Catching Up with Friends

It’s not like I’ve been hibernating this winter, but there are certain friends I just hadn’t seen in a long time. Life just gets away from you sometimes I guess. Now that many of them have kids and live out in the suburbs they see each other more frequently than I see them, but now it’s a lot harder to find the time to get together.

Even friends without kids can sometimes be hard to meet up with. I saw my friend Darra at a wedding shower Saturday and she mentioned that it had been almost 2 months since we had seen each other. It was hard to believe but she was right. I didn’t realize it had somehow been that long. She’s one of my best friends and we still somehow managed to let that much time go by. After the shower we grabbed a quick drink (tea because we are too wild and crazy) along with our husbands and got a chance to catch up a little bit more.

Then yesterday realizing that it had been a long time since I’d hung out with a particular group of friends I had planned a ladies brunch. Miraculously I managed to find a date when all of us could make it. That alone is a minor miracle. I got everyone to drive into the city for brunch, though in all fairness someone else suggested the restaurant. I won’t complain about being able to walk to brunch though. It was nice to have a couple hours to spend catching up with everyone.

Although I’d like to see my friends more, part of being adult is realizing that sometimes that just can’t happen. Trying to make sure too much time doesn’t slip away is also important though. I’m glad this weekend allowed for some good friend time.

Songs I Love: Be My Stars by the Cris Jacobs Band

I’ve heard this song a few times recently on one of the NPR music stations I tend to listen to. As far as I can remember these recent times are the first instances I’ve heard the song, so I sort of assumed that it was a new song. After looking it up I found out that it’s not in fact new but is from back in 2012. Much to my surprise and delight I also found out that the singer is a Baltimore based artist. It may have taken me a few years, but I’m really glad I found. It’s a lovely song and I’m happy to have it in my life now.


Songs I Love: Billy Joel Edition

Apparently it is uncool to like Billy Joel’s music. I however am not afraid to be uncool when it comes to my love of music. I can hipster with the best of them, and I certainly know and love far more bands than most people I know have ever heard of. However I’m not one of those people who insists I don’t like music just because for whatever reason it doesn’t fit the definition of cool. New pop music? Sure why not. Older pop music? Give me some of that too. If I like it. I like it. No need to apologize or do that annoying thing I hate where people claim to like things ironically as if that’s something that can even be done.

I’ve always been a fan of Billy Joel. I grew up in his heyday so his music is practically baked into my blood and the 70s music that wasn’t ingrained in me through it’s ubiquitousness in the 80s I definitely caught up with in the 90s. The first dance at my wedding was even “Just the Way You Are”. I do like that song, but it’s not actually going to wind up on this list nor is “Piano Man” which being the most popular Billy Joel song has just made me tired of hearing it over the years.

Yesterday I was driving home and heard “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” on the radio. That’s actually a rarity. It’s not one of the Billy Joel songs that tends to get a lot of radio play. I immediately thought you know I think this is my favorite Billy Joel song, but within a matter of seconds had come up with a bunch of other ones that I like at least equally to that song. Realistically after thinking about it for a minute I decided I don’t think I could pick a favorite Billy Joel song. So here’s the handful of ones that come to the top of my list. It’s interesting I never really thought about it before, but I apparently seem to gravitate towards one that have some sort of historical meaning or that create a sort of nostalgia for a working class life that doesn’t exist anymore.

  1. “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”

Obviously I’m going to start with this song because it’s the one that kicked off the whole idea in my head. I love that it’s actually really almost 3 songs in one and how you’re hearing a story within a story within a story. I also have fond memories of it from my sophomore year in college when some friends and I were momentarily obsessed with it. I’m pretty sure I have a picture somehow of me and one of my friends standing on top of chairs in someone’s dorm room singing and dancing to this song.

2. “Goodnight Saigon”

I just really love the opening piano part of this song and how it really evokes the awfulness that awaits the kids that are being sent over to Vietnam to fight. Despite the not so cheery topic of the song, I have good memories of it as well. I remember falling in love with this song my freshman year of high school and having a friend play it for me on one of our other friend’s pianos at a party. I’m pretty sure I actually have a picture of him playing it in a scrapbook somewhere.

3. “Allentown”

I don’t have too much to actually say about this song except that I really love it. Again I feel like the music perfectly works with the lyrics to evoke the feeling of town that’s dying but that is leaving behind a proud people.


4. “Downeaster Alexa”

“Downeaster Alexa” feels like a sort of companion song to “Allentown” just shifting the look at a dying working class job from factory work to fishermen. It’s haunting melodies really evoke the image of being out on the water for me. I love it too.

Sutton Foster with the BSO

Last night I saw Tony-winning actress Sutton Foster perform with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. If you’re not familiar with her Broadway work you may know her from the sadly short-lived television show Bunheads or from her current show Younger. I’ve seen her a few times in Broadway shows, Anything Goes and Violet and had seen her perform at the Cafe Carlyle. I was surprised that we were somehow even closer to the stage last night than we were at the Carlyle given that’s a tiny cabaret venue. Granted we were about as far away from the stage as we could have been there, but since I bought these tickets last August I had forgotten how close to the stage they were.

She sang a number of the same song she sang when we saw her at Cafe Carlyle, which makes sense since people are obviously wanting to hear her perform songs from the Broadway shows she’s starred in. This of course was more of a production with the backing of a full orchestra in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

She started off with a couple of numbers from Anything Goes, which is still one of my all time favorite Broadway musicals. I’m always happy to hear Sutton Foster sing songs from it. The only thing that would have made it better is if she did the tap dance along with it. Long time readers with awfully good memories may recall that I was once inspired to take tap dancing classes after seeing Sutton Foster in Anything Goes. The fact that I have zero rhythm and can’t remember dance combinations to save my life should have made me think twice about that decision, but I did it. Let’s just say it did not end well. Of course I can’t complain too much about the lack of tap dancing during “Anything Goes” because I totally got some tap dancing, which I would not have expected had I not seen her tweet a video of the rehearsal for it.

I’ll never know, but part of me wishes I had been completely surprised by the tap dancing since I totally wouldn’t have expected her to break it out during a stint with the BSO, but on the other hand I was super excited and looking forward to it all week. So I’m not sure whether anticipation beats surprise, but it’s what I got. The tap dance number was actually performed with the actor who plays her boyfriend on Younger, Nico Tortorella. He apparently used to do musical theatre in high school, but hasn’t done anything in the past ten years. Let’s just say that came across. They performed “Fit as a Fiddle” from Singin’ in the Rain. It was fun, and think Nico Tortorella held his own fairly well for the tap dancing, but it’s just not fair to put someone who doesn’t sing professionally on a stage with Sutton Foster and expect him to keep up. It wasn’t bad during the parts of the song when he was singing alone, but at the points where they sang simultaneously it felt a little like someone in a high school musical trying to sing with Sutton Foster. Despite that it was still my favorite part of the show.

My other favorite number was “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy. Sutton Foster was joking that despite her television show she isn’t actually getting any younger and so she’s started thinking about the classic roles for older actresses. She’s got a long way to go before she’s old enough to play Gypsy Rose Lee, but after seeing her perform this last night it’s kind of all I want to see on Broadway. The tap dancing may have been my favorite, but this was probably the best number of the night overall.

Also big props to my husband who didn’t get to enjoy the night nearly as much as I did. Some horrible old woman sitting next to him pretty much decided that she needed to be part of the show as well. When she wasn’t trying to conduct the orchestra from her seat and whacking him repeatedly in the process she was singing along as if anyone wants to hear her sing. Luckily he blocked most of the noise of that so I only had to hear her sparingly during some of the quieter numbers. Shushing from people around her did not dissuade her from that or repeatedly talking to her daughter throughout the show. She even pulled out her phone and started playing with it at one point. So thanks for ruining people’s night awful woman. I’m sorry my husband didn’t get to enjoy the show as much as I did thanks to her, but I thought it was excellent.


Duckpin Bowling with ACRL MD

Last night I went duckpin bowling with some fellow librarians. ACRL MD is the academic libraries division of the Maryland Library Association. We try to host a happy hour or some sort of social event a few times per year. This time we rented a few lanes at a duckpin bowling alley.

If you’re not familiar with duckpin bowling, which I’m guessing you’re not if you don’t live in Maryland, the pins look like regular bowling pins except they are smaller. The balls are also smaller. Probably a little larger than a softball. You can hold them in one hand they don’t have finger holes in them like a regular bowling ball. Because everything is smaller than normal you get three rolls per frame instead of just two. Even then it’s still harder than regular bowling. Given that and the fact that I’m a pitiful bowler I was pretty pleased with my 78.

This bowling alley was real old school as most of the duckpin alleys tend to be. There was no electronic scoring and you had to hit the reset buttons yourself between every roll. Nothing happened automatically. It was almost surprising they didn’t have to have someone back behind the lane resetting the pins. That was about the only automated thing about the place. I’m glad someone else was keeping score. I know how, but I much prefer when it’s done automatically for me.

It was a fun night out. Hopefully we’ll do it again in the future. 2016-02-19 18.30.35

Songs I Love: Midtown by The Suffers

If you’re paying close attention you may recall that one of the acts that I raved about from last year’s Newport Folk Festival was a Houston based soul band called The Suffers. They were such a powerful presence that it’s hard to imagine that they haven’t been doing this for a long time. In reality though they’ve only been playing together for about 5 years and just last week put out their first full length album.

It is a wonderful album all around, but “Midtown” is probably my favorite song from it. I love its groovy, smooth R&B vibe. This band is fantastic and if they are ever anywhere near you I can’t recommend seeing them live highly enough.

Happy 40th Anniversary to My Parents

I’m getting this post in with a few hours to spare.  It’s been 40 years since my parents walked down in the aisle in these snazzy outfits. I know you’re all wishing your wedding clothes were that cool.


I’m very lucky that after 40 years my parents are still very much in love with each other. They’ve been great role models for a marriage, and I hope mine is as happy as their’s is 40 years from now. Happy 40th anniversary Mom and Dad! Love you!

Deep Creek Weekend

This past weekend Paul and I headed out to Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland for a weekend of fun in the woods with some of my friends from church. There was a total of ten of us. We rented a 5 bedroom house for the weekend. Big kudos to Nikki for doing all the leg work on that.

The house was a place called Cameron Station and it was great.2016-02-06 12.12.09

Some deer were there to greet us when we arrived. They were not afraid at all.

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It was just up the hill from the lake, so it had a great view and you could easily walk down a trail to the lake if you wanted.

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It had a hot tub, though I never got around to using it. There was a gas fire place in the main level living room and a wood burning fireplace in the basement living room. We took advantage of both. There was a great big table in the dining area that we could all fit around to eat and play games. I’m pretty sure that table was one of the reasons we gravitated towards this house.

The one wall overlooking the lake was essentially all windows. If I owned the house I would definitely have invested in some shades for them because the sun beat in during the day and made the house really warm. I can’t imagine being there in the summer. You must roast during the middle of the day. As it was we were joking about sun bathing in the living room. It was nice to be truly warm during the long cold winter though.

We spent most of the weekend playing games and eating. I’m pretty sure we brought enough food and alcohol to last us for a week instead of a weekend. We actually started off the trip by meeting up at a bowling alley where we bowled a couple of games before checking into the house. As always my bowling skills leave something to be desired, but I had fun anyway. And hey I managed to break 100 the second game. I’m probably ready for the pro bowling tour now.

We played many board games over the course of the weekend. Friday we started off with Clue. It was Miss Scarlett with poison in the dining room, not the living room as many of us suspected because someone failed to show he had that card multiple times. I’m not naming any names. It was actually a newer version of Clue than I’ve played before. It had all kinds of new weapons and new rooms. There were also some new types of cards that we just chose to ignore so that we mostly played the old fashioned way as God intended. We finished off Friday night with a game of Balderdash. I came in second, which I was impressed with because I generally don’t think I’m that creative.

Saturday we went for a hike in the woods around the house and walked down to the lake to get a closer look. The lake was mostly frozen over. Every day we could see people out walking on it from the house. I thought they were insane and just asking to die. It hasn’t been consistently cold enough this year for me to feel in any way confident that the lake was frozen solid enough to be safe. It wasn’t even frozen solid by the shore where the water was lapping against the shore, though as the boys all tested out by hurling large rocks at it, the ice was much more solid a little farther out. The little black spot towards the center of the picture is one of the rocks they threw out there.

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Then of course we played more games. We played Ticket to Ride, which I always enjoy though I never win. We played Phase 10, which we wound up quitting in the middle of because it was taking forever and everyone was getting frustrated with having to play the same hands over and over again. We all obviously have great sportsmanship. A few of us also worked on putting together a jigsaw puzzle only to discover that we only had 499 of the 500 pieces. Sad trombone.

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Saturday night we made a real fire in the fireplace and of course made s’mores. There was some college basketball watching followed by watching the first episode of the People vs. OJ Simpson.

Sunday after yet another delicious breakfast we cleaned up and got ready to check out then had a little mini church service of our own before leaving. It was a fantastic weekend with great friends. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Garth Brooks at Royal Farms Arena

As I alluded to in my previous post I went to see Garth Brooks with Trisha Yearwood in concert on Sunday afternoon. The show was rescheduled from the previous Friday night when Baltimore was in the middle of a blizzard. Sadly that meant that my friend Karen who actually asked if I wanted to accompany her to the concert couldn’t go because she was out of town for the rescheduled date. I tried unsuccessfully to find someone else who wanted to go to take the ticket so my poor husband got forced into accompanying me. I know he didn’t want to, but he was a good sport about it.

Although I spent most of my childhood in Georgia where country music is as prevalent if not more so than pop music I never got into it there. I suspect much of that rests on the fact that neither of my parents like country music. Surprisingly I fell in love with country music in Massachusetts where it’s pretty hard to come by. I must have stumbled on what’s probably the one country station that existed there at the time. Trisha Yearwood’s and Garth Brooks’ music was hugely popular at the time and most certainly a huge part of my conversion to country music.

I know it’s gross to ‘ship real life people especially in their case when it meant them both divorcing other people, but I can’t say that it didn’t make me really happy when I first heard that Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood were a couple. So it was really great to get to see them in concert together and to finally see live the people who played a big part in me learning to love country music. Garth took time off from his music career to raise his kids and this is his first big tour since he returned. I was mostly in middle school and high school when he was touring before and as I said my parents did not like country music so they weren’t ever taking me to his concerts back then. I did get to see a lot of great 70s rock bands in concert during my high school years, but no way, no how were my parents going to take me to see a country concert.

I was a little worried going into the show how it was going to be for a number of reasons. First I am always a bit leary of big arena and stadium shows these days. A lot of times I feel like they don’t have the heart of smaller shows. They turn into big scripted productions where the artists tend to rest more on the the spectacle of their sets and technology than on their actual performances. I was also concerned because this was the fourth of five shows they wound up doing over the weekend. Originally there were supposed to be two shows the previous weekend and three shows this past weekend. When the snow canceled the first two shows the rescheduled them all into this past weekend, so my Friday night show became a Sunday afternoon show. That’s a lot of shows in one weekend. Not to mention that some kind of technological malfunction for the 10:30 Saturday night show resulted in the concert not starting until midnight. All of that left me worried about what kind of show Garth was actually going to be able to put on.

I shouldn’t have worried because he was great. There of course all the cool sets and lighting that one would expect from an arena show, but it was really just the dressing as it should be. Garth is a consummate performer. He technically has a new album to support, but he knew people were there to hear the old stuff and he complied. He put all his energy into the performance and was extremely engaged with the audience. He also genuinely seemed humbled to be there and still recognizing how lucky he is to have people who love his music and come out to see him perform. I’ve seen a lot of big artists lose that, but he definitely has not.

He pretty much for the most part played every song I would have wanted to hear. I will be honest and say it’s been a really long time since I have listened to any Garth Brooks aside from the rare occasions I hear one on the radio. Access to much of my extensive music collection is needlessly complicated for reasons I won’t go into, but if my Garth Brooks CDs have ever been converted to mp3 I’m not sure how to easily access them at this point. Thus his music has just been off my radar for a long time. I don’t think I even could have pulled the names of all the songs he played off the top of my head prior to the show, but darn it if as soon as he started playing them the lyrics to every single one didn’t come tumbling out of my mouth. Who knew all those words were up there taking up space in my brain. I obviously was not the only one because it was really just one big singalong fest the whole show. It’s rare that I go to concerts where that can or does happen and it was real nice.

At the end of the show he came out and sang portions (generally the first verse and chorus) of a bunch of songs that people were holding up signs asking him to sing. Obviously this is something he does every show and people who have seen him before knew was going to happen. I however did not, and I really appreciated it. It just speaks to the heart of the kind of performer he is that he wants everyone to get to hear the song they were hoping to hear. God bless the person in the front row holding up the sign requesting the song “Ireland” because I love that song and secretly hoped he would play it but knew he never would. Thanks to them I at least got to hear a little bit of it.

Probably my only disappointment of the concert was that Trisha Yearwood didn’t play “Walkaway Joe”. She came out and sang 5 of her songs in the middle of the concert. Sadly “Walkaway Joe” wasn’t one of them. It was the one song from either artist that I would have told you I really wanted to hear going into the show. “Walkaway Joe” probably wasn’t the first country song I ever fell in love with, but at this point it’s certainly the one that stands out in memory as the first country song I really liked. I still adore that song to this day and would have loved to see her play it live. Alas I’ll have to hope to see it at another show in the future.

It was a great show and I now understand why every person who I know who saw the tour elsewhere in the country last year told me it was great. I’m guessing the tour is getting ready to wind down at this point, but if you get the chance I would highly recommend going to see it if it’s coming near year.

Crazy Busy Snow Make-Up Weekend

The record snowfall in Baltimore two weekends ago meant that everything I had planned for that weekend got canceled and then most of it rescheduled for this past weekend. Adding all of that on top of what I already had planned for the weekend resulted in a crazy busy Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday afternoon my friend Alison and I went to see Centerstage’s production of “As You Like It”. It’s sort of a modern retelling. The part of the play set at court is almost a futuristic, post-apocalytic seeming setting. The part set in the Forest of Arden is more like 1960s hippie. The cast is composed entirely of women. It mostly works. As is often the case unless it’s being performed by professional Shakespearean actors you wind up with some people who are able to pull it off better than others. This production was no different. It’s neither the best nor worst Shakespeare I have ever seen.

Not too long after we got back from that we headed to our friend Bill’s 40th birthday party. They catered the party from a local Indian restaurant. It was delicious, but I ate way too much. I guess it’s a good thing that we caught a ride home before the birthday pie came out. I’m glad they had such a good turn out despite having to reschedule last minute. Happy birthday Bill!

Sunday afternoon Paul and I went to the rescheduled Garth Brooks concert. I’m going to save that and write more about it in a separate post later this week. We already had tickets to see Phantom of the Opera on Sunday night. Luckily the venues are only a few block apart so we were able to leave the Garth concert, grab a really quick dinner at Panera Bread and then head to the theatre.

I first saw Phantom of the Opera when I was a kid in Boston. I went with some friends for one of our 14th birthdays. It also happens to be the first cast recording I ever owned. Despite all that it’s not one of my favorite shows. I like it well enough, but it’s nothing I’ve ever been inspired to see again. This season however it was part of our season ticket package. I knew that it had undergone a production redesign so I was curious to see it.

I wasn’t really expecting it but I have to admit that I got really giddy as soon as the Overture started. It turns out I still know that show really well from all the time spent listening to the cast recording as a teenager and it got to me. I can’t say I super remember the original production from back when I saw it *cough* 23 *cough* years ago, but at least based on my limited memory it seemed quite different. I think they did a really good job with it, and I thought all the revamped sets were great. I was shocked by how many people in the audience seemed surprised by the chandelier falling at the end of Act I. I thought that was pretty common knowledge about the show, but I guess even after all these years some people don’t know. It’s still not a show I’m very excited by and nothing I’m going to go out of my way to see again, but I’m glad I saw it and got to see what they’ve done with it.