Monday, August 18, 2008

A Small Vacation: A Summery Summary

Warning, this is a long "I had a ham sandwich" kind of blog post that may not be nearly as interesting to you as it is to me. Read at your own peril.

Last week, Lesa and I took an impromptu vacation. We had Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to ourselves to try and find the summertime. We found it. It was right there all along where it was supposed to be... underneath the speckled sky.

On Wednesday we had a plan to go to the Ashfield Lakehouse for lunch. I had never been there but I had been hearing about the place from friends for years. Since we were heading to Ashfield (Massachusetts) I decided maybe we could find something else to do in the area so I took out my future-phone and asked it if it had any advice. "Check out the High Ledges in Shelburne!", it commanded.

We followed the tiny map on the tiny screen and found ourselves winding through the lush undulating hills of the farmlands in the Berkshire foothills. Eventually, we discovered a small turn-off with a teeny wooden sign that said High Ledges. We pulled off and walked down a dirt road and discovered no more signs. There was nothing indicating which way to go. Which one of the trails that lead off into the woods was the right one? We picked the widest one and trekked on a little. Finally we came across a couple of hikers and I asked them where we were going. They confirmed our best nightmare. We were heading to the High Ledges.

As we strolled through the woods past babbling brooks and bouncing butterflies, I got a phone call from Jose Ayerve. "I'm going to answer this," I said "But I hope we don't come across any hikers. I don't want to be that guy out in nature on his cell phone." Sure enough after talking to Jose for five seconds we rounded a corner and came across two other groups of people. I continued to talk sheepishly.

Jose was calling about that night's Lord Russ' Birthday Open Mic. He was looking for advice on a good Aloha Steamtrain song for him to cover. I suggested "Damned", thinking it would fit his voice well. (Turns out that it was a perfect choice).

I hung up the phone and we continued following the directions that our first hikers had given us. Eventually we busted out into the open and found ourselves on some nice rock ledges looking out over the Berkshires and more specifically looking down into the valley where the town of Shelburne Falls was nestled. There it was. Summertime.

When we got back to the car, the future-phone told us how to get to the Ashfield Lakehouse. Once there, we sat out on the deck which juts out over the lake. We had lunch and watched little kids playing on the beach and ducks and geese begging for french fries. The deck was empty except for us and besides the laughter of the children and the honking of the geese it was almost silent.

That night, after a wonderful meal at Bella, we headed into the Basement in Northampton for Lord Russ' Birthday Open Mic. By the start of the open mic the room had a handful of friends and an assortment of balloons. It was low-key and comfortable as Russ played his opening set of covers by request.

During the night, I played a cover of one of Russ' first songs ever called "Butterfly", Lesa played "Red Delicious Love", Brian played a medley of Aloha Steamtrain songs, Jason Bourgeois played a set of hits, Ella Longpre played, and Jose did his remarkable, room-silencing version of "Damned" which I am so upset that I didn't film. Happy Birthday Lord Russ.

On Thursday we had a field trip planned. We journeyed down to Springfield to explore the Museums at the Quadrangle. The real adventure was finding them. Sometimes there were signs sometimes there were not. We drove around the crazy streets of Springfield cursing the directions we got form the museum website.

We finally found the place and enjoyed the exhibits. The science museum was nice, but my favorite was the art gallery, specifically the modern section. We whipped through the place in record time, as we are want to do at museums and headed to Cafe Lebanon for lunch. We had a Cafe Lebanon in Northampton, but unfortunately they closed, so we were pretty excited to revisit some of our favorite meals in Springfield. It was fine, though they changed their menu somewhat. Why can't everything stay exactly as I want it to?

Later that night we had a visit from Jason Bourgeois. We had plans to go into the recording studio the next day and be some guest musicians on the new Novels record! Jason came over so we could work out some harmonies and parts so we would be prepared. We played through his songs and I recorded us on my future-phone so we could remember what we had done and refer to it the next day.

Then we strolled through the summer evening into town with Jason to meet some more friends at the Dirty Truth for dinner. After dinner we headed over to Trivia Night at the World War Two Club where we managed to play really, really terribly. At about midnight, Lesa and I meandered over to the Sierra Grille with the intentions of maybe seeing a couple of bands that we had heard good things about. However, we kept running into friends outside the place and we remained there, shooting the breeze in the summer breeze. There it was. Summertime.

Friday's destination was Greenfield, MA where we would head into the studio with The Novels. Before that though, since we were heading up north we decided to continue into Brattleboro to meet our friend Alexis, who accidentally left her license at our house last weekend. We pulled into the tiny riverside town and puttered around in some antique stores until we met Alexis for lunch at a nice sunlit tree house.

In Greenfield, we found Jason and Mike of the Novels and our very own Brian and we headed into Bank Row Records Studio. What a great place. Justin, the engineer was most accommodating and relaxed and made recording a real comfortable pleasure. We worked out some harmonies and all sang around a microphone. The already recorded music in the headphones sounded so great. I can't wait to hear the finished album. We sang and clapped on a few songs and I played a keyboard part on another and then we all went out for mediocre Thai food.

Later that night we met Brian again and we hopped around to a couple different spots, finally ending up at Hugo's, where I had a long conversation with Bruce Tull, who, unfortunately, will soon be moving away from out little music town. Sitting in Hugo's talking to Bruce Tull. There it is. Summertime.

For Saturday we had BIG plans. Lesa had won tickets to Tanglewood by playing croquet really well. We headed out into the Berkshires again and did a little shopping and exploring through Great Barrington. That day the strangest weather was happening. It was a beautiful day overall but every once and a while a dark cloud would float over unnoticed. After it passed, rain would start falling out of the blue skies. How can you explain shadows in the rain?

We found our way to Tanglewood and arrived there among the first folks to show up. Neither of us had ever been before and we didn't really know what to expect. The second that we walked in, I said "I love this place, we have to come here every year." We found a nice spot on the lawn and set up our blanket. Then we went and picked up our meals-to-go that Lesa had also won (by playing croquet really well). We rented a couple of chairs and Lesa bought a bottle of wine and we dug in for a night in the lush green park surrounded by other people doing just the same thing.

The people surrounding us spoke many languages, there was a French family in front and a German one behind. There was Chinese coming from our left. Everyone had picnics and candles burning as the sun went down and the starts started to come out one by one.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra came out and played: GLINKA (Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila), KHACHATURIAN (Piano Concerto), and PROKOFIEV (Symphony No. 5). As they played the crowd of thousands out on the grass were exceptionally silent. The lone bassoon sung quietly and no noise was heard from the audience. It was dreamlike and surreal as an enormous full moon slid silently out from behind the music shed and brightly erased every star from the night sky. Here is it in wide screen. Summertime.

Sunday was meant for things like relaxing and mowing the lawn and we did those things, but as the day headed into evening, we couldn't help but to try and stretch our vacation as long as we could and we invited Brian and our friend Thane to dinner outside in Northampton center and then we felt the summer-nearing-its-end pull and we spontaneously agreed to all go to an end-of-the-weekend showing of the new film "Pineapple Express". The future-phone told us when it was playing and we jumped in the car and headed off into the summer once again.


Anonymous said...

So, where does the ham sandwich come into play?

debl said...

You can put my name in there, you know. Sheesh.

F. Alex Johnson said...

That was lovely.

Thank you.