Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Top Ten for 2013

I haven't watched enough movies, heard enough albums or read enough books to do a proper Best of 2013 list so I'm going to do something much more personal (or self-absorbed, depending on how you look at it): I'm going to list my ten favorite experiences from the past year. I've already written about several of them on this blog so I'm including links to past posts where appropriate. And yes, Blake Berris makes the list twice, cause he's just that awesome (or I'm just that obsessed, depending on how you look at it). I didn't rank my experiences - that would be too difficult - but they are listed in chronological order. Without further ado . . . 

1. Nick Cave at the Ryman
I almost always think any concert I've just seen is the Best. Concert. I've. Ever. Seen so this might sound a bit disingenuous but, seriously, this is the Best. Concert. I've. Ever. Seen. I knew Cave was a brilliant singer and lyricist but he is also a highly charismatic performer. His stage persona is equal parts Old Testament fire and brimstone and raw, animalistic magnetism. If Nathaniel Hawthorne had been a rock star and injected massive amounts of heroin in his younger years he might be something like Nick Cave. I'm sure part of the reason the show had such an impact on me was that it was my first time ever seeing Cave live. He'll be coming back to the states next summer and I've got a date with him at DAR Constitution Hall in July. Will be interesting to see if the experience packs the same punch the second time around. I'm inclined to think it just might.

2. Frida & Diego at the High
Frida Kahlo has been a favorite artist and personal hero of mine since I was in college. Her private life, especially her tempestuous relationship with Diego Rivera, is the stuff of legend. It was fascinating to see Kahlo and Rivera's work displayed side-by-side at this impressive show at Atlanta's High Museum. While I find Rivera compelling in his own right he does not fascinate me the way Kahlo and her work do. Her self-portraits are so intimate that they are essentially visual diary entries on canvas. Seeing several of them all at once was an indescribably emotional and powerful experience.

3. Leonard Cohen at the Fox
Mom and I saw Leonard Cohen for the first, and second, time in 2009 and this third show at Atlanta's Fox Theatre was every bit as great as those first two. Cohen has seemingly boundless reserves of energy and his shows last longer than many of those by artists half his age. He seems to derive so much genuine pleasure from sharing his music with an audience. And he has one of the best backing bands around. Cohen is an absolute treasure. For my money he is the greatest living songwriter on the planet. And easily one of the best performers.

4. Colorado & ABQ Trip
This was one of the longest vacations my husband and I have taken together and definitely one of the most memorable. Every day was a blast but the highlights for me were our drive through the Rockies, our visit to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center and our side-trip to Albuquerque, where we were able to see some of our favorite Breaking Bad filming locations. There was so much we wanted to do that we didn't get around to doing so I hope there will be time in 2014 for another trip out to this beautiful and awe-inspiring part of the country.

5. Meeting Blake Berris in Atlanta
After loving and obsessing over Nick Fallon for years I finally had the opportunity to meet the man who brings him to life, Blake Berris. I could never have imagined that Blake would be so charming, kind and gracious in person, which made the experience all the better. I have a lot of celebrity crushes but meeting Blake puts him in a class by himself. I just adore him. 

6. Meeting Blake Berris in Birmingham
And then I met Blake for a second time! And introduced him to my mom! And he was charming, kind, gracious and awesome all over again! 

7. Whitfield Lovell at the Hunter
It's been more than a decade since I first encountered Whitfield Lovell's beautiful, tactile mixed-media portraits at the Knoxville Museum of Art so it was great to finally get an opportunity to see an entire show of his, which included an impressive site-specific installation. Lovell combines his portraiture with found objects and multi-media to create a haunting, immersive and entirely memorable experience. 

8. The Breaking Bad Finale
The greatest television show I've ever seen ended its triumphant run this past September. It was everything I wanted it to be and I feel fortunate that I got to watch it with some dear friends who are also huge fans.

9. Baltimore & DC Weekend
A short but very fun trip up to Baltimore and DC, where Mom and I were able to spend time with some of our very best friends. 

10. Overnight at LeConte Lodge
The only thing better than a day spent in the Smokies is an overnight adventure in the Smokies. It's great to fall asleep in the mountains and to wake up there the next morning. Staying at LeConte Lodge is like staying at Sleepaway Camp. It's rustic but comfortable and everyone is having a great time getting to know each other. This was the first of what I hope will be many stays for us up on the mountain.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas with Dolly

We finally made it up to Dollywood last week to check out their spectacular Christmas scene. The park pulls out all the stops during the holiday season. Practically every building and tree is covered in strands of colorful lights. It is wondrous. We were really excited to see their new stage production of A Christmas Carol, which we enjoyed immensely. Live actors share the stage with holograms, which are used for all of the ghostly roles. The Ghost of Christmas Past is played by none other than Hologram Dolly. And, yes, it's every bit as awesome as it sounds.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bethlehem in Knoxville

walk through bethlehem walk through bethlehem walk through bethlehem walk through bethlehem Downtown's Church Street United Methodist Church goes all out every December for their Walk Through Bethlehem. They turn a portion of the church's interior into a bustling marketplace scene and members of the congregation dress up as merchants and craftsmen. The effort they put into this annual event is admirable and impressive and the high attendance numbers are well deserved. 

Some years we walk through the marketplace to get the full experience and some years, like this one, we just stop by and visit with the animals on the church grounds. The donkeys are usually the highlight for me but this year the camels made the biggest impression. Usually they are standing and I never get too close to them, because I find them kind of imposing. The camels we saw yesterday, though, were lying down and they seemed very laid back and approachable so, for once, Mom and I went over and petted them. They are really wooly and soft and beautiful. I liked them a lot. I kind of want one of my own.

Monday, December 2, 2013

RIP Nick Fallon?

So, nobody really thinks Nick Fallon is dead. Even before we saw him regain consciousness moments after Sami, Kate and Gabi lowered his presumed-dead body into the icy currents of the Salem River most folks were pretty sure he'd be back. And anyone who follows Blake Berris on twitter and keeps up with the weird months-in-advance shooting schedule at Days knows we'll see Nick in some capacity into early next year. Will he be a ghost? A manifestation of Gabi's guilty conscience? Or, will he return to Salem in a more corporeal sense and wreak havoc on the ladies who done him wrong? I think Nick lives and of course I want him to be alive but at this point I'll settle for anything I can get. All the cryptic, conflicting reports from the cast members are stressing me out. I hate not knowing the fate of my fave, even though I should be used to the uncertainty at this point. And even though I know we'll see Nick again I do think there's a chance that Blake's wrapped taping and we may not have the Fallonator around for much longer. Unless of course the show is really going to make a concerted effort to redeem him, at least a little bit.

I was really dreading last week's episodes. Even knowing Nick was likely going to survive I did not want to see him knocked out and dumped in a river. And if Nick really is dead then I resent the odd, darkly comedic tone that the show opted for during his "final" moments. Days was more respectful when poor unfortunate Willow Stark met her demise. Nick's done some horrible things and I know a lot of people dislike him but surely his real death would be treated as more than an excuse for slapstick. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the weird humor, I just found it jarring and far less effective than the dark, tormented exchange between Gabi and Nick last Monday. Camila Banus and Blake were absolutely on fire in those scenes, which were heartbreaking and horrifying. I hated seeing Gabi treat Nick like something she'd just scraped off her shoe. I actually cheered when he tried to blackmail her into coming to New York with him. And then the attempted rape happened. I'm taking into account that Nick was absolutely out of his mind at that point. And because he was so broken, betrayed and unbalanced I was still able to sympathize with him. But it was appalling to see Days go there with my fella.

I'm scared to even venture a guess as to where Nick's story is ultimately going. I'll continue to tune in though, so long as, one way or another, I get to see my poor, beleaguered, long-suffering, somewhat monstrous boy. Things can only get better from here. Can't they?

Fantasy of Trees

fantasy of trees fantasy of trees fantasy of trees fantasy of trees Knoxville's Fantasy of Trees has been around for forever but it's a relatively new tradition for Mom and me. It's a great way to kick off the Christmas season and get some inspiration as I tackle (and I mean that affectionately) my own holiday decorations at home. As of right now I have pretty much everything finished except for the back porch lights and the live tree, which we'll purchase this coming weekend. Then I can print up my cards (design is still being finalized) and get them in the mail. What a hectic time of year but it's an awful lot of fun. To be honest I wasn't sure I was up for all the unpacking and decorating and Ho-Ho-Ho-ing this year but now that I'm in the thick of it I'm having a blast. I'm still bitter about missing Rudolph last Tuesday (when has Rudolph ever aired before Thanksgiving? It ain't right) but Charlie Brown is on tonight, which softens the blow a little bit.