Under the Longwood Gardens Open-Air Theater: SECRET UNDERGROUND DISCO CARWASH

On the incredibly balmy Sunday last weekend, Kate, Barb, Lydia and I drove down to Longwood Gardens. Lydia wanted to visit the topiary garden (which is where I really, really want to show Edward Scissorhands at the Guerilla Drive-In.) I took a picture using the Pano panorama-maker app for the iPhone. There’s a bigger version on Flickr:

Topiary Gardens at Longwood

On the way in, they told us that there would be a tour UNDERNEATH THE OPEN-AIR THEATER. If you’ve been to Longwood, that’s the theater where they put on Gilbert and Sullivan productions in the summers, and then during intermission and after the show, they clear the set and have a big illuminated fountain display. Here’s a picture from Longwood’s site:

Like many folks living in the area, I’ve been to Longwood many times since I was a kid; I remember seeing the Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado there, and I knew that the DuPonts had brought every A-list act down to perform at the theater: John Philip Sousa and Martha Graham are two that I remember. I wonder how Martha Graham’s company dealt with the slippery tiles that covered the stage at that time; since the stage is also a fountain display, I’d imagine that it’s like dancing on the bottom of a great big bathtub.

Open-Air Theater (up above)That’s a picture of the stage/fountain floor at left, which can be covered up with pie-shaped metal wedges when the play is going on. There are lots and lots and lots of brass nozzles, and lots of little glass windows with spotlights set behind them. Looking into the little windows, you imagine a two-foot light well back there; something with a hidden hinge that opens to reveal a little metal box.

And I had expected that, under the fountains, under the stage where Sousa Sous-ed and Graham dance, that there would be some pump rooms to power the fountains. And some drains, maybe. Maybe if the DuPonts were really going all out, they’d make the crawlways, like, five feet tall, so you could almost stand up in there.

Boy, was I completely wrong. You know what’s actually under there? PALATIAL UNDERGROUND DRESSING ROOMS. Palatial dressing rooms with SKYLIGHTS. Which, during intermissions, must have looked like SECRET UNDERGROUND DISCO CARWASHES, with the fountain water sluicing down over the windows, and the colored spotlights beaming away up through them. Here’s the men’s dressing room, directly under picture at the left:

Men's dressing room UNDER(!) the Longwood Open-Air Theater

The doors in the wings lead to staircases with what appear to be real mahogany bannisters, letting down on an underground theater rabbit-warren. A swanky one; the kind that you imagine Congress repairing to in the fifties, with real wood paneled doors and flags on gilt flagpoles all around.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the DuPonts. How many times in your life have you seen an interesting little cubbyhole door, and imagined what might be behind it, only to find that it’s just where the vacuum cleaner is kept? I feel like I opened the door under the sink, and instead of finding a rusty garbage disposal, found a combination Busby Berkeley musical and Motorcycle Sphere of Death going on under there. All with genuine mahogany trim. Hurrah!

If you’re interested, you can check Longwood’s site to find when the next tour is. There’s also a conservatory tunnels tour coming up. Though I’ve heard that sort of thing can be unsettling.

Under the Longwood Gardens Open-Air Theater: SECRET UNDERGROUND DISCO CARWASH

The Brandywine Valley Association’s Polar Plunge

Brandywine Valley Association is an awesome local organization dedicated to preserving the sixty-mile Brandywine Creek. They have three hundred acres locally, which is full of hiking trails, awesome paths, and interesting things in the woods. The Guerilla Drive-In showed both Local Hero and Lair of the White Worm there.

Last Saturday, the BVA held their second “Polar Plunge”, which is a brisk, refreshing dip in the Brandywine, in February. Tikaro Interactive was a corporate sponsor, and I brought out the sidecar-mounted tattoo rig. We measured the water temperature at 33 degrees, so I put together a triathelete-style stencil reading “BVA 33”. Here’s the rig ready to go before the swimmers arrived:

Ready for Business

The schedule of events makes perfect sense: registration, then awards for best costumes and most money raised, and THEN the swim as the very last thing on the schedule. 11:30:00 — go swimming. 11:30:01: OH GAWD GO HOME GO HOME!!! Here’s the awards ceremony, clustered around the bonfire. I think I heard that there were about 500 folks present.

Awards Ceremony

Saint Olaf I must have given maybe 250 tattoos, which made me very glad that I used a non-adhesive stencil. Just hold the stencil on, spray on a lot of ink, and done. The rule with the tattoos was that wherever you get it, you have to go in at LEAST that far. I did one bottom-of-the-foot tattoo, a couple of dozen leg tattoos, what seemed like a hundred tummy tattoos, a bunch of chest, shoulderblade, and bicep tattoos, five neck tattoos, and THREE forehead tattoos.

The neck tattoos were my favorite, as they were the most “dystopian futuristic convict asteroid miner.”

However, the best tattoo of all, as far as I’m concerned, was this fellow, who got it on the very tippity-top of his head. As my uncle Laird said, “Let’s give this fellow a big hand!”

Let's give this fellow a big hand!

You can learn more about the Brandywine Valley Assocation on their website at www.brandywinewatershed.org. If you’re in the area, I really recommend you check them out. It’s a great organization, doing important work (for instance, lots of city kids get bussed in to learn how to do leaf and insect censuses — remember that thing where you go over a patch of forest floor inch-by-inch?)

Oh, and the swim was a lot of fun. I did go in, waded across the Brandywine, touched the other side, and dunked myself all the way on the way back. It was surprisingly not all that bad — forcing yourself to get into a cold-water shower would be much harder. And then I felt comedically, almost megalomaniacally AWESOME the rest of the morning. Hmm, maybe there’s something to the whole “plunge yourself in an icy river” hermit regimen!”

The Brandywine Valley Association’s Polar Plunge