The Donner Party Musical Again...

Today's matinee had been planned for weeks and even though I just saw this new American Musical on Wednesday, it was just as wonderful because of the company I was with- Tahoe friends and Steve. It also helped that it was a glorious 95° day in Sacramento.

Because we were an entourage from the Lake Tahoe Historical Society, we were invited to arrive early for The Prologue... a talk about the play, hosted by Abbey Williams-Campbell (the actress who plays Mary Ann Graves). It was an informative discussion about the history of the Donner Party and just how this musical came to be. After listening to her passionate descriptions, I viewed the production differently and found it even more enjoyable the second time around.

This play was not written to be a documentary. The authors "imagined what those pioneers might have to say if they could reach across the years and speak to us now. We imagined that their message to us would be one of hope and gratitude." I am grateful to the Sacramento Theatre Company for an exceptional afternoon of history, entertainment, talent, and the gift of looking at the tragedy of the Donner Party in a whole new light. Bravi!

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My Little Free Library: Ribbon Cutting

I love Little Free Libraries and have written about them quite a few times. Today's post is an extra special one because I'm writing about my own "human bird feeder".

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Through Little Free Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds. My sweet little one was created by Mike and given to me as a gift, almost two years ago and we have just now installed it.

The timing could not have been more perfect, based on the attendees that were there for the ribbon cutting- all literary and amazing. (L to R) Dr. Peter Mires, Karen Cutter, me, Gary Noy, Stephen Robison, Joanne & Gene Abshier and Steve.
So if you are ever in our neighborhood and looking for a good read, pop by my library. I promise you will find a real page-turner.

"Anyone who says they have only one life to live
must not know how to read a book."

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Gary Noy's Gold Rush Stories...

One of my most favorite storytellers is Gary Noy,  a historian of the Sierra Nevada and the American West.

How can you not be intrigued by a talk titled, Very Little Law of Any Kind:  Law, Legislation and Hullabaloo during the California Gold Rush?
Gary Noy's return to the South Lake Tahoe Library was to launch his newest book, Gold Rush Stories: 49 Tales of Seekers, Scoundrels, Loss and Luck, which features forty-nine unique, interesting and sometimes hard to believe, stories from the California Gold Rush. Through a very entertaining slideshow, accompanied by mesmerizing dialog, Gary gave us yet another unforgettable history lesson. I ♥ our amazing California history, as told by Gary Noy!

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Hiking Emerald Bay...

Karen wanted to experience the positive ions from a powerful waterfall so we headed down to Emerald Bay and Lower Eagle Falls.

In the five years we have lived here, we have never seen this warning. I think it must have been from the winter because the trail was idyllic today.
 The trail crews were great, "We're just making them safe for you!" they proclaimed.

As you can see, the Lake levels are way up from Summer picnic time.

I will never tire of this, my happy place. What a great day by the bay!

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Sacramento Sojourn Day 2...

While in Sacramento, a visit to the Crocker Art Museum is a must. I find the history of it all almost as impressive as the art collection held within. Cyndy was totally game.

In 1868, Judge Edwin B. Crocker purchased the property and existing buildings on the corner of 3rd and O Streets. He then commissioned local architect Seth Babson to renovate the home into a grander, Italianate mansion. In addition, Crocker asked Babson to design an elaborate gallery building adjacent to the mansion to display the family's growing art collection.
The Crocker was the first public art museum founded west of the Mississippi, established in 1885, and it still serves as the primary resource for the study and appreciation of fine art in the Sacramento region. Need-less-to say, it has been improved upon in the last 132 years. What a great space!
What brought me to the Crocker today was the exhibition Two Views: Photographs by Ansel Adams and Leonard Frank. This emotional show opened on February 19, exactly 75 years to the day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, interning Japanese into camps.This exhibit presents a collection of documentary images by two renowned 20th-century photographers, who captured distinctive views of the Japanese American and Japanese Canadian incarcerations. It features 40 photographs, taken at the Manzanar War Relocation Center, by Ansel Adams in 1943 and 26 prints by Leonard Frank recording the movement of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia in 1942. Together, the images provide an opportunity to reflect on the nature of forced separation and uprooting and the effects they have on their victims.
I was very familiar with the images Ansel Adams took of Manzanar (the girls above). He wrote, “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and despair by building for themselves a vital community in an arid environment.” Having toured Manzanar and having spoken to someone interned there, I felt his images sugarcoated the true hardship. His subjects are mostly smiling. Leonard Frank's seemed distinctly more 'real'. He visited temporary holding areas as well as several camps in the interior of Canada. The resulting photographs, are both stark and shocking, depicting the movement of humans within bureaucratic systems. Both Views are a reminder of a terrible time in our American history.
After getting bummed out, we moved on to the various exhibits, located in the new part of the museum and in Crocker's original mansion. It was quite incredible to stroll through the grand ballroom while admiring various works of art.
I want to share with you the discoveries that delighted me. One such 'find' was this early 18th century tea cup with a bug painted inside it. What a fun surprise when one finished one's tea.
We both really loved the whimsical installation Forbidden Fruit: playful scenes of dalliance and seduction.
Inspired by 18th C. porcelain figurines, Chris Antemann’s work employs a unity of design and concept to simultaneously examine and parody male and female relationship roles. Characters, themes and incidents build upon each other, effectively forming their own language that speaks about domestic rites, social etiquette, and taboos. Themes from the classics and the romantics are given a contemporary edge; elaborate dinner parties, picnic luncheons and ornamental gardens set the stage for her twisted tales to unfold.
I could have stared at these works for hours, slowly discovering all the details that make it truly magical and trying to uncover all the metaphors Antemann used to create her opulent atmosphere- wow!
Tip Toland's Wall Flower tugged on my heartstrings. This young girl seemed to just blend into her surroundings, being painfully aware that she shouldn't eat the doughnut but wanting to so badly. It is amazingly life-like... very human and sad.
I think my most favorite attribute of a museum is the fact that you can closely study a work of art. One can see the brush strokes made by a painter, envision the sculptor's tool marks, really see the work. It is difficult for me to explain the complexity of Stephen J. Kaltenbach's Portrait of My Father. The artist labored for seven years, in a California barn, to create this testament to life, love, and the loss confronting us all. It is light, color and intertwining arabesques. It is beauty. I really appreciated this piece.
And then we find more whimsy in the form of Barbara Spring's A la Carte. Pop art was emerging on the New York art scene when she created this sculpture in 1961. And it is made of wood. Fun right?
This is the third time I've mentioned an Art-o-mat® machine on my blog. I love these retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. There are over 100 active machines in various locations throughout the country and the Crocker happens to have a very cool one. Cyndy chose the "feeling lucky?" category and was very happy with her art. Where else can you get such a unique art experience for only $5?
After several hours inside we decided to head to the river and walk to Old Sacramento. In 1839, John Sutter arrived on the shore of the American River and established Sutter’s Fort. As the settlement grew and became permanent, it attracted other businessmen looking for opportunities. Sutter, and the people he attracted, created a commercial center in the area, but it was the Gold Rush, in 1848, that created the City of Sacramento.
After lunch along the river, we strolled to Old Sacramento State Historic Park, a cluster of noteworthy, early Gold Rush commercial structures.
This was the first time I've ever been inside the 1849 Eagle Theater. Very cool.

As we began our travels back to Tahoe, we stopped briefly at the Old Sacramento Cemetery. I have been here before, but never in Springtime when all the flowers were in bloom. I felt like I was in a garden more than a cemetery.

Adorned with beautiful statues, dramatic markers and lush gardens, Sacramento Historic City Cemetery (1849) is an outdoor museum recording California history from the Gold Rush Era through today.

I thought it rather fitting that we ended the day where it began, with E.B. Crocker. This is the final resting spot for Edwin Bryant Crocker (26 April 1818 – 24 June 1875), a California Supreme Court Justice and the founder of the Crocker Art Museum.

As as we returned to Lake Tahoe it began to rain, producing a beautiful rainbow. I actually could not have picked a more perfect ending to the past two days of friendship, discovery and a whole lot of fun. 

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Sacramento Sojourn Day 1...

My friend, Cyndy, hasn't really explored our State Capitol and there are still things I wanted to see, so we booked a night in Sacramento and hit the ground running.

We began by doing what we love... thrift store shopping. For me, the flashback find was this Dominion Hair Dryer. I know I my mom had this luggage style dryer in the 60s. What a fun discovery that brought back memories. I always say that thrift stores are like museums.
We had a long, delightful lunch at Station 16, to fuel us for our history lessons that followed.
In the heart of Midtown Sacramento, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park captures the pioneer spirit of families arriving in wagon trains at the dawn of the California Gold Rush. John Sutter built the Fort and his agricultural empire, was critical in the rescue of the tragic Donner Party and served as a diplomat with the Mexican government until it all came crashing down in 1848.
Throughout the Fort are recreated rooms giving a very realistic view of what life was like. As you walked to the doorway, excellent recordings played, explaining the purpose of the room and Sutter's opinion of happenings of the time. It was very informative and a great way to learn the history.

In a moment of childhood defiance, eight-year-old Patty Reed stowed away this little doll in her skirts and smuggled her to California.The Reed family were coming to California, in 1846, as part of the now-notorious Donner Party. Already running behind schedule, Patty had been asked by her family to discard all of her beloved toys to help lighten the load in the hopes of traveling fast enough to get to California, before the winter weather trapped them. They were not to be so lucky.
Through a series of unfortunate events, Sutter's Fort was abandoned. I found this photo, dated 1887, fascinating. It was labeled A group of women sketching the ruins of the Central Building.

Knowing that the Donner Party had to resort to cannibalism, somehow we found this cookbook funny.
I have to give a shout out to our home for the night. The Greens Hotel which offers delightful accommodations in the north of Sacramento, less than 15 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes from downtown and Old Town Sacramento giving you easy access to this spectacular area of California without paying high hotel prices. This Sacramento area hotel is ideal for couples and those on corporate trips as it is in the heart of the arts and business district.
After dinner and wine in our room, we decided at the very last minute to attend the theater!
How adorable are these theatergoers?
I was told about this musical several weeks ago and actually have tickets for Sunday, already. But seeing as Cyndy and I have been in the footsteps of the this ill fated group, we thought seeing The Donner Party Musical would be a perfect way to end our day's history lesson (we were so right).
Specially commissioned and developed by Sacramento Theatre Company, this dramatic new musical chronicles the true story of the harrowing travels of pioneers who faced unspeakable trials when trapped in the high Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846 to 1847. While the subject matter isn't typical musical fare, this was so well done, I would totally see it again. Oh yeah, I am on Sunday. I can't wait.

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