The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Chapter October 4, 2015

Sometimes they start and end with a defining moment, but mostly they overlap, fading in and out with such subtly that we don’t realize the times have changed until long after they have. Looking back one can see with clarity how and when the events and circumstances changed, we can note the point at which certain characters left or our joined our drama, we can remember ‘times’ as if they were distinct acts in a play, yet when we sit in the midst of our action, deeply embedded in our own scripts, it can be a challenge to see the bigger picture.

Recently I came upon a pile of fringe on the floor of my cellar clothing storage room, and recognized it to be from an antique dress that I loved well. Made in the 1920s, I’d worn it throughout my career with the Prohibition Orchestra of Chicago. A deep ache began to grow in my chest. The dress was likely ruined, but I didn’t dare confirm it. Nor did I pickup the mess. Instead, I sat and felt the grief fill me. I wondered why it broke my heart so? I thought back on all that had happened in that dress… I remembered the stories, the scenes, the cast – the soundtrack. I tried to console myself; the dress was in tatters, but hadn’t I used it well in its time? Hadn’t I myself enjoyed those days as deeply as I ever could have? Yes, I had. I’d always enjoyed myself to the core. What bothered me so deeply now was not so much that that time in my life was over, but rather that I never actually understood when it was that it closed. I was never warned that there would be no more gigs, no more crowds, hands in the air singing ‘Brother Can You Spare A Dime’ in full voice, smiles all around – the whole thing was over before I knew it was over. And that’s what got me. In order to give myself some kind of closure, I stood there and let myself remember…

I’d been young, pretty, and fairly on top of my game. On stage, in front of that band, dressed in those one-of-a-kind vintage dresses, bedecked with bracelets and hip-length necklaces, kohl-eyed and as animated as ‘the it girl’ herself, I glowed. I emanated fun. I was always chatty with the audience, slightly inappropriate, slightly bawdy; camp enough to give the show some punch, self-deprecating enough to endear myself to fans. The tunes were those I loved best, and although the charts were mostly written for a man’s voice and had me splitting lines and finishing them an octave above or below, I loved them all. The music was charming, the guys and the gals in the band were charming – and our audience was charming, too. It was a cast of characters united in their deep love for the dusty songs of a time long-gone. I must have known the door to this time had closed when I moved away from Chicago to the corn fields of Dekalb. But no, even then I had an occasional job with them. Enough to make me think this band might slow its pace, but would always be there in my life, chugging along… It was only when the building in which the band enjoyed a steady engagement (at Bill’s Blues) burned to the ground a couple of years ago – long after I’d moved to New York – that my heart finally understood it was over. There was no going back now. And this poor dress, after nearly one hundred years of service, is done with its career of dance parties and concerts. This is not to say that its life is completely over; the dress may yet provide years of service as a costume – perhaps in a high school play, or in a little girl’s dress up trunk. But its show days are over. That chapter has closed.

The thing about chapters and books is that you know exactly where you stand with respect to the ending. You can clearly see how many pages are left. From that, you can figure out how to emotionally pace yourself. You might love the book so well you put it down for a few days, so as to make it last. You might love it so well you cannot put it down, and so you consume it immediately. Either way, it’s your choice. You control things. You can choose to skip to the end of each chapter and ease your mind by learning that things finally do come out ok, or you can simply take solace in knowing that ultimately it’s just a book, and as such, it has a finite life. And no matter what the outcome, good or bad, it will come to an end. And you know exactly when that will be. At any given time in your reading of that book you can tell precisely where you are in relation to the ending. Me, I like that feeling. That definite knowing. If only we could know how many days were in a life as well as we know the number of pages in a book. A pity we don’t, I say. How much more carefully we would write if we knew how many pages we’d yet to go.

It’s been said of me by friends that I tend to look backward more often than forward. And I suppose I agree. I get nostalgic and misty over past decades quite easily. In my defense I offer that it’s because I have had some very good and memorable times on this planet. It’s also been said of me by friends that I’ve lived half a dozen lives already. And I would agree with that too. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have lived this life. I’ve piloted a 40 foot sailboat through a storm on the Atlantic, I’ve jumped out of planes and hosted a radio show (not at the same time!) I’ve sung in front of thousands of people, I’ve played a sparkly accordion, I’ve traveled to unusual parts of the world, I’ve butchered a chicken, I’ve raised a child. I grew up in a house full of harpsichords, my summers were filled with New England lakes, Baroque concerts and life on a farm. From a young age my father took me to hear jazz, and my grandma showed me how to dance to Jelly Roll Morton. My Pakistani father-in-law and Chilean mother-in-law opened my world to a still-wider cache of experiences. I learned to make new kinds of food. I cooked food on a private boat as it motored down the Mississippi, I avoided day jobs by taking hundreds of temp jobs and doing singing telegrams, two tanks of helium in my trunk on the ready to blow up balloons en route to my hits.

My memories are jammed to the rafters. And as I recall some of them, I can almost pinpoint the times at which ‘mini eras’ came to be, and the times at which they came to a close. Funny thing is, when I was actually living these memories, I wasn’t necessarily aware of them as chapters. All I knew is that I was following the events as one prepared the way for the next. And when an era came to an end, it certainly didn’t feel like it. I may have sensed things were changing, but in the back of my mind I guess I always thought that things would continue on as they were… Maybe that’s because I am not good at goodbye. Change is relentless, and I know it’s not healthy to fight it, but still, it’s not something that sits easily with me. I like things steady and for the most part, unchanging. But to be fair, if life didn’t lead me to new experiences, I’d probably cry of boredom. I guess the trick to living happily in the balance is to be aware of things as they are happening. Perhaps this is a gift of aging. Even if I knew it before, I know it so much more keenly now: savor, savor, savor. You may not think so now, but chances are good that one day hence you’ll look back and miss the way things were this very day.

My son is in seventh grade. If ever there was a time in which things change, this is it. I know it was for me. My first real crush, the first time I ever shaved under my arms, the first time I realized how complicated it all was. Elihu comes up to my ears now, he might even a bit taller. His skin is still smooth, but the hair is coming in differently on his legs, his toes and feet don’t look like a young child’s anymore, and soon, very soon, he will become taller than me. And I’m ok with this, poignant though it may be to my sentimental heart, because now I know to be on the lookout for it. I will not be taken by surprise by the forthcoming chapter, dammit. Each day I note how subtly he is changing. I soak up our time together now because I know that one year from today we will have entered another era, and things will likely be very different. Being aware helps me in my process. I just wish I’d thought this way all those years ago – as I left the Aluminum Group days, as I left the sailing crew days, as I left my days of city living…. I guess I always thought I could return, effortlessly, to those experiences. I didn’t quite realize that each chapter requires a certain, magical alignment of the stars, and that that magical composition morphs and moves on just as surely as do the eddies in a river…

One week ago today, when the Studio’s last guest was gone and I stood alone in the space, a clipboard full of new email addresses under my arm, I knew then that we’d experienced a beginning. The beginning of the preceding chapter was easy enough to define; six inches of standing water covering the Studio’s floor left me nowhere to turn. The moment my eyes first looked upon the flood I knew things had shifted. I just wasn’t sure how things would pan out…What followed was a chapter full of incremental changes, movement at a snail’s pace that could hardly be detected from up close. Yet things had changed. In a big way. And finally, we were here. I’d spent a lot of emotional energy coming to terms with the idea of my father’s era truly being done now, and it was a good thing the process has been slow – otherwise I might not have had the heart to go through with it. I needed the time to find emotional closure to the old days before I could step across the threshold into the new ones. Looking out on this empty hall, it occurred to me that one day this time will be looked upon with some nostalgia and interest, too. When my son takes over, or the board votes me out, or a theater company buys the whole shebang and puts a new wing on…. This will be the era that came before, upon which people wax nostalgic…

I may not know how many pages are left in my book, but at least I know to write more carefully as I go, being ever mindful of my surroundings as the chapters unfold. One day I hope to leave behind a fine book, with a fine ending too. But for now, it’s just one sentence at a time.


Like A Rhinestone; Retro Post October 1, 2015

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Mommy Mind,Pics,Retro Post — wingmother @ 9:27 am

Like A Rhinestone – originally posted on 10/25/11

I’ve had a long-term ear worm the past month. Through the ether this little gem reached me, inspired by what I cannot tell. That I even know the song is somewhat of a mystery; I was after all I was just about eleven or so when it came out. While I do have memories of sitting in the back seat of our Plymouth station wagon, hanging my chin over the front bench seat and begging my mother to please turn on the radio, I don’t think I encountered the song there. At school, perhaps? On the playground? Did my hip-looking fourth grade teacher play it for us in our progressive, 70s classroom? These were the days when music was an elusive treasure; a pre-walkman, pre-ipod culture, so the sources were few. Ah, perhaps I heard it first on my yellow, doughnut-shaped AM wrist radio… yes, that might be it. Imagine this simple little melody, absolutely fixed in my brain after all these years. Well, Glen, kudos to you; you chose to record one sticky little tune.

In an effort to exorcise the nugget from my head I awake early and pull out my tether to the world – my now rather ancient, yet essential G4 I Book – and I cast my line out into the ocean of information. What will I find? My friend Joan told me recently that he doesn’t look so good these days. I’m emotionally prepared. How old must he be? My mom’s age? Hmm… Then there it is. A page of head shots past and present. First, my eyes are drawn to the Glen Campbell I remember, the helmet of perfectly feathered hair, the cleft chin – the classic 70s handsome good guy look shared by the likes of Mac Davis and Bobby Sherman. This wasn’t the type I had gone for back then. I preferred the curling, long black hair of Donovan and Marc Bolan (so much so that decades later I crafted my own look to resemble Marc’s as closely as possible). Then there are the full body shots. The iconic belt buckle, long thin legs, cowboy boots, thumbs hooked onto belt loops with one hip cocked to the side. One groovy, sexy silhouette. I continue my quest. Just what is he up to these days? Soon I begin to collect a tidy list of tidbits on the man. I realize that I know very little of the guy.

My first impression upon seeing the first photo that comes up on his website is that he looks a little Sting-like, only with a wider nose. In the next shot he evokes a little Willy Nelson. All in all, not bad for a fellow who’s been around so long. I learn he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has recorded his latest record “Ghost on the Canvas” and plans to do a farewell tour. Sort of. He doesn’t commit to this, but for the time being it appears this is the plan. I look elsewhere and learn that he played rhythm guitar as a sideman on Frank Sinatra’s recording of “Strangers In The Night”. Apparently, he was starstruck and admitted to the producer that it was the reason he kept staring at the maestro. Irked at young Glen’s stares (also perhaps at the session itself as later Frank called the single ‘a piece of shit’) the crooner asked his producer ‘who is that fag guitar player?’ and told him he’d slap Glen if he did it again. Love it. I move on…

I am taken on a brief detour as I chase a link to Anne Murray – and discover that she is probably aging the very best of her generation. She looks gorgeous. After a quick foray into her history and current life I wander back to my man. I visit You Tube and find his song covered by school-age kids in Thailand, in a David Hasselhoff concert in Germany, by a homeless guy in the States and a marching flute band in Ireland. Nuff said. This is an earworm shared by a worldwide family. Lest I make the mistake that I disdain in so many and assume that he himself wrote it, I wonder: who really did write this song? I admit that I was quick to assume that Glen himself did, yet a quick check shows that is not the case. I must remember that the time in which this song was recorded was one in which performers themselves were not necessarily songwriters. This era was on the cusp of change; until that time singers had recorded and performed material created by folks whose sole job was that of songwriter. Even more specifically music and lyrics were two separate occupations. Although the music world was certainly changing by that time, the old architecture still existed; songwriters wrote, managers assisted the artists in choosing material and anonymous session musicians played on the tracks.

Larry Weiss of Newark, New Jersey wrote it. And poor guy, while he’s had a long and varied career since then, he has ultimately hung his hat on that one little song, and is even still actively wresting the life out of it in his current work on the theme for Broadway. Sheesh. But then again, if ‘Mama Mia’, why not ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’? Give the people what they want – redo your kitchen and buy a new car while the iron’s still hot. Why not? I would. I still love my old band The Aluminum Group’s ‘Chocolates’ and never minded playing it at every single show. I admit I was never sorely tested on that front; I really do wonder how folks are able to play their hits night after night after night and still bring it the life their audience deserves. Could I? Don’t know. That Larry and Glen continue to have an interested audience, and that they and thousands more can still make an income off that one two-minute song impresses me.

My tappy-tap tap sounds from the keyboard awaken my son. I greet him with the first line of the song. He finishes it. I guess I’ve been singing it around the house this past week more than I’d thought. He likes the song too. I’m surprised to learn he knows just about all of it. Elihu has a nice singing voice, I get a kick out of hearing him. It gives me an idea. I suggest he might want to sing it at this year’s Talent Show. He laughs and says he’d love to. I can play the piano for him… yes, and he can wear a big belt buckle… I’m getting excited now. Maybe this will be what clears my head of the hit. Hair of the dog, right?

We finish our breakfast and head to the school bus singing. The bus arrives, and my little cowboy rides off to his star-spangled rodeo.



Launch September 27, 2015

Although I’m not really a fan of using the word ‘launch’ to describe the act of starting up a new business and opening its doors to the public, I do suppose the word is rather assertive by nature, and it certainly distills the essence of what it is to undertake such a project…. Just moments ago, on Facebook, I gave in and threw myself in the current of mainstream culture and announced that I was ‘launching’ my new arts center today. And in my imagination I saw a fist-sized rock disappearing into the twilight sky in a faint white arc, over the horse pastures on cemetery hill and towards the rising near-full moon. There it goes, on its own trajectory, off into a future I can never fully know.

It’s just after 9 am, and I’ve gotten a lot done in the past two hours. Woke up refreshed after a good old-fashioned, pharmaceutically enhanced eight hours of sleep, and set to work….. filling the fish tank! Elihu is nearly frantic each day as the goldfish in the outdoor pond become increasingly sluggish, responding to the cool days and cold nights. Each day he beseeches me to fill the tank, he asks me for definite times, days…. But days slip away as I make fifteen minute trips to The Studio that turn into hours… Poor kid. I’m doing my best, and so is he. I’ve filled the silly tank – seven trips it took, up and down the stairs with the bucket, but now it’s done. So too is the making of breakfast; home-made french toast, bacon and his favorite peppermint tea are all on the table and ready for him when he wakes. And that’s good, because I won’t be here by then. I’ll be next door, still in my grungy clothes, putting the icing on the cake, as it were.

All for now. Dear friends and readers, thank you for all the good thoughts and hopes you hold for us here at the Hillhouse. Without meaning to add too much drama and import to the day – I really do believe it is one of great significance. Regular readers who’ve been with us on the journey will understand how far we’ve come these past few years. I myself still don’t really believe I’m here. But lest I get too high on my horse with self-congratulations and praise, may I remind myself that it took the help and guidance of so very many people to get us to this place. And I can’t afford to think I’ve completed anything per se; this is really only the first step of yet another unfamiliar journey…

The Studio – Greenfield’s Performing & Visual Arts Center



Almost There September 21, 2015

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,The Studio — wingmother @ 9:58 pm

Some days I think this is the best deal ever. I get to make choices, solve problems, imagine how I’d like things to be one year down the road, two, three, maybe even ten… My plans are beginning to physically manifest now, and it’s kind of mind-blowing. I still don’t really believe that this whole thing’ll fly. That I’ll be able to derive an income from it. That it’ll even pay for its own bills. Many are the times folks have suggested to me that I might have a hard time receiving. Feeling I deserve rewards for my efforts, living with a lack of self-worth. And I can see that, cuz money’s never come to me (I know, I know – all you supporters of manifesting – that’s no way to talk!) and I still don’t know where the money will come in the future, now that it’s all been spent on the Studio. But either way, it’s nice to see the potential that the investment has created. It feels so good to see the progress that’s been made. Sometimes I find myself happy, really excited even, to imagine where this adventure will lead. Sometimes. But definitely not always.

Like right now. I have a horrible headache, my stomach hurts and I think I might be coming down with a cold. There is NO end to the things I must juggle, remember, do, create, fix, clean, prepare… My son must be picked up after midnight at the airport tomorrow at the end of one long day, and I fear how I’ll make it. I fear how in hell this open house will do. I fear a weak turnout. I fear I won’t get it all done in the five days remaining. I fear it’ll always be just me pulling the load. Just my mother funding it. But that’s a moot point now; the money’s all been spent. The place is looking good, but as a contractor friend of mine pointed out just this morning – the roof’s going, and there’s a lot of carpentry to be done if I’m to keep the interior safe. How this works I have no clue. I know – ideally one has a board, and on that board sit all sorts of folks with energy, enthusiasm, professional connections and perhaps even money. But so far that board is me, my business partner and my mom. We’re legal, but still. It can’t go on like this. Which is why we’re opening the place up to the world. I just pray it works. Serendipitous and wonderful things have happened, but my head and my stomach don’t care. They feel just awful, and they’re not terribly optimistic about things.

It’s time to go to bed. Done almost everything on my list. My body needs sleep, if it’ll even come. I’ve lived such a low-stress life these past seven years here in the country that this kind of schedule is a real challenge for me. Some days I’ve got the radio cranking, the windows wide open and I can’t wait for the future to get here already, some days I wish I could just get this stupid, earthly life the fuck over already. Ya know?

Ok. There’s the digest of the moment. It’s a temporary agony. Things will go well. They will. They may not go as I’d planned, but somehow, as Martha Carver always used to say “Things always work out.” (Folks who know the Stonehenge scene in Spinal Tap will appreciate how I felt when I got my car door magnet sign for The Studio – a mere whisper of a rolling ad, barely readable from two feet away. Sigh.) On the other hand, the site exists now, I’ve sent out my first Constant Contact campaign, and my wallet is full of snazzy new business cards. There’s still a lot to do, but ready or not, Sunday’s a comin’….

Visit our lovely new website, won’t you?   The Studio, Greenfield’s Performing & Visual Arts Center


Son Shine September 13, 2015

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Mommy Mind — wingmother @ 11:38 am

No photos to post, no real news to offer, just thought I’d write a little while the day was still fresh and the house quiet. My son is sleeping the heavy, deep morning sleep of a teenager, and since I haven’t really helped him much by way of shifting his internal clock, I feel a bit guilty. Letting him sleep, and not waking him is not really helping, but I know his growing body needs it. We’ll get back to a true early-to-bed, early-to-rise routine soon. Everything in its time.

Last night Elihu and I ventured out in the dark and rainy night to visit a restaurant in town where I knew two guitarists to be playing. Over and over again throughout the evening I would think to myself how lucky I was to have such a companion in my young son. I told myself to cherish these times, because it wouldn’t always be thus. And I told myself again that this was not really so much nurture showing itself as it was simply nature. Sure I’ve helped shape the person my son is becoming, but honestly, he’s had so much on board from the get-go. He is, as I like to describe him, a ‘fully loaded’ child. But last night felt different somehow. The conversation between us was thoughtful and interesting, full of insights and twists that I couldn’t have expected. Over and over again I wondered to myself if this was not an adult beside me. When had my child grown up so? It seemed almost as if I were in a dream… I do know that this occurs with all parents; at times they find themselves shaking their heads in wonder at the things their children notice, at the way in which they express themselves. But last night, somehow, I felt a shift. As my son offered his hand and introduced himself to people, as he thanked the bartender for his service, as he remarked on stylistic details – from the guitarists’ sound to the decorating choices of the restaurant – I kept wondering to myself if this really was a twelve year old boy before me. I enjoyed his company endlessly, and more than a few times last night I cautioned myself not to come to rely on it. Times will be changing soon, and the days of mom and son dates like this will not last forever.

This thought is something we two discuss. It’s not a private rumination of mine – even Elihu wonders how things will all sort themselves out as he becomes interested in girls and finds a life of his own. I tell him that he’ll distance himself from me, and he’ll find he wants private time; he won’t want to hang out with his mother. “I don’t think it’ll be like that” he answered as we drove down the winding, dark road. “I’ll always love you. And I’ll always want you around.” “I know sweetie. We’ll both always love each other, but there will come a time when you’ll have to separate from me. And then, after some time, you’ll come back. But you’ll have to leave. You’ll want to leave. Trust me.” He took it in, and seemed to agree. But for the moment, the two of us are inextricably bound to each other. I wouldn’t even have gone out last night to meet the musicians if Elihu hadn’t insisted. “You have to. You said you would, and so you have to. Not showing up would be unacceptable.” We’d been cozily nestled in at home, he at the tuba and me at the piano, bouncing our way through some simple old-timey tunes. Neither of us had even gotten out of our comfy clothes, neither of us was really of the mind to collect ourselves up and go out. But we did, because of him. And it was lovely.

It was still raining on the way home, and while we’d suspected that the local frog population was probably hunkering down for the long winter ahead, we were surprised to see a fair number of them leaping across the road. Toads, frogs, even snakes, almost always require a stop. If properly equipped with a five gallon bucket and lid, we’ll snatch up a couple dozen of ’em to marvel over at home, before we let them go outside our kitchen door. Last night Elihu was wearing his white oxford shirt, and we had no bucket. Still, it was too much to resist, and at the first sighting, I stopped the car and gave the directions: ten feet in front of the right side of the car…. Elihu raced out into the headlights, crouched down, paused – and cupped his hands on the prize. It was a plump toad who chirped in Elihu’s hands the whole way home. When we pulled in beside the house, we both paused to admire this lovely creature. His fingers, his legs, his – as we like to say – ‘love me’ eyes. We were beside ourselves with love for this little being. “He sounds almost like a bird, doesn’t he?” Elihu remarked, as the toad trilled his song. Then Elihu ran to the pond’s edge and gently placed the animal under the tall echinacea plant. I watched him as he held his tiny friend, hands open, waiting for the toad to leave on his own. He watched for a long time, there in the endless rain. Finally, the toad disappeared into the darkness, and Elihu ran up the steps to the shelter of the porch. My son was close, my heart was full.


Busking and Back September 7, 2015

Never let it be said that we don’t live a rich life. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself on account of our meager monetary situation, I have to step back and pause for a moment to remind myself of the bigger picture. True, we may not have a lot of money, but Elihu and I are rich in life experiences. For one, my son gets the advantage of two homes. In one situation he gets to enjoy a bit of road life with his musician father as well as a bustling household with two younger siblings and a crazy little dog . And when he’s here, he enjoys a nice mix of town and country living. We’ve come to know so many disparate sub-cultures in our life here, and better still – we’ve come to feel at home in all of them. From the down and dirty local animal auction house to the tony happenings in town, we’ve been lucky to get an inside look at it all.

Recently Elihu busked on the crowded streets of Saratoga. He sounded great (as usual) but better still got the chance to play with some other musicians. Many times I looked up to see him laughing in pure bliss. He was in the midst of some real action; he’d chosen a couple of very good nights to be out and playing. There were street musicians and performers taking up every niche and corner, and the sidewalks were absolutely filled with every manner of human being. The well-appointed racing crowd and the tattooed bikers, the young, leggy college girls and ancient, shuffling men, even young parents pushing strollers with sleeping young children draped over their shoulders. Bentleys and Maseratis trolled the streets, dogs and pet pigs walked the strip and the air was filled with sounds bouncing in from all directions. (When walking past a hot rod Elihu remarked ‘nice car’ to which its owner replied ‘nice mom’. I explained that while a few years ago I might have taken offense at the fellow’s remark, these days it was something of a treat to know I wasn’t completely invisible as I often feel these days.)

After several hours of playing, Elihu and I decided to head home sometime around midnight. We walked back to our car, which was parked behind a friend’s home just two blocks from Broadway, an incredibly valuable parking spot in the bursting tourist town. A full moon illuminated our walk through the alley. The scent of lingering phlox blossoms hung in the air, while the first sunflowers of late summer had already begun to bloom. Now the only sound we could hear was a chorus of invisible crickets. Only moments earlier we’d heard the acoustic assault of the street; the constant chatter of people milling about, street performers, loud, drunken people calling to each other over the crowds, and cover bands from almost every venue competing for airspace, their music ricocheting back and forth between the buildings on narrow Caroline Street. We’d seen a man throwing up in the middle of the road, we’d seen more than a few drunken woman come crashing down from their five inch heels onto the pavement, and we’d seen every manner of human – from homeless souls hunkering down in the shadows to handsomely dressed couples, women topped with the finest in modern millenery creations. The alley we walked down seemed almost like a dream in the wake of it all. “It’s so hard to believe that all that noise is completely gone now. Just a minute ago we were in it, and now, look, listen… Can you believe it?” Elihu said. He was thinking just like me. Yeah, I agreed, it was pretty mind-blowing. “Here we are almost in the country! We went from the city to the suburbs in only minutes!” he continued. “Yeah” I agreed, “and just wait ten more minutes, and we’ll really be in the country.”

As we turned onto our road, the full moon shone over the big field, and once again we were both floored by the almost immediate contrast between environments. Coming home is all the more precious on the heels of such chaos. Oh, and his take? Elihu made a cool $106. American Pharoah, the celebrity horse that everyone had staked their hopes on might not have made the big bucks as expected, but my little horse rode home a winner.

IMG_0068The county fair was also a highlight of the past couple weeks…. The Dekalb corn sign reminds me of my previous life in that small town of the same name (and yes, the variety of corn is also from that same Midwestern town).

IMG_0071Seriously? Sigh. And the next car sported a sticker that read “Drop Warheads of Foreheads”. Ich.

IMG_0072Kindred of that scary, ‘warheads on foreheads’ group, no doubt. How long will this close-minded, hateful thinking continue?

IMG_0075One kind of horse in action…

IMG_0078…and another.

Always a loud affair.

IMG_0111In this culture, folks know the cars and riders well. This guy’s a small celebrity…

IMG_0114…and he’s got the merch to prove it.

IMG_0148Elihu rushes past the cows…

IMG_0158…and into our friend Paul Van Arnum’s stand of planters and miscellaneous curios.

IMG_0175I’ve known Paul since I was four (his daughter Sherry and I are the same age and she was also matron of honor at my wedding). He and his wife Betsy are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. He runs a greenhouse and must keep the wood fires burning night and day all through the endless cold months. They have had their stand at the local farmer’s markets and fairs for decades; every last item must be unloaded, set up, and then packed away afterwards. Loads of physical work. He’s getting older now, and understandably he’s slowing down a bit. Not sure he’ll be at the fair next year, I hear they didn’t renew their contract for the booth space. Every era must end sometime, but I’m still a little sentimental. Glad we stopped by.

IMG_0189Paul’s thing is lava rock creations. None are to scale, all are absolutely charming; made with sincerity and love.

Watch as these little plants react to being touched.

IMG_0185Of course Elihu delights in the duck fountain. In the end, it’s always about the birds. (Btw – this year there were NO BIRDS of any kind at the fair due to a local bacterial infection in the area’s poultry. Huge bummer – and what’s more, we learned that the emu hen we’d been visiting and smooching for years had died in June. It took the wind out of our sails for sure, but on goes life. We’re thankful we had the opportunity to know a friendly emu.)

IMG_0129A beautiful sunset over the Washington County Fairgrounds.

IMG_0117A mysterious midway with the moon behind.

IMG_0144And a magical, serendipitous meeting with Phoenix and Jonah, two former Waldorf classmates whom Elihu has dearly missed. My son seldom smiles like this!

IMG_0198Phoenix is on the Scrambler too – he’s in the middle, waving.

IMG_0201The first ride of the year is a little scary as it starts…

IMG_0204But oh how we loved it. Went twice. Soothing and repetitious, it had a hypnotic effect.

IMG_0219This one is my all-time favorite. Being on a budget, I only went once, otherwise I would have gone on it again and again. There was some speculation as to the back story here: last year the ride was absent due to ‘technical difficulties’, and this year it returned as 1oo1 Nachts, rather than Nights. Technical or legal glitch – or perhaps both?

IMG_0196My legally blind son takes his chances on slim odds… He needs to get the ping pong ball into a narrow-mouthed glass jar in order to win a goldfish. I prepare him to be disappointed – even those with good vision don’t stand to win.

IMG_0234But wouldn’t ya know – for the second year in a row my kid actually won a fish! The man at the stand even remembered him, which made us both happy. (The fish now resides in our pond with six goldfish cousins.)

IMG_0334On to another kind of nightlife on the busy streets of Saratoga Springs, New York. Racing season is nearing its end, and the streets are jam-packed with revelers.

IMG_0331Elihu enjoyed sitting in with a group….

A little snapshot of Broadway buskers.

IMG_0315… and then he teamed up with Chris. We’ve seen Chris on Broadway over the years, but this is the first time they’ve played together. They were equally matched in skill and enjoyment. (He goes by ChrisUnited – no space – if you want to do a search for him.)

IMG_0317They made some money, but that wasn’t the reason these guys were playing.

Wish the audio were better – I promise you they sounded so much better in person.

IMG_0324They had an absolute blast.

IMG_0327Lots of personality here! This was a night we’ll always remember. Only a few more summer nights to go…

Post Script: The Studio’s open house and ‘friend-raiser’ will be on the last Sunday of September, from 1 – 5. There’s so much to do I almost think my head will explode. Elihu’s also going to be playing tuba in the orchestra this year, so we’re faced with a whole new adventure on that front. Because of all that’s been going on, I’ve found it challenging to create posts – and there will likely be far fewer in the coming months. Thanks as always for coming along on our adventures, and we’ll see you again as soon as possible…


Post Time August 25, 2015

We live in a racing town, but we’ve only been to the track a couple of times. The first time I went I was without Elihu, and I bet on “Those Were the Days” (a nod to the song my son and I used to sing as we walked the Saratoga streets in the summertime) – and I won. My latest trip to the track didn’t involve betting, but I got to sing a tune with a local band. And that was a win for me. Not a big deal in reality, but symbolically it had meant something to me. After seven years here, I finally got to sing with some trad musicians. A slow start to what I have a hunch will be a fast-tracked year for us here in Greenfield. The Studio has come a long way and will make its debut in the end of September. And as unprepared as I may feel about it, my twelve year old son is soon to start seventh grade, and that alone means big changes are underway. I feel a sort of subterranean rumbling in my life at the moment…. I can’t cite any one thing in particular, but rather it’s an amalgam of many small changes that contribute to this swelling of possibility that I feel underfoot. I still feel I have no idea what it is that I’m doing, or quite understand where I’m going – how my life will look in a year’s time. But a tiny voice tells me things will be very different. Sometimes I feel like nothing’s really changed over the past few years here in my small country life, but a snapshot from just one year ago this time shows otherwise.

This week we released our wild-caught captive frogs, we enjoyed a night of beautifully performed music and gave away a whole lot of old stuff that’s been cluttering up our garage for a long time. Trepidation always gnaws at me as I move through my days, but still, I can’t help but feel like I’m making headway here. Headway towards just what, exactly? Thing is, I really don’t know. It just feels like we’re at the starting gate, and the gun is about to go off…

IMG_0021At the literal starting gate here, where horse number nine threw its rider, causing the crowd to roar… You could feel the anticipation of the race in the air.

IMG_0016We’re about as close to the action as one could hope to get, but unfortunately, that doesn’t really help my Achromat. He’s obliging me by being here. He sees very little of the horses.

IMG_0039Although it’s a pretty penny to get into the box section, this gal talked her way in effortlessly. I meant to show Elihu the elegance and thrill of the ‘other’ side of the track; private boxes, computer monitors, $25 flutes of champagne, and high-stakes betting. I’ve been told that the money the ‘downstairs’ folks bet is often called ‘stupid money’, because the bets are made based on the names of the horses alone (look at me, case in point!) and it’s the stupid money that funds those who know what they’re doing. The folks who sit here.

IMG_0041Not a lot maybe, but way too rich for me.

IMG_0042The red and white awnings everywhere make me dizzy.

IMG_0044These gentlemen are playing with the ‘stupid money’ to make their fortunes.

IMG_0069Ah, but this is why we’re here. Sang ‘I’m Confessin’ (for the first time in over seven years!) at a bright clip, forgot a line but filled it with the usual shtick, and enjoyed myself more in those two minutes than I have in a loooong time.

IMG_0238We finally went to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra. Saw this Rolls in the artists’ parking lot. Must belong to the tuba player, right?

IMG_0240Ah, SPAC. Thanks to Elihu’s visual situation, we’re always entitled to front row seats. Amazing. Grateful are we!!!

IMG_0241Hey look! It’s Carol!!

IMG_0250Enjoying some surprisingly tasty fries while listening to Tchiakovsky. Say what? Uber dope!

IMG_0252Conductor Yannik overflows with enthusiasm, love and gratitude for the music and the musicians.

IMG_0257Even got a little post-concert hang with tubist Carol Yantsch! (Turns out the Rolls wasn’t hers.)

IMG_0198There’s a little more excavational action at the Studio to finish up. Daryn waves to the camera.

IMG_0215My buddy Al assesses the too-tall stack. Come on, plumbers, ya charge me an arm and a leg then I have to finish the job myself? Al simply pulled a run of the mill saw out of the cab, marked it off…

IMG_0217…and had Daryn saw it down to size. Details, details. So many, yet each one is important.

IMG_0096The power went out one night. Threw most of my neighbors into a tizz. Me, I spend some time enjoying my piano. I positively reveled in the first-ever black of night outside my door. Gone were the annoying and ever-present ‘dusk to dawn’ lights that country folks often like to install by their garages, and which prevent true night from ever falling.

IMG_0090The chipping sparrows returned a couple of weeks ago, and this is their final clutch for the season before they head north. Look at this adorable open-mouthed baby! Feed me indeed!

IMG_0151This is the baby. He still has a bit of that pouty look – his ‘lips’ kind of turn down, and he’s more streaked than mom and dad. Tiny and so friggin cute.

IMG_0164Indulge me, if you will, in a little more nature talk. An ordinary lawn chair, right? Look closely at the bottom of the two center bars…

IMG_0167What’s this? Hay sticking out of a hole?? An accident perhaps?

IMG_0179Certainly not! It’s the work of a very industrious wasp whose labor I’ve watched for weeks. I don’t really want to share my chair with her, but how an I undo all of her domestic efforts? I can’t. This chair will remain unused til next year. (See how she carries that grass while in flight! I for one am very impressed.)

IMG_0052Mom and I spent hours upon hours going through the WWII trunk of Martha Carver’s husband, Francis.

IMG_0069Frank on the left, son Rob on the right…

IMG_0065Little Robbie then… and now!

IMG_0014The Studio still feels like it’s miles from completion, but we’re getting there.

IMG_0015A memento of years gone by…

IMG_0161Ancient Annie comes by the Studio as she has for the past sixteen years, and checks out our progress. I think she approves of the new kitchen.

IMG_0190Elihu and grandma admire the newest tomato. Look at this photo and notice: these two people are just about the same height. I just noticed this now. Holy crap, when did this happen. ??

IMG_0119I left the door open for a moment, and the girls just lhad to inspect the new porch.

IMG_0213Happy snail, happy fish. (Ok, if not ‘happy’, then at least virtually stress-free.)

IMG_0222One of twelve ‘happy’ frogs that live in our pond.

IMG_0057We finally released the tree frogs we caught last spring.

IMG_0025I’m thinking they’re pretty happy about that!

IMG_0096A last look. Thank you! We enjoyed having you around. Happy ‘torpor-ing’ – see you next year.

IMG_0098Back to the bottom line. After a full roster of events and day trips, there’s no place like home. We’re always  happy to let the race go on without us for a while.



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