Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Boz Scaggs and Make Music Madison

Last night Travalon and I went to see Boz Scaggs at the Overture Center. It was a really good show, except that he didn’t do my favorite song, “Miss Sun.” I had been so lucky with musicians doing my favorite songs, even if they weren’t their biggest hits, but in this case it was a big hit so I was sure he would do it. He did do a really cool tango piece, and some stuff by obscure Cajun songwriters. I just don’t get why rock stars do that, instead of playing the songs you want to hear. As a musician, I get that they might get bored with playing the same songs over and over, but he did all his other hits, and we paid a lot to hear his music, not obscure Cajun songwriters’ music.

Today at lunch I had a free gig for Make Music Madison, the annual free music solstice celebration. All over town, people are playing free gigs outside all day long. We played at Hotel Red, which was a pleasant location in that it is outdoor yet shaded, but boy is it noisy on the corner of Monroe and Regent Streets! Plus they have just started doing road construction. At first our audience consisted of Travalon, but soon more people drifted in, and by the end we had a respectable number of people listening to us. They even tipped well – we each got $10 in tips! Afterwards a young guy approached me and said what a beautiful Neapolitan style mandolin I had, and that you don’t see many like it. I figured if he knew that much about it, he must play, so I let him play mine, and indeed he does know how to play. He said he has a bouzouki, but when I told him about mine, he said they are larger than mandolins, not smaller. So I am not sure what my little instrument is, after all. Tuning it like a bouzouki seems to make sense. I got in touch with a woman who said she would teach me to play the “bouzouki,” so if we can ever coordinate schedules, maybe she can tell me what my little instrument actually is. 

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Monday, June 19, 2017

End of the Rodney Era

Warning: this blog post has a sad ending.

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Mine was kind of up and down. Friday evening Tiffy and I had dinner at Brasserie V, then we drove to Spring Green and met the Dairyman's Daughter at the outdoor theater to see "A Flea in Her Ear," a romantic comedy. We saw a few scenes before there was a rain delay, then we saw the first third before they called it off completely because of a storm. Tiffy noted that the last time the three of us had attended a play there, it had also been called off because of storms, and she suggested we sell our services ("Guaranteed rain!") to drought-stricken farmers. So now we will have to figure out a time we can go back to see the entire play.

Saturday I had an unpaid gig in Baraboo, so Travalon and I took the Merrimac Ferry on the way there. My band played at an art fair in front of the courthouse, amid the billion-year-old Baraboo Hills, and then Travalon and I drove to Reedsburg to have cream ale (and lunch) at the Corner Pub. It is the most delicious beer ever. They brew many other beers, and someday I will branch out and try some others. Rodney was not doing so well when we got home, but Travalon had the idea to put him in a backpack so we could take a walk on Governor's Island, and after that he perked up and even ate dinner. Travalon and I met Rich for dinner at Villa Dolce, and for dessert I had the most amazing almond fig gelato.

Yesterday after Mass, Travalon and I went with Rich and another choir member to the Lakeside Cafe, sitting out on their patio overlooking Monona Bay. When we got home, Rodney was not conscious, but Travalon thought maybe another walk would help him. We drove all the way to Spring Green and hiked on the Nature Conservancy land full of blooming cacti; dogs aren't technically allowed there, but we hoped nobody would bother us about a tiny, dying dog in a backpack. Rodney kept having seizures, and he didn't regain consciousness, so we drove back to Middleton and took him to the emergency veterinary clinic, where they put an IV in him. While he didn't come out of his coma, he seemed very peaceful, and we asked if he could possibly recover, but they said not at his age, so we had him put down. We buried him in Rich's yard and then went for a long walk on the path beside Lake Monona. Here is my favorite picture of Rodney that I ever took, canoeing several summers ago.

Travalon will write a complete obituary soon. He is still grieving at the moment.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Paul Simon in Chicago

Sorry for my silence the last couple of days, but I wasn’t anywhere near a computer to blog. Wednesday I took the day off of work, and Travalon and I drove to Chicago. Lots of bad traffic and road construction, but we finally got there, and Travalon suggested the Shedd Aquarium but the weather was beautiful so I suggested a lakeshore walk. We stopped for lunch at a little food stand run by a couple of Eastern European women, but suddenly a terrible storm blew up. The women were so nice, they let us take shelter in their stand until the lightning stopped striking around us, then Travalon and I ran through the rain to the Shedd Aquarium. We enjoyed that immensely, and when we left, it was drizzling but not storming out, so we took the water taxi over to Navy Pier, explored the Crystal Gardens, and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant in the gardens. We had a private water taxi ride back, then we went to the outdoor concert venue on Northerly Island to hear Paul Simon. I was wondering if he would do my favorite song, “Boy in the Bubble,” and he opened with it! In fact, he did a lot of stuff from Graceland. Thirty years later, it is still one of the greatest albums of all time. Travalon was happy because he did four encores and included lots of older stuff in them. His band was amazing too. Then we drove home and got there around three in the morning. Yawn!

Yesterday we had taken the day off of work to sleep in, which we did, and then we went to visit Travalon’s mom. (He goes to see her every week.) The day before, the otamatone Travalon had bought for me had arrived, but the instructions were all in Japanese. We could ascertain that I needed three batteries and a flathead screwdriver, and Travalon’s mom needed batteries too, so we stopped by a hardware store and got all that stuff. When we got back home, the inflatable Sinclair dinosaur I had bought for Travalon had arrived. However, I thought my otamatone wasn’t working because the mouth didn’t open, and Travalon’s toy seemed to be defective as well, because there was no plug for the spout to inflate it. We looked at our instructions, mine in Japanese with some pictures, and his very vintage-looking, and we ascertained that I had to open the mouth of the otamatone myself, and that Travalon had to push the spout in to plug it. So there were no problems with our toys! In the evening we went to the rooftop of the Monona Terrace and sat beneath the blooming Japanese lilac trees, listening to a very good Chicago tribute band. The weather was absolutely perfect, and there was a beautiful sunset. I will try to post pictures and videos of our adventures soon. Don’t expect a video of me playing the otamatone anytime soon – I need a lot of practice on that thing! Here is a video of someone else playing one:

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Photos from Our Memorial Day Weekend Trip

Here are some photos from our Memorial Day Weekend trip. First is a shot of Mill Bluff.

Next is the exterior and the interior of the church in Eau Claire where we went to Mass, Sacred Heart.

This is the inside of the very colorful Mexican restaurant in Chippewa Falls where we had dinner.

Here is a shot of the Leinenkugel brewery.

This is a very random thing we saw on our walk along the river: what appears to be an old building (part of the brewery?) with a modern house built inside of it.

This grotto and Catholic church are in Chippewa Falls as well.

Here are Travalon and Rodney in front of "Stout-Henge" in front of the Union on the UW-Stout campus.

Here are some shots from Crystal Cave. The first one shows how pretty it is.

This one is of the "Ghost of Crystal Cave." It looks like a face!

Asking about this paddle cost me a dollar in the jukebox!

Here we are in front of the beautiful waterfall in Willow River State Park.

Here are two shots from Douglas Point, Minnesota.

This little Catholic church in Prescott is called (I think) St. Joseph's.

Here I am in front of Lake Pepin in Minnesota.

Travalon is a big fan of the Sinclair dinosaur, so he wanted me to take this shot of him with the cardboard cutout of it in a Sinclair station in Winona, Minnesota. He specifically said I should post this on my blog.


And this is the cool rock formation on top of a bluff across from the Sinclair station.

As a bonus, here is Donovan singing my favorite song of his, "There Is a Mountain."

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Playing the Ukulele at the Mallards Game

I hope my readers had a good weekend. I had so much fun on Friday night! I went to the Mallards game with Travalon, Tiffy, and Cali, and we sat with a bunch of other ukulele players in bright Hawaiian shirts and leis. We players practiced at the bottom of the fourth, then we stood by the gate to get onto the field until the end of the top of the seventh. It wasn’t the best spot to see the game, but it was so much fun playing during the seventh-inning stretch! We sang three “verses” of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (in C, thank goodness!), meaning we sang a verse, played a verse on the kazoo, and sang it again. People loved it! I saw the video the next day, and we were pretty good. Best of all, the Mallards won 11-8!

Saturday Travalon and I met Rich, Tiffy, and Cali for coffee, then Rich had to take off, Travalon went to the Union Terrace, and we ladies went to the Farmers’ Market. Cali had to leave, but OK Cap joined Tiffy and me for lunch at Himal Chuli. Tiffy came back to my place and I showed her my various instruments. She tried to play them and declared that the ukulele was the easiest to play. The two of us drove to Spring Green to the big potluck before the opening night of the outdoor theater. We joined Rich, Kathbert, the Dairyman’s Daughter and her sister, the Single B-Boy, and another woman who doesn’t have a name on this blog. We saw “A Midsummers Night Dream,” and this time it wasn’t interrupted by rain. We really enjoyed it, but I did get home very late.

Yesterday after Mass, Travalon and I went to brunch with Tiffy and her niece, who plays the ukulele and also this amazing thing called the otamatone that looks like a cartoon musical note. The video she showed us was just about the funniest thing I have ever seen. Then Travalon and I went to his high school friend’s daughter’s high school graduation. She is #14 in the state at track and field! In the evening Travalon and I went to see Donovan perform at the Overture Center. We play a number of his songs in the ukulele group, and something about his music really resonates with me. My favorite song of his is “There Is a Mountain.” First his grandson (who is also the grandson of Rolling Stone Brian Jones) came out and played a few songs, and he was a great guitar player. Then Donovan played, just him and the guitar and sometimes a harmonica, and the best part was the crazy stories he would tell between songs. It is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, so he mostly told stories from that era, about his adventures with his crazy friend Gypsy Dave, and other rock stars from the era that they would encounter. All I can say is that if you get a chance to see Donovan live, do NOT miss it.

Sorry, the blog is not allowing me to link a video of the otamatone.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Another Great Ukulele Jam

Last night I had such a good time. Travalon met me at the Lakeside CafĂ©, and we had dinner outside on the patio, overlooking Monona Bay. Meanwhile about seventy other ukulele players were gathering, and we all had to have our photos taken in various configurations. I had a bourbon barrel-aged beer and failed to notice that it was 11% alcohol until it hit me pretty hard. Boy, was I happy! We played a bunch of songs, and a guy sat next to me who was just a spouse of a ukulele player, not an actual player, and he sang harmony on everything. Best of all, I got some free tickets to the Mallards game tonight because the ukuleles are playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. I sure hope they are planning to play it in the key of C, because I figured out how to play it in that key. Someone said it might be in G, which should also be very doable. I will let you know how it all went.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Liliana's with Jilly Moose

Sorry for my silence yesterday. I was going to blog about how Jilly Moose, Travalon, and I went to Liliana’s for their special soul food menu, but once again they were out of it. Or at least the main course, fried chicken – the people sitting next to us got the last two! We did get the appetizer of macaroni and cheese with bacon, and the dessert of banana pudding, and when I asked if there were any of the side of greens left, the waitress brought me some. We had to order entrees off the regular menu, and we each got something different: Travalon got catfish, Jilly Moose got salmon, and I got something called Diablo Chicken, which was quite spicy. I could only eat half of it, so I had the rest for lunch yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon I suddenly became very sleepy, and so during band practice I made all sorts of weird mistakes because I couldn’t remember where to put my fingers. But was this a function of being sleepy or of being confused after playing so many instruments? I only brought my acoustic mandolin to band practice this time, but in the evening as we sat on our porch, I practiced Bubba Sue the mountain dulcimer, the bouzouki, the balalaika, the good violin, and the rebec. That is almost all my instruments, except for the electric mandolin, the cheap violin, the African thumb piano, and the random small instruments like recorders and ocarinas that I have not seen since moving into our present place anyway. And I plan to give the cheap violin to Kathbert as soon as I can get it together (I poached its E string for the good violin, for example), so that will be one less instrument to neglect. Oh, and of course the ukulele, but I will play that tonight and possibly tomorrow night. Stay tuned... (pun intended)

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