Saturday, August 29, 2009

Julia teaches me a thing or two. Or four.

1. a properly poached egg is an elegant and astoundingly delicious breakfast.

2. bruschetta is addicting.

3. No apologies for mistakes in the kitchen. One must have the courage of one's convictions!

4. and never, never, never crowd the mushrooms.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

in which I ramble

I took a bottle of windex and a roll of paper towels out onto the front porch this morning. As sprayed a sheen of blue over the tables and chairs, the sawing and clanging of the construction crew came up from below. As I scrubbed, a crisp autumnal breeze snapped through the air, reminding me that August is swiftly hastening to its end.

I delivered #1 Son to college on Sunday, his confident step jouncing up the dorm stairs and straight into a world of his very own making. He can and will make so very much happen. He sent me an email at quarter to two this morning. College is "cool" and he has met "a bizillion" new friends. He is already reading political philosophy that is foreign to me. Some one else cooked his dinner for him. Last night, he jammed in the dorm cellar with musicians who live on his floor. They made music, John Mayer, the Beatles, Bach.

#1 Daughter bakes for her friends. She babysits for sweet children. She cleans kitchens and reads novels and loves to drive the car any chance she gets. She goes thrifting and unearths designer clothes which she wears with aplomb. Together, we start school in a week or so: Algebra 2, some kind of artsy science (which I haven't yet discovered!), creative writing, art, and a literature circle of our own making. We will listen to the Bible on CD in the mornings, cupping our mugs of 8 O'clock coffee, columbian dark roast.

Hubby officially began our kitchen re-model last evening. Along with a friend, he took a mini jackhammer to the stone chimney in the back of th house. Chunks of broken stone and cement litter our side yard, signs of things to come. I felt their weight when they hit the soft earth.

So much is moving ahead and so very quickly, you must forgive me for not writing. When I feel the need to reflect, out comes the kayak and the blue paddle, and off I go on the river like a modern Huckleberry, past the marshy island where the blue herons hunker and through the stone arches of the railroad bridge, on to the other side where hardly anyone ever travels.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

outdoor refreshment

I hugged my knees and inched back a bit while a modest torrent of river water torpedoed around me. The spout and splay of swiftly moving riverwater sent up quite a din; a calming din which made speaking unnecessary. Friend # 7 was situated next to me, her office-whitened legs setting off my kayak-browned ones, and we each sighed a deep euphoric sigh of quiet happiness.

We were sitting in a waterfall. In, amongst, and deliciously surrounded by chutes of clear, churning, chilly, and cheerful blue-black swash-buckling liquid. The heat of the day was pushed back by a wave of watery-coolness. Back home, dinner was already prepared. No other task was left but to allow the brisk current to whisk our worries downstream.

Talk about water under the bridge.

We had taken advantage of a hot, hot, hot August late afternoon by driving to Chamberlain Corners, where there ain't much but four corners. But Chamberlain Corners boasts a stone bridge which spans a merry stretch of the Grasse River; a stretch which occasionally beckons me to frolic -and frolic we did.

We clambered down the bank by traversing the stepping-stone edge of the old bridge, waded through shallow riffs of a sparkling and humming brook, and picked our way through green puddles and shrub-shadowed inlets until we came to the white froth of busy waters. There we picked out a spot to plunk ourselves down in order to feel the plunging wet stuff smack our backsides and yank at our heels.

Not much time passed, or much time passed; I'm not really sure.

But later, when we situated our drippy selves back into my red PT, bath towel draped over the front seats, we felt as refreshed as if we had a week's vacation.

And that's all I have to say about it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

opera in the making

It is time to empty the photo-bucket, since I've been some places and done some things this week.

On Tuesday, I traveled due south into the heart of the Catskill Mountains. When I arrived, I consumed a delicious meal (in the company of two dear friends) with the most stunning backdrop of mountains and sky. I was sorry that I waited until the next morning to capture the view digitally, as it was overcast then.

But still very beautiful!

After our meal, I climbed the stairs of the composer's mountaintop studio and got right down to work. I played the score while my composer-friend waved his arms and sang everyone's parts. You might want to be glad we did not record this session. It was purely for "educational purposes".

In case you have never seen a composer's studio, here is an authentic one for you:

I can vouch that this one is neater than most.

We reached the coda around 10:30 pm, said good-night, and retired to our respective wings of this beautiful home:

The next morning, after an invigorating walk-

-I put in a few more hours at the keyboard. A few extremely tricky spots had to be ironed out in preparation for the afternoon rehearsal with the composer and singers. We rehearsed until dinnertime, because the next day was our recording session.

The next morning, we arrived at the hall ( a beautiful historic church), chatted with the recording engineer (an old friend), buckled our musical seat-belts, and got right to work.

The score was full of challenges, but extremely rewarding to perform. Concentration and attention to nuance and tiny details were of the utmost importance. The atmosphere was friendly, encouraging, fairly stress-free, and full of camaraderie. When a mistake was made, the recording engineer simply stopped and announced another take.

We kept at it until we reached the last bar. And then we all gave a shout of happy relief.

But by the end of our six hours together, my poor brain was entirely fried. During the last few takes when asked by one of the singers for her pitch, I stared helplessly down at the keyboard and was stupefied by the request. It was definitely time for coffee.

My faithful page-turner snapped this shot of Bob Manno (composer extraordinaire) with three Crane alumni: Myself (Class of '84), Rand Reeves, tenor (Class of '72) and Wayne Heilman, recording engineer (Class of '85). It was singularly wonderful to work with Rand once again, since he and his wife Barby were the first ones to inspire me to pursue music as a young teen.

Yes, yes. I was a "young teen" once.

This is not a poetic post, nor a very descriptive one. But so many of my friends were curious about what I do when I work on such a project that I thought I'd clue y'all in.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

two incidents

This news story caught my eye.

Not because the the police who were called to the scene didn't recognize Bob Dylan, famous icon of the sixties --but because of the lack of ensuing fracas. The nerve of those police not recognizing a white over-the-hill folk-rock musician who was walking in the pouring rain in the dark while looking into windows of an abandoned house!

Think back a few weeks ago to this headline news which sparked its share of dinner-table conversation at my house.

Without going off on a good-natured tirade (if there is such a thing), allow me to have a bit of fun. I present to you, dear readers, a completely imaginary dialogue that allegedly took place between Mr. "Times They Are A-Changin'" and an officer of the Long Branch police department:

Policeman: Excuse me, sir. We are responding to a report of a suspicious person peeping in windows. Would you kindly explain your presence here?

Mr. T.T.A.A.C.: Certainly, officer. You see, I am the famed Bob Dylan. I am in town on tour and merely was taking a leisurely stroll. This abandoned house is for sale and I was looking in the windows out of curiosity.

Policeman: Bob Dylan, hey? Heard of 'em. (carefully eyeing the rain-soaked, bedraggled, and hooded character) Could I see some I.D.?

Mr. T.T.A.A.C.: (fumbling around in empty pockets) to have left my wallet in the tour bus."

Policeman: "Well, let's just mosey on over there and check you out."

So they did. And he showed them some I.D. And then got out his guitar, tuned up, and presented them with his rendition of "Blowin' in the Wind". And then they laughed it all off and went out for a beer together to show there were no hard feelings.

The End.

May I point out a few missing elements that makes the Bob Dylan incident stand out from the Harvard professor incident?

-no yelling.
-no accusations of race profiling or even outdated-hippy-rockstar profiling.
-no handcuffs.
-no demands of apologies from either side.
-no presidential involvement
-no post-incident White House meeting.

Hardly worth reporting, you see. According to my imagined script, there was beer in common. But I only threw that in as a control factor, which demonstrates that beer alone cannot solve anything. Aren't I funny?

I will now climb down from my little soapbox and get back to my regular programming.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

parties then & now

We hosted a dinner with some special friends last evening. (Why wait until the kitchen and back wing is overhauled in order to have company?)

Andrew Eastmond , his cheerful and delightful wife Kathy, and their talented and sweet son came over for dinner, along with the Julia Marie Band, in order to have a jam session in the living room after dessert. Of course, a musical session of such distinction drew a few "extras" in just to listen.

A young man from Nashville Tennessee stopped by (surprise!) and of course, we cajoled him into strumming a few of his original and unduplicatable songs. He also regaled us with a few tales of what he has been up to.

As for me, I happily and unobtrusively hunkered under the piano and soaked in the vibes.

My new/old house is beginning to feel lived in by this family (my favorite family, that is). Music bounces from wall to wall. Warm smiles greet the dear faces who walk through the doors. Food is offered. ("We'll heat that up for you"...) New friends meet old friends. Friends bring other friends into the circle which widens are we move a few pieces of furniture, unfold another wooden chair, and make room on the floor.

The joy of opening a home for food, music, sharing, prayer, a couple tears, and what-have-you kept me thinking all day long.

Trolling through a local history website, I happened upon a mini-goldmine: a dozen years of old Madrid newspapers, online. I punch my words in the search engine, and voila! I discover things about our old stone home that make my insides all warm and quivery.

For example, we weren't the first ones to party in this old house.

Miss Edith Hall lived here for many years. She attended the teacher's college in Potsdam, taught school in Washington D.C. and Asheville NC and was quite the socialite. The social column is shot through with her name, her doings, her volunteer activy, and sometimes even her parties.

I wonder if I dare replicate an old-fashioned gathering such as the one outlined for me here:

June 1914

"On Tuesday evening about 100 people gathered at the home of Miss Edith Hall, where a delightful and interesting Washington and Lincoln entertainment was given by the Madrid W.C.T.U.. Ice cream and cake decorated with cherries were served at the close of an interesting program.

The program was as follows:
Guessing the Names of the Presidents; piano solo, sketch of Washington's Life, song, recitation, solo, sketch of Lincoln's Life, song, piano solo, "Why We Wear the Whire Ribbon", and "America" sung by all.

Many of the ladies were gowned in colonial costumes, Miss Hall representing Martha Washington. The home was tastefully decorated in the national colors, flags bunting and crepe paper used. Hung about the walls were the pictures of all the presidents, Washington and Lincoln being very conspicuous in handsome frames, draped with red, white, and blue.

This is by no means the first time the W.C.T.U. have entertained the public, showing their untiring effort to interest the people in this great and worthy cause."