Monday, April 18, 2005

Bach, Brahms, Beer, & the Boston Marathon

This weekend was a pretty good one, all in all. Any weekend that includes a holiday on one end is a good one. I spent this one by doing a variety of things. On Friday night I went to Swing City and danced to the band, Swing Legacy.

As it usually is, there were too many people in too small of a hall dancing too hard. Come Friday night, after a long week at work, dancing helps one blow off a lot of pent up frustrations. However, it can get deadly out there on the dance floor. Some folks who dance Lindy swing around like two barely connected tops almost out of control. They get a wide berth from most of the others; however, that cuts down on the amount of dancing space and so what happens is that those folks can’t cut loose because there’s not enough room. I’ve spoken to any number of women there who’ve given up wearing open-toed low cut dancing shoes and have instead gone with shoes that protect their toes, insteps and ankles. This past Friday I clipped the back of the ankle of a dancer’s foot. I stopped to apologize and got whacked myself from behind by someone else. Nonetheless, it’s a good time and a good night out.

On Saturday I discovered a new route up to the scenic overlook at Prospect Hill Park. Along the way we met up with two women and their dogs. Part of our conversation was being thankful that the park road was still not open, forcing everyone to walk. When the road opens, I was told, it becomes almost unsafe for the dogs. People drive right up to one of the picnic spots, campsites, or to the overlook and so dogs and walkers get literally pushed to the side of the road. Dixie is still not up to snuff so, while she was able to keep up, she didn’t interact too much with the other dogs and pretty much kept by my side.

On Sunday I journeyed up to Newburyport with a co-worker and a friend of theirs to listen to chamber music. Sitting in the parish hall of the Unitarian Universalist Church on a beautiful afternoon, we listened to the works of Bach, Brahms, Windemark,, played on cello and piano. The performers, Karen Wilson on cello and Frances Burmeister on piano, were excellent. Ms. Wilson performs with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and is a practicing psychotherapist, while Ms. Burmeister plays, teaches, composes and lives in Boston’s South End. The hall was full of friendly people and, as there was a breeze coming in off the water, the air was cool and delightful.

Prior to and after the concert we walked around Newburyport some, taking in the ambiance and getting a feel for the historic nature of the port. On the other side of the sound from Newburyport is New Hampshire. Looking east along the sound you can see where the Atlantic Ocean meets the bay waters. Newburyport, it seems, has a long maritime history; today, however, it’s a tourist trap. And, on this sunny and gorgeous Sunday, a three day weekend to boot with the next week being schools’ spring break, there were zillions of people everywhere. They were all over the promenade, stretched out on the Common, lying on the grass in the waterfront park, all over the place. You almost couldn’t notice the historic nature of the town for all the tourists.

Crammed into all these hundreds of years old, historic, buildings were lots and lots of shops: designer clothing shops, funky shops, beachwear shops, cutesy-cutesy shops, artsy-craftsy shops; and, fancy, trendy and regular restaurants, as well. Tons of people were going in and out of the shops, pounding their feet on the brick sidewalks. Families, singles, couples, motorcycle gangs, and teenagers all soaking up the sun, taking in the town and spending money. Walking around before the concert I stopped at an old-timey soda fountain store and had a double dip of ice cream in a cup: Vanilla Bean Crunch and Chocolate Addiction. Hmnn-hmnn-hmnn. It was good!

After the concert we ventured into a restaurant for supper. The waitress was pleasant, though harried. They’d had a lot more business this day than any one in the place was used to having. Even though they were out of several items on the menu and also among the day’s specials, we still had enough choices to satisfy us. And, of course, we had a beer. In fact, I had two Whale Tail beers. I never had a Whale Tail beer before and didn’t find out if it was local, regional or what. Nevertheless, it was good.

While the folks I was with chose lighter fare, I had the Chicken Piccatore. We ate, conversed and had a nice time. Well mostly. The only bad part was when the motorcycle gang parked out front cranked up their bikes. Since it was so warm outside the restaurant had it’s windows and front door open. The Harley boys and girls had their bikes ass end in and when they started their engines, they blew gas and oil fumes right into the restaurant. While that was pretty disgusting, and certainly noisy, the smells and sounds dissipated fairly rapidly.

Today, Monday, is Patriot’s Day. It’s one of the 13 state holidays we state workers get to celebrate annually. For most people up here, Patriot’s Day represents the Boston Marathon; but, historically, Patriot’s Day is the day the state sets aside as a part of its celebrated history to commemorate the firing of the first shot of the Revolutionary War in Lexington, MA. Unfortunately today, though, especially among the young, it’s only known for the Marathon and for the name of the football team.

I decided to celebrate Patriot’s Day by going to the Hale Reservation for a hike. It seems like Dixie’s responding to the Thyroxin and Cosequin; she was a little lively, seemed to have some energy, so I thought, why not. Hale Reservation, which sits in the tony area of Westwood, is only a 15-20 minute drive from Waltham on Route 128/95. The reservation during the summer becomes a boy scout campground and dogs are not allowed there after June 22nd, as I learned upon arriving from a departing dog walker. The area includes two big lakes and lots of hiking trails. While Dixie didn’t go swimming, she did go in up to her dew claws and drank up the fresh, clear and cold lake water. There were lots of other dogs swimming and running around. Again, Dixie did not interact with the other dogs and seemed tentative around them but that’s ok. She does have more spunk than she had even yesterday.

On our way back to Waltham I decided to take the local roads, to check out the area. I thought I’d drive from Westwood, through Dover to Wellesley, from there up through Newton and then into Waltham. It was a good plan, I had my map book with me and it was a beautiful day for a ride. Today was also the Boston Marathon, in which 20,000 runners participate and run from somewhere west of Wellesley into Boston. Most of the City of Boston shuts down on Patriot’s Day, not because it’s a holiday but because of all the people who participate and watch the race. The City virtually grinds to a halt from all the people. It is a huge attraction. I figured (if you know me you know I’m always figuring) that by 4 in the afternoon the race would be done, the roads would be open and I could just slide home. Not so. What took me 20 minutes to get to took me two hours to get home.

I was hot, I was tired, I was becoming bitchy. The traffic was backed up and people were everywhere, carrying their lawn chairs, blankets and seat cushions. Cars were everywhere. Roads, especially the ones I wanted to take, were blocked off. It was a mess. Mind you now, I’m ten miles west of the City of Boston and it’s eight hours after the race started. Eventually I was able to wend my way back along Boylston St. to get onto 128/95 and slowly inch my way home. The guy on the radio said that 128 was clear in both directions. Obviously, he wasn’t there.

What I could have gone for right then out there on the road, though, was a couple of Whale Tails to take off the edge and a Harley to cut through all the traffic. Well, maybe not. Maybe it was just better to kick back and revel in the thoughts of the weekend’s unfolding of nature, history, music, and song while creeping along at 20 mph on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in eastern Massachusetts.


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