By now, I’m sure you’re all familiar with my friends Marianne, Geralyn, and Maria. We’ve partied together for years. Last year we all went to Las Vegas and it rained for three days straight. The locals were amazed. We were just wet.
Then, Maria was one of my first friends to drive to Lancaster to visit me and she hit thunderstorms all the way down. All the First Friday street activity was rained out, too. After that white-knuckle driving experience, she decided to take Amtrak the next time she visited me. Well, Marianne’s daughter Jessie, who recently toured China with an Irish Step Dancing group, was now touring the U.S. with a different group, Rhythm in the Night, and they would be playing the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg, PA., about 35 miles from me. I got two tickets and Maria said she would meet me in Harrisburg.
Actually, since I knew what train she was on, I met her in Lancaster, and we rode to Harrisburg together. It rained all the way, and it was still raining hard when we got there. Fortunately, the theatre was only two blocks away, but they were two cold, wet blocks.
More fortunately, there was a bar near the theater where we could wet our whistles and dry our bones at the same time. It was a huge bar called The Gingerbread Man. It was actually two huge bars, divided by the kitchen they both shared. One bar for smokers and one for non-smokers. We were in the smoking bar, even though we don’t smoke, because that’s where all the people were. I peeked through a smoky window by the rest rooms and saw that there was only 1 guy in the non-smoking bar. He wasn’t even drinking. He was watching the TV.
We left the bar a few minutes before show time, and settled in for the show. When the curtain opened all I could see was a vast field of stars in the background. “Space. The Final Frontier,” I thought. Apparently, I must have been thinking out loud, because I got a few hairy eyeballs from audience members.
The first character to appear continued the space theme for me. He sort of looked like Ming the Merciless from the old Flash Gordon show. With his well-muscled upper body, he also looked a lot like Ray Mysterio, the Masked Mexican wrestler.
Then the dancing began, and it was practically non-stop dancing from there to intermission. We were in the front row of the audience, so I figured I’d be able to spot Jessie right away. You see those characters in the picture, dressed in what looked like haz-mat costumes. She was one of them. Good luck trying to pick her out. Later in the show, though, the costumes got skimpier and the masks were removed. Then we recognized her, and from then on we probably followed her dancing more than we did the story.
After the show, the cast came out to meet the audience. After two hours of incredible Irish step dancing, they all looked like they had just gotten out of the pool. You could feel the heat radiating off their bodies.
They were supposed to have another show at 7:30, but because of a scheduling conflict at the center it got cancelled, and they all looked a bit relieved. When you consider that the top finishers in the marathon usually finish in two hours and change, this cast had just danced a marathon, while wearing robes, hoods, and masks most of the time. At least marathoners get to wear short shorts and tank tops.
So, while we’re talking with Jessie, in walks her father, Tres. Since the evening show was cancelled, he’s going to drive Jessie back to New York to spend a little time with family.
“When did you get here?” I asked.
“I’ve been here for hours,” he said. It turns out that he was the one guy who was sitting in the non-smoking section of The Gingerbread Man. He was watching a Nascar race before the show.
After the show, Maria and I went back to The Gingerbread Man. It wasn’t raining anymore. Now, it had turned to sleet. It was still sleeting when it was time for us to catch our train back. Thanks to the beverages we had consumed, we braved the weather and even sang a little bit of “Singing in the Rain,” as we sloshed through the sleet on our way to the train station. Maria was headed back to New York, but I got off in Lancaster. When I got off the train, the weather was suddenly clear, with no sleet on the ground.
When I told my friends the story, they wondered if the local farmers would pay for Maria to come and visit, the next time there’s a drought. I remembered that she said that she would come back for another visit on May 10th, when I throw out the first ball in a minor league baseball game between the Lancaster Barnstormers and the Long Island Ducks. Now, I’m just hoping that game doesn’t get rained out.
She’s probably thinking, every time I go somewhere with Earl, it rains. So, she must think I’m the jinx. Who knows? Maybe I am. We’ll find out on May 10th.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,