Thursday, February 28, 2019

Something for Thursday

I was all set to move along in the ongoing Song Challenge, but events in the musical world today compel me to push A Song from my Preteen Years to next week.

Andre Previn has died at age 89.

Previn was one of the great musicians of the latter half of the 20th century, accomplished as a conductor and as a pianist and in both classical and in jazz. He did important film work (he conducts the musical arrangements in My Fair Lady, a film of which I'll have much more to say in a forthcoming essay), and he did a lot of important work in the concert hall and on recording. Previn is partly responsible for the re-emergence of the complete score of Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2, a work which prior to Previn's adopting it in the early 1970s was almost always performed with extensive cuts. (Why, I have never been able to figure out. A complete performance of the work runs no longer than the Berlioz Fantastique or the Mahler 1st or the Beethoven 3rd.) Previn's 1973 recording of that symphony (with the London SO) is the one I heard first, and though Vladimir Ashkenazy's Concertgebouw recording has since overtaken Previn's as my favorite, I almost certainly would not have heard Ashkenazy if not for Previn's wonderful recording.

That's not my selection here, though. Here I'll go with a selection from one of the finest recordings I've ever heard in any genre. This is Previn playing the piano and conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in George Gershwin's Concerto in F. There is so much vitality to this performance, so much verve and excitement, ripe with the energy of pre-WWII American urban society.

Bravo, Maestro Previn! You'll not be forgotten soon, if ever.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Travels Along the Yellow Brick Road

I suppose I am hardly unique among Americans in that The Wizard of Oz has been a part of my life almost as long as I can remember. I grew up during that hazy prehistory when the only way to watch Wizard was to wait an entire year for one of CBS’s annual airings of the movie—usually in springtime, as I recall. When you’re a kid that wait is so long that you’re barely aware of it. Suddenly one day it’s spring again, and one day you’re in front of the teevee to watch The Wizard of Oz.

I don’t remember much about those viewings of the movie when I was very young; just a few images here and there. I remember the early moment when Dorothy falls into the pig pen. I remember the Scarecrow pointing in both directions, and the Tin Man’s oil can, and the crown the Lion wore for his big song number, a crown made from a shattered flower pot. I remember the Wicked Witch melting, and Dorothy’s farewells to her friends. I always cried at those, and I’ve had a terrible time with “forever farewells” in stories ever since. The worst, though? I remember one year—maybe this was when we lived in Oregon, when I would have been a preschooler—that I burst into tears when the words “The End” appeared on the screen.

The Land of Oz, as shown in The Wizard of Oz, was my earliest fantasy world, and certainly the first one that I didn’t want to leave when it was time. More of those would come. I’ve always thought of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain as my proto-fantasy world, but in truth, two came earlier: Middle Earth, via the animated version of The Hobbit, and the kingdom of Oz.

Nowadays, of course, I find that as a writer I too can be “that man behind the curtain.” In the end, after Dorothy’s adventures with her wonderful friends (who, I am sorry to admit, took me adulthood before I realized their strong resemblance to the farmhands of Dorothy’s Kansas home), the character with whom I identify most may well be the Wizard, that kindly and wise man who is still something of a charlatan.

Of course, experiencing The Wizard of Oz as a fleeting, once-a-year thing is long a thing of the past. First there was VHS and then DVD and then Ted Turner bought the rights so the movie showed up on TBS only a little less often than The Beastmaster. Now, you can pretty much watch The Wizard of Oz whenever you want. I don’t much pine for the “old days”, but there was a certain charm back then of going to school the next day knowing that you and all your friends would be equally basking in the post-Oz afterglow.

Several weeks ago, The Wife, The Kid, and I attended a screening of Wizard as part of its 80th Anniversary Celebration at one of the Fathom Events. (These are special screenings of many artistic presentations—classic films, live operas, and more—shown digitally at certain movie theaters.) Eighty years of The Wizard of Oz astonishes me on many levels. The movie came out in 1939, the year my father was born. I have a solid chance of seeing Wizard hit 100. The theater was packed on the day we attended, which for some reason we found surprising. We’ve been attending Fathom Event films off and on for a couple years now, and we’ve never seen the theater sold out. There were even families with children in costume, little girls in blue gingham dresses and “ruby slippers”.

This was the second time The Wife and I saw Wizard on the big screen, with the last time coming twenty years ago for the film’s 60th jubilee. Like any great film, the experience of seeing it on a big screen in a darkened theater crowded with people who are sharing the same journey is deeply different from watching it on the finest teevee or computer screen. The crowd laughs, hisses, and tears up at all the right moments. I found myself fearing a little that some of the film’s moments that have become so ingrained in popular culture as to become clichΓ© might be met with laughter, but not so. No one sniggered at the Wicked Witch’s cackling threat: “I’ll get you, my pretty—and your little dog, too!”

I was struck at how funny this movie is, too. When Dorothy, running away from home early on in order to save her poor Toto’s life, encounters a man who is clearly a charlatan, he puts on a display of cold-reading that is dead-on, and the scene is intelligent and full of wit. This goes on throughout the movie, with laughs both famous and laughs that are only remembered when one encounters them, like a forgotten acquaintance for whom we once felt a particular fondness.

Wizard’s opening act is so engrossing that the famous moment when Dorothy enters Oz and steps into a Technicolor world, the enchantment is as spellbinding as ever. I do wonder what that moment must have felt like to the movie’s first audiences, back in 1939. Surely those audiences gasped loudly, because today’s audiences still do, even when they know it’s coming.

From that moment on The Wizard of Oz marches on, building its world quickly and confidently. It weaves its magic so completely that we never really stop for a moment to consider what we’re not being told: What’s so amazing about those Ruby Slippers, anyway? Why does the Wicked Witch want them so badly? What will she do when she gets them? we care about any of that? Of course not. It’s fine. And when Dorothy meets the Scarecrow it’s at a fork in the Yellow Brick Road, so how do they know which way to go? Who cares! None of these things are lapses in the storytelling, just things left unexplained because they don’t need explanation. And so it goes.

(I do, though, wonder just where Scarecrow got the gun he’s holding in one scene. Once you realize the Scarecrow is walking around with a pistol, you can’t unsee it.)

I also rediscovered the delight of the music of The Wizard of Oz. Obviously “Over the Rainbow” is the film’s most iconic song (and how stunning that the producers briefly thought to cut it!), but every song in this movie is distinctive and cleverly written. The Munchkins’ “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” segues perfectly into “We’re Off To See the Wizard”, which becomes a recurring anthem as Dorothy progresses through Oz. And the introduction of the Munchkins themselves contains some incredibly witty wordplay, from the representatives of the Lollipop Guild to the Munchkin Coroner:

As Coroner I must aver,
I’ve thoroughly examined her;
And she’s not only merely dead:
She’s most sincerely dead!

A more cheerfully morbid lyric might exist, but as of this writing I’ve no idea what it might be.

The film’s songs and musical styles shift throughout the film, too. The Munchkins have their childlike sound, contrasted with the good cheer of the denizens of Emerald City as they welcome Dorothy and company to the “Merry Old Land of Oz”. Surprisingly, after the Cowardly Lion’s “If I Were King of the Forest,” the movie stops being a musical: there are no more numbers at that. I wonder why that might be the case. Maybe the producers didn’t feel the need for any, or maybe they felt that any songs past that point might slow down the narrative. I don’t know that any other songs might have worked. Maybe a reprise of “Over the Rainbow” as Dorothy sits captive in the Wicked Witch’s tower, which might be when she seems to really start to learn the film’s central message that “There’s no place like home.” I don’t know if that would have worked, but it is interesting that Dorothy’s initial dream of going “Over the Rainbow” is not bookended in song with her learning that she doesn’t really need to go over the rainbow at all.

This screening was also the first time I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz after we saw the Broadway show Wicked, which tells the story of the Wicked Witch, whom we learn is named Elphaba. The movie is, of course, very much its own thing, and I found that at no point was I envisioning the events of Wizard in light of the events of Wicked. The Wizard of Oz is such a classic as to maintain its own storytelling heft, which stands alone, unshared by such follow-ups as The Wiz, or Wicked, or the 1980s movie The Return to Oz.

Ultimately The Wizard of Oz remains what it always was, what it always has been: a grand fantasy, a touching story, a thrilling adventure, a witty and sophisticated tale, a wonderfully tuneful musical, and ultimately a sublimely well-made film that is a constant touchstone for the youth in all of us. And why shouldn’t it be that? It is, after all, dedicated on screen to the “young in heart.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

I imagine I've featured this work before, but that's what's great about classical music: You can keep coming back to it! Sir Edward Elgar composed this concert overture, "Cockaigne (In London Town)," in fulfillment of a commission from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The resulting work proved to be one of Elgar's most popular works, a programmatic depiction of the typical kinds of scenes of Edwardian London, from the bustling workers all the way up to the nobles on procession. The piece starts off rather quietly, but by the end it's full on Elgarian pomp and pageantry. Here is Elgar's overture "Cockaigne (In London Town)." Sir Adrian Boult, one of the finest conductors of Elgar and Vaughan Williams, leads the London Philharmonic.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Happy Birthday, My Love

The Wife and the Dee-oh-gee at Taughannock Falls. Aren't they beautiful! 😍😍😍 #wife #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #taughannockfalls

Today is The Wife's birthday!

Here is my annual repost of memories, thoughts, and observations on how she makes my life so much better than it deserves to be...but first, this past year has had a number of new challenges and opportunities and struggles and victories. She has been in restaurant management going all the way back to when we started dating, when she was a part-time shift manager at Pizza Hut while in college. Although she was good at the job and was successful everywhere she worked, it's become clear over the last few years that restaurants aren't where she needs to be moving forward. The business takes a lot out of you, and unless you're really dedicated to restaurants, you inevitably reach a time when you realize how many opportunities you've seen go by as you work 50-plus hour weeks and nearly every single weekend. Well, she finally escaped and is now in a new job. There was a bit of tension as the time between the restaurant gig and the new gig stretched into the months-long timeframe, but we got through it and now there's nowhere to go but up.

And now, the List!

Happy Valentines Day to my beautiful wife! This was taken last summer. We probably need a photo of us with the dee-oh-gee....

Wife and Dee-oh-gee on a nice Christmas walk! #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #ChestnutRidge #OrchardPark #wny #winter

Santa, the Wife, and the dee-oh-gee! #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound

We took the dee-oh-gee for his first ice cream. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound

Posing with Patience (or is it Fortitude?)

The Wife and I at the Erie County Fair!


The Wife and the dee-oh-gee in Buffalo Creek, West Seneca. #wny #westseneca

I am reasonably sure that I was a placeholder all these years for the eventual dog.

Happy Birthday to Me! VI: The pies go in my face, Huzzah!

1. Her hand fits perfectly into mine, as though our hands were fit for each other.

1a. That said, there's a good chance that she prefers the dog to me.

2. The first time she saw Star Wars was with me. And ET.

2a. The first time I saw Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty were with her.

3. She used to keep an aquarium before a bunch of moves made us give up the fish. Maybe we'll do that again someday. But when we started dating, she had two fish, named Ken and Wanda, named after two memorable characters from A Fish Called Wanda. When Ken went belly-up, she called a friend and solemnly informed her, "K-k-k-ken d-d-d-died." (One of the movie's running gags is Ken's stuttering.)

4. I don't remember exactly when it happened, but I've converted her from someone who hated coffee into a regular coffee drinker.

5. For reasons passing understanding, she has always found Erik Estrada attractive. She and I used to have arguments over who could best the other in a fight: Agent Mulder from The X-Files or Ponch from Chips. (I think Mulder would have blinded Ponch with the beam from those giant blue-beamed flashlights he and Scully were always toting, and then beaten him into submission with his eternally-able-to-get-a-signal cell phone.)

6. One of the first things we cooked together was Spanish rice, which is to this day a comfort dish of ours. The first time we made it together was also the first time she'd ever cooked with actual bulb garlic, as opposed to garlic powder. The recipe called for a clove, but she thought the entire head was a clove, so into the rice the entire head of garlic went. That was the best Spanish rice ever.

7. A few years ago she baked a Bundt cake for The Daughter's birthday, but the damned thing stuck in the pan, resulting not in a ring but a mound. So she just mounded it up, glopped the frosting right over the top, and called it a "Volcano Cake". Now, every year at her birthday, The Daughter says, "Remember the Volcano Cake?"

8. Our first date was to see Edward Scissorhands. So, Johnny Depp's been there since the beginning, from Edward all the way to Captain Jack Sparrow and beyond.

9. We used to go out for chicken wings and beer every Thursday night. We didn't even miss our Thursday night wing night when The Daughter was born: her birth was on a Saturday, and we left the hospital on Tuesday, so at the tender age of five days, The Daughter entered a bar for the first time. This may have made us bad parents, but I don't think so. A girl's got to know how to handle herself in a bar, right?

9a. She's not a huge fan of when I post photos of her sleeping.

Yes, I will get yelled at for this, but she's so cute when she sleeps...even when it's during her favorite teevee show!

10. She insisted on breastfeeding both The Daughter and Little Quinn, which in both cases required lots of pumping. Especially in Little Quinn's case, since he was never able to eat by mouth. Every drop of breastmilk that entered his body went in via the G-tube, so for as long as her production held up, she pumped six times a day.

11. I'll probably never completely understand how much of herself she sacrificed in fourteen months to keep Little Quinn alive and progressing. It seems, in retrospect, that every free day she had was given to him.

12. That same instinct in her kicked in again when Fiona was in danger. She didn't question the necessity or possibility of spending months flat on her back with her feet inclined, if that was what it took. If commitment was all that was needed, Fiona would be here today. (Of course, if commitment was all that was needed, Little Quinn would be here and Fiona wouldn't have happened.)

13. We used to associate certain teevee shows with the snack foods we'd eat while watching them. NYPDBlue was always chips-and-salsa. ER, when we still watched it, was often good ice cream. Now, good ice cream has been transposed to Grey's Anatomy.

14. "Our" first teevee show was LA Law.

15. Subsequent teevee shows of "ours" included ER, Mad About You, The Pretender, Profiler, CSI, Firefly, and more.

16. On our first Internet account, we set up our combined e-mail identity after the two main characers on The Pretender. We were "Jarod and Miss Parker". People familiar with the show wondered what that said about our relationship, since Jarod and Miss Parker aren't allies. In fact, Miss Parker was initially a villain but as the show went on her character became much more complex.

17. She started roller blading, got me hooked, and then promptly stopped roller blading. Now she prefers biking.

18. It was almost without warning that I met her parents for the first time. We started dating late February 1991; a couple of weeks later was spring break, for a week, so I came home to Buffalo. At the end of that week I tried calling her, only to learn from the old lady she was renting a room from that she wasn't home because of a death in her family. I remembered her saying something about a sick grandfather, and that's what turned out to have happened; her grandfather had passed away from Lou Gehrig's Disease. When I got back out to school, her entire family was there. So I met the future in-laws on the spot. Luckily, I seem to have made some kind of decent impression.

19. Our first long trip together was from Iowa to Idaho, to visit her family, a couple of weeks before school began in August of 1992. She had already graduated college, but I was in my senior year. While we were out there, the infamous Ruby Ridge Incident was taking place twenty miles down the road, so all week there were National Guard vehicles on the roads and helicopters overhead.

20. I am forever amazed at her ability to take some fabric and create a garment. This skill of hers looks like magic to me.

21. Her first pair of overalls were a gift from me. She thought the whole thing was goofy – maybe she still does! - but she wore them for years until at one point they became too small for her, and then a short while later they became too big for her. We didn't start wearing overalls together until we'd been dating for about a year.

22. Back in the 90s, on two different occasions, we picked out Persian kittens. Both were wonderful cats, both are gone now, and we miss them both dearly. The first was a beautiful tortoiseshell Persian named Jasmine; the second was a red Persian named Simba. Both died in the year preceding this blog's launch.

23. Adopting Lester and Julio was The Wife's idea. I'm still unsold on these two giant lummox goofballs.

24. The Wife also took The Daughter to adopt Comet, when The Daughter was only two.

25. Shortly after The Wife moved to Western New York to be near me, she adopted a cat from the shelter she named Lilac. That cat never really liked me all that much. Lilac died a few months after Little Quinn passed.

25a. She is directly responsible for all the animals with whom we currently live.

Indulging Lester

Why they invented hotel rooms

Julio's favorite position

Cats and Wife. (And my left shoulder)

Snowmageddon '14, continued

Day 59: Clear wife, blurry dog. #100DaysOfHappiness #NewDog

The Wife is unimpressed with Julio's uninvited advances. (Notice Lester in the background.)

26. She loves to laugh, particularly at my expense. She is convinced I don't think she's funny, but that's just not the case.

27. Things with which she has a deft touch include: a pair of scissors, a needle and thread, a kitchen knife, the mixer, bread dough, a screwdriver, a lug wrench, and a shot glass.

28. It irritates her that The Daughter has inherited my tolerance for sunlight -- I tan, whereas The Wife burns.

29. The Wife likes to read, albeit not quite as much as I do. She always has a book going, and she reads every day.

30. She never used to use a bookmark, until I finally decided I was tired of watching her flip through a book looking for a passage that was familiar to her so she could find her place. I bought her a bookmark.

31. She loves nuts – except for walnuts and pecans, which I love. This makes it occasionally difficult find good brownies and similar items in bakeries, since many people default to putting pecans or walnuts in their brownies or other chocolate cookies.

32. When I first met her, she was a huge Anne Rice fan and read most of what Rice wrote until she decided that Rice's output wasn't interesting her much anymore. Since then she's read a lot of other authors, including a lot of unfamiliar names whose books I've plucked from the stacks of offerings at library book sales over the years. Interesting how obscure even the bestsellers of yesteryear eventually become, huh? Currently she really loves Gregory Maguire, the Wicked guy.

33. When we first met, she was a Washington Redskins fan. So of course, the first Super Bowl we were together was the one where the Redskins knocked the Bills on their collective arse. Oh well, at least she hated the Cowboys.

34. She prefers her KFC "extra crispy", where I'm an "Original Recipe" guy.

35. Movies that are particularly meaningful or nostalgic to us, in addition to Edward Scissorhands and Star Wars are Dances With Wolves, Titanic, The Lord of the Rings, Singin' in the Rain, and the James Bond movies.

36. For some reason we didn't take any pictures when we were on our honeymoon or when we were on our vacation to Disney a year later. I think we were between working cameras at those points...but lately I really wish we'd have addressed that at the time.

37. Things we did on our honeymoon to Cape Cod, Boston, and New Hampshire: road a boat out to sea to watch the whales; visited the New England Aquarium; ate dim sum in Boston's Chinatown; bought lots of kitchenware at an outlet strip (don't laugh, we still have some of that stuff); visited the Boston Science Museum. While doing two days in Boston we stayed at a hotel about forty miles out and road the train into town; on the second day, on the way back, we fell asleep on each other's shoulders.

38. Our first argument as a couple resulted from a common misunderstanding between people when one is from Iowa and one is just living in Iowa for a while. I told her we'd meet for dinner, so she showed up at noon and got annoyed because I wasn't there. Well, duh! I said "dinner", not "lunch". Except, remember, she's a native Iowan, which means instead of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner like most (ahem) normal folks, she ate breakfast, dinner and supper. Thankfully, I've converted her since then. Whew!

39. Our first wedding anniversary saw us spending a week at Walt Disney World. What a wonderful time that was! Even if she managed to rip her toenail out two days into the trip, thus requiring me to push her around in a wheelchair the whole time after that.

40. She had long hair when we started dating, and I had short hair. Now we've reversed that.

41. Before we started dating, I had a beard. When I became interested in her, I shaved it so I'd look better. Then, I learned that she likes facial hair. So I grew the beard back a while later.

42. Foods I've tried because of her: asparagus, squash, rhubarb, grapefruit, and more that I don't recall.

43. She loves George Carlin.

44. She bought me my first cell phone, and my second cell phone.

45. When we were at the Erie County Fair in 2001, she wandered off to look at the Bernina sewing machines. When I came by ten minutes or so later, she was in the process of buying a Bernina sewing machine. I didn't complain; I just stood there, kind of looking shell-shocked.

46. Leading up to our wedding, she rigidly adhered to the notion that the groom should not see the bride in her wedding dress until she comes round the corner to walk down the aisle. So I didn't see her until she came round the corner to walk down the aisle.

47. Starting a family was her idea. Not that I was against it; I figured we'd get there eventually. She just picked the "eventually".

48. She picked The Daughter's first name, so I got to pick her middle name.

48a. And now, this:

Old Photos of Little Quinn

49. Since Thanksgiving Break at college was only a four day weekend, I didn't go home for T-giving my junior year; instead, I spent the weekend with her. We went to see her extended family out in Storm Lake, Iowa, which is on the other side of the state. Since she has family over there on both sides of the family, we ended up having two Thanksgiving dinners that day. Some part of me is still full from those two meals.

50. Iowa delicacies that The Wife and I share are pork tenderloin sandwiches and broasted chicken.

51. Some of our early dates were sufficiently cheap that we had to look for ATM machines that would dispense cash in five dollar denominations.

52. She bought Simba, the above-mentioned red Persian kitten, while we were on a shopping trip to Erie, PA. She fell in love with the kitten as soon as she saw him in the pet store; we then spent the rest of the day walking around the mall with me listening to her as she tried to talk herself out of buying him. (Persian kittens are pricey little buggers.) Finally, while we were at dinner at Red Lobster, she decided to pull the trigger.

53. Before Little Quinn, the most heartbroken I ever saw The Wife was the day we finally had to end Simba's life. His kidneys were in failure.

54. Great gifts she's bought me through the years: my current winter coat, a cupboard-full of drinking vessels of all types, candles, incense burners, the Star Wars original trilogy on DVD, my anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings with paintings by Alan Lee, my star sapphire ring, my current wristwatch, and many more.

55. The first thing she ever gave me: a stuffed bear, around whose neck she tied a lavender ribbon. I think she doused it with perfume. I named that bear "Bertrand", after philosopher Bertrand Russell.

56. The first thing I bought her: a little two-inch high figurine of a laughing Buddha. I think this confused her a bit.

57. Despite my best efforts for a while, she's never much warmed to baseball. That used to bother me, but these days that doesn't bug me much at all. I'm pretty cool to baseball myself now.

58. For a few years we went to Cedar Point each fall. We haven't been there in a long time, but I always found being there with her in the fall, in the cool air, pretty romantic. I loved riding the Giant Wheel after dark, sitting up there with her hand in mine, looking out over Lake Erie.

59. At Cedar Point, she decided that she liked this one coaster that does loops, so I stayed on the ground while she rode it. I'm terrified of those things.

60. Why don't we play mini golf more often? We both love mini golf. The Daughter loves mini golf. What gives?

61. One day in 1996, we were eating lunch in Buffalo when we had "The Discussion". Any guy who's ever been dating the same girl for a period of time measurable in years will know what "The Discussion" is. So I agreed, it was time for us to take the "next step". Later on, while she was having her eyes examined at LensCrafters, I bopped over to Penney's to buy her a ring. I chose a nice emerald one that looked really pretty. Sadly, they didn't have it in her size, so they had to order it, which would take three weeks. So I figured, OK, I'll get the ring in three weeks and make this thing official. Yay, Me!

62. The next day, she proposed to me.

63. Three weeks later I showed up to get the ring. They had it, but they couldn't find the paperwork, so some poor guy at the pickup counter at Penney's spent his entire lunch hour trying to find the paperwork so I could give my already-fiancee her engagement ring.

64. I don't remember exactly when we picked out her wedding rings, but we each have an Irish wedding band, and each ring is set with the other person's birthstone. So my ring is set with four amethysts, which is her birthstone; hers is set with four sapphires, which is mine.

65. For years I wore my ring incorrectly. Apparently there's one way to wear an Irish wedding band that signifies being married, and another that signifies being single. I was wearing mine the "single" way. I was alerted to this by a guy I worked with at The Store; he said, "Yeah, you're telling all the women that you're available." I replied, "Yeah, and I'm beating them off with a stick."

66. On our honeymoon, it was important to her that she at least get to dip her toes in the Atlantic Ocean. So she did. The water was very cold, though.

66a. She replicated this moment years later when we took a trip to the Jersey Shore.

To the sea!

66b. We returned two years later.

The Wife enjoys a bit of quiet. #CapeMay

67. It always bugged her mother that she saw Niagara Falls before her mother did. Later we took her mother to Niagara when she was out for a visit.

68. During the summer of 1991, when I was at home and she was still in Iowa, she came to spend a week with me. I took her to Buffalo and to Toronto, on the way to which we stopped to see Niagara Falls for her first time.

69. She was really confused the first time a Japanese tourist asked her to take his picture in front of the Falls.

70. At the time our beer of choice was Labatt's. It's pronounced "la-BATS", but we had a family friend at the time who liked to say it "LAB-uhts", which is how I said it at college just for fun and habit. So when she visited me that summer, we went to the bar where this friend hung out, and he was so impressed when she ordered a "LAB-uhts".

71. Our favorite mixed drink in college was the sloe gin fizz. A few years ago I tried making these again, discovering that her tastes had changed and she now found them sickeningly sweet. I like them still, but yeah, they're sugary. (And pink. When I told a friend at work who knows everything about liquor that I'd bought some sloe gin, he laughed and said, "Oh good! Now you can make pink drinks!")

72. She taught me the right way to do laundry.

73. I taught her the right way to crack open crab legs so as to not mangle the meat.

74. Our first major mistake of parenting was taking The Daughter to a fireworks display on the Fourth of July in 1999. The Daughter was all of fifteen days old. This was the big display in Lakewood, NY, which is right on the banks of Lake Chautauqua. The Daughter did not respond well to the fireworks detonating right over our heads; the sounds were bad and for years afterwards The Daughter was very scared of loud sounds.

75. We always say that we should go camping. We never actually do go camping. We need to do more camping.

76. Once for dinner I made some frozen cheese ravioli with sauce, a favorite meal of ours that we hadn't had in a long time. She said that she was looking forward to "eating some cheesy goodness". Unfortunately, the raviolis were a bit on the old and tough side, and the cheese never got nice and melty, so after the meal, she commented, "That wasn't really cheesy goodness."

77. She likes eggs over-easy. I'm not a big fan of those, but I try to make them for her when she's getting over being sick.

78. She makes fun of my over-reliance on boxed mixes in the kitchen.

78a. I'm much better about this now. Her main kitchen complaint about me is that I make way too big a mess when I cook.

79. In 1993, when Cheers aired its final episode, she bought pizza for my roommate and I.

80. She only swears when she's really annoyed.

81. She is not happy that her nine-year-old, fourth-grade daughter is now the same shoe size as she is.

82. A while back she had her hair colored a brighter shade of blond than is her natural color. It was awesome.

83. Before that she experimented with red. I've tried talking her into doing that again, but no dice.

84. When my aunt met her the night before our wedding, she made a comment to the effect that I was to be commended for adding blond hair and blue eyes to our gene pool.

85. The Daughter has blond hair and blue eyes. So did Little Quinn.

86. I'm not sure there's a variety of seafood she dislikes.

87. I love the way she looks when she's just come home from work and changed into her PJ's.

88. Adopting Lester and Julio was her idea, but she claims the upper hand on that anyway because she was helping out my mother.

89. For some reason, The Daughter and I like to bring up at the dinner table the fact that The Wife, as a kid, had to help the family out on Chicken Butchering Day. I don't know why.

90. She thinks Orlando Bloom is really attractive. I don't see it, myself, but you can't argue these things.

91. For my birthday in 1992 she drove me to Dyersville, IA so I could see the Field of Dreams.

92. If I want to spoil her, all I have to do is buy her blush wine, cashews, olives and chocolate. Cake helps, too.

93. She spoils me by looking the other way when I go to Borders; by making me waffles or French toast or Spanish rice; by cleaning the kitchen after I've messed it up; by indulging my love of pie; and a thousand other ways.

94. I'm always game for a pie in the face, but I'm pretty sure nobody pies me like she does. Or better.

If you can't be ridiculously silly with the person you love, you're doing it wrong! Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!! #ValentinesDay #pieintheface #overalls #splat #SillinessIsAwesome

Splat! The meeting of Pie and Face

Patrick Starfish is surprised by my fate. #PatrickStarfish #pieintheface #overalls #splat

95. I know I've found the perfect girl for me when she describes our Thanksgiving in 2006 as being perfect because, after dinner, we went to see Casino Royale. In her words: "We had a big turkey dinner, and then we watched James Bond kill people."

96. We both love laughing at David Caruso on CSI Miami.

96a. Sadly, CSI Miami is long gone, but now we thrill to the adventures of Team Machine on Person of Interest, of Castle and Beckett on Castle, and we enjoy Alton Brown's delicious brand of pure evil on Cutthroat Kitchen.

97. One time when we were working out at the Y, and she got so engrossed in what she was doing that when I approached her, she didn't recognize me at first.

97a. She loves lilacs.

Rochester Lilac Festival. #LilacFestival #Rochester

98. Maybe this is a personal failing on my part, but I can't bear it when she cries. It kills me inside. But I'm trying to get better at this, since as Gandalf said, "Not all tears are an evil."

99. I wish we were living lives that didn't include so many tears.

100. I love her more than I did last week at this time.

101. Number 100 on this list will be equally true next week at this time. And the week after. And so on.

102. She makes me happier than I thought possible.

103. She...oh, I guess that's where I need to stop. I love you, honey!

Chilly morning at the Farmers Market. I had to buy The Wife a coffee. #wife #EastAurora #wny

Day 65: Tried taking a photo of my Beautiful Wife looking at Taughannock Falls, but she turned her head toward me at the last second! #100DaysOfHappiness

The Wife, with horse. #eriecountyfair #Wife

Pumpkinville: Happy wife, irritated Daughter

Erie County Fair: A couple

Wine and Wind: A Weekend

(This is a "What We Did On Our Vacation" post, with lots of linkage to businesses we frequented and liked. Of course, this being WNY, it's followed by a commentary on some suddenly shitty weather.)

So this weekend was our third annual trek to the Finger Lakes for the "Grapehounds Winter Hounds" event. Grapehounds is a greyhound group that organizes a big meet-up every summer that revolves around touring Finger Lakes wineries, and the last few years they've added a late February version called "Winter Hounds". It's a low-key event where you show up with your hound, hang out with other owners, compare notes on how weird greyhounds are, and then go out to visit some wineries.

(For those not up on their NY geography, the Finger Lakes are a series of eleven long and narrow lakes in the middle of the state. They were formed when deep valleys gouged out by retreating glaciers filled with water, and the biggest of the lakes are sufficiently long and deep to create their own microclimate, which--combined with soil quality--is excellent for grape-growing, which makes the region one of the country's best for winemaking. It's also a region of lakes and streams and forests and waterfalls and gorges and Ithaca is there and quite frankly, if there's one place on earth where my soul resides, it might well be the Fingerlakes Region of New York. And even though it's not actually part of that region, I throw in Letchworth State Park, because it's of a similar geological claim and it's just west of Conesus Lake, the westernmost of the lakes.)

So we arrived at the hotel in Geneva, NY on Friday night, a little later than we'd wanted but hey, The Wife couldn't take off the entire day from her new job* yet, so there we were. A quick dinner stop at Livingston County Pizza Company in Avon, NY (a little miracle of a place randomly located in this really little town 20 miles south of Rochester) left us happy, and we got to the hotel and settled in nicely. A minor room-booking snafu resulted in us being on the fifth floor. We were initially worried as to how The Dee-oh-gee would handle the elevator, but even though it confused him a little, he was fine with it.


Our room was a little odd with some mismatched furniture--the hotel is gearing up for renovation, and I wonder sometimes if hotels don't keep a little-less-than-perfect room or two open just on the off chance it turns out they screwed up, which they did in our case. The room was perfectly fine, and it had this view, which helps.

Morning sun over Seneca Lake #senecalake #fingerlakes #genevany

After breakfast at Water Street Cafe (gluten-free breakfast sandwiches, huzzah!), we spent Saturday driving down the eastern shore of Seneca Lake (the largest of the Finger Lakes), where we stopped at two wineries we had discovered on previous trips and liked very much: Seneca Shore Wine Cellars and Fruit Yard Winery. We strongly recommend these. In addition to many wonderful (and non-pretentious) wines, Seneca Shore is a "medieval themed" place. You go inside (it's a steel-sided barn from the outside, but don't let that fool you) and everything is castles and tapestries and dragons, in addition to the wine. Fruit Yard Winery, by contrast, is a red-sided farm-house looking place, low-ceilinged and cozy inside. They have a lot of good grape wines, but they also specialize in non-grape wines, so if cranberry or peach or cherry wine sound good to you (they do to us!), check it out.

After a lunch stop in Watkins Glen at the Glen Mountain Market (a good halfway point, and they make gluten-free sandwiches with sufficiently competent handling that The Wife has not had any cross-contamination issues in the two times we've been there), we started back up the eastern shore for stops at two more wineries. First was Atwater Vineyards, where we personally erred in choosing the "dry and semi-dry" flights to taste from. (A flight is a group of tastings; Atwater has several flights available of pre-selected wines, and you choose base on your taste). I don't know why we did this, as both The Wife and I tend to prefer sweeter wines. So we probably owe the Atwater folks another stop next year for their other products. We did, though, like their sparkling "Bubble Riesling" a good deal! We bought two bottles and already drank one.

By the way, here's the view of Seneca Lake from Atwater Vineyards's parking lot. They have a great location.

Seneca Lake, from the eastern shore #senecalake #fingerlakes

Seneca Lake, looking south from the eastern shore #senecalake #fingerlakes

Our next stop was a really far-out kind of place. It's called the Rasta Ranch, and this is what it looks like:

A 1960s-themed winery called Rasta Ranch. Naturally, I fell in love with this place. #winery #senecalakewinetrail #fingerlakes

It's a weathered old barn. Driving up the driveway, you pass a tree hung with birdfeeders carved from old gourds. With a name like Rasta Ranch, you expect a place with a vibe of "What if a couple of old Woodstock vets decided to settle in the Finger Lakes and make wine," and sure enough, that's what this is. There's wine inside and lots of it, along with a whole lot of 1960s-era merchandise and decor. Tie-dye clothes, bohemian-style clothing, incense, hand-made mugs, a crate with old LPs of 60s music, and so on. The whole place is incredibly trippy. Naturally, we loved it.

And The Dee-oh-gee checked himself out in the mirror!

Who is THAT dee-oh-gee?! #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #mirror

I think he approved of himself.

After the Rasta Ranch, we hung a right and left the Seneca Lake valley for the Cayuga Lake valley. (This is not a long drive, just a few miles. It's never that long of a drive from one Finger Lake to the next.) Here we made a stop to walk The Dee-oh-gee at Taughannock Falls State Park, one of our favorite locations, which is always amazing to see, whether it's speckled by the colors of autumn or shrouded in the ice of winter:

Taughannock Falls in winter #taughannockfalls #fingerlakes #waterfall

The Wife and the Dee-oh-gee, Taughannock Falls #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #taughannockfalls #fingerlakes

The Dee-oh-gee and me, Taughannock Falls #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #taughannockfalls #fingerlakes

And then we made two final stops: the Finger Lakes Cider House, which obviously specializes in hard cider and is another newly-discovered favorite that we've frequented several times in recent years), and in a new stop, the Muranda Cheese Company, which obviously makes wonderful cheese. We had a great time there (five bucks gets you tastings of a dozen cheeses!), and from there it was back to Geneva, for one more new discovery. There used to be a gluten-free restaurant in Geneva that we liked a great deal, but it has since closed, sadly enough. But there's a new place called FLX Fry Bird, whose entire menu is gluten free (excepting a couple of bread options). We got fried chicken and poutine and, well, wow.



So that was Saturday. The next morning we decided to try and get back home to Buffalo as early as possible, because the weather was supposed to take a nasty turn. Something about record-setting low-pressure above the Great Lakes was to bring about some of the worst winds the entire region has seen in years, winds that would gather speed as they ripped up the length of Lake Erie to pound our region. And that's pretty much exactly what happened. As I write this on Monday morning (I'm taking one last day off from work), we still have power at Casa Jaquandor, but over 40,000 people in the Buffalo region are currently powerless due to fallen limbs and toppled trees and the like. There are many videos online of traffic signals dangling or in one case literally falling to the ground and shattering. At times the wind outside yesterday sounded like a freight train barreling by at high speed, and while the winds have slackened somewhat this morning, it's still very breezy out with gusts in the upper-40mph range. Peak gusts yesterday topped out at 74mph, which is not unheard-of around here, but it's very abnormal. We would have liked to have made a more leisurely trek home yesterday, but the weather forecast seemed to make haste a wiser approach, and I've no regrets on that score. The weather forecasters seem to have nailed this one.

In other local news, the most dramatic thing to happen is perhaps the breaking of the Lake Erie ice boom. This is a contraption of logs and chains that is deployed each fall across the place where Lake Erie outflows into the Niagara River. This barrier keeps large chunks of ice from flowing downstream, where it can cause flooding issues and also damage the intakes at the power plants that use the Niagara's flow to turn the turbines that run the generators. Some old-timers even speculate that the ice boom, by virtue of damming up ice and artificially keeping the Buffalo end of Lake Erie colder longer, is the culprit behind this region's notably crappy spring seasons. I don't know the truth of that, but yesterday the winds were sufficient to break the boom, sending ice downstream very rapidly. The winds also blew the ice-filled water so hard that the ice actually jumped the seawalls, resulting in scenes captured most dramatically by this fellow from Fort Erie, Ontario (which is just across the river from Buffalo). Warning: this guy talks a lot through his video and he swears constantly, so you might want to dial down the volume. The visual is the important thing, anyway.

Today in Buffalo and Erie County, most of the schools are closed as they assess buildings for damage or await power restoration. As of this morning there appear to have been no deaths from this storm, but everything is a mess and I imagine there are a lot of jangled nerves around the area as well. We'll get through, of course. We always do. The troubling thought is that winter isn't over yet....

And that'll do for the Weekend Wrap-up! One final pictorial testimonial from our trip: the Dee-oh-gee rarely falls asleep in the car, but after a full day-and-a-half of adventure, here's how he spent yesterday's couple hour drive back home:


Ayup. I'm feelin' you, buddy.

* Yes, The Wife has finally left the restaurant management world, and after years of having to creatively cram things we wanted to do into that schedule and picking-and-choosing which few things we could do of all the things we wanted  to do, and years of her being increasingly tired because the restaurant business will go on insisting on 50+ hour work weeks until a literal Act of Congress makes them knock that shit off, we finally feel like we have a degree of our lives back.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Something for Thursday

Returning to our ongoing song challenge, it's time for A Song I Never Tire Of. Here's one that I heard off and on for years on various oldies and classic rock radio stations, but never all that much...until two years ago when the song showed up prominently in the opening scene of Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2. The song's main story is kind of quaint and old fashioned and maybe even a bit problematic--why would she spend her life pining for a man who can never love her back because "his life, his lover, his lady" is the sea? Heavens, girl, drop his ass and find someone whose head isn't full of Horatio Hornblower bullshit--but still, the song is incredibly catchy, and its bridge section is one of the best ever. Here is Looking Glass with "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)".

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Recent Dispatches from Dogland

Presented without comment, here are some of the recent canine-related goings-on at Casa Jaquandor....

Doggos at play, the Big Butt angle. #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #Carla #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie

Odd that the loaf of bread had these little slices at the end.... #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #grilledcheese #yum

Walkin' #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #dickiesworkwear #hickorystripe #denimoveralls #overallsarelife

Carla decided she needed attention, and The Wife obliged. #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie

Fun with doggo #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #dickiesworkwear #denim #bluedenim #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vintageoveralls #redsweater

Are you making something with eggs? I enjoy eggs. #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram

Lazy doggo #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie

When The Dee-oh-gee has Dee-oh-gee 2.0's ball.... #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #Carla #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie #shenanigans

You are being watched. #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie