My Monday with McCartney

He was a member of the greatest band in the history of rock.  He’s the most commercially successful singer/songwriter of all time.  He’s a melody man without peer who has written some of the most memorable tunes of all time.  His career has spanned over 50 years.  He is Paul McCartney.

I was first introduced to this master musician when I was a child.  My dad had shown me his lone Beatles album, Meet the Beatles and I was drawn to this music the way a man lost in the desert is drawn to water.  This music just seemed to complete me.  Instantly, the Beatles became my favorite band and I would tell anyone and everyone that they were the greatest group of all time.

As I grew older and my ear for music evolved, I appreciated the Beatles on a whole new level.  I became enthralled with the complexity and intricacies of their songs and how they seemed to speak to certain parts of me.

While I’ve always loved the music of the Beatles, I think I really became a fan of Paul McCartney’s music back in 2002 when I bought Flaming Pie.  I was so blown away by that album that I started buying his past albums and have purchased every new album he’s released.  Even today, at the age of 72, his musicianship and songwriting abilities are still stellar and he has released nothing less than a quality album since 1989.

Last night I finally had the chance to see this music legend live in concert at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, NE.  And it. . .was. . .awesome!!!

From the moment he stepped onto the stage, McCartney had the crowd in the palm of his hands.  Of all the Beatles, Paul was the one who always got the most charge out of performing in front of a live audience and his performance last night truly reflected that.  He really seemed to enjoy the energy of the crowd and used it to fuel a non-stop 3 hour block of songs.

All I can say is that I hope I have McCartney’s energy when I’m his age.  His voice, matured like a fine wine, belted out rockers such as Let Me Roll It, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five, Save Us, and Everybody Out There.  On the turn of a dime, he would move to softer ballads and classics such as Eleanor Rigby, Hey Jude, Here Today, and My Valentine.

Between songs, he would engage the audience with little stories.  The best moment of the night was when he talked about how we sometimes want to say something nice to a person and decide we’ll tell them later and suddenly it’s too late.  Just as Sir Paul started to speak again, someone from the audience shouted, “I love you, Paul!!”  McCartney smiled and chuckled and said, “That was good.”

What was amazing was looking around the audience and seeing that fans of Paul’s music came in out shapes and sizes from the young to the young at heart.  The music is so timeless that the audience often sang along to the tunes.  The best moment of audience participation was when we all  joined in the Hey Jude chorus.

After 2.5 hours, McCartney and his band took their bows and left the stage to the thunderous applause of the audience.  Clearly we wanted more and two minutes later, McCartney obliged us with a 3 song encore.  After that we still wanted more and he came back out to the stage and gave us another 5 song encore.

Clearly we wanted to rock out even more, but McCartney told us, “There comes a time when we simply have to go. . .We’ll see you next time.”

Yes, you will, Sir Paul.  Yes, you will.

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It Must Be Providence. . .Inn

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For a change, the road has brought me to a place I know very well:  Denison, IA.  I’ve passed through this town on numerous occasions as I’ve traveled to and from Fort Dodge and Eagle Grove to visit my best friend.  This small town actually has a touch of celebrity about it as it is the birthplace of the actress, Donna Reed.

This time my purpose in Denison was to visit the Providence Inn, owned and operated by Duane and Kristy Zenk.  As I drove on the street where the inn was located, I looked in vain for a sign pointing out the inn.  I thought I recognized the inn on my first pass, but blithely passed it when I couldn’t see the sign.  On my third go around, a helpful woman on the porch began waving me down.  I pulled into the driveway and sheepishly asked, “Is this Providence Inn?”  Upon confirmation, I grabbed my laptop and backpack and was welcomed into the inn by Kristy.

The first thing I noticed is that this house is deceptively long.  Kristy led me through the labyrinthine second floor to my room, the Chestnut Suite, which was located at the end of the hall.

The Chestnut Suite

The Chestnut Suite

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The suite had a simplistic elegance about it and the soft green paint on the walls really seemed to induce relaxation.  After settling in, I set about exploring the inn.

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The commons

The commons

The music room

The music room

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After my exploration of the premises, the rumbling in my stomach told me it was time for a little dinner.  I made my way to Cronk’s, a local restaurant at the edge of town where I’ve enjoyed many a meal over the years.

The restaurant was surprisingly empty for a Friday night.  I opted for the Chef’s Special Ribeye dinner.  While I enjoyed the salad course, I read my novel and overheard a rather humorous conversation between an elderly gent and his son about the quality and types of various ribs.

When the waitress set down my meal, I was surprised by the quality of the cut of meat I had received.  I’ve been to gourmet steakhouses that didn’t serve a steak this well cooked.  Grilled and seasoned to perfection, I savored every blissful mouthful and marveled that I was only paying $14.95 for this meal.  If you pass through this town, stop here for a meal.  You will not be disappointed.

After supper, I wandered through the business district and saw the famed Donna Reed Performing Arts Center.  I wished a play had been going on so I could have had to chance to explore the inside (and write a review).  I later discovered that the center only mounts 4 productions a year, but does have various theatre workshops during the year.

Once I had wandered about enough, I returned to the inn and the confines of my room where I enjoyed a hot bath and spent the evening studying David Mamet’s American Buffalo for a possible audition at the Blue Barn in a few weeks’ time.  Once I was good and sleepy, I drifted off to the land of nod.

I had forgotten my fan which I use for white noise to help me sleep, but nature provided nicely when I awoke to a powerful thunderstorm during the night.  As I listened to the heavy raindrops splatter against the windowpane, I felt an immense sense of peace and security as sleep gained a proper hold on me.

When I awoke the next morning, I was ready for a rousing breakfast.  I walked downstairs to the dining room and found a pitcher of orange juice and a small dish of fruit waiting for me.  While I munched on bananas, grapes, and strawberries, Kristy brought out a blueberry crepe stuffed with cream with a side dish of sausage links.

I contentedly munched away as I talked with Kristy about my project, website, and theatre endeavors.  After a half hour of food and talk, I made my way back up to my room.

Denison really is a small gem of a town and this inn is truly a gem of the town.  If you find yourselves here, you won’t go wrong by getting a room at Providence Inn and exploring some of the sights of this little town.

 

The Small Town Life: Charlie & Jane’s Bed & Breakfast

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It was certainly a fine day to be answering the call of the road.  Despite it being July 4, the weather was like a perfect spring day.  The drive was smooth and sure and the scenery was peppered with plenty of lush foliage.  Thus marked my journey to Mount Ayr, IA, the home of Charlie & Jane’s Bed and Breakfast.

A big part of what I like about bed and breakfasts is that it’s like a home away from home.  And this was truer than usual for Charlie & Jane’s.  Many of the bed and breakfasts I’ve visited are almost like museums in the sense that they are completely restored, opulent homes with furnishings to match.  It’s almost like stepping back in time.  However, Charlie & Jane’s is like stepping into a Norman Rockwell painting.  It’s a humble little slice of Americana like going to Grandma’s house.

In fact, images of my grandparents’ home lept into my mind when I arrived at this fine establishment.  Before I could even ring the doorbell, I was greeted by Collus Lawhead, one of the owners.  With a firm handshake, he welcomed me into his home and led me to my temporary home of the Rhoades Suite (pictured below).

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Yes, memories of visiting my grandparents flooded into my mind as I gazed about the room.  Even more impressive was that the room contained one of the cookbooks written by the late actor & gourmet cook, Vincent Price.  I may have to see about getting a copy of that book for myself because that man wrote some fabulous recipes.

After settling in, I went downstairs where I was greeted by the other owner, Jane Lawhead.  She told me of the 4th of July activities taking place in Clearfield, IA and graciously provided me with a folding chair  in case I wanted to drive down there and watch the fireworks.

By visiting on the 4th of July, I had hoped to see some small town festivities, but discovered that the counties in this region take turns hosting major holidays.  Because of that, the noninvolved counties completely shut down.  Businesses, restaurants, even movie theaters were all closed for the day.  Unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t experience any of the small town life that I look forward to on these excursions.  Hopefully, I will be able to return at some point and have the proper experience.

I was able to do a little exploration.  I wandered about the town square and marveled at the very impressive library.  How I wish it had been open so I could have done a little perusing.

Fortunately, the inn more than made up for any lack of activities.  The room was very comfortable and contained the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in.  When I went to sleep for the night, my eyelids didn’t even flutter until the next day when I awoke to a thunderstorm.

When I went downstairs for breakfast, I met Bob Tribblett and Georgie Scurfield, who were staying across the hall.  Amazingly, Bob and Georgie were from my neck of the woods as they live in Papillion, NE.  Bob is retired Air Force and Georgie is the treasurer for the Papillion-LaVista Community Theatre which is getting ready to open Annie.

What followed was one of the most splendid breakfast conversations I have enjoyed.  Bob & Georgie told me how they met and we spent much of the time talking about the local theatre scene.  And breakfast was a magnificent meal.  Over glasses of coffee, orange juice, and water, we enjoyed fresh fruit and raspberry coffee cake.  The main course was an omlette that was more like a pie as two crusts of egg contained the tasty filling of cheese, tomatoes, celery.  On the side was bacon made just the way I like it, firm, but chewy.

Thanks to Jane introducing me to the Iowa Bed & Breakfast Association, I have also been able to expand my search list by a great deal and will be able to continue this project for a good many months.  If you find yourself in Mount Ayr, stay for a night at Charlie & Jane’s.  You’ll be glad you did.

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