Wednesday, July 28, 2010

a most peculiar day

Today was the first day I've had completely off in a while and since it was also relatively cool, I was all psyched to mow the grass. But today was also the day that Doug's five year old overpriced lemon of a $700 Honda mower decided to call it quits for the final time. It has been acting cantankerous practically since the first year Doug bought it, during the one spring that he had to mow the grass because I was off cruising. Today was the first day that Doug could not get his precious baby interested, even after considerable poking and prodding.

I reallyreallyreally wanted to get the damn grass cut, so I quickly went inside to research lawnmowers, and I soon figured out which moderately priced non-Honda would best satisfy my needs. I even called someone I knew who had recently bought the same one to make sure he still liked it. As I was attempting to share this information with Doug he informed me that he had decided that this afternoon would be a perfect time to do our annual paddleboating session at Lake Centennial.
I knew full well that this was a diversionary tactic, not only for the sake of getting me off track in my quest to do whatever it might take to get the damn grass cut, (i.e. spend $400 on a new mower) but also so that he could further delay his own wallboarding duties inside. He doesn't seem enjoy it much when I'm not in there cheering him on. But that's not my fault. My plan was that we would both do the taping and mudding just as soon as I finished mowing the grass. I found out later that the secret reason for the paddleboating trip was so that we could stop in some random hardware store in Clarksville, MD that might have lawnmowers to look at on the way back. We live in Silver Spring so that makes total sense. Yeah.

As usual, we had lots of fun paddleboating, although I did notice Doug gazing rather wistfully at the kayaks. The weather was perfect too - not too hot and not too bright. We can go kayaking next time, especially if you mention it before we rent a paddleboat.

I wish I knew how to make a slide show here. I still haven't gotten around to learning how to do that. You'll just have to pretend those ducks above were in a slide show.

Do any of you locals remember the Enchanted Forest? I read recently that many of the original buildings and statues had been restored and moved to a new location. And we just happened to notice it today because the new location is on Route 108. We stopped in on the way back to check it out.

In case you don't know about the Enchanted Forest, here's a link to the story of how it all got started.

The Enchanted Forest stuff has been combined with a petting farm that includes hayrides and pony rides. There were a lot of little kids in there who appeared to be having an excellent time. It seems like a very quaint and gentle place. When I went there as a kid I was sort of past the fairy tale stage and possibly a little jaded by then (a huge fan of fractured fairy tales), but I thought it was cool the way they had so many stories depicted all in one place. My little brother loved it.

"Help! Save me!"
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.

The Dragon as Minstrel

"Yaaay! I finally finished washing the dishes!
Thank goodness for Playtex Living Gloves!"

This is the house where Goldilocks visited the Three Bears.
It took me the longest time to figure out what those things were up on the roof. It's a corn cob pipe for Papa Bear, some kind of night cap for Mama Bear, and a giant baby bottle for Baby Bear, all conveniently located right up there on the roof.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do;
She gave them some broth, without any bread,
And whipped them all soundly
And sent them to bed.

Follow the Gingerbread Man into the Enchanted Forest Pine Tree Maze!

I'm really sort of glad I'm not a kid anymore. Our imaginations were fed by some rather peculiar stories and notions, even back then. I can't even imagine what it's like today to be a kid. Probably a lot more frightening.

So after all the fun was over, we went to the hardware store in Clarksville which had nothing useful in the way of lawnmowers, and then to Home Depot in Aspen Hill which had the one I really wanted, plus two that Doug was interested in. We had a little debate, but it remained friendly. Then I was sent off alone on sort of a reconnaissanse mission to Zimmermans Hardware in Burtonsville to make sure I really liked the one I had picked out because they keep their mowers on the floor and I could actually roll it around, unlike at Home Depot. Finally we went back to Home Depot and bought the one I liked. So that went really well. And it was much more efficient than many of our purchasing adventures are, believe it or not.

Tomorrow I will take the bull by the horns and finally get my grass cut.
Toro, Toro, Toro!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Eastern Shore Side Trip: The Wye Oak

This past spring, during a break between services at a gig on the Eastern Shore I decided to go visit the Wye Oak. Or I should say the place where the Wye Oak was before it came down during a huge thunderstorm in 2002.

I remember seeing signs for the Wye Oak on my many trips to the beach over the years and wondering why in the world there would be a sign on Route 50 for a tree, of all things. But I was always in too much of a hurry to get to the beach on the way down, or to miss the bridge traffic on the way back to ever stop and see it. I just don't like anything cutting into my beach time to the point where I would often go there by myself just so that I could do it no breaks. But one day in 2000 or 2001 I had Doug with me and we decided to stop and see it. Doug just loves taking little side trips and I figured it wouldn't take up too much time so I went along with it.

The tree was enormous, very old and very weather beaten, and it was clearly past its prime. It was the kind of tree that you could almost imagine somebody hollowing out and making into a house except that it was really not in very good shape at that point and you just don't do that sort of thing to trees anyway, except in cartoons. But that's how big it was. At the time it was the largest White Oak tree in the entire United States and had held that title since at least the early 1900s. I had never known that as I sped past the exit to it at least a hundred times over the years so I'm really glad I finally got to see it.

I found some old pictures of the Wye Oak here and there. I have linked to all of the websites where these pictures were originally located down at the bottom of this post.





I had my camera with me when I went to visit it again this last time. Here are some of the pictures I took:

It's looking pretty empty here - a fence around a mulch pile?

This is the official sign. Click on it if you want to see what it says.

They planted a young clone of the Wye Oak in the middle of its former trunk.

The Wye Oak seems to be asking WHY?

They have lots of grain storage right across the street.

A few doors down I saw this gate made out of old wagon wheels.

The Wye Grist Mill is still in operation

There are picnic tables nearby

and an old abandoned barn is just around the corner

So if you aren't in a big hurry to get to or from the beach the way I usually am, visiting the Wye Oak is a great little side trip to take along the way. Here are some links to additional information about the Wye Oak:

An American Champion

The Quiet Giant, The Wye Oak

The Maryland State Tree

The Wye Oak Comes Down

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

so what else is new?

As I have mentioned before, both of my blogs were started as the result of a certain unpleasant event and branched off from each other into a house-specific blog and this one, which has gradually developed into a rather lighthearted diversion from my somewhat grueling life over the past five years.

Once we moved, we basically stopped working on the house in spite of the fact that it is nowhere near being finished, which is annoying, but I suddenly started gigging a lot more and although I continued to have fun taking pictures all over the place, I somehow lost the urge to assemble them into blog posts. I kept thinking I should, but somehow it didn’t happen.

I think the reason for this might be because the types of things I would ordinarily write about, those bright little moments that have cheered me up and brought me joy, don’t seem to stand out as much as they had previously. Now that we are back in our house everything feels like it is back as it should be. Well not everything - there are still some things that need to be taken care before I can fully resume my previous life but it’s getting there. Obviously I have proven time and again over the years that I have the ability to be patient far above and beyond what would be in a normal person’s best interest. But we are not normal around here.

So this is all pretty boring stuff, and I should just get on with it if I’m going to spend time wiggling my fingers over the keyboard. Since I don’t have much to say maybe I’ll talk about what I’ve been up to lately. There hasn’t been a whole lot of construction work taking place here lately – it’s been practically next to nothing since April, which is frustrating because when productivity is happening I like to keep going until it’s done. I hate losing momentum. On the other hand, working on the house is not exactly my idea of a good time so the procrastination is not entirely unpleasant.

In April and May I did some unpacking and played a lot of gigs. It was a good mix of shows, various orchestra concerts, some church gigs, our weekly jazz octet thing and some small combo work. All the stuff I like to do. Except tour and travel.

In June Doug went on vacation, I mean on tour (which in his case is a vacation because he made less money and had more fun than he would have if he had stayed at home). Since his vacation, I mean tour, was already on the books, I regretfully was stuck turning down a gig on the QM2, which sucks because in addition to missing an opportunity to make more money than I do here at home, I missed a fairly decent itinerary that included Europe and fjords and trips to New York and New England.

But I was too busy to stay resentful for long – in addition to a decent amount of playing, I started and finished a pretty big painting job for my parents. It felt really great to actually finish a project like that in a relatively short time. Also I successfully convinced them to branch out a tiny little bit and add some touches of color to their all off-white interior. The convincing was a major accomplishment and it was therefore particularly rewarding to hear them acknowledge how good it looked after it was all done since they know what they like better than I do.

Also in June I pulled out my fancy new computerized sewing machine, which is still not as easy to deal with as my old workhorse machine was before it got all melted and destroyed, and I made a dress(!) and altered a blouse so I have two new things I can wear. I wore the dress to a gig at Glen Echo and instead of being boiling hot in pants I stayed nice and cool and comfortable in the sweltering heat.
Two more things done.

This past week I played with a couple of singers for Bastille Day at the French Embassy on Wednesday, played for a pool party in Potomac on Friday, and did a guitar-bass duo in the lobby of the Atlas Theatre on Saturday. On Sunday I drank way too much coffee after sort of being off of it for a while. I met my friend at Starbucks to carpool up to a rehearsal in Baltimore and our receipts contained an offer for a $2.00 drink after 2pm, which is exactly when we got back there so of course we had to spend the $2.00 to get the deal.

It was so hot on Sunday that I decided I needed to spend the afternoon sitting somewhere cold and dark instead of mowing the grass, so Doug decided that we should see Metropolis at the Avalon. It was a very long, very strange, and very excellent movie. The soundtrack was gorgeous. And then I somehow stayed up until 6:30 this morning. I didn’t even try to go to sleep. Apparently the effects of coffee are cumulative and they build up. So it’s time to go without it again for a while.

Today I played at a retirement home in DC. It feels so good to play music that obviously means so much to the people who live there. It’s a really special feeling. One time at the Hebrew home in Rockville a man came up to talk to me afterwards and he said he was soon going to be celebrating his 103rd birthday. He’s the oldest person I’ve ever met. He’s on a walker but takes no medication. Isn’t that amazing? That’s probably why he’s still alive. Imagine all of the history he has lived through.

Okay that wasn’t so hard. I obviously haven’t lost the ability to blather on and on and on, once I get started. Maybe next time I’ll post sooner rather than later because the longer you put something off the easier it is to not get around to it again. Hmmm.….that rings a not too distant bell. I wonder why?

some things never change