Saturday, May 14, 2011

Serendipity - An Essay In Pictures

I love living in the Pacific Northwest.  It is truly a breathtakingly beautiful place.  We are blessed with evergreens that help us survive long winters.  We see mountains any direction we look on a clear day.  Up North is the splendid Mt. Baker, South is the magnificent Mt. Rainier. To the East we have the Cascade Mountains and in the West, the Olympics serve as a perfect backdrop to beautiful Downtown Seattle.  To add to this, there are sprawling lakes.  And finally, a pearl in the oyster that is Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island.  

 With Lake Washington along the banks of the park, no admission fee and free parking, discovering Luther Burbank Park was a truly serendipitous experience.

 In the picture above, you can see the I-90 bridge across Lake Washington.

I am fortunate to have a job that I love, which involves interacting with people almost all the time.  I also enjoy hanging out with my friends.  But truth be told, I am inherently an introvert, and every once in a while I need the solitude of being alone in the company of my dog

This is the bench on which I usually sit at the park. 

I can enjoy the silence as I decompress from a busy week at work.  I can feel my soul soothed by the serenity of the turquoise blue water lapping quietly against the shore. 


Luther Burbank Park to JackJack means an offleash play area where he can interact with other dogs.  He can look his pretty little self just by standing on a rock and looking into the water.

  It is also a place where he can play fetch and swim.   Lake Washington offers him relief from the high temperatures on warm summer days.  Of course, we make sure to go to the park early in the day to enjoy the quiet and also to avoid parking problems.

    After a good solid couple of hours of swimming and running, JackJack feels tired but rejuvenated.

We sit together and enjoy a few more minutes in the park before we leave for home.  I take in the fresh air and gaze at the water, while JackJack sits in the shade of a large tree and chews gently on his toy rubber ball.

When it's finally time to leave, I take one last look back at the great view.  And every time, the words of this song come to mind:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
Bright blessed days, dark sacred nights
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world 
                                                ~Louis Armstrong

Until the next time.  

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Show Me The Funny

I love comedy.  I love reading funny stories, I love reading jokes, I love watching sitcoms on television.  My favorite type of comedy is stand-up, and there's nothing better than watching live stand-up comedy.  As an audience member of live stand-up, you almost feel connected to the comedian and it is definitely an amazing experience when you are with your friends.  You walk out of the venue laughing and reliving the last couple of hours for days to come.

My first live stand-up comedy experience was Russell Peters at the Paramount Theater in Seattle last June.  That was my birthday present to myself.  At about $75, the tickets were not exactly cheap.  Factoring in overheads like the convenience fee, taxes and charges to park, it cost close to $100 after all was said and done.  It was worth it though, as a one-time treat to myself.  Although born in Canada, Russell Peters is of Indian origin like myself, so I can relate to a lot of Peters' routine.  Getting to attend the show with other friends who could relate to the routine for  similar reasons made it all the more fun.  But I digress, because this post isn't intended to be about comedians but about venues.  Since the Russell Peters show last year, I have been to three other live stand-up comedy shows.  All of these have been at Laughs Comedy Spot in Kirkland, WA. 

Conveniently located just off I-405, you will remember where the Godfather's Pizza used to be in the Totem Square strip mall if you are familiar with the Kirkland area.  Laughs Comedy Spot is now in what used to be the once-famous pizzeria.  The club shares the strip mall with Chan's Place, Liquid Lime and a possibly questionable Massage Parlor.  But once you get inside the venue, you will forget that you're not in some fancy location like The Parlor Live in Bellevue. For one thing, parking is free.  The cover charge is either $15 or $20.   Additionally, there is a 2 order minimum from the menu, but that won't set you back too much.  More details on the menu later in this post.  All in all, you can get away with spending no more than $30 per person.  What you get for that price is live comedy in an intimate setting.  The club is just the right size to comfortably seat 200 people.  Each of the tables has an unblocked view of the stage.  The waitstaff are polite and helpful through the show.  The decor makes you feel cozy and the little lamps at each table provide a touch of romantic intimacy.  The sound system, while fairly loud, does not feel like an assault on your ears.

One doesn't have very many choices when it comes to food on the menu at Laughs Comedy Spot.  There is enough to choose from if you decide on a meal.  Don't expect anything exotic or fancy, though.  Your choices are three kinds of salads, two kinds of pasta or four kinds of sandwiches.  The salads run between $5 and $8 and pasta at $8.  Neither contain any protein.  You have to pay extra if you want chicken ($3) or shrimp ($4).  The sandwiches are priced between $9 and $10.  No problem though, because if you decide to have dinner elsewhere and just come to Laughs for the show, you have quite a few other choices for your two order minimum.  The menu offers appetizers running between $3 and $10, desserts between $5 and $7 and beverages around $2 to $3.  The Club also has a full bar with some really interesting cocktails with names that are in keeping with the whole comedy theme. 

Humor is affordable at Laughs Comedy Spot. Tuesday is Open Mic night, where up-and-coming acts get to try out their routine and hone their skills.  Open Mic night is free to the audience, with selections from what is called the Starving Artists Menu.  This special menu includes $2 draft beers and $2 hot dogs.  The club is closed Mondays.  As mentioned before, the tickets cost either $15 or $20 depending on the headlining comedian, with taxes and convenience fee extra.  Every time I have been there, the headliner is preceded by an emcee, and at least one local act.  If you opt for the 8 pm show for ages 18 and over, seating begins up to an hour prior.  You want to make sure you get there in time because once the show begins you will not be seated.  If you decide on the 10 pm show for ages 21 and over, be prepared to wait in line outside the club while the audience from the previous show exits and the staff get ready.  Also, the 10 pm requires your ID to be checked.  The best thing you can do to speed things up is book your tickets online and in advance.  Have a copy of your order available, either printed out or on your cell phone.  

I was particularly impressed by the fact that obnoxious behavior like heckling or being generally disruptive is not tolerated.  One of the shows I went to had a couple who had no problem with public displays of affection, having their cellphone ring and laughing loudly at everything.  It is possible that they may have been more than slightly inebriated, but the bouncer showed them the door about ten minutes into the show.  Everyone who comes to Laughs Comedy Spot is there to have a good time.  Just because they don't have to pay as much as some other venues does not mean they don't have a right to expect an enjoyable atmosphere.  I visit their website calendar regularly to see who the headliners are.  Even though I hate being on an e-mail list, I am actually considering signing up for theirs so I can stay updated.

So if you enjoy stand-up and you are looking for a good evening out without having to break the bank, consider Laughs Comedy Spot.  The experience just might surprise you.

Laughs Comedy Spot
12099 124th Ave NE
Kirkland, WA 98034

(425) 823 6306