Showing posts with label Norwalk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Norwalk. Show all posts

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Musical Week

It’s our universal language and while the political discourse is discordant, music seems to bring out our commonalities.  Our favorite musical genres are songs from Broadway, the Great American Songbook, and Jazz and so it was with much anticipation that we looked forward to last week which began with a show at the Delray Beach Playhouse, I Believe in You! – The Songs of Frank Loesser.

Ann arranged a preshow dinner at Racks Fish House off Delray’s famous (and congested) Atlantic Avenue, a happening place.  It was a balmy early April evening, with a nice breeze so we dined al fresco.  Imagine our surprise reading the appetizer menu which included Copps Island, CT oysters!  Copps Island which is connected at low tide to Crow Island is where we have taken our boat for the last 35 years during the summers, anchoring there on weekends.  So here we were, some 1,250 miles away dining on wild oysters from those very waters.  These are bottom planted as opposed to cage or floating trays and the oysters are known for “sweet briny flavor and plump meats. “  It was a nice and nostalgic start to the evening.

Delray Beach Playhouse which opened in 1947 is a community theatre featuring everything from one person acts to full scale plays.  They have a dedicated audience, we now among them.  But who knew, the playhouse is on Lake Ida, a fresh water lake right off of I95, comprising 121 acres, but seeming much larger than that as it is long and narrow.  Looking at it is reminiscent of our days on Lake George in NY and Candlewood Lake in CT as one can see similar boat houses and lake front homes.

I Believe in You! – The Songs of Frank Loesser was narrated by Randolph DelLago who has been the Resident Artistic Director of the Playhouse since 1982.  He also sings in this production.  When one thinks of Frank Loesser, one recalls the iconic Guys and Dolls, one of the great classic musicals of Broadway’s Golden Era.  It perhaps has more recognizable songs than any other musical, including those of Rogers and Hammerstein.  He only wrote four other musicals, The Most Happy Fella and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, being the most notable.  Songs were performed from all of these with original still scenes projected on a backdrop.  The Most Happy Fella has one of the most moving rhapsodic opera style songs ever written for the Great White Way, “My Heart is So Full of You,” one of my favorites for the piano, with an exotic bridge section of eight bars.

But Loesser, who was cast out by his family as they thought “songwriting” was beneath their dignity (his father was a piano teacher and his brother was a classical piano prodigy), found his roots in popular song in Hollywood before migrating to Broadway.  There are many memorable songs he wrote for The Great American Songbook and this show had many, such as “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You,” “Heart and Soul,” “On a Slow Boat to China,” “Two Sleepy People,”“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,”“No Two People,” and “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” (the latter being another personal piano favorite of mine).  Along with DelLago, performances were given by Alicia Branch-Stafford, a soprano, baritone William Stafford, and Hanz Eneart who added a little cabaret dancing to the show as well as joining the ensemble in song with a comedic rendition of” Once in Love with Amy.”

Breaking up the week was a trip to Peanut Island with my friend John, a destination on the boat which will become more frequent as the water warms to bathtub temperatures.  Amazing that at one time in my life, jumping into the waters off of Copps Island into 70 degree water was refreshing but now wadding into Peanut’s current 79 degree water seems difficult!  Maybe that’s because the air temperature on Thursday was in the high 80s.  Got home late in the afternoon, just in time to clean the boat with John, shower, and get ready to go to the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.

There we saw West Side Story towards the end of its run, so I am not publishing a full review.  This is what the Maltz Theatre does best but, still, we were a little concerned about seeing this yet again.  Could it still possibly be fresh (although the music by Bernstein and lyrics by Sondheim are immortal)?

The short answer is a resounding yes!  I think some of the classic musicals are being looked at in a new light, due to the times and the influence of Hamilton.  Most recently this is apparent with the Circle in the Square’s current production of Oklahoma which some have criticized as a travesty, irreverent to Rogers and Hammerstein’s intent.  I’m not too sure, although that was my knee jerk reaction.  Now, thinking about it, and reading more about it, I’m willing to be persuaded and therefore we’re going to see it sometime in August.  I’ll be lining up for the chili and corn bread!

There is a dark side to Oklahoma, as in all of the R&H plays.  Just think of Billy Bigalow’s corruptibility in Carousel, or the racial tensions of South Pacific and The King and I, the lurking Nazi shadows in The Sound of Music.  These musicals were played out for the audiences of their times with relatively happy resolutions (just what was expected then).  One could cast them now in an entirely different light and why not?

In a sense, the Maltz’s interpretation of West Side Story has been so influenced.  A framing device of Hurricane Maria has been introduced.  How ironic is that, the Maria of the story picking up after Hurricane Maria, alone with her memories of Tony?  This scene reprises at the end of the show.  It was a lovely, moving touch, particularly in the light of how this terrible storm has been politicized.

And with Puerto Rican born Marcos Santana’s direction and musical staging, we have more of a take on the Sharks rather than the Jets.  The hell-bent fury of xenophobic victimization is explosively probed by Angel Lozada who plays Bernardo.  Michelle Alves performance as Anita is more than up to the easily remembered performance of Chita Rivera in that part.  Alves is every bit as dynamic as a dancer and is a very talented vocalist as well.

Not enough praise can be directed toward Jim Schubin who plays Tony and Evy Ortiz as Maria.  Schubin brings a strong sense of constant optimism and wonder to the role as well as a clear tenor voice.  Ortiz is the ideal Maria, a soprano and coloratura who is radiant in the role of Maria (she was recently on the West Side Story national tour).  They had the perfect chemistry as Tony and Maria and their duets soared.

The choreography by Al Blackstone (with additional choreography by the director), gives a hat tip to Jerome Robbins’ choreography but is original and pulsating on the Maltz stage.  It’s a smaller cast than the original musical, but one would not know it.

With the refugee crisis of our times, it was time to look at West Side Story through a different lens, and the Maltz comes through. 

And last night we attended the 1st Palm Beach International Jazz Festival, the first, we hope, of many in the future.  It is the idea of one of South Florida’s premier jazz singers, Yvette Norwood-Tiger, who has traveled the world with her interpretations of jazz classics, particularly songs sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.  She performs in six languages including English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Xhosa.

She created an afternoon and evening performance with different groups and singers.  We attended the evening performance and thus my comments are confined to that.

First up was Marlow Rosado, a Latin Jazz pianist from Puerto Rico, and his group.  Rasado is a salsero, and is imposing at the piano with his driving salsa rhythms, somewhat reminiscent of Monte Alexander.  I said to Ann that I’ve never seen a pianist who could pass as a football tight end and the physicality of his performance spoke wonders.  He posted last night’s performance on Facebook, so you can catch him there.
Next up was Eric & The Jazzers, a South Florida group of professional musicians that play swing/bebop from the great era of Duke Ellington.  Eric Trouillot also served as MC for the night’s performances, a guy from the Bronx who brought out the best of the very well represented NYC crowd (including us).

His group’s trumpet player, Yamin Mustafa, is one of the best we’ve heard and pianist, Chad Michaels, obviously has studied Oscar Peterson’s technique closely. As Mustafa said, the group’s musical selections are eclectic.

But the star of the night was clearly the evening’s organizer, Yvette Norwood-Tiger.  Yvette is a survivor of a benign yet life-threatening brain tumor because of its size and position, but had a successful operation some seven years ago.  Every time we’ve seen her she encourages the audience to “find that door opening” and for her it is singing Horace Silver’s jazz classic "Song for My Father."  Naturally, Yvette means it quite literally, thanking God for the opportunity to continue on with her unique gifts, a powerful yet sometimes subtle interpreter of the Great American Songbook. 

Backing her up musically were all the “old gang” we see almost every Sunday night at Double Roads in Jupiter, her musical director for the evening and oh-so talented pianist, also the co founder of the Jupiter Jazz Society, Rick Moore.  Along with Rick were Marty Gilman, on sax and flute, Joshua Ewers on bass and Michael Mackey on trumpet.  Marty is a multitalented musician who can play a large number of instruments at the professional level and we watched Joshua and Michael while they were still in high school, and have now grown into professional musicians in their own right.

And to bring this entry back to where it began (remember, Copps Island, in the Norwalk CT chain of islands), I learned that Horace Silver (Yvette’s tribute composer), was born in Norwalk, CT so it seems that all roads lead back to our years there.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Another Goodbye

Our summer on the boat is already drawing to a close.  Hard to believe, the seasons, the years, kaleidoscopically flying by.  This is an unusual year for us, a late arrival and now an early departure as we are flying to London to visit old homes, haunts (mainly theaters and museums) and friends. I call it my London farewell tour. We’ll be there for a week and then board a ship in Southampton for an Atlantic crossing, our fifth and our last such crossing as well.  The cruise makes several stops including, Rotterdam, two in Norway, the Shetland Islands, and three in Iceland, Boston where we’ll have a day with our son, Chris, ultimately arriving at the Brooklyn pier (Brooklyn figures prominently in my life).  Jonathan will meet us there with our car packed and from there we’ll begin our drive back home.

It will be some time before we return home; meanwhile my blog will go into “quiet mode” as it is impossible to update while traveling.

Wistfully, I post some pictures to mark our departure:

 Pecks Ledge Lighthouse in the background, a shot from the cockpit as the boat returns to port.

 A sunset scene back at the dock, a sailboat languorously passing by the homes on the east shore of the Norwalk River where we used to live.

 Perhaps the original house in Shorefront Park where I walk in the mornings, built in 1870, set high on a hill, one time overlooking the river but now with the entire area fully developed, homes blocking the view.

The Thunderbird of my teenage dreams as exhibited on “Cruisin’ Night” at our Club.

 Another sunset overlooking the bow of our boat.

And finally, a moonrise on the Norwalk River.

Hope to return next year!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Time Out

Swept Away

I've stepped out of the blogging batter’s box for a while.  In fact, there will be more breaks over the next couple of months.  A few of my faithful readers have wondered where we are, why the silence, and although writing from our present location on a boat is complicated, this entry plus some photos addresses that question.  But it results in a Facebook-type entry, just personal minutiae best ignored by others.

It’s that time of the year again for us, driving up from Florida to move onto our boat in Connecticut. Our son Jonathan now maintains the boat so he’s entitled to use it as if it is his own; thus our time here has diminished over the years.  The “old girl,” ‘Swept Away’ stands tall. Optimistically speaking from a health viewpoint, next year we might just fly and rent a car while here.  This is the 17th time we’ve done this drive together, and this one was the worst.

Perhaps gas prices and a pent up urge to hit the American road, mostly I95 for this trip, has had their impact.  Hotels were sold out along the way, some sleeping in their cars at rest stops.  Luckily, we had reservations and the weather cooperated so we could keep to our schedule, first stopping in Savannah, having dinner with our friends Suzanne and George who we don’t often have an opportunity to see.

Then we drove the longer haul to Frederiksburg, VA on a Saturday so we were in a prime position to go through Washington early on Sunday morning.  In spite of having made the journey so many times, between today’s GPS “preferred route” and utterly bewildering signs, we now seem to miss the connection from I95 to I495 and this time had to correct that by going through Laurel MD, but early enough to make the detour just a minor inconvenience.  From the Jersey Turnpike to Norwalk though it was bumper to bumper with frustrated drivers 25 cars deep at gas stops on the Turnpike to take advantage of Jersey’s lower prices.  I topped off in Delaware, not that much price difference, and that was sufficient to get us here plus.  After the narrow Garden State Parkway, zany drivers zigzagging to get a few car lengths ahead, we crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge less than 48 hours before a construction crane collapsed across the roadway, creating a traffic nightmare but luckily no loss of life.

It’s a massive structure that is being built to replace the aging bridge.  When I was a kid my father had a 35’ Owens that he and I brought up the Hudson River to Poughkeepsie.  We stopped overnight at a marina that was at the base of the Tappan Zee then under construction.  So I’ve seen two bridges being built there and amazing I’ve seen the entire life span of one, its construction and before long its destruction.

Arriving in Norwalk felt like we achieved a military objective without casualties.  Thankfully, our son and girlfriend Tracie were here to meet us, help us unpack the car and even prepare dinner, sparing us yet another restaurant visit.

Low Tide Shorefront Park
The first order of business the next day was to get my sneakers on and resume my early morning walk routine, at home the golf course in North Palm Beach, and Shorefront Park here.  Amazing, years after Hurricane Sandy its impact is still being felt in this area, homes being torn down or raised (the flooding here ruined many houses).  So there are empty lots and the homes that are not simply being raised with the help of insurance companies are new “McMansions.”  The whole character of the neighborhood is changing from one that felt so familiar to me from my childhood in Richmond Hill, Queens to one of wealth, progress I guess, but a loss of a time when we mere mortals could enjoy New England waterfront.  Over to you hedge fund managers and real estate moguls!


It only took a few days before s**t happened, breaking a tooth on, of all things, cucumber salad (guess it was ready to go).  I knew a crown would be inevitable and my instinct was to fly home to my dentist, but that would have required multiple trips as he would put in a temp while the crown was being made.  Our friend Cathy here suggested her dentist who makes his own crowns while you wait using the Terec system which I can only liken  to a 3D printing system, the dentist shaping the remaining tooth into a post and using CAD technology to design a crown, a porcelain/ceramic substitute, it being manufactured while you wait.  Two plus hours later, voila, I walked out of the office with a new tooth!  Luckily for me he had a cancellation so within 24 hours what I thought would be a nightmare was immediately resolved.  Thanks, Cathy and Dr. Tamucci!

Copps, Crow, Chimons Islands
So, we begin our “vacation” with this past weekend being hotter here than in Florida.  Jon and Tracie came up from the City on Sunday and we all went out to our mooring set among the Norwalk Islands.  We and our friends used to be the head of the nautical “wagon train” out to the islands, our kids tagging along and now the reins have been turned over to them, we the passengers. Ironic to look around, seeing all the islands,  remembering  them from four decades ago, but watching our “kids” now in charge, we tying up our boat to one of theirs.

As I began this very personal entry with a baseball metaphor, I conclude with the realization that we’re no longer the generation on deck, but the one in the batter’s box facing a full count. If we cannot continue to get hits, hopefully we’ll foul some off.
Sunset at SNBC

Friday, July 17, 2015

Another Summer, Another Year

This is a continuation of the prior entry, written a couple of weeks and 1,250 miles ago, the flip side of the same old 33 we’ve played on the record player before.  But oh that drive up I95!  I figure that over the years I’ve driven that road some 35 times one way.  At one time we did it over one night, but as we’ve aged have chosen a more “leisurely” two night drive, although this means schlepping bags into a hotel, not once, but twice.  We try to time our drive so we’re passing by Washington at about 8.00 AM on Sunday morning, just about the most benign time to traverse that heavily travelled corridor.  In fact, this time we didn’t take the I495 bypass but went straight through Washington, to the Washington-Baltimore Parkway, and was able to enjoy the sights of Washington we don’t normally see from I495.

We listen to “books on tape” for most of the long, tedious drive and we were particularly pleased with our first choice, The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  Just about a perfect book to pass the time, 85 year old Addie Baum’s recollection of coming of age in early 20th century Boston, as told to her granddaughter.  This was very competently read by Linda Lavin who balanced an immigrant Jewish accent with that of a new Bostonian.  Highly recommended as something to listen to (not sure I would want to read it though).

First stop, as usual, was Savannah, an easy six hour drive from our house, where we meet up with our friends Suzanne and George, a tradition going back many years.  Remarkable, warm people – I had recently written about them in this entry.

After enjoying a leisurely dinner with them, catching up on recent events, particularly health issues, and an early to bed, we were up first thing in the morning to get the next leg out of the way, a 7 plus hour drive to Fredericksburg.  But that morning – in spite of having run the car six hours the day before -- we were greeted by the dreaded “click-click” of a dead battery, and this at 6 AM on July 4.  Obviously the battery was no longer accepting a charge from the alternator so we immediately called AAA, but they could only give us a charge, which would not solve the problem.  They could not replace the battery as the Mercedes ML 350’s is under the passenger’s seat!  Mercedes to the rescue, their customer service dispatched a very proficient young man from a nearby garage within 20 minutes, who had the correct battery and replaced it in another 30, and we were on our way, about an hour “behind schedule.” 

One never knows what to expect as one approaches the Fredericksburg area.  I’ve seen traffic there as horrendous as Washington’s.  Luckily, most people were probably already at their destination on the 4th so we arrived at our hotel with enough time to unwind and prepare for dinner. I revere the historical significance of the 4th but without the fireworks, one of the reasons we travel over the holiday.

We’ve stayed at many of the Hampton Inns up and down I95 including this one in South Fredericksburg and remembered there was only one restaurant within easy walking distance (hate getting back into the car after all those jaw clinching hours on the road).  That restaurant is “Hooters,” a most unlikely place to find a couple of septuagenarians.  Well, on the way walking there, this only two weeks after Ann had arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus on her left knee, she slipped on some wet grass, her left leg completely folding underneath her.  Nearby people saw her slip and a young Good Samaritan came running over to help me lift her up. We thought she compromised her operated knee, but, instead she pulled thigh muscles above and behind the knee, so not only did we old folks arrive at Hooters, but stumbled in, Ann asking for ice to put on her thigh.  Talk about attracting attention to yourself.

They were accommodating, bringing bags of ice for Ann to use, and one thing we’ll say about Hooters other than the obvious, they have some tasty grilled food if you’re into that kind of thing.  I had a burger and Ann a rack of ribs.  She ordered a glass of wine and they carded her; obviously their policy to card everyone and that way they stay out of trouble, period.  You must be kidding we thought, but probably a good policy so assuredly no one under age can “look” old enough to imbibe. However, Ann’s pocketbook was in the hotel and as I don’t drink, I ordered the wine for her, she ordered my Coke, so when they carded me, I gave the very attractive young waitress who was now sitting at our table in her official Hooters outfit, my laminated university student ID card which I carry around as a joke (still in pristine condition, better than me!).  She said, what’s this?  I said it’s my official picture ID.  She said who is this?  I asked how old she was.  She said 19 and I replied that was exactly my age in the picture.  Rather than drag her head about the philosophical implications, tempus fugit, etc., I unceremoniously pulled out my license.

We arrived at the boat on Sunday afternoon and after our son, Jonathan, and his girl friend, Anna, helped us unpack, they served US dinner (for a change).  Nice to see them, one of the reasons we still do this, and we went to bed exhausted and in some chaos.

Ann’s knee and thigh needed rest and ice the next day so I was off alone to Stew Leonard’s, my favorite supermarket of all time, ideal for shoppers such as myself as it is configured as an orderly maze so you have to pass by everything.  I loaded up with groceries to get us started and began to get back into the swing of things at our boat club, first having our traditional welcome back dinner with our friends, Ray and Sue.

Wednesday nights is a family barbeque night here but it rained and as Ann was still somewhat immobile, I ended up “getting volunteered” to be a “runner” for the event, now held indoors, having to take orders and fill them in the club kitchen where other volunteers were laboring away grilling and prepping side orders. This event is a continuing testimony to the man who organized it years ago, Frank, and although he has now been partially disabled by a stroke, still overseas it to this day, with the able assistance of his wife, Barbara, and his sons. That following weekend was an antique car show in the parking lot and Ann was finally up and about for this, so here she is with a 1915 Chrysler.  There were also cars of my teenage dream years, T-Birds and Corvettes. 

So, our summer has begun here.

For me, living on the boat is increasingly complicated as at home I have my computer on most of the time and can stroll over to it and do what I need to do, managing our finances and particularly writing when I want to.  Here on the boat, the Wi-Fi no longer is “reachable” from where we are docked, so I’m dependent mostly on my iPhone’s cell connection and when I want to write anything lengthy, such as this for my blog, I have to set up my laptop and I’m dependent on the cellular “personal hotspot” to get connected.  This makes transferring photos more data intensive, expensive, slow, what can I say?  So if I post less, and some photos are compromised, that’s the reason.

Nonetheless, this is offset by more time to work on the boat (finished getting a few coats of sealer on the teak cover boards earlier in the week – they can be seen in one of the photos towards the end of this entry) and to read.  I’ve been alternating between William Trevor’s latest collection of short stories (Selected Stories) and the late Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything. 

Putting aside the Hitchens’ work for the time being -- which I’ll write about probably in my next entry -- one William Trevor short story each night is enough for the time being to satisfy my literary thirst.  The man simply never ceases to amaze me with his stories, the reader frequently thinking he is going with one part of the story, only to find the real story is about something else.  He deals with subtle aspects of relationships and his character descriptions are like photographs.  I’ve never read anyone like him.  It’s hard to read more than one story at a time as there is so much to think about.

Part of my routine – one borrowed from home – is my early morning walk.  I’ve written before about the nearby Shorefront Park, my walking grounds here.  It is an old waterfront community in Norwalk, sleepily nestled on the west shore of the Norwalk River.  When I first started walking the area years ago, mostly older homes from the 40’s and 50’s were the norm.  Over the years some of those older homes, particularly right on the river were torn down with new, much more expensive ones being built.  One problem with the area which was exposed during hurricane Sandy is it is low lying.  Many of the homes were inundated by the storm, becoming uninhabitable.  Some were repaired and raised off their foundations, insurance companies bearing all or part of the expense, while others were torn down and more mansion type homes being erected but at higher elevations.  This process is still going on, years after the storm.  So it is a place of change and I get to see it kaleidoscopically.
One thing that hasn’t changed when I walk it early in the morning is the sights and sounds of nature, so different here than in Florida.  The evening crickets are still evident in the grass, their murmur quieting by the early morning.  The aroma of pines permeates the air and the mornings can be cool, even in the summer.  A walk here is refreshing and nostalgic for me, remembering our decades in the area.  It is imprinted in my DNA by now. Then there is the view of the Norwalk Harbor, at the “turn around” point of my walk, a place where I always stop and take in the beauty of the scene. 

Still another reason to return.

The question as we age though, is how much longer?  The drive itself takes its toll.  Maybe fly up for only a month, leaving more time on the boat for our son (who has already stepped in maintaining it beautifully)?  Perhaps that will be something to consider next year.  It’s hard, maybe impossible, to just walk away from this area and our past.  Alternatively, let life dictate the outcome?

An event a couple of days ago -- at about 11.00 PM – will illustrate why boating and aging do not exactly mix.  We were already in bed as a strong cold front moved through. The boat began to bang against the port piling in a gusty NE wind. Our bow line had obviously stretched in the wind.  What to do?  Reluctantly, I decided I’d have to get out there to set up another bow line to keep the boat off the piling, as well as going down to the bilge to access another fender and setting it up against the piling.  I also thought it would be prudent to set up a redundant spring line to keep the swim platform off the dock.

I donned my jeans over my pajamas and stuck a flashlight in my back pocket.  I don’t relish walking up the gunnels to the bow, even under the best conditions and thought I should alert Ann that I’d be off the boat doing this work in the dark and under those conditions.  She had just fallen into a deep sleep – amazing given all the banging, and I didn’t have the heart to wake her up at that point.  So I rehearsed every movement in my mind and where things could go wrong and then went about my business.  Hey, what was the worst that could happen – finding a floating body at the mouth of the river in the morning? (Shouldn’t joke like that as when we were at another marina someone on our dock arrived late at night, obviously slipped trying to get on his boat, and his body was found the next morning floating between the finger of the dock and his boat.)

As the morning-after-the-front-passage photographs attest, everything went fine, but for the balance of the night the wind was unrelenting and I felt as if we were underway, the water slapping against the hull and the rubbing of the fender against the piling (better than banging though).  Ann continued to sleep right through!   This used to be “fun” when we were younger, even at an anchorage where it is exponentially more dangerous than the same conditions at a dock. With the passage of time, though, it becomes more difficult to manage, to tolerate even— and it’s certainly no fun.  So, still another factor to consider for the future.