Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bogguss at Bull Run

On Friday the 10th we went out to Shirley to see Suzy Bogguss do a Christmas show at the Bull Run. Nice conversation at the table and a very nice set. Bogguss is an old pro at entertaining a room full of people and we were [mostly] receptive to the Christmas stuff, like I'll Be Home for Christmas, Mr. Grinch, and even Jingle Bells. She also did some borderline Christmas/country-western-jazz stuff like Two-Step 'Round the Christmas Tree and (with her husband) Baby It's Cold Outside. The part we all loved best was hearing her do some of her classic hits like Someday Soon, Aces, Outbound Plane, Cinderella, and Drive South. Also a spot-on bluegrass harmony rendition of Beautiful Star of Bethlehem with her excellent band, a short cover of Night Rider's Lament, and I Want To Be a Cowboy Sweetheart for an encore. Lots of fun was had by all.

Here's a video of [a young] Suzy Bogguss yodeling the hat off Jerry Jeff Walker:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cook and Rowan at Johnny Ds

On Tuesday, 11/16 we saw a somewhat odd pairing of Elizabeth Cook opening for Peter Rowan at Johnny Ds. Elizabeth brought her husband Tim Carroll along to play guitar of course, and I didn't catch the name of the guy on double bass. They were the opening act and so did all their hits pretty quickly, but the full crowd didn't want to let them leave. The only good part to their set being over was that that meant that Peter Rowan came on, with his current bluegrass band of the staggeringly good Jodi Stecher on mandolin, Keith Little on banjo, and Paul Knight on bass. They did a bunch of numbers from the new album (Legacy) and of course the stuff people expect, like Panama Red, Midnight Moonlight, and Land of the Navajo. Peter seemed to be saving his voice a bit ... but cutting back a bit for him is still miles beyond what most vocalists can do. It was one of those concerts where at several points my mouth just dropped open from astonishment at what I was hearing. Incredible musicianship, incredible lead singing and harmonizing, and a fount of incredible songs. It does *not* get better than seeing Peter Rowan from a table in front of the stage with some tasty brews.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Downstream in the Sunny Late Fall

Went for a possibly final Fall kayak on the Concord on 11/13, putting in at the 225 crossing and heading downstream to route 3 and back. A good number of people were hanging out on the bank and/or fishing, as it was a beautiful warm day.

Heading downstream there was a guy in a bass boat who was doing a remarkable job of blocking the river, though it gets very wide at that point. First he casted this way and so I steered that way and then he casted that way so I steered this way. Finally I decided he was going to be annoyed at me no matter how nice I tried to be so I just kept going, which of course made him stop and glare. Just then I noticed that the beavers in the lodge on the bank near him (or the flood current??) had brought down a sizeable tree with what looked like very tasty branches.

  • I asked him, "Do you think the beavers did that?"
  • "Huh?"
  • "That's a beaver lodge; do you think they cut down that tree?"
  • "They'll do that."

He was now even more annoyed at me for wasting his time with idle chit-chat about rodents, and I don't think he was smart enough to realize that I realized it.

Right after the route 4 bridge there were two young guys in hoodies just enjoying themselves on the bank. One of them waved manically at me and the other one grinned. I went down to route 3 ... just enjoying myself ... and then turned around and came back. Just before route 4 one of them waved manically at me and the other guy grinned, so I engaged them in a bit of conversation:

  • "What's up guys?"
  • [shrugs from both]
  • "Nice day."
  • "Yaya!"

Upstream from route 4 the real show started. The sun was shining bright and low in the Fall sky off my starboard bow and the oak and maple trees on the bank to my left were bare, as I paddled along rapidly about 35 feet from the shore. There was absolutely no wind and the black water was a mirror. The trees looked monochromatic above the bank against the blue sky, but their reflection in the water revealed streaks of green and brown in that tableau. The blue sky combined with the black of the water to provide a bright, almost glowing background. The reflection also contained the waxing quarter moon, riding behind the trees in the dark water like some fantaisical Halloween image, speeding along like it was going somewhere and the trees and I were standing still.

Mary Black at Berklee

Went to see Mary Black at the Berklee Performance Center on November 13th, 2010. Her daughter, Roisin O opened. The sound seemed over-mixed to me and there was little of the flashy playing or passionate performance I'm used to seeing at a smaller concert ... this was a different kettle of fish. But a good one! Mary sang Song For Ireland in the middle of her set with minimal accompaniment and that was all I needed to hear. Great stuff from a very accomplished musician.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NERAX North 2010

Sarah took the train to Haverhill and I took #@%&ing 495 on Friday, November 12th, and we met at The Tap for a quick wrap (turkey for me, chicken salad for Sarah), and then headed across the deck to NERAX North. Beers we sampled are listed below with our unvarnished notes (actually, the level of varnish varied greatly ... we had to try all these beers and keeping our objective mien was sometimes a challenge, to put it frankly, especially as the night drew on). These may be listed in the order we sampled them:
  • Baroque Ale from Breconshire Brewery (Brecon, Wales) - smooth, little hop aroma or taste except in the aftertaste
  • Dark Horse Stout from Elmtree Brewery (Snetterton, England) - light chocolate, black patent aftertaste
  • Christmas Bock from Mahr's Brewery (Germany) - very tingly, sugar sweet, light hoppy aroma
  • Cwrw Madog from Purple Moose Brewery (Porthmadog, Wales) - grainy taste, very light floral and sweet aroma, nice hop taste
  • "Fresh Hopped Beer" from Grain Brewery (Waveney Valley, England) - faint earthy aroma, thick bitterness, pleasant session beer with no aftertaste, hops on the top of the palate
  • County Ale from Breconshire Brewery (Brecon, Wales) - rubbery aroma (Simcoe hops?), hard water mouthfeel, crisp taste on the palate, gentle malt notes
  • On the Huh from Beeston Brewery (Norfolk, England) - light caramel, fresh aroma, crystal malt thickness, bitter aftertaste
  • Tradewinds from Cairngorm Brewery (Aviemore, Scotland) - acidic hop aroma which carries through to the taste, slight heather notes, beautiful amber color
  • Harvest Pale Ale from Castle Rock Brewery (Nottingham, England) - wonderful creamy aroma, high on the nose hop taste, creamy mouthfeel, blonde velvety taste, great balance
  • Hollyrood from Stewart Brewery (Edinburgh, Scotland) - mysterious aroma (what is that?), great balance!, lasting bitterness on the tongue and sweetnees on the palate in the aftertaste
  • Big A IPA from Smuttynose Brewing Company (Portsmouth, N.H.) - nothing subtle about this, like jazz on a banjo (just 'cause you *can* do it doesn't mean you *should*), incredibly aggressive hop aroma and taste, but still it didn't disguise the alcohol, this was the only beer I almost poured out
  • Black Gold from Castle Rock Brewery (Nottingham, England) - distinct hop aroma, almost caramel malt flavor, some tingle in the mouth, aftertaste is like a soda, like 7-Up
  • Preservation Fine Ale from Castle Rock Brewery (Nottingham, England) - great drinkability, some hops and some malt ... nothing to not like
  • Golden from Winter's Brewery (Keelan Close, England) - aggressive hop aroma, very light body, no malt, lasting tongue-feel
As you may notice, we concentrated on the UK beers. They had a great number of US beers, but we live here and will probably catch up with those sooner or later. The Tap's in a funky old block backing up on the Merrimack in Haverhill and the hall the event was in is a nice old space with lots of wood, high ceilings, and some haphazard lighting. All in all we had a great time and would whole-heartedly recommend it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Richard Shindell at Passim

Got one of the front tables at Club Passim for a Thursday night show with Richard Shindell on Veteran's Day 2010. As with most concerts we've been to there, we met some people who were middle-aged and reasonable but were fanatics of the artist we were about to see. Rose Cousins opened with some neat songs with unexpected stops and starts. Then Richard came on, looking a bit unshaven in a flannel shirt like a good folk-singer, accompanied by his long-time bassist, Lincoln Schleifer and new guitarist Marc Shulman.

Shindell left the guitar heroics to Shulman (he rubbed the strings with his palm and blew on them to make another strange sound) and concentrated on the vocals, to great effect. They opened with three new songs and then covered all the chestnuts, including: Fishing, Northbound 35, Arrowhead, Are You Happy Now?, There Goes Mavis, You Stay Here, Transit, Reunion Hill, and perhaps others I forget. This seems like a conservative formula and perhaps they were trying to pace themselves on the first of a two-night gig. But jeez, what powerful, wonderful, lyric songs he's written! The imagery of Reunion Hill, the wit and faith expressed by Transit, and the life lessons embodied in Arrowhead shone through, even if you've heard the songs a million times. To see Shindell himself preaching them to you in his mellow way is something not to be missed.

The band encored with a Dylan song and then wrapped up an early "school night."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Norby and Daggett's Home

On November 7th I threw the kayak on the roof for a mid-Fall paddle on the Ipswich River, and on the way there began to worry that I wasn't wearing my orange hat, prompted by the many signs of hunting season in full swing. On the river though, I heard no shots though I saw plenty of signs advising hunters, posted where neighboring farms stretched close to the river.

The water level was above normal and the water was pretty cold when I waded in it for a bit while I set off. My feet have probably never been colder for an extended period then they were that afternoon. But the environs were beautiful and, after leaving the road and Bradley Palmer State Park behind I didn't see any people for hours. I didn't see any beavers either but what I did see was a wealth of signs that they'd been busy as ... well you know. This must be Norby and Daggett's home.

I took a few videos but they don't get the point across about the massive impact on the environment that these animals make. There were large trees that were totally girdled of bark (when not felled) by beaver teeth, huge lodges all over the place, and the most impressive thing was that, though the river was high, they had dammed it in two places. And by this I don't mean small attempts at damming a small stream: these were very successful dams that I couldn't get by and that raised the upstream water level by a half foot or more. I portaged around the first one and when I came downstream I was able to get by where the water had forced a sluiceway through the neighboring weeds. But the second dam was just incredibly well constructed totally across the river and there was no way I could have gotten around it without getting out of the kayak, getting very wet, and perhaps not succeeding anyway. So I turned around and rode the current back to the put-in.

Here's a video:

three concerts

We were lucky enough lately to go see three excellent music shows. Here's a bit of a recap.

11/3/10 - Hot Rize at National Heritage Museum in Lexington (Boston Bluegrass Union show)
  • I routinely describe Hot Rize as the best bluegrass band that's ever existed and I saw nothing Wednesday night to make me change my mind. They played an assortment of their fantastic songs and mixed in a few "new" ones (new to them at least) like Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" and "Sinner" from Tim's new album.
  • Brian Sutton has taken up Charles Sawtelle's lead guitar part and did a really fantastic job: no singing but some awesome leads and tasteful fill in the Hot Rize tradition.
  • Speaking of vocals, Tim, Nick, and Pete sounded as good as ever, especially on chestnuts like "Colleen Malone" and "Won't You Come and Sing With Me." To me, their vocals was what sent me back to the days of yore and was the highlight of the show.
  • But the real surprise of the show was when Hot Rize left the stage and some other act that wasn't on the bill came out and ripped it up with some good ol' Western tunes. Their steel player was quite a card, their guitarist was flashy like you wouldn't believe, and their repertoire was impeccable ... they even did a medley of 60s hits (in a better key). The sexiest guy there was their young bass player, "Suede," who almost spoke a few times.
11/05/10 - Carrie Rodriguez and Jim Lauderdale at the Me and Thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead
  • It's a %^*@ of a long drive to Marblehead, but I met Sarah at a great bar in Salem (Gulu-Gulu Cafe) and we had some time to get in the right mood before the show. We got there just as they opened the doors and grabbed a seat in the front row ... which isn't a huge victory for that coffeehouse (it's a small room) but counted aesthetically.
  • Jim Lauderdale went on first and is a sincere, authentic, nice country singer with no ego, a great sense of humor, and a veteran's stage presence. If you've never seen him, run don't walk.
  • Carrie came on next with her accompanist, Hans Holzen (who Sarah says is at least as pretty as Carrie is) and they did a flawless set. Two of my favorites were "50s French Movie" and "La Puñalada Trapera," which was much better live than on record.
  • Sarah took some great videos of Carrie singing Waterbound and the two duetting on a Louvin Bros song for an encore.
11/06/10 - Eilen Jewell Band at Johnny Ds in Somerville
  • We weren't going to go to this, but at the last minute said "why not?" and got standing room tickets.
  • Boy, was that place crowded. It sold out soon after we got there (though there was still an hour until the show), and you had to stake out a place if you wanted to get a good view of the stage.
  • I had heard that they were going to start the show with a set of their Loretta Lynn material, but they bagged that (they just returned from a European tour and were probably sick of the routine) and only mixed in a few Lynn songs, like "Fist City" and "You Wanna Give Me a Lift" with their classic numbers like "Rain Roll In" and "High Shelf Booze."
  • Of course they did "Shaking All Over" and there was some dancing going on during that.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Paul Brady at Somerville Theater

Went to see Paul Brady at the Somerville Theater (after a nice session at Redbones) on Friday night, 10/22. He's probably the leader in the clubhouse in the category of "I have no records of his but I think he's an incredible musician" (which reminds me, I should put The Liberty Tapes on my Amazon wish list). It also occurred to me that he's Tim O'Brien's older brother in some alternate universe.

Anyway, he played solo and alternated between regular acoustic guitar, tenor guitar, mandolin, and electric piano. It was one of those concerts where you got the feeling that everyone there (the house was half full??) was there because they were a fanatic about his music, as opposed to just going for a night out somewhere where you barely knew the guy. One of the nicest moments was when he paused at the piano in the middle of The Island and you could have heard a pin drop, but some woman in the audience sang the first line of the chorus ("I want to take you to the island..."). It was so perfect he ended the song right there.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tim and Tide

More catching up to do:
  • Went to see Tim O'Brien at the Me and Thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead on Friday, 9/24. We'd never been to the Me and Thee before; after some confusion finding the train station in Salem to meet Sarah we went to the Boston Beer Works in Salem and had some excellent brews (which unfortunately aren't listed on their terrible website). Avi and Celia opened for Tim and made some fun music, including a soupcon of spirited washboard playing. Tim was as good as ever, playing most of the tracks from his latest release, alternating between guitar, mandolin, banjo, and fiddle, and mixing in other tunes from his solo repertoire and his vast reservoir of traditional music. He did Nellie Kane to tease the Hot Rize concert in November, and closed with Like I Used To Do. Here's an excellent cover of Nellie Kane with Sarah Jarosz.

  • We've been looking for a next car after our Ford Windstar ... can't really call it a replacement because we're ready to downgrade to a smaller car. We couldn't make up our mind between a smaller minivan and a crossover-SUV but we had it down to the Mazda5 vs. the Subaru Forester. We made a spreadsheet of the differentiating factors (IOO) and showed it to the dealers on Saturday the 25th, pointing out that everything was filled in except for the price column ... what could they do about that? Both Liberty Mazda and Wakefield Subaru seemed to like this approach and offered us good prices. Even though it was several thousand more we decided to go with the Forester. It just seemed to us like we would enjoy the car for longer (which is very important to us) and it would give fewer worries when up in Maine in the winter.
  • Went kayaking that afternoon on the Mystic Lakes and Tufts was hosting the Hood Trophy regatta with 20 teams from 20 different colleges. Very fun to watch! Quite skilled skippers and crew sailing Tufts' Larks with new rigging. Everything was color-coded and everyone was wearing a pinne with their college's mascot on it. Tufts came in second over the weekend.
  • On Wednesday the 29th I put the kayak on the roof of the minivan for the last time and went to the Lowell St. put-in after work. We had a short but nice paddle up the low-low Assabet. Again, nobody on the Assabet though the Concord and Sudbury had traffic. The minivan has been a faithful kayaking companion for many trips and I'll often think of it with Blast or Sunny on top.
  • Picked up the new car on Thursday the 30th after work at Wakefield Subaru. They hadn't yet installed the roof cross-bars, the bumper guard, etc. ... but it was basically ready and we settled final terms and signed on the dotted line. They had had to bring one up from Rhode Island to get the color we wanted in the right trim package. We plan to call her Ester ... for Ester that is. Had the final gewgaws installed on Saturday October 2nd and got her inspected.
  • On Sunday the 3rd the tide was right so drove up to the Rowley River on a more-chilly-than-anticipated early Fall day. Saw a few boats powering at full-speed up and down the river full of people wearing foul weather gear. The sun came out at times, the clouds were high, the wind was up, and it was a beautiful day on the water. From the mouth of the river I paddled South between the shoals towards Ipswich, where the boats were tugging hard at their moorings against the tide and wind. As I watched though, the North by East wind shifted slightly to the East and the tide started to change, swinging the boats around one by one into uncomfortable postures. I took advantage of the incoming tide, though the wind was still stiff against me until I got into the river, and paddled back up North and then West back to Perley's.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rhonda Vincent at Johnny D's

Went to a very nice concert by Rhonda Vincent and the Rage at Johnny D's last night. Though the days of hard-driving bluegrass with Mike Cleveland and Audie Blaylock are past, Hunter Berry on fiddle and the remarkable Ben Helson on guitar are dynamite players and made for a great evening of music. Rhonda's just put out a new CD (Taken) and she played a lot of the ballads from that, mixed in with a few of the banjo-led numbers I was anticipating. Some of the new songs are very well written and they covered just enough of the older tunes to keep things interesting, including encoring with Driving Nails in my Coffin.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No Post Radio

Haven't posted for a while, and wanted to note one more August kayak trip .... quick one from the 225 put-in in Bedford after work on Tuesday the 31st. Work kept me late but I was determined to get in one more before vacation and had a peaceful paddle down the river for a stretch and back before night set in. Sarah must have been speaking at the aquaculture hearing in Brooksville as I got back to the car.

Up in Maine for vacation from late on September 3rd to early on September 13th. Besides many paddles and one of the best sails I've ever had on the Bagaduce:
  • 9/5 - Put in at Bakeman Beach and went clockwise around Pond, Fiddle Head, Hog, the Black Ledges, Green Ledge, and Western. I then scooted over to the head of the Cape and saw the cliffs up-close. Had to cut in front of a clueless cruise monstrosity named "Freedom" [sic].
  • 9/8 - Put in at the Deer Isle causeway, cut to the West of Carney, cut through Bar Island, and then headed out past Little Pickering and Pickering to Crow. Went around Crow (there were a lot of crows there) and paddled over to Bradbury, but decided to leave it to port. A rainstorm started and fog was threatening so headed right back to Pickering and made a lazy circuit. Went straight to Scott and my usual lunch place, then headed back past Sheep against the stiff wind, couldn't go between Bar this time, and had to leave Carney to port on the return.
  • 9/9 - Short trip from Naskeag Point around Hog, Sellers (lunch), and Harbor.
  • 9/10 - Hike up Cadillac North Ridge Trail in Acadia NP and then down the Gorge Trail.
  • 9/11 - Put in at Indian Bar, went around Smith Cove where the 420s from MMA were racing endlessly, and then over to Castine and along the waterfront. Went around to Trask Rock where the tide was so high I could circle it, and then back to the Head and straight past the bellbuoy over to Holbrook. The MMA J24s were racing endlessly out in the Bay and the sky and the visibility were incredible. Surprised some deer rounding Holbrook, then cut through Ram and back around past Nautilus.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hot Day on the Middle Sudbury

Met up with a friend at the 117 put-in on a hot, hot Sunday (August 29) and headed upriver through the brilliant light. The parking lot was full (with our cars!) and the river had a number of boats on it, but everybody was moving slowly. We got up to route 27 and then headed back downstream. The current seemed to barely be moving in some places. A good number of herons stood like widely-spaced sentries along the bank, but it was too hot for much wildlife activity besides that. Saw a few trees that had already started turning well before the end of the hot, dry summer.

CFO of the Aberjona

On Thursday the 26th it was a beautiful day after 4 days of rain and so I cartopped the kayak over to the Mystic Lakes after work and put in on the upper, upper lake. Nice late afternoon light and very few people out ... more fishing than boating. After meandering out onto the upper lake I cruised the shoreline back along the middle upper lake (where I saw a slew of Turnabouts almost swamped by the huge rain ... someone needs to start bailing), some really nice majestic oaks, ashes, and pines, and one dock covered with duck shit. When I got around to the mouth of the Aberjona I figured I'd paddle up it as far as I could and was doing so when I spied a mythic figure, sitting under a tree on the bank with some kind of box that said Budweiser 24-pack on the side and a smaller rectangular box that said Lucky Strikes.

He introduced himself and then let on that his name is actually a throw-away. He's in fact a CFO and comes from Alaska. He's landed in Boston and, though he went to college in the area, he's having a hard time coping in what is a very different world than he had been in since then. I seemed to him to not be freaked out by his talk of different worlds and mythic stereotypes, so he offered me a beer and we continued to chat. Had a nice talk and then left him there to finish his 24-pack and decide if he really wanted to go back to work the next day.

That's the wonderful thing about poking your kayak into out-of-the-way places ... you never know what kind of wildlife has carved out a foothold in that ecosystem.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

LL in Lowell, etc.

Last Friday (the 13th!) we went up to Boardinghouse Park in Lowell to see Lyle Lovett with his large band. We are totally disgusted with the policy at the Lowell Summer Music Series of letting people stake out claims in the park with blankets, chairs, etc. and then leave until whenever they feel like re-claiming their space.

Sarah and I arrived at 5:30 or so (two hours before the concert started) and luckily were able to squeeze our chairs into a small space next to the soundboard. Our friends Phil and Ann arrived about a half hour later and were lucky to get seats where they had any kind of view of the stage at all. We then watched over the next 2.5 hours as people argued about space and who moved whose chairs ... interrupting everyone's calm on a beautiful summer night and interrupting their enjoyment of the first act. The Lowell Summer Music Series gets some good acts but has to do something about this situation.

Anyway, blah blah blah. It was a great concert and I really mean that. The people who were there for a concert were dancing around to Church ... he did Loretta and closed with No More Cane. Fantastic stuff, including The Front Porch Song and of course, If I Had a Boat.

Other stuff from then 'til now:

-Wonderful kayak by myself from the Mystic Dam almost all the way down the River to the locks at Everett on Saturday the 14th
-Great time with Laura doing an after-work kayak on Wednesday the 18th, going from the Lowell St. bridge under route 2 almost all the way up to Fairhaven Bay and back
-Took Dave back to IC this weekend: delay for two hours Westbound on Saturday because of a stinking air show and delay for two hours back Eastbound last night because of a fallen tree ... and New Yorkers; miss Dave a lot!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Circus on Charles

Last Saturday was an absolutely brilliant, stellar, shining, summer day. I brewed some Belgian in the morning, got some brake work done on the car (long story), and then met friends to go kayaking on the Charles in Newton. When I arrived in the Norumbega Road parking lot, looking for somewhere to put in and/or my friends, I caught a glimpse of fat people taking pictures of each other feeding Cheetos to Canada Geese.

I headed to the other end of the parking lot and pushed my way to the river past hordes of ducks and geese who wanted to be fed. "Have you no shame?" I asked. No response. Put in and it was beautiful on the river but I've never seen so many kayaks in my life. Actually, in 10 minutes I saw more kayaks than I'd ever seen in my life, they were that thick. Two-seaters rolled by with couples, one of whom had obviously said to the other at some point that day, "Fine, but *I'm* not paddling." Four-seaters were the real hazard ... those people had no idea of what to do or control over what they hit.

Met up with my friends down half-way to the Waltham Dam and had some nice talks with riparian land-owners, then headed back South under the highway and had an excellent paddle. There were beautiful, luxurious wildflowers on the banks and as I say, it was an incredible day to be outside.

On Sunday Dave and I went paddling in the Upper Mystic Lake in the afternoon and had another wonderful time. It was a bit more humid and threatening to thunderstorm, but the Upper Lake was in full form with recreators all over it. We had fun.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Watermeal Soup

Went for a short paddle after work on Monday. Put in where 117 crosses the Sudbury ... or at least I thought I did but the carpet of watermeal was so thick you couldn't tell when you were actually in the water as opposed to just skimming the organic stew. Out in the current it was still like that, but then some stretches of more open water appeared as I paddled down into Fairhaven Bay. Saw lots of herons; one was stationed every hundred feet along the shore, each trying to ignore each other and look invisible to me. When I got to the downwind side of the Bay the stench from all the vegetation exposed by the incredibly low water, rotting in the humid air, was very distinctive: almost like a cattle barn when the wind blows the right way. Had to hose the kayak and myself down pretty thoroughly when I got back to wash off the caked watermeal and mud.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lowell Folk Festival 2010

This weekend was the Lowell Folk Festival, and boy did I have a lot of fun. Where should I start? I started going to this largest free folk festival in the world (perhaps hyperbole, but it *is* free and *is* large) in the late 80s and it's grown up into a huge deal. Lots of people and lots of vendors are there, all sprinkled around an area of downtown Lowell that features a National Historic Park and some stunning past.

Friend JohnM met me there on Saturday and Dave arrived after work, and then
Sarah, Dave, John, friend Matt, and I went back on Sunday. The weather was perfect mid-summer, ranging from hot enough to make your skin warp on Saturday at the JFK Plaza stage to large, non-threatening raindrops between the clouds, late Sunday afternoon.

Let me just say before I dive into it that the Hot Club of Cowtown is in the top echelon of bands in the world IMO and I was beyond thrilled to see them all weekend, especially at the beautiful Boardinghouse Park stage. How lucky am I that this FF exists and attracts such bands?

On Saturday I showed up at noon or so and was suddenly in a traffic jam trying to get into the heart of the city: a quite different story from 20 years ago. I parked on Jackson Street and shouldered my pack filled with liquids down to Boardinghouse Park, where I caught most of the Steep Canyon Rangers' set before heading over to JFK Plaza to meet up with John. We sat there and sweated through the Rangers' next set and it was well worth it. Nicky Sanders is an above-average fiddle player and Woody Platt is a fine singer. I don't want to damn them with faint praise ... they were a great band to start off the festival with ... I'm sure they didn't sound as muddy on their (#1) recorded hits.

John and I moved over the the Dutton street Dance Pavilion and camped out there for while; a real relief from the hammering sun and there was a tent selling Belgian beer nearby (pretty good, though produced by Anheuser Busch). The first band we saw was the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band and that was a rocking good time. I was really looking forward to seeing him and he didn't disappoint: thoroughly vivid accordion solos, quintessentially heartfelt Cajun lyrics and a tight band.

Next up at Dutton Street was the Cape Verdean singer, Maria de Barros, and she kicked some serious island butt. Check this out.

After that was the real stuff as the Hot Club came on. My worldly friend John had never seen them and what resonated the most to me was when he laughed in astonishment about 10 different times at Whit Smith's fingering. No shit, they are musicians of the top-most quality and if your jaw doesn't drop when you see them your soul is dead. It's kind of like the Cirque du Soleil meeting the Grateful Dead, though in a much home-ier environment.

Dave showed up after work for the Hot Club set and then we drove home and had some chicken dinner that couldn't be beat. John was going to go back to NH after the show but was so gobsmacked by the Hot Club that he spent the night with us so he could see them again the next day.

We woke up Sunday and went back up to Lowell. The Hot Club kicked it off at 12:15 at JFK Plaza and there were some heavenly-sent clouds (Pennies From Heaven??) that kept us from roasting as much as the day before. They did their cover of a Reinhardt-Grapelli song, "Exactly Like You" and I would have died if not for having seen them do it before.

Bua followed them and was vastly entertaining, featuring a very talented bodhran player and a good singer. Sarah picked up some great beef kebab from a Portuguese vendor and I got a real nice "LFF" polo shirt with an embroidery of instruments being hauled by a trolley. I couldn't get over how smoothly they were dealing with an incredible crowd on an incredibly hot weekend ... I have to tip my hat to the organizers and again I ask, why can't a city like Boston do anything like this? I guess they can't. Lowell is the perfectly sized and laid-out city for a folk festival.

We drifted over to Boardinghouse Park, stopping to see craft and talent exhibitions lined up along a restored canal. We pulled up a prime piece of grass right in front of the stage (about where we sat for Hot Tuna the summer before). Michele Choiniere was about half-way through her set of Franco-American ballads, a nice interlude before the Hot Club came back on at 3:00.

OK, we toweled off after that and moseyed up to the St. Anne's Churchyard venue ...

... where they were having a "Squeezebox Summit," which turned out to be Bruce Daigrepont, Matthew Rosinski from the polka band ("Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push"), and Brìan Ó hAir from Bua.

We were thinking about staying for another set but the rain started and we headed for the car BUT our path led us past the Dutton Street Dance Pavilion and we stayed and danced for another 45 minutes or so to the reggae of Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Brown Band while the sun came back out, all was peace and love, and our jaws dropped once again at the excellent saxophone/whistle/whatever tall and white (with red shorts) multi-instrumentalist in his band. This guy jumped off the stage between breaks and stood in front of the fan (I offered him water but he politely declined), and then danced among the crowd and jumped back onstage in time for his next wizardly chorus. Clinton's daughter grabbed the mike for some testimony and a good time was had by all ... they actually did a long encore because they were the last band of the day.

Drove back home and typed it up!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

No Alewives But Carp

Things worked out that when it was time to go kayaking yesterday I was near the Mystic Lakes. The last time I checked it out they were still hard at work reconstructing (or whatever) the dam between the Upper and Lower Lakes, but they've now finished and, though the parking lot could still use some work and some grass seed might or might not make it, the place looks in good shape and the day was beautiful.

I put in on the Lower Lake side and quickly paddled South with the wind towards the entrance to the River. I planned to head downriver for an hour or so and then back, but I was distracted by the maw of Alewife Brook and carefully headed up that way. It was an adventure.

There was some wildlife on the brook: a gray heron who didn't think I saw him even though I was only 15' away, a muskrat, families of ducks, and lots of birds. There were also some giant fish in the water, even when it shoaled to 4" or so. A fisherman later told me they must have been carp.

I made it a long way up the brook, even though a couple of trees were trying their best to block it. I went behind Dilboy field, where they were having a football practice, caught a glimpse of the projects off to my left, went under Broadway past the Johnny's Foodmaster (where I used to shop when I lived in my second-ever apartment), past St. Paul's Cemetery and the small bridge there, way up under Mass Ave where I could see the traffic jams all around me, and almost made it to the route 2 circle before I was stopped by another fallen tree that I couldn't get around without getting out of the boat and dragging it. A paddle stuck into the squishy, dirty mud at the bottom of what by that point might have been called a concrete-lined drainage ditch convinced me that I didn't want to get out of the boat.

I saw several homeless people nests hidden in the trees by the brook, passed a pedestrian with long shorts who shouted out, "Wow, that's cool!" when he saw me go by, waved to a couple of people on the 77 bus who apparently considered me a hallucination, and shocked a man who was drawing the drapes in his condo ... he didn't realize he was living on river-front property. There were several things in the water that I couldn't recognize at all, and as I told people later, I didn't think I should try too hard to figure out what they were. In a couple of spots coolers obviously had been dumped: the cans floating downstream with the current and the wind, and the bottles bobbing like so many lobster pots, caught in the river weeds.

Finally got back to the Mystic itself with its vast rafts of lily pads and headed back up-river past trash that didn't seem as poetic. However, it was a noteworthy phenomenon that the Duncan Donuts plastic cups blowing across the surface of the river acted as wind vanes, the mouth always pointing upwind and the bottom forging its way through the water.

Got back onto the Lower Lake and crossed to the West side, then worked my way around past houses that probably cost many times what some of the places I had seen recently cost.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

hot kayaking

Kayaking trips coming hot and heavy now, as is the weather.

On Friday June 25th I went down to the 117 put-in after work and headed upstream. Water levels are very low right now and being sunken down into the riverbed I didn't have the great view of the wide-open marshes the way I did last time I came through there. But I had even more of a chance to see all the birds and muskrats, who were quite active. I also saw thousands of small dragonflies with drab coloring, perhaps because they're young. I thought one settled on my bow, facing forward, but he was on there for so long that I realized it must be some piece of straw that got stuck to my bow. I turned around before the route 27 bridge and paddled back downstream for a 2-hour trip or so. When I got out of the kayak and went to pull her up on the bank, the piece of straw became a dragonfly again and flew away.

On Sunday the 27th Dave and I went to the Lowell Street put-in, where it was very muddy with the river so low. Crowds of people were paddling various things up and down stream, but we detoured immediately onto the Assabet and didn't see a soul for an hour or so, until we ran into a couple of other kayakers in West Concord. We continued to the route 2 bridge, and then turned around and floated back. Strange how few birds there were on the Assabet. We saw one muskrat, a couple of extended family groups of Canada Geese, and a group of large ducks(?) with red ruffs.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sometimes It Takes Balls

We went to Johnny D’s to see Elizabeth Cook last night and had a great time. She had a three-piece combo with her husband Tim Carroll on guitar and Tom ?? on huge bass. We had great seats at a table in front of the stage and downed Greek burgers and Lagunitas Pale Ale before the show.

Elizabeth came on and started crooning and impressed more and more through her two sets. She plays a great blend of tear-twangers, quirky alt-rock, slow but tough love songs, and traditional country with originals about evenly mixed in with covers from all over. As the evening went on her voice began to really shine until she was just commanding the room with her vocals. They played I Can’t Help It If I’m Still in Love With You and after a brilliant bridge by Carroll, Cook came in at full volume and boy, did she convey the heart-ache at the core of that song!

She did El Camino and Heroin Addict Sister of course, and also the great Blackland Farmer. She also played Mama’s Funeral followed immediately with a song that her Mama had written. Cook encored with her anthem, Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be a Woman (I noted that during her sets she reprised every song of hers that Cousin Kate played this past Sunday) … followed with (just to show how odd they are) the bluegrass-gospel song, Working On a Building.

Great show! This was her first time in the area and I’m hoping she comes back again.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Upper Assabet and Middle Concord

Recent kayak trips:

After work on Thursday the 17th we put in where the Assabet River Walk begins above the first waterfall in Maynard. The river was quite shallow here and turtles popped their heads above the water to look at us. We had a very nice, very long upstream paddle to the Gleasondale Dam. I'd tell you more about it but why repeat this account of a similar trip??

Yesterday I beat the heat a bit by putting in at the 225 landing in Bedford and heading upstream for an hour or so before floating back. There were some huge beaver lodges ... they must have used a crane to get some of those heavy branches up on top.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

no paddle

I'd been meaning to go kayaking after work lots of times this Spring and hadn't, but I was determined to go today even when it started raining. I was carrying my kayak down to the shore at the 117 put-in when a little boy there engaged me in conversation:

"What kind of a kayak is that?"
"A red one."
"What do you do with it."
"I go paddling in the river and the ocean."
"You forgot your paddle!"
"It's up at the car."
"You'll get wet!"
"Say, that's a nice Spiderman life jacket you have."
"Yeah, I'm the *only* one in the family with a picture on his life jacket! [Can you believe those dweebs?]"

I went back up to the car to get my paddle and realized he was right. So I used a branch to get around a bit, got soaked by the beautiful rain, saw a couple of beavers closer than I ever have, and a lot of birds.

I'll do better next time.

WUMB Music Fest 2010 (whilom BFF)

On Sunday June 6th we went to the WUMB Music Fest at the UMB campus. It was the latest iteration of the Boston Folk Festival, rebranded to soothe the souls of patrons and alumni. The main stage was under a massive tent on the East soccer field and they also had the traditional Coffeehouse Stage and also a stage in the chemistry(?) lecture hall (Lipke) where we'd seen Daisy Mayhem jam with the Resophonics a few years before.

Eli's graduation was scheduled for that day but was postponed by the threatening thunderstorms and so Dave and Eli came along with us. Andrew met us there.

We all started with Chris O'Brien on the Coffeehouse Stage at noon. There was no coffee there! But Chris had some great songs and was a pleasant way to start the day. I stuck around for Anais Mitchell next, and she was very impressive. Not a great voice or guitar technique, but she knew exactly what she had and made the most of it. She's recently written and led a folk opera called Hadestown and played a couple of songs from it. It was obvious that her sensibility came from a musical theater place because she was totally in control of her songs, their effect, and the pictures they painted. A very entertaining set.

Les Sampou was up next with veteran Taylor Amerding on mando lead. I've been listening to Les since her songs first got on the radio but had never seen her and I was in rapture. Almost all of her set was from her recent record and she probably would have liked it if the crowd reacted more ... but it was a coffeehouse you know. Taylor was obviously having a great time and his tricky and loose solos proved it.

Moved to the Lipke stage next for The Kennedys who were as perfect as they always are. After opening with the classics: Life is Large, River of Fallen Stars, Wall of Death, Maura played a couple of songs from her recent solo record and then Pete did a couple of solos, including a classical tune on uke. They rejoined on stage for Midnight Ghost, closed with Stand, then came back for an encore and did Matty Groves. You could have set your watch and your state of mind by their set, it was so steady, fun, and exactly as exuberant as you'd expect. I love those guys.

Next up was Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams ... I'd never seen them before but they were exactly what I expected as well! I don't know about you, but I knew several ragtag bands in college years who spent more time tuning up than they did playing (at least it seemed that way). Most of the acts here had started on the hour and played for 45 minutes like they were supposed to, but Gandalf Murphy and friends were still packing instruments and amps and stuff out onto the stage at the top of the hour and were still tuning up until about 20 after. They started a song and then Murphy realized his guitar had cut out, so they fixed that and then started over. They made some great sounds for 5 minutes or so and as they reached a crescendo the power cut out. Very enjoyable ... we thought this must be part of their act!

They recovered from that start in a very folky way and the packed hall approved. They stood up front on the stage, hushed everybody, and strummed their instruments as hard as they could while harmonizing on High as a Hilltop, Home on the Range, and then Donovan's Try to Catch the Wind. Everybody sang along with Home on the Range of course, and it's amazing how many people knew the words to Try to Catch the Wind ... the audience almost drowned out the performers. The power came on before the band died of embarrassment at the schmaltziness of it all, and they started to seriously jam on. We left at the top of the hour to get seats over at the Field Stage for David Bromberg.

We snagged seats in front of the stage and then got some overpriced pad thai and veggies from a vendor. Bromberg came on and he was exactly what one would expect: a crackerjack band and a very eclectic set. He did everything from self-penned blues (also Statesboro Blues) to traditional country/folk (Dark as a Dungeon) to the Orange Blossom Special. He also did some classic Bromberg, like Watching Baby Fall which is one of my all-time favorites.

As he played the thunderstorms moved in and shook the huge tent like you wouldn't believe. I was almost afraid it would fall down or pull up at the corners. We could see one of the vendors' tents disappear in one super gust. But we made it to the end and the sun came out in time for the drive home. All in all, lots of fun.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Crooked Still at Sanders Theater

On Saturday, May 22nd we went into Harvard Square to see Crooked Still (http://www.youtube.com/user/crookedvids) at the Sanders Theater, me with a wicked cold. Sanders has great sound, great woodwork, statues, and ambiance, but is a little cramped and crowded, like an old ballpark. I was just cranky I guess!

Sarah Jarosz opened and it was one of those things where you could tell instantly, "This is a Musician!" Great banjo playing, and then switched to two different guitars: intelligent songs, and effortless pitch.

Crooked Still came on and they're just too good. Besides the fact that each one is a master of his/her instrument, that they meld together effortlessly, and that they can play the phonebook and make it sound fascinating, the incredible thing about them is that they're a truly unique band. No other band that I know of has this combination of instruments (fiddle, banjo, cello, double bass, and voice). It's eclectic yes (sometimes my mind really felt the lack of a guitar to hold them together, in fact Aoife O'Donovan strummed one on a few tunes), but they aren't self-consciously eclectic ... the point is that they sound so marvelous, not that they're breaking new ground.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ipswich River in May

This past Sunday was chilly but sunny, with a wicked wind. I wanted to go kayaking but wanted to avoid struggling with the wind and so went up to the Ipswich River, looking for a sheltered paddle. I parked in Harold Parker State Park with a couple of other cars with kayak hooks on their roofs and put in.

I went downriver first towards the outfitter's to check it out; there are a couple of falls there that one could probably survive, but I turned around quickly and headed back upriver past where I had put in. There were some people enjoying the park and a few paddling on the river, but I kept going South and West up the river and soon put them far behind.

It would and wound and wound and wound and then split into a few hummocks and then wound and wound some more once it rejoined, etc. I followed along, now very hidden from the wind. There were individual willows and stands of them, and stands of ash, maples, and oaks. I saw a few beeches and probably many other kinds of trees and twisted-together tree structures I can't name. The river varied between being almost a swamp and then having the land close in and becoming a deeper gully between the small hills, though it never got narrower than it was just above the put-in. I went all the way up to and a little past Colt Island, a half-mile or so before going under route 97 and then past the Topsfield fairgrounds. I hadn't seen a soul or heard any sound of civilization for miles and hours. It was beautiful and isolated.

And there were birds all over. If anyone wonders where the Canada geese that shit on their golf courses go to spawn, I found it. I saw hundreds of nesting couples of them, poking their heads up at me suspiciously from the high grass lining the river. I actually saw an albino Canada goose. There were also hundreds of red-wing blackbirds and many other kinds of songbirds, flying angrily at each other and chirping as loudly as they could from trees before zapping over to others. There were also lots of plovers, brown above, brown below, speckled, and white, with the long jointed legs and the narrow, long beaks you're used to seeing on the seashore, but here they were way up the freshwater marsh.

I saw more beaver lodges in that trip than I had seen in my life before. I spotted a couple of beavers, who seemed relatively unconcerned about me ... for beavers that is. Many of the lodges had been chosen by the Canada geese as ready-made nests and one of each pair was roosting on top while the mates paddled around anxiously. The beavers had done a great job of damming the river at one point, and I had to get out and drag my kayak over it, though I found on my way downstream that it was clear on the other side of the hummock. Many other trees leaned precariously over the river, ready to fall or be gnawed down and become dams themselves.

I finally turned around and headed back with the current, making it to the put-in remarkably quickly. The trip had been about five hours in all and, as often happens when kayaking, I found the experience exhilarating. The river was beautiful, chilly, green-yellow, deserted, peaceful, and magical in the height of Spring.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Eilen Jewell at the Bull Run

Sarah took the train out to West Concord on Friday and we headed West, stopping at J.P. O'Hanlon's for a pint of Old Speckled Hen and then driving out to the Bull Run. Our seats in the Sawtelle Room were at the table right in front of the main mic and we were the last ones at the table. The others were all enthusiastic Eilen Jewell fans and we were assured that we were in the right place.

After a quick turkey club I stopped in the gentlemen's lounge and ran into Jerry Miller, who was very gracious when I told him we were really looking forward to the show. The Billy Parker Project opened and really got the crowd going with great country/rockabilly guitar work and very good songwriting. The highlight for us was when the bass player dedicated Why You Been Gone So Long to his 6-year old. We're all in favor of singing about getting stoned and letting the past paint pictures in your head to impressionable young people (seriously!).

Then the Eilen Jewell band came on for an introduction, and then Eilen came out in her pearls and her little black dress (all the band was wearing black ... I had told the guy in the lounge that you could tell the band from the audience by the colors of their clothes). She was dynamite as always, opening with Rain Roll In, and singing the hits like High Shelf Booze, Fist City, and Heartache Boulevard. The crowd was hollering for Shaking All Over throughout and she finally got to it when everyone was ready. It seemed all the folks there were fanatics; our table was certainly shaking. She did one song I hadn't heard (second or third of the set), and announced that her upcoming record was going to be an all-Loretta disk, so I guess they haven't been working on new songs, but who cares? Eilen also did several Billy Holiday tunes, showing her ease at stamping a great song with her own brand.

I was hoping she'd play Dress in Black and shouted it out when Eilen asked for requests (well, being so close I didn't have to shout). She vacillated, but Jason Beek was driving the band hard and opined that they should "stick with the plan." They did ... and when they came out for an encore they did Dress in Black, singing the key line as "Way up in the hills of Shirley." That was the plan I guess. I sure went home happy.

All in all it was one of those wonderful musical evenings that lift you way beyond your Friday or everyday concerns. How could anyone not be inspired by Jerry Miller's guitar or Eilen's shimmying?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hop Trellis Time

It's been a very early Spring this year for a lot of plants, most of all my hop plant. This started off as 4 rhizomes of different varieties (Cascade, Centennial,Chinook, and Willamette I believe) in 1995 and has now become a monster that produces what I call Aberjona hops (after the nearest river valley of course).

I struggled for several years with what kind of easily maintainable and assembled trellis I could rig for them that would maximize their potential. Then I hit upon this. Some might search for a better word for it than "trellis" ... like "hubcap-suspended-from-a-bit-of-flagpole-nailed-to-a-2x6."

It works fine, though similar trellises have collapsed in years past when the hops are their heaviest in late August. My target harvest date is usually around Labor Day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kris Delmhorst at Bull Run

Went to see Kris Delmhorst in the Ballroom (the small upstairs room) at the Bull Run in Shirley on Saturday the 17th. Brendan Hogan opened and played a couple of well-written songs. Kris was at her toneful best. She played mostly songs from Shotgun Singer (over a year old by this point) and sprinkled in some of her earlier stuff, like Juice and June and Broken White Line. A very nice concert but it's a long drive away and we had to wait around forever for our bill. Don't order anything if you're in the Ballroom!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Beer All Over

I was dusting some beer bottles the other day, and telling Sarah about their meaning, when she suggested that I arrange them by that meaning. Here are a few pictures:

South America is in the foreground and is represented by Argentina, Brazil, and Peru. North of there we have Costa Rica and Mexico, with Jamaica and the Dominican off to the right. Farther North is the US and Canada.

Across the ocean there's France. Tucked next to France (left to right) is Belgium, Holland, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, and Poland with Russia way off the the right. To the North of that crowd is Ireland, England, and Scotland. Iceland is to the left of that, and Kenya is of course South of Europe (the only one from Africa!).

Asia and the Pacific Rim is represented by India and Sri Lanka to the left, Tibet, Thailand, and Laos in the middle, China to the North and Japan to the East, and Australia and New Zealand in the foreground.

Here's a group picture:

Then I put them back on the shelf.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rowley River in April

Went kayaking on the Rowley River yesterday, which was surprisingly deserted of people and birds. We only saw one other boat in the 5 hours or so we were out ... some kind of effete rowboat. And we saw very few birds besides the ubiquitous gulls and cormorants. What we did see was more chop than I've ever kayaked in, out on Plum Island Sound and in the river itself. A very stiff wind was blowing from the west and the only respite we got from it was ducking into folds of the salt marshes. We tried going north along the Plum Island coastline but the chop there was the worst, being a shallow lee shore, and we crossed back over the sound and then slogged back up the river against the gale and the tide. Lots of fun but lots of work. We were paddling pretty hard for almost all of those 5 hours.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

porcupines in April

Went up to Maine this past weekend and was kayaking on the Bagaduce on Sunday up by Porcupine Cliff. I snuck up on it quietly and saw one porcupine totally zonked out in the sun on a rock down near the water. I could see the back of another one up by their burrow, and it was moving back and forth like that one was digging at something, and I could hear a squealing that seemed to be accompanying this activity. I coasted a bit farther up and could see that there was a juvenile doing the squealing as he poked his mother (who was trying to get some shut-eye herself) repeatedly in the side, trying to get her to turn over and give him some milk. The Dad down below had just finished mowing the lawn or something and the game wasn't on yet ... he couldn't be bothered with nothing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Derailers at Johnny D's

Went to see the Derailers on Sunday night at Johnny D's in Somerville. Fantastic drumming by Scotty Matthews and excellent, acrobatic keyboard playing by Basil McJagger. He had his electric piano and his organ lined up in front of each other and he'd dash back and forth between songs and during songs (while not knocking over the pints he stashed beneath them). At one point he actually stood on his head on his organ while playing it. They closed with a medley of every song you've ever heard, including L.A. Woman, Mr. Spaceman, Tutti Frutti, [theme from] Batman, Act Naturally, I'm a Believer, and a couple of songs of their own. My ears were still ringing when I went to bed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

NERAX 2010

We had never been to NERAX but always meant to go sometime. We went this year to the 14th New England Real Ale Exhibition in a nice room in an old marble building in Davis Square. We ran into Laurel and Mike there and we all stood around and traded beers and stories for a few fantastic hours.

"Real ale" or "cask ale" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cask_ale) is a sobriquet for beer produced by a certain, traditional, manufacturing and distributing process. The key is the beer undergoing fermentation in the vessel from which it is served and then being dispensed without help other than gravity or natural air pressure.

We were there for the opening of the festival and a good number of the firkins they had shipped in were ready for tapping. Others weren't ready yet (the festival lasts 4 days) and we missed a few we had looked forward to. We mostly drank halves (half imperial pints ... did you know that the imperial pint is a more modern unit of measure than the American pint??) and managed to sample a good number of beers.

Here's an annotated list of what we had. These are all among the crème de la crème, so put no significance if I damn by faint praise, I was probably distracted:
  1. Acorn Brewery (England), Golovka Imperial Stout - very similar to the Imperial Stout I make with a hoppy profile over the dark malts, just like mine
  2. Dark Star (England), Hophead - a nice session pale ale with some interesting flavors
  3. Elland Brewery (England), 1872 Porter - a recent contest winner and you can see why, beautifully full and smooth taste
  4. Fuller's (England), Gales HSB - a dry, classy bitter like they don't make in this country, I love Fuller's beers and wish the ESB had been on! (the Pride was but we didn't get to it)
  5. St. Austell (Cornwall), Winter Warmer - we've vacationed in Cornwall at Christmas right near the brewery and this was the first one I tried last night ... like going home
  6. Cairngorm (Scotland), Black Gold - rich and heavy Scots beer, is that possible??
  7. Fyne Ales (Scotland), Vital Spark - a fizzy bitter with a little taste of roast barley, kind of a Scots chick beer
  8. Harviestoun (Scotland), Old Engine Oil - my idea of a dark ale, reasonably tart balanced by some nice aftertastes
  9. Isle of Skye Brewing (Scotland), Black Cuillin - very complex but might have needed some more age for its gravity
  10. Brecon (Wales), Six - we've also holidayed in Brecon and I was really looking forward to Brecon's award-winning Rambler's Ruin, but it wasn't on; the Six is a lighter, rye beer with some high notes
  11. Günther Brau (Germany), Märzen - a nice Munich ... not used to a lager from a cask!
  12. Allagash Brewing (US), Black - wonderfully flavorful like an Bach (ah, Bach) organ romp
  13. Blue Hills Brewing (US), IPA - fresh hops, good malt, the kind of simple beer I love
  14. Moat Mountain (US), Moat Square Tail Stout on Oak - a remarkable beer that should be in a museum; an incredible assortment of flavors
  15. People's Pint (US), Pied pIPA - the hop champion of the day ... you could smell the hops from across the room but the beer was remarkably well-balanced for that

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Ancestors

We have a couple of old portraits of ancestors with decaying plaster/gilded trim that my grandmother was desperate to pass on to a descendant who'd care for them, back when she went from a nicely-sized apartment to a smaller one years ago, in the course of her gradual shedding of worldly and earthly concerns. My Dad, who's now in that way himself, recently discovered some notes she'd made about the portraits. He'd been unsuccessful in trying to remember who the people in the portraits were ... all we knew was that they were some relatives.

We found "A Genealogy of the Nye family, Volume 1," by George Hyatt Nye, Frank Eugene Best, Robert Glen Nye, Luther Bert Nye, Nye Family of America Association, digitized on Google Books ... and this corrects some dates. Here's what my grandmother's notes say with those corrections:

There were two Chaddock brothers:
1) Joseph Chaddock, born 1724, died 1812
2) Calvin Chaddock, born 1765, died 1823
  • born in Brookfield, Mass.
  • graduated Dartmouth College, 1791
  • ordained in Rochester, Mass 1793 (Congregational Church)
  • founded Hanover Academy 1808
  • Representative to the General Court 1811
3) Calvin married Meletia Nye and they gave birth to...
Ebenezer Nye Chaddock, born 1793, died 1880 (subject of one of the portraits)
  • fought in the Battle of Lake Erie (age 21) on Ticonderoga under Commodore Perry
  • pressed into British Navy, escaped by swimming ashore to the Connecticut coast
4) Ebenezer married Hannah Gibbs Fearing in 1817; they gave birth to...
Abby Fearing Chaddock on October 6, 1818 (subject of the other portrait)

5) Abby married John Avery Parker Allen, 1840 (we have his Civil War sword on the wall in Maine); they gave birth to...
Lucy Cushing Allen, 1841 (we have a photograph of her holding her baby granddaughter, my grandmother)

6) Lucy married Obed Clement Nye, they gave birth to...
Alice Sumner Nye on July 30th, 1877

7) Alice married William Howard Russell on June 14th, 1902; they gave birth to...
Sylvia Rousmaniere Russell (my grandmother) on July 27th, 1903

8) Sylvia married Standish Tabor Bourne (my grandfather) on October 15, 1924

So my son's been sleeping in a room with his great-great-great-great-grandmother and her father snoozing along with him.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ice in Early March

We’ve had a very wet late-winter, mostly rain and high winds. The snow is almost all melted, especially in the wooded areas where it was never that deep anyway.

The rivers, of course, are extra-super high with the ice that must be downstream backing them up and the heavy, cold rain trying to flow down the hills. I’ve been wondering about kayaking … maybe this weekend when it’s supposed to be in the 50s and sunny.

My friend warns me that ice is still in, especially in places where the sun rarely shines, and though the water is spreading all over the winter-sparse floodplains, it’s still running dangerously fast, turbulent, and confused because of normal channels not being available.

After work yesterday I went by the put-in on 117 and walked down to the little inlet there. The water is so high that you could paddle straight into Fairhaven Bay through the sunken trees. However, the ice is a problem. It’s melted in a ring around the shore, but a bit farther out it manifests itself as shelf after shelf in shades of gray-blue and green-brown, some lurking beneath the water as if they’re anchored to the bottom still, waiting for sudden Spring release, and some crowding and swarming over each other like tectonic plates.

You could paddle around the ice but as I say, it’d be a problem up there. Also, the water’s so high that the bridge is impassable … no room underneath it even for a kayak. I’ll check farther downstream after work today!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Letrero en el Camino

You know the signs people leave around saying "Cuidado, piso mojado!" ("Be careful, wet floor!") after they mop the floor? The staff here have an annoying habit of leaving those signs right in doorways or right around corners, so the signs themselves are more of a peril than the thing they're warning about. I've been fretting about this, and have felt the need to come up with an alternative sign:

Cuidado, letrero en el camino!

I've printed out copies and am pasting them over every applicable sign. I mean, which hazard is more immediate?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Skiing on 2/13

Went skiing yesterday at Waterville Valley and brewed pilsner today.

My friend and I were going up the chairlift that lofts over the beginner-intermediate green/blue slopes and saw a father leading his son (7 years old??) downhill. The son had taken off his skis and they were headed for the lodge. Skiers will sometimes scoff at one who has taken his skis off and surrendered to the mountain ... and probably faces a tougher walk downhill than if he/she had given it a little more effort and side-slipped down the slope. Anyway, the son had bailed and the dad seemed to have no problem with that.

My friend and I both have all our kids in college now and are about to be led by them rather than doing the leading. We talked about a recent Boston Globe article counseling parents to surrender to the realities of being a parent rather than trying to impose our world-views and (e.g.) our athletic prejudices on our kids.

We went in for lunch a few runs later and saw that same father/son combo sitting on the deck, drinking juice and talking. I commented to my friend: "That's a good Dad." I hope he heard me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Emmylou at Hampton Beach

Saw Emmylou last October at Hampton Beach Casino and she opened with One of These Days from her second record. Here's a video of her doing the song about 20 years ago:

... but Buddy played with her and it was more like this (can't embed this video).

Then she went on and let it rip all night. She managed to channel herself from all parts of her career ... just a fabulous concert.

Bugs on water

After talking with you last night about bugs I remembered a magic moment with the real world I'd had recently.

I was kayaking by myself on the Concord River on an overcast but clearing day in mid-late Fall.

I was heading Southeast and the sun peeking through the suddenly clear sky was behind me and beautifying things up something special. It was in the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and the golden softness where the sun hit the brown-red bushes and the black-gray shadows they threw on both sides of the river were captivating. Added to that, it was totally still and the wide water in front of me was a huge, endless mirror of gray-black trees, a few dark red leaves, sky, and clouds. I could see high jets leaving arrow-straight contrails in the water in front of me.

I was captivated by the ripples set off by my bow and how they became parabolas in the black, blue, and white picture of the sky I was paddling through. Following one of these I saw a miniature sight that literally made me sputter at the beauty of it. There seemed to me to be no wind, but a tiny spider had spun one thread that drifted up into the air and became a kite for him. He was skating on the surface tension of the water, being pulled along at what must have seemed an incredible speed. The sun glinted off his long kite-thread.

It's hard to read bugs' expressions, but this little guy seemed to not have a care in the world. Sure he would have liked his thread of spider-silk to catch on a bush so he could start a web and catch other insects. But this wasn't the highest priority. Maybe he would never reach shore ... it was a wide river after all.

Editorial: that's one reason why I love kayaking, that you can see stuff like this. Our neighbor in Sedgwick once observed that sometime when she sees me go kayaking I just stop after a little bit and don't do anything for a while and then take off again. I told her that's absolutely right, I need to slow down once in a while and give myself time to start perceiving the incredible detail that's around us constantly.