Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rootin' tootin' Jackson Hole Playhouse has fun while preserving colorful theatrical history

Jackson Hole Playhouse, at age 99, is a year younger than the town.  Here, in the rain, it's a nostalgic, pretty sight.
An energetic cast performs several places in  the vintage theater -- here the lobby.

THEY MAY call the wind Mariah.
But they call Jackson Hole Playhouse pure, unadulterated, old-fashioned, down-home western style fun.
A lovely meal comes accompanied by spirited pre-show specialty numbers, then diners move from a warm and intimate restaurant area toward a historic theater for a top-notch performance.
"Paint Your Wagon" is drawing enthusiastic audiences at Jackson's play house. 
If you're looking for an original diversion between side trips through beautiful Grand Teton Park, head for Jackson and the Playhouse. It's just a short hop from Teton Village, if that's where you're staying, as we were.
Keller adds his salute to the old West, at a lookout near the town.
ONCE IN the town of Jackson, which turned 100 this year, you're find the theater only a block off main street. Look for the elk antler arches which surround the town square. Happily, for a small-town venue, the acting quality is highly professional.  The ensemble is from throughout the U.S., all with impressive performance records and experience in venues ranging from civic theater to cabaret and even off Broadway.
Singers mingle with theater lovers during the energetic cameos, and requests are even taken! The pre-show meal is delightful. Bring your own wine, though, for a small corkage fee.

Bruce Keller, above, gets a friendly
smooch from Christine at Jackson
Hole Playhouse where she's a star.
Jackson's town square is bordered on all four corners by elk antler arches.
Vicki Garnick has devoted her energy and talent to the endeavor for 30 years.  She wears multiple hats, as owner, proprietor, producer and director.  She's also undertaken a massive renovation and fund drive for the theater's 100th birthday in 2015.  (Tax deductible donations are welcome to PO Box 4772, Jackson, Wyo., 83001).
THE NON-PROFIT entertainment on the boards made for a spirited  outing. Shows continue into autumn with "Phantom of the Playhouse" for Halloween, "Elf" for the holidays and "Weekend Comedy" for Valentine's Day and into March. Call 307 733-6994 or go to www.jhplayhouse.com
Jackson has been celebrating its first 100 years with fanfare -- barbecues, cowboy poetry, dancing and sealing of a time capsule.
In the tiny town of Wilson,
near Jackson, you can drive
up for a bottle of wine.
AND DON'T overlook Teton Village, with its world famous Grand Teton Music Festival gearing up again for the summer of 2015.  The beautiful park near our base, The Inn at Jackson Hole, is a delightful place to stroll and the inn offers spacious rooms with gorgeous mountain and village views. The Village Cafe's satisfying breakfast is included in your room price. The village is much newer than Jackson, designed for the ski and tourist trades. but the music festival and top-rated skiing have brought international exposure. Do stroll through the lovely park, taking notice of the bear-proof trash cans and the colorful ski stickers on metal dumpsters. The ski tram runs during summer and autumn, too, offering spectacular valley views.
And in nearby towns, you can even find a drive-through wine bar!

An artfully landscaped park in central Teton Village connects hotels and eateries to the ski tram, which runs in summer too!
Wapiti Valley holds many delights and stellar landscape.
COMING SOON: Whoa Nellie, What about a night or two in the Wapiti Valley, near Cody?.This beautiful corner of the West is right outside of Cody, Wyo., enroute to Yellowstone Park. You'll see sublime roadside beauty, real cowboys herding cattle to winter pasture and fall foliage to make you weep with joy! Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Wednesdays and weekends at www.whereiscookie.com
Around the corner: a salute to autumn in our national parks, dog loving as a genetic trait, and more fun-loving road trips..

Friday, September 26, 2014

Livingston's Murray Hotel captures old west charm, adds contemporary luxury and fine food next door

The Murray's classic style includes nods to Montana and the west, with a contemporary flair.
Elegance, comfort and western suggestions abound, with artful accents.



IF A BUILDING can give and receive love, then Livingston, Montana's Murray Hotel is a veritable Valentine of mortar, imagination and memories.
The venerable historic hotel -- a favorite of my family when I was growing up in the 1950s -- has history, chutzpah and plenty of heart.
But by the 1970s, the building had begun to languish.  Built 110 years ago, it needed paint, plywood, carpets, modernized plumbing, and plenty more.
Dan and Kathleen Kaul to the rescue.
They transformed the four-story building with love and money, tastefully restoring it with a sense of humor and abundant style.
"Check your guns at the front desk," the vintage sign suggests.
The Murray Hotel is a Livingston icon, with a colorful
history and immaculate restoration of its rooms.
ONE WELL known movie director, the late Sam Peckinpah, obviously didn't heed the warning, because the suite he favored still has the bullet holes he shot through the ceiling after, we presume, an ample dose of firewater.
Personal touches are part of the landscape and lore of the Murray.
Since its grand opening in 1904, the Murray Hotel’s guest registry has read like a who’s who of history and Hollywood. Celebrities such as Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane have graced the threshold of what was once an elegant railroad hotel. The Murray was also home to Walter Hill, son of railroad tycoon, James J. Hill. More recently, colorful personalities like motion-picture director Peckinpah rented what had been the largest suite in the place, designed for a creature-comfort-loving heir to the Burlington railroad fortune.
ROYALTY have bedded down at the Murray, too. The Queen of Denmark once spent the night, but no one seems to know if she was amused or impressed.  Humorist Will Rogers and his buddy Walter Hill liked the place so well they decided to share its splendor with their favorite saddle horse, hauling him up to a third floor suite, via the hand-cranked, 1905 Otis elevator.
WE TRANSPORTED our Yorkies, Nick and Nora, in this delightful vestige of bygone days on a trip to the Murray last week.
It was their third or fourth visit to the dog-friendly Murray -- our 15th or so -- and we tried a suite we'd not visited before, one with a pleasant fishing and angling motif.
Fishing memorabilia --
part of the charm. Each
suite has a different motif.
We were on the second floor, and knew we'd hear the railroad whistle a couple times during the night -- the station is just across the street.  But I decided to forego the convenient earplugs, and enjoy the nostalgic sound of the freight trains.  No problem.  I liked it, having grown up with that comforting and musical sound..
Look closely and you'll see two Yorkshire
terriers cuddled in the tapestry and armchair.
We also wanted to watch Ken Burns' magnificent "Roosevelts" series on PBS.  No problem.  We had a fine TV, comfy chairs and a frig for chilling our wine.  Many of the suites have microwaves and frigs since some are designed as condos and privately owned.  When the owners aren't visiting, the public is welcome to enjoy.
Our fisherman's suite had all kinds of angler's memorabilia -- a poster on dozens of trouts, paddles artfully arranged on the wall, fishing signs, and beautiful pillows and tapestries of fish, bears and birds of the northern Rockies.
THE KAULS' sense of community pride is apparent at other places in Livingston.  The enterprising couple has purchased many buildings and rentals, owns a tasteful furniture store with beautiful western and log tables, chairs and more, and they have restored and refurbished rentals.
But the Murray is the most visible and ambitious of their endeavors.
THEIR CAPABLE, well trained staff will gladly guide you to one of Livingston's eateries, including the next-door Second Street Bistro, with its extensive wine list. gourmet appetizers and inventive main course offerings.  The Bistro was packed inside and at the streetside cafe tables.

And on the hotel's other end, the Murray Bar was packed, too, with live country and rock music, and a crowd of locals and tourists enjoying the fishing lore on the walls and reasonably priced cocktails and beer.

THE MURRAY is proud of its celebrity roster -- those famous folks who have shared space and rubbed elbows with cowpokes, railroaders, and other travelers and locals.
Livingston continues to attract a steady stream of writers, musicians, movie stars and history lovers.
A fellow writer stopped us in the parking lot to admire Nick and Nora.  He knew they were named after the famous husband-wife detective team of "The Thin Man." Myrna Loy, a native Montanan, and William Powell, played the dapper Nick and Nora Charles.
The California man, who was working on a piece on historic U.S. hotels for a guidebook, said, "Ah, it's good to know we have Mr. and Mrs. Charles in residence."

COMING UP: Rip roarin' fun awaits the theater lover at the Jackson Hole Playhouse, where "Paint 
  Your Wagon" is packing in appreciate houses. More about this historic, nearly century-old venue. And we're on to the Wapiti Valley, a last gasp for autumn in the Tetons and more.  We strive for a sense of fun and discovery in our pieces!  Remember
to explore, learn and live, and catch us Wednesdays and weekends at www.whereiscookie.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Queen Mary turns 80 this week, and we're all invited to her birthday in Long Beach

Commodore Everette Hoard welcomes the public aboard the Queen Mary this Friday for an 80th birthday party.


Guests still check in as they did decades ago, in a glamorous lobby.
Aboard the Queen Mary, a sea gull may be attending Friday's party! 


ONE OF the world's great ocean liners is having a big birthday.
And we're all invited.
Some anniversary celebrants will don period togs to salute Queen Mary's 80th!
As the Queen Mary turns 80 Friday, I remember a long ago voyage with now departed loved ones.
A view from the cabin enjoyed
during a recent visit by our writers. 
And I'm thinking of the thousands of celebrities, soldiers, immigrants and ocean lovers she carried across the seas.  Ah, the movie stars and diplomats who wined and dined in her hallowed halls and banquet rooms!
DURING Friday's party, Commodore Everette Hoard will read Royal Letters, including one from Queen Elizabeth II. Then he'll officiate at the ceremonial cutting of the Queen Mary's 80th Anniversary Cake, a quarter-ton replica of the venerable ship.

all around! TV celebrity baker, Jose Barajas created the spectacular cake which is 15 feet long.
Queen Mary christened
the Queen Mary in 1934.
We had the good fortune not long ago to spend several days on her, in Long Beach, California, where she's been a hotel since her 1967 retirement.
How I'd love to be there Friday. But I'll savor memories of stepping three times on her, including once long ago, when she still sailed the oceans blue.
THE QUEEN Mary was christened by Queen Mary, on Sept. 26, 1934 at the John Brown Shipyard in
Clydebank, Scotland.  With her was King George V, but it was the Queen who, by tradition, launched the magnificent ship.
Champagne flowed as it will on her 80th, marching bands saluted and plenty of hoopla carried on into the night, before a crowd of more than 200,000.  She soon became the transatlantic crossing vessel of choice for dignitaries, celebrities and thousands of immigrants. Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine loved the Queen Mary and often sailed on her.  The restaurant's signature upscale restaurant is a popular celebration venue for Long Beach residents and worldwide visitors. I've had the good fortune to play Sir Winston's beautiful piano and mingle with the locals who dress up in vintage costumes to remember and briefly capture a bygone era. Other celebs who regularly crossed on her: Bob Hope, Fred Astaire and the Windsors.  Audrey Hepburn had her honeymoon aboard the liner. 

The Queen Mary will light up for a day long public celebration Friday.
QUEEN MARY -- born during the Great Depression -- grew into the biggest, fastest and most popular ocean liner in the world. She is constructed with 10 million rivets and was innovative at the time, with a waterline length of 1,004 feet (longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall!)  During World War II, she was painted grey and served as the Allies’ largest and fastest troop carrier. Later, she resumed her place as a world-class ocean liner completing 1,100-plus transatlantic voyages before retiring to Long Beach in 1967.
AS THE beloved ocean liner turns 80 on Friday, the public is invited to join a ship-wide celebration. The Queen opens her gangways and ballrooms, decks and salons, attractions and eateries to a daylong celebration. Admission is free for the party, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., along with discounted parking.
Free admission and discounts on board will mark Friday's Queen Mary party.
ship tours and attractions. All are welcome, especially Long Beach residents and families. Commemorations will include the reading of letters by King George V at the ship's launch on Sept. 26, 1934, and a congratulatory message from the current top royal, Queen Elizabeth II. The anniversary will feature a surprise announcement, described by ship officials as "a forward-looking plan inspired by the ship's eight-decades of public life and influence on maritime commerce."  It's top secret -- could be a major renovation, or who knows?  But the Queen promises to be around for a good long while.  Long live my favorite Queen!
The Tetons in autumn  are a sight to behold -- we bring them to you soon!
COMING SOON: Livingston, Montana's Murray Hotel has hosted celebrities and rock singers,  movie stars, politicians and even a Scandinavian Queen.  What makes this 1904 hotel so appealing 110 years after it was built? And a look at Jackson, Wyo., and the Tetons, for a bonanza of autumn scenery, plus a dinner theater to tip your hat to, the Jackson Hole Playhouse! We strive for a sense of fun and play in these Wednesday and weekend posts. Explore, learn and live and tell your friends about www.whereiscookie.com

Friday, September 19, 2014

Montana autumn: Breathtaking Beartooths, stunning Tetons call

At top, the Tetons are in full fall glory and in the Beartooths
to the north, photographer Rick Cosgriffe takes aim on autumn.



The road to High Chaparral, north of Nye, awaits fall's golden touch.

IF, AS the great poet T. S. Elliot said, "April is the cruelest month" then September is the kindest.  Days are still long and leisurely, with cool mornings and evenings  accented by hours of dappled sunlight and moon beams.
The critters are on the move -- hummingbirds are taking their last gulps of nectar before heading south for hundreds and thousands of miles.
A hike to Sioux Charlie finds autumn cloaking the source of the Stillwater.
Woodpeckers and eagles, camouflaged by the density of summer foliage, are more visible on the telephone poles and branches.
A woodpecker finds a snack, to help him through winter.
HIKING OUR parks and national forests is a rare pleasure because the summer hoards have vanished.
Gardens produce zucchini the size of footballs. Corn, pears, plums and apples are sweetened by frost.
It's my favorite time in the northern Rockies, probably because I'm a hopeless romantic, and there's nothing like fall to bring out the romantic.
I'VE RETURNED to my favorite poets -- looking for poems celebrating the fall season, I've found classics by William Shakespeare, William Blake, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Emily Dickinson and John Clare. Their poems speak to the gorgeous contrasts in color celebrated by painters over the centuries:  brilliant purples, crimsons, oranges, scarlets, golds as the green fades.  Add one of those favorite painterly colors:  cadmium, a word I've always loved.
 With colors so bold and inspiring, why do we feel a bit sad, "afflicted with melancholia," as my grandmother Olive used to say?
Sunflowers and crab apples at High Chaparral -- the night before the first freeze.
Perhaps we're reminded of our own mortality, and brief spin on glorious planet Earth.
WHEN I TRY to outrun my demons, I turn to nature. It's difficult to be too depressed in this kind of beauty.  But because the days are growing shorter, I also turn to Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson and their eloquent "September Song," sung memorably by Weill's wife, Lotte Lenya.
 "Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September.
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame,
One hasn't got time for the waiting game."

DESPITE the backdrop of increasingly dreary gray, nature takes on a brilliance and energy.  Just like my Irish gran Olive before she passed away and we played two-handed Mozart and ragtime on the piano.
Cookie enjoys the last sunflowers, the night before frost.
The harvest moon last week was stellar -- showering its glitter on the aspen below our bedroom window, bathing the berm in a halo of silver light.  Mornings are gorgeous -- clouds disappear like fairy dust. The showers come and go, and  thunder sounds like the sputters of a campfire.
SO WITH temperatures dropping, one spends more time by the fire -- safe and warm inside -- a good time to read poetry, or play that bittersweet "September Song."
"Oh the days dwindle down to a precious few, September, November......
and these precious days I'll spend with you.....

And the wine dwindles down to a precious brew...these few vintage years I'll spend with you, these precious years I'll spend with you."

Queen Mary turns 80 years old later this month; everyone's invited!
COMING SOON:  We're on the road again, enjoying this changing season and its gorgeous landscape. Stay tuned for tips on fun digs, eats and theater in Jackson Hole and Teton Village, and a look at real live cowboys moving their cattle to winter pasture. Plus Wapiti Valley near Cody, and Livingston's historic Murray Hotel. Plus the beloved Queen Mary celebrates 80 years with a bang-up party in Long Beach. Remember to enjoy, learn and live, and check us out Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Guess who's coming to dinner? Here are the bear facts

This Montana visitor may be a grizzly -- we can't quite see a hump. Several neighbors spotted him  recently. The nearby
Nye Church  in Stillwater County, has had grizzlies in the yard and a grizzly is meandering the West Fork this week.


This bear is definitely a grizzly, as evidenced by the hump.
He was photographed near Lake Louise in Canada.


THE YORKIES survived the bear last night!
This bear in a neighbor's yard in rural
Montana walked up on the porch!
He came very close to the place, drawn by the scent of the apples.  He'd visited the night before but only to snack -- he'd feasted on the nearby plum tree so the apples were dessert.  But bears remember and we knew he'd return.  So we'd stripped the tree in the moonlight before retiring.
We left Mr. Bear three dozen apples as a token of friendship and apology for turning his feast into an appetizer plate. We wouldn't mind sharing the apples, but in climbing the tree to reach the fruit, bears do tremendous damage to the boughs.  We've had to whack away at damaged fruit trees until they resemble the Monty Python "mere flesh wound" sketch.

The regal mountain lion -- we've spotted him and his
cousins in the Sonoran desert of Arizona and
several times at High Chaparral in Montana.

IT'S THRILLING  to be privileged to watch gorgeous creatures this close to our home and "civilized" life.
A writer friend cautions me regularly on the necessity of bear spray, but I've never purchased it and think my hands would be too
This black bear, colored brown lacks the distinctive
grizzly hump.  He wandered up the lawn past the house.
 shaky to press the nozzle. We do wear bear bells, though, on hikes.
NICK, THE male Yorkie, wants to take the bears on.  He once chased -- and ran up the back of -- a grizzly who was drinking at the spring above the house. The bear tossed him off his back, growled and left Nick in the chokecherries.  Fortunately he suffered only scratches, from the bushes! (Kind bear.)
Whenever Nick sees a bear, he runs to the door and commences growling as if to connect in some primordial fashion.

Both mule deer and white tails are frequent visitors and diners at High Chap.
Nora has no interest.  She takes to her fluffy red down bed, yawns, stretches, notices the Greenie her brother was too excited to touch, and looks at him disdainfully as she eats his treat. He obsesses. She capitalizes.
BEING FEMALE, Nora has a sound sense of self preservation! (Avoid grizzly bears, sleep often, eat when food is available.) Recent sightings, ignored by Nora:
Large bear at the kitchen window while I was cooking.
Bears (mom and 2 cubs) while workers were here.
Bear on the road by the house.  Bear in our garden. Bear on the roof! (We heard and saw him.)
 WE SEE MANY deer here at High Chap, and we've five times spotted mountain lions.
Friend Brad  Smith snapped
this photo of a bear on our
garage roof, as he headed
for a bag of pricey dog food! 
 One circled the house a few winters ago, and bounced against a window, terrifying our sleeping cat, Nellie, who was safe inside on an Oriental carpet beneath the window.  Another time, we pulled into the driveway at High Chaparral.  The moonlight spotlighted a large mountain lion. We dimmed the car lights and watched him for 15 minutes as he ate the remains of a rabbit. We found cat skat on the roof last week!

Autumn splendor comes to Yellowstone National Park -- next up: fall colors.

DON'T WORRY, friends. We're
safe and very, "beary" careful. With plenty of respect and awe!

COMING SOON: We salute at bittersweet autumn in the Beartooths, then we and have a few pointers for getting up close and personal with wildlife -- attracting them and learning what to look for. We try to find fun and offbeat pleasures in our travels and photos. Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com

Friday, September 12, 2014

Red Lodge retreat: glorious haven and the Pollard's the place


The venerable Pollard, with the year's first snow, welcomes visitors from around the world.
 Below, a sampling of its atmosphere, where diners sip cocktails, and await the feast.


RED LODGE – Since the Pollard Hotel began a serious spiffing up more than a decade ago,  its inviting atmosphere continues to lure vacationers, locals and regulars for fine food and a stay.
The delightful restaurant has continued to improve and innovate, often acting as the drawing card for an overnight  stay.
The stately  Pollard Hotel was the first brick building  constructed in the mining town of Red Lodge, Montana, Its doors opened with fanfare in 1893.  Through the years, the menu has evolved from soups, sandwiches and steaks to an upscale medley of bistro offerings. The hotel has undergone major restoration and welcomes with the same old fashioned hospitality that charmed guests more than a century ago.

Nick and Nora enjoy the ambiance of the Pollard.
Some dog friendly rooms are available, booked in advance.
      VINTAGE ONE Bistro in the historic venue presents a thoughtfully selected menu of appetizers, soups, salads and entrees – artfully arranged on the plate.   We've enjoyed tasty tasty bison tenderloin, mouth-watering prime rib stroganoff and a satisfying meatloaf made of elk. The nod to wild game is a thoughtful addition. 
 A pleasing  maple salmon entrĂ©e features roasted veggies and bacon and corn fritters. Both gluten free and all-vegetarian entrees -- maybe pesto with pine nuts -- are offered. Desserts are delectable, and change daily.
          BREAKFAST  is a treat --  savory salmon and brie eggs benedict, a filling breakfast burrioto with chorizo and homemade salsa, and the steak and eggs perfectly cooked.
   The much loved gathering place has a guest roster to behold: politicians, actors and other personalities including William Jennings Bryan, famed silver-tongued orator; General Miles, the Indian fighter; copper kings William and Marcus Daly, scout Liver Eatin' Johnston and the raucous Calamity Jane.
Management has changed several times, but the promise to deliver “continuous improvement” remains constant.
Like the Bistro, with its big-city appeal, the Pollard aims for its rooms to attract diners with the same flair and excellence. The boutique hotel ambiance includes comfy beds, beautiful lighting, a book trade shelf and other nice touches. 
The taco special is delightful, and all Pollard's plates are served with flair.
           THE POLLARD is relaxing and decorated with attractive paintings, plants and comfortable chairs to encourage lingering at either end of the day. There’s plenty to catch the eye. The hotel also proudly shows off Charles Ringer mobiles and sculpture, paintings drawn from the nearby natural world and historic photos. Fine woodwork and first-class appointments encourage conversation with a cup of coffee or cocktail in the “History Room” study or around the fireplace in the rear gallery.  Some of the rooms look out from balconies on the rear gallery and these rooms are our favorites.
Hiking near Red Lodge, fall is in the air, and the first reds, golds and purples are awaiting.
Next up, the song that says autumn, and other artful nods to the season.
       IF AFTER a long day of exploring Red Lodge and the nearby forest, you don't want a fancy dinner, you needn't leave the hotel.  The Pollard’s Pub offers top regional jazz acts and a fun bar-fare menu with satisfying gems such as hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and deep fried!  It goes well with regional beers or a glass of wine.
Friend Brad Smith was up at dawn to watch
this black bear climb into the open garage
and eat his fill of Natural Balance dog food!
  The Pollard remains true to its vision of excellence and service, dating back  more than a century ago when it hosted faithful locals along with Indian scouts and copper kings, touring actors and politicians.  The bistro is a delightful get-away setting for a special dinner or breakfast.  And the Pub is the ticket for a spontaneous night on the town.
COMING UP: The bear facts.  Guess who's coming to dinner at High Chaparral? We'll share some recent bear and deer photos with our ode to the wild. Then autumn leaves, so poignantly described in "September Song," prompt Cookie's ode to the beauty of the changing colors and the "temporary melancholia," as her grandmother called it. Fall -- that beautiful season.  We aim for a fresh look at nature, travel and adventure, posting Wednesdays and weekends at www. whereiscookie. com