Category "Minnesota"

Category "Texas"

August 9, 2005

The Texas Minnesota Thang

This morning's Star Tribune featured an article "Grinding Axes with Texas," which began with the lead, "It really chaps our hide the way the Lone Star State takes things we'd rather claim as our own."

As a holder of dual citizenship (having lived in Texas for 25 years and in Minnesota for 19 years and counting), I have a few comments to make.

I was recently introducing myself to my new next-door neighbor and found myself talking about Texas and Minnesota - and he asked what kind of connection there was between the states, because he had observed some kind of affinity between the two.

Well, the first connection is geographic. Texas and Minnesota are the "bumpers" on Interstate-35 before you cross international boundaries into Mexico or Canada, respectively. So the connection's pretty simple. Just hop on I-35 and head either north or south, and you'll wind up in one or the other. I-35 stretches from Duluth to Laredo, passing through the Twin Cities, Dallas, and Austin along the way.

The Twin Cities and Austin (TX) also have affinities. Both are centers of high tech and lots of white collar business, both are state capitals, and each is home to one of the U.S.'s largest state universities. The rankings of UT Austin and U of M Twin Cities tend to be very close. One may be a point or two ahead of the other on one dimension, but then the direction is reversed on another dimension. (But only UT Austin has a library that is built in the shape of the state of Texas.)

I think the 2 states also share a certain type of pragmatism that comes from dealing with harsh climates, although Minnesota has the "pleasure" of dealing with BOTH extremes, as this summer's continuing heat / humidity wave is continuing to teach us. As a consequence, people in both states dress casually in accordance with the weather -- or at least they tolerate people who do. People are adaptable.

However, my extended stays in both states have shown me that there are significant differences as well.

One of them has to do with a general approach to life. Minnesotans analyze and whine -- well illustrated by this morning's article. Here's the first sentence: "Texas, you've got our dander up!" (See?)

Texans just grab and run. They could care less whether Minnesota thinks it has 10,000 lakes. If they want to claim 10,000 or 20,000 -- well brother, they will.

There'a also a real difference in attitudes about the use of power in government and in universities. Minnesota touts its populist, participatory approach to life. Which is true in many ways. But sometimes it seems that the participation and consultation go on forever and either a) no one makes a decision, or b) someone steps in and grabs power and makes a decision in spite of all the consultation. In Texas, there's no pretense of consultation or government-by-the-people. Those in power just decide. Now I realize that I am edging into political territory here that others may care to analyze in much more depth. And maybe I'll add more in a subsequent post. But I couldn't let the occasion of this article pass without SOME comment about the two states that I alternatively love and hate. As with most things in life, wouldn't it be great if we could take the best things about each state and roll them into one? But what would we call it?

Posted by hgroteva at 7:55 AM | Minnesota | Texas

Category "Choral Music"

Category "Life"

Category "Minnesota"

November 16, 2005

Winter Arrived

Winter arrived last night. You say it's not due until December 21? Well, take my word for it, it's here. The snow, the sleet, the wind, the boots, the windshield scraping, the parka ... the whole nine yards.

Even though I've lived here over 15 years, I have never looked forward to winter. Maybe you have to grow up here, learn to ski and skate when you're just old enough to walk, learn to stand at a cold bus stop because that's all you know. But I know better, and I don't like it.

I still remember hearing Eric Friesen (then of MPR, now of the CBC) once saying that the only way to survive in Minnesota is to "embrace the winter." I just can't wrap my head around it. I had an interesting conversation with a colleague last week - she grew up in these parts and lives for winter. Her favorite kind of day is snowy and very cold. I described my favorite kind of day: 75 degrees, balmy, windows open, sunroof down on the car, wearing shorts, not having to change clothes for indoors / outdoors transitions - feeling at equilibrium with the temperature outside. Maybe I'm really adapted for San Diego. My ancestry is mixed northern European - and not awfully far north - they have a lot of 75 degree days there.

Anyway, winter is not my happy time of the year. The days are too short, the layers of clothes are too many, and I'm always having to figure out how to stay warm enough. (Consequently I eat too much and put on weight, and then feel bad about that.... but that's another story.)

The one good thing about winter is that the classical music scene in the Twin Cities is at its peak. We had a great rehearsal last night for the Advent Procession we (Gregorian Singers) are doing on Saturday, November 26. You are warmly invited: St. Paul's Church on the Hill, 1524 Summit Ave (just east of Snelling); 4:00 pm. Open to the public, free of charge (a freewill offering will be taken.) That's one of the good things about Minnesota winter.

Thus endeth my rant against winter. Now that I've got it off my chest, I can get back to work.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:11 PM | Choral Music | Life | Minnesota

Category "Minnesota"

Category "Texas"

Category "Travel"

December 19, 2005


At 5:05 pm yesterday, we crossed the border from Oklahoma into Texas. It's so strange how each state on the way down had its own climatological feel:
Minnesota - didn't notice; was too eager to get on the road (sorry, MN)
Iowa - sunny and bright, stingingly cold
Missouri - nasty snow and cold - snow came at us horizontally, lending to feeling of disorientation
Kansas - snow had largely stopped, but car and windshield took on 3 tons of slush - grit, sand, salt - and all the gas stations we stopped at had run out of windshield washer fluid
Oklahoma - still pretty cold, but skies clearing; nice to see the sun again
Texas - warmer (40s), clear big skies

There were plenty of noticeable cultural differences as well. The latest rage -- putting a custom painted mural on the tailgate of your pickup truck - one beauty had a herd of wild mustangs chasing across the tailgate; another featured the Virgin of Guadalupe. People here in Austin are just friendlier. They just are. I notice it every time I come back here, and it always takes me by surprise. At the grocery store, I asked someone in the bakery section where their gluten free breads were, and she personally escorted me over to the place, then we talked about various alternatives, which ones we liked, etc. It was a delightful conversation. Granted it was the Whole Foods world headquarters (a truly amazing store), but everyone, from the people behind the counters to those checking out, had kind words and smiles to offer. It is a noticeable difference. Maybe a little of that personal warmth would help Minnesota winters seem less grim. Garrison, where are you?

It's about 45 degrees at the moment; Christmas should be 65 and sunny. Fine by me.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:49 AM | Minnesota | Texas | Travel

Category "Minnesota"

December 30, 2005

Winter in Minnesota

Memories of the 75 degree days in Austin are quickly fading as Minnesota becomes covered in snow. We've had steady snow for over 12 hours now since about midnight, with no end in sight. By the time the snow stops (this time), we will have accumulated almost as much as we got all of last winter (which was way below average.) Since Minnesota always strives to be above average, this is pay back time. But I have to admit, when I don't have to drag out into the traffic and shovel my way out of the driveway, it can be quite beautiful and peaceful. These two shots are from a tree by our driveway and a view of our back yard.

winter3 tree-b.jpg

winter4 backyard-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 2:10 PM | Minnesota

Category "Minnesota"

February 17, 2006

Cold Enough For You?

That's a standard greeting for Minnesota days like this. Today's high was +8F --- achieved at midnight last night --- and the temperature fell from then on. Currently it is -13F (with a -34F windchill). Tonight we might break the record low of -21F. Even the typically hearty folk in Duluth cancelled "Frigid Fest" today because it was too cold! Unfortunately, this cold spell coincides with our annual "Welcome Weekend" for prospective graduate students. Let's hope the cold doesn't scare them away.

Warmth will definitely be generated on Sunday morning when one of the choirs I sing in (Motet Choir at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church) will be presenting Haydn's Harmoniemesse - at both the 9:00 and 11:00 services. We will be accompanied by a 29 piece orchestra. It's the last Mass that Haydn wrote and is substantial and complex. The Kyrie is especially beautiful - reverent, slow, prayerful. I am confident that all the singing at tomorrow's 3 1/2 hour rehearsal and Sunday's presentations will keep my mind off the cold! You are warmly invited to join us.

Here's a link to stories and video about the weather from KARE11-TV here in the Twin Cities. It also includes a windchill chart and the formula for computing windchill. I always wondered what it was.....

windchill chart.gif

Posted by hgroteva at 10:57 PM | Minnesota

Category "Minnesota"

March 13, 2006

What Happened to Spring??

Car under snow1-b.jpg

My car is under there somewhere.....

Posted by hgroteva at 11:29 AM | Minnesota

Category "Life"

Category "Minnesota"

March 16, 2006

The Gift of Shoveling

Several weeks ago, I was complaining to a colleague that since I'm teaching on the "other campus" this term, parking is a hassle and I have to walk 15 minutes each way to my car. Earlier in the conversation, I had lamented about how busy the semester had been and that I had not been able to get to the gym very often. (I'm really not a whiner!) Her immediate response was, "Well, you've been given the gift of walking."

Was this pollyanna at work, or a very thoughtful and clever reframe? I choose the latter. I've thought of it every time I've walked to and from class since then, and it's really helped.

Well, today I had another chance to put it into action. Overnight, we got ANOTHER dump of snow - the driveway and the car looked pretty much like they did in Monday's picture (below). Well, I got my reframe working and decided I had been given the gift of shoveling. I had still not been to the gym very often and was "looking forward" to spending part of the days ahead doing my income taxes, so some new thinking was needed. The gift of shoveling... It helped me get through it. Fortunately also, the snow was much less dense than Monday's snow. I am not surprised that the Eskimoes have 100 words for snow (or however many...) There truly are many types.

All of this reminded me of another great reframe, this one from Robert Frost. I found this poem serendipitously while in the base library while I was serving in the Navy and mainly wishing I was somewhere else. I close with his words. And to my colleague friend who helped me see the gifts in walking and shoveling -- you know who you are -- my thanks!

Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:20 AM | Life | Minnesota

Category "Art"

Category "Minnesota"

June 11, 2006

Minneapolis Institute of Art - Grand Reopening Today

Today is the grand re-opening of the Minneapolis Institute of Art -- congratulations to all involved, especially to staff, board, and donors. I love visiting the MIA - I just wish it were a little closer to where I live. But I have always found it accessible, inviting, and full of old friends and new surprises. I can't wait to go, but I think it won't be today along with the thundering hordes.

Today's re-opening features 113,000 square feet of new space, 49,000 square feet of renovated space, 34 new and renovated galleries, and a 40% increase in exhibition space (figures courtesy of Minneapolis StarTribune, pp. F8-F9).

A few things caught my eye in the Strib's coverage.

First, you may have read my blog post a few days ago of the new Blanton Art Gallery in Austin. I noted that it was not a comprehensive gallery, but did have considerable depth in some areas. The word used to describe the new MIA is "encyclopedic" - I'm not sure whether this is a "technical term" or just newspaper-speak, but it seems to fit well.

Second, the article featured an extended quote from Peter Marzio, director of the Museum of Arts in Houston. He called the MIA "easily one of the top 10 or 12 museums in the United States in its collection's quality and range." (yay!) He also noted that "its only flaw is that it's not as well-known as it should be outside of museum circles. It's like they've almost taken pride in understatement..." (emphasis mine) Now that's the Minnesota way, isn't it? That encapsulates the Minnesota - Texas contrast that I've written about several times (see especially entry for Aug. 9, 2005). Texas would NEVER take pride in understatement. Of course understatement can have its underbelly - when there's a contest of pride to see who can be more understated. Anyway, you get the idea. but I thought the descriptive statement (offered by a Texas resident, no less) was quite apt. And having an understated but fabulous art institute is certainly fine by me.

Finally, the Strib published a rather sour review of the building's architecture, written by Linda Mack. I don't know her or her credentials, but I thought it was bad taste to publish such a sour review alongside the news of the MIA's amazing revival. (If you want to read it, you can find it yourself - I don't want to link to it.) Now she does praise the interior spaces of the MIA and talk about how well they fit the art, but she definitely was unhappy with the exterior. If I were the editor, I would have saved this critique for a later day ... even tomorrow ... but why today??

I am really looking forward to my first look at the new MIA. Remember, admission is free!

(Other items on my list to visit and blog about this summer: the new Minneapolis Public Library - just opened a few weeks ago, and the "Body Worlds" exhibit at the Science Museum.)

Posted by hgroteva at 12:09 PM | Art | Minnesota

Category "Minnesota"

July 31, 2006

Hot Enough for Ya?

Despite our extreme winters, Minnesota also gets its share of extreme summers. From today's Star Tribune:
"Today will bring dangerous, almost extraordinary heat to the Twin Cities and much of the Midwest. The heat will peak probably a few degrees above 100. Factoring in dew point, Sunday felt hotter in Minneapolis and St. Paul (110) than it did in Baghdad (103). Today will be worse. No preaching, lecturing or fear-mongering. Just know that today's heat will be life-threatening."

For fun, compare this to my entry from Feb. 17, 2006.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:34 AM | Minnesota

Category "Life"

Category "Minnesota"

Category "Music - of all kinds"

February 12, 2007

Give Me My Radio Back!

I'm a big NPR / MPR fan, EXCEPT during those infernal times of the year when they have their pledge drives -- like now. The latest one started last Thursday. I just can't bear to listen during it - it's so irritating and distressing. (I know they need the money, and I guess they keep being reinforced for doing the pledge drives, because people do respond. I make sure to send in my membership fee at OTHER times during the year.)

In the Twin Cities, we had a good thing going when WCAL, a classical music station not owned by MPR, conducted its pledge drive at times when MPR stations weren't. So when MPR was doing its drive, I could listen all the time to WCAL, and vice versa. Now that MPR bought out WCAL, all 3 of the MPR stations do their fund drives simultaneously. There's no escaping. To top it off, the pledge drives seem to extend longer each year.

I feel sorry for the announcers who have to go on and on begging for money. I suspect they're muttering "This is not what I signed up for!" But they seem to weather it with relatively good humor.

I've been tuning in to some "commercial" stations - but AACK! This morning, one of the stations was telling the story of Anna Nicole Smith meeting St. Peter at the pearly gates. I can't tell you how many different ways that was revolting!

Well, that's enough of a rant for this Monday morning. It felt good to get it off my chest. But give me my radio stations back!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:22 AM | Life | Minnesota | Music - of all kinds

Category "Minnesota"

March 1, 2007


I'm working at home today, watching the blizzard outside -- it's pretty much white-out conditions. But I was quite surprised to hear a big clap of thunder a few minutes ago. Thundersnow, they call it in these parts. I'm not going anywhere for a while. The city plows just smooshed a ton of wet gunk into the entry to my driveway. I'm enjoying my hot chocolate while I write....

Posted by hgroteva at 11:25 AM | Minnesota

Category "Minnesota"

May 11, 2007


A soft cool breeze

Delivers delicious air.

Minnesota perfection.

Posted by hgroteva at 1:51 PM | Minnesota

Category "Minnesota"

Category "Society"

August 3, 2007

We Are Slow Learners

Bridge collapse.jpg
(photo from

This morning’s paper was full of the stories that have come after the disasters of late: Katrina, the Tsunami, Virginia Tech. There are stories about the randomness of it all, the faces and biographies of those who perished, and the tales of the many who selflessly and spontaneously helped. It’s all too familiar.

There are also the recriminations and the political spin about whose fault the bridge collapse really was. Was it the governor? the legislature? MNDOT? the bridge inspectors? the engineers?

We have seen the enemy, and it is ourselves.

We, the voters, have elected a string of public officials who feel they have a mandate for “no new taxes.? This isn’t something they dreamed up. It’s what the voters who elected them wanted. Now our shortsightedness is coming home to roost.

We want it all. We want excellent education, highways, health care, and social services, but we want someone else to pay for them. Huh? The headline for Myles Spicer’s op-ed piece this morning read, this is a “wake-up call for taxpayers.? Yes, we must wake up. Continuing to dream will just mean that we experience more avoidable acute disasters (like bridge and dyke collapses) as well as slow and imperceptible declines (condition of our health, education, and the common good).

The Republican National Convention will be meeting in the Twin Cities; it will be interesting to see what that talk will be like. All national politicians will be having a hey-day with this.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:09 AM | Minnesota | Society

Category "Culture"

Category "Minnesota"

September 2, 2007

Scenes from the Renaissance Faire

Last Saturday was brilliantly sunny, and 75 degrees with a slight breeze. A perfect day.
Except that I was still reeling from the news of Wayne's untimely death. Tromping around the Faire helped distract me from my grief a little, but not much. Here are some scenes that I hope you enjoy and can escape into as needed.



Faire36-belly dance4.jpg


Faire32-tall puppets.jpg

Faire35-king + queen in parade.jpg

Faire03-in stocks.jpg

Faire25-sleeping lady w dog.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:42 AM | Culture | Minnesota

Category "Minnesota"

November 1, 2007

Past, Present, Future

I thoroughly enjoyed handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters last night. Almost 40 kids stopped by the house -- mostly young kids with their parents. One of our neighbors down the street always served hot cider for the parents -- a welcome assist on a cold night. (He was mayor of our burg at the time; I wonder if they still do it??) The costumes were fun; one boy was a robot (or perhaps the tin man from Oz), but his costume was home-made with aluminum foil, and you could tell he put a lot of his own creativity into it. I reminisced with a few of the parents about the big Halloween blizzard of '91. That was our second year in Minnesota. I was trick-or-treating with Mark in tow, and it was starting to snow. I thought to myself, "Well, this is quaint. Does it always snow on Halloween here???" Of course, the rest is history. By morning, 24 inches of snow were on the ground and the city was at a stand-still because all the plows were still being used for clearing leaves. We got another whammy at Thanksgiving, so the snow was on the ground continuously from Oct 31 until the usual spring thaw. A LONG winter indeed. Then my thoughts turned to the future. Where will I be living next October?? I know it won't be in this house, but I have no clue where it will be (specifically). Adventures await.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:48 PM | Minnesota

Category "Life"

Category "Minnesota"

December 5, 2007

The Gift of Shoveling --- and Petaluma Afternoon

My least favorite time is here -- shoveling season. It's probably clear that I'm not a native Minnesotan, because I have never "embraced the winter," as Eric Friesen (from MPR years ago) advised. As I was grumbling about shoveling my driveway on Sunday after the city plow had pushed a foot of hard gunk into the mouth of the drive, I thought about what my good friend Jean told me last year at this time: "You have been given the gift of shoveling." There's a lot of wisdom in that sentence. I think I commented on it last year too.

Re-framing is an important skill to have at this time of year, and I appreciate this particular one. Yes - it is a gift and a privilege to be able to shovel. The man across the street had a leg amputated last summer because of diabetes. He no longer has that gift.

I am reminded of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems, "The Dust of Snow". I discovered it when I was in the Navy, wanting desperately to be somewhere else.

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

I had that experience in the car on the way to teach this morning. (It was 12 degrees BTW.) On the radio, they were singing a song about "Petaluma afternoon." It was evoking a fine summer day in northern California. One of the verses said "Breezes blowin' ... Serotonin flowin'..." I had to smile!!

So now when I am grumpy about shoveling, I have my choice of thinking about my gift -- or about a Petaluma afternoon. It's nice to have options.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:20 PM | Life | Minnesota

Category "Family"

Category "Life"

Category "Minnesota"

Category "Texas"

December 30, 2007

From Technicolor to Grey

After spending 10 days in the land of warmth, vivid colors, Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla, and chicken molé enchiladas, it's back to cold and grey. The sun has not peeked out since I've been back home, and there are no immediate prospects on the horizon. And there's a huge icicle hanging on the power lines to the house; I hope it doesn't all come crashing down -- c'mon sun, do your thing!

The trip was enjoyable and much needed. It involved a lot of good food, a lot of "hanging out," a few good movies ("Atonement" - highly recommended .... and "Once" -- I got the DVD for Christmas). Reid and Meredith are at wonderful ages -- 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 - both in awe of the world in their own ways. Even though Halloween is long past, they enjoy dressing up in their costumes. Here are the bumblebee and the dragon.

M R in costume 1207.jpg

I'm counting on the colors in their costumes to add life to the bleak landscape outside.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:34 AM | Family | Life | Minnesota | Texas

Category "Life"

Category "Minnesota"

January 1, 2008

Update on the Monster Icicle

In my last post, I mentioned the huge block of ice precariously hanging from the power lines going into the house. Well, I had an interesting conversation with my sister this afternoon. It went kind of like this:

sis: "the weather's really bad here (north of Boston) -- lots more snow and ice, blah blah blah"
me: "yeah, it's terrible here too. Probably won't get above zero today, blah blah blah"
me: "you wouldn't believe this huge chunk of ice hanging on my power lines."
sis: "Can you call the power company?"
me: "I'm sure they'd just tell me to hire someone to get it down with a blowtorch."
sis: "Have you tried a hair drier? That's how I defrosted my refrig when I was in college."


So I headed out to Target to get a hair drier. (I certainly don't have enough hair to warrant having one for the usual purposes!) Fortunately, the ice block was just outside the second story window in my bedroom, and I could open the window and hold the hair drier up to it, which I did. (The cats, comfortably stretched out on their heating pad, thought I was nuts.) As I was not-too-patiently holding the drier up, I thought maybe I could bang on the ice and some would fall. So I got a metal hammer and banged away, just like I saw folks hammering away at their ice dams on the news last night. Sure enough, a huge chunk of it fell down. There's still a solid chunk hanging on the power line, but it must weigh 25 pounds less than before. So three cheers for sibling collaboration!

PS: I have never forgotten how to spell "icicle," because that's the word I missed in the school-level spelling bee competition in the 6th grade --- As soon as I - C - E... came out of my mouth, I knew it was wrong, but it was too late.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:23 PM | Life | Minnesota

Category "Minnesota"

January 29, 2008

Waiting for the Wallop

for posterity, I must quote from Paul Douglas' weather column in this morning's Strib. I can't wait...

"Minnesota is not for the timid. Most years we earn our reputation as the Super Bowl of Weather. ... Today ... an arctic front will squeeze out a few inches of snow, winds will gust over 30 mph, and visibilities will drop to near zero at times as powder blows and drifts. A slow commute this morning may degenerate into an icy, frustrating, slow-motion crawl this afternoon as snow is compacted, flattened by continuous traffic into an icy glaze, even on the freeways. I fear the PM commute may mutate into ... possibly one of the worst travel days of winter. Enough snow may fall to plow and shovel, followed by a dangerous low of -10 to -20 by daybreak Wednesday ... Can spring be far behind? You betcha!"

Posted by hgroteva at 8:57 AM | Minnesota

Category "Minnesota"

March 21, 2008

"Spring" - Good Friday 2008



Posted by hgroteva at 11:50 AM | Minnesota

Category "Minnesota"

Category "Moving"

May 17, 2008

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers' song comes to mind as I contemplate this Saturday. There's a light northerly breeze, temp in the high 60s / low 70s, birds are singing, I've cleaned the house for the prospective buyers coming at 12:15, and I solved the 6 star Sudoku (Saturday's is always the hardest). The next 24 hours is the calm before the storm. There is an open house tomorrow afternoon, so everything has to stay pristine until it's over at 3:30 -- but then the house-packing begins in earnest. I'm ready.

As I was sorting through more papers yesterday, I kept thinking about WHY these things should matter. Aren't we the sum total of our experiences; and after we go, isn't our totality at the time of encounter what we pass on to those whose lives we've touched? If so, why should letters from 20, 30, 40 years ago matter? Haven't they already been incorporated into who I am? The ones that have made the most impact or been the most symbolically important are surely reflected in who I am today. The ones that are tangential have not been internalized, so why should I feel that they are important now anyway? Is my narrative about all these pieces of paper? I don't think so. My narrative is just me, as I am transformed from day to day. And I'm not the sum total of my experiences, because I am transformed as each new experience is incorporated (or not) into my evolving narrative. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

I googled "the sum of our experiences" and got almost 13 million hits. I think this reflects the universality of the human experience. The blogosphere has made it possible for people to read the perspectives of others they will never meet -- perhaps folks on the other side of the world, or writing in another language -- and see their own concerns and insights reflected in those of others. That has surely been true for me. It's exciting and humbling all at once.

And happy 23rd birthday to Mark today. I'm sad to be leaving him; but he's found a direction, and that is so exciting to see.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:30 AM | Minnesota | Moving

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

Category "Minnesota"

Category "Music - of all kinds"

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!


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.

Stage from inside Shed.jpg

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...

On lawn in rain.jpg

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.


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 | Life | Massachusetts | Minnesota | Music - of all kinds

Category "Life"

Category "Minnesota"

Category "Moving"

August 28, 2008



Just before 6:00 pm this evening, we received the call we had been waiting for ... Our realtor in Minnesota called to say that all the papers had been signed and the sale of our house was now complete. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.


The house was on the market almost 5 months, we had to lower the price three times - almost 20%, and we had to throw in almost-brand-new refrigerator, washer, and dryer. I feel that the price we were paid was insulting to the house and its condition. But I am realistic enough to know that the value of the house is a function of what someone will pay for it. I wish its new owner well. He got a bargain. (Unfortunately, since housing prices here have not slumped very much, we will not likely benefit from the nationwide housing depression.)


Although the feeling is only a few hours old, I finally feel the psychological freedom to allow myself to live fully in my new surroundings, without being encumbered by significant obligations 1200 miles away. The house was good to us. We were able to tweak it and shape it in some significant ways, and it worked for us quite well. My sincerest thanks to our realtors, who went above and beyond what was required, especially in the last weeks as the new owner was seeking FHA funding that required that additional repairs be made ... and to our handiest man, who made the repairs - and even camped out on the front porch, paint brush in hand, waiting for the inspector to return for the third time. (We recently learned that inspectors get an additional $100 each time they re-inspect a home. Doesn't take a genius to see why so many houses don't pass muster the first time.)

We had dinner with new friends tonight, and enjoyed champagne toasts to the sale of our house and to the beginnings of our new lives here. The chapter has been turned.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:04 PM | Life | Minnesota | Moving

Category "Massachusetts"

Category "Minnesota"

September 8, 2008

Things New and Old


Campus View UMass.jpg

**Being able to park the car once in the morning and walk anywhere I need to on campus during the day.
**Having a computer file-sharing service (U-Drive) that permits collaboration with others who do not have university IDs.
**Hearing the marching band rehearse outside my window - go drums!
**New friends and students.
**Having a fairly flexible schedule for the first time in years. (I know it won't last.)


CHE front McNeal2-b.jpg

**The comings and goings in the mail / coffee room.
**Old friends and students.
**My hot tub.
**A convenient airport.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:14 PM | Massachusetts | Minnesota

Category "Cats"

Category "Minnesota"

October 17, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging (+ a little political commentary): Missing Shadow




Shadow has been missing for a little over 48 hours. He's 9 years old and has never shown any interest in going outdoors. But he got curious Wednesday afternoon and was lured outside, and hasn't been heard from since. We have been walking the neighborhood calling his name & talking to neighbors. We keep the house lit up like a stadium at night so he can find the way. This is a very quiet street, so we don't think he has had a mishap with a car. But there are some brushy areas and a creek nearby. Anyway, send good vibes to Shadow (and me).

Tonight, I sat in disbelief (not really) to hear Michele Bachman (R-MN) tell Chris Matthews that many (most?) liberals and leftists were un-American. Later in the program, he had on the editor of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel. who commented that she thought Bachman was "channeling Joe McCarthy." I agree. It all came about because of a robocall that is being pushed out by the McCain campaign in the states that are still in play, emphasizing the association between Obama and Bill Ayers, and using scary language to imply that Obama is dangerous and un-American. How far into the gutter must we go? It's pretty disgusting. I thought Obama was extremely presidential in all 3 debates, and I would be proud to call him my President. If the other side wins, there will be bleak times ahead.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:45 PM | Cats | Minnesota