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Underpants and Puccini

There comes a time in the career of every Internet prattler when he is forced to wing his way through a column. This is one of those times. No single subject the last few days seems to have made itself worthy of 1500 words or so. The solution, as always, is to dive into that computer file labeled ‘Stuff,’ take a quick look at various news sources to see what leaps off the screen and, when all else fails, dig into personal experiences. If you have made it this far, you might as well continue reading.

A weekend is fast approaching. These days, weekend activities for me involve discussion. It seems I no longer just head wherever I please and do whatever I want, often on the spur of the moment. It is a different situation, albeit not unpleasant.

The discussion has already been held as to what will constitute quality time during this weekend. I had suggested that we spend Friday night taking an early look at Virginia Tech basketball recruit Lewis Witcher, whose Franklin County team will be in town playing a local high school. This suggestion did not receive an altogether positive reply from the Teacher; her level of enthusiasm, manifested by her reply, “You want to do WHAT?” seemed to be a bit lower than my own. So much for that.

Instead, her suggestion, not exactly an order but not far from it, either, was we take in a local production of ‘The Underpants.’ This, of course, is the comedy adapted by comedian Steve Martin from the original by the German Carl Sternheim. It would seem a German can find humor in something other than invading France .

The premise is that a Teutonic couple is watching their king stroll by when the young lady’s underpants suddenly fall down. That sovereign certainly had quite an effect on women, one that I have never mastered. I have experienced much difficulty over the years attempting to read signals from women, but that would be a hard one to miss. Bill Clinton should have tried that as an excuse.

It seems the young lady’s husband is not altogether thrilled at this development. I wouldn’t be, either, and would probably cock an eyebrow at the explanation, “They just fell down.” The next time we planned on observing the king, if there was a next time, I would suggest a pant suit.

The reviews of Steve Martin’s ‘The Underpants’ are much better than those attached to his latest film. That would be ‘The Pink Panther,’ which we also discussed watching. Quite frankly, when I look at Steve Martin I do not think ‘Jacques Clouseau.’ Martin may well be able to pull off the famous detective, but I have my doubts.

The character that Peter Sellers made famous is likely to remain his alone. Certainly Clouseau had better luck catching Sir Charles Lytton and returning the Pink Panther diamond than did Alan Arkin capturing the essence of the great French detective in the dreadful ‘Inspector Clouseau.’

If Arkin couldn’t do it, I doubt very much that Martin can either. It is also highly unlikely that Beyonce, after learning that I am in the audience, would have her underpants fall down. That Blake Edwards would have nothing to do with this film and that Sony sat on it for two years prior to release probably speaks volumes about its quality.

We will see the writing efforts of Steve Martin this weekend instead of his acting ones. The live production will be a warm-up for next weekend. The quality of performance will head due north along with us as we travel to DC and the Kennedy Center to take in the Kirov Opera’s production of ‘Turandot.’ I can hardly wait.

I suppose I will have to go, since I promised some time back, somewhere around the time I was informing the Teacher that I was heading to Jacksonville for the ACC football championship game. I will not be given a pass because Tech lost the game. My dentist also assures me I will not need an emergency root canal procedure performed next weekend. It also seems he does not do them simply because his patient might prefer it to opera.

I am not altogether optimistic about how well I will enjoy ‘Turandot.’ I take a hint from composer Giacomo Puccini, who elected to die rather than finish it. After an hour or so, I might very well conclude that Puccini had the right idea.

‘Turandot’ is set in ancient China . The Emperor declared that anyone desiring to wed his daughter, the Princess Turandot, would be required to correctly answer three of her riddles. Incorrect responses were punishable by beheading. That is certainly a novel way of assuring that one does not get stuck with a useless son-in-law. Surprisingly enough, there was a long line of suitors stretching out of the Forbidden City . They did not appear to be Peking’s best and brightest, however, as heads were bouncing and rolling all around the Imperial Palace , as will my own if I don’t quit griping about the trip.

Actually, I do not mind opera all THAT much. Being married a few times to young ladies who considered themselves patrons of the arts means that I have seen a few over the years and while they are not exactly Tech football, they aren’t Duke football, either. It has been a while since I have been to the Kennedy Center .

The last two times I journeyed to DC I got nowhere near the famous arts center. Both of those were for Tech football games. I have a hunch the tailgating at the Kennedy Center will be a little different than it was at either FedEx Field or Byrd Stadium. We will likely not pull into the parking lot to find Larry and Clota preparing us something to eat. Communion will quite possibly go on as usual. Puccini might go over better after a few stiff belts of Wild Turkey.

Since these columns are ostensibly about sports rather opera, I will use a mention of Tech football to segue into something sports-related, otherwise known as pulling one out from behind my ear or another part of my anatomy. There was a recent column by Greg Wallace of the Anderson Independent-Mail. It generally was griping about ACC expansion, but contained the following interesting lines:

‘Virginia Tech has been a positive addition to the league, but Boston College and Miami seem like dead weight, at least as far as media attention and fan interest are concerned.’

I wouldn’t count on getting a press pass out of the Dwarf Dyke of Miami the next time Clemson plays at Miami , Greg. Also, welcome to our world. Virginia Tech has been in a conference with the Canes and Fredo for quite a while, now. The experience has been that things are just a bit different with those two than they are with Clemson, Carolina or State. Wait and see how many fans of the Canes and/or Eagles are floating around Greensboro next month for the ACC Tournament.

The numbers of people in those two ACC cities who give a whit about college sports are few. The Dwarf Dyke of Miami wants to stick the city with the bill to tear down sections of the Orange Bowl so that it will not appear so empty on television. That’s not exactly how they do it at Tech, Clemson or State, all of whom have stadium additions in progress or nearing completion. At those places, money is not spent tearing the stadiums down for lack of interest. In Boston , the only time the local media pays any attention to Fredo is when a gambling scandal pops up, as they do on a regular basis.

As Tech fans have discovered, the core ACC stretches from DC to Atlanta . That is where the alumni are and the fan interest is centered. Tech has plenty of both. We fit right in. The Canes and Fredo have little of either and do not.

A mention of NC State allows me to segue into their fans. Yeah, I’m stretching here. I received an e-mail recently from a Wolfpacker. He had come to this site, as have quite a few of his fellow State fans, through the heroic efforts of BobLee at SwaggerSays. Once again it occurs to me that a heck of a lot more Wolfpackers read the Tar Heel Swagger than Hoos read me. Of course, State isn’t coached by algroh, either.

This correspondent pointed out that he was also a fan of Virginia Tech; I’m assuming not when they play the Pack. I recall writing a column shortly after AC expansion pointing out that Virginia Tech and NC State had much in common, due to their mutual land-grant origins. That column found its way to a State message board, where I was roundly derided for suggesting any commonality between the two schools. Once again it occurs to me that while I am being read by quite a few members of the Wolfpack and Tar Heel nations, there don’t seem to be any message board loons among the bunch, just really good people. Yep, Tech fits into this conference.

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