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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The 2016 Smoky Mountains wildfires 18 months later

Burned trees from the Great Smoky Mountains 2016 wildfires on Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie

At the packed Great Smoky Mountains Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg last Saturday, a National Park Service Ranger told us the 2016 fires had swept about 10 percent of the park with winds gusting at 87 mph and hopscotching from one mountain top to another.  On our weekend trip everywhere we saw natural and human destruction.
 
A view on Ski View Drive from the now obliterated Gardens cottages looking down on the burned out Highlands Motel, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie

On Ski View Drive, blackened trees stood near remains of homes and a motel, burned to their cores.

The ranger said it would take 80 years for the area to return to its natural state, but already, healthy greens cover many pieces of ground, in contrast to burned out trees and blackened bark. 
The former Highlands Motel on  Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The former Highlands Motel on  Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The former Highlands Motel on  Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee which would make a great movie site or Halloween adventure in its present condition/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The former Highlands Motel on  Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie


Parts of Ski View Drive were reminiscent of cemeteries, quiet and sad, with no signs of life, save the sprouting greens on the ground quickly coming back.

 
Remains of the Gardens cottages on  Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Remains of the Gardens cottages on  Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 
A view from the Gardens cottages on  Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Burned trees from the Great Smoky Mountains 2016 wildfires on Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Remains of the Gardens cottages on  Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  This one used to be for rent at Mountain Rentals and Chalet, according to the sign/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Remains of the Gardens cottages on  Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Fourteen people and one bear died in the tragedy started by arson by juveniles. The ranger said jurisdiction over their crime is still in a squabble between local authorities and the federal government. About 2,400 properties were damaged or ruined and 150 persons, injured.
From the Gardens cottages on Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Gardens cottages on Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Gardens cottages on  Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said only one bear was known to have been killed in the 2016 wildfires, and we saw this yearling with its mama upending trash cans at a cabin at dusk on Ski View Drive in Gatlinburg. The cabin occupants blew a whistle to frighten them away.  Poor bears!  Searching for food, bold enough to approach human activity during daylight hours/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Scarred hillsides with reconstructed homes coming up as life returns to overtake desolation, a view from Ski View Drive, April, 2018, Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Where there is life, there is hope for recovery and fun, like hiking  the Alum Cave Trail to Mt LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains. and climbing through Arch Rock. Hikers were aplenty but not too many to reduce the pleasures of being outdoors on a spring day!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 A bridge over Alum Cave Creek on the Alum Cave Trail/Photo by Patricia Leslie
I believe this is Inspiration Point on the Alum Cave Trail about a half hour beyond Arch Rock on the way to Mount LeConte.  In the distance are burned out mountain tops/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Tourists have returned, thank goodness, but the stark pictures remind us of what man and weather can do to our valuable natural resources.  

Another reminder on the eve of Earth Day to take care of our planet, and Mama, don't let your young ones grow up to be arsonists. 

As Smokey the Bear used to say more often than we hear now:  

Only you can prevent forest fires.

 patricialesli@gmail.com

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Russians came to town


While the officer sleeps during the opera, a back seat irritant a la Buster Keaton keeps tabs in  Lady With a Lapdog With Jokes and a Happy Ending by Russian Arts Theater & Studio at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Photo by Patricia Leslie

I loved, loved, loved it!  

"It" would be the Russians who came to D.C. and threw a hilarious party of ten Anton Chekhov short stories at the  Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

At the door, proof of Chekhov scholarship was not required.
Lady With a Lapdog With Jokes and a Happy Ending by Russian Arts Theater & Studio at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Non-stop laughter filled the SRO auditorium for 90 minutes with a promised "happy ending" as in the title, Lady With a Lapdog With Jokes and a Happy Ending.  

It was.

Washington, D.C. needed it.
The reflections in the picture are "ocean waves" in Lady With a Lapdog With Jokes and a Happy Ending presented by the Russian Arts Theater & Studio at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Lady With a Lapdog With Jokes and a Happy Ending by Russian Arts Theater & Studio at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Photo by Patricia Leslie

From scene to non-sequitur scene the transitions flowed as smoothly as clouds changing colors on a March day while Chekhov played on. 

Excellent music, sound effects, lighting, and costumes all contributed to the dynamism of the production beginning with a beach scene where an actor in swim gear sang on the shore, soon occupied by other beachgoers, some to doff their clothes and "dive in."

Splashy lighting magnified the reflections of ocean ripples amidst the always welcome sound of waves that echoed throughout the chamber.

And there was music.
The wife and the mistress fight over the goods in Lady With a Lapdog With Jokes and a Happy Ending by Russian Arts Theater & Studio at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Although the actors promised a "happy ending," alas, there was none until they made it so:


"You have a splinter in your finger? Be happy it's not in two fingers!"


“You don't live in downtown DC?  Be happy you live nearby!”

All this and more (Buster Keaton slapstick, action, opera, lots of sex) by a cast which wove in and out of changing sets and roles in gaily colored costumes wearing huge smiles.
It's not what you think (and certainly not at the Kennan Institute!) but merely a dentist extracting a tooth in Lady With a Lapdog With Jokes and a Happy Ending by Russian Arts Theater & Studio at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Lady With a Lapdog With Jokes and a Happy Ending by Russian Arts Theater & Studio at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Photo by Patricia Leslie
It was all a very happy ending at Lady With a Lapdog With Jokes and a Happy Ending by Russian Arts Theater & Studio at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Photo by Patricia Leslie

They do have a good time which rubs off on the audience and doesn't that make for a fine performance? Enjoy!
 
The Russian Arts Theater & A Studio are based in New York City where members direct acting classes and present old and new works at the new soon-to-be home at the former McAlpin Hall, West 86th and Amsterdam.

Their mission: “To preserve, promote and advance Russian arts and heritage in New York City” and “train a new generation of imaginative, innovative, and sincere artists capable of servicing the mission for generations to come.” TRATS was founded in 2004 and its studio is modeled after the Moscow Academy of Theater Arts. 

Aleksey Burago adapted Chekhov's stories and directed Michael Dona, Roman Freud, Conor Andrew Hall, Ariel Polanco, Flavio Romeo, Luisa Menzen, Tom Schubert, Lana Stimmler and Di Zhu, managing director

These are Russians? Sad, colorless Russians? Nyet!

My next stop in NYC:  86th West and Amsterdam! 

patricialesli@gmail.com