An ugly holiday sweater is like eggnog and Macaulay Culkin — once a year they reappear and are enjoyed. “Tis the season, Marge! We only get 30 sweet noggy days. Then the government takes it away again,” Homer Simpson once pined, and few can match Homer’s lust for the holiday spirit(s). Except perhaps for one Derek Zinser, the man behind the inaugural Oregon’s Ugliest Sweater Run 5K on Dec. 15.
Like fragrant pines, candy canes and twinkle lights, The Nutcracker is a perennial symbol of the holiday season. Toni Pimble, artistic director for the Eugene Ballet Company, agrees. Most people tell her that without the ballet company’s annual performance, Christmas just wouldn’t be complete. This December, audiences in Eugene, Corvallis, Salem and across the Northwest are invited to join the dancers of EBC as they journey to the Land of Sweets with Clara (the young, nightgown-clad heroine), the Sugar Plum Fairy and, of course, the Nutcracker Prince for the 32nd consecutive year.
Warren Weathers served as Lowell’s mayor for nearly 20 years, and though he’s hung up his municipal duties, he hasn’t abandoned one very important job: “I have to go out and cut the Christmas tree for inside the bridge,” he says. Weathers grew up in Lowell, and though his early adult years flung him as far as Eastern Oregon and Alaska, when he came back to the area for graduate school, he stayed in Lowell to raise a family of his own. “We try to have fun in Lowell,” Weathers says, “and to celebrate every holiday.” And in this season, that means decorating a beloved old bridge with holiday lights and good cheer.
We awake to the colossal, bone-shaking roar of 35 lions bellowing in concert. Tucked into our bed, zipped up in a tent, we find each other’s gaze in the dim moonlight — raised eyebrows melt into wide-eyed glee. The nearest beast, a 22-year old lioness named Simba, lies 15 feet from our heads. She, however, saves her snarls for the sun and currently enjoys a deep, guttural snore. We laugh. We have been engaged for eight hours.
You won’t find any lights decorating the exterior of David and Shirley Bridgham’s Coos Bay home this December. That’s because the couple is far too burnt out from months of spreading holiday cheer throughout the decadent formal gardens of Shore Acres State Park for its annual Holiday Lights event.
“For their anniversary I got my parents a room for a couple nights at the hotel in Prairie City,” my friend James told me last summer. I thought he was kidding. “Oh, so they are going to stay at the ‘Little Hotel on the Prairie’?” I joked. Prairie City is a town of 1,100, and it really is on a prairie, about 17 miles outside of John Day, Ore., a short drive from the scenic Strawberry Mountains and about a six-hour drive from Eugene.
Endless overcast days and damp cold just aren’t sexy. And we’ve got how many months of the same to look forward to? There is, however, something romantic about soaking in a geothermal spring on the edge of a verdant forest while deer browse in a snow-covered field next to a mountain creek in high spate. It’s almost cliché. And even better after dark in a rock-lined pool with only your partner for company and a private cabin in the woods close by.
The words “Kauai” and “cheap” are like two magnets. If you don’t line them up right, they repel each other, but if you pay attention to their polarities, they are very attractive. Adding to the attraction is the Garden Island itself, a lush and magical Hawaiian paradise with spectacular geography that has inspired hundreds of film crews (think Jurassic Park) and thousands of books and magazine articles praising its beauty.
For those among us who prefer our artists to be a bit prickly — the artist as porcupine — let me first point out that playwright Aaron Posner is the recipient of the 2012 RuleBreaker Award from No Rules Theatre in Washington, D.C. During the award ceremony in June, actor Holly Twyford summed up her appreciation of Posner thusly: “Your honesty is usually right on, sometimes brutally so.”
Rock and pop worked their way into theatrical productions long ago: Jesus Christ Superstar and Hedwig and the Angry Inch to name two. Lately, Broadway has struck gold weaving tunes from pop artists like Abba with 1999’s smash hit Mamma Mia! (coming to the Hult Center January 2014) and Franki Valli in 2005’s Jersey Boys. In 2009, punk rocker Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day began working with acclaimed stage and film director Michael Mayer, adapting American Idiot, Green Day’s multi-platinum concept album, for the stage — because nothing says punk rock like … choreography?
Zorro had some pretty good genes. On one side his father: Alejandro de la Vega, a soldier with ties to Spanish aristocracy. On the other his mother: Toypurnia, a powerful Tongva warrior who led her tribe into battle against the Spaniards. With parents from conflicting cultures, it’s no wonder Zorro (real name Diego de la Vega) had an identity crisis, growing up to be the swashbuckling, masked crusader who leaves Z’s in his wake.
Local comedian Chris Warren told a joke that almost put him in jail. While doing standup in Spokane, Wash., in 2003, Warren made a rough joke about Hillary Clinton, and it caught the attention of the Secret Service, who sent two members to speak with Warren. “I was public enemy number one for telling a joke,” he says. “It was the good cop/bad cop scenario. They told me to never tell the joke again, but then they asked me to tell the joke. I told them and they started cracking up!”
“No foams, no gels,” says Sara Ellis, self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” and owner of the soon-to-open Carmelita Spats. Although the name invokes Mexican seafood (Carmelita is the name of her Chihuahua, and spats refers to mollusks) this is not really representative of the direction of the restaurant. It is more representative of the unique style of this restaurant.
There’s a new kid on the block in Whiteaker’s culinary community. Grit is dignified but rough around the edges. And in keeping with Eugene’s passion for the slow food movement, Grit will offer an entirely farm-to-table menu that will change weekly if not nightly.
There are a lot of businesses around Eugene that claim to have “The Best Reuben in Town.” The sandwich itself is iconic across the country: Rye bread loaded with either pastrami or corned beef, topped with sauerkraut and either Thousand Island dressing or Russian dressing. We decided that it would be fitting to find out who, if anyone, deserved the title for “the best.” Many Reubens were eaten. Lengthy discussions were held.
The biggest mistake one could make when eating at downtown Eugene’s Noodle Bowl is to order a noodle bowl. It’s a delicious dish but a safe Americanized choice as EW’s Best of Eugene Korean gem. “When the people come, if they want to try Korean food, I want them to ask the servers and get a recommendation rather than just getting a noodle bowl,” says Jae Lee, server and son of owner Sue Lee.
For eight years, Bret Ford exchanged his chef’s hat for gardening equipment, but he recently had the desire to get back into the cooking world. The former chef at Ambrosia, among other restaurants throughout Oregon, wasn’t looking to go back to the same environment, however. More than 20 years after his wife’s grandfather suggested running a restaurant on wheels, he and his wife took it to heart. And that’s how Bacon Nation began — a place that serves much more than what its name suggests.
Only a year and a half after opening Falling Sky Brewing’s pub, co-owners Rob Cohen and Jason Carriere didn’t expect to open a second location. But when they found the place at 790 Blair Blvd., they fell in love with it.
So many classical music festivals are mired in the past, as though composers somehow stopped writing music after the 19th century ended. If the people of Bach’s time had that regressive attitude, we wouldn’t have his music around today.
Here’s a quick overview of major Oregon Bach Festival concerts this summer at UO’s Beall Concert Hall, the Central Lutheran Church and the Hult Center’s Silva Concert Hall and Soreng Theater. The festival boasts many other performances, films, talks, master classes and other events; check oregonbachfestival.com for complete event listings.
On Valentine’s Day in 2009, the young opera singer Nicholas Phan was standing in his New York kitchen when the phone rang. His manager was calling to tell him that a colleague had just canceled his performance, which Helmuth Rilling was leading that night at Carnegie Hall. Could Phan fill in?
Along with the usual joy afforded by hearing some of history’s greatest music, this summer’s Oregon Bach Festival will be tinged with some sadness. It marks the end of co-founder Helmuth Rilling’s 43-year run as artistic director of the festival he created, with fellow legend Royce Saltzman, in 1970.
Mitchel Hescheles’ grandfather woke every morning at 2:30, tending his farm before heading to work at a factory. After retiring, he refused to get out of bed before 11:11 am. Hescheles is unclear why his granddad picked such an arbitrary time, but he decided to pay homage to his hardworking grandpa when opening Chow, his new restaurant on South A Street in downtown Springfield.
Securing a seat at certain times was nearly a sport at chef Gabriel Gil and restaurateur Cory Stamp’s first restaurant incarnation in Eugene, the Rabbit Bistro and Bar. The space was tiny and Chef Gil’s creativity was staunched by a lack of storage space, famously leading to a “no substitutions” clause on the menu. And that “no ketchup” thing? “That truly was because I forgot to order ketchup,” Gil says, laughing.