Monday, April 30, 2018

Mini Ukulele

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Travalon and I lay kind of low ourselves. Friday we did run some errands, so we had lunch at Paul’s in Middleton. Travalon bought me a very cute stuffed pretzel from It’Sugar, the most bizarre store ever. In the evening we watched Despicable Me 3, which is just as entertaining as the first two. Saturday Hockey Girl and I went to Olbrich and the Arboretum to enjoy the beautiful weather, but not much is happening yet at either place. In the evening I played my miniature ukulele for Travalon and the panda family, as well as their buddies Dieter the German shepherd and Roddy the black poodle. Travalon asked if I could play “Five Foot Two,” and I said not on the mini uke, the cords are too weird, but after playing the tiny one, it was so easy to play the big one! Travalon says I should go to an open mike night at Mother Fools and play the mini uke. I would probably bring both, since the mini one is a novelty but maybe not that exciting to hear. Yesterday after Mass we went to brunch at the Chocolaterian with Rich and a couple of other people, then we went to the Shoe Box in Black Earth so I could get some new shoes, and then we hiked at the cactus place in Spring Green. There appears to be a new trail there, so that was exciting. We also took a hike around Tiedeman Pond, then we went to Rich’s house so I could play the mini ukulele for him, Kathbert, and his Brazilian roommate who was so instrumental (pun intended) in helping me purchase it from a guy in Brazil. I can already play a few songs on it – maybe someday I will be really good! I will post pictures and maybe videos soon.

Famous Hat

Monday, April 23, 2018

Bucks Playoff Game and Early Music Concerts

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Travalon and I started ours by cleaning on Friday morning, then we got on the road and drove to Milwaukee. We went to the lakeshore, since it was a beautiful day, and we checked out the stand where we thought they rented kites. In fact they only sell them, so we bought the cheapest one, a bat with evil red eyes, but there wasn’t enough wind to fly it. After our walk along the lakeshore, we went to the cathedral and explored it, then we had dinner at a Cuban restaurant, and finally we went to the Bucks playoff game. The game was very exciting – they beat the Celtics by 24 points – but the people around us were kind of obnoxious, mostly 20-something drunk white guys. Usually the crowd around us has been more mixed and more sober. This was like the F-bomb every other word, and one guy even wanted to get in a fight with me because Travalon told him to sit down! I guess he didn’t want to take on Travalon but figured he could take on a short, dowdy middle-aged woman. Whatever happened to chivalry? Fortunately he lost interest in me, and we watched the rest of the game in peace, except for screaming whenever Middleton or the Greek Freak did something amazing.

Saturday Travalon and I met Tiffy and Rich for coffee, then Tiffy and I helped her sister buy tons and tons of fruit to feed to a bunch of teenagers. We took a walk with Travalon along the jetty in Tenney Park, then he went off to do his own thing while we met Rich for dinner at Edo Japanese Restaurant. Tiffy and I went to a Wisconsin Baroque Society concert at St. Andrews, and it was wonderful. The coolest part might have been when five high schoolers who have been learning to play viols performed songs by Byrd and Gibbons with a couple of singers. They were surprisingly good, considering that they have only been studying the viol since September. I’m just excited to see a new generation getting into early music.

Yesterday after Mass, Travalon, Tiffy, and I went to the Chocolaterian for brunch, then we took a walk at Pheasant Branch. I went to a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion with a bunch of choir people, and it was so long that they had a two-hour intermission for dinner. (Hockey Girl and I tried an Indian restaurant called Mirch Masala, and I really liked it.) Although these were, for the most part, not professionals but students and community members who sing for fun, I enjoyed the performance a lot. One soprano soloist in particular was amazing: Sarah Guttenberg. So if she ever becomes famous, you read about her here first.

Famous Hat

Monday, April 16, 2018

Winter Weekend in April?!

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Mine started on Thursday night, when I went to Light Bright's house for dinner. She said her little boy, who is two and a half, was unusually friendly around me. She said, "He won't talk to anyone else, but he talks to you!" I said I have that effect on children and animals but not on, say, bosses. They don't love me better than anyone else, usually quite the opposite.

Friday Travalon had to have a medical procedure, but he came through just fine and had a big lunch at Famous Dave's afterwards. Then he relaxed while I went to a meeting for a committee I am on to come up with a protest policy for the university. We are well known for our protests, but we don't have an official policy about how to deal with them. This is a bit intimidating because there are a lot of very bigwigs on this committee, and I am just a peon. There are a couple of student representatives on this committee as well, and one of them made such an eloquent explanation of why he wanted to serve on this committee that the chair said, "We should have been recording these!" In the evening I met Hockey Girl to hear an Irish band at Brocach.

Saturday Travalon and I met Rich and Jilly Moose for coffee, then he and I went to Olbrich Gardens, and then we went to Fired Up, where I made a couple of fridge magnets based on what we had seen at the conservatory. After that the weather got bad - a winter storm in mid-April?! - so we stayed home the rest of the evening and watched most of Titanic in honor of the anniversary of its sinking.

Yesterday we went to Mass but almost got in an accident on the way there because a guy was driving too fast for conditions, then he cut us off and started to fishtail. We went to brunch afterwards with some of the choir because it was on the way home, then we relaxed until venturing out to see the movie The Post with Jilly Moose, OK Cap, Luxuli, Prairie Man, and another woman. It was a really good movie. Travalon  and I joined Jilly Moose and OK Cap for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. So it was a very relaxing weekend, and it continued for me today because we had a new person start at work, so we went out to lunch with her, then I had a congressional meeting, and then a bunch of us went to Eno Vino to welcome the new person with a happy hour. Tomorrow I actually have to do work...

Here are some pictures from this weekend. Actually, this first one is from the lobby of Tiffy's sister's apartment building: a couple of pretty bromeliads.

These shots are from the Olbrich Conservatory.

Finally, here are the pre-fired fridge magnets I made, of a goldfish (instead of a koi) and a bromeliad, inspired by our trip to Olbrich.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Social Media Musings

We all have friends on social media whom we haven’t seen in ages, and now and then Travalon hears that one of them died. This morning was the first time it happened to me, and if you think about it, that is pretty amazing, because I have been on “MyFace” for over a decade. This is someone I hadn’t seen in years, but he was about my age, and he leaves behind a wife and six kids. Whatever happened, it was unexpected – his wife posted yesterday that he was in critical condition, then she said our prayers were working and he was improving, but the next post was that he had died.

Speaking of MyFace, I just found out from another user that we all have profiles for the sake of advertisers, and that you can actually see your own profile. This is so they know what kinds of ads to target at you. One thing they list is your political persuasion, and I thought I was a moderate, but apparently I am a liberal. At least I am not “very liberal,” which is another choice. More intriguing is the fact that I am an African-American. Here I always thought I was white, though I had suspected I was Hispanic from the Spanish ads they are always showing me, but thank goodness for MyFace to tell me what my true ethnicity is. We looked at Jilly Moose’s and OK Cap’s profiles, and they are both political moderates, which puzzles me because OK Cap is a lot more liberal than Jilly Moose. Also, neither of them had an ethnicity listed, so they must be the default. Which is white…? Since that is what they are.

Famous Hat

Monday, April 9, 2018

Mandolin and Ukulele Weekend

I hope my readers had a good weekend. I had a very musical one, although it started with a more writing-oriented event. Thursday evening I was going to read more of my short stories, but the binder they were in had vanished. Our condo is not very big, and Travalon and I tore it apart, but we couldn’t find it anywhere. I began to cry, probably due to PMS, but then I decided to haul my ancient computer out of the garage… or, to be more precise, have Travalon do it for me, because it was too heavy for me to carry it. I set it up and found all my writing was still there, just waiting to be printed out again, so then I went to bed happy. Travalon soon joined me, and as he got into bed, he held up a purple binder: “What’s this?” My short stories! How had I not seen them?? I had even looked under the bed covers but somehow hadn’t seen it sitting on the top of them…? It was like I wasn’t allowed to see them until I had gotten my old computer ready for action again. So it seems like Someone is telling me to write again, but I’m not sure what to write. Waiting for further guidance…

Friday Travalon and I had our taxes done, then we went downtown and tried rolled ice cream for the first time. The macha ice cream with honey drizzle is really good. In the evening I got together with Jilly Moose and OK Cap to pray the rosary, then I had the great (?) idea to walk from Jilly Moose’s house to Gates and Brovi. It isn’t even a mile, but the night was cold, and then we had to wait quite a while for a table. However, the food was really good. I had whitefish and then a cup of clam chowder for “dessert.”

Saturday my band had our annual gig at the MacKenzie Nature Center for their pancake breakfast. Travalon came with me and had a good time hanging out with another bandmate’s husband. Most of the band wanted to take a break about 10:15, but our leader said no, 10:30. Just then the table right in front of us had some kind of joint failure and fell over, so all the people’s food fell all over. In the ensuing chaos I seized the chance to powder my nose, and even our leader realized at that point that nobody was going to be listening to us, so it was a perfect time for our break and free pancake breakfast. When I got back to town, I joined Tiffy downtown and we tried another flavor of rolled ice cream, pistachio Oreo. We joined some Slow Food people for dinner at the Nile restaurant, then we went to a Baroque concert at First Unitarian. It was a tragic opera by Purcell about Aeneas and Dido and the humorous “Coffee Cantata” by Bach, which made us think how little things have changed. In general I find it silly when they add “modern” touches to performances, but in this case it really highlighted how young adult daughters have always thought they know better than their dads.

Yesterday after Mass, Travalon, Tiffy, Rich, another bass from the choir, and I went to the Lakeside CafĂ© for brunch, then Tiffy headed home while Travalon and I took another great hike behind Madison Country Day School. There are so many trails back there that we still haven’t explored them all! In the afternoon there was a big ukulele jam sponsored by the Madison Area Ukulele Initiative (MAUI), and there must have been nearly one hundred of us there! There was even someone there with a pokelele, which, as the name implies, is shaped so that it could poke your eye out. Glad I wasn’t sitting next to it! Pete the Sailor Man joined Travalon and me for some dinner at the Union, and then Cali and OK Cap joined us for a really fun concert by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. We all loved it. And today I have no ill effects from playing mandolin for almost three hours on Saturday and ukulele for two hours on Sunday.

Famous Hat

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Tale of Two (Unfinished) Novels

So this may sound sort of odd, but during the Easter Vigil Mass I suddenly thought of my unfinished novel Tribute to Charlie and how it was so much better than the one I did finish, with beautiful language and a mythic arc to the story. This inspired me to dig it out and read it again… and it wasn’t very good at all. Is it even worth finishing? I’m not really looking to get it published, but I thought maybe there was some reason I had to finish it. Like the novel I did finish, this is one I have been working on since I was just a kid. Were there more issues in my life that needed to get resolved? But it just seemed slapped together and not really all that readable, although there were a few moments in it that I enjoyed. Maybe, I thought, I am not really a good writer after all.

So… then I dug out my short stories and another unfinished novel, She the Horse, about the guy who is really 960 years old. First I read my short story about three bratty teenage girls and just loved it, but I thought it would be best to get a second opinion, so I made Travalon read it. He liked it too! Then I read what I have done of She the Horse and I really, really liked it. It’s funny to think that I wrote about middle-aged people in my early thirties, and it should be the slapped-together one because I wrote it for a contest that was just to see how much of a novel you could get done in the month of November. I pondered what was better about this novel than the other one and concluded it was the characters. I really like the people in She the Horse, but the people in Tribute to Charlie are so uninteresting that I do not care about their adventures. Maybe the scope of that novel is too epic, and the other one works because it is just a portrait of a marriage: the woman believes everything is falling apart because she knows her husband has a secret, but she thinks it must be infidelity. Maybe that is the novel I should finish. After all, it is the one all my friends said they were most interested in. Who doesn’t think it would be at least a little awesome to live to be 960 years old if you aged very slowly?

Famous Hat

Monday, April 2, 2018

Easter 2018: Invading First Congo

I hope my readers had a happy Easter. Travalon and I went to our church for morning Mass, since the choir was doing several pieces. One Randall Thompson piece has a single word in it: “Alleluia.” At practice a couple of weeks ago, I was trying to do it from memory, and when another alto told me I’d better look at the music, I retorted, “Why – am I getting the words wrong?” But I ended up singing soprano on it yesterday, so all that alto practicing was for naught anyway, and I definitely had to look at the music!

Travalon had mentioned that he would like to see the inside of First Congo, which surprised me since I have been to more or less six million concerts there over the years, so I had forgotten that he had not ever been in it. From the outside it is a beautiful edifice, and I assured him that inside it has a wonderful balcony. We drove there, and I saw some people going inside, so I figured their service was starting in a few minutes and we could sneak in and out in the general chaos of people arriving. We went in the side door, and a guy asked what we wanted, so we said we just wanted to see the building. He did let us go but seemed annoyed. We made the mistake of going out onto the balcony from the front… and nobody else was in the balcony, but the service was halfway through, and lots of people were downstairs, so they probably all saw us. Once Mr. Icon had told me that so few people go to First Congo that on Sundays they don’t use the main sanctuary but the side chapel, but I can tell you that it wasn’t true yesterday. The choir was singing, so we sat listening to their competent but not particularly interesting rendition of some modern piece, and then we left. Maybe not my finest moment, but anyway Travalon got to see the inside of the church.

Travalon and I went to visit his mother and bring her a chocolate bunny, then we went for a short hike, and then we went over to Rich’s for his big Easter dinner. Tons of people were there, including El Vegetariano, who was very interested in my First Congo story, especially the part where Mr. Icon said hardly anyone goes there. He and Mr. Icon are good friends, so he texted him, and so I had a semi-argument about who said what like ten years ago with a person on Kodiak Island. Ah, the wonders of modern technology. The fact does remain that First Congo can seat about 1200 people, and maybe 60 were there on Easter, so they are not exactly at the peak of their popularity at the moment. I don’t know if the UCC in general is thriving; it seems like a lot of mainline Protestants are struggling with attendance. Man, if you can’t be bothered to go to church on Easter, then what would inspire you to go? I suppose that is the Ten Million Dollar Question all the churches are wondering about.

Famous Hat