Phenomenal “Phantom” Will Haunt Your Soul

Words nearly fail me as I attempt to describe the impressiveness of Phantom currently playing at Creighton University.  Simply put, this is the best play I have seen this season and this show will stand, at the very least, shoulder to shoulder with anything produced on the community theatre circuit this year.

Based off of Gaston Leroux’s novel, The Phantom of the Opera, this musical tells the story of a disfigured musical genius who falls in love with a farm girl (Christine Daee) now living in Paris.  So enthralled is he with her voice, that he trains her to become the leading performer at the Paris Opera House.  When Christine is sabotaged by a jealous rival and recoils from the hideous face of her anonymous mentor, the deformed man resorts to vengeance.

Though this play is a musical, do not confuse it with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of this tale.  This musical was written by Arthur Kopit with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston around the same time as Lloyd Webber’s take.  Once Lloyd Webber’s musical exploded onto the scene, this show lost all of its financial backing and seemed doomed never to see the light of day.  It eventually was produced in 1991 and has been steadily produced since that time.

This show takes a number of liberties with the source material, but this, in no way, weakens the power of the story.  Thanks to expert direction from Alan Klem, what we get is a show that is guaranteed to move you to the depths of your soul.

Kudos need to be given to this entire cast.  Experienced performers could take a lesson from this troupe of college students as each and every individual always plays the moment and stays involved in the action of the story.  That being said, this show also contained a number of standout performances.

Ryan Malone is exceptionally well cast as Erik, the titular Phantom.  His Phantom is far more sympathetic than ones from the novel and other versions of the tale.  Malone imbues his Erik with an almost childlike quality.  He is darkly innocent in the sense that he has known nothing, but the bowels of the Opera House and the music that has salved his soul.  But he does rule the Opera and woe to anyone who violates his rules or his desires.  Malone smoothly reveals this menace early on when he justifies his killing of an intruder into his domain with a simple, “He broke the rules.”  Malone also has mastered the fine art of body language, using it to communicate his emotions such as anguish when Christine flees from his hideous face.  Malone possesses a fine baritone voice, excelling in such numbers as “Paris is a Tomb”, “You are Music” and “You are My Own”.

Chelsey Hill is astonishingly amazing as Christine Daee.  With a crystal clear soprano voice, Ms Hill delights the crowd with such tunes as “Melodie de Paris” and “My True Love”.  Her Christine has a beautiful sweetness and innocence about her.  Ms Hill also does a tremendous job handling the conflicted feelings of love she has for both The Count de Chandon, who helps get her into the Paris Opera House and the Phantom who develops the potential of her voice.  Her reaction at seeing the unmasked Erik says more than words ever will.

Colleen Kilcoyne sparkles in a delightfully hammy performance as Carlotta, one of the new owners of the Opera House and its leading lady.  Carlotta is a diva in every sense of the word and Ms Kilcoyne plays it to the hilt, exemplified in the song “This Place is Mine”.  She rules with an iron fist and fancies herself the world’s greatest singer when, in reality, she is a loud screecher.  She is also cold blooded and callous, cruelly sabotaging Christine to retain her bought position as the ingénue of the Opera.

Patrick Kilcoyne gives a haunting performance as Gerard Carriere, the former managing director of the Opera House who is forced out by Carlotta and her husband near the start of the play.  Carriere has a mysterious connection with the Phantom whom he has tried to protect over the years.  Blessed with a powerful and rich bass voice, Kilcoyne brilliantly essays emotions such as frustration, anger, tenderness, and love.  His duet with Erik, “You Are My Own”, nearly brought me to tears.

Also good were Matt Karasek as Philippe, the Count de Chandon and Michael Conroy as Inspector Ledoux.  Karasek has a natural charm well suited to Philippe who initially appears as a gadabout, but displays genuine love for Christine.  Conroy provided some terrific comedic moments as the chief of the Parisian police force.

Bill Van Deest is to be commended for his amazing set.  Taking us from the streets of Paris to the catacombs of the Phantom, I often forgot this was not a professional production.  Stephen Sheftz and his orchestra also deserve praise for their stellar musicianship.

Phantom plays for one more weekend at Creighton University’s Lied Education Center for the Arts (Mar 27-30).  Showtimes are 7:30 pm Mar 27-29 and 2pm on Mar 30.  Tickets are $5, $15, or $18.  Reservations can be made at boxoffice.creighton.edu or at 402-280-1448.  Creighton University is located at 2500 California Plaza, Omaha, NE  68178.

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The Power of Perception

You nailed that audition to that ground.  Your spirits are in orbit.  There’s no way you’re not going to get that role.  And then you get a form letter thanking you for your time, but you could not be included in this particular production.

“What did I do wrong?” you think to yourself.

Odds are you did nothing wrong.  Consider the following quotations:

“I know you can play formal.”

“As soon as Jonathan Crane showed up on screen, Mat and I looked at each other and said, ‘Couldn’t you see Chris in that role?’”

“You remind me of a young Jimmy Stewart.  You play decent people, finding their way in the world, with a strong, moral center.”

“My perception is that you primarily fall into the category of Character Actor. . . As a character actor, you can come across as likable, but also stiff and a little repressed.  You also seem very controlled, and I don’t sense a lot of spontaneity. You seem most appropriate for someone who gets caught up in the events swirling around them rather than causing the swirling.  You can play both comic and serious, but I suspect that you’re a little stronger at the comic.  You do have the ability to play an “everyman” sort of character, though, and that is helpful.  And you are capable of projecting a certain sense of passion. “

Would it surprise you to learn that the previous quotations were about the same person?

That, in a nutshell, is the power of perception which is probably one of the most critical elements in being cast in a show.  It’s also the element over which you exert the least amount of control.

As auditioners, we all make choices about the characters we’re interested in and/or are asked to play.  Based on those choices and the uncontrollable factors I’ve often mentioned help dictate whether or not you get cast in a play.  But the biggest key to getting cast is how the choices you make and the uncontrollable factors cause the director to perceive you.

You could do the same audition for ten different people and each of those ten people will see something just a little bit different.  Some may think you are just perfect for the role.  Others may think you’re giving a terrible read.  Some may perceive something completely different from what you’re trying to project.  That’s the amazing thing about this business.  The possibilities are absolutely endless.

A few paragraphs back, you read 4 different observations about my own acting.  Not one of those people saw me in exactly the same way.  Each observation is colored not only by what these people have seen me do, but by their knowledge of me as a person.  That is a vital reality to keep in mind.

The first time you audition for a director is the only time you’ll be a tabula rasa (blank slate).  Even then, that might not be the case if you’ve developed a reputation of any kind in the theatre community.  From that first audition any number of things could happen.

Some directors will not cast you.  A few may decide that you fit a certain mold of character and will consider you if, and only if, that type of character is present in the story.  Others will like what they see, but believe you won’t work for this particular show.  There might even be a percentage of people who think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread and want to use you in every show she or he directs.  Heck, as you grow to know them personally, how your real self is perceived may play a heavy part in being included in future projects.

It’s very possible some reading this have grown or will grow frustrated with how they perceive they’re being perceived.  Don’t feel bad about that.  But don’t let the frustration control you either.  As the great writer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, said, “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing while others judge us by what we have done.”  Just be true to yourself and your visions and, sooner or later, you may change someone’s mind or you’ll find someone who sees things the way that you do.

As I was preparing this article, a friend told me that changing a perception can be a very difficult task.  I completely agree with that sentiment.  I also don’t think it’s something you can consciously set out to do.  What you can do is focus on becoming the best actor that YOU can be.  Get out and audition.  Take a class.  When you watch a play, study it.  Discover what works and doesn’t work and why.  Most importantly, don’t give up.

Self-perception is just as crucial a component because we often become what we perceive, for good or for ill.  Feed yourself with positive thoughts and remember those good thoughts when things seem difficult.  That’s a lesson that’s good for life, not just for the theatre.

The best story I’ve ever heard about the power of positive self-perception was about a man who decided in his thirties to become a professional actor.  In this business, that’s an old age to begin making a go of this line of work.  He enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse and flunked out with the worst scores in school history.

Determined to succeed, he moved to New York.  One of the jobs he took to make ends meet was as a doorman for a Howard Johnson hotel.  One day one of his teachers from the Pasadena Playhouse passed him as he worked the door.  The teacher recognized him and said, “See.  I said you would never amount to anything.”  The struggling actor later said that incident made him feel about one inch tall.

While he could have quit there and then, he soldiered on.  Ten years later he was the most bankable star in Hollywood.  That man was Gene Hackman.

At the end of the day, be happy.  Sometimes the power of perception will be a great asset and sometimes it will seem like a fierce opponent.  What ultimately matters is how you perceive yourself.  And when you perceive yourself well, you will always win, even if you lose.

Be good to yourself and God bless.

Last Exit To Vegas (For Now), Day 3: Escape

I was ready for a break from the real world, so Thursday I got my workout gear together and made my way over to Caesar’s Palace where I could relax the day away at Qua Baths and Spa.

Upon entering the gymnasium, it appeared that everyone had decided this would be a good day for a workout.  It was packed!!  Qua had upgraded some of its equipment which I felt had been a bit overdue.  When I worked out there in October, I did battle with an exercise bike with an attitude problem.  In the last 5 minutes of my “ride”, the machine suddenly cranked itself to the maximum tension level and I felt like I was pedaling through glue.  However, I’m proud to say that I did win that battle of man vs. machine.

This time around there were no malfunctions and I did a much harder workout than normal to test my fitness and was quite pleased with how well I did.  I grabbed a banana and headed back into the spa to begin the long process of cooling down.  After utilizing the Roman Baths, I took a long rest on one of the heated chairs and actually began to feel a little philosophical.

I was composing ideas for a few future articles and then I began to reflect on this most recent journey.  While I was having fun, I realized that I was missing one key element and that was my friends.  This trip just wasn’t quite the same without the banter I normally shared with my traveling companions.  And that’s when I realized just how much I’ve changed over the years.

At one point in my life, I was kind of a loner.  At the time, I almost seemed to prefer it that way.  Once I entered college that slowly began to change.  I began to get more involved in things.  I joined an honor society and even served in all of the offices at one point or another.  It helped me to open up and blossom.

Theatre helped me still more.  I was able to meet more people, socialize more often, have an outlet for my creativity, and gained confidence as my abilities as a performer increased.  Without knowing it, I stopped being a loner somewhere along the line.  I’m more comfortable being me.  Heck, at one point I wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing my thoughts like this.  Now I relish it whenever I can sit at my keyboard and share a review with you, recount an amazing adventure, or even share a humorous misadventure.

Yes, I can still have fun my own.  But the addition of friends on the journey always makes the fun exponentially better.

At about that point, I came out of my philosophical meanderings and began enjoying the arctic room, inhalation room, and steam bath.

At 3pm, I was called in for my massage.  This time around I went back to basics and had a traditional Swedish massage and I think it was just what the doctor prescribed.  I enjoyed 90 minutes of peaceful bliss as Gayle Allen expertly worked out my kinks and soothed my sore muscles.  As always, I felt I could be squeegeed off the floor when the massage was completed.

I returned to the Rio and went to enjoy the Seafood Buffet.  As always the food was top notch.  Aside from their enjoying their amazing Seafood Gumbo, they were serving up a delicious blackened tilapia which you should try if you ever enjoy a meal there.  After walking my meal off, I headed back to my room for a quiet evening.

Short of any surprises, this brings an end to my Vegas tales.  Now I only need to figure out how to occupy myself today.  I had been hoping that my friend, Mat, would join me on this trip, so I booked a really late flight home to essentially squeeze an extra day out of this trip.  Since that didn’t happen, I now need to find a way to spend about 7 hours of time after I check out of the hotel at 11am.  I may explore the other end of the Strip, hang out at the pool for a while, or simply meander.

While I work out this dilemma, I bid you a fond farewell and look forward to when I write you again.

Last Exit To Vegas (For Now), Day 2: Where on Earth is His Luck?

As I watch a glorious sunset from my suite, I find myself at the keyboard once more to report on the adventures of the day.

As I suspected (and hoped), my headache was merely the result of exhaustion as a good night’s sleep cleared it up.  A long, hot bath in the morning cleared up any residual traces and I was ready for some breakfast.  Once more, I headed to the Gold Coast to enjoy their delicious (and affordable) breakfast buffet.  After a filling meal, I was hoping my peculiar luck was ready to surface and further pad my bank account.

As you may have gathered from the title, that most assuredly did NOT happen.

I could not get any serious runs going on any machine I tried.  I was frequently teased with bonuses that did not manifest, fried by Godzilla on Monster Island, haunted by The Phantom of the Opera, slimed by Ghostbusters, slapped around by Superman, and blasted by Back to the Future

Once I had taken enough of a beating, I decided to make use of the nice day and do some exploring.  I decided to actually go inside many casinos that I had never stepped inside or hadn’t stepped inside for years.  I made a further exploration of the Bellagio which is actually quite artistic.  Many of the ceilings are decorated with butterflies and they also have some elegant gardens in the resort. 

I also wandered about the Monte Carlo, New York New York, the Cosmopolitan, Harrah’s, and the Mirage.  And at the Mirage, some semblance of my luck managed to show its face as I found a kindly The Twilight Zone machine which allowed me to play steadily for a long while, but didn’t net me big bucks. 

After six hours of walking around, I was ready to return to the Rio and put my feet up for a bit.  Upon resting for a while, I decided to take my $1 bills and give it one final shot.  This was my luckiest moment as Judge Judy was quite benevolent.  I ended up earning 8x my investment.  It was a true pity that I only had put $5 into the machine.  Ah well.  A win is a win.

I ended up having my supper at the BK Whopper Bar at the Rio.  Whopper Bars began appearing a few years back.  Their menu is actually pretty limited as they only serve Whoppers or Double Whoppers, though they also have a traditional breakfast menu in the mornings.  The big difference is that you can get fixings that aren’t available at a regular Burger King and you can also get a beer if you desire.  I had a Whopper with the traditional fixings, but added pepper bacon and sautéed mushrooms.

Tonight I’ve decided to take it easy and perhaps watch the cult comedy, Kung Pow!:  Enter the Fist.  Tomorrow will be spent at Qua Baths and Spa, though this time I will be paying for it out of my own pocket.  However, I must take a moment and put it into perspective.  The Vegas casinos have been kind enough to pay for my spa visits the last three times.  Including tips, that means they have paid out somewhere between $800-$850 total.  They barely got a fraction of that back from me today, so I can still claim ultimate victory in the money wars.  Also, thanks to the free room upgrade, I’ve actually broken even and may even be slightly ahead asset wise.

Until the next time. . .

Last Exit To Vegas (For Now), Day 1: The Dynamic Uno

After nearly a decade of annual visits, I have begun what will be my final visit to Las Vegas for the foreseeable future.  For the first time ever, I am alone in this burg as my normal traveling companions, Mat and John, were unable to join me.  Mat is rebuilding his P.T.O. and John has simply wearied of coming here.  So my goal is to squeeze as much fun as I can out of this trip and prepare myself to explore new vistas in the future.

Now this trip started off right due to the fact that I was using Southwest Airlines.  This airline ranks at the top of my list when it comes to traveling and they routinely rank #1 in customer satisfaction each year.  Unlike nearly every other airline, Southwest still lets you check your bag for free (your first two, as a matter of fact).  You can also sit wherever you feel like on the plane without being charged an additional fee.  Even better, one can actually get a free beverage and snack on this flight instead of being nickeled and dimed to death.

Due to terrible winds, my flight out to Vegas ended up being delayed by 20 minutes. This ended up being negligible as those same winds gave the flight to Vegas a bit of an added boost and we ended up arriving at about the same time as originally promised.  The only two difficulties of the flight were that I realized I didn’t have my Kindle with me and there was a woman on the flight who sounded like she was well on her way to being three sheets to the wind.  She was quite obnoxious and spent most of the flight pestering some poor college student who was studying anatomy so she could have some time for fun while in Vegas.  I truly admired her patience.

Upon landing, my fabled luck appeared as I was able to immediately grab a shuttle for the Rio.  Though, if you haven’t driven through rush hour traffic on the Las Vegas Strip, let me assure you that it’s quite an experience.  It took nearly an hour to get from the airport to the hotel with all the stops and traffic, but I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride and have a chat with my best friend, Josh.

Once I reached the Rio, my luck remained as I was able to check in without a wait in line.  I’d also like to take a moment to thank Luis who checked me into the Rio and upgraded me to a Sambia Suite free of charge.  Because of that, I am now sitting on the 37th floor of the Rio enjoying a beautiful pool view and an amazing view of the city.

After I deposited my gear in my room, I wandered around the hotel a bit to see what had changed and what hadn’t.  The hotel still doesn’t seem as plentiful with guests as it once did, yet I must still assume that business must be up as their famed Seafood Buffet is now open every day and the Rio recently opened a Hash House a Go Go on the property.

Hash House a Go Go is known for “Farm Food done Freaky”.  The portions are humongous and will probably keep you full for a day or soon as the restaurant is known for serving one pound sandwiches, deep dish skillets, and pancakes the size of a garbage can lid.  However, one thing I did notice is that the prices are pretty high at this location, nearly double what you would pay at the restaurant’s location on Sahara.  While I would recommend a breakfast here, try to get to the Sahara restaurant to make use of the lower prices.

After wandering about a bit (and losing a couple bucks), I caught the shuttle to Bally’s so I could make the quick jaunt to Planet Hollywood and have another meal at Gordon Ramsay’s BURGR restaurant.  As a solo guest, I was able to get seated at the bar right away.  This time around, I enjoyed the American Burger (a more traditional hamburger, topped with butter lettuce, red onions, American cheese, pickles, and a thick slice of tomato).  As before, the presentation and taste were top notch.

Once I had finished my meal, I walked across the street to the Bellagio.  I had seen their fountain show on numerous occasions, but had never actually stepped inside of the casino.  It is quite elegant and I spent a while in there playing slot machines based on Clue, The Phantom of the Opera, and Back to the Future.

As of yet, my nearly mystical luck has only manifested itself in a great room, good seating, and good timing.  I couldn’t get any good runs going on any machine, though my luck did start to heat up towards the end of the night.  The day had taken it’s toll on me as I began to develop a whanging headache.  So I cut my evening short and returned to the Rio where I am getting ready to rest up for another adventurous day tomorrow.

Step Back to the Unsurpassed Past at the Victorian Villa

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Well, it’s frigidly cold in Omaha today, so I thought it might be a good time to share just how I got so interested in bed and breakfasts.  So gather around while I put another coal on the fire and prepare yourselves to hear the tale of the Victorian Villa.

It was the spring of 2004 and I am an incredibly avid reader who especially loves to read mysteries.  On this particular spring day, it suddenly struck me that it might be fun if I could find a mystery weekend and actually experience a case for myself.  Off to the internet I went and began searching to see what I might be able to find.  When I included the name of Sherlock Holmes into my search, one of my results was for the Victorian Villa in Union City, MI.

I clicked on the link and was quite impressed with what I saw.  What really caught my eye was that one of the rooms in the Carriage House of the Villa was called the Sherlock Holmes Bedchamber and the second floor of the Carriage House also contained a little museum dedicated to Sherlock Holmes.  Reading that sorely tempted me to make a visit to the Villa, but then I noticed that a mystery weekend was going to be held in April of that year.

I couldn’t say no to that, so I went ahead and booked the Sherlock Holmes Bedchamber and was told I’d be contacted “by that nice Mr. Denham” of Shadowstalkers, the organization behind the mystery event.  Both Ron Gibson, the owner of the Villa, and that nice Mr. Denham sounded a little surprised when they found out I was coming from Omaha.  Most of the visitors to the Villa come from within a 2.5 to 3 hour radius and I was going to drive 10 hours to attend this event.

I’ll repeat that.

I drove 10 hours from Omaha to Union City to attend this event.  Little did I know that I would be so bowled over by the Villa that I would make that journey 3 more times over the next decade.

I still remember my arrival on that spring Friday in April 2004.  I was warmly welcomed to the inn by its innkeeper, Cynthia Shattuck, who brought me to the bar area where I met Ron Gibson and his son, Josh.  Ron gave me a hearty greeting and told me I was free to explore the house and could enter any bedroom with an open door (signifying no occupation by guests) and that I could take all the pictures I wanted.

I was absolutely mesmerized by the intricate beauty of the place.  I felt as if I had truly passed through a time warp as everything was authentically Victorian from when the place had first been built in 1876.  Even more amazing was the history of how the mansion was first built all the way through to its rebirth as the Victorian Villa.  This had truly been a labor of love for Ron whom I was told put in 18 hour days for several years to restore the Villa back to its original condition.

The Villa is known as the #1 inn in the Midwest and a well deserved reputation it is.  Aside from the beauty of the place, the inn was famed for its Sherlock Holmes weekends, Victorian Christmas weekends, and food.  The Villa has been featured in numerous articles and, I believe, on the Michigan PBS station.

One could spend hours just soaking in the scenery of the Villa and the meals have been some of the most enjoyable that I have ever eaten.  Over the years, I have had such delicacies as cream cheese stuffed French Toast, ox and barley stew, English Cheshire Cheddar Cheese Soup, and roast goose.  And the rooms are a unique treasure in and of themselves.  During my visits I have enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes Bedchamber, the Victorian Country Bedchamber, and Tower Suite South.

I’ve also been blessed to meet and become friends with many wonderful people such as Ron and his two sons, Josh and Zach, Cynthia, John Sherwood (a talented actor who sometimes plays Charles Dickens for the Christmas weekends), Ted and Rhonda Cowell and their Sherlock Holmes scion society, the Stormy Petrels of Maumee Bay.

As for my first visit, the mystery event was a great deal of fun, but more like a game.  A murder had been committed and some jewels stolen, so we had to figure out who done it and locate the missing jewels.  Each of us played a character (I was Ellery Queen), and had certain abilities we could use to obtain clues from other guests.  But. . .the killer was one of us and would be attempting to kill us before we could discover his or her identity.  As a solo player, I was a marked man as the killer could only kill you when you were alone unless he or she got the “mark of death” on you.

Luckily, I was occasionally accompanied by “that nice Mr. Denham’s” wife to offer me some protection.  During the course of the night I won a target shooting contest which netted me a bottle of wine sold exclusively at the Villa.  I also did solve the case, but I had my epiphany when I was alone with the 2 killers.  Though I bolted from the room when I realized the truth, I had already been marked for death by them as they feared I was getting a little too close according to the snarky note they left under my door the next morning.  However, for having traveled so far, I was given a nice parting gift of the Ellery Queen novel, The Dragon’s Teeth.

I was fortunate enough to be able to return to the Villa in September 2005 when I finally had the chance to meet Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.

Oh, didn’t you know they were real people?

It’s true.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was really Watson’s literary agent and he got credit for writing the tales to perpetuate the idea that Holmes was a fictional character, thus preserving his anonymity.  Ron’s great-grandfather was Senator Neil Gibson, whom you may know from the case entitled “The Problem of Thor Bridge”.  Through him, Ron became friends with Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson, whose lifespans have been augmented through a royal jelly elixir Holmes had cultivated when he had retired to the Sussex Downs.

In Mr. Holmes’ own words, he enjoys visiting Union City because “it is a hellhole of crime of great depth and brilliance”.  Unbelievably, I have had the honor of assisting Mr. Holmes in two cases.  While I have copious notes of these accounts, a pledge of silence has barred me from sharing these stories until, and unless, Mr. Holmes gives me leave.  However, I don’t think I would be amiss by admitting that I was crucial to helping him bring the affair of “the nameless corpse” to a successful conclusion for which I received a lovely Holmes nutcracker which graces my mantle today.

The last time I visited the Villa was 2010 when I attended one of their Christmas weekends where I was treated to a marvelous performance from John Sherwood as Charles Dickens where he read A Christmas Carol and enjoyed a sumptuous 9 course Roast Goose Christmas dinner as described in Dickens’ tale.

Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson have not visited the Villa for a few years, but I look forward to a time when they do return so I may renew old acquaintances and perhaps aid Holmes and Watson in another investigation.

But if you find yourself near Union City, take a moment and spend a night at the Victorian Villa and find out why, as they say, it is the past. . .unsurpassed.

Splendid Isolation: The Prairie Creek Inn

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One of the many things I love about travel is that, oftentimes, it seems like on I’m on a quest due to my many wonderful discoveries.  This trip is no different as my road has brought me to Walton, NE where I have been privileged to stay at the Prairie Creek Inn, a true hidden treasure.

Aside from the little musical humor I injected, the Prairie Creek Inn does have a bit in common with The Waltons.  Like the home of the Waltons, the Prairie Creek Inn is a bit isolated on a beautiful spread of land.  This makes it the ideal place to go if you simply want to get away from it all, clear your head, and renew your spirit.

Also, like the Waltons, you will always be welcomed here by the owners, Bruce and Maureen Stahr.  They were truly good, Christian folk and I was honored to get to know them a little during my stay at their inn.

For the third straight time, I was the sole guest at a bed and breakfast, which made me feel a bit more like Henry David Thoreau.  And my comparison to that famed author is quite apt as I was staying in Inspiration Pointe, dubbed the room for writers and pictured below.  The room gained its name from a CEO who had once stayed in this 2 room suite and actually wrote a novel.  Bruce said others have written poetry here, so I feel honored to be able to add my own little contribution to this literary abode.

Inspiration Pointe

Inspiration Pointe

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Inspiration Pointe's sitting room

Inspiration Pointe’s sitting room

Like Thoreau, the property where the Prairie Creek Inn resides also has a lake on the grounds so I now actually have an inkling of Thoreau’s thoughts as he wrote about Walden Pond.

After meeting the Stahrs and getting situated in my rooms, I decided to take advantage of the waning daylight and walk some of the trails on the land.  The property is massive and I was able to take a good, long, brisk walk (brisker still when a sharp wind started and flurries began).  I enjoyed the peacefulness and quiet of the Creekside and Northwoods Trails and felt a serenity settle into my soul as I walked about the grounds.

The Stahrs are diligently expanding the property as my constitutional brought me to a very nice looking log cabin as well as a smaller guest cottage which are being built and renovated for further rentals.  And, of course, there is the lake on the grounds.  Though frozen over, it was still a magnificent sight.  I was fascinated by this duck sitting on the ice and thought it would make for a terrific photo if I didn’t get scare it off.

Quietly I made my way over to it.  Step by step.  Avoiding branches and dry leaves, I crept up to the little quacker and. . .discovered I’d been duped by a decoy.  I chuckled to myself as I continued on the trail back to the house.

To date, the Prairie Creek Inn is probably the largest and most impressive bed and breakfast I have visited.  I wandered through the entirety of the house, marveling at its beauty and attention to detail as I snapped photos.  Even more interesting is that the foyer contains a stand of pictures explaining how the Prairie Creek Inn came into existence.  Apparently, the Stahrs bought the house for $1.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The house was in Lincoln, NE at the time.  After the purchase, it was loaded onto a semi trailer and carried the 11 miles to its present locale.

After exploring the house, I headed into Lincoln where I enjoyed a meal at Parker’s Smokehouse.  It’s not a bad little BBQ joint.  I had the Nebraska Melt (smoked prime rib with cheese and onions on toasted marble rye bread), steak fries, and a cup of the World Famous Smokehouse Chili.  If you happen to stop here, I would definitely suggest the melt as it was smoky delicious.  I would suggest taking a pass on the chili, though.  It had a good taste and I thought the use of Samuel Adams Lager in the chili sauce was an interesting touch, but it was too watery for my tastes.  However, their original BBQ sauces were quite tasty and I would recommend the Liquid Heat as a good dipping sauce for fries.

After dinner, I returned to the house, made a quick stop to the rec room where I picked up a Dr. Pepper and returned to my room where I could sip and get my photos organized and posted onto Facebook.  Upon completing that, I enjoyed the old-fashioned clawfoot bathtub and stayed up for a while reading the classic novel, The Time Machine, until my eyes began to get bleary with sleep.

I snapped off the lights and watched the glow of my electric fireplace until sleep claimed me.  And I slept like a log.

When I awoke the next morning, my covers hadn’t even been ruffled and I felt like I could take on the world.  I headed downstairs to breakfast where I was served a meal fit for royalty.  A bowl of mixed fruit was waiting on the table and I put a few spoonfuls of that into my dish and munched away while Bruce brought me a goblet of orange juice and a glass of milk.  Then he brought out the main course which I had smelled cooking all the way up in the attic.

It was called egg casserole, but it looked more like a pizza.  It was a fantastic and slightly spicy combination of egg, cheese, bacon, and potatoes.  Maureen brought out homemade cinnamon rolls and I gladly helped myself to one as I chatted with Bruce about his plans for renovating the barn to hold receptions and possibly even have movie nights and music festivals.  I wished the meal wouldn’t end, but after 30 minutes of slow, savory enjoyment, I was full and came up to write today’s article.

If you find yourself in Walton, NE (just outside of the capital city of Lincoln), do yourself a favor and book a room at the Prairie Creek Inn.  You’ll experience peace, tranquility, beauty and enjoy an excellent meal under the hospitality of two great innkeepers.

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