The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Mingus Amongus September 15, 2013

Friday’s greatest news: Elihu’s bass had arrived. First thing after school we visited our friends at Saratoga Guitar to pick her up. Elihu was beside himself. It was almost better that he had a pal with him for an after-school playdate, as his head might have exploded with excitement if he didn’t have the distraction. Here are some pics from our weekend, from bass to birds to a visit with some civil war cats in the park. We try to be laid-back and under-scheduled, but life just finds us and fills in the cracks.

Bass Sept 2013 222Here we are…

Bass Sept 2013 217Here it is…

Bass Sept 2013 221…and there he goes! Man, this thing really is big!

Bass Sept 2013 237First, a little keva plank tower building…The plan is to knock it down with an RC car. Always lots of fun. !!

Bass Sept 2013 262Play date’s over, and Elihu’s classmate has gone home now, so time to see what a bass really feels like…

Bass Sept 2013 265It’s gonna take some finger strength for sure…

Bass Sept 2013 286Elihu’s not a very big kid, but I think he’ll make it work.

Bass Sept 2013 276Elihu looked at this picture and told me his form was all off – that his right arm was wrong. I have no idea, but shortly will probably know much more about such things.

Bass Sept 2013 298Later that evening Elihu picked apples while I made the crust. We had to celebrate with more home-made apple pie!

The next day we happened upon a garage sale and immediately found this VHS tape…

mingus 002So how cool is this??? We ran home, put it in only to find the entire tape had been re-recorded over with old episodes of Friends. Seriously? Sheesh. So then we watched some performances of Mr. Mingus on YouTube instead. Good enough for now. More to come for sure.

Bass Sept 2013 343Some chicken smooching.

Bass Sept 2013 380A moment with Specks.

Bass Sept 2013 386So crazy cute. Or maybe just so crazy. !

Bass Sept 2013 392We get into the car to go and the girls all follow Elihu.

Bass Sept 2013 399At the Civil War encampment in Congress Park.

Bass Sept 2013 403Some hands-on training

Bass Sept 2013 406and ready!

Bass Sept 2013 411No foolin.

Bass Sept 2013 412A handsome young soldier.

Bass Sept 2013 419Note the bullet-embedded bone in foreground. Ouch.

Bass Sept 2013 424The super old-timey music. Can’t say I knew any of the tunes, nor found much of it that interesting. Am I a snob? Hope not.

Bass Sept 2013 425It was fun to see so many in character.

Bass Sept 2013 455In the end, Elihu’s most interested in the animals.

Bass Sept 2013 461At the fountain locals call “Spit and Spat”.

Bass Sept 2013 517Checking out one of many springs that put the “Springs” in “Saratoga”.

Bass Sept 2013 521As ‘real’ as Saratoga water gets.

Bass Sept 2013 550Not quite too old for one last ride on the carousel.

Bass Sept 2013 541Mama’s waving in the mirror

Bass Sept 2013 555Off to chase one final duck

Bass Sept 2013 545Nice to see some lasting summer color.

Bass Sept 2013 561To the last spring of the day. We try to be open-minded, and we realize that this stuff’s supposed to be really good for you, but still… This one tastes, well, er, uh, kind of….  Ok, how about we just let the Department of Public Works tell you:

“A highly carbonated water of an Alkaline-Saline flavor noted for its high mineral content, and renowned as a digestive curative…”

Bass Sept 2013 569

We tried, really we did.

This was a laid-back weekend, but Elihu was still pooped at its conclusion. Even with all the fun things that we end up doing, it’s still Elihu’s wish that we might have just one weekend with no plans at all. With nothing at all to see or do, no where to go. Is that even possible? We’ll just have to wait and see…

 

Lake Day September 3, 2013

We didn’t plan on it, but yesterday we found ourselves headed up north for our fourth annual end-of-summer day in Lake George. We’d planned on a final day in Saratoga, but en route changed our minds. We had a very lovely day – which ended just in time as a tremendous downpour started right after dark. We made it home through a raging rain, and after a brief recapping of our day and some last-minute, late-night roughhousing, we got into bed on the final non-school night of summer vacation.

Lake George Dept 2013 346Things started off in an interesting way as I saw a young man holding this sign at the side of the highway… (poor guy left his sign in our car. Oops.)

Lake George Dept 2013 003Here was some mother’s kid! And he needed a ride! I pulled over without thinking twice. Think what you will, he was smiling and just had a good feeling about him. What if this were my kid??

Lake George Dept 2013 007Elihu’s working his magic and cracking up our new friend Harrison (who by the way, was also a Waldorf kid. How crazy is that?) We had a short but very enjoyable ride with this young man. We wish him all the best and will be sending him our good thoughts as he continues his adventure (all the way to the west coast perhaps. !)

Lake George Dept 2013 008Good kid. I just hope he calls home to tell his supportive parents how things are going.

Lake George Dept 2013 020Didn’t feel quite right just leaving him there, but I guess that’s the idea. Good luck, Harrison!

Lake George Dept 2013 027We didn’t plan on this either, but a boat was just leaving, and the captain invited us along – why not?

Lake George Dept 2013 054Enjoying the northward view after a little picnic.

Lake George Dept 2013 061How the other half lives. The elegant Sagamore Hotel on Lake George.

Lake George Dept 2013 068Quite a spread. It resides on a small peninsula.

Lake George Dept 2013 092Perfect day for us. I love cloudy days, and they help Elihu to see better.

Lake George Dept 2013 079Dome Island. Public access. Maybe we’ll explore it one day. Never know.

Lake George Dept 2013 073More of the same, but it really gives a good feel for the day.

Lake George Dept 2013 072Parasailing – we’ll get to this one day too, I hope.

Lake George Dept 2013 096Cap’n Ed invited us into the wheelhouse. Once again, lil man is making em laugh.

Lake George Dept 2013 103I spent some time at the wheel too. Reminded me of the time I drove the multi-level tourist boat on Lake Como. Fareed grabbed the mic and began to announce the stops in Italian. A drunk captain just looked on and smiled. Another time, and another country to be sure. But this was fun and laid back too. (Probably a tad safer as well. !)

Lake George Dept 2013 112Now Elihu gets a turn. We both enjoyed telling Ed – after Elihu’s turn at the wheel – that he was legally blind. !!

Lake George Dept 2013 114He did really well. Yay!

Lake George Dept 2013 128We liked this scrolling map.

Lake George Dept 2013 139Ed took Elihu up to the private room on the top level for a look down below at the dance floor. Many weddings have happened here.  (And many drunken “Titanic” moments have happened on the bow, too.)

Lake George Dept 2013 144We shared the ride with very few people. It was a friendly bunch.

Lake George Dept 2013 154Passing the steam-powered, paddle wheel Minne Ha Ha. We rode on this last summer.

Lake George Dept 2013 169Pulling into the dock. Always interesting to watch. An impressive feat.

Lake George Dept 2013 184Now it’s on the the arcade. Funny, but this flying game blew Elihu’s mind last year and changed his life. Now, months after the introduction of Wii into our home, this is very old-school and he didn’t care to play it twice.

Lake George Dept 2013 187He ran outside when we ran out of cash. Made a little bit more, then dashed back inside….

Lake George Dept 2013 190to the kid-friendly gambling device. ! Elihu has new appreciation for the power of an addiction.

Lake George Dept 2013 213The sun came out and we were able to get a good look at the Adirondac – the boat we’d just been in (and driven.) The glass enclosure at the top right is the room from which Elihu and Ed were looking down onto to the dance floor.

Lake George Dept 2013 201Here’s where we passed the next hour. A beautiful, densely-planted garden in its late-summer glory. (The boat behind.)

Lake George Dept 2013 196Elihu was following the sound of grasshoppers and crickets.

Lake George Dept 2013 195He did find an insect making its sound – he described in detail the movements it was making, but when he tried his luck with the camera, it didn’t appear. Easy to hear – a real challenge to locate visually – by anyone, sighted or low-vision.

Lake George Dept 2013 200Elihu’s world is mostly an up-close one. Nice shot sweetie!

Lake George Dept 2013 258We love this door.

Lake George Dept 2013 255Elihu is showing the ‘Peace Officer’ how he can keep the peace with his Ben 10 omnitrix watch. He surprised them when he shot out a flying disc.

Lake George Dept 2013 268Now on to supper. We follow a cozy, European-esque alley way to our favorite place.

Lake George Dept 2013 266Here we are! Even got our favorite corner table on the railing!

Lake George Dept 2013 284Tomorrow it might be ramen again, but one night a year it’s lobster and clams! (We learned a very important and expensive lesson this meal: always ask if the lobster is fresh. And it it’s a tail, it’s likely been frozen. Never before have we ever tasted such bad lobster. A great disappointment. But Elihu was good about it. Poopie!)

Lake George Dept 2013 300So much for a serious picture.

Lake George Dept 2013 274So we hit the bathroom. I’m thinking about a post that’s been making the FB rounds… Handwritten on a wall is a picture of this message: Things I Hate 1) Vandalism 2) Irony 3) Lists. No sooner had I thought of it, when I thought that Elihu and I should add our names to the ones on the wall in a commemoration of sorts to our day. My eyes landed – at that very thought – on this spot on the wall. It was our mark from last year’s trip. !! I told Elihu about the Facebook post, and naturally he cracked up.  Then I showed him this. Be both knew what we had to do…

Lake George Dept 2013 281Add to it!  (That’s a jumping frog. Elihu says it was hard to draw on the wall surface, plus I used a flash once and it screwed him up. So if the frog is off, it’s my bad. That soured the mood for a bit. Yeeps.)

Lake George Dept 2013 312But not to worry, the mood will soon be a happy one. It starts like this – just one dinner roll does the trick. (That, and a certain, special gift.)

Lake George Dept 2013 318He got her! But she’s a wild duck, and very strong. She knocked the glasses clear off his head.

Lake George Dept 2013 324Calmed down now. Aah.

Lake George Dept 2013 335Now to share the experience.

Lake George Dept 2013 345We drove home in a hard-pouring rain. Usually the road is covered in frogs. We hardly saw one the whole trip (maybe too much rain!) We made an extra detour down a country road and found this guy. He’s in our pond now. For Elihu, this was just the very best end possible to a very wonderful day.

 

Last Weeks of Saratoga’s Summer September 2, 2013

The 144th running of the Travers took place here in Saratoga last week – which may as well have been last year for the rate at which the racing culture moves (and life in general too, I suppose)… Lest we forget it, I’m here to remind you thru some pics and anecdotes….  And then moving ahead, this week was the town’s final official week of summer activities. Last night a different band played on every corner, and people of all ages filled the streets. There was not a parking spot to be found – except for those of us locals who knew better and used the few open spots in the ATC parking lot. (Heck, each one of us probably has a free Adirondack Trust Company pen laying around somewhere in our car… that counts for something, right?) The streets were more densely packed with humans, canines, pigs, horses (on police duty) and reptiles than at any other time in the year. It was poppin. Oh, and my kid was almost run over by a bicycle. His heart was racing all the way home. Excitement at every turn.

Travers Day 2013 005Backin up to last week. Elihu thought he’d try busking in front of the track, but everyone was in such a hurry to get inside that hardly a soul tipped. He was, however, remembered by his brethren tweenager peers who shared the outside common area and sold cold water to the incoming patrons. Street kids gotta support each other. Not being sarcastic when I say you could feel the love.

Travers Day 2013 012Inside, this is the first scene you encounter. Lots of people milling about under a canopy of trees outside the actual grandstand building. And as it turns out, this is the main experience for many at the races; they set up a picnic area outside and listen for the race results to be announced. Kinda seems to me like they’re missing the heartbeat of the place out here.

Travers Day 2013 013The famous red-and-white canopy that leads into the grandstand. This is also where the horses must cross. All pedestrian traffic is stopped to let the rockstar racers walk past on their way to the paddock.

Travers Day 2013 019Here comes a horse and his posse…

Travers Day 2013 020This duo reminds me a little of the Man of La Mancha and his horse…

Travers Day 2013 024Once inside we witness some crazy sub-cultures I’m not usually privy to… bigwigs and wiry little latin dudes from the streets excitedly sharing the good news about the last race. Just what is their relationship? What’s gone down here? Mm.  Wish I knew the story.

Travers Day 2013 046We found a small spot at the fence. Our neighbors hadn’t won all day long – until we got there. Just sayin. !

Travers Day 2013 027Here’s a look westward toward the main part of the grandstand.

Travers Day 2013 051Women’s hats are de rigueur  in racing season. I missed my opportunity to dress up my dollar store garden hat with a bit of colorful grosgrain ribbon. Ah well. There’s always next year.

Travers Day 2013 058Elihu’s assessment of this highly-touted race day so far? Crowds, crowds and more crowds has this young racing fan giving the Saratoga Racetrack a thumbs down. Oh dear. Not a very good first experience here at the track.

Travers Day 2013 059But we found the sweet spot where the photographers hang out. Shady, close to the action and free.

Travers Day 2013 060We also get to watch the comings and goings of the horse community. There is literally a village of people behind the scenes here. And they’re all passing right in front of us. From trainers to owners to jockeys to just plain horse hands to the folks that make their food, do their laundry… a whole working town supports this racing world.

Travers Day 2013 074

The horses might be superstars, but we have no idea.

Travers Day 2013 072

The owners and trainers are better dressed.

Travers Day 2013 073

You just have no idea which horse is which before they have their colors on.

Travers Day 2013 088

But it’s fun to see all the activity so close up.

Travers Day 2013 069OK, now lil man is feeling a bit more hopeful about seeing something meaningful today. We’re as close as one can get!

Travers Day 2013 100Getting the track ready for the 144th running of the Travers Race…. just minutes away now…

Travers Day 2013 102The riders have just passed us and are now getting ready to enter the starting gate. Elihu and I both admired “Will Take Charge” as he passed feet from us in his crisp blue and white…. and as he left (the last one to parade in front of us) I yelled after him to ‘Go and take charge, baby!’ We’d gotten the best and longest look at him, so in a rather off-hand way, we thought of him as our ‘pick’.

Travers Day 2013 103Elihu finally gets the hang of using binoculars – and is able to follow the horses for the entire race. Here they’re whipping past us. They run so fast and pass us so quickly that there’s little to see. Even the whomping of their hooves into the dirt, as impressive a sound as it is, is so short-lived that one is not even sure one heard it after they’ve passed…. Honestly, these races are all over so quickly that I’m tempted to be disappointed in the whole thing. But then you hear this tremendous roar from the grandstand… and that’s something. The energy of those who won, those who lost, those who almost won…. you can feel that. And for those who live inside this culture and for whom these horses, owners and riders have much more meaning, I can see how compelling this sport might potentially be.

Travers Day 2013 097

I, however, am left to simply imagine what this whole world must be like from inside. I don’t take my true thrill from a race watched – or won – but rather the sight of an anonymous race horse a mere feet away from me being lead back to its stall.

Travers Day 2013 108So. Who won? Guess. “Will Take Charge”. Elihu and I high-fived each other in the car when this gal told us the news. Snapped a pic of her commemorative program – just so we could prove we were here.  The bit about us wanting WTC to win can never be proved. Ah well.

Travers Day 2013 112Back in town to see if Elihu can part some tourists from their cash…

Travers Day 2013 110This kind of cash would be nice. !

Travers Day 2013 114Starting a little slow….

Travers Day 2013 116Ah, forget busking for now. Let’s go across the street and see what the lovely Alexis is drawing today…

Travers Day 2013 118She’s always very kind and lets Elihu try his hand at something nearby. Tonite he was trying to learn a bit about making things appear larger in the foreground. Not quite what he’d wanted to achieve, but a lesson learned. Almost. !

Travers Day 2013 122Hey – Alexis has a mom! (But don’t they really look more like sisters??)

Travers Day 2013 121A little scene gets going…

Travers Day 2013 126Elihu meets Faith, the tongue drummer gal.

Travers Day 2013 129I left em alone for a bit, came back and they’d switched instruments!

Travers Day 2013 156It’s getting dark now, and the scenes are shifting… Saratoga’s beloved Cecil is here playing banjo – and there’s a gal twirling her baton to his music. Elihu joins in too.

Travers Day 2013 160

The three actually have a charming little act going for a while.

Travers Day 2013 163Elihu’s trying out a knew skill

Travers Day 2013 175Things get active later at night as a new guitarist joins the corner. Cecil’s just about finished with his shift.

Travers Day 2013 183On the way to our car (to give Cecil a ride home) we hear these kids playing old-timey jazz. Right up our alley!

Travers Day 2013 185Elihu asks if he can join them, and soon all three boys are off and running….

Travers Day 2013 188They drew a crowd. Some folks danced, some made videos, but this mom just watched, grinning ear to ear.

The tenor guitar player’s mom put together a couple of nice videos of the boys playing. Here are the links:

Deed I Do     Bye Bye Blues

_________________________________________________________

So a week passes in what seems like a day, and we’re back on Broadway, busking and meeting people in the lovely and serendipitous ways that we’ve come to expect… here are a few more pics from earlier tonite…

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 002First off, Elihu is crazy for this Chevy that we parked next to. I wish he could see its color too. Wonder what he’d think of it…

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 012We check out the folksy folks. They were just getting going, so we listened a bit and moved on…

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 033We had supper at Circus Cafe on the sidewalk. People, dogs, pigs on leashes and boas on necks all passed as we dined…

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 038

Then Elihu joined JoJo Romero for a set of reggae. It’s a new kind of groove for Elihu, but he listens well and caught on right away.

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 037

Not sure if this pic is any better. Neither’s great.

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 049Ran into friends Marcia and Ceres. These gals had just come from a polo game. (So Saratoga.) Don’t they just look it?  So smart.

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 055Cassandra took some videos of us and put them on Jojo’s Youtube channel. Thanks, that was sweet of you!

Elihu plays along with Jojo from the sidewalk, first night

Elihu plays with Jojo Romero on stage, second night

Mama dancing

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 053Now a pic of me and lil man in front of what is supposed to be a one hundred and fifty year old race horse. !?

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 058

JoJo Romero and Elihu, post set…

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 056…and one more. Good night to our new friends, and thank you very much! Elihu had fun! This just in – Elihu and Jojo have the same birthday! (April 28th) How about that?

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 076Like Cinderella after midnight, my world changes… in my ballgown I must put the chickens in for the night.

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 067Yup, this is how every night ends. No matter how high-brow it starts off.

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 109

What a week. New friends, good music, horses, dogs, pigs, pythons, frogs, goldfish and chickens… Whew.

We are all tuckered out and ready for bed. Summer’s over and school begins in just two days! Hard to believe.

 

Town and Country August 4, 2013

What do Susan Lucci, backyard ponds and karaoke bars have in common? They have each been a significant landmark of my weekend thus far. I feel I must admit that while I did actually see Ms. Lucci, at the time I wasn’t aware of exactly whom it was that I had seen in the carriage sitting across from the Queen of Saratoga, philanthropist, filthy rich and unendingly effervescent Marylou Whitney. I saw these fine ladies pass by from about a hundred feet away as I sat on the outside porch of a downtown restaurant. I had finished a long and arduous day in the garden on Friday, and I thought I’d treat myself to a night out. The town was celebrating the 150th anniversary of the track with a parade down Broadway and ice cream social at the Casino. The theme was a “Floral Fete” and the parade showcased bicycles, horse-drawn carriages and old-timey cars festooned in live flowers (the idea being they were decorated as they had been a century and a half ago when the races first began).

While I’d had in my mind the very intention of sitting outside at one particular restaurant, I had no idea the reality I’d be up against. Even as one lone diner I faced an hour’s wait. No matter, I gave the hostess my cell number and went to a bench out in front to read. Wendy, the gal who does my hair (and whom I give credit for my radical new blonde “I’m 50 and I’m worth it” highlights) was on the very bench, waiting, as I learned, to see her young granddaughter in the parade. We’d hardly chatted more than a few minutes when the hostess called my name. I had my front row seat! Had an good meal, an enjoyable margarita, and before long the parade had begun. The street was absolutely packed, and in just a few minutes the magic carriage was gliding past in front of me. All my life I’d heard of her – but never seen her with my own eyes. (My father loves to recount Marylou’s response to him when in the 1970s he’d asked her if she’d consider donating something to his Baroque Music festival: ‘I’m sorry, that’s not my bag, honey!’) So here she was. Marylou. And her junior husband beside her. And, as I learned later, Susan Lucci, her long-time racing buddy was in the carriage too. I snapped a couple of pictures, hoping to take a closer look later on. Marylou, nice. But Susan Lucci? Wow.

After my dinner I followed the throngs to Congress Park in hopes of hearing the Dixieland band. Met the leader just as they were going on to play. Gave him my cd and card. Told him how I missed the old music, and how I’d love to sing. He then told me they “were looking for a singer”. Really? Might I be so lucky? Indeed, this was the feel of my weekend thus far. I was in the stream of life, and so far things were going along nicely. Ran into Charlie, one of the handful of people I know in town (it was he who’d told me I’d just seen Ms. Lucci) and felt an even keener sense of things all happening with an element of magic. I snapped some pictures of young women strolling the park in 1890s costumes, took another swing around the beautiful park, then headed back to my car. The town was packed, and I’d had enough of humanity for the day.

Early Saturday morning I resumed my work outside and after a culmination of a good thirty hours’ of manual labor I had finally finished the hand-tilling of my side yard, I’d finished installing the edging for the garden beds (cutting, painting and drilling the lumber) and I’d completed the pond. This was a lot of work. A lot. Exhausted at the end of the afternoon, I sat surveying my work and realized that while it might have represented a supreme effort on my part, if I’d been a guy it might not have seemed such a big deal. And it occurred to me that maybe that wasn’t quite fair. It’s a lot of work, man or woman. Or was it? I’m not a very big gal, and these days not exceptionally strong, so to someone else this might have been just another day’s labor in the yard. But to me, my accomplishments took on an extra-triumphant feel. A ‘me against the world’ sort of victory. Maybe if I was a guy I wouldn’t be quite so satisfied – or impressed – with my work.  But regardless of the gender question, a job had been done – and it was one I never could have afforded to pay someone else to do for me. So what if the timbers didn’t end up being quite plumb after the soil went in? And even if the pond didn’t quite fill as I’d hoped, even after checking it over and over again with a level – so what? At least it was done, and finally, after five years here, the entry to my home didn’t look trashy anymore. No longer would I hope the view would excuse the mess outside my door. Finally.

Armed with a little remaining value on a gift card for another downtown restaurant, I was able to justify a second night out. I knew that there was a pianist playing at the joint, and I was vaguely aware of a karaoke night at another place down the street. Might not be the Saturday night of days past, but it was something. Turns out I had the most wonderful dinner I’d had in months, and also enjoyed the company of the gentleman who’d been playing piano – as I was the last guest in the dining room. I invited him to share my table, and he told me stories of when he’d played the swingin old joints in Saratoga Lake back in the late ’40s. Thoroughly enjoyed my meal and the company. Finished up and headed out to the karaoke place down the street. Never having sung karaoke out in public I was hesitant at first to jump in, but forced myself to enter the club and find a place at the bar. I perused the song books and thankfully found my hopeful tune. Surprisingly I didn’t have to wait too long before I was called up. I sang. I so enjoyed singing. Thought I sounded good, too. But I learned three important things about karaoke. One, you gotta sing for the demographic of the room. Otherwise, no one gives a shit. Two, you can’t sing too well. (Same effect as for point number one.) And three, while they ask you “what key” you’d like your song in, that doesn’t seem to count either. You get what you get. Good thing I’ve sung plenty of male charts and have routinely had to break up melody lines, going up or down an octave to make it work. I can deal. But still, why ask if you don’t intend on delivering? All that aside, and in spite of my unfamiliarity with the culture of karaoke, I enjoyed myself immensely. And honestly, I wasn’t singing to connect, or to make anyone feel my message. I was singing for purely selfish reasons. Cuz I love to sing, and I don’t get many opportunities to do so these days… Who cares if no one knew “Fooled Around and Fell In Love”? I’m a singer of classic, American popular songs, not a pop or a blues singer. Just to be able to sing something out of my usual purview was pure joy.

At last it was time for Cinderella to go home. The night before I’d pooped out by 9:30, but now it was approaching 2 am. Too much later and I’d screw up the following day (morning is the high-drive productive time for me). The town was still popping, just not with anything that interested me. It’s a young town, and every bar has a cover band playing in an open window or interior courtyard to smartphone-wielding drunks. Young ladies in obscenely high heels and unfathomably long inseams crowd the narrow streets and make me feel a bit older than I had just a few hours earlier. Time to move. On the way to my car I did manage to catch the very end of the only true jazz set in town. They were good players too. A nice surprise and the perfect way to end my night in town.

Sunday I’ll tweak my home improvements with a renewed vigor. I’ll upload the pics from my nights out. And I’ll see if I can’t find Ms. Lucci in a frame or two. Things were so magical this weekend, that I almost expect I’ll see her waving directly at me. Let’s see…

MaryLou2013 019Elihu’s pal Keithie helps scrape the garage

MaryLou2013 021And his uncle Dennis paints the house while I tear up the walkway

MaryLou2013 032The girls follow my work, picking bugs from the fresh-turned soil

MaryLou2013 024Keithie and pal Schuyler take a break on the trampoline with poor Thumbs Up.

Karaoke 2013 1 009Next phase: digging out the pond area

Karaoke 2013 1 024Madeline watches as I lay down the liner

Karaoke 2013 1 021Framing up the garden. Not straight quite yet

Karaoke 2013 1 073I swear they follow me everywhere. Fresh poops always afoot.

Karaoke 2013 1 064Starting to fill up the pond. Guess who can’t wait to try it out. !

Karaoke 2013 1 060Curiouser and curiouser… they are fascinated and watch as the pond fills up

Karaoke 2013 1 036My handiwork just about done

Karaoke 2013 1 086Oh, but I don’t want poop in the fresh, clean water! Can’t leave til I goose-proof the pond. Must remember to keep Maximus inside the run until I can fashion a pond cover.

walkway 2013 002My stonework. (Smaller, river rock to fill in over the dirt at left.)

walkway 2013 011Ah. So happy it’s done! Looks so simple, yet represents so many hours. !

MaryLou2013 071Ok, let’s take a look at those parade pics, snapped from my cozy table for one on Broadway.  Hm, this is a bit disappointing. Reminds me of the time I saw Queen Elizabeth in Toronto. She appeared as the tiniest speck of white, discernible only from the hat on her head. Dear me. Marylou is in white to the right side of the carriage. Let’s see if we can get a closer look…

MaryLou2013 070Oh dear. In spite of my best efforts to enlarge and crop, there’s not much benefit. Let’s see one more…

Marylou in carriageWhy this isn’t Ms. Lucci at all – it’s Charlie Wait and his mother, Jane (she was on the board of my father’s Festival of Baroque Music for many years). A pillar family of Saratoga.

MaryLou2013 094This was a clever ‘float’. The fellows played tennis as the parade moved.

MaryLou2013 107Captures the feel of old Saratoga.

MaryLou2013 099A street musician plays a lap version of a steel drum. She called it a ‘tongue drum’. Elihu might be interested in one of these…

MaryLou2013 104This gal does the most intricate and amazing black and white mandalas.

MaryLou2013 108Well hello, Mr. Bass!

MaryLou2013 116A magician in the park under the big willow tree…

MaryLou2013 113And the carousel, a favorite of all ages.

MaryLou2013 117Old timey characters strolling around the park give the evening charm.

MaryLou2013 138Pretty.

MaryLou2013 139Outside the music tent – that’s my friend Charlie at the far right.

MaryLou2013 136And inside the music tent. My new pal Skip Parsons on right.

MaryLou2013 146The real party’s inside the Casino. I creep around, peeking in the tall, Victorian windows hoping for a glimpse of the host or her actress guest.

MaryLou2013 143Hmmm….

MaryLou2013 144I see a top-hatted waiter. Ah well. I get the elegance and the look of the era. That’s good enough for me.

MaryLou2013 155The Ice Cream Social begins to wind down as modern costumes mingle with old.

MaryLou2013 157Saratoga’s famous Phila Street. Caffe Lena upstairs at right, Hattie’s Chicken Shack below.

Karaoke 2013 1 096And the famous Caroline Street bar scene. Few cars can navigate through the nighttime crowds.

Karaoke 2013 1 095Every bar has a line to get in.

MaryLou2013 182Heading back to my car I see this fun percussion jam in the acoustically perfect drive-up banking tunnel of the Adirondack Trust Company. When Elihu gets back I’ll make sure he takes a spin with these guys.

MaryLou2013 187The ATC clock. As well-known to Saratogians as is the old Marshall Field’s clock in Chicago’s loop.

MaryLou2013 177The Adirondack Trust Company. A bastion of the old-world wealth upon which Saratoga Springs was built. I can remember my father securing a short-term loan for his music festival each year, a deal closed simply by a handshake with president, Charlie Wait. Another time indeed. I feel lucky I knew a bit of the older way of life as a child in this community. Now I often feel more like a spectator than a resident. But I’m doing my best to get out and keep up. For now, however, between Marylou sightings and karaoke bars I feel I’m sated. Done with town life for now.

Post Script: This weekend marks the thirteenth anniversary of the murder of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop’s ex wife and daughter.  (He wrote ‘Fooled Around and Fell In Love’.) I cannot imagine how one continues to go on living in the wake of such a tragedy. Please send Elvin your positive and loving thoughts today….

 

Monday Monday July 30, 2013

I live a mere 5 miles from the cosmopolitan hub of downtown Saratoga Springs, New York. And from The Hillhouse to town, it’s all one downhill shot. Pretty easy: a right, a left, another left and a final right and you’re on Broadway at the Riggi’s place. Can’t miss it. It’s a Disney-esque mansion on the corner. It’ll be on your left hand side. Then you make your final turn (right – and due South) and now you’re on Broadway, ready to do the cruise. Ready to see and be seen…

Right now, at the end of July, we are in the midst of racing season. For some folks, this is a Very Big Deal. There is a lot of money floating thru ‘the system’ right now; one doesn’t have to look long or far to see evidence of it. The Mercedes-to-Honda ratio has risen dramatically almost overnight, and so too has the number of people casually walking up and down Broadway in search of their next shamefully over-priced dinner.

I’d had a full day of appointments and errands, and in that they required I wear ‘town’ clothes (the nitty gritty work will happen tomorrow and will require a much humbler wardrobe) I thought that I might as well take advantage of bein all prettied up and take a walk up and down the strip just to see what was a goin on…. Now I don’t really know too many folks in town these days – my life is a rather cloistered one out in the country – yet as it turned out, the few people I might have run into I actually did run into. Such a lovely surprise is life.

At the risk of sounding like an embittered local, this town has changed. Even though I can agree that it’s a much cleaner, healthier town than it was some thirty years ago, much of the soul of the town seems to have disappeared along with the grit. And while Saratoga still has the overall aesthetic feel of a late nineteenth century town, nonetheless I feel its true charm to be waning with each season; each year it seems the large town moves closer towards the status of small city as it loses some of its most iconic, irreplaceable treasures and enormous new structures edge their way in. The Aldelphi Hotel, the very last bastion of old-world elegance, was Saratoga’s last authentic tie to the culture that gave birth to this town almost two hundred years ago. But it’s gone now too. We can only breathe out and through the pain as we ready ourselves for the anonymizing renovations being done presently behind the blackened-out facade. The gold hand-lettered name on the lobby doors from years past remains, and it gives us hope that the Adelphi Hotel will be back again one day, just as it has been for the past century and a half. But those of us whose hearts have been broken before by far less hopeful signs, we know better. It’s really best to remember the grand Adelphi of yesteryear, to savor those memories and then relinquish that lovely vision into the ether of all fond remembrances…

The grand promenade. Not so grand these days, but an evening’s entertainment, no less.  Not a long walk: four blocks up, four blocks back. I say hello to some friends, watch the people and smooch the dogs. An extended and friendly chat with Jim and Gerry, two very kind gentlemen who belong to the resident motorcycling population, then it’s back to the shadows of the country, just in time to get the chickens secured for the night. A quick call in to mom and dad, a brief and enjoyable conversation with each, and I’m ready for a glass of wine and a quick post before I tuck into bed with a book. As Mondays go, this was a nice one.

Monday Monday 021

This is the 150th season of racing at the Saratoga flat track. I was born in 1963, and my mom tells me I attended the tracks’ centennial celebration. Me and MaryLou! (Whitney, that is.)

Monday Monday 013

Just a corner of me – but look! It’s our pal Cecil! At least ONE of Saratoga’s ‘historic’ treasures is still around!!

Monday Monday 012

The new building’s up – but he’s not playing favorites – he splits his time between the Cantina side and Lillian’s…

Monday Monday 015

Don’t we love Cecil? Elihu and I sure do; his CD is a permanent part or our car’s audio library

Monday Monday 004

And look! It’s my buddy, Seamus! I’ve known him since before he was born. His dad and I were jazz-loving college kids who piled into cars and made road trips to shows all over the East… This kid’s doing well in college (pre-med now I hear) and also plays pro-level pipes. Plus he looks damn good in that outfit. Oh the hearts he’s yet to break…

Monday Monday 010

I’ve seen some twenties in his case at times…

Monday Monday 005

Handsome, talented young man…

Monday Monday 019

These guys are having fun across the street. Even the cop (at right, leaning on the column) was digging it.

Monday Monday 017

Not a lot of coin yet, but there’s a lot of competition too.

Monday Monday 030

This is Saratoga’s new thing this year. The giant en pointe shoes. Strikes me as kinda silly. Or maybe it might be better to say pretentious; the New York City Ballet was here at SPAC for less than one whole week this year. In my youth they were here all summer long, and this was truly a ballet town. Now it’s just posing as one. IMHO.

Monday Monday 029

You can see some of the artists’ names…

Monday Monday 028

And here, of course, you can recognize Balanchine’s name. I remember watching him direct the dancers at open rehearsals. Many of my summers as a youth were spent as an NYCB groupie.

Monday Monday 023

The beloved Adelphi Hotel. Such an interior – beautiful trump l’oeil paintings on the walls, the coziest, most densely-green walled-in garden patio you could imagine in back. And each floor had its own collection of antiques and treasures. The floors creaked, the stairways leaned. And I smelled the distinct scent of hyacinths one night in the salon by the main balcony. But now its interior is being radically changed. Likely very little of its historic charm will remain. Progress, you say? Hmm. I have another, far different opinion. Could ya tell?

Monday Monday 024

These are the two final grand hotel fronts on Broadway (the Adelphi’s brown awning in foreground). The one in the background with the white pillars was once the Rip Van Dam Hotel – and as the grand, historic hotels of Saratoga went, this was the lowest one on the totem pole. Appartently is was downright small in comparision with the giants of old, but today it looks fairly regal with its two-story portico. The hotel finally closed a good decade or more ago and became office space. These days it has been restored to a higher station in the city scheme and enjoys its newest incarnation as a high-tag, top-tier restaurant.

Monday Monday 034

There’s always a cluster of bikes in front of the coffee house. Those are my new pals, Jim and Gerry standing guard.

Monday Monday 037

I had an enjoyable visit with two of the riders, Gerry and Jim. This lovely machine is Jim’s ‘third last bike’. ! Love it. My last bike was a long time ago. Maybe when lil man’s a bit older I’ll give bikes another spin. But for now, walking the strip on foot is more my speed. And these days I think I’m less about weekends – and more about Mondays.

 

Day Away July 28, 2013

Had occasion to visit a new friend in a neighboring community yesterday. It was about an hour’s drive west, and I was excited to visit the town, as I’d known about it all my life but had never been there. Gloversville, NY, was once upon a time the very seat of America’s glove-making industry. Sorry – no historical pics of the town or its industry here. In fact just snapped a very few, but just enough to remind myself that I got out for a day and went someplace new…

Late July 2013 002

Now this lifts my heart – a good, old-fashioned music store, very much in the style of my beloved Village Music School ‘back home’ in Deerfield, Illinois. Saw four old-timers on the porch and just had to stop by and say hi. The future of joints like this seems a little iffy in our culture of big box music stores. But ya never know. There’s just no substitute for a place like this.

Late July 2013 009

Such sweetie pies! The men of Dad’s Music Shop invited Elihu and me to come and join em on a Saturday night jam. Our skills are rather primitive (at least mine are on the accordion) yet  I do think we might be able to keep up on a tune or two. It’s on the ‘to try’ list for sure…

Late July 2013 011

And look, I found myself a mid-century home in town! Hmm, gets me thinking…

Late July 2013 012

And an old filling station. A 1930s building, a 1950s light fixture. Awesome.

Late July 2013 022

But here’s the real Mecca. WATER. Plus mountains. Crazy silly awesome stuff of dreams. Man do I miss a lake…. The Great Sacandaga Lake is a river basin that was flooded in the late 1920s. While not truly a ‘natural’ lake, it is nonetheless a very beautiful place, with wide open vistas framed by the Southern Adirondack Mountains. Love driving over the bridge – it almost feels like I’m flying….

Late July 2013 028

Keeping my eyes on the road, I took a chance that these pics would come out…

Late July 2013 027

The end of the long bridge ride. The rest of the trip home was made up a steeply graded mountain and over miles and miles of dirt and gravel road. My ears clicked as the altitude changed and a cool mist covered the road in places. I imagine the folks two hundred years ago first carving these roads out of the forest – and I give up trying to even understand what that must have been like. I may still use the archaic flip phone (is it old enough yet to be ironic or cute?) but nonetheless I am a modern woman. While I may engage in some minor farm activity each day, truly, there is no ‘pioneer’ in me. Not sure how well I woulda fared in 1830.

I am eternally grateful for the physical infrastructure all around us, and in awe of its construction and design. All I gotta do is drive and take in the scenery.  Which makes for a very low-key, pleasant day away.

 

Toddlin’ Town July 14, 2013

Man, did we toddle around town. We saw so much in one short week. Still weren’t able to do some things on our list, but we did a lot… Again, might be too many pics for some folks’ interest, but thought I’d share em anyhow. I still can hardly believe I was in Chicago just a week ago. I kinda need these photos to remind me that yes, I was. (Btw – this is my final post on our trip. I promise.)

July 2013 trip B 016First thing we see as we step outside Union Station.

July 2013 trip B 019First thing Elihu does is whip out his drum and join a busker on the station steps.

July 2013 trip B 033Next, our friend Marja invites us up to her office on Michigan Avenue for a look at the city from the 21st story.

July 2013 trip B 042This view has what’s known in my family as a ‘high pucker factor’. I won’t mention which part of the body it is that puckers up at this dreadfully alarming height. I’ll leave the answer up to your fertile imaginations.

July 2013 trip B 091The view South down Michigan Avenue.

July 2013 trip B 101See that pointy building with the ‘bump’ on top? Some locals call it the ‘buglamp’. It’s a giant, blue light that has been part of the skyline since the ’30s. And I’m lucky to have been one of the few to have actually been inside the thing. Another enchanted story of a more innocent time… I had merely expressed my interest in visiting the dome to an employee of the building, and within minutes I was inside the two-story lamp, climbing a ladder to a makeshift plywood floor beside a giant blue light bulb. We swung open a large panel of glass and then sat with our legs dangling out and over the side, while we took in the breathtaking view of Grant Park to the East. In this day and age that sounds unbelievable. But it happened. And it’s a memory I treasure.

July 2013 trip B 109Now we’re looking East. Navy Pier visible just between the buildings on the far left. And speaking of that leftmost building, at 82 stories it’s the tallest building in the world designed by a woman-lead architectural team. “Aqua” has a lovely, continuous curving shape delineated by its balconies, and which gives the building the feeling of a wonderful, twisting sort of movement. I’m a fan of Jeanne Gang!

July 2013 trip B 074It’s the bean! Still think of this as a new part of Chicago, but it’s already been there since 2006. Oh, and it’s actually entitled ‘Cloud Gate’. Just so ya know.

July 2013 trip B 063That’s me and Marja waving. She’s got the bright yellow-green pants.

July 2013 trip B 065One of those classic tourist pics…

July 2013 trip B 753And now, to Evanston. This is my old, beloved home. Miss that living room and its enormous windows. In keeping with the former family’s traditions, each year we put up a giant, 20 foot Christmas tree that could be seen by all who passed. The place has been known to generations as ‘the Christmas tree house’, and in fact that’s how I first knew this place as a young girl.

July 2013 trip B 693Also miss the treasure hunts in those awesome city thrift stores. Dig that telephone!

July 2013 trip B 881We’re at The Guitar Works in Evanston. Owner Terry Straker is a pilot. Planes are more exciting than guitars any day. !

July 2013 trip B 932This is the shit that makes me miss Chicago. Saratoga is nice, but sometimes I really miss all the funk of a city.

summer trip 2013 A 006Inside at the Green Mill. Like coming home.

summer trip 2013 A 002Looking up and seeing Von so unexpectedly made me tear up. Hard to believe he’s been gone almost a year. Bless you, Vonski. Thanks for helping us all to ‘express’ ourselves.

summer trip 2013 A 026Closest thing I have to proof I sang there that night. My kid forgot to snap a pic of Mama. Sure had a good time. A line down the street and around the corner, and shoulder-to-shoulder inside. Fun for a night, but not quite my speed anymore.

summer trip 2013 A 061Back in Rogers Park, the northernmost neighborhood in Chicago, where Fareed and I lived  for 12 years. We had a great little two bedroom co-op right on the beach, with a balcony and view of the city. (Evanston is the next town up the shore from here). The title of Fareed’s album ‘Manresa’ was not inspired by some exotic destination, but rather from the name of this very apartment building. (I have a similarly-posed pic of his dad from the 80s on the same spot.)

summer trip 2013 A 130At Evanston’s beautiful (and expensive!) South Boulevard beach.

summer trip 2013 A 071Ah, wind and water. Nothing comes close to that feeling.

summer trip 2013 A 119Folks who’ve never been to Chicago rarely think of beaches. But some of the very best are here.

summer trip 2013 A 117Just sand, water and horizon. And two pretty seagull feathers.

summer trip 2013 A 133Good-bye for now, dear beach!

summer trip 2013 A 136At our old next-door neighbor’s 4th of July party. That’s Barbara, the new resident of our old home resting on the fence.

summer trip 2013 A 152Chicago’s fireworks on Navy Pier, as seen from the Chicago Yacht Club. Not a great experience when you compare it to Saratoga. In a small-ish town it’s possible to get right up close and under the action. Here, the display was a good quarter of a mile away.

summer trip 2013 A 166But Elihu’s not really here for the fireworks…

summer trip 2013 A 179He was rockin it. Had a big crowd nearly the whole time – and dozens of folks recording him too…

summer trip 2013 A 184Tried busking at the bean but got shut down by the fuzz. We kinda thought it might happen. But they were nice about it.

July 2013 trip B 860Elihu was pooped! Lil man did really well. We packed a lot into a short time. (Note the Ben 10 Omnitrix watch. Elihu is usually so precocious and grown-up that I can sometimes forget he’s still a little boy. He wore that thing day and night for the whole week. So adorable. !)

summer trip 2013 A 214Our final stop in Evanston; the rose garden and crane fountain. Shortly thereafter Elihu and I parted ways, as he went to spend the next month with his father, and I left to catch the train back to New York. This was a phenomenal trip. Elihu will never forget his tenth summer. And it’s still not half over! Chicago’s finished for us this year, but no doubt there’ll be a few more summer adventures to come…