Star time with the Pops

We had an unusual Holiday Pops concert last night. It wasn’t the normal Monday night audience by any stretch of the imagination–unless your “normal Monday night audience” includes an active and a retired US Senator, the governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and more than your average number of glitterati.

Last night friends of Senator John Kerry “bought the house,” and the program was a mix of a traditional Pops Christmas program, including “Sleigh Ride,” “White Christmas,” singalongs, and the TFC’s famous “Twelve Days of Christmas”; patriotic program (“God Bless America,” “The Stars and Stripes Forever”); and encomium to the senator on the occasion of his 25th year in office. And the tributes came from a bunch of different directions: documentary filmmaker Ken Burns spoke and presented a short film about Kerry’s career that came off like a campaign puff piece. James Taylor sang three songs and expressed his congratulations to the Senator. Governor Deval Patrick gamely read “The Night Before Christmas” while tossing out his best wishes. Senator Kerry’s Swift boat crew came and his second in command offered a salute that left the senator choked up. Former Senator Max Cleland (who had been shamefully swift-boated himself) did not speak, but got about as much applause as Kerry did. All the time the Tanglewood Festival Chorus was at the back of the stage, watching or singing.

And then there were the two musical highlights. Senator Kerry conducted the “Stars and Stripes Forever” with a surprisingly good sense of rhythm, though he occasionally gave his downbeat as an up-beat, but with an endearing amount of mugging self-mockery that left one in mind of an amiable crane; his face as the chorus entered was beaming.

And Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow, better known as Peter and Paul of Peter, Paul and Mary, gave a little lesson in folk singing, discussing the past and their connection with the Senator. They performed “A Soalin'” as a duo, then began “Light One Candle,” which the TFC has been singing this season. At the chorus they began to wave to the audience to sing along, so a few of us joined quietly; when they heard us, Paul waved us to sing louder. So we sang backup to two of the most significant living folksingers on that tune, and then on “Blowin’ In the Wind.” All my coffeehouse dreams of youth realized.

One of these days, I’m going to have to put my performance resumé together. It would have to include: “Sang with Renée Fleming, Dave Brubeck, and Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow” and “Sang in ensembles conducted by Robert Shaw, James Levine, Seiji Ozawa, and John Kerry.”

More snow, and bistro

3340621121_0a6322af85_oWords cannot express the emotions I felt, after a weekend in the 50s, I awoke this morning to see big fat flakes of snow coming down. I keep thinking that I’m used to it, but at heart I’m still a Virginia boy; snow is a rare treat at the beginning of winter and a stupefying chore at the end. I can tell my town is reeling a little bit too; our street wasn’t plowed, a fact I didn’t fully appreciate until I began the descent down the steep hill leading down to Mass Ave. The hill was completely covered in snow turning rapidly to ice, and I had to really jam on the brakes at the top of the hill to keep it a controlled descent.

We’re supposed to get four inches today. Sigh. I guess what they say about March is true.

March has been an insanely busy month for me already, so I was relieved to get a rare night out this weekend. We went back to Petit Robert, which I see I haven’t plugged yet on this blog. If there were ever a perfect combination of Parisian elegance and comfort food, it’s this place. Lisa had beef bourguignon. I started with a plate of mussels, then moved on to calf’s liver with onions and bacon. Let me tell you: it’s moments like these that made Proust a household name. I was instantly five or six and eating liver at my mother’s table, back in the days before cholesterol counting removed it from our diet. It was spectacularly earthy and tender, and I had to make myself stop before I devoured the whole thing; it’s deceptively easy eating, until the last few bites when you suddenly realize how rich it really is.

Now: snow. Sigh. Ah well, I have memories.

Preparing for the deluge

It’s a perfect storm today: I have family commitments at home, significant redesign of our customer dashboard and our entire portal due tomorrow, a software release that begins at 9 PM tonight… and six to twelve inches of snow due starting late tomorrow morning, with up to 1 to 2 inches of snow per hour.

I think tomorrow will be a good day to work from home.

Friday: too busy working …

… to write anything halfway intelligent, so you get this instead.

But Estaminet has been writing a fair bit; check out her travel journals from her Oregon trip.

She’s back staying with us, and our parents come in late tonight, so it’ll be a fun full house. This is, of course, the other reason I’m not writing so much–lots of stuff to take care of before I pick them up from the airport.

And I’ll be checking out the temporary James Hook lobster shack this weekend to see if they’ve been able to resume any level of retail operations. It would be great to get some in time for my dad’s birthday.

Over the grimy deep

I participated in a corporate regatta sponsored by America’s Growth Capital yesterday, which will no doubt surprise those of you who know I don’t sail. It was an interesting experience. Three of my coworkers and myself, fortunately accompanied by an able and professional captain, on a sailboat, running races back and forth between the Boston Harbor Hotel and East Boston across the lovely waters of Boston Harbor.

My job was to be on the foredeck, hoisting the spinnaker, assisting with the genoa and the jib as we tacked, hiking out my bulk to keep us from keeling over in the strong wind of the last few races, and otherwise staying out of the way of the boom and the sheets. It was entertaining for sure, but a good reminder that I’m a little shy on exercise.

Afterward we grabbed dinner in the North End, at Assagio. It was frankly disappointing. I remember having a very decent meal there almost eight years ago when we were just getting started at business school, and scoring a few points with my tablemates for recommending a red wine from Campania which turned out to be outstanding. Last night, by contrast, the most exotic wine I could find on the menu was a Chianti from a producer that I knew that turned out to be too lightweight, and my meal proved that amatriciana, mozzarella, and gemelli don’t mix, and that Assagio doesn’t know real pancetta from their elbow, and that they don’t know that amatriciana needs hot peppers. As Nero Wolfe would say, pfui. Fortunately the North End has its compensating pleasures, like a dish of grapefruit gelato that was perfectly tart and light, giving a nice end to the day.

Beautiful day

It was an amazing weekend. I spent the last half of last week dying of some sort of cold/allergy–it was so bad that I think I was running a fever a couple of nights. But on Saturday morning I could move again. And it was a good thing: since it rained the whole previous weekend, my lawn hadn’t been cut yet and it was almost ready to start swallowing small dogs and children.

So I got the mower going for the first time in 2008. It was slow going; the grass was so long and heavy with dew that I had to empty the bag every two rows, and had to scrape the deck clean every four so that the blade wouldn’t get choked. But it was nice to start getting the outside of the house into shape again.

This should be a nice week. No Tanglewood commitments for a while, and I have a trip this weekend to DC to see Lars Bjorn and Craig Fennell, along with some other folks I haven’t seen in a very long time. The occasion: Craig’s bachelor party. Which, since we’re all in our late 30s, should be fairly mellow.