Forsooth! A final week of 2009 meme!

I was not looking for a meme, but I did think I needed to write a post or two about end-of-year stuff. As it turns out, I found one from that American expat in New Zealand, Nik at spatulaforum, that met my needs. Oddly, Nik has written about spatulas only once.

Not incidentally, Nik’s meme was stolen for this week’s Sunday Stealing, which I usually purloin. Like a circle in a circle.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

Go to a bunch of kindergarten events, such as the “Apple Run”; the daughter is fast! Go on a vacation with the wife, without the daughter, for our 10th anniversary; it was surely the highlight of the year, though we were only 30 miles from home. Saw Bruce Springsteen live. Flew on an airplane with the daughter, her first flights.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don’t make the things. Less grief.

3. How will you be spending New Year’s Eve?

Watching my wife valiantly trying to stay awake but likely failing.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, though the husband of a fellow choir member did.

5. What countries did you visit?

None, including the US. In fact, the longest trip was the aforementioned flight to Charlotte.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

More sleep. More democracy. Less war. Steve Bissette wrote What I Won’t Miss About 2009, and I really can’t argue with any of it; re: the year, this video Steve found will do nicely.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 3, the massacre in Binghamton, NY. May 14, Springsteen.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting through my wife’s two weeks away at college, taking care of the daughter while trying to maintain a semblance of a work schedule.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Controlling the temper, especially during the aforementioned trip to Charlotte.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

The usual minor aches and pains. My neck is a little stiff. I have a cut on the heel of my left foot which makes walking without at least slippers, and preferably thick-soled sneakers, painful. And I suffered with some sort of head congestion/lung congestion/coughing up phlegm thing for two weeks in December which seems FINALLY to be over.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The Top Pop Singles book. Fun! Actually, I liked buying Wonder Pets DVDs for the daughter; she enjoyed them.

12. Where did most of your money go?

The mortgage, of course. Also house renovation; the attic is being insulated this very week to take advantage of a tax credit.

13. What song will always remind you of 2009?

Tennessee Jed by Levon Helm, from his new Electric Dirt album, one of the very few albums I actually got in 2009.
I also bought A Very Special Christmas 7, and it had a bunch of newer artists that don’t cut it; Kellie Pickler doing Santa Baby is unconvincing. A Christmas Song by Charice was the best tune, though Gloriana’s Silent Night I liked as well. Still, it’s for a good cause, the Special Olympics, and I’ll probably buy the next one when it comes out in 3 or 5 years.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Playing racquetball. Also wish I had bought my bicycle earlier than June. I saw no live baseball – bummer.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Overthinking.

16. What was your favourite TV program?

“Glee”, for sure. It’s a show I get to watch with my wife, which doesn’t happen that often. People say it’s not realistic, as though it were a docudrama. No, the cheerleaders wouldn’t wear the outfits ALL the time. Sheesh. I bought the wife both soundtracks for Christmas. Al;so been watching The Good Wife, which is a show I watch sans wife.
Whereas The Office has lost something, and I can’t put my finger on it – Jim & Pam being married? The co-managing thing?

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Well, not hate. What’s interesting is when there is someone everyone in a certain circle seems to love. But you’re just not that enamored, and it seems to be mutual.

18. What was the best book you read?

The Jack Kirby book by Evanier. Or was that last year?

19. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Well, there’s this British band called the Beatles that I seem to be newly into. Also, to a much lesser degree, Queen. About as little NEW music as I’ve ever experienced.

20. What was your favorite film of this year?

2008 movie I saw in 2009: The Visitor.
2009 movie: Up or Amreeka or maybe District 9. Though if I just got the Julia part of Julie and Julia, it’d be that. But there are a LOT of films I haven’t seen.

21. What did you do on your birthday?

Played (hearts) cards.

22. What kept you sane?

This assumes that I am sane. There’s no evidence I’ve seen.

23. Who did you miss?

Nobody, really. I mean I wish I saw some people more often, but that would be a shopping list. And because of the magic of electronics, I feel I DO keep up with them and/or know they keep up with me. Without that, it’d be pretty tough.

24. Who was the best new person you met?

There are some new folks in church I’m rather fond of, but I won’t name names.

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot…

Actually, it is the wisdom of Satchel Paige:
“Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”
“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
“Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.”
“Not to be cheered by praise, not to be grieved by blame, but to know thoroughly one’s own virtues or powers are the characteristics of an excellent man.”
“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.”

ROG

The Lydster, Part 68: the North Pole


If you are one of those people who just cannot STAND hearing Christmas music before Thanksgiving, or December 1, or the first day of winter, then I highly recommend that you NOT visit Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY in mid-September, as our family did. Notice the Merry Christmas on the water mill.

Not only Christmas carols but parts of Messiah by Handel – “For Unto Us Is Born”, e.g. – as well. As the website says, it was “founded in 1949 and designed by Arto Monaco. We are known as the forerunner of present day theme parks in the United States.” And it most definitely felt like that, a pre-Disneyland theme park.

I must say that it was initially disappointing. It was not inexpensive ($17-$19 each) and many of the rides Lydia, at over four feet, was too tall to ride in. Of the two rides she could be on, she tried the (little) roller coaster (with me), and decided that she did not particularly enjoy it.Worse, a train that we ALL could have ridden through the park was closed for repairs.

Ultimately, what made it worthwhile for Lydia were the friendly clowns and animals and snowmen who performed musical bits periodically. It was a little schlocky – OK, it was a LOT schlocky – but it was earnest. There weren’t that many attendees to these mini-shows and the clowns, e.g., would always go to the performances of their costume-clad colleagues.

Ultimately, it was a successful visit because we had a nice getaway from our usual Saturday routine of cleaning and shopping and laundry.

And Lydia got to go to the North Pole! The pole is not some painted stick; it is actually made of ice. This was actually a thrill for my wife, who went to the North Pole when SHE was a child and feared the frozen pole had been turned into a plastic replica. No way!

I should tell you about this production of the Christmas story, told on the loudspeakers, with clearly young actors performing the roles of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Wise Men. Even from the distance – they were up the hill from the little amphitheater we were sitting in – you can tell that at least some of them were cracking up, though they tried to hide it.

But the high point in the trip for the child was Lydia playing on swings, playground equipment and this container of plastic balls she could wade in, things she could do on the local playground or the local McDonald’s. She had a good time, so we had a good time too.

ROG

Vacation QUESTION

One of the websites I visit regularly is Separated by a Common Language, where an American expat in the UK, Lynneguist, talks about British and American English. I’m quite fond of Briticisms generally. But one I’ve never embraced is the notion of “holiday” for vacation. Holiday (or bank holiday in other countries) to me refers to an event such as Labor Day or Christmas. Of course, one of Lynneguest’s readers finds “vacation” strange, “mainly because the word ‘vacate’ is normally only encountered in toilet cubicles and changing rooms.” Whereas for me, the root to vacate means, in the words of some rock band, “Turn off your mind and float downstream.”

The sermon at church last Sunday was about fast food and cell phones and Twitter, and how people seem to need to be connected all the time, including at the time they are supposed to be on holiday or vacation. Most of them are NOT heart surgeons awaiting a call to show up at the hospital to perform a transplant or some other life-or-death profession.

I know that when I’m away for several days, not having Internet connection makes me cranky after a couple days. Partly it’s because I’ll drown in e-mails if I don’t tend to them regularly. There are STILL e-mails I know I need to respond to from weeks ago that have been sucked into my LIFO (last in, first out) process. But except for calling the daughter, my last vacation with my wife was quite enjoyed, even though I only had about 15 minutes a day of Internet connectivity; it wasn’t a policy decision – the service kept cutting in and out.

So can you vacation/holiday? Do you recreate, or more specifically, re-create yourself? Or do you just keep working and connecting in different venues?

ROG

V is for Vacation


I have alluded to this before: the wife and I had not been on a vacation alone together in over five years. This correlates nicely with the fact that we have a five-year-old daughter. So a couple years back, for our 10th anniversary, the wife began saving some money for us to do something.

As it turned out, we decided to travel a mere 32 miles from our home in Albany to Saratoga Springs, NY. While our actual anniversary was May 15, we decided to travel Thursday through Sunday on a week Carol had off from school in April and the in-laws could come up from Oneonta – about 70 miles away – and watch the child.

Thursday, we checked into the inn. We had had Indian food in Albany for a late lunch so all we had for dinner was popcorn as we went to the movies to see I Love You, Man, which I reviewed here; not high art, but we enjoyed it.
Friday morning, we went to the Tang Museum, discussed here.

Then, we went to this cute little restaurant for lunch; had an Old World charm. The food was good, but we noted that they used peanut oil in some of their cooking. Tasty, but the child is allergic, so I suspect we wouldn’t be going there as a family.

In the afternoon, we went to the National Museum of Dance. Ah, piled snow melts slower.

Here’s the building. That person in pink is my wife, BTW.

I have to say that we found the museum quite disappointing. A good museum or hall of fame – and this purports to be that for dance – needs enough “stuff” to make you want to come back again. This place just did not.

On the other hand, this was the only museum-like place we went to that actually allowed us to take photographs. Make of that what you will. The showcase pictured above is the primary part of the Peter Martens display; Martens is the most recent inductee. Oh, there are the dresses below, signed by some of his dance partners.

But there were no permanent items for each of the artists, save for a banner with fairly limited information. BTW, I no longer remember WHAT this is.

One of the cool things this place DID have were coverings on the windows representing the Hall of Famers. Don’t recall who the couple are, but the woman on the left is choreographer Agnes deMille.

This begins the section “The Evolution of Dance on the Broadway Stage”, starting with a replication of the streets around the Great White Way.

This is Sardi’s, the famous restaurant where performers hung out.

A picture of one of my favorite performers, the late Jerry Orbach.

The museum is working on developing a section on the “spa” history of Saratoga. This is a machine used in that period.

There was a small Russian dance exhibit.

The place was so casual that the purse of the woman working on the spa area, which was adjacent to the Russian area, was just sitting on a table nearby. Fortunate that we did not have larceny on our minds.

For dinner, we decided to go to the famous Hattie’s, nee Hattie’s Chicken Shack. As we were going in, a contingent of folks led bty U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer were coming out. The chicken was good, but the macronini asnd cheese was fabulous. BTW, Hattie’s is on the lower left, a comic book store which I went into briefly is on the lower right and above that is the legendary Caffè Lena.

(Incidentally, these are right across the street from a nice Thai restaurant that ADD took Rocco Nigro and me to last year.)

The next morning we went to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Now THIS is a great museum! THIS is a hall of fame! And though I’m less interested in horse racing than dance, this is a place I could return to. There were three sets of plaques: for horses, jockeys anmd others, primarily trainers. Interesting exhibits, informative films. (Picture below is not from the Hall but an exhibit of a street vendor.)

There was soime sort of vendor event in the city’s civic center, and we managed to eat enough sample foods that we actually didn’t need to have lunch. Afterwards, we went up to Glens Falls to see the Hyde Collection. It’s part a couple’s actual former house. The living room had 1500 books, surrounded by works by Rembrandt, Degas, and Rubens. The kitchen featured 17th century German chairs and 17th century French table. You can read about the collectors’ philosophy for the eclectic collections throughout the house. Definitely worthwhile.

The gallery featured Thomas Chambers (1808-1869) born and died in England, who helped create the popular market of landscape painting. He spent much of his time in the United States including NYC, Baltimore, Boston and Albany (c. 1850) before returning to UK in 1865. Just didn’t much care for it.


Then we ate an extraordinary dinner at our inn; the horse above, BTW, is just outside the main entrance of the building. Each morning we also had a nice breakfast there.

Alas, after breakfast, we had to return from our little getaway. This was a most enjoyable time where we didn’t talk about the child all weekend but rather enjoyed each other’s company.

ROG

The weekend without the child

My wife and I haven’t been away alone together in over five years. This correlates nicely with the age of our progeny. (This is not to say that Lydia’s never been away from both of us; last summer, while Carol was in college, I dropped her off at Grandma and Grandpa’s in Oneonta, about 75 miles away, so I wasn’t the position of both taking her to day care and picking her out.)

But the wife and I alone together for more than a few hours? Doesn’t happen. Yet our tenth wedding anniversary is coming up next month. Taking off time during the school year is tough, and the summer will be pretty packed, too. This past week, on the other hand, school was off.

So my parents-in-law kindly drove up the hour and a quarter to watch Lydia Thursday afternoon while Carol and I took a vacation in Saratoga Springs. Saratoga? Isn’t that only about 30 miles away from Albany? Indeed it is. but we stayed at an inn, and visited places we’d never been before. You know how people in Manhattan never go to the top of the Empire State building unless they’re hauling in relatives from out of town? It’s pretty much the same thing.

It was near enough that the trip there and back wouldn’t be onerous, but unfamiliar enough to be able to explore.

I’ll undoubtedly discuss the specific aspects of the trip over the next few weeks, but let me give you some first impressions:

*We end up watching either the Today show or Good Morning America only when we’re off work. saw Today on Friday, GMA on Sunday. What depressing shows. No wonder people tune out the news.
*We ate too much.
*We’ve become near experts at getting around Saratoga.
*We worried that the child would miss us. we called Thursday night and she talked to us, but when we called Friday night, she was too busy watching TV to pick up. (That is NOT a complaint.) However, she (with Grandma’s help) called us Saturday morning.
*She has so many things that getting Lydia yet something else seemed undesirable. Ultimately, we opted for flipflops.
*The hotel allegedly had a public computer, but the two times I actually had time to use it, it died after 16 minutes one times and 20 minutes the other. So no, I haven’t read any of your blogs lately; I will, I will, eventually.
*The times I did get on my e-mail, I got e-mails from a friend of a friend of Raoul Vezina’s and my high school history teacher, both of whom came across me through this blog.

Ah, my wife needs to use the computer. Bye for now.

ROG