April 2nd was not a normal Wednesday. It was our 6th wedding anniversary.
The day began with a drive to Springfield, Missouri. Over hill and dale, past livestock auctions, a My Little Pony farm, and the constipation capital of the world, Osceola Cheese Company. We did not stop at any of those attractive places (although how freaking cute are miniature horses?). Instead, we continued on until curiosity got the better of us.
Our first stop was Fantastic Caverns. Yes, it was fantastic. Seriously. Two old dudes, Mr. Awesome and I were the only ones on our tour. Waldorf and Statler sat in the Jeep, while Mr. Awesome and I got the whole wagon part of the Jeep to ourselves. Yay, freedom. The tour takes about an hour, 10 minutes of which is spent watching a cheesy but semi-informative movie about the history of Fantastic Caverns. I'm sure the school kids who end up here as part of a field trip are enthralled by tales of Buck Owens and his magical Hee-Haw guitar playing shows in the cavern before it became less of a roadhouse and more of a theme park ride.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was when they turned all the lights off and it got darker than I've ever experienced before. Remember the scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure, when he drives the car over the cliff and is left alone in the wilderness? It's all dark, and all you see is his cartoon eyes, then he turns on a flashlight for a second and sees all sorts of animals and stuff? Yeah, I kind of thought something like that would happen. It didn't.
The cave itself is considered a living cave, it's formations still growing in 100% humidity. Here's a couple of pictures - they aren't perfect, but hey, it's friggin' dark in there, okay?
I would totally visit this place again. I'm a sucker for ride-through-in-a-Jeep caves.
After the fantastic tour, we made our way to the Oasis Hotel and Convention Center. Someone online said the place reminded them a little of the hotel in Vacation - you know, the one where Clark Griswald gets all freaky with Christie Brinkley back when she was an Uptown Girl and not a quad-divorced whatever-you-call-people-who-have-been-divorced-four-times person. I didn't get any pictures.
The hallways smelled like citrus carpet fresh. That's about all I have to say about the Oasis.
About this time, we were getting powerful hungry. A quick perusal of some Springfield magazine left in our room let us to Nakato Japanese Restaurant. Two words: sushi boats. You all know how I loves me some sushi train, so I was crazy excited about sushi boats. While the place didn't quite live up to my expectations (there were only about five boring items to choose from, and not all the boats had stuff on them), the sushi we ordered off the menu was really good. Also, I love watching sushi go around in a circle, even if it is a California roll.
And here's what we ordered:
After dinner, we headed to Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the real reason we visited Springfield. As if Fantastic Caverns, retro hotels and sushi boats weren't enough, it was time to see Ben Folds, live and in person.
No photography allowed, so here's a picture of his tour bus:
The show was sold out. We were about 20 rows back in the center, and could see the stage really well. Mr. Awesome and I spent a few minutes wondering if everyone else could tell we were about ten years older than they were. I don't like to think about that, so I changed the subject to something else entirely. Probably sushi boats. Ben's opening act was a guy named Eef Barzelay. He's kind of a mix between David Byrne and Elvis Costello, with a little Devo thrown in to make it really interesting, and a lot of Bright Eyes to keep it lyrical. I have to admit - he made a single electric guitar sound like an entire band, and I really, really liked him. So much so, that we bought his CD after the show. He was that good. There's a Ben song that says "there's always someone cooler than you." Damn straight, there is: that guy is Eef Barzelay.
After Eef (which rhymes with beef and that makes me giggle), Ben and his guitarist and drummer took the stage. At this point, the entire audience stood up and remained standing, mostly fairly still, for the duration of the concert. My feet hurt after a while. Ben opened with a couple of songs from his yet-unreleased CD, and, while the songs were good, I kind of have to hear a song a couple of times for me to really have a feel for it, you know? The rest of the audience felt the same way, because they really roared when he broke into some of his more familiar stuff. Here are the ones I remember off the top of my head:
- Fred Jones, Part II
- Annie Waits
- Still Fighting It
- Rockin' the Suburbs
- Zak and Sara
- My Philosophy
- Not the Same
I'm hoping, if all goes as planned, to be at his KC show this Saturday. We shall see...
So, to summarize, the theme of our 6th anniversary was "fantastic." Fantastic caverns, fantastic sushi boats, fantastic electric guitar, fantastic Ben Folds. It was pretty close to perfect.