Saturday, November 29, 2008

It doesn't take much

Here are ten things that have made me very happy recently:
1. The weather has warmed up to a somewhat normal temperature.
2. Doug has put most of the floorboards down on the back porch and has finished nailing most of what he has put down.
3. Yesterday we finished putting up all of the Tyvek inside the back porch and we put up most of the rest of the siding inside the porch. It will look even nicer when it is finished
4. Today I put up most of the rest of the siding on the outside of the back porch. I'm just waiting for Doug to cut the final piece. It will look even nicer when it is finished.
5. Today we took down most of the scaffolding on the south side and some of it on the north side. It will look even nicer once it is all down.
6. Today Doug finished putting up the soffit trim on the north side so the north side is almost finished. It will look even nicer when it is finished.
7. Today we loaded up the truck with a huge amount of construction trash and I drove it to the dump and they didn't make me go in the truck part which is great because I forgot my dust mask.
8. We might actually finish most of the outside of the FoamCoreFantasy before we start working on the inside. Maybe. But I'm not holding my breath.
9. Most of the things we've done recently are much closer to being actually finished than usual.
10. I was able to accurately use the word "most" more often than the word "some" for a change, in describing our recent accomplishments on the house. I'm happier than usual about our progress because "most" is much closer to "all" than "some" is.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tennessee Tour

We left late Wednesday night last week for a little mini-tour which involved a lot of driving but was also a lot of fun. We had some gigs with a Benny Goodman/Peggy Lee tribute show that started in Cleveland, TN on Thursday and ended in Bluefield, WV last night. The headliners were from Boston, and most of the rest of the band was from the Knoxville area except for a drummer from North Carolina.

I had most of the day off on Friday so I did some exploring in the Knoxville area, but it was so cold that I spent the entire morning goofing off in a coffee shop in downtown Knoxville before heading out in my car to check out the rest of the downtown area and some sections south of town. I attempted to go for a walk by a lake. It was a pretty lake but too cold for me so I finished the day back at the coffee shop.

One thing I noticed while hanging out there was that a lot of the customers had nose piercings, which is fine, but they weren't the usual single stud or loop on the side of the nose - instead a lot of them had a piercing through the middle that looped down and ended in two balls, with one coming out of each nostril. Maybe it was the weather, but I started thinking that it looked like they all had silver snot hanging out of their noses. Now that's a whole lot more attractive than real snot so I'm actually kind of glad it was silver. But ewww, what if you had a piercing like that and suddenly had to blow your nose?

When I went to pick up Doug I got to see the amazing restoration and remodeling work that Vance and Emily are doing on their house way up on a hill overlooking the Tennessee River and downtown Knoxville. The style of the inside of their house is exactly how I want mine to look if we ever get to that point. Emily has done most of the molding work herself and has even built a few couches! Now I almost feel like trying that. Almost. Anyway it was very inspiring, and cool to see how good some of the things I had been envisioning actually look in a real house.
(A real house, as opposed to a Foam Core Fantasy).

We drove about an hour east to the Sevierville area to spend the night at Tom's house which is on top of a ridge way out in the woods in the Great Smoky Mountains. His driveway was about a half mile of this:

Kind of exciting in a Deliverance sort of way!

Tom's house reminded me of a ski lodge - very rustic but very nice. Doug said it was sort of log cabin style construction. If so, it was the most luxurious log cabin I've ever been in. The weather was appropriately cold - it got down to 17 degrees that night. Tom's girlfriend Teresa made an incredibly delicious dinner for us and also breakfast the next morning. Then we caravaned up to the gig in West Virginia.

Tom was nice enough to find an orchard store that we could stop at on the way that had Doug's favorite apple, the Arkansas Black, in stock so we bought an entire bushel of them.

They got quite a bit of snow down there in southeastern West Virginia, but the roads were fine.

This mountain didn't photograph very well because of the glare of the sun - be sure to shield your eyes!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

trying to appreciate the cold

I'm stuck working outside these days and unfortunately it involves a lot of standing around in the freezing cold. Fortunately I'm able to entertain myself by taking pictures until the next time I have to help Doug lift something, hold a board in place, or help with the sawing.

Azaleas aren't really supposed to bloom in November, are they?

The sky to the south

The pine tree to the north

Monday, November 17, 2008

weird but good made-up turnip slaw

Our landlord brought us a bunch of super fresh looking turnips from his garden. I don't usually go out of my way to consume turnips, but I have enjoyed turnip greens in the past. So we immediately cut the tops off and cooked the greens. They were pretty good.

I've had cooked turnips maybe once or twice - I remember them being kind of bitter and mushy. I'm okay with bitter, but not when combined with mushy. Our landlord said that he usually slices his turnips to put into salads. That made me think that raw turnips probably taste similar to jicama or radishes. Then I started imagining coleslaw with turnips instead of cabbage. Doug went on line and found out that turnip slaw actually is a thing that people make. Some of the recipe reviews weren't too favorable but we decided to go for it anyway. Except that we didn't follow any of those recipes.

We knew we were going to have a mixture of turnips and carrots, but then Doug decided to throw in an apple, which totally matches the turnip's texture but is sweeter. Then he asked me if I thought some red bell pepper would be okay. I thought it would be weird, but maybe not too weird for this particular salad. Then I thought of adding dried cherries - which is weird, but it ended up to be an excellent accent flavor. Our made-up turnip slaw turned out to be really delicious - very fresh and tangy, and just a tiny bit sweet. I would have prefered less sugar, but I think some sugar was probably necessary to counteract the bitterness of the turnip.

I actually didn't make this turnip slaw - Doug did all the work. I'm glad he likes to cook because I get to just sit here and say add this and add that. I usually come up with more delicious food combinations than he does, so it works out. He's the cook, and I'm the "food designer." Ha Ha Ha. But this time we designed it together.

So here's the very vague recipe:

Shred 1 turnip, 2 small carrots and 1 crisp unpeeled apple.
Add 1/2 chopped red bell pepper and about a half cup of dried cherries
Make a dressing by mixing mayonnaise, white vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper
Stir it all up and enjoy. It's pictured here on a bed of spinach in a cracked bowl.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

November Sky

The sky went through many changes this afternoon.
Here are a few of the photos I took today:

You can make them bigger by clicking on them. They look better bigger.

Yep, I've been around the block a few times.....

As if I wasn't busy enough already, now I'm in grad school, trying to enrich my life as Doug and I drive ourselves into the ground building our house. I was awarded a teaching assistantship so sometimes I am also the teacher of some of my fellow students. On top of that I'm quite a bit older than most of the kids in my department and I'm the only female. I've kind of been enjoying the weirdness of both of those things. It can be pretty amusing at times. My immature sense of humor is serving me quite well in this situation.

So yesterday I was running the jam session and one of the guys came up to me afterwards and said "You seem like you've been around the block a few times...." and then asked for some advice about making an audition tape for something. I was kind of flattered that he'd ask me such a question and also relieved .... I guess..... that he was at least thoughtful enough to use the word "seem" instead of "look." I guess he was trying to be all casual and cool with that "around the block" expression. Anyway, I was laughing about that for the rest of the day!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

an extra day in New York

The plan for the next day was to get up, check out of the hotel, get my car before the street cleaning deadline, drive downtown to pick up my bass, and then head home. But I was really enjoying my solitude so I decided to see if my room was available for an additional night. It wasn't, but they did have a different room so I decided to stay. I opened the curtains and looked out the window. The view included a brick wall about four feet across from the window and this plastic owl:

I guess he was there to scare other birds away.

I had to check out and register separately for another room so I left my bag in the checked baggage room and got to my car about 10 minutes late. It was the only car left on that side of the street and I guess I lucked out not getting a ticket or getting towed.

As I was heading back uptown after picking up my bass I suddenly, on a whim, decided to see if I could drive to Coney Island. It was about noon and my room wouldn't be available until 2:00 and I was already in my car, so what the hell. Except that I've never been to Coney Island and the only thing I knew about its location was that it is on the ocean in Brooklyn. Since I have a decent sense of direction and had plenty of time to kill, I wasn't too worried. If I couldn't find it, I'd see other stuff instead.

I turned right on Canal Street and went over the Manhattan Bridge and that became Flatbush Avenue. I've seen that street on subway cars so I thought so far, so good. I'm not lost yet. It went by Prospect Park, which I'd heard of. It looks like a beautiful park and it's big - maybe it's Brooklyn's answer to Central Park. So far Brooklyn seemed really nice - it's kind of more like DC than Manhattan in a way. At least what I'd seen of it so far. At this point I had no idea whether I was heading towards Coney Island or not, but I was perfectly happy driving on Flatbush Avenue for no particular reason.

Right after Prospect Park I saw Ocean Avenue and figured that was the ticket and it did seem to go in the right direction. It went for a long way through some beautiful old neighborhoods with really great architecture. I passed an absolutely gorgeous old synagogue called Midland or Midfield. Unfortunately my camera was in the back of my car and it was raining so I didn't get a picture. Then I saw Avenue M, N, O, and P, and was getting all excited that I'd see Avenue Q (I've seen "Avenue Q" but not the actual street) but there was a Quentin Street or something and then it went back to Avenue R, etc. I thought that was pretty rude.

Anyway I took Ocean Avenue all the way to where it sort of bumped into a harbour and I turned left on Emmons Avenue but it ended after a few blocks. The area I was in was called Sheepshead Bay.

So I turned around and headed south. I turned left at the next road that I thought went east and that finally took me to the ocean. I parked and walked up to the boardwalk there. I was surprised to discover that nearly everyone was speaking Russian. I used to play in a balalaika orchestra and I've been to St. Petersburg a few times so I know what Russian sounds like. It definitely was not Yiddish. Also, people were dressed the same way they do in St. Petersburg - kind of more dressed up than you'd ordinarily expect to see at the beach. Anyway, I discovered that I was in Brighton Beach and Coney Island was farther south on the same boardwalk.

But it was cold, windy, and a little bit damp, and my still-recovering foot was not feeling that great so I got back in my car and drove a little farther south. About half of the stores had signs with Russian letters and no English letters. This one had both:

I didn't really realize there were actual Russian neighborhoods in Brooklyn - because I don't know anything about Brooklyn! So I'm already making some cool discoveries on my little trip to Coney Island. I guess previously I thought all of the Russians mostly lived in Jewish neighborhoods, which shows how little I've actually thought about where Russian immigrants might live. Because, obviously not all Russian immigrants are Jewish. Duh!!! Anyway the balalaika players in DC certainly don't all live in the same neighborhood.

I still had my bass in the car and the neighborhood did not exactly have what I would describe as a crime-free vibe, but I managed to find a parking space that offered a little psychological protection, if nothing else:

I didn't see a police station, but there sure were alot of police cars parked there. Now this is the kind of building I was really expecting to see:

And especially this one, which is where I ate lunch of course!

They grill their hot dogs so they have delicious little burned places on them. I got one with sauerkraut and mustard. Yum! After lunch I went to the beach:

And then to Astroland. Everything was pretty deserted. Since I was having a deliberately antisocial trip, I kind of enjoyed that. I would have ridden on these rides if they'd been open. But I think I read somewhere that some of the main rides in Coney Island have recently closed for good. That's a real shame.

Since the weather was so dark and dreary I was not able to obey this sign:

I decided to see where the "Belt" Parkway went when it was time to head back to Manhattan. I lucked out once again. It went near Governer's Island where I stayed once when Doug was in the Air Force, and then there was a tunnel to Manhattan that I didn't even know existed which eventually became the West Side Highway. So that was super convenient. I didn't find any street parking so I parked in a garage instead. When I got back to my hotel my new room was ready and it had completely different scenery out of its window:

To the left

And to the right

I went up to the TKTS place and got a half price ticket to see Gypsy which was excellent, but very long. The kids in the show were fantastic. The orchestra was fantastic and it was great to see them behind the stage for the overture and entracte. Patti Lupone's Mama Rose was very different from Rosalind Russell's. She really made it her own. I'm not sure if I liked it better, but I did enjoy the fact that it was different. Her voice was a little distracting because the tone quality varied widely throughout her range. She had a lot of breaks. But it was all in tune. The final scene where she kind of goes nuts was intense and powerful and her tonal quality was all of a sudden extremely consistent. Maybe her voice only works really well at super loud volumes.

After the show I went down to Knickerbocker's and heard JoAnne Brackeen and Cecil McBee. They were wonderful as usual.

The next day I headed home. The clouds began to clear away the second I crossed into Maryland. Doug said the weather had been warm and sunny the entire time I was gone. But that's okay. The weather in NY was a better match for my frame of mind during the time I was there.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Alone with my thoughts

This is kind of rambling – but that’s the way my brain operates on a day like today. I’m on a quick little trip to NYC that is all about me for a change so I don’t have much to distract me from my thoughts.

I’m taking my bass up to my favorite luthier for a little touchup work, then I’ll go hear some music, pick up my bass tomorrow, and head home. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a trip to New York that didn’t have some other people or agenda attached to it and although it is always fun to go to NYC for any reason, I especially like going there by myself.

I haven't completely isolated myself – I’ve checked in with Doug a couple of times. The first time was after I passed the Moravia Road exit on 95. I always think “there’s Bob Fields' exit” whenever I drive past it and it's been a while since the last time I was up that way. Bob had a rehearsal band that met in his basement nearly every Tuesday morning for more than 30 years. He wrote a whole slew of 7 piece arrangements that were really fun to play. I was his regular bass player for five years until about 2003, when I began to be out of town more than I was home. I loved playing with him and was really sad when he called me to sub a couple of months ago and I couldn’t do it. I wish I had just cancelled whatever it was that I had because that would have been my last chance to play with him. He passed away almost a month ago. In his usual understated way, he kept quiet about how sick he actually was. I wish I’d known. I miss him. So I called Doug and we talked for a while.

Not more than an hour went by before someone called me with some sad news about my friend John Greeley, who is also one of my very favorite drummers. We used to have a steady gig together but our paths stopped crossing as much after I went on the road and it’s been nearly a year since we last played together. I always had in mind that he would be over at my house all the time for jam sessions after we moved back in. But he passed away last night so that’s not ever going to happen. John was a super nice guy and a fantastic drummer. He was always up for a jam session if he didn’t have a gig. His lung cancer was pretty far along when it was first diagnosed about six months ago.

I was really glad to be alone for the drive up so that I could think about all of the wonderful ways that these two people had enhanced my life, as a musician and also on a personal level. I feel very lucky to have known both of them, but I sure wish they were still around.

The one bright note for the drive up was that it took only 3 hours and 20 minutes to drive from the outskirts of Silver Spring to Lower Manhattan. I don’t even think I was driving that fast – I just drove straight there and didn’t make any stops. So at least the super gloomy trip was unusually short.

When I got to David Gage’s shop, he and everyone else there was in a very celebratory mood about Obama’s victory. It hadn’t been on my mind at all today so far. It was nice to see them all so happy. Later I got lucky and found street parking a block and a half from my hotel and I don’t have to move my car until 11:00 tomorrow morning. As I was walking to my hotel I heard conversation after conversation about Obama. It seems that all of New York is happy today.

Tonight I went to the Blue Note and heard Charlie Haden’s Music Liberation Orchestra with arrangements by Carla Bley. It was a musical celebration of our country – every arrangement was based on specifically American songs. The orchestrations were quite interesting. All of the players were outstanding. The group consisted of three saxes, two trumpets, french horn, trombone, and sousaphone with piano, guitar, bass, and drums. I was amused to observe that Vincent Chancey, the french horn player and Curtis Fowlkes, the trombonist, standing next to each other kind of reminded me of John Clayton and Ron Carter. The players were all outstanding. They had exceptional control of their quiet range so it was a very pleasant overall volume level for such a large group. Charlie Hayden has some issues with tintinitus and can’t tolerate loud volumes anymore. It must be pretty awful to have a problem like that, especially when it affects what kinds of groups you can play with. But in this case I would say the group benefited from having to play softer – and the audience benefited as well.

While they were playing Amazing Grace and the theme from the New World Symphony, my mind started wandering again, back to John, and Bob, and then also to Larry Eanet and Keter Betts, and finally to Frankie Condon and Bill Potts. I hope I see them all again one day.