When the weather is tropical and everywhere you look you see green, life starts to feel like an epic poem written by Mother Nature. There’s so much happening around us with things growing and water puddling and smells that define a season – flowers, bar-b-q and chlorine. I know how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to sit and walk and run and just appreciate these things. I take the responsibility of being an observer pretty seriously and know it’s an incredible luxury.
I’m generally not much of a pray-er, other than to give thanks, but I’ve been working the prayer thing a little harder as my kids continue to extend their reach. Health and safety. No cobras. Safe driving. That sort of thing.
Promises? What do I know about those? Hmmm…I’d have to go with that they’re important and meaningful and should not be made lightly. Like that promise I made a few days ago to share some impressions from recent live music shows I’ve seen.
First up are some pics from the concert Liam and I attended in Vienna. We bought the tickets from a guy selling them near a park and I was pretty convinced he was going to steal my credit card information and cost me a bundle, but happily it was legit and he was a total professional.
The show, at Schoenbrunn Palace, was a “fine selection of masterful music by Mozart and Strauss…” it lasted about 90 minutes with an intermission and it was lovely. I didn’t grab a video because they asked guests not to and that’s a rule I can respect, even with my regret at not sneaking a single photo at the Sistine Chapel.
My son and I also attended a classical concert in a gorgeous chapel in Prague. I did take a video there and I’m sharing it
I love Vivaldi (not that I know sh*t about classical music) and I felt quite moved by the experience. Wonderful.
Also wonderful in a different and much closer to home way are the Monday night jazz offerings at Lucas Confectionary. I’ve been twice so far, once on the back terrace and once indoors and air-conditioned, and have loved it. Great wine choices (A Pigato?! A gruner from Oregon?! Wow!), a cool vibe indoors or out, and a capable and into it band really makes for an excellent way to start the week.
As for what I’m sharing below – my youngest listens to music that I can usually really respect. Recently he’s been on a John Denver kick, which I find pretty amusing. While doing a little searching online, this song came up and it spoke to me. Do you think it reads as more a poem, a prayer or promise?
I’ve been lately thinking
About my life’s time
All the things I’ve done
And how it’s been
And I can’t help believing
In my own mind
I know I’m gonna hate to see it end
I’ve seen a lot of sunshine
Slept out in the rain
Spent a night or two all on my own
I’ve known my lady’s pleasures
Had myself some friends
And spent a time or two in my own home
And I have to say it now
It’s been a good life all in all
It’s really fine
To have a chance to hang around
And lie there by the fire
And watch the evening tire
While all my friends and my old lady
Sit and pass the pipe around
And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it’s been since yesterday
And what about tomorrow
And what about our dreams
And all the memories we share
The days they pass so quickly now
Nights are seldom long
And time around me whispers when it’s cold
The changes somehow frighten me
Still I have to smile
It turns me on to think of growing old
For though my life’s been good to me
There’s still so much to do…
Filed under aging, Albany, art, Austria, beauty, concerts, Czech Republic, DelSo, Europe, Events, favorites, love, Music, musings, Observations, poetry, Summer, Troy, Uncategorized, upstate New York, vacation
I know about as much about jazz as I do about wine. I like some of it, I recognize a few names and I am usually willing to try something new when it comes to both of those topics. While my favorite wines are often bright and fruity, when it comes to jazz I’m more taken by dark and smoky sounds. I like jazz that sounds like you might have once heard it played in a candlelit bar in a city whose name you can’t quite remember.
Last night I took a chance on trying something new, jazz-wise. I had seen an ad for the Brad Mehldau Trio and the description “Thelonious Monk classics, American Songbook standards…” had grabbed me, so I got myself to The Egg on Sunday and bought a ticket. After a quick stop at Cafe Capriccio for a delicious Stoli gimlet, that is.
The trio consisted of Brad on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums and each of them were mesmerizing in their own way. At times, I felt as if I were a voyeur observing the relationship that seemed to exist between each of the musicians and their instruments. It was so intimate – the curve of Mehldau’s back as he curled over the keyboards, the drape of Grenadier’s arm around the neck of his bass, the varied tension that Ballard possessed in his hands..
Closing my eyes, I absorbed the music in the center of my body. The songs rolled into one another, with some alternating solos thrown in, and after about 85 minutes or so, it was over. I was home by 9:15 with a new favorite contemporary jazz trio and a promise to myself to buy their upcoming album and enjoy it with some wine.
Fifty years ago this very evening, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. I can’t help but wonder what he would think about the current state of race relations in our country. Would he have found his efforts to end racial discrimination and segregation to have been a worthy investment?
When Barack Obama was elected President I was filled with pride and optimism about our country’s future. He led the United States with an intelligence and dignity that made me believe that we had indeed made gains in reaching the Promised Land. Maybe our country had truly healed and was prepared and committed to move forward in a unified fashion. I was thrilled by the thought that black children in our country would at last see a reflection of themselves in our country’s highest office and with our first family. It was about time, don’t you think?
Today, though, I am ashamed of our country in its current state – and it isn’t because I’m a libtard snowflake sore loser either. Our elected officials are failing us and seem to be more motivated by their own personal gain than in improving the lives of their constituents. The president of our country damages our international reputation and imperils our national security daily with his unfiltered Tweets, juvenile bickering and outrageous lies and seems intent upon eliminating independent media outlets and environmental protection.
Martin Luther King, Jr., and all of the civil rights activists in our country’s history, worked so hard and sacrificed so much – and for what gain? Black men still lose their lives at a rate the defies any explanation other than inherent and persistent racism. The discrepancies in rates of incarceration when it comes to blacks and whites continue to be outrageously out of balance. Opportunities continue to not be offered equally. We live in a time when differences hold more weight than similarities when it comes to measuring importance and it doesn’t feel like its changing.
The few with genuine power are calling too many of the shots and we, as a citizenship, need to begin expressing our opinions and becoming more involved in the process. More participation, I think, builds pride. Working together often results in change. Let’s do it in the name of love.
Last fall I heard a song on my favorite local radio station WEXT which introduced me to musicians who were new to me, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams. This couple who have been married for nearly 30 years, have recently begun performing music together as a duo following years of performing with other legendary musicians such as Bob Dylan and Levon Helm. The song, When I Stop Loving You, which is the first single from their fall release Contraband Love just touched me with its beautiful melody and touching lyrics. I promised myself I would check them out if they came around our area and, lucky me, they played Caffe Lena last week.
Incredibly, this was my very first time attending a show at Cafe Lena and I couldn’t have been happier with the experience. Tickets were reasonably priced, our table was just one back from the small stage and the performance was excellent. Being as unfamiliar with Larry and Teresa’s* work as we were, our expectations were pretty low and we were both blown away. His musicianship was remarkable to witness and her ultimate instrument, her voice, was masterfully controlled. Campbell played three instruments, all with equal ease, and neither of them had a sheet of music in front of them, playing from memory songs that were mostly unknown to me with an occasional cover such as Long Black Veil thrown in that thrilled. The audience was filled with true fans and their enthusiasm fed the performers and made the evening a real treat to witness.
After the show we headed out to grab a bite to eat before driving home and found ourselves at The Parting Glass where I had a sandwich billed as a Salmon Burger, but in fact it was a really well prepared salmon fillet offered up on a roll. I skipped the bread, but thoroughly enjoyed the fish and accompanying sweet potato fries. If somebody could just get in that place and give it a good spring cleaning I’d be inclined to visit there more often.
Two Thursday evenings spent in Saratoga and both were winners. Who needs horses anyway?
*after you see someone in a space as intimate as Cafe Lena being on a first same basis seems appropriate.
Earlier this month, my oldest son and I went to the city and got us some culture. It began with a cheap (less than $120 for the night) hotel way downtown, which became an afternoon performance at the Met, a Downton Abbey exhibit and visit to the super cool oculus. Our time in NYC coincided with some of the coldest weather of the year (decade?) and we were lucky enough to have some surprisingly good options for dinner nearby in an area that has not always been known for evening dining options. On a friend’s recommendation we decided to give the just-around-the-corner Dead Rabbit try. Here’s how it went…
First of all, I had no idea that this place was so highly regarded. How highly regarded is it? Well, it was dubbed the Best Bar in the WORLD in 2016!
Reading the various reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor also informed me that the space is divided into 3 floors with the middle and upstairs floors requiring entry from a staff member. While the first floor Taproom would have sufficed had I been on a date (as it seemed that many of the pairs surrounding us were), the second floor Parlor was where I set my sights. I had gotten the impression that it might have a bit more elbow room than was available downstairs. I requested seating on the second floor and within 15 minutes, and about midway through my delicious warm Clontarf punch, we were ushered to two seats at the cocktail bar in the Parlor.
My immediate impression? There was so much to check out! Interesting looking people, walls covered in memorabilia, along with an impressive array of small bottles containing various cocktail ingredients provided a visual feast. We were presented with the current cocktail list – a graphic novel telling the story of original Irish gangsters with drinks inspired by their exploits, and adorable little teacups of a special punch. I drank them both since my son is 20 for another 6 weeks and I’m not one to waste good alcohol. The small food menu provided options that were well matched with the frigid weather and overall classic vibe and we selected the fish & chips for my son and the chicken pot pie for me and settled in at the bar. The lighting, music and warmth of the space combined to make a very comfortable spot to spend a couple of hours – at least for me. Liam’s stay was a bit more brief.
Our meals were served piping hot and appropriately portioned for the price. My son polished off his plate completely, while I couldn’t quite manage my entire meal opting instead to sample another concoction created by the friendly and professional bar staff. Not finding exactly what I wanted on their list, I requested a bourbon cocktail with a Manhattan-esque flair and was rewarded with a beautifully balanced drink that was precisely what I was seeking. This is a terrific spot despite all the hype that surrounds it. Check it out!
Filed under art, Boys, Dinner, drinking, Irish, Music, NYC, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, winter
Stringing seven consecutive positive days together isn’t always easy. For some people it may never happen, which means that those of us fortunate enough to experience good weeks should celebrate them. What makes a good week? It involves finding a balance between all of the various roles we play in life, for me, specifically Mom, friend, worker and player.
Last week, I doubled down on some of my favorite activities and was able to work in two (different studios) yoga classes, two (different routes) runs and two (different golf courses) skis. I went to a party early in the week and saw a cool band Friday night at The Lowbeat. In between there was a good soak in a hot tub, along with some responsible financial and medical decisions and a bit of vacation planning. I worked two solid shifts at Mio Posto and was rewarded for my efforts when a slice of coconut cream pie was plated by accident meaning we got to eat it. That was a sweet way to end my work week.
Colonie Golf Course
Sunday was a great day – not too busy, yet productive without feeling rushed at all. I made waffles for the boys for breakfast and leisurely read the papers. I washed the car and had my nine remaining toe nails attended to with a pedicure. The sheets were changed and laundry was washed, dried and folded leaving the hamper empty for a brief moment. Jeter and I took a fun run down the yellow brick road and through the farm into the back nine at Muni and came home more exhilarated than tired. There were baths for both of us, mine with bath salts and a book, followed by dinner. My mushroom, provolone and ham omelette with a side salad topped with a perfect avocado was delicious, as was the Cherry Garcia ice cream that beautifully punctuated my supper.
I was in bed by 9:15 and asleep a short time later. I awoke this morning before 5:00 feeling ready for a new week and appreciative for all of the positive and wonderful things present in my life. It may not sound like much, but if you treat the small gifts like large ones you might be amazed by how rich you really are.
Filed under Albany, beauty, Dinner, Exercise, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Observations, running, sunday, Uncategorized, x-country skiing, yoga
My new favorite cocktail – Cimarron Tequila,Pear Liqueur, Allspice Dram, Lemon Juice
2017 has been a year of great live performances, with a couple of exceptions. The most recent disappointing musical act I saw was Modern English at The Hollow earlier this month. I was so excited for this throwback band – the timing was ideal (the night before a holiday), I had plenty of friends going and their big single “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You” is a classic 80s tune. What could go wrong?
Well, the tickets ($25) said 8:00 and we arrived pretty close to that time only to find the band’s equipment just being loaded into the venue. After about 20 or 30 minutes, some guys got on stage without introduction (that I heard at least) and played a song that was so friggin loud that we left the spot we had nabbed near the back bar and headed to the dining area where we wouldn’t be blasted at an obscene volume. Shortly after they left the stage an opening act came on and played some noise that just didn’t appeal to us, so we left and grabbed a drink at dp’s. Come to think about it, that drink (the Autumn in Jalisco) was probably the best part of the night. Maybe tequila isn’t just for summer.
We went back to The Hollow at about 10:30 and Modern English was just coming on stage. We stood about 20-25 feet back from the stage, but again, the music was damn loud that I just couldn’t deal. By this point, I was pretty much thinking “just play the song so I can go home, please.” They didn’t hear my mental plea, so I left. Too late and too loud = no fun for me.
Now, last night I had a completely different experience. After vowing to not squander an infrequent Saturday night off, my favorite guy and I made a pretty darn spontaneous decision to check out a blues performer downtown at The Upper Room. The space was new to us (I never went to Jillian’s) and had two distinct areas depending upon whether one had purchased general admission tickets ($20 at the door) or made a reservation prior to the show. We weren’t able to get a table so we instead staked out a spot near the railing which divided the sections and had a decent view of the stage and excellent proximity to the bar.
Albert Cummings has played around Albany a number of times, but it was our first time seeing him and from start (when we walked past him behind the venue) to finish (when guitar geek guy copped a pick and we complimented the band on their set) it was an awesome show. The sound mix was solid, the volume was on point and the crowd was enthusiastic and fun. I was disappointed by the lack of cider as a beverage option, but the Jack’s Abbey Oktoberfest that we opted for was so very tasty that I had three. Yes, three!
Somehow I missed the fact that The Upper Room was doing a blues series, but there is one more show scheduled for next month and I’d go back again in a heartbeat. The show started on time, the band was tight (that drummer!) and the value in terms of price was terrific. I’ve enjoyed other shows (and meals) at The Hollow and will continue to keep an eye on their events calendar. Multiple entertainment options downtown are a good thing. Now, if we could just get some residents to occupy some of the space above the businesses downtown, we’d really be making progress, Albany.