Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Fling...or Bahamian Bust?

This blog post is not about me. I am not in the Bahamas. It is mostly about Pope and Albert, some tomato seedlings, and the way relationship can stretch and bend in certain circumstances, depending on the personalities.
First, let me just admit that I am a classic boat widow--that is, a spouse frequently left behind when a partner runs off to a spiritual soulmate of the floating variety.
Yes, it's true. Two weeks ago Pope left me a note on the kitchen table: "Went to see my mistress."  (That really is his handwriting. I am NOT making this up.) Fortunately, I know how to interpret his literary meanderings. He is not racing to burrow his nose into the breasts of a curvaceous blonde; no, he is racing to wrap his loving arms around the mast of a cold, hard hunk of fiberglass. He spent a lot of time with his mistress this winter. He worried about her endlessly, crying out her name in his sleep.
Echo II being slung back into the water after a long winter of repairs
The important point here is, Pope loves sailboats and sailing. He is currently in the sunny Bahamas for a Spring fling, crewing on someone else's boat. I, on the other hand, am enjoying nights out with the girls, wine parties, gym classes, yoga teacher training, Cajun music jams. Lonely widow?? Nah! So which of us is having the more delightful experience? Judge for yourself...
Amber joins other volunteer teachers in training workshop at Yoga in Daily Life USA, Alexandria, Virginia, March 2016
Remember our month in early 2014, holed up at the Rubis gas station dock in Nassau while our auxiliary engine was removed, refurbished, and reinstalled by Albert the diesel magician? Of course you do! Admit it--it was your favorite story; or maybe the only story that kept you from nodding off while slogging through my tiresome blog about misadventures in the Bahamas.
Bidding farewell to Echo II's auxiliary propulsion unit, January 2014; bye bye, see you in a month!
Albert the diesel magician in his shop, ordering essential parts from the US for Echo II, January 2014
Well, what goes around comes around! Is that the appropriate phrase here? Or is it DEJA VU??! As I write this, Pope is holed up at the Rubis gas station dock in Nassau, on a broke-down boat, while Albert the diesel magician is being solicited (skids greased with some Jameson whiskey, most likely) to take a gander at its internal mechanics. Will Pope and his skipper see other islands? Will they snorkel and swim, or even sail? TBD. Pope's latest email: "I have no idea how long we will be stuck here at the good ole Rubis station. Lots of problems."
Not a day older: Albert the diesel magician, still running his shop of miracles (and illusions) in Nassau, March 2016
Divine justice for running off to the islands without me? Poor planning, or poor maintenance? Or is Pope so attached to that old wooden fuel dock with its charter fishing boats and laid-back vibe that it serves as auxiliary soulmate? We did have a good time there in 2014; the gas station manager at the time, Daniel, shared his breakfast, joked with us, let us use the internet, and instructed his staff to unlock the toilet for us at all hours, on request.
Street view of our Nassau home away from home, January 2014
The infamous--and increasingly familiar--dock, January 2014; Echo II is the (only) mast on the left
Thus our respective activities in the Spring of 2016 continue to unfold. Now, about those tomato seedlings: while Pope shoots the breeze with Bahamian gas jockeys and Albert's assistants, day after day, with the potential for becoming week after week, he moans that his newly planted tomato, pepper, basil, and parsley seeds in the little brown pots in our front window could die without their "parent" to nurture and nourish them. His lament: "They need love. Without me they are screwed." Well, I can only do my best. Every day I water them, gaze fondly at them, puzzle over how to keep them alive, and even sing Cajun songs to them. As far as I can tell, they are not yet screwed.
As you have probably figured out by now, Pope and I have a strange yet wonderful relationship, able to endure interesting twists and turns that could never even be conceived of by normal people.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

In Search of a Steinway

Last weekend, I stood before an audience to introduce the third of four concerts by Lana Genc, a classical pianist visiting from Croatia for her first US performance tour. I had organized two of the concerts--publicity and all--at the Arts Club of Washington and An die Musik in Baltimore.
Lana played beautifully, coaxing melodic harmonies of Chopin and Bach from aging ivories, garnering compliments and swelling my heart with devotion and pride. She captivated audiences not only with music but also with smile, presence, grace and confidence.
(Photo by Chris Farmer)
I truly enjoyed supporting her efforts to make a splash on the US music scene. Together, we put her local performances on the map--on calendars, on flyers, on the internet, and into the consciousness of music fans. We attracted decent crowds in Washington, Baltimore, and Alexandria, Virginia.

Quite an accomplishment, given that, as of last November, the classical concert world was new to me--and Steinways are not easy to find. The realm of music, however, was old hat. I had been singing and strumming since 5 years old, when I first picked out "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on a toy piano. Music was in my blood! Well, why not; my mother played accordion and organ and taught me to waltz in our living room.
Even classical composers were not complete strangers. I played violin in school orchestras, rising to the position of First Violin, and quitting only when public funding ended. (Marching band continued, of course.) Switching to organ--because there was one in our home--I discovered that my left and right hands were uncoordinated. Besides, I never could wrap my brain around that pesky treble clef--just where were those notes on the keyboard, anyway?
Fortunately, my uncle came to the rescue with a cheap guitar. I spent many enjoyable hours teaching myself to play scales and strum along with Peter, Paul and Mary. I babysat every Saturday to buy a decent $80 guitar, in 1973. I still have it.

In college, I skipped classes to practice "Stairway to Heaven" and "Time in a Bottle" with good-lookin' frat boys boasting names like Fast Eddie. I signed up for classical guitar class, which I barely passed because the final exam required playing in front of a crowd, and in those days I was way too shy.

By the time I got a full-time job, I had a good grounding in musical instruments. Like many a career professional, however, I gave up music for a long, long time. It wasn't until retirement that I picked up the old guitar and dug my harmonicas out of storage. Before long, I was singing in Cajun jams and getting coached in Piedmont-style blues.

When Lana--a fellow member of my international yoga organization, Yoga in Daily Life--contacted us about visiting our yoga center in Alexandria, I was ready to launch another musical adventure. And what an adventure it was! I learned about classical compositions and quality of pianos, attended a lovely embassy concert and reception, and got up close and personal with an accomplished professional. (Look at those right fingers flying.)
She never stopped practicing, nimble and sure: three hours a day on borrowed pianos, other times in her head, and in the car on the way to Baltimore.
My appreciation for classical composers and accomplished pianists grew enormously when I sat up close during a house concert, a few feet behind the keys. She referred to the historic piano, inherited from ancestors, as an "old gentleman" that required gentle nurturing--yet the old gentleman survived--and perhaps even grew stronger?--as she pounded out the strong riffs and chords. When Lana plays, she takes a deep breath and pours her soul into the music. At that distance, the power and glory of Rachmaninoff came through loud and clear!
Above all, I made a dear friend--a talented, lovely and loving woman who not only plays piano but practices yoga and meditation, who graced us with her presence on her journey to a higher world of consciousness, music and potential stardom.
(Photo by Chris Farmer)