultural phenomenon, I know the main plots and references.  I know there are multitudes of GWTW lovers out there who would be thrilled to go behind the scenes and see how it was done.  But, unfortunately, I am not one of those people.

Don't be a moron like me. Watch this movie first.
If you decide to go, it is playing now through December 18th on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Tickets are $20, which is a freaking steal, or you can really go on the cheap on Thursdays for $10.  There are also discounts for students, teachers, and seniors.  The seats are general admission so it's not a bad idea to arrive there early, especially if you're in a larger group.  But, like I said before, it's a cozy stage and there are no bad seats in the joint.

How a request to the commentariat:  Do you have any recommendations for current or upcoming performing arts events in and around Santa Fe that I can attend and then review for The Mad Mex?  If so, POST BELOW!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arroyo Chamiso/Rail Trail: Extension!

Arroyo Chamiso/Rail Trail is my home turf.  Both of these paths are steps outside of my front door.  Imagine my joy and delight when the City of Santa Fe started building on to my beloved stomping ground!

To give you all an overview, there is the Arroyo Chamiso trail which links up the downtown Railyard with South Santa Fe.  The Rail Trail runs all the way out past the Genoveva Chavez Center, past the Rodeo Grounds, and ends near the Sam's Club on Zafarano Street.

At Siringo Road, right by Santa Fe High School, you can link up to the Rail Trail, which runs east along the railroad tracks.  This crazy trial can be linked all the way out to El Dorado, although the pavement stops at Rabbit Road.  A point of annoyance with the Rail Trail is at the sketchy intersection with Zia Road and Saint Francis and how it is neigh impossible to cross St. Francis with your bike to get to the east side of town.  Am I right or am I right?

So, this is where it gets good.  A few months ago the City started doing some major trail building on the east side of Saint Francis.  What is going to happen is there will be an ADDITIONAL SPUR that goes underneath Saint Francis Drive (no more sketchy eight lane highway crossings!), along an embankment, and will connect up to the St. Vincent Hospital!  Hurray! Progress has been remarkably fast.  The other day, we headed out on foot to see the progress for ourselves.

Check this crazy project out!  This is where the tunnel under St. Francis Drive will be.

It looks like they're going to have a couple of hairpin turns along with a very large wall divider to prevent bike-on-bike or bike-on-pedestrian crashes.

Once out of the tunnel, the biker/pedestrian can continue up to the large apartment complex via this nice little bridge:

Or they can follow the new spur that goes up the embankment of St. Francis Drive like HDD and Lucy the Dog are modeling for us here:

Very nice!  I imagine that this whole project won't be completed and open to the public for another several months at the earliest.

I found this extremely informative map online.  The trails I'm referencing here are the hot pink lines, with the dotted hot pink line representing the spur.

Also, Santa Fe plows its paved bike trails in the wintertime so there's no reason to mothball your bike yet.   Now I just need to improve my terrible bike skillz and I'm set!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Commenting Turned On

Just a quick note that I fixed the settings on The Mad Mex to support anonymous comments.  Sometimes it's easier than signing in.  Commence comments!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Santa Fe Up All Night: Late Night Bites in the City Different

Ok, let me just put this out there.  Santa Fe is not a late night town.  It's just not.  It's difficult to find a restaurant that serves past 9 pm. And on a weekday?  Fugeddaboudit.  Those coffee shops filled with students cramming for tests in the dead of night?  They're not a thing here.  So what's a hungry girl to do?

All hail The Flying Star Cafe!  A relatively new place in the Railyard, the Flying Star is a local chain.  They're all over Albuquerque but the Santa Fe one stands alone.  The Flying Star is open and serving food until 9pm Sunday - Thursday and is open until 10pm on Friday and Saturday.

I accompanied my darling High Desert Dude over there last week for a late dinner and some reading/study time.  The Flying Star has free internet access and a well-stocked magazine rack and is an inviting atmosphere for those of us who like to study/read/play board games/do sudoku/blog/mindlessly surf the internet while in public.  In other words, just my kind of place.

Here's the interior, with another patron studiously reviewing his fantasy football team statistics:

The food at the Flying Star is nothing to write home about.  It's mostly sandwiches, burgers, fried chicken, and other American home-style cuisine.  When we were there last, I had a surprisingly tasty salad.  It was like a taco salad but with shrimp and a citrus dressing.

It was listed on the specials board (located immediately in front of the paper menus at the start of the ordering line) as "Acapulco Tostada.  If you're just in for a coffee and a pastry, the Flying Star has this ridiculous baked goods case filled to the brim with goodies- pies, cupcakes, cookies, scones, cakes (by the slice and whole), sweet yeast breads, and brownies.

Other advantages: good for large parties as the dining area is spacious with tables suitable for pushing together, good for families with kids because of their kids menu & aforementioned spacious dining area, good for cheap eats (get their small mac & cheese or just a beverage and you're set), good for breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast types, friendly service that allows for "public solitude", good for people watching & eavesdropping (especially the emo-teens), good public bulletin board in the entryway & bookcrossing shelf in the back.

Disadvantages: not my choice for anything New Mexican, sometimes noisy, food is middle of the road (but still adequate & fresh).

The Star is generally my choice for weekday evening snack-study sessions.  If you go, be sure to sign up for their rewards program.  It's free of charge and once you accumulate a certain amount of points, you get free coffees, pastries, and other such coupons.  Ez-pz!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Weekender- Weblinks of Note

This is what I've been reading this week online:

- Outside Magazine's Interview with Cory Richards : A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of meeting Cory at the North Face speaker series in Santa Fe.  Cory showed slides and told war stories of his trek up Gasherbrum II, a 8,000 meter peak in Pakistan IN THE WINTERTIME and surviving an avalanche slide to boot.  Guess that's why he's nominated for National Geographic's 2012 Adventurer of the Year.

Gasherbrum II - gnarly looking

- Video on one of my favorite femblogs The Hairpin on how to get that perfect cat eye.  Hint: it involves liquid eyeliner and ordinary household materials.  (I did it and it worked!)

- Obsessed about our 4 day trip to Crested Butte, CO that's coming up. Early season deals there are killer.  On the agenda is finally working the moguls while remaining continuously upright.  No guarantees.  Also on the agenda is some xc skiing on their Nordic ski course, hot tubbing, and maybe a massage.  Life is rough, I know.
This is a photo of me from last year with a good view of the Butte.  Man was it frigid last November!

- I just finished Ann Patchett's newest book, State of Wonder.  Slow to start but an excellent read.  Snaps all around.  Maybe I'll get around to posting a review.  It might take me a while as I'll be too busy rocking the steeps and luxuriating though.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ski Santa Fe - Current Conditions

Curious about the current Ski Santa Fe conditions for opening day next week?  Check out High Desert Dirt's blog post- HDD went up there two nights ago for some xc skiing with the dog.

Unexpected Adventure: Sugarite Canyon State Park in Raton, NM

The other day I happened to find myself in the unfortunately-named town of Raton, New Mexico. Raton is really close to the Colorado border and is surrounded on three sides by mesas.  It's really quite picturesque. I snapped this photo while driving through downtown in the early morning.

There's not too much to the downtown.  It has that retro-cool feel but except for some cowboy boot stores, many of the old shops are closed.

In any event, was in town for work and I got out of work with an hour of daylight to spare.  I quickly checked in to my hotel and bee-lined it over to nearby Sugarite Canyon State Park where I had an unplanned adventure.  The park is an old miner's camp and there are well-maintained and well-marked trails leading from ruin to ruin.  I went on the river walk and then up to check out "coal mine #2."

I spied this mule deer in the ruin of the old school house.  Deer must have been hankering for some knowledge.

The miner's village was in use until 1941 so the ruins are in pretty good shape and you can see all sorts of artifacts strewn about:
Nails & Bailing Wire
Sweet looking wash basin
The path itself is peppered with informative placards, explaining the life of the miners and history of the coal mine.  To get up to the abandoned mine, the path winds up the mesa.  The walking trail itself is the converted coal rail car track.  All around you can see the various modern projects that have been built to stabilize the mesas and minimize the erosion caused by the decades of mining and mining slag.  About 1 mile from the visitor's center, which contains 1/2 mile of somewhat steep climbing, you reach the old coal mine #2.
This is the entry to the old mine that is now, obviously, closed and inactive.  Indeed, the entry tunnel has collapsed to the ground.  An info sign  nearby said that the mine was eleven miles long!  The sun was starting to go down so I headed back down to the car.

The state park boasts all sorts of camping facilities (developed and undeveloped) and non-motorboat reservoir access.  Although, as I drove in to Raton, I noticed an unusual sign:
I have been in my share of bear-y areas but I have never seen this sign before.  I asked a local and apparently, the sign is no joke: in the spring and summer bears are running all over the place!  So, I would advise camping with caution during these seasons.  Also, portions of the park are closed/restricted due to the forest fire last summer. Because Sugarite is a state park, it's not free.  A day pass is $5 per car and other stuff like boating and camping is also fee-based.  All this to say, if you plan on spending some time in Sugarite, it's probably a good idea to check out the state park website before you go.

Anyway, I thought that Sugarite was pretty cool.  I was the only person there and, in addition to that deer, there were all sorts of birds (juncos, towhees, pinon jays) flitting about.  Not bad for hitting the trail on a lark, eh?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Carribean Cafe: Mobile Edition

You guys, the most amazing thing happened.  The Carribean Kitchen, a small greasy spoon-type place out on Vegas Verdes, is now fully mobile!  I spied a metal food truck camping out at the parking lot near where Cerrillos Road and Sandoval Street split, downtown. 

I squealed with glee at the new lunch option near my office.  The offerings are more limited than at their restaurant (jerk chicken, curry chicken, and maybe one or two other options that I can't remember right now).  Abo, the chef, is once again a one man show - taking orders, preparing, and ringing up orders.  I almost hesitate to post this because as of yet this place is relatively unknown so I could sidle right up, order my jerk chicken, pay, and receive my bag of vittles in only 5 minutes.

I've been on a major jerk seasoning kick lately so I  naturally went with the jerk chicken plate.  For $10 it came with ALL OF THE ABOVE: 2 pieces of chicken thighs, rice w/ lentils, steamed cabbage, mixed green salad w/ a coriander flavored dressing, mashed yellow lentils, red beans, and two pieces of fried plantain. 

While the side dishes are passable, the jerk chicken is the best I have ever had.  Even better than my ol' pal Jambo Cafe (which is damn good).  The jerk flavor is spicy and the meat just falls off the bone like some sort of Caribbean butter. 

The menu, which is painted on the side of the truck, mentioned that they served "island refreshments" which I can only assume includes their ginger drink.  (I have had it at their restaurant but did not have the cash with me to order it at the lunch truck.)  If this is indeed the case, one has not lived until one has had this ginger drink.  I can only describe it as concentrated, liquified ginger that is pure ambrosia. 

So, now the secret is out.  Caribbean Kitchen is mobile and at a food truck near you.  Don't be a moron like me and be sure to get the ginger drink, too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Get Your Nosh on at Jambo Cafe

Ok, so Jambo Cafe is delicious- no doubt.  While I love New Mexican food, sometimes a girl wants to mix it up.  Enter Jambo Cafe. Jambo came on the scene a few years ago in an unassuming strip mall in a space next to Hobby Lobby.  (For you locals, it is by the intersection of Cerrillos & St. Mike's.)  The cuisine is labelled as "African Homestyle" which could mean anything.  My impression is that it trends towards the Caribbean.  According to the website, the chef is Kenyan.   However you want to label it, it's go-od.

I was there most recently two weeks ago with a gal pal of mine vising from Albuquerque.  We lucked out and snagged two seats at the very small bar with minimal waiting.  Apparently, I am not the only one who likes Jambo and other recent attempts at eating there were thwarted by 45 minute + wait times.  But do not be deterred!  We peered into the storefront next door which was under construction for additional Jambo Cafe seating.  My impression was that it would nearly double the amount of dining room space.  Huzzah!

For starters, we shared Coconut Shrimp and Phyllo Triangles.

The coconut shrimp was not that sickly sweet garbage you usually find as an appetizer.  It was pleasantly coconutty and the sauce was sweetened with citrus.  The phyllo triangles were an unexpected departure from the regular spinach and feta fare- they had a cumin flavor and contained garbanzo beans.

For dinner I opted for the special of the day, which was beef, okra, and vegetable stew.

It came with rice and a huge slab of grilled pineapple.  The portion was generous.

I've had other things here- goat stew, lamb sandwich, jerk chicken- and they were all consistently delicious meals.  The atmosphere is casual and intimate and the prices are very reasonable. All entrees are less than $15 a pop, sandwich platters are less than $10, and they serve wines by the glass.  Drawbacks in the past have been wait times and poor waiter service although I did not have any of these issues the most recent time I went which means it's pretty much near perfect.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Early Season Skiing at Wolf Creek

This weekend we hit the road and headed up to Wolf Creek, a ski area really close to Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  From Santa Fe, it is only about a three hour drive.  Wolf Creek has been open for a couple of weeks now due to a huge quantity of autumn snow.  Right now, it has had over 100 inches of snow since September!  For comparison, Ski Santa Fe only has had 14 inches of snow since September and Crested Butte a mere 36.  What I'm getting at here is that the conditions up at Wolf Creek are amazing.

The drive from Santa Fe is pretty scenic; you wind your way through Espanola, Abiquiu, Chama, Chromo, and Pagosa.  Here's a photo of Cumbres Pass from El Vado, NM.

We arrived at the 1st ski lift of the season at 9:30am and skied until lunch and then a bit more.  There was plenty of snow to go around.  All lifts and runs were open.  The only catch was that some runs on the Alberta side of the ski area weren't fully groomed (and very few people had been over there) which made for some slow going.

(click for a larger trail map)

After some hours of rocking the steeps, K had the brilliant idea of checking out the cross country ski course.  Shockingly, we had had the foresight to pack our cross country gear so we made our way to the side parking lot for access.  The trail begins with a long downhill (whee!) and then flat/small uphilling around Alberta Lake, thickly iced over and picturesque, up through sylvan wonderland, around the Alberta ski lift, and then up a rather long hill back to the parking lot.  It took me 1.5 hours and a  couple of awkward falls with a goodly bit of flailing about, but it was really a lovely trail, especially with light snow flurries to cool me off.  About 1/2 of the trail was groomed.

Some non-skiing related highlights included the impressive array of local beers available in bomber sizes (25 fl. oz / 750 ML) at the cafeteria and dinner at Kip's in Pagosa.  Kip's has some serious tacos:

The ones pictured above are the Dos Diablos: corn tortilla inside of a flour tortilla (best of both worlds there), stuffed with a whole cheese-stuffed green chile pepper, beef, cabbage slaw, topped with avocado slices.I can also highly recommend the jalapeno poppers.  The bacon-wrapped jalapenos are grilled rather than breaded and deep fried which makes a world of difference.  Also, bacon.

This trip has gotten me pretty darn excited about this upcoming winter.  Please please please let it snow here in Santa Fe!

Our beloved High Desert Dude has also posted about our trip up to Wolf Creek and he has included a map of the cross country ski course & additional (way better) photos.  Check it out here.