Sunday, June 11, 2006

We're BeardieMainiacs!

(This motley crew appeared at the York County show at the beginning of May. That's me with Dinah on the far right.)

A bunch of us have been talking about forming a Bearded Collie club here in Maine for ages now, and finally we're doing something about it. The fledgling has a placeholder Web site, an , a slate of officers to help build it, and a to-do list twenty miles long.

We have a ways to go before we can be called an official anything, though. AKC and the parent club have to approve of our existence, plus we have to draw up some by-laws and a constitution, collect some dues, stage some fund-raisers, and throw some fun activities to attract Beardie buddies from all over.

Journeys: Musical, Culinary, and Otherwise

Now that people often travel with their laptops and can write to their blogs with their cell phones, some meme someplace must be going around that asks the questions: "What's the weirdest place where you ever blogged?" Not that it's all that exotic, but I started this entry on my Blackberry while riding on the New York City subway.

Yesterday Greg and I day-tripped to NYC to attend this year's . The festival itself stretches over a period of 4-5 days, and attracts some name composers and some not-so-famous types. One thing you can absolutely predict from year to year is that you never know just what you're going to hear on the program.

A NYC-based clarinetist named Meghian Stoops performed Greg's solo clarinet piece, Polyline, and played the living heck out of it. In rehearsal, Greg had encouraged her to be as dramatic as she wished, and to keep the audience on the edge of its collective seat during each pause. Meghian took that advice and ran with it, and the reception was really enthusiastic. She rocked, she rolled, she swayed, and she molded every single sound that escaped her clarinet. After the piece was over and Meghian had taken her bows, Richard Brooks (who sat in front of us) turned to Greg and asked (my paraphrase), "Where did you GET her?!" If Meghian wants to play the Festival again and there are pieces that call for clarinet, I'm sure that the composers would just about fight to have her.

Not all of the works on the program met with such enthusiasm, however. I'm happy to report that this year the audience was not forced to sit through pieces that featured a woman moaning into a microphone in counterpoint with a tape recorder (yes, I've had to sit through that stuff in years past). However, the second piece on this program sounded like nothing so much as Seamus whining to be fed, only the whining went on for something like 20 minutes. If that piece wasn't entitled "Squeeeeeee," then it should have been.

And then there's the piece that should have been called "What the **** Was That?". It featured a husband-and-wife duo (piano and violin), and they actually did play piano and violin during the piece. However, the piece also called for them to cough, bark, shuffle and stomp their feet, clap their hands, and drum on the piano. I'm shocked that the composer didn't also expect them to sneeze and belch. (Almost every piano piece featured on the program required the pianist to pluck the piano strings and/or drum on the piano. Was that some sort of requirement?)

Not that the day was entirely unproductive, mind you. Greg met up with the sax quartet who played Richard Brooks's piece "Four-Play" and a sax quartet by Greg's old teacher Lukas Foss. The sax players were pleased to hear that Greg has a sax quartet in progress. They might even play some of it at next year's concert, if all works out well.

As for me, I got most of a sock cuff done while listening to the rehearsals and then the concerts. More on knitting stuff a little later, though.

Greg and I had planned to visit Christer's, a Scandinavian restaurant in NYC, but we hiked all the way over there after the concert to find the building in the process of being renovated for a new tenant. Greg had actually called the phone number listed for Christer's, got the answering machine, and made a reservation for us. Go figure.

Fortunately, (the famous Scandinavian restaurant) wasn't terribly far away from where we were, so we hoofed it down there and asked if they could seat us. Bless their hearts, even without a reservation on a Saturday evening, they had room for a couple of early diners in the cafe portion of the restaurant. We ordered the smorgasbord and some homemade flavored aquavit (mine: raspberry and ginger. Greg's: grapefruit and lemongrass), and had ourselves a fine Viking feast. Since we were running short of time and had a plane to catch, we had our entrees boxed up and brought them with us.

Leave it to the NYC subway folks to announce a sudden change in subway route due to construction -- on a Saturday night. While we were counting the minutes and hoping we'd make it to JFK on time, the conductor announced, "Due to construction, the last stop on this route is Grand Central Station." Because we needed to catch the train headed our to JFK, we hopped off the subway at another stop and waited for a connecting train to get us closer to the one we really wanted.

At that point, we were sure we'd be doomed to spend the night in the airport if we didn't get the correct connection. Due to construction routing and some quirk of fate, the next train to arrive was the train we originally needed to catch in order to reach the airport. We made it to JFK in just enough time to be able to sit for a minute or two before boarding was announced for our flight to Portland. What are the odds?!

Before I Forget...

One of the truly nifty things about our visiting Aquavit was that the night before, we were enjoying Eritrean food in Portland. Who'd have thought it?

We'd discovered Asmara (the Eritrean restaurant) during a visit to the art museum. Unfortunately, we found it only after having eaten lunch at what used to be the Free Street Taverna (and which is now an upscale pub). The seductive cloud of spice escaping through the front door practically dragged us inside the place by our nostrils. We were already desperately full from our pub lunch, but swore we'd return.

After putting the puppies in the doggie hotel for the night (since we'd be in NYC too long for them to wait at home), we headed to Asmara for dinner on Friday night. That same cloud of spice was waiting for us at the corner of the street.

Eritrean food is eaten with the hands, much like Moroccan food, and it's served on a flatbread "plate." Although the spicing is different, the basic composition of the food reminded me a little of Indian food: beef and spinach, lamb and potatoes, and mixture of vegetables in a mild yellow sauce. We devoured the stuff, along with mango juice and coriander-laced African coffee (boiled like Turkish coffee, served black with sugar in a demitasse cup).

That cloud of spice lived up to its promise. We'll definitely go back there.

All This and Knitting Too

Even though I've spent more time away from home than here lately, I haven't entirely abandoned the knitting. I have a collection of pairs of socks in progress. Two pairs have one sock done and the other halfway there; had to rip one second sock back and then toss it into the frog pond because I wasn't paying attention and messed up on the decreases after turning the heel. Yes, eventually I'll get back to that sock, but restarting on a sock after you've ripped out stitches is a bear and a half. I just haven't had the intestinal fortitude to pick it back up yet.

I started the cuff of the first sock in a third pair yesterday. Since I wasn't sure whether I could bring my lovely metal Addi Turbos on the plane, I cast on another sock using the plastic Balene 11" circulars and used those to keep busy while in NYC.

I whipped off a few more scarves for my scarf-loving friend in LA (she's pleased with the last box I shipped to her) and am still working on a .

After the last flurry of yarn-sale acquisitions, I've had to put myself on another yarn diet for a while. This comes from sheer necessity: I honestly have no place else to put any more yarn. If I don't knit some stuff from my current stash, I'll be forced to move all of us into the hayloft and leave the house to be taken over by the yarn.

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