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

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

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

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…