Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I went to a garden party...

This weekend I made the three-hour drive to Boston to attend the 60th birthday party of a friend whom I know from what I call my Boston days (1976 - 1995). I met David originally through his long-time partner -- now his husband, since the enlightened state of Massachusetts made that possible -- as Robert and I worked for the same organization. The three of us share a love of music, and attended numerous concerts together, including some in which Robert played (viola). Even now David brightens up my Facebook page with numerous links to opera singers singing their hearts out.

What's really shocking is that despite living only a three-hour drive apart for the past 6 1/2 years, we hadn't managed to see one another since 1999. On my part, I fear it's been this tremendous inertia that has pretty much kept me from going anyplace, at least by car. Is it aging, I ask myself, this aversion to driving? I made a trip to Pennsylvania in 2009, to attend the graduation from college of my goddaughter (see Note of May 24, 2009), and a trip to Binghamton, NY, in 2010, to attend the graduation from high school of the only son of one of my college roommates (Note of July 1, 2010); other than that, there was a trip to the same area in upstate New York for some genealogical research, a big interest of mine. Other than that I can't seem to make myself move.

As far as trips to Boston go, I've been down only three times in the past 6 1/2 years, twice at Christmas time, at the invitation of another friend from my Boston days, when the desire not to spend Christmas alone was sufficient motivation to get me moving. The other time was at the invitation of yet another friend, and I felt that weekend was hers, did not want to be running all over the Boston area seeing other people.

But to return to this weekend's party: it was a terrific party. There was lots of food (I thought the hors d'oeuvres were it, so was consuming great quantities of shrimp with cocktail sauce and spanakopita, when suddenly the barbeque arrived, followed by the vegetarian pizzas!), lots to drink (I had three Jesse James Bourbons on the rocks -- have you ever heard of Jesse James Bourbon? I certainly hadn't -- while most people were drinking one of the several kinds of beer available, white wine, or Margaritas), and lots of people, most of whom I didn't know, but with many of whom I spent at least a few minutes chatting. Despite being a basically shy and reserved person, I can do this fairly easily at a party; actually enjoy getting little capsule explanations of who people are, what they do, how they know so-and-so.

The most interesting conversation I had was with a second generation Cuban, whose parents came to Boston in the '50s, before the Communist takeover. His older brother was born in Cuba; he was born here. Said this country had been very good to his parents, and to himself; the American Dream busy getting realized.

I'd have to say the most unusual aspect of the party were all the little Shih Tzu running around underfoot. David raises these cute little dogs that look like walking dust mops for show & selling; a number of the people there knew him from having bought puppies from him. Fortunately, Shih Tzu don't usually bark -- my biggest objection to dogs -- and they are pretty darned adorable, so i didn't mind them, even though you had to be careful that you didn't step on one!

Although David was busy buzzing about from one group to another, and greeting the almost non-stop flow of guests, so that we were not able to talk much, I was able to have a couple of good chats with Robert. We share an interest in genealogy -- it was a long-held belief of his that he was related to Jesse James (a belief that has now been dashed, alas) that resulted in a short-lived obsession with all things Jesse James-ish...hence, the Jesse James Bourbon.

David and Robert, by the way, have been together longer than many heterosexual couples, and as far as I know have not adversely affected a single hetero-sexual marriage in all that time. They're sweet, funny, generous people, and it was good to see them both, and to see that they're "still crazy after all these years." I just hope we don't go another 13 years without seeing each other.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Let it roll!

Well, I just got up because I couldn't sleep -- a not-infrequent occurrence these days, since I tend to consume coffee and Diet Dr. Pepper to keep me going all day, then find it keeps me awake at night -- and I turned on the T.V., just to see what there might be, not expecting much at 11:30 on a Saturday night.  And there, on Maine PBS's Front Row Center, were the vestiges of the old Canadian rock group from the '70s,  Bachman-Turner Overdrive, i.e., [Randy] Bachman and [Fred] Turner, singing and playing their aging hearts out.  It was terrific!  I stood there, bobbing up and down, while these two old guys and the rest of their re-invented band sang, full-throttle, LET IT ROLL...DOWN THE HIGHWAY...LET IT ROLL...DOWN THE HIGHWAY!  Then they sang another of their old hits, Takin' Care of Business, and the audience, all on their feet, were bouncing up and down and singing along.  Great fun.

I've gotten sort of jaded about aging rock stars continuing to tour, or trying to tour again, after a silence of many years.  We get a lot of such acts up here in Maine, unable, apparently, to attract more current acts.  For example, the Beach Boys 50th Reunion Concert (which has received scathing reviews) is coming to Bangor on June 22nd (tickets are being offered at 50 % off, I notice).  As Brian Wilson himself has said, "We're fucking 70 years old, man!" Exactly.  Time for rock stars to be (or stay) retired.

But Bachman & Turner showed me tonight that you can be at least pushing 70, and still have what it takes, in the world of rock music.  They had energy, high spirits, voice, and great guitar playing.  I've talked before about the allure of the guitar for my generation (see Note of Nov. 29, 2008), and here it was again: the guitar, in all its pulsating glory; I loved watching Randy Bachman's fingers fly up and down those frets.  As Lionel's father is always saying in As Time Goes By, "Rock on!"

By the way, I recently discovered that I had done a draft of my review of HBO'S version of Game of Thrones, but had failed to post it.  It is now posted, but at the date when it was originally done, April 26, 2012.  So take a look, if you're interested.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The pause that refreshes

Today as I was coming back from the post office I decided to take a ride up a street I'd never been up before. I do that every now and then, turn up (or down) a street I've never experienced before, just to see what's on it and where it goes.

The street I was on was Cony Street, on the other side of the river in Augusta. I live in Gardiner, but there is no Saturday mail pickup at the Gardiner P.O., so if I want something to go out before Monday afternoon, I have to make the 20-minute drive to the Augusta P.O. Anyway, it wasn't long before I was driving through a woody area, with only the very occasional house. This frequently happens, whether you follow a street in Augusta, or in its little bedroom communities of Hallowell, Farmingdale, or Gardiner: in no time at all you hit "country." I drove 'til Cony Street ended at Cony Road, then turned around in the parking lot of a dancing school surrounded by woods, and headed back the way I'd come. And suddenly a deer stepped daintily out into the road ahead of me and trotted into the woods on the other side of the road. I immediately slowed to a stand-still, delighted. What is it about suddenly seeing wild deer that enchants us? We're driving along, pretty much oblivious, and suddenly there they are, as if by magic, these beautiful, elegant, peaceful creatures. We are being handed a treat, out of the blue.

I sat there for a moment (no traffic), hoping to see some more, for there is never just one deer, there are always three or four or more. But either they'd already crossed, or were hanging back in the woods on the right side of the road, waiting for me to pass. And in my rearview mirror here came two more cars, so I drove on. But my day was made, by this not-too-close encounter (like when your car going 60 miles an hour on a dark road suddenly hits a deer) with one of God's loveliest creatures.

When I first moved to the Augusta area, and lived in a cabin out on Lake Cobbosseecontee, there would occasionally be a few deer foraging in the field that lay beside the gravel road that wound in from the paved country road. Usually they would freeze as my car passed, ready to take off at the slightest suggestion that I and my automobile were a threat. Likewise when I lived in Colorado, and would occasionally take the back roads rather than oh-so-stressful I-25 on my daily commute between Denver, where I was working, and Colorado Springs, where I was living with my sister: sometimes I would round a bend, and there would be a family of deer, serenely crossing the road. Practically no traffic on those back roads, so the animals were accustomed to being able to cross unaccosted. I would always just sit and gaze happily at them, as they made their way into a field.

Seeing wild deer in this way almost makes you feel that God's in his heaven, all's right with the world.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Calling a spade a spade

The situation in Syria, or rather the world's response to the situation in Syria, is such bosh. Words, words, words. According to this national spokesperson and that, what the Bashar Assad regime is doing is "totally unacceptable." Yeah, so? So what are we going to do about it? Nothing. Wring our hands and say the murder of innocent women and children must stop. Yeah? Or what?

I keep hearing people saying there's the danger of civil war in Syria. What do they think has been going on for months now?

I am not saying the United States should rush in where angels fear to tread. I am as tired of our being embroiled in one military engagement after another as everyone else is. And we certainly should not do anything unilateral; any action should be made in conjunction with the global community. We cannot be the police of the world, particularly not of that part of the world, where we are almost universally despised.

But I would like the stupid, hypocritical talk to stop. We, Europe, everyone else, are apparently going to let those poor people just get ground down by their ruling faction; no Arab Spring for them. Let's stop pretending our "sanctions" are going to force Assad to bow out; let's stop pretending there is anything we can do, short of military intervention, which no one wants to commit to. Members of the Arab League are apparently slipping weapons to the opposition, helping them to that extent. That may be the most we can hope for. The rest of us are going to wait to see what happens. So let's do that, and stop talking about it!