Once, and other thoughts

ROGER will provide.

once-musicalThe musical Once was playing at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady in May. The Wife and I got into our seats about 20 minutes before the 7:30 opening. Already there were a bunch of people, some singing and playing instruments, but others just milling around.

We ascertained from another patron that the audience members could go up on stage and hang out or even buy a drink at the bar. Why we didn’t I’m not sure, other than the desire not to climb over people to get in and out of our seats. But it was very cool to watch.

Then the audience members leave the stage, but the music continues. One man sings a solo. The house lights are still on. Then Guy (that’s the name of one of the characters) sings the first song from the show as the house lights begin to dim but not so much because Girl (the other main character) has to walk down one of the aisles to walk up the steps to the front of the stage.

I saw the movie Once, and I recall enjoying it. This iteration is somewhat funnier, especially the banter between Girl and Guy early on. All the other musicians stay on stage, taking on various roles, moving sets, and singing. The large mirror on the set was used to great effect.

It was such a wonderfully organic production that I may have failed to mention that it was very good. A review.

Bus hallelujah

I was riding the bus to work; the weather was messy. A guy gets on the bus, known to some of the other patrons, but not by me. He said he had lent his wife his bus pass. I used my 10-ride card to pay for his ride. Immediately, two or three of these women went “God is good!” and “God will provide.”

(When I told the story to a colleague, he said, “ROGER will provide.” I laughed.)

Later on the trip, after the man had departed, these good women were trash-talking about someone, not on the bus, with at least one of them using all sorts of four-letter words to describe the woman in question. It was quite surreal.

Hillary can’t be President

Apparently, there are people out there who believe that a woman cannot legally be President of the United States. This is because Article II of the U.S. Constitution begins: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected…”

I’d ignore this as linguistic silliness, except after the birther attacks on Barack Obama, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone decided to make a legal case on this issue, as, in fact, someone tried and failed to do in 2008, the last time the former Secretary of State ran for POTUS.

One fellow has been badgering a local journalist about this topic, publicly on Facebook, concerned and frustrated that the mainstream media is ignoring this “important” issue.


*When my family rode our bikes home from the Pinksterfest on May 7, even as cars were stuck in gridlock, one of my church friends accused us of “gloating.” Untrue at the time. But after getting that reaction…

*When signaling about a potential poker game by email, someone wrote: “There will be lectures from Dr. Card on ‘Probability Theory and its Effect on Personal Finances and the Preservation of Quality of Life.'”

*Prince’s “Nothing Compares With You” was on the May 5 episode of the TV show Grey Anatomy, which I thought was amazingly quick, given the fact that he died on April 21. I imagine something was booted.

P is for Pinksterfest

“The annual celebration began on the morning of the Monday following…Pentecost…While the majority of the Dutch population attended early mass, African-American slaves and Euro-American servants would congregate on the hill by the ‘thousands’ and await the arrival of the Pinkster King…”

This coming weekend, Albany, NY is having its 63rd Annual Albany Tulip Festival. It will be held in historic Washington Park. “The tradition stems from when Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd got a city ordinance passed declaring the tulip as Albany’s official flower on July 1, 1948. In addition, he sent a request to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to name a variety as Albany’s tulip…She picked the variety ‘Orange Wonder’…”

The event kicks off on Friday with a special musical program on City Hall’s historic 49-bell carillon at 11:30 a.m. Then at noon, there will be “the traditional Dutch practice of scrubbing the streets,” which frankly still fascinates me. Saturday features the coronation of the Tulip Queen, plus performers and vendors on both Saturday and Sunday. The whole schedule is here. The greatest challenge involves getting the majority of the bulbs to be in bloom that weekend, not too early or too late, despite unpredictable weather. The strategy in recent years has been to plant different types of tulips with varying blooming times.

At the same time, the term “pinksterfest” has ALSO used for the weekend, more or less synonymously, but not quite. So I needed to track this down.

From Wikipedia: “Pinkster is a spring festival, taking place in late May or early June. The name is a variation of the Dutch word Pinksteren, meaning ‘Pentecost'”

More useful, though, was THIS article by Matthew Shaughnessy from 2010: “…by the 19th century, it was the most important holiday of African-American slaves who lived in Dutch settlements from the Hudson Valley down to New York City…In Albany, during the week preceding Pinkster, slaves, and servants—both of African and European ancestries—gathered to set up camp, sing, and play music through the use of a large, skin-covered drum on Pinkster Hill. Individual encampments or ‘airy cottages’ were constructed by weaving branches and shrubs through a series of stakes that were vertically implanted into the ground covering the hill. Just upon celebration, the camps were stocked with beer and liquor as well as an assortment of food, including fruits and cakes.

“The annual celebration began on the morning of the Monday following…Pentecost…While the majority of the Dutch population attended early mass, African-American slaves and Euro-American servants would congregate on the hill by the ‘thousands’ and await the arrival of the Pinkster King, who was referred to as ‘King Charles.’ By all accounts, King Charles was an elderly member of the slave community, perhaps a patriarchal figure of some sort.”

The article goes into some detail about the goings-on.

Again from Wikipedia: “Sometime between 1811 and 1813 despite or perhaps because of its popularity, the city of Albany, New York passed a city ordinance banning the drinking and dancing associated with Pinkster. Whites were concerned that the congregation and socialization of large groups of African Americans could provide them with the opportunity to plot or plan a revolution. Some historians believe the council wanted to eliminate Pinkster because it didn’t appeal to the burgeoning middle class, pointing to the fact that the law was eventually overturned, which would contradict the motivation of preventing uprisings.”

Shaughnessy: “For one week a year, the strictures of everyday society were relaxed. Work was momentarily forgotten. Those at the bottom of the society, namely slaves and servants but also women and children, reversed the existent social hierarchy. For the remainder of the week, slaves and servants engaged in a variety of sports and increasingly commercialized forms of entertainment, which, according to a later account published in 1867, were exceedingly popular among white children. There were exhibitions of exotic animals, circus-riding, clowns, and the apparent highlight of the festival: the ‘Toto.’ While the Toto was a dance performed exclusively in the West African tradition of loud drumming and singing, its hybrid during Pinkster combined European and African steps. In addition, slaves sold herbs, roots, and shellfish in carts decorated with flowers, especially [Pentecost] azaleas…” At some point during the run of the Tulip Festival, the Pinksterfest name was absorbed.

ABC Wednesday – Round 8

Synchronicity 5 (of 12) or 9 (of 24)

I woke up just before 5 a.m. and waited until the clock read 5:05. 5:05 on 05/05/05-this made me smile. Then I rolled over and went back to sleep. I have a 13-month old baby, and sleep is precious.

Today is, of course, Cinco de Mayo, which is an important holiday, not just an excuse to get drunk on tequila or kahlua. Did I mention

This weekend in Albany, NY is also the the Tulip Festival in Washington Park, featuring the Funk Brothers and the Family Stone Experience (featuring founding members of Sly and the Family Stone -“oooh-lawd!”) on Saturday and Little Anthony and the Imperials on Sunday.

You don’t know the Funk Brothers? They’ve played on more hit songs than anyone as the sensational backing band for Motown’s biggest stars. Even if you don’t live around Albany, find out more by renting or buying “Standing in the Shadows of Motown”. I saw it in the theaters, enjoyed it tremendously, and learned a great deal about the music I love.

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