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June 29, 2008

Tanglewood, Garrison Keillor, & Good Friends

The title really says it all. I spent yesterday at Tanglewood with a friend of 40 years, celebrating our friendship at the live broadcast of the Prairie Home Companion. Lots of meaning packed into that sentence; all good.

Of course, brought to you by Powermilk Biscuits, in the light blue box with the stain on the front that indicates reshness. Heavens, they're tasty!

Powdermilk2.jpg

Tanglewood has been on my MUST DO list for this summer for quite a while. It is as idyllic as its name suggests. Nestled in the Berkshires, its lush campus invites relaxation and camaraderie, even with total strangers. It's the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a venue for summer music institutes, and a place with an amazing summer music series. (Chanticleer and the Shanghai String Quartet are performing together next month -- stay tuned for that...)

Thanks to my colleague here who told me about the performance. We got 2 of the very last tickets in the Shed -- 3 rows from the back -- but who cares, it's a radio show! I just pretended I was listing on NPR, like I do almost every weekend.

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We would have gotten Lawn tickets (great fun - people bring elaborate picnics and hang out), but the weather threatened rain, and it actually did rain for a time during the performance. I'll do that another time...

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I've seen PHC live once before -- in the mid 1970s when I was in graduate school. It started broadcasting in 1974, so I must have been to one of its first shows, when it still had a small, local following. Now it goes out to millions every week. It was a great show -- excellent music, and poetry from the Poet Laureate of the U.S. (Where else would the Poet Laureate perform??) Turns out, he is from New Hampshire, not too far away from here.

Keillor clearly draws energy from the crowd. This was most evident after the broadcast was over. I expected a polite encore (the audience was very enthusiastic), but he and the rest of the cast stayed around for more than a half hour. They did some of their things, but mostly led the audience in a love-fest sing-a-long. What an unexpected pleasure! Singing can bring total strangers together.

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The woman in the white blouse, second from left, was swaying to the music on her cane, along with her son in the red shirt. It was very sweet.

My feeling is that the Greatest Generation all knew a lot of songs in common, but that seems to be vanishing. Yesterday, we sang things like "Summertime," "Good Night Ladies," "Amazing Grace," "I've Been Working on the Railroad," ... you get the idea. What songs will the next generation of young people know in common? I really wonder. I could tell Garrison especially loved turning the audience loose in some a capella verses -- from stage, I'm sure it just felt like energy rolling right at him.

It's such a pleasure to live close to Chris after all these years. We were college roommates for 2 years and then went separate ways geographically. We've always stayed in touch, but visits have been infrequent. That will be changing. Tanglewood is just about half way between us -- a real bonus. (It's about 1 1/2 hrs west of here.) We talked and talked and talked, as always. Before heading home, we stopped at a funky Indian restaurant in Lee, MA. The staff seemed a bit pverwhelmed by the larger-than-usual crowd. Tha lamb I had was good, but I'm sure it was swimming in a sauce I will react to. I took as little sauce as I could. At the end, we both ordered coffee, but got tea. interesting.....

But overall, what a special day. A great way to start my life here. Maybe things like that happen when you CTRL-ALT-DEL.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:22 AM

June 23, 2008

Rebooting a Life

Today was one of those watershed days, full of symbolism and meaning. Today was the day we held the final memorial service for our Dad and buried him next to our Mom in Dallas, their home. The memorial service was at the community where he and our Mom lived from approx 1992 - 2000, and he continued on after her death until 2006. Quite a few people joined us this morning, including a woman who was his secretary for 18 years (her first job; she is now retired and said he was the best boss she ever had). Many people were grateful to have the opportunity to remember him and celebrate his life, since they were not able to come to New Hampshire for his funeral back in March. His best friend, who had been housebound since November, made the special effort to attend.

My sister and I took a drive around the parts of town we haunted as teenagers. Our old neighborhood is still looking good, but down the street from our childhood home is a whole row of tacky MacMansions. If you have enough money, you can have a Tuscan villa, or a half-timbered Tudor, or a replica of Mt. Vernon --- and they can all be on the same street! You get the idea. Our old elementary school looks just like it did in the late 1950s. The church we attended looks as cold as it always felt. But we had fun going down each street and reminiscing about who lived where. It was amazing how we dredged up some names neither of us had thought about for decades.

For me, there was also a sense of closure. It's unlikely that I will ever be in Dallas again. The Texas part of my heart was long ago given to Austin; and Austin and Dallas are totally different cultures, although only 200 miles apart.

But to me it also felt a piece of a larger "reboot" my life is undergoing. New job, new part of the country, new professional responsibilities, new house, now the "senior" member of the family. (I'm not too sure how keen I feel about that - I have lots of tread left on me.) But it all definitely feels new, providing opportunities for both continuity and change. Very exciting.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:53 PM

June 15, 2008

Comcast Giveth and Comcast Taketh Away

Even before I had my books unpacked, and way before I had furniture arranged, I was on the phone with Comcast to arrange home internet service. Our Minnesota service was with Comcast, and it was generally satisfactory (except for the bloated prices.) Comcast seemed to be the vendor of choice here, so I signed on.

The friendly fellow on the other end of the line (their sales folk are very friendly -- not quite the same as their service people) assured me that it would be easy to set up my wireless network. They would provide a do-it-yourself "kit" that a 3rd grader could configure.

Well, when I opened it up and saw that there were only 2 small pages of large-print instructions, I knew that that was a lie. (I ended up having to hire someone to come out and make all the machines talk to each other. It was well worth the price of avoiding all the haad-banging that would have ensued.) But I digress...

Several days after my service was up and running, I got a call from one of their people. He wanted to take a few minutes to show me some of their new services. I consented, and he walked me through quite a few features I wasn't familiar with, including a large menu of free downloads, videos, games, etc. -- all kinds of gadgets and gizmos to use up all that spare time of mine.

Fast forward to the article in today's NYT: "Charging by the byte to curb internet traffic." In order to deal with bandwith hogs, three of the nation's largest internet providers are taking steps to change our habits. Time Warner is now "metering" service and will be asking customers to select rate plans depending on anticipated usage (think: cell phone minutes plans); AT&T is considering charging, and Comcast is going to manage internet traffic by "slowing down the connections of the heaviest users, so-called bandwidth hogs, at peak times." They need to get their signals straight. If they want to promote use of their resources (and of course, the ad revenue that goes along with it), they don't need to give it with one hand and ration it with the other.

By the way, Happy Father's Day to all those Dads out there. Next weekend, my sister and I will be going to Dallas to hold a final memorial service for our Dad, who passed away March 1st. Rest in peace, Dad.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:33 AM

June 8, 2008

Settling In

Slowly but surely, I am settling in. I finally found a street sign that says "East Pleasant" -- up at the far north end of the road. Somehow that is reassuring. My home internet is now up and running, which is also a relief. I unpacked a lot more boxes this weekend and have re-boxed some things that can be stored for the year. I'm trying to figure out the circuitry in the house. When the air conditioner compressor turned on last night, it knocked the cable TV out. Well, I guess you can't have it all. The adventure continues -- trying to figure out the NPR stations, cable TV options, which of the alternate weeks is recycling of plastic vs. paper -- all those details.

Now that I'm settled and somewhat refreshed, I look forward to writing this week. Several writing commitments due fairly soon...

Posted by hgroteva at 8:51 PM

June 5, 2008

Numbers

I've had to make a list of all my numbers: employee ID number, number on my ID card (different from the employee ID), phone number, voice mail password, long distance code, speed number (not sure what that is!), mail code, xerox code, office number, parking lot number ... and those just pertain to my work life!

There are so many things we take for granted every day -- things that you don't even think about until you don't know them: What floor is the coke machine on? How much does a Coke cost? Which end of the building are the restrooms on? Who do I ask about < fill in the blank >? and so on...

Yesterday's challenge was getting cable hooked up at the house. The technician was spectacularly unhelpful. Even after I asked questions, he gave the shortest possible answers and then left. (He emphasized that he gets paid by the job.) I'm also trying to figure out how the ceiling fans work and where all the light switches are. I made the mistake of trying to find the hallway in the dark and ended up going into a closet and bonking my head -- the stuff of a comedy movie.

All that said, however, the transition is going well. People are being very helpful. Special thanks to the folks at the Select Comfort store who gave me a "loaner" pump for the bed, since I couldn't find the box that the remote -- necessary for inflating the bed -- was hiding in. Did you know that a remote for the bed costs $150? I didn't!

The town (pronounced ammerst -- not am - herst) is an interesting mix of small town laid back (the copy shop on Pleasant St. is DIY, honor system) and East Coast (see cable guy, above.) The street names are great' I'm particularly fond of the intersection of Pleasant and Amity. But street signs only have the names of intersecting streets, not the street you are on. So if you don't know what street you are on, you can be in a bad fix. I know that you get to my street by going out East Pleasant (from the map), but I have yet to find a street sign that says East Pleasant.

It's all a big adventure! Stay tuned for further installments. In the meantime, which box is my radio in???

Posted by hgroteva at 12:27 PM