Last Week Delight 9/26/2022

I’ve got a lot of delights to share this week, so let’s get right to it.

  • I was walking to book club last week and passed a back hoe that someone had put giant googly eyes on. The back hoe part looked like a big nose or trunk. It really animated this piece of construction equipment. Thanks to whoever made something that most people would just walk by without a second glance into something that brings a smile to people’s faces.
Back hoe with googly eyes on it
  • Speaking of book club, I appreciate that we’ve been able to meet outside with the warmer weather. We might get one more in during October, but after that we’ll have to decide how we’re going to meet. I’m definitely not ready to go back to restaurants, but maybe meeting at someone’s house would be okay? Or we go back to virtual for the winter? I don’t now. Right now I’m just trying to enjoy being able to do things outside without trying to get too anxious about what the impending cold means for my social life.
  • Maybe 5 or so years ago (who knows how long it’s been with COVID time) I was heavily involved in a project at work purchasing new furniture for our library. In retrospect a lot of the chairs students said were their favorites they never actually use because while they are very comfortable, most of the times students want something more task oriented at the library. Thus no one ever sits in my favorite of all the chairs we bought. They have my favorite fabric. They’re comfy. They spin. But there’s three chairs clustered around a small circular coffee table type thing. Ideal maybe for having coffee, but not studying or working on a group project. I was delighted to walk out of my office the other day and see three students sitting in them all huddled over laptops and books piled on that tiny table. It didn’t look like the most comfortable spot to be doing what they were doing, but I was really happy that someone finally used those chairs.
  • Coming home on my morning walk recently there have been a couple days where I’ve seen a father and a daughter sitting on metal folding chairs on the sidewalk in front of their house with trays in their laps eating breakfast together. I guess they were getting out to enjoy some of the nice weather. I thought it was very sweet.
  • I walk by this house every morning on my morning walk. When it’s the time of year where it’s dark when I walk by it and they have a light on in the house, the way it glows through their shade into the dark sky totally reminds me of a Thomas Kinkade painting. You know the painter of light. He was very big in the 90s. They sold his paintings in malls. My parents have several of his paintings. He eventually became the butt of a lot of jokes I think, but the style of this house and that glowing light just scream Thomas Kinkade to me. This photo I took doesn’t do it justice because the camera picked up way more ambient light than I experienced when I was taking it diluting the effect you can see here. Does this photo not remind you of the painting at the top of this article?
House with light glowing from the windows
  • Someone in my neighborhood put up this really cute hand drawn missing cat poster that their kid made. There was a regular missing poster with an actual photo of the cat right next to it. I hope they got their cat back.
Hand drawn missing cat poster
  • I love a good black and white cookie. I used to always get one at Zaro in Penn Station to eat on the train home from NYC. Well I haven’t taken the train to or from NYC in at least three years thanks to COVID, so I haven’t eaten one of those cookies in a long time. My husband had to go up to New York for work on Friday. He drove up and his office is nowhere near mid-town, so he couldn’t get me a Zaro cookie. He did however seek a black and white cookie out for me and grabbed one from a diner near his office. It was actually not a very good black and white cookie. It was very dry, but it was the thought that counts.
  • Saturday was a beautiful fall day. I was desperately trying to find a friend to do something with me outside, but was having no success. Either people were out of town, had COVID in their houses, or otherwise already had plans. I also feel like my social circle is way smaller than it was before COVID and given all the limitations I have placed on my social life because of COVID it’s hard to reignite some of those more peripheral relationships from the before times. Anyway, I finally decided that I was going to walk over to RemFest, which is the neighborhood festival for the neighborhood just south of mine, by myself. Then it occurred to me that my coworker lives there, so I texted her and wound up meeting up with her and her husband at the festival and then going back and hanging out at her house afterwards. Normally I would have given up way sooner in my quest to find a friend, so I’m proud of me.
  • I feel like half my delights every week come from my daily walks, but hey a little reminder to get out into the world and try and find the little joys. Anyway, I was walking home the other morning and was coming up off of this little brick path that is canopied in trees that connects the upper and lower parts of this one road. It’s a very beautiful little spot. I’m not sure if she was new to Baltimore or just the neighborhood, but this woman came up to me and asked me if it went to Druid Hill Park. I told her no that is the complete opposite direction. So she asked me where that path went and I said just up north into a neighborhood. She very excitedly told me she was going to go explore it and went on her merry way. I appreciated the vibe.
  • Yesterday I went to the Orioles game with a bunch of friends most of whom I had not seen since before COVID as even in the before times it was mostly people I would see at parties but who I mostly didn’t hang out with on an individual basis. It was nice to see everyone again. It was quite the bizarre weather day. It was warm, but with a very stiff cold wind at times that eventually brought into some thunderstorms that caused a rain delay but that blew through very quickly. Then it alternated between cloudy and sunny. The O’s lost in 11 innings. It was a very long game. I appreciated the older woman in the next section over who was obviously humoring her husband who wanted to come to the game while she sat there and read a book.
  • And finally your musical delight for the week is a song by the 80s band Expose. I heard this on the radio the other day. I do feel like Expose is an 80s band that you don’t hear very much anymore and I don’t think every properly got their due. I still enjoy Expose’s music whenever I hear it.

Last Week Delight 9/22/2022

I am way late with my delights post this week, but work and life have been really busy so I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write anything until like 9:30 at night and my brain is too tired to write anything coherent at that point in the day. I’m finally getting a little bit of time on my lunch break today, so let’s see if I can knock this out really quick even though I actually have a lot of delights this week.

  • Obviously if you read my previous post you already know about last weekend seeing Amos Lee in concert, going to the Xponential Music Festival, and getting to see an old friend, so I won’t say more about that now but it was definitely a delight.
  • Related to going to the festival, there were lots of families with small children there. That meant I got to see lots of babies and toddlers wearing big old noise canceling headphones, which I love. I like that they’re having their hearing protected, that they’re getting indoctrinated into live music early, and that they look adorable in giant headphones on their tiny heads.
  • I’ve seen several cars around the area recently with Seniors painted on the windows with shoe polish or whatever kids these days do that with. In my day it was shoe polish. It delights me that kids these days are still doing that.
  • I only go to Starbucks a couple times a year. I don’t drink coffee and all their drinks are sugar filled and expensive. I do like to enjoy a pumpkin spice creme frappucino once a year though. Since I don’t like coffee, I don’t like pumpkin spice lattes. There’s also only a short window between when they release pumpkin flavored drinks and it gets cold enough that I don’t want to drink a frozen drink. So mid to late September I usually try and treat myself to what is essentially a pumpkin spice flavored milkshake. I did that on my way to work last week. Now I won’t drink another one until next year.
  • We’ve had some nice weather such that I’ve been driving home from work with my windows down a lot of days. I appreciate days where the temperature is just right to do that. Baltimore doesn’t have too many of them.
  • My neighbors have a bunch of sunflowers growing in their front yard. The other morning as I turned onto my block coming home from my morning walk I saw a guy taking a video of a squirrel running across the fence with a big old sunflower in his mouth. He told me his neighbor wanted to grow sunflowers and he warned him about the squirrels and now had video proof to share with him. It amused me.
  • I feel like I must have mentioned Maillard Patisserie here before. If not I have been remiss. It’s a fairly new bakery around the block from my house. I have already spent way too much money there, but everything is delicious. Sometimes if they don’t sell out they will have mystery bags of 4 items the next morning. I’ve never snagged one before, but last Friday I managed to get the last one. I was a little worried that I would wind up with a bunch of ham and cheese croissants because I don’t like ham and my husband is a vegetarian, but I appreciated that she had the bag labeled as veg so I knew that I was only getting items with no meat in them. I wound up with an almond croissant (my favorite thing there), an everything croissant, a fig and plum galette, and a maple walnut scone. A wonderful bag of mystery indeed.

And now for this week’s musical delights

  • For sure my musical highlight of last week was Allison Russell’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert. So much joy and love. I adore her and the wonderful band of women, the Rainbow Coalition of the Loving. If you need a pick me up and something that will put a smile on your face this is the best 22 minutes you’ll spend all week.
  • I heard the song “Shimmer” by Fuel on the radio the other day. We won’t talk about how it was playing on the Classic rock station and how old that made me feel. It’s a song I literally forget even existed and yet there I was singing all the words to it while driving to work. I always like when radio reminds me of music I didn’t remember even though it was obviously once something I heard all the time.
  • I was trying to listen to the new Marcus Mumford solo album last Friday and accidentally just put on some playlist of his songs on Spotify instead of actually just playing that album so all of a sudden I was listening to the Ted Lasso theme song. It took me a second to place it, but then it put a big smile on my face not because I particularly love that song but because I love Ted Lasso and the song reminded me of it.

Live Music Weekend

I packed a lot of live music into this past weekend much to my husband’s chagrin since he got dragged along for all of it. I have been a long time member of WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania radio station. I get free passes to their annual music festival, the XPonenential Music Festival aka XPNFest, with my membership level. However, until COVID happened the festival was always the same weekend as the Newport Folk Festival, so I was never able to go. Back when we were all young and naive and thinking COVID would be a thing of the past by fall of 2020, they pushed the festival back from July to September. Of course the festival didn’t happen that year, but they announced that they would be keeping the September date permanently because it would offer better weather anyway. They did have the festival in September last year, but I was still leery of large gatherings even outdoors so I didn’t go. I finally took advantage this year.

The festival is a half day Friday, a really full day on Saturday, and then a shorter Sunday. The only band I was super interested in for Friday was The War on Drugs, who I had already seen back in May, so we skipped out on Friday so that we didn’t have to take off work early and didn’t have to pay for an extra night in a hotel. It also meant that on Friday night I could drag my husband down to Annapolis to see Amos Lee in concert. He was playing as part of the inaugural Annapolis Songwriters Festival, which had a mix of over 70 paid and free concerts throughout the week. The concert was outside on City Dock. Madison Cunningham opened for him. I really want to like her more than I do because I keep seeing lots of people talk about her including critics and artists I am generally in alignment with musically, but I just can’t get into most of her music. She was fine, but even live I couldn’t get super into it. Oh well.

I have said it here before and I will continue to say it that Amos Lee’s Thursday night Instagram concerts during the first year of the pandemic really got me through that time, so I relish any chance I get to see him live. It doesn’t happen very often because he never plays in Baltimore. I saw him play a solo acoustic show last summer at Wolf Trap with a half capacity, socially distanced audience. I had tickets to see him play with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center back in April that was rescheduled from pre-COVID, but it was too close to our trip to Hilton Head for me to want to go and risk our vacation. So I was happy to finally get to see him play with his band. I will admit that it was not my most favorite of his sets. I paid to watch his shows from the Ryman and at Red Rocks on this tour and I liked those set lists more. I still enjoyed it though and will happily jump at the chance to see him again any time.

After getting home late Friday night from the Amos Lee show, we got up bright and early Saturday morning to drive up to Camden for XPNFest. We had a hotel booked at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is in walking distance to the festival. You’re pretty much not near anything else, but since we were essentially only going to the festival that was fine and it worked out well that we could just park over there and walk to everything.

I was kind of annoyed at both XPNFest and the Annapolis Songwriters Festival because of all the rules that differed across the 3 different venues I was going to be at and the fact that they didn’t enforce most of them. I think Freedom Mortgage Pavilion is the only one that actually enforced their annoying rules. I don’t consider it freedom to not be able to take my stuff into places anymore for security reasons, but I guess only gun owners freedoms count these days. The security at the other two venues was pretty lax though. I’m used to Newport where they literally do go through every little bit of your stuff thoroughly. In Annapolis and at Wiggins Park they barely glanced at anything. In Annapolis people had bags much larger than were supposedly allowed, and apparently they changed the no chair rule at the last minute I guess because they sold way fewer tickets than expected. I don’t know how other people found this out, but it would have been nice to know so we could have brought ours. Speaking of chairs, the chair height rule at XPNFest was way lower than at Newport, so I spent a bunch of money to buy us new chairs that fit their height requirements and so many people had tall chairs. We could have taken in whatever we want. Why have the rules if you’re not going to enforce them. I’m just mad because I spent so much time and money trying to make sure I complied with everything at each venue and then it mostly didn’t matter.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at XPNFest as the set up is kind of funky. During the day they have shows in Wiggins Park on the waterfront, but then the big headlining shows at night are next door at Freedom Mortgage Pavilion. That holds 25,000 people, but I gathered that they sold additional tickets to those shows beyond the festival and that the Wiggins Park capacity was smaller than that, I just wasn’t sure by how much. Turns out the answer is A LOT. I have no idea what the capacity or attendance actually were, but I know the Newport Folk Festival caps at 10,000 people per day, which is tiny for a music festival, and XPNFest was definitely just a fraction of that. It was a teeny, tiny little baby festival. It also skewed very old. Most of the people there were my parents age. I only saw a handful of people in their 20s and then there were middle aged people, some with kids. I guess it’s because it’s a festival put on by a radio station and kids these days don’t listen to the radio. I did appreciate feeling like I’m not the only old weirdo that’s still into new music, and doesn’t just want to listen to what I enjoyed in high school. I’ve got a long way to go to catch up to most of the people at that this festival.

There were two stages at XPNFest. The River stage is the main stage overlooking the Delaware River and then the Marina stage that is sort of behind it and off to the side a little overlooking, well the marina. They are very close together and you can totally hear the music from anywhere, but the topography of the park means you can’t actually sit at one stage and turn around and actually see the other. They music basically just flips back and forth between the two stages. While they change the sets on one stage music is playing on the other. It was kind of nice not to have the Newport problem of always feeling like I’m missing out on something because there is music happening in too many places at once.

We set ourselves up at the Marina stage both days because there was better shade. I was amused because at most venues people fill in from front to back, but at the River stage people filled in from back to front because that’s where the trees were to provide shade. The Marina stage had more trees that were larger, so there was better shade overall. My husband just stayed put and I just walked over and stood in the back to watch the sets on the River stage.

On Saturday we left the shows at Wiggins Park a little early so that we could go have dinner with one of my oldest friends. We’ve been friends since I moved to Massachusetts in 7th grade. We stayed in touch even after my family moved again right after my Freshman year in high school. Since Baltimore and Philly are fairly close, we have usually been able to see each other once or twice a year. Then COVID happened and we hadn’t seen each other in 3 years. So I wanted to make sure to see her while we were up there. We met up for dinner and got to catch up for a few hours, which was nice. Then my husband and I headed back to the headlining part of the festival in Freedom Mortgage Pavilion.

I’ve talked a lot about the setup but haven’t actually said much about the music. I won’t bore you with an in depth look at every artist. I will just point out a couple of my highlights. I was happy to finally see Lo Moon, who I had tickets to see at a small club in Baltimore back in May but that I didn’t use. I think their music fits better in a dark club at night, but hey if what I can get is a bright stage in the middle of the day I’ll take it. Bartees Strange was definitely the highlight of Saturday. His new album, Farm to Table, is definitely going to be on all the best of 2022 lists. He also has an incredible stage presence. His set was a lot of fun. Sunday was my highlight day though. I was excited to see Buffalo Nichols, who I had been looking forward to at the Newport Folk Festival before we had to abandon ship. I was happy to get a second chance at seeing him. The set I was most looking forward to all weekend was Kathleen Edwards, who I have never seen live but have wanted to for awhile. She was my favorite set of the weekend, and I immediately wanted to go see her live again. So I’m hoping that will happen at some point. Jenny Lewis was the Sunday night headliner, and she also gave a really great performance. I was extremely happy that she played “She’s Not Me” as her second song in the set because it’s my favorite and she doesn’t always play it.

All in all it was a nice little music festival, and I look forward to going again in future years. It’s not the Newport Folk Festival. Going to this just reminded me how special that is. The sense of history and the collaborations that happen there can’t be beat. This was a festival where artists played music and it was enjoyable, but it was each artist doing their own thing. That was not what Newport is about. I will go back to XPNFest and enjoy the music, but Newport is home and where I get to commune with my folk family.

Last Week Delight 7/25/2022

Writing this post this week is real hard because I feel anything but delightful, so indulge my whining for a few moments until we actually get to some delights. It’s kind of weird to be writing a post about delights while crying, but here we are. If you know me at all, you know that the Newport Folk Festival is my favorite weekend of the entire year. It’s the thing I most look forward to doing and really fills my soul to get me through the next year until we go back and do it all over again. But it was all snatched away from me because of stupid COVID and the fact that I’m a responsible human. For the first time ever we had a friend with us driving up and sharing an AirBnB. Unfortunately, she tested positive for COVID on Saturday morning after only the first day of the festival. So we basically quickly packed up all of our stuff and drove home with N95 masks on and the windows open despite the 100 degree heat. Let me tell you that was a long, hot, unpleasant drive. We could have not cared about spreading it and sent her home on a plane and then gone to the festival ourselves knowing that we could be incubating COVID, but we are not those people so we missed out on two days of the festival. I’m just so annoyed because literally I can count on my fingers and tell you the exact times I have spent time with anyone besides my husband unmasked indoors since COVID started and one of the few times I attempt it, it blows up in my face. I’ve missed out on so much in the last two years while everyone else has just gone back to living their lives, and one of the few times I actually try and let myself live a little despite COVID and it gets destroyed. Saying it’s not fair is a really dumb thing to say, but well it’s not fair and I’m mad at the world right now.

I don’t know what is in store for the festival as I write this on Sunday and it’s probably better for my mental health if I never find out what awesome surprises I miss out during the closing Sunday night show (update: it was Joni Mitchell who hasn’t performed a full live set in decades. I’m devastated to have missed it), but I know a bunch of amazing things that I missed out on Saturday and my heart is already broken. Paul Simon showed up as a surprise set closing the festival on Saturday. When he announced his farewell tour a few years ago, knowing that he had somehow never played Newport, I was so sure he was going to be a surprise guest that year. Then he wasn’t and I figured well that’s it. It’s never going to happen. But it did happen and I missed it. Sob!

So I’m sitting at home instead of the festival today wallowing in self pity and wondering if I’m going to test positive for COVID in the next day or two and hiding away from my husband and wearing a mask in all common rooms lest one of us test positive while the other avoids it somehow. Of course I got a big reminder this morning that this self pity I’m sitting in is pretty mis-placed because there are people I know dealing with much bigger challenges than me missing some live music no matter how much I love it. So I’m sending some prayers up for her and giving myself a reality check. So let’s end this pity party and try and find what good we can.

First up a few delights from earlier in the week pre-festival.

  • We record Jeopardy on our DVR and then just watch an episode whenever we have time, thus we are weeks and weeks behind. So in relation to what’s happening on the show currently I don’t know, but two episodes in a row that we watched this past week I got the final Jeopardy answer and none of the contestants did. I always feel super smart when I know it and they all get it wrong and to have it happen two nights in a row made me feel even extra super smart.
  • Cicadas. I’m not talking about the crazy overwhelming number of 17 year cicadas that we experienced in Baltimore last year. I’m just talking about your run of the mill cicadas that come out every year during the heat of the summer. We’ve finally hit that part of summer when they’re out, and I love hearing their hum early in the morning on my walk or in the evening. It’s totally the sound of summer to me.
  • The Mark and Sarah Talk about Songs podcast is just starting a season where they rank 40 songs to determine the most Lilith Fair song of them all. They switched up their format to exclusively do these ranking seasons, and this is their second one. I miss the original format where they used to just talk about a random song each episode and then do a ranking of songs from a particular album every 10th episode and then in March do a larger ranking tournament on a topic, which is what they are doing all the time now. Even though I’m less into the new format, I still like the podcast and am particularly looking forward to this Lilith Fair season that starts for real on the day I’m posting this. They had one short intro episode to the season last week, but this week’s episode starts the actual rankings.

And now onto a few delights I experienced at the extremely short time I got to be at the Newport Folk Festival this year.

  • I made sure to get my lobster roll right away this year. Last year I missed out because the little sandwich shop/ice cream place right by the ferry we take to and from the festival where I used to grab a late dinner from some nights after we got back over on the ferry closed during the pandemic. There’s more like a real restaurant that just opened in that space this year. There was some temporary sandwich place in there last year that didn’t have a lobster roll. I refuse to eat a lobster roll at the actual festival because it seems too dicey to eat something like that in the hot sun. Anyway, this year after we got in on Thursday night, we got dinner from a place that is down the road from where my sister-in-law used to live because I know that they have a lobster roll I enjoy. So I checked that off my list right away.
  • Every year we have gone to the festival there has been this other couple that sets up their blanket and chairs in very near proximity to us. In the 10 years we’ve been going, we’ve never actually spoken with them, but I always see them and they have been my secret festival friends in my head all these years and it makes me happy whenever I see them. I spotted them for the first time this year waiting in the merch line where I made a beeline as soon as the gates opened while my husband went and snagged our normal spot. When I got there he told me the empty chairs in front of us were indeed those of our festival friends who apparently saw him setting up and were like oh it’s you. We sit by you every year. So then I chatted with them when they got back and told them they were my secret festival friends and it made me so happy to find out that we were their secret festival friends right back. She told me I’m always dancing with her at the end of the night even if no one else is. I’m sad I won’t be there to dance with her at the end of this festival. I hope they don’t think we ran away and sat somewhere else instead.
  • Speaking of merch, I’m very happy that I was smart enough to go ahead and wait in line for merch on Friday as well as make it over to the Newport Festival Foundation membership tent to renew our membership that guarantees us the ability to buy tickets for next year’s festival because it’s real hard to get tickets these days otherwise. I would have been devastated if we didn’t have that guarantee and then failed to get tickets next year. So I’m glad I didn’t put that off thinking I still had two more days to deal with it.
  • The festival is held on the grounds of Fort Adams State Park, so there is obviously an old fort there. My friend and I were at the stage that is set up inside the fort watching a set and were sitting up against the fort wall where there was a little bit of shade still. There was a family next to us with two little girls I’m guessing about 6 and 3. The older one came over to us first and gave us little rubber band bracelets that she made. Then her sister came over and gave my friend a sticker. I guess I wasn’t cool enough for a sticker. Then she started telling us all about the ghosts and skeletons that live in the fort, but that we shouldn’t be afraid because if they tried to come out and get us she would kick them for us. It was very adorable. I love that the festival is so family friendly and you see newborn babies to senior citizens.
  • We stayed at probably the best AirBnb I’ve ever stayed in. The property itself was great and really well stocked. And she was super awesome when I told her about having to leave early because of COVID. She refunded us a little bit of money right away and then said that if the guests who were supposed to check in after us on Monday said they wanted to come a day early now she would refund even more of our money, which she just did. So in total we got one of the two nights we didn’t stay refunded. Obviously, she was not required to do any of that, so that fact that she did was super awesome and above and beyond since it meant she lost some money on our booking on a prime weekend. There were some other details that I would mention that would let you connect this post to her booking if you went looking, and since she asked me not to mention the refund in my review I’m going to leave it at that here. But I’m definitely planning on rebooking her place for the festival next year.

Last Week Delight 7/18/2022

Hey it’s been another week. Let’s see what good we can find in it.

  • Arabbers. Arabbers are a long Baltimore tradition and something that at least as far as I’m aware don’t exist anywhere else. I like things like that that are so specific to a place. If you’re not from Baltimore you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Arabbers are vendors who walk around the city selling fruits and vegetables from a horse drawn cart. They have a certain cry that has been passed down to try and draw people out from their houses. There is one that visits my neighborhood and my street seems to be on his route back to the stables. So often in the evening I hear him going by. I like hearing the cries and the jingle of the bells on the horse as he rolls down my street.
  • First images from the James Webb Telescope. NASA released the first images taken by the James Webb Telescope this week. They were very cool looking. I know nothing about space and have no idea what any of it means, but it’s remarkable feat of human achievement. Also, I know several people who have worked on the project over the years, so mostly I’m happy that they finally got to see their work come to fruition when there are so many things that could have gone wrong along the way.
  • Reunion video. My mom’s side of the family had a reunion last weekend with her three brothers and their kids and grandkids. My sister and I were the only slackers that weren’t there. She because she couldn’t get away from work and me because with COVID I was not prepared to fly across the country to Washington state and then hang out with a large group of people. Even though I wasn’t able to make it, my mom asked me to put together a video slide show with photos of everyone plus my deceased grandparents and great-grandparents. I was very pleased with how it turned out, so hopefully everyone who was actually at the reunion enjoyed it.
  • Krispy Kreme donuts. I love me some Krispy Kreme donuts, but there aren’t any particularly close to where I live and I’m not interested enough to drive a half hour just to get one. One of my co-workers brought a box into work this week, so that was a nice yummy surprise.
  • No storm damage. This one probably feels a little bit like rubbing it in to some people, but we had some nasty storms blow through last week. I don’t know anything about weather patterns, but there is obviously something that tends to send the worst of storms north or south of the city. There are many times I look at the radar and see nastiness north and south of us, but the city being in a hole in the middle where we get light rain or nothing at all. That was again the case this past week where we barely got anything in the city, but there were crazy storms all around us that caused a lot of people to lose power for days due to all the downed trees. I’m glad we got to escape it and didn’t have to live without power for any amount of time.
  • Found Charmery card. The Charmery is a local ice cream place in my neighborhood. They have a stamp card that once you get 10 stamps you spin a wheel and get some free item. Most of the spaces are for a free cone, but you can also win some of their more expensive items like milkshakes, sundaes, and floats too. I walk by it every morning on my daily walk and the other morning I found a stamp card that someone had dropped the night before. So free stamp card to me that already had six stamps on it. It was almost like finding money on the sidewalk.
  • Hopkins Farm Brewery. There have been several farms in one of the counties north of Baltimore that have partially or wholly turned into breweries. Hopkins Farm Brewery is in Havre de Grace and not that far for my friends that live up in Harford County, though it’s a trek for us from the city. My friend’s birthday was on Friday and she wanted to meet up there to celebrate, so we braved the rush hour traffic and went up. Luckily there are scenic back road ways to get up there, so we didn’t sit in much actual traffic, but it still took an hour and fifteen minutes to get up there. Luckily with no traffic and the ability to take the highway on the way home it was just over 45 minutes, which is still long but better. That’s all to say that I very much enjoyed the atmosphere, but won’t be making a regular habit of hanging out there. They have lots of tables set up in the field next to the bar where you can get drinks. They also usually have a food truck or two on site, though you’re also welcome to bring a picnic just not any outside alcoholic drinks. There was a pizza truck and an asian noodle/rice bowl truck the night we were there. They also had some live music, which was just what you want for this kind of setting. Someone playing cover songs loud enough to hear but not so loud that you have to shout to hear the people you’re with. I always think it must be a little demoralizing to be the musical performer in that kind of situation, but that’s how a lot of people play live music for money as background noise. It was a really pleasant evening and something I totally do more often if it weren’t so far away.
  • And for your musical delight this week I have the first listen of Delta Rae’s Southern gothic music, The Ninth Woman. Delta Rae is a band I love from Durham, North Carolina. They did a Kickstarter a few years ago that went way beyond their wildest imagination and became the highest grossing indie band Kickstarter in history. They met their initial goal in under an hour, so they kept adding stretch goals over the course of the month that the Kickstarter was live. Their biggest stretch goal was write what they called a Southern gothic musical. They did a live event last Thursday night to share 8 of the 26 songs that will eventually make up the musical. It takes place in the lost Roanoke colony where children have been disappearing and the townspeople have attributed it to witchcraft. They have already condemned 8 women to death for witchcraft and now the titular ninth woman has been accused and turned in by her brothers, but it turns out in this case she is in fact actually a witch. I very much enjoyed what they shared during this first listen and am definitely looking forward to hearing the full thing and hopefully one day actually seeing it performed as a theatrical piece. I expected the live event to just be live, but it looks like at least for now you can go back and watch a recording of the event. So go have a listen if you’re interested.

Last Week Delight 7/11/2022

Time for my weekly roundup of things that delighted me in the past week. I can tell you it’s not this hangnail that developed today. Why are those things so freaking painful?

  • Ever since my cat got diagnosed with cancer I’ve been waiting for her to get really sick and eventually die. Luckily so far she’s been in pretty good shape since we started pumping her full of drugs to help with her symptoms and keep her comfortable. If you didn’t know her previous routines you would just think she was a healthy, normal old lady cat. But she has developed completely new routines from where she sleeps and spends her time. Every once in awhile she acts like her old self sleeping in our bed and doing stuff like demanding pets from me whenever I walk by her. She did both of those things last week, and I try to cherish them because I know they probably won’t last much longer.
  • I got a nice little ego boost last week when I got a recruitment email from another library asking me to apply to a position they had open. It fits very nicely with my skills, and is a job that I think I would be well qualified for and would probably enjoy. However, I do like my current job, and there’s no way I’m moving where this job is. So, it will just stay a little hit to my ego and nothing more.
  • It’s the time of year for lightning bugs. What a crazy miracle they are. So magical to watch. Like how do they even exist and why? I have many wonderful memories of trying to catch them as a kid. I don’t catch them anymore, but I find it no less fascinating to watch them twinkle.
  • We went on a work field trip to a local museum that is one of those old, rich people houses that is now a museum. It was fun to get out of the library for a few hours and have a little outing with my coworkers.
  • My church had a picnic after services on Sunday. I debated about whether or not to go. First off, now that I’m within the window of if I get COVID I probably don’t get to go to the Newport Folk Festival this year, I’m being even more paranoid about COVID than usual. Second, I just feel very disconnected from people at church these days. A lot of people I knew the best have either left the church completely since COVID or are just still doing services online, so while I recognize the same people there week after week now that I’ve gone back in person I don’t really know most of them. I’m not good at talking to people I don’t know in the best of times, and throw in paranoia about getting anywhere close to people and catching COVID and it does not really make for a situation where I’m getting to know new people. It was such a nice day out that I couldn’t say no to going, so I did and I talked to a bunch of people I didn’t know. So yay for me as long as I don’t have COVID in the next few days.
  • We went to the drive-in to see Thor: Love and Thunder on Thursday. I am a big fan of the Thor movies, even the first couple that everyone else hates and routinely rank at the bottom of the MCU. They’d show up in the top third of my list. I was not interested in it enough to go brave a movie theater again like I did for Maverick. I happened to look at the Bengie’s Drive-In schedule and noticed that for opening night they were going to be a doing a single showing of Thor. Usually they have Double or Triple features and the movie I want to see is one of the later ones, which I am too old to stay up that late for. Since you have to wait until it’s dark at the drive-in this didn’t start until 8:45, which was pushing my ability to stay awake. Going to the drive-in has long been on my list of things to do in Baltimore, but I never did it for one reason or another. I’m glad the pandemic finally pushed me into and that occasionally it’s an option for seeing a movie I want to see on the big screen even if I don’t want to go sit in a movie theater with a bunch of maskless people.

And now for your musical delights

  • Speaking of Thor: Love and Thunder. I very much appreciated the use of Guns ‘N’ Roses’ music in the film. It was pretty perfect. Though after pretty much solely relying on them to soundtrack the movie they threw a Dio song over the credits which annoyed me. Why not go with another Guns ‘N’ Roses song?
  • As I mentioned in my previous post WXPN is doing themed Throwback Thursdays programming during the summer. This past week they were playing songs from 1982 and one of the songs they played was Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out”. I have loved this song since I was a kid, but it’s not one I hear very often. I have a weird memory that may or may not be factual or something that I just made up. It involves me hearing this song in a K-Mart as a kid. That’s pretty much the memory, but I legit think of K-Mart every time I hear this song.

Last Week Delight 7/5/2022

One day it might be a delight to start one of these posts without feeling the need to say something about what a week it’s been, but let’s see what delights I found it anyway. This unfortunately isn’t going to be that week, and I’m typing this while seeing stories about the shooting at the Independence Day Parade in Highland Park, Illinois so it sure as hell isn’t going to be next week either. But to keep from curling up in a permanent ball of despair, let’s see what good I was able to find in the world last week.

  • I had several joys going to the Baltimore Museum of Art last week.
    • I had a floating holiday to use up before the end of June, so I took off work on Thursday. I’ve been meaning to get to the Baltimore Museum of Art to see the Guarding the Art exhibit, and since it closes on July 10 I decided I better use my day off to get over there. The exhibit is a really cool idea that I’m sure a lot of other museums are destined to copy. They hired some of their security guards to curate an exhibit of artwork owned by the museum. It was interesting to see what people chose. Some were pieces of art that related to their lives or things going on in the world. Some were pieces they found humor in, especially as it related to their jobs as security guards. After being unable to find Puerto Rican artwork in the collection, one person selected three small ancient statues and left the fourth pedestal in the case empty as a statement to encourage museums to be more representative in their collections. I liked reading about why each person selected the art they chose for the exhibit and being able to see some of the museum’s artworks in a new light.
    • This was my first trip to any museum since COVID happened. Even though I can walk to the Baltimore Museum of Art from my house and they have free admission other than for special exhibits, I don’t get over there often enough and certainly not since I still barely do anything indoors. Anyway, I specifically went to see the Guarding the Art exhibit and the special Joan Mitchell exhibit, which is ticketed. My last time there was shortly before the pandemic started and didn’t expect that a whole lot would have changed in that time, but I found some new permanent pieces that I liked as well as a Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love exhibit I didn’t know about. I had never heard of him before. He is a contemporary artist who was born in Pakistan, but lives in New York. His artwork centers around South Asian queer people. I was very taken with it. He has a very specific painting technique that I was fascinated by and would definitely be able to pick out even though I don’t really know that much about art. The exhibit is there until October, so if you’re in Baltimore go check it out.
    • I also really enjoyed the sound of being back in a museum. It’s something I had never really thought about before, but there is a certain sound of walking around art galleries on their wooden floors that involves the echo of your steps and the creaking and popping of the wood floors that stands out in the space particularly when a gallery is not crowded. It’s consistent across so many museums and I realized is part of what I associate with the museum going experience even though until I was away from it for so long I never stopped to think about it.
  • I got an advanced reader’s copy of Mad Honey, the new book co-authored by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan. I could not put this book down. I read it for like 5 hours straight and only stopped because I really needed to go to bed. Had I started it earlier in the day I would have finished it in one sitting. As much as I read it’s been a long time since I read a book that I couldn’t put down like that. Also, I encourage you to avoid reading anything about this book ahead of time because I fear that at some point people are inadvertently going to start giving away something that happens about halfway through that I did not at all see coming and made me say “holy shit” out loud as I was reading. It becomes very woven into the second half of the book, so I can see people start to give it away without even thinking about it. I would almost feel bad telling you there is a twist, but by now Jodi Picoult fans should expect that.
  • My friends had people over for a pool party and bbq to celebrate the Fourth of July, although we did it on the 3rd instead so that it wasn’t a work night. Their neighbors usually shoot off fireworks, but since we were doing the party not on the 4th I wasn’t sure if I would see any fireworks this year. They too seemed to have their party on Sunday and set off fireworks, so I was happy to get a fireworks fix in.
  • One of my other joys at the party was at one point I was the only adult in the pool with all the kids. I was playing with some of them. A couple of them were hanging on me and one of them said to the other you have to share the adult. It cracked me up.
  • This past Friday my New Music Friday post was about Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul”, and I mentioned hearing it first in the Switched on Pop podcast. I decided to save this tidbit for my delights post instead of writing about it in my music post. I was having such fun listening to it because there were so many times I was thinking something and then they would start talking about exactly that. For instance, how I already mentioned that as soon as I heard the first snippet I thought it sounded exactly like Robin S.’s “Show Me Love” and then they talked all about that and how the songwriters for that song were given credit on the Beyoncé song. Then they started talking about why they got credit even though it’s not actually sampling the song, and I was like Blurred Lines case. Then boom that’s what they were talking about. There was a lot of me shouting yes and pointing wildly at my phone while I was on my walk. I get way into podcasts sometimes. I feel like there must be people who drive by me on their commute every morning and think to themselves there’s that crazy woman again. Anyway, a podcast episode obviously about music given the podcast that also weaves in some copyright discussions is tailor made for me. I am such a nerd, but hey I love what I love. And now I can add this example to my arsenal the next time I teach a workshop to students on music copyright.

Back to Broadway Baby

In April of 2020 my friend Jenny and I had tickets to see Company on Broadway. I was super excited to see it because it was a gender flipped production that originally premiered in the West End, and it’s the first show I ever considered flying to London to see. So I was super happy when they announced a Broadway run. Then COVID happened and the show had to shut down before it officially opened. They refunded our tickets, and it was unclear if the show would ever return.

Jenny, another friend Sarah, and I also had purchased tickets in August of 2019 to see The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in November of 2020. We joked about how long it was going to be before we actually got to see the show. Little did we know. That show they never refunded our money, they just kept rescheduling it. I think we rescheduled it three times with the final date for this past weekend. When it finally seemed like that date was going to stick and Company announced that they were going to reopen and put tickets back on sale we decided to rebuy the tickets for the same weekend, make it a two show day, and stay overnight instead of doing a day trip.

As you know if you know anything about me, I have been super cautious during COVID due to my immunocompromised status and have pretty much done very little in the past few years. This was the biggest thing I have done since the pandemic started. I’m glad these tickets were happily timed in the lull that it seems we’re going to get between Omicron variant surges. Hopefully the semi-low case rate plus keeping my N95 plastered to my face pretty much any time we weren’t in our hotel room or when we were eating outside kept me safe. Our friend Sarah decided she wasn’t ready yet to do something involving that many people which I get, but luckily my friend Jenn who lives in New York City agreed to take those tickets so they didn’t go to waste. Plus it meant that I got to hang out with her for the first time in two and half years which I was very happy about.

Music Man was enjoyable. I thought Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster brought a good, fun energy to their roles and had good chemistry together. The ensemble was really good. I also forgot how fond I am of all the songs in a Music Man. I very much enjoyed the show, but it was nothing groundbreaking for sure. It’s the Music Man as the Music Man ever was. I kind of like that my first show back was a classic though.

While I liked the Music Man, I absolutely adored Company. As I mentioned earlier this is a somewhat gender flipped revival of the 1970 Sondheim musical. Bobby, the central character of the show, who is usually a man was a woman in this production played by Katrina Lenk. Thus the three characters that Bobbie dates in this production were gender flipped to male. They also turned the couple Paul and Amy into a gay couple Paul and Jamie. I think all the changes worked really well. As the show is about a character turning 35 and feeling pressured by their friends and society to be married, I saw some people saying making Bobbie a woman was going to not read very well in this day and age. I didn’t feel that way at all though. I just felt like the show was a commentary on the good and bad of marriage and relationships and figuring out what that means in your own life.

In addition to the gender flipped aspect of it, I was also really keen on seeing this production because Patti Lupone has been starring as Joanne in it both in the West End and now on Broadway. Patti Lupone is Broadway royalty, and I had never seen her in a live production until now. She’s 72, so she’s getting up there in age and it’s unclear how many more chances I would have had to see her. Luckily she survived getting COVID a few weeks ago and was back in the show in time for our show. I would have been so disappointed if she hadn’t been there.

I wish that I had seen another actual production of Company prior to this one, so that I had a reference point for how it’s been staged before. I’ve seen the D.A. Pennebaker documentary Original Cast Album: Company about the recording of the original cast album. There was a staged concert production for the New York Philharmonic in 2011 that they filmed and released in movie theaters for a few showings as part of those Fathom events that Jenny and I went to see, but it wasn’t a fully staged production so it still didn’t give me a full sense of how it’s been staged in the past. I’m just very curious because I thought the staging for this production was fantastic and very clever. The number “Getting Married Today” was particularly amazing. I loved the whole thing and am so very glad that COVID did not ruin my chance to see it but just delayed it for a little while.

It was so great to be back in New York City after so long. I’m used to going several times a year, so this was a long break for me, and I realized how much I missed going up there. Despite some COVID precautions like wearing a mask constantly and not eating inside despite the lousy weather, it felt almost like a normal thing which is something I haven’t felt in a very long time.

Long Weekend in Lewes

I decided a few weeks ago that I needed a real break from life and from work. After pretty much losing my entire in-person social life once the weather got cold and it was too cold to do things outside and having all my holiday plans canceled thanks to Omicron, I was at a point where I needed something to look forward to and some actual human interaction. I knew my husband would have President’s Day off, and I needed to use up some vacation time so I figured it would be a good weekend to go away. I asked one of our other couple friends if they wanted to join us, and they said yes. They laid low the week before we left, and we all tested before the trip to be as safe as possible.

I had never been to Lewes, Delaware before. I was looking for something in easy driving distance for both of us and another couple that we’re friends with loves it there and goes multiple times a year. So I thought if I could find a decent place to stay it seemed like a good winter beach getaway. From what I could tell it has a cute little downtown area, but since unless you’re new here you already know I’m still pretty much living in my own private COVID lockdown due to being immunocompromised. So we didn’t really get to enjoy the full experience the town had to offer, but maybe some future trip.

Even if just spent a lot of time hanging around in the house that we rented, it was still a nice, much needed getaway. I went out for walks on the beach every day, which is one of my favoritest things to do in the whole wide world. It’s nicer when it’s warm, but it was still pleasant in the cold too. I don’t actually think I would want to go to Lewes in the summer because the beach is not very wide, at least where we were staying, and it has to be insanely crowded when the town is full of summer beach vacationers.

We also went to Cape Henlopen State Park one afternoon, which was not too far from where we were staying. We just walked around the paved bike loop trail and walked out to the end of the fishing pier. It’s an interesting park in that it’s an old fort, Fort Miles, that from what I gather was mostly used during WWII but was in some sort of operation until the 90s when more and more parcels of land got ceded over the state for a park. But you also have beachy stuff in there too. So it’s quite a juxtaposition. I kept being annoyed because even though the park does indeed have many, many signs in it, somewhere every time we got to some junction where we were trying to figure out which way to go there was never a sign that was helpful to us. It might be nice to check out some of the non-paved, sandy trails at some point if we ever go back.

Mostly though we just hung around in the house, chatted, and played games. We made breakfast and lunch and then found places to get take out for dinner. I was pleased because there was a barbecue place that had baby back ribs and also had something my vegetarian husband could eat. Although we do have a good barbecue place in our neighborhood that he can eat at, which is rare for barbecue joints, they only have St. Louis Style ribs, which I don’t like as much. That’s pretty much true of all the barbecue places in Baltimore. If they have ribs at all they’re St. Louis style. So I was happy to have a chance to eat baby back ribs for a change.

There is also a ferry that runs from Lewes to Cape May, NJ. We weren’t prepared to sit inside a ferry cabin at this point, and it was obviously too cold to stand outside on the deck, but it might be fun if we go back in the future to take the ferry over for the day and check out Cape May, which I hear is lovely but where I have also never been.

All in all it was a very lovely weekend away, and I’m really glad I decided to put it together.

Thanksgiving 2021

It’s a little hard to be thankful right now when I feel like I’m going to be forever stuck in this pandemic and half of the people in this country are actively trying to prolong it. I feel like I’m never going to be able to do the things I love again. But as much as I feel like life sucks right now, I am very much still thankful for things. I thought about making a list like I often have in previous years, but this year I’m just going to concentrate on the one thing I’m most thankful for this year, which is my friends.

At a point in time where most people have gone back to living their lives like they did pre-pandemic including my friends, I am thankful that I have a lot of people in my life who know that I am immunocompromised and am not experiencing the same freedom that they are and have continued to adjust things in their lives to include me. They are what is keeping me sane. So thank you to friends who do online game night with me most weeks. Thank you to friends who have agreed to shift back to online book clubs after delta ruined our plans to meet in person. Thank you to friends who when someone says why don’t we go to a bar for happy hour have said how about everyone comes over and we hang out on my porch instead. Thank you to friends who have invited me to fun outdoor events. Thank you to friends who have checked in on party plans to make sure I’d be okay with the set-up. Thank you to all my friends who are adjusting their lives to make sure I still feel included even when it would easier not to. You will never know how much it means to me. I love you all dearly and am so blessed and happy to have you all in my lives. So this year friends, I am thankful for you and I am hopeful that finally in 2022 we will get to start living more normal lives.