Monday, December 31, 2007

A Little Computer Literacy is a Dangerous Thing!

This falls in to the "never ceases to amaze me" category.

How many red flags do you see?

From the Gloucester Times on Dec. 31, 2007:

Online car sale is a scam - Jessica Bensen

A Gloucester woman reported falling victim to a scam while trying to sell her car online.

The woman told police that a man in Nigeria had offered to buy the car, and sent her five money orders, which she deposited in her bank account. Then the man requested that she send her own money order to the shipping company to have the car sent to Nigeria.

It was only after she had sent out a Western Union money order that her bank called to let her know that the money orders she had received from the man were fake.

The woman told police that the name she had been given was Richard Williams, of Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria.

She reported the incident to police at 12:24 p..m yesterday, in the hopes that others would not fall victim to the same scam, according to the police report.

Where has this woman been for the last umpteen years? Once again it goes to show that even a bit of common sense has bitten the dust.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Long Winter Moon

Somewhere, somehow, along the way I found out that the full December moon is called a long winter moon. Anyway, it was a super bonus that the full moon was Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve day was crisp and clear. Not too cold. Amanda had to work from late morning until late afternoon. I dropped her off and headed for my shipping place. Yep, two sets of keys to send out and then I was free for the holiday! I wasted the rest of the day with some wandering around town. As I walked past our town Christmas tree I took a photo of the sign that had been added that day. Rockport just must be a special town as after Santa has spent a long, long night flying around the world delivering all those presents in an amazing feat that defies time, he makes an extra stop in Rockport before heading home to the North Pole for a hot shower, hot chocolate (possibly with added chocolate liqueur), and his favorite recliner. Christmas morning, at precisely 10:30, Santa arrives at our tree and personally hands out bags of candies and fruit to the children of Rockport. I'm not sure, but I think that this has been a tradition for more than half a century.

(Rockport also presents an annual Christmas Pageant which is a live nativity. The Christmas Story complete with Mary, Joseph, wise men, shepherds, sheep, donkey, torch bearers, and more as a procession from Dock Square, stopping at 'the Inn' aka Rockport Art Assoc., and being refused there on to the 'barn' erected on the front lawn of the Congregational Church. Following The Story everyone participates singing "Silent Night". And...on Christmas morning, everyone over 79 years of age, or anyone who has had a tragedy during the year receives a large basket filled with fruits and candies delivered to their home.)

For the first time in several years Amanda actually got out of work early on Christmas Eve. This year 'the three girls' went to Christmas Eve service together. I must say that our choir was outstanding. If you closed your eyes so to just listen, they sounded as if there were at least triple the voices. It was the best part of the service. We didn't stay for goodies at the church, instead going home to eat a late dinner and then putting our gifts under the tree. By the time we finished it was well on to bed time.

Christmas morning was quiet with just the three of us taking turns opening our gifts. We missed my Dad being there. He was always so much fun shaking the boxes and trying to guess what was inside before opening them. At 11 a.m. it was time to start preparing Christmas dinner. This year, as in the last five years, A and his girlfriend G, and 'the other' S joined us for dinner. It always seems that so much preparation goes in to the meal and it disappears so quickly! This year I cooked a ham, mashed potatoes, carrots, whole green beans, carrots & turnips, and dinner rolls, along with cranberry sauce and apple sauce. Dessert was a choice of pumpkin pie or chocolate cake.

After our guests left we started the massive clean-up of the dishes and pans. Three dishwasher loads later we sat down to a quiet late dinner of leftovers. They always taste better. No rush, no fuss, and totally relaxed in front of a mindless TV show!
And then the day after rolls around. All goes back to normal. More work. Next the New Year.

Rockport has it's own New Year's celebration. Would you expect anything different? I'll be a volunteer at the 6 performances hosted at our church. You can check out what will happen in Rockport for New Year's by visiting the official web site here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Welcoming Winter

I'm posting this a day early due to an unexpectedly heavy work load on Saturday.

I had intended to begin my Christmas holiday today. That is if you don't include finishing up two sets of keys to be return shipped on Monday. Well, I ended up with a few out of town tunings for Saturday. I think I'll turn off my answering machine. Well, maybe not.

Anyway, here's the photograph that is meant to be posted on the first full day of the winter season. A winter wonderland view of the Merrimack River taken from the lawn of the Moseley Estate, now known as Maudesley State Park, in Newburyport, MA.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Getting Irritated

with Blogger.

Are you listening, all you OpenID initiating gurus?

I have left a rather explicit comment on the Blogger-in-Draft blog. Well, they asked for opinions of the new OpenID comment system that has been instituted. I am hoping that they will get things worked out or allow those of us that wish to to be able to keep the old comment system. In the meantime, I will continue to experiment with possible 'workarounds' for friends over at WordPress as no one seems to have any answers.

Oh, for those of you wondering what the ____I'm talking about...
The new comment system initiates a verification process that, in simple terms, verifies that the blogger leaving the comment is really and truly who they say they are online. No spoofing accounts.

Now I can get it to work, albeit a pain, from my LiveJournal account to any Blogger account, and Blogger to Blogger is fine, but WordPress to Blogger just isn't working and it is suppose to.

From what I have read on Blogger, there has been enough screaming that something will change soon.

I hope.

On another matter, I will be removing 'Who Me?' from my blog list as her blog is now private.

Checked 'Blogger Buzz' this morning and found this statement:
Two fixes just went live, before we sign off for a brief holiday break:

* Unregistered commenters can once again provide an auto-linked URL [Help Group Thread]
* Images in the Header page element will no longer be cropped vertically

We apologize for having broken these features for you. Your blogs and Help Group posts showed us the true extent to which you used and cared about these features, so please let us know if they're still being problematic.

Thanks for your patience!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Snowed - Part Two - A Photo Essay

I have survived the Sunday Nor'easter and all the keytop work and I have the pictures to prove it.
I awoke Sunday morning to this lovely view from my bedroom window.
Here's a stunning view out the front window of my mother's house.
And finally, four boxes of finished keys ready to return ship.

And how did you spend your weekend?

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Thursday's sky was gray and hinted at things that would become far worse than the dismal day's beginning. My Mom had plans to head to the mall with a friend. Amanda and I had a couple quick errands in town. First, I headed to Dr. W's office to repair the soundboard in the last reed organ rebuild. The blasting heat of the waiting room had dried the board creating three major cracks. I made temporary repairs. Hopefully enough to get through the winter, and in the spring I'll reassess the damage and make permanent repairs. When I returned home A and I did the errands and then she got ready for work. My Mom phoned to say that they were heading home as it was starting to snow. They were hoping to beat it home, but within five minutes of her call it was snowing here, too. The weatherman had predicted up to eight inches, starting early afternoon and tapering off by eight that night. It had started two hours early. I was dreading driving Amanda to work. Not so much the trip in the daylight hours as the return trip at 7 p.m. during the worst of the storm. As my Mom reminded me, "You've done it before, it won't be too bad."

Around the same time as the snow was starting to fall, I checked the front porch for any UPS deliveries. I was expecting at least one set of keys that day. I opened the door and laughed aloud. Stacked immediately at the foot of the steps were three large boxes. All full of keys. All from Florida. Climate shocked I'm sure! I hauled the boxes downstairs. Then I checked to see if the mail person had delivered. Oh yes, another box of keys, these from New Hampshire. I carried that box downstairs. Four sets of keys for new tops... all arriving at once... all with a guaranteed three to four day turnaround time. Yikes.

I no sooner got everything organized in the workshop before it was time to take Amanda to work. We made the trip in the mini-van with it's front wheel drive. It's much better on snowy roads. It was slow going. A steady slow pace up Great Hill and shift down into second gear for heading down the big hill, with the curve at the bottom, to Nugent Stretch. We bypassed the normal turn down the steep incline near Stop & Shop in favor of a longer somewhat flatter route. Having successfully and safely delivered A to work, I found myself wishing that I had told her to call in 'sick'. I really didn't want to make the trip back in the dark. Well, at least I had a lot of work to keep my mind occupied for the rest of the afternoon. I tried not to look outside, knowing that conditions just had to be getting worse. The news people kept repeating, "DON'T go out if you don't have to. Stay indoors and off the roads." Oh marvelous. I tried to concentrate on the key work.

By six o'clock I was getting anxious to get the drive over with. Maybe, if I got there at about six-thirty, Amanda's manager might let her leave a half hour early. Certainly there wouldn't be many people out shopping. Rumor had it that even the three shopping malls had closed. Commuter traffic was at a standstill with typical 15 minute drives taking 3 hours or more. Folks were getting stranded on the highways. Windshield wipers were either icing up or totally quitting functioning. Cars were running out of gas. One newscaster reported that her 45 minute drive in normal conditions had taken her 5 hours and 45 minutes in the storm. After a slick and treacherous drive, with Gloucester's traffic lights out from an earlier collision, I arrived at Stop & Shop just before 6:30. There were only three other cars in the lot. As I pulled in to a parking space (I think, hard to tell with all the snow) all sorts of traction system warning lights lit up the dashboard. I turned off the van and the warnings went out...and then lit up again! Huh? How can that happen and why? This made me even more panicked about the drive home.

The walk to the doors was almost as scary as the drive to the store. The lot was only partially plowed and I had to trudge through deep mounds to get to the sidewalk. Under all the snow was hiding a slick sheet of ice. Inside the store was dead of activity. Cashiers and front-end clerks were wandering around with nothing to do. I found A's manager and asked the question, "Considering the nasty driving conditions and lack of customers in the store, would it be possible for A to leave a half hour early?" You'd of thought I'd asked her for the moon. The amount of umming and ahhing and whining that came from this woman's mouth astounded me. I gave up and sat on a bench at the front of the store and waited. Finally, fifteen minutes later, she decided that yes, Amanda could leave.

A deep breath to brace myself for the tension filled drive home and A and I left the building. Amanda immediately slipped on the hidden ice and fell. I had forgotten to warn her. Thankfully she didn't hurt herself badly, but later felt a bit bruised and sore. We got the van cleared off of the incredible amount of snow and ice that had accumulated in only a half hour and jumped in. I started the van and turned the wipers on. They didn't budge. Nothing. I got out and banged them free of a few stubborn ice crystals. Back in to try again. Nothing. I was getting angry. I shut of the engine and told Amanda that I thought we would probably have to call a taxi and come back for the van in the morning. More aggravation. In one last attempt I started the engine and tried the wipers.

They worked! I guess the threat of spending a night alone in the cold, dark parking lot scared them!

Now, just to drive home.............

We arrived at 7:30. Typically a less than ten minute drive in thirty minutes. Drive, first gear, second, third, drive....we had repeated the routine many times up and down hills and around corners and we made it. Average speed about 10 mph. No warning lights from the dashboard. Home felt good.

Friday and Saturday were spent in a frantic combination of shoveling and key work. Every part of me aches. Well nearly. Shoulders, arms, wrists, fingers, back, knees, ankles. I've spent a total of 12 hours each day either moving snow, clearing cars, or standing at a workbench. As of Saturday night, two sets of keys are completed. I'll be finishing the other two sets today. Monday I'll make my shipper happy when I arrive with four large boxes. Then it'll be off to two tunings. Two on Tuesday, too. And another Wednesday morning.

Today's forecast is for a Nor'easter. Up to another four inches of snow, sleet, maybe turning to rain then back to sleet again. High winds. Amanda is scheduled to work from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. I woke up to an odd blue-gray cast to my room. I looked over at the clock. It was 6:30 a.m. I looked towards the windows. Couldn't see a thing. They were completely glazed over with fine snow. Upon a quick check through the somewhat clear kitchen windows, I see that the plow came sometime during the night. But most of the front road is covered back in with the blowing and drifting snow. It's difficult to tell that it was once plowed. The back road where my driveway turns from has not been plowed yet. It's almost a foot deep in drifts. I'm doubting that Amanda will have transportation to work today!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Just Bizarre

Of course the holiday season is a busy time for a piano technician. Seems a lot of people that own pianos that haven't been serviced in decades, decide that they just have to be tuned before Christmas. If I'm out of the house for more than a half hour, I'm sure that my answering machine will be blinking when I return.

I tuned for the Rockport Art Association early this afternoon. While in town, after I finished the tuning, I strolled over to Tuck's Candy to see Bob and Eunice. Bob was there but Eunice wasn't. Then I took a walk out Bearskin Neck. I returned home at about 2:30 p.m. It was nice to have a bit of down time, but after relaxing for an hour or so I decided to get some housework done. Out came the vacuum and I made a quick job of vacuuming the entire house. All 700 square feet of it! Afterwards, I played around online for a bit and then made myself an early dinner and watched the news. Amanda needed to be picked up from work at 7:30 and as I was heading for the door to go get her I noticed the caller ID flashing.

Huh, how had I missed a call?

Oh yeah, the vacuuming.

I decided to listen to the message before leaving.

It was one of the oddest business calls I've ever received.

It started with some incoherent mumbling and then the lady gave her name. I couldn't understand exactly what she said. Something like Toochoo? I couldn't figure out the first name even after a repeat playing. Then she said she lived in Rhode Island, in a town that is nearly 2.5 hours drive from here (one way). She has a player piano that she wants me to fix. Could I please stop by? She is very anxious to have it playing again. Especially with Christmas so close. Would I please come down and fix it for her.

All the time her speech seemed disjointed and mildly garbled yet it was possible to concentrate closely and make sense of the sounds. Then she left her phone number, emphasizing to dial 711 (or is it 771? oh well I've written it down somewhere) first so as to use the service for people with impaired hearing.

Now I understand!

But why is she calling me? I'm far too far away. There are two player piano technicians near her in Rhode Island and there are a total of five others closer to her than me! I checked my business email when I got online tonight hoping that she had sent an email as well as phoning. I'm quite sure she found my info through a player piano site. Seems since she would have the email address it would be the easiest way to communicate. No such luck.

So, armed with the names and phone numbers of the two techs near her, I'll be calling her sometime tomorrow. I'll let her know that I just don't travel that far!

'Tis the season.

Note: New sidebar link to the webcams at Clearwater Beach.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hark the Herald

I have succumbed to the pressure. Mary posted in the comments that she wanted to see our treetop angel. So...thanks to a zoom lens...'Angels We Have Heard On High' at eight feet!
And while loading this photo I came across another of the Bearskin Neck shop that includes the adjacent store. They look nice together. So neighborly to coordinate their decorating!

Seasonal Views

Here are a few photos. I ventured in to the freezing temps just to take some pictures for all of you. Yes, yes, you're welcome. This is the town Christmas tree. It is one of the nicer ones we've had over the past couple years. I noticed that the DPW didn't have to fill in any bare spots with extra branches. Last year the branches that they used weren't the same type of fir as the tree and it looked a bit odd.
This next picture is the front of a shop on Bearskin Neck. It's one of the nicest decorating jobs out there.
And, as promised, here are some of our Christmas tree fully decorated. We decorate with all shiny ornaments. The icy moon man is mine (and my favorite).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

On the first day....

The wait is over. You will find the answer below in a large bulletin board that I created many years ago at my daughter's elementary school.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Holiday Season

Over the next few weeks, I hope to get some holiday photos taken. Rockport has some unique traditions like Santa arriving on a lobster boat (too cold for me to go to that)! The Christmas events started last Saturday with the above mentioned arrival, Christmas carols sung in Dock Square and the lighting of the Christmas tree (also in the square).

We've been finishing up our decorations at home, too. Dickiebo griped that he had no idea what I look is about all you'll see of me! I hate having my picture taken and my Mom isn't great with the digital camera. In this picture I'm up the ladder to put the angel atop our 7.5 foot tree. We got smarter this year by putting the tree-topper on before all the breakable ornaments. Photos of the finished tree to follow in a future post.

Decades ago, when I taught art at Gloucester High School, the holidays brought a slow down in student interest in doing much real classwork. Usually, about this time, I would offer a surprise quiz.
The rules: Question was to be answered immediately. No reference material. No talking. Eyes may not wander to adjacent student's paper.
The reward for correct answer: An 'A' averaged into the final grade.
The punishment for incorrect answer: No penalty.

THE QUESTION: In order, what are the twelve gifts from "The Twelve Days of Christmas"?

I got a kick out of watching the heads bobbing as they sang each to themselves.

Can you answer it? No cheating. I'm watching you.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Turkey Thursday

As far back as I can remember Thanksgiving Day was always filled with family. Ours alternated being celebrated either at home or at my Aunt E and Uncle N's house. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, in-laws, greats, cousins. Always a house full making the occasion special for me as an only child. Thanksgiving was celebrated as this one large family until we moved to Florida. There new traditions began. Pulling from the warm memories of Thanksgivings in New England, we alternated our gathering with a different aunt and uncle. No longer a large group, yet still family that grew to include new members over the years.

We have been back to New England for just over five years. A lot has changed since we left. Our extended family has grown to include more in-laws and children and grand children. The traditions have changed and we seem to travel further apart for our celebrations. We have started new traditions.

In five+ years encompassing six Thanksgivings we have shared our meal with two friends twice, had the joy of our traditional family with us, traveled to a restaurant, had a quiet meal with just mom, dad, Amanda, and me, and this year tried dining out once again.

This year was our smallest Thanksgiving as my dad died this past summer. Beyond needing a change, it just didn't seem worth the effort to prepare a large meal for only the three of us. Amanda was disappointed with the idea of eating out. Truth is, so was I.

As we drove to the restaurant our Thanksgiving Day was enclosed in fog. The quick change from cold night time temperatures to a day promising unseasonable warmth had shocked the air. But by the time we reached our destination a half hours drive from home, the sun was out and the sky was bright blue. Things were improving.


The first hint of a memorable day occurred when I pulled in to the parking lot. It was a one way drive that I could not negotiate because of the large sedan coming towards me the wrong way. This forced me to head the wrong way around as well, irritating a small number of drivers I'm sure. As quickly as feasible I found a parking space in the large but overcrowded parking lot and we headed for the door. We had reservations for 1:30 p.m. and had arrived 10 minutes early. The waiting area was crammed with hungry patrons and Amanda and I stood against a wall while my mother gave our name to the reservation desk. Off to one side a lady and her friend were waiting with take out meals. They were in the path of the waitstaff and wouldn't budge. The reservationist turned and very politely asked that they move towards the front of the desk so that they weren't in the way of traffic flow. The "take-out lady" replied that she had change due from her payment and she was NOT going to move until she got it. Those of us lined up and close by rolled our eyes as she finally departed, bags and change in hand and friend in tow. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

Quite remarkably on time, we were seated. We checked the Thanksgiving menu to find that the Traditional Turkey dinner included: choice of one - tomato juice, fruit salad, or turkey soup as an appetizer. The dinner included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, yams, peas, creamed pearl onions, and gravy. Dessert was a choice of pumpkin pie, mince meat pie, apple pie, or ice cream. Now, this sounds marvelous doesn't it? Except to me. Of the above, I don't especially like fruit salad or turkey soup so I chose the tomato juice. I don't like squash, yams, creamed onions or gravy. Never mince meat either. So for $19.99 I dined on a small glass of tomato juice, two small slices of turkey, a spoonful of stuffing, a blob of mashed potatoes and I'd guess a couple dozen peas (all of which were mixing on the plate with the squash and creamed onions at an alarming rate). Pumpkin pie for dessert. I also ordered a cup of coffee with my pie.

The meal was eaten quickly. The downside of eating a major holiday meal out and about...there's nothing relaxing about it. The waiter was good but was racing around so much we were astounded. Before we knew it our bill had arrived. Talk about sticker shock when I read it! Over $71.00 for three! Hmmmm...$19.99 X 3 = $59.97 doesn't it? Oh, seems beverages were not included in the price so add in 2 coffees, 1 tea, and a soda. Then there's meal tax. And don't forget the tip! We left $84.00 poorer. Forget it for next year. Maybe a buffet?

We exited through swarms of customers. The restaurant had taken reservations up until 7 p.m. Back to the van for the drive home. Since the day had warmed up so beautifully and the sun was shining in the blue sky, I decided to take a longer scenic drive home. We left the highway and headed towards the coast and Rte. 127. There was not much traffic on the road and it made for a pleasant drive. About 5 minutes after leaving the highway, Amanda announced the need for a restroom. Seems the coffee had, well, gotten to her. Even on the best of non-holiday days, it is hard to find public restrooms on the side roads of New England. Fortunately my mother's van totes a chemical port-a-potty! But where to find a bit of privacy? I took a short detour to a church parking lot and found a secluded back corner. We just had to hope that there were no police patrols! Then onward to arrive home just before sunset.

Fast forward one week later....yesterday I had to head off the island on a job. As I rounded Grant Circle, traffic had slowed to a near stop. A large group of twenty or so wild turkeys were trying to cross the two lanes of rotary traffic. I'm convinced that I saw one thumbing his nose (would that be winging his beak?) at me as I passed.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Glimpses of Their Pasts

The newspaper clip began with, "Nine local memoirists will read pieces of their work in an evening titled Pieces of Memory II. The article, of course, went on to name the time and place and continued by listing the authors who would read. Betty, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Joe, Pat, Loretta, Ann, Sue, and another Pat. Poor Joe, the only man with a group of errr interesting ladies.

I attended because I know Betty. And I'll start by saying that Betty's reading was a breath of fresh air. Betty's voice was quiet and a bit hesitant. In telling of how she played in the first Rockport High School band, her story was a precious insight to growing up in Rockport about 70 years ago. With a clever present day ending, Betty finished reading. The shortest memoir of the evening.

There was a younger women among the memoirists. While she told a clever story of first high school love, the lengthy details and her repetitive drone made sitting still for its entirety challenging.

I think Joe read the best of the evening. Joe related the nervousness and fear he experienced as a Jewish boy attending the 9th birthday party of a Christian girl from his school. With the subtle humor that only exists in retrospect, Joe's ability to clearly describe his unease at that party in 1950's Brooklyn excelled. I felt as a fly on the wall, back then, back there, at the party.

Quite honestly I left the memoir reading dismayed with the other six readings. They were overly long, left my back aching, screaming for some relief from the institutional seating. And they were extraordinarily consumed in death, disease, and prejudice. Was it just coincidence that these six people were thrown together in this memoir group? Do those seeking a public display of the miseries of their lives find a small town writing group as an outlet? Each of us can look back to times which we struggled to get through. Why do some feel the need to confide in a group of strangers? Do they think shock factor will somehow make them more memorable than their co-readers? For me, no. As you can see, although remembered for souring an evening, they are only recalled as a group. No pity for them, for as the stories worsened, so did the length of time it took to tell them. Drudgery.

Congratulations to the three with the courage to share their reflections on times, good and bad, with a retrospect that was not mired in self-pity.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble?

Original drawing credit to Don Addis
Coloration credit to deb

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

All Dressed Up and No Place to Go

Mrs. F phoned last Thursday evening. I answered with my best business voice saying, "Debra ____ Piano Service."

"Am I talking to a real person?" she asked.

I had tuned Mrs. F's Yamaha grand for the first time last April. It and she live in a splendidly appointed older home in Magnolia. Three levels, on the rocks, with an unobstructed view to Europe. She wanted to schedule another tuning. "But I'll be leaving on the 29th," she cautioned. "Is it possible to have it done before then?"

I checked my schedule and we agreed upon Tuesday the 20th at 10:30 a.m.

Mrs. F phoned yesterday morning at 8:30. She just wanted to check that her calendar was correct. Was I tuning Monday morning or Tuesday?

"I have you for Tuesday, tomorrow, at 10:30."

"Oh good. I have it right. See you tomorrow then, I'm so looking forward to it."

I turned in to Mrs. F's driveway between 10:20 and 10:25 a.m.* It had just started to slush out. Rain mixed with big snowflakes, that is. I was glad that I had taken the time to put the additional 400 lbs. of tube sand in the bed of the truck before heading out. Just in case. I made the descent down the hill and negotiated the abrupt left turn of the drive avoiding the careen across the steep side yard into the gray ocean below. I'd hate to make this trip in the ice and snow! Passing Mrs. F's Mercedes in front of the garage, I parked along side the front porch, collected my stuff and headed for the front door. I rang the bell and waited.

And waited.

I knocked and waited some more.

I went to the side door and rang the bell. And...waited.

Back to the front door and double rang the bell followed by a reverberating rapping on the wooden door panel. Nothing.

I went back to my truck and sat inside protected from the slushy mess falling more rapidly from the sky. I got two business cards from the holder and wrote the current date and time on each.

Tuesday, 20th, 10:40. Then I got out my cell phone and called Mrs. F's number. Nothing.

I'd been stood up. I put a business card in each door, loaded my tools back in the truck and left.

Mrs. F hasn't called yet.

Some good things did happen from being stood up...a Christmas present that I had ordered for my Mom had been delivered to the door and I got home to take it in and hide it before she noticed it, I was home to take a phone call from a technician sending a set of keys and needing pricing info, and the Rockport Art Association called to schedule a tuning.

*Contrary to the illusion of Mrs. F's drive being visible at the front of her house in this's not. The drive heading to the left that you can see actually belongs to the neighbors house. Look carefully at the small gap between the trees, about in the middle of the photograph. That's where Mrs. F's driveway takes it's dip towards the ocean and then, out of sight in the photo, takes a sharp left to her house. In this photo only the top half of the second (main) floor and the third (top) floor along with the roof are visible. Hidden below the hill are the bottom half of the main floor and, accessible from the ocean side, the first (walk in finished basement) level.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Well, it finally happened.

Cold weather. It's only in the mid 40's today and we have gusty winds. It was below freezing last night. Of course I'm not being truthful with this picture, although this is how I feel it should look!

I absolutely hate it. I feel like I will never be warm again. I don't mind winter if it could be about 80°F while it's wintering. I probably shouldn't complain too much about the temperature. This is the first that it's been seriously cold this season. Temperatures have been very mild for autumn in New England. You can tell by our plants. These begonias were planted in the flower boxes (another on my porch) last May. They just won't give up. Each time the overnight temperature has dipped below freezing we have expected wilted begonias the next day. It's just not happening. The neighbors will begin to think that they are artificial flowers!

There is hope this week. It's supposed to warm up to 55° on Thursday.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Four Pianos

The holiday season is generally a very busy time for piano technicians. With parties galore, it suddenly dawns on people that they want their piano tuned. Whether a regular customer with a well-maintained piano or a new customer who's piano hasn't been serviced in 10 years, this is the time of year they all call.

I am no exception. I decided to get my own piano in shape. Well, playable at least!

But first...

My Tuesday morning customer. This is one that hasn't had the piano tuned in ten years. Oh, and they did mention that the roof had leaked on the piano. Since this customer was nearby, I offered to do a quick inspection at no charge before scheduling a tuning. I love local customers, particularly with the sky-rocketing gasoline prices! The piano was an old studio sized relic. Beat up case, chipped keytops, and the workings hidden under a thick layer of gray dust. Sort of like the house. It had two keys that were easy fix, and a few hammers out of alignment...another easy fix. I played all the notes up and down the keyboard and was relieved that no individual notes were extraordinarily whacky which would have made me wary of loose tuning pins. I took out my tuning fork and thunked it against my knee cap to get it to sound. As I brought it to my ear, I played the corresponding A on the piano. Expecting to find the note drastically below pitch, I was amazed when it rang remarkably true to the fork. Armed with all the information I needed, I scheduled an appointment for fixing what needed fixing, a "the big stuff" vacuuming, and a tuning. The first date that we could coordinate schedules puts this job almost two weeks away. Then the customer asked for another tuning two weeks after the first. "Why?"
"Because I think it will need another one", he said.
I asked his wife if he were a pessimist. Then I agreed to write the second tuning in my schedule, but instructed him to call and cancel it when the piano still sounded fine.



Then it was time to tackle the monster. My piano. I had been working on it off and on for a few weeks. I had done major work on the piano while it and I were still in Florida including restringing the entire instrument. By this week I had managed to get the "guts" functioning mechanically; each of thousands of parts doing what it was supposed to at exactly the correct moment. Now it was time for the dreaded job. The job that causes me the most stress. The job I had managed to avoid doing very often for the last 15 years. Truth be known, I'd get a technician friend to do this job.

But now I was on my own. I had to yank this piano up to pitch. Starting from massively dissonant tones and string tensions that in no way made musical sense, all 230 plus strings had to be brought a bit above where they ultimately would be tuned.

This is when I fear that nasty, surprising sound of string breakage.

BANG!!!! Just that instant before you realize it's going to happen.

Or worse.

BOOM!!!! Something major was wrong and the increased tension has caused the massive cast iron plate to crack. Pretty much the demise of the instrument.

I had lost sleep the night before, just thinking of the possibilities.

I inhaled deeply and began. I kept telling myself "just go for it" and "if something breaks, so be it, this has to be done". As I progressed I found that I was holding my breath each time I increased the tension on each string. On some tuning pins that were extremely tight, I was clenching my teeth. I had to take a lot of breaks. It's a big upright piano and I had to stand on my tiptoes to reach the top tuning pins with my tuning lever. My right shoulder was aching terribly. But I finished. I did it. I was sooooo pleased with myself. The piano would sit for a day or so before I would attack it again. It would be interesting to see how it "settled".


I was sort of nervous about my Wednesday morning customer. It was just one of those funny feelings you get every once in a while that puts you a bit on edge. David had called a week earlier requesting an appointment for a tuning. He had left a message on my machine and was a new customer. I had returned the call that evening and was surprised when I got an answering machine with a message that stated a different last name than the one David had given. The following day David reached me. He said he had recently moved and his Wurlitzer spinet needed tuning. We agreed on a date and he gave me his address. Not a spectacular neighborhood. I decided that I'd take my chances and if things looked bad once I got there, I'd leave. Well, everything was fine. David showed me to the the bedroom. David had just bought the house and was doing major renovations. He was having to store most of his stuff until finished with the work. Just happened that the floors had been finished in this room, thus the odd furniture combo. Whew. I opened up the piano. It looked strangely at odds with itself. A 1960's spinet with a lovely satin black finish. Not a ding. The innards were sparkling clean. Not a bit of dust. The plain wire strings shone and the copper wound bass strings, although dull in color, were bright in tone.

Someone had blued the steel tuning pins recently. The bluing was on the wire coils of the strings.

Then there was the deserted campground...

of a mouse.

He had cleverly raided the gerbil food from a nearby pet and stored it between the ends of the piano keys and the inside of the case.

Then he had pee'd on his stash of food. Eeeeeeeeew.

Fortunately he had left camp.

The tuning went quickly and easily. Just minded the stench when playing those notes at each extreme of the instrument. I was still puzzled by the odd condition of the piano and asked David a few questions as I was packing up my tools. He estimates that the piano was about ten years old when his parents bought it used from a private party. No dealer involved to clean things up and try to disguise the rusty pins with bluing. None of his answers helped. David took a picture of the old mousie home for his kids and then vacuumed out the gerbil food.


Lanesville is a small community that is part of Gloucester. It sits on the northern tip of the island of Cape Ann. This morning I went to tune the choir practice piano for a church in Lanesville. Don't know where they found this piano. By it's condition, it must have been very eagerly donated. The photograph does it far more justice than it deserves. A beat up, drywall screwed together case, worn hammers, brittle dampers that made crunching noises as they returned to the strings, old Story and Clark spinet. Sticking keys, warped hammer shanks. A pile of little problems and fixes while tuning. And to finish, adjust the pedals as they wouldn't move far enough to work before "bottoming out".


And home to yank up the monster some more. Not nearly so far to yank this time!
It's getting good and I'm smiling.


Here's a short piano related tale from a newspaper clipping that I came across while I was cleaning out my desk. It was Police Notes in the Essex news section of the Gloucester Times several years ago.
A Southern Avenue resident reported a possible break-in at 5:33 p.m. Saturday after he saw a suspicious vehicle on his property and found the door to his office open. Police found the driver of the vehicle, who said he was lost and was trying to find a house where he was scheduled to tune a piano.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Puzzles Solved

A couple weeks ago, Amanda and I were browsing around our not-so-local Target store. For some strange reason we ended up in the toy department and decided we just had to have a jigsaw puzzle. Ummm, like I have nothing else to do, right? This is the puzzle we bought. I was a lot more difficult than we anticipated and drove us nuts for over a week of occasional struggling with it. We still haven't done the "I Spy" part of finding the hidden items.

It was even more frustrating when at the end, in a mad frenzy to complete the puzzle at about 10:30 one night, we found out that there was one piece missing. We've looked everywhere. No luck.

No 1000 piece puzzle. We only got 999.


Remember a month or so ago I mentioned that our shower was merely drizzling? I had tried to remove the shower head to see if there was sediment clogging the holes, but our to-remain-nameless idiot plumber for our addition had over-tightened the shower head and I couldn't budge it. Well.....looky here! I ran in to our much loved new plumber while having lunch at Ellen's (before they closed for the season). He stopped by the following day and took the shower head off for me. He did it so easily, I remarked that it must have been because I had already loosened it! K. R. told me to remove the water saver device in the shower head and that we would love our shower!

Here's what the water saver device looked like when I took it out. Sorry for the less than great photo, but this thing is only about 3/8th inch diameter. Not only was it doing it's job of restricting the water flow to a fine spray, but it was half clogged with bits of teflon tape (the white stuff sticking out of it)! No wonder a lousy shower. I'd love to know how plumber 1 accomplished that!

It's been a few weeks since K. R. of Keating and Ramsden Plumbing was out to help me and I have received no bill. Yesterday, I made him a thank you card. It's a tri-fold. Only the top third is visible and then it unfolds to show the rest. I had to photograph it rather than scan it as I used some sugar-like glitter to highlight the water and I didn't want to risk scratching the scanner. We love Keating and Ramsden!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Weeks Fly

I've decided to slow down for a moment and take the time to relate why I have been remiss, not only in writing here, but in reading other's blogs.

The main reason........

Seems I haven't had more than a couple minutes to sit and relax!

So here goes........

Having finished up the installation of the player piano, a week ago last Monday I finished the Dr.'s reed organ. This is the organ that will be going to Thacher Island come next summer. Not much was needed to get the job completed and by noontime it was done. The afternoon was spent on a totally different kind of project...

Reading the volumes of information for my mother's pending health insurance change!

She doesn't understand it, so it has become my job to find a plan that is best for her. Don't get me going on the disgusting state of health coverage in the US. I could write volumes! So far, in requesting information on only 5 options offered by two companies she has received three large cartons, packed with hundreds of pages each, in the mail. While I started this process over a week ago, it is still ongoing.

The next day a set of keys arrived for new keytops. I had been anxiously awaiting their arrival. This was to be a fun job. The keys were from a child's grand piano. Only 26 keys to cover! A mini-set. It was cute to see them lined up. All right, maybe only in a weird piano tech's mind. Here's what they looked like lined up for packing to be shipped back. I had worked on them all day, after their arrival on Tuesday, as on Wednesday I would be out for the day. Before my Tuesday could be called finished, I did some work for WHOA-KTD. I'm in the process of emailing all the New England high schools about booking Jayne for school presentations. I'm about halfway through the state of Maine schools.

Wednesday was my big day off. Haha. The girls headed out to go shopping. First stop was L.L. Bean for some winter clothes. Amanda found a beautiful blue, down parka. She desperately needed a new winter jacket. I bought a fine wale corduroy shirt. Mom was BAD and spent a lot of money. Well, compared to Amanda and me. She bought a couple pairs of corduroy pants and three new tops, I think. After L.L. Bean it was off to a gift shop in Danvers. I was looking for a birthday gift and hadn't been having much luck finding anything. I had never been to this particular shop, and while it was nice and had piles of cool stuff, I found nothing suitable. Our last stop was Lowe's, a home improvement store for some odds and ends we needed. I can't remember exactly what we went for or whether we bought anything there! Then it was a quick dash home as the Trick-or-Treaters would start arriving.

Greeting kids dressed in costume is not my thing. My Mom kept insisting I come to the door to see how cute or scary each kid was. Amanda hid at our house watching scary movies. Smart move!

Thursday was a challenging day and I, of course, did not have my camera! My Mom and I headed down to the church to put heavy duty dollies on the spinet piano. This would make it possible to roll the piano from room to room. To do this job I would have to stand the piano on end. No problem, I thought, I've done this before, I've moved spinets around and even loaded them in my mini-van. I got everything ready and started to lift. Mom was there to dial 911 if needed (grin). This was a heavy spinet. I got it part way up and decided it just might be a bit heavy for me. I let it back down to the floor. While considering my options, a really fortuitous thing happened...Mr. B appeared. With me lifting and Mr. B adding a bit of weight relief, we got the piano on end. Mr. B. left his phone number (it's written on the bottom of the piano!) to call when I was ready to reverse the process. Mom helped hold each dolly in place as I secured them with screws and bolts. Twenty minutes later, I called Mr. B and we lowered the piano back down, dollies in place.

Only four days along and it felt like four weeks.

Friday I did more work on insurance reading, shipped the little key set, and started working on my own piano. I hope to get the piano in good shape before the Christmas holidays. In the afternoon, the Dr. and his Thacher Island groupies (chuckle) showed up to take the reed organ away. They were fascinated with the piano work I was doing so I showed them a few details and also what the lower workings of the player piano portion looked like. It was at that moment that I was asked to be a member of the groupies! Next summer I get to volunteer on Thacher Island each Wednesday. For starters I'll be shingling the new work shed!

The weekend began with a nor'easter. Yucky, windy and rainy weather. I spent most of the day working on insurance reading. Mom and I went to a local store and I finally found that gift I needed. Later in the evening, at high tide, I took Mom for a ride out Bearskin Neck. It was dark and spooky with the wind howling and the waves crashing. My little truck would shake with each blast from the northeast and surf would crash on the rocks unexpectedly and suddenly visible from the dark. As we drove back Mom noticed something in a shop window. The perfect birthday gift that I had been looking for. But I had all ready bought something else.

What a difference a day makes and Sunday certainly fit the bill. Sunny and bright. After church I walked out the Neck to that little shop where Mom had seen the perfect gift. I bought it. Christmas shopping had begun! Sunday afternoon I finalized my decision on the best insurance for Mom and tried to explain it to her. Now all that is left is the paperwork. I think. I asked that I take a couple days off from thinking about it. She has plenty of time before the paperwork is due.

Is it Monday again so soon? Amanda got called in to work extra hours so this gave extra time to go out on errands for Mom and me. We did some Christmas shopping and picked out upholstery fabric for Mom's rocking chair (the one that came from A's house in NH).

Tuesday rolled around and work continued on my piano. With lots of little things to do, I wrapped the birthday gift and wrote the card, baked peanut butter cookies, cleaned the house, and cleaned up the workshop. I also did some more sorting of Dad's stuff. The keeps, the throw aways, and the sell at garage sale things. What on earth would I ever do with 35 augers? 53 drills the smallest of which is half inch and the largest well over two inches? And the large masonry bits? Sigh...

And finally Wednesday. More of Tuesday's sorting and cleaning, shipped the gift, worked on woodwork for my Mom. Amanda, Mom and I went out for pizza for dinner. After dinner I went out for another exciting evening in town. Remember the gala? Wednesday night the library was hosting a memoir reading. Since I know one of the participants, I decided to attend. The content will be saved for a post all it's own!

Sidebar changes this morning with a new recommended read. I actually read A Thousand Splendid Suns last summer. It deserves a spot in my recommendations. I loved Khaled Hosseini's first book The Kite Runner and was hoping I wouldn't be let down with his second book. Not a chance, far better than the excellence of the first. Look here for details.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Three Cheers for Jayne!

I love passing along good news. Check out Jayne's Netcrimes blog to read the details of the great news. Then go to the book's official site to buy a copy if you don't already own one!The holidays are coming soon, so think of your friends who are online and wrap up a copy for them.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

TRICK or Treat


It's Only a Paper Moon.

So, confession time...

While the story of the previous post was entirely true, the photograph was not.

Yes, we found the moon. And yes, it was nearly full. However, we would have had to turn the hay person 90° to get the moon in the photo with a front view. The moon wasn't orange, just white as it had risen in the sky so much it had lost it's atmospheric color distortion. And finally, I had to stand too far away from the hay person (to get the whole thing) for the flash to have any effect. Even the triple flash. It needed a timed exposure and I hadn't tried that with the digital yet.

So I thought I'd have some real life cut and paste fun and created the blog photo from three photos. The first was a cut out of the giant hay person from a daylight photo that I already had printed. The second was the actual photo I took that night. It was used as the background. Then I cut a pumpkin out of the daylight photo and added that. And lastly, the moon was from an online site that sells moon posters.

Here's the photo that I took Sunday night. Happy Halloween

Monday, October 29, 2007

Full Moon and Empty Arms*

We had made a decision. Sunday over our last lunch of the season at Ellen's we had agreed to head for Marini Farms after Amanda got finished at work. It was still nearly a full moon and the skies had cleared after several gloomy, cloudy, and fog-ridden days and nights. Sunday night was crisp and clear. The moon would be just high enough in the sky shortly after Amanda's 7 p.m. departure from Stop & Shop.

When 6:45 rolled around, my Mom and I wondered if we really had the ambition to make the trip. That might be best read as whether a long weekend of hard work had left me too tired to make the hour round trip drive in the dark. Oh, what the heck, I'd probably regret not going so....

We headed out in Mom's mini-van to pick up Amanda. On the 10 minute drive to Gloucester we kept looking out the van towards the east. We couldn't see any moon! In disbelief we bantered about the weirdness of the moonless sky. Where was it? On Friday night we had caught a brief glimpse of the fog and cloud streaked full moon as we finished our last supper at Ellen's, so we knew the time was near correct. How come we couldn't find it?

As Amanda left work and approached the van we asked her to look directly overhead. Maybe that's where the moon was hiding from us, being we were too lazy to get out to look.

Nothing. Moonless.

Okay, we thought, we'd head towards Ipswich anyway. Once at the top of the Piatt bridge we'd look again. Surely the moon would be visible from there. If not, we would exit the highway at Rte 133 and instead of continuing to Ipswich, we'd turn around and head home. We passed a police car parked in the center of the Grant Circle rotary. We joked that he must be looking for the moon, too. Up onto the bridge and.....

There was no moon in sight. We turned around.

Totally weird.

Oh well, I mused, it saved a long drive in a van that I hate to drive at night.

As we rounded the curve and crested Great Hill, just a mile from home, there it was! Huge and orange directly ahead. A quick turnaround and we were back on our way to Marini Farm.


It was a wonderful trip with the three of us joking around about being tailgated. Honestly, the guy was soooo close I couldn't see his headlights in my rearview mirror. I was doing just over the speed limit so he just had to wait. We decided that he should have "gone" before leaving the office LOL.

We arrived at Marini Farm. The entire area was in darkness. I pulled in to the gravel parking area and stopped. We got out quietly leaving the van door slightly ajar. I didn't want the owners, in their nearby house, to notice that we were there. We crept toward the biggest hay person. Everything was perfect for a spooky, moonlit shot. I knew that I would need the flash setting on the camera to get the hay person to show up in the dark. The night setting actually flashes three times in quick succession. I looked through the viewfinder to blackness. I looked at the screen to blackness. I just had to make a guess....flash, flash, flash.


A mad dash back to the van before we were discovered. We giggled all the way home! Happy Halloween Hay People!

*recorded by Frank Sinatra, 1945

Saturday, October 27, 2007


The end of a very long day. Today I hauled the completed workings of a 1950's player piano (pianola to you Brit types) up the bulkhead stairs from the workshop, loaded it in my pick-up truck and drove to Marblehead, MA to install back in the customer's piano. Only a few minor glitches to solve that unfortunately required removing half the top action once and the total top action once.

It plays well.

The major, enormous nightmare that I forgot....

It's the weekend before Halloween and I had to drive directly through Salem, MA to get to and from the customer's house. in The Salem Witch Trials, Nathaniel Hawthorne and The House of Seven Gables, as in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. I had to drive directly past the Witch Museum, the Salem Commons where an enormous outdoor food arcade had been set up, and then rounded a corner at the waterfront to find a carnival. I counted 17 full size tour buses within 6 blocks. The sidewalks were as crowded as the mall the last shopping days before Christmas! Traffic was barely crawling. Needless to say, I should have brought my camera.

It felt good to see the sun heading for the horizon. I should sleep well tonight.

Friday, October 26, 2007

3 R Sidebar

Announcing a new feature in my sidebar!

The 3 R - Recommended Recent Reads.

This spot will display the most current good read. A book that I enjoyed and heartily recommend to others. The recommendation will only be changed as I read another book that I feel can replace the current goody. Many previous favorites are already listed in my complete profile so feel free to check them out as well.

Also, if I remember, I'll include a link to the book or author in a post.

So, find out about Fatal Forecast and other books by Michael Tougias, including another of my favorites, Ten Hours Until Dawn, here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Annisquam Puzzler

A few weeks ago I was hired to repair a broken hammer shank on an old upright piano. The customer wasn't sure they would be home, so they gave me the address, said the front door would be open, and they would leave payment on the piano. The home was on the water in Annisquam. Annisquam is a picturesque, upper class section of Gloucester. Lots of old homes on private roads. Great, I thought, I'll take the camera!

I was amazed that I found the home on my first try. Weaving around narrow private roads that were indistinguishable from driveways, then down a steep winding narrow road to the end. What a view. Guess what? The husband of the client had just arrived home and waited for me at the gate that led to the front yard and door. I thought it best to leave my camera in the truck for the time being. After all, I'd certainly have opportunity for picture taking once I was leaving.

The job was simple, getting access to the spot in the piano wasn't. As I was working, Mr. Client announced that he would be leaving for their summer home up the street. Huh? Yep, they own two homes there. The summer home didn't have "deep water" for below freezing temperatures. This house did. Fine with me if he left. It would mean I'd have more chance for picture taking!

I finished the repair, fixed the piano case so that it would be easier to get apart the next time, and packed up and left. I was anxious to get to my camera! As I exited the gated walk, a car pulled up next to my truck.

Mrs. Client.

Then Mr. Client came back.

They chatted and chatted until I had to leave for my next job.

No pictures.


I went back about a week later with my Mom in tow. Just to tour around Annisquam. I took her down the winding narrow road and once we reached the bottom I was pleased that there were no other vehicles. Here's a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Client's view. All the way across the Annisquam River to Wingarsheek Beach and beyond to Ipswich.

While we were out driving about I took a few other photos. This is the back patio area of the Rockport Public Library. Mom had to drop off a couple books before we drove to Annisquam!

And here is a waaaaayyyyy cool tree growing out of the granite ledge!

Finally, this is the Annisquam puzzler for you all to solve. It's sort of an advance version of hidden picture.

The clues...there is one hidden object, it was to be the subject of the photo, I had to take this photo on the fly as the subject was uncooperative.

First correct answer wins the admiration of all those post readers who are still going cross-eyed or who couldn't be bothered.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Playing in My Sandbox

I'm going to try to keep this brief. I've met many wonderful people online and through this blog. I intend on meeting many more. Everyone is welcome to submit a comment on any of my posts. However, I feel it is only fair to publicly state a few conditions.

While comments are encouraged (there are some readers out there who don't, I know who you are!) , I will continue to moderate publishing comments.

General laid back conversational stuff is great.

Opinions are always read enthusiastically. I will even publish those that don't agree with mine!

I love "meeting" new readers and will ALWAYS check out any links that are a result of their comments. So, if you have a questionable content blog and want to comment on mine, you'll have to do so anonymously or with a different name so that the link to your blog does not appear.

That being said, I WILL NOT publish personal attacks on me or any other reader.
I WILL NOT intentionally contribute, even in a secondary manner, to the "rumor mill".
I WILL NOT allow links that I feel possibly contain offensive material. If this means that your comment is rejected, well, so be it.

I truly appreciate the folks who READ my blog because they ENJOY it.

The rest need not comment.

This is MY sandbox. Play nice with each other!

OH YEAH....I'm going to the other Cape for a day and a half to visit Dad's grave at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne and to visit my uncle at his new residence. SO...if your comments don't appear right away, don't worry, you haven't been banished! I'll be back Tuesday. (And I'm taking the camera)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Gala Event?


If you remember a few weeks back I was invited to attend the 80th Gala of the Sandy Bay Historical Society. While being a specially invited guest saved me the $20 ticket, it cost me $91 for a suitable outfit! I guess I don't mind. Hopefully someday, before it goes out of style, I shall be able to wear it again. Seriously, it's not super dressy or anything. A nice pair of dressy black slacks and a pretty, lightweight, wrap sweater with a satin collar and side tie. And I got to wear my four inch heels. It feels strange to be tall! No, there will be no photos. I HATE having my picture taken. Besides, photos just remind me of how old I'm getting and I refuse to believe it.

The Gala was from 5:30 - 8:30 in the Grand Cafe of the Emerson Inn. Yep, we party to the wee hours here in Rockport. Since it is on street parking only, I got there a bit early to be sure I could find a close space. I can't walk very far in four inch heels. I sat in my truck watching some of the first arrivals. Two older ladies, an elderly man with a walker, a lady with a cane hanging on to a bent over man. Then came the lady with the pinkish hair and the ruby red pantsuit. She was followed by a couple that I know, the wife was also sporting a walker! And I was making an appearance with no accessories! Oh boy, this was going to be interesting. I got up my nerve and ventured from my truck to the entrance of the Emerson Inn. At least now I knew that there would be someone that I knew in attendance.

The Grand Cafe of the Emerson is a tastefully decorated period dining area on the first floor of the inn. For the $20 ticket, we were to expect fancy hors d'oeuvres. It was a cash bar. I picked up the professionally printed program of the evening and entered the main room. The curator, who had invited me, gave me a once up and down lookover. I smiled at her and said, "Yes, I can get dressed up you know!" There was a middle aged man playing "old favorites" on the Steinway grand, a table set up as the bar, and a small table with crackers, cheese, raw veggies and dip. Certainly this wasn't the fancy stuff? I grabbed a minute plate and loaded it with two cubes of cheese, two strawberries, a slice of cucumber, a sliver of red pepper and one cracker. It was full. I headed to an adjoining room where round tables invited my already tired, heeled feet. The couple I knew were already seated and I joined them. And to my relief, more food was brought around, on teeny tiny trays, by the waitstaff. The first tray had a dozen stuffed mushrooms. I HATE mushrooms. I just don't see the attraction of eating rubbery fungus, sorry. Still starving I anxiously awaited the next offering. As the little tray was presented to our table my heart sank. A dozen miniature open-faced sandwiches featuring some kind of ground up sausage. Nope, not for me. It's sausage-y and I don't do questionable cold meats.

Still starving at 6:30.

Another little tray was graciously brought to our table. This time it was microscopic quiche tartlets. By then I was desperate. How dangerous could a mini quiche be? I took one. Only one because, presented as they were, it would have looked hoggish to take more than that. My hungry stomach was nearly crawling up my throat for that quiche. With good etiquette in mind, I took just a small bite.

And nearly gagged.

Anchovy! Eeeeewwwwww, yuck.

And there I was with 2/3 a tartlet left in my hand, no plate, no napkin, and nowhere for it to go but in my mouth. I took a deep breath and held it, popped the rest in my mouth and hurriedly chewed and swallowed before exhaling. Gone.

But that flavor...

just lingered....

and lingered...

I had to get to the cash bar for something to wash the abhorrent taste down. A glass of wine sounded good, but I'd had next to nothing to eat since noontime so I didn't dare. I opted for my easy, non-alcoholic stand by, sparkling water with lime. It was served with lots of ice and an almond sized piece of lime in a small wine glass. It cost $2.75! When I returned to my table, the lady sitting next to me eyed my drink and inquired what it was. After I told her she asked, "Did you have to pay for that?" When I responded, yes, she told me her glass of white wine had cost her $6.00!

There was a little program presented by an ancestor of the founder of the historical society (twas founded 80 years ago, thus the gala) and a short talk by the curator (my host). We chatted at the table for a bit more and then called it an evening. As I was making my exit, I ran into another acquaintance. She was having a good time standing next to the piano singing. She grabbed me by the arm and pulled me over. I was trapped. She wrapped her arm around my shoulder and indicated that I should sing along with her. I made good fun of it without actually participating! Then I grabbed my free candy sampler donated by Tuck's Candy and made my escape.

And so went the 80th Gala! In all honesty, I did have fun. Out for a bit socializing is nearly always fun. But, am I ever glad that I was a guest and didn't have to pay the $20! The historical society did a spectacular job with the invitations, printed programs, speakers and the exhibit (forgot to mention that they had a mini history of the historical society table). Even the piano player was good. I was less than impressed with the Emerson Inn's catering.

postscript - The candy was given to my mom. I'm not a big fan of candy. You may call me weird.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Frigate Friday

It's been over a century since the original plan. It's been 57 years since the last appearance.

What, you ask?

The Sandy Bay Harbor of Refuge.Yes, we were to be the home of the North Atlantic Fleet. The "Great White Fleet" of President Theodore Roosevelt. The 1906 photograph above shows a line up of battleships entering Sandy Bay from the north. Many large warships would come and go as the twentieth century began it's infancy, but by the time WWI came along, Sandy Bay had dropped out of the picture as the home port for the Atlantic Fleet. Annual stop-over visits by the fleet became the norm from 1896 until 1919. Then with the halt of the breakwater construction, subsequent years saw only visits by a single ship. This continued annually through 1950, with one ship making the visit to the Sandy Bay Harbor of Refuge. Then the visits ceased.

Until this year when Rockport Patrolman and Navy veteran, Roger Lesch, along with other interested parties including Representative Verga and Senator Tarr, arranged the first visit by a naval vessel in 57 years. This year we were visited by the frigate USS Boone. The hope is that once again a yearly visit will become a reality.

It all began on Friday the 12th. A miserably damp and windy day for the Boone to arrive in Sandy Bay. Here is the frigate at anchor just off Rockport. The arrival of the Boone coincided with Rockport's annual Harvest Fest so there would be a lot of people in town to see the ship. Many events were planned including a reception at the Sandy Bay Yacht Club, ship tours for the public, tours of Thacher Island for the Boone's crew, golf at the Rockport Country Club for the crew, a nighttime softball game at Evans Field with the crew pitted against the Rockport police and fire departments, a tug-a-war on Front Beach, and a kayak race. Here are some pictures from Evans Field. Seems the Rockport guys were playing much better than the crew. I didn't stay to the end because it got way too cold to be standing on a granite wall so I don't know the final score, but how much practice at softball can you get while stationed on a frigate?The Boone's crew seemed to have a fantastic time playing and watching the game. The town provided hot dogs and burgers and hot chowder and coffee for the game.

The crew was invited to tour Sandy Bay on local lobster boats, there was a public open house at the American Legion, and a concert by the Navy Northeast Show band at the high school. As you can see, our weather had drastically improved by Saturday!Sunday would be the last day for touring the ship and at 6 p.m. there was a VIP reception on the aft deck.What a successful weekend for Rockport. Town was packed with people for the Harvest Fest, sidewalk sales, craft fair, children's activities, concerts, games, and of course the visit of the USS Boone!