Archive for October, 2009

On The Air!
October 30, 2009

mfa_eternalLOGO

There’s no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.

-Brendan Behan (1923-64)

Publicity work can be a lonesome job at times. One spends one’s hours thinking up angles to promote whatever is happening that is in need of promotion. What can one say that will catch the eye of that all important editor or producer? 

Once all the spell checked words are in order and the carefully edited photos are attached, off they go with a click of the SEND button, along with high hopes for an “above the fold” presence or a mention during the morning drive time. 

After that comes the waiting. For seldom do the recipients acknowledge receipt of these masterfully crafted press releases. I hate that! 

(cool!! As I’m writing this, I just heard one of our ads on KUHF!) 

When it’s a REALLY big event, a press PACKET is in order, with cover letter, release, flyer, additional information to embellish the release, business card and if applicable, a CD of the music involved. These get sent to select people in the “outside media” world, with even higher hopes (which makes the waiting game afterwards even more fraught with restlessness). 

Such was the case this month, because the Music Ministry of St. Luke’s UMC is presenting the American Premiere of Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light: A Requiem on Sunday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 pm:(http://www.stlukesmethodist.org/en/cev/654). 

This is a really big deal, an amazing presentation of spectacular music performed for the first time LIVE in the whole North American continent. I think that’s pretty special, don’t you? 

Our local NPR station (the above mentioned KUHF) runs a daily show called “The Front Row” on which they interview selected artists who are presenting upcoming shows, exhibits, performances, readings and the like. On three previous occasions, I’ve been successful in scoring an interview spot on this show for various performances, and I had extra high hopes for this premiere. 

I waited and waited for some sign, followed up via e-mail twice and waited some more. As the key week progressed with no reply, I became more and more disappointed. And then came last Friday, the very last day possible for something to happen. 

EUREKA! I awoke to an e-mail from the producer confirming that he’d like to interview our music director (Sid Davis) and the composer of the piece (Howard Goodall). All that remained was to coordinate everybody’s schedule, bearing in mind the time differences between Texas and England. Flurries of e-mails went back and forth between all parties, and it was decided that Monday was the best day, first thing in the morning for the Texans, mid afternoon for the British connection. 

Arriving at the studio, one checks in and gets a visitor pass. The waiting room upstairs is essentially a hallway, and folks come and go; there is always something to see, and great people watching. One never knows who may walk by! Unlike previous visits there, this time I was invited back to watch the recording session, as the particular studio involved was much larger and had room for a quiet little mouse in the corner. 

It’s all very high tech with microphone stations/headsets for participants around the table and a wall of computer equipment and screens that boggled my Luddite sensibilities. After a bit of technological difficulties, all was ready, and once Howard was on the phone, the interview began. I could hear what Sid and the host, St. John Flynn, were saying, but not Howard. It was really fascinating to watch the whole process. Exciting, too! 

Inside the studio, one cannot tell if it is day or night, sunny or rainy. We emerged to a literal monsoon, and had to wait awhile for it to abate. Luckily, I anticipated the rain and had brought my flip flops, so I waded out to fetch Donnie Ray without ruining my good shoes. 

The actual interview aired on Wednesday, and while a great deal got left on the cutting floor (they were in the midst of their semi-annual fundraiser, so that shortened each segment of the show), it was still thrilling to hear it and an excerpt of the music. 

(to hear it, go to http://app1.kuhf.org/houston_public_radio-the_front_row.php and search the Archives for Wednesday, Oct. 28) 

We are hopeful for a good turnout on Sunday, and if there is, we can credit KUHF for much of it. For you see, The Houston Chronicle editors (our only major citywide paper) not only didn’t respond to my press packets, they didn’t even run a mention of the concert AT ALL. Which is quite “irksome”, to put it kindly. 

Oh well, from the bottom of the roller coaster ride, I have gone to the very pinnacle, and now am back down again. This is my life. And now it’s on to the next challenge: Advent performing arts events (despite the fact that it isn’t even Halloween yet). This explains why I never know what day it actually is…

I hope to see you Sunday; bring kleenex. It’s that powerful.

Advertisements

Painterly Pastimes
October 23, 2009

new_mirror

Busy hands are happy hands.

-a favorite quote from my office days… 

While in Santa Fe, we bought a new folk art mirror for our downstairs powder room. There was nothing wrong with the old one; I was just ready for a style change (after 14 years!). Once home, I removed the old mirror and found a new place for it upstairs in the other half bath. 

However, removing the mirror revealed multiple large gaping holes where previous mirrors had hung. And the new one wasn’t quite tall enough to cover them all up. So I resolved to fix this problem myself prior to hanging the new mirror. After all, there was just this one wall involved. It had been awhile since I’ve tackled a painting project, but I was motivated by the fact that we were hosting a party in a week’s time. This was going to be fun! 

I managed to scrape off some flecks of the red paint and went to Lowe’s for supplies. I bought spackle, a quart of red paint (as close as I could match the color), a pan and roller. They threw in a stirrer for free… what a deal! 

Once back home, I filled the large gaping holes with paper wads, as I had witnessed previous house painters doing. After spreading spackle over them, and touching up smaller nail holes, I left things to dry for a few days. So far, so good.

Day 2: Time to tape around the edges of the surface to protect the ceiling molding and vanity surface. I covered the entire area with newspaper, just to be sure. Spackle drying nicely. 

Day 3: Today I sanded the spackled surfaces, creating lots of spackle dust (as opposed to pixie dust?). Achoo! It took me awhile to find the upholstery brush head for the canister vac, but I was successful, and whoosh! Dust be gone! 

After this step, I used a damp rag to wipe down all the surfaces prior to painting. Then it was all systems go. 

Showtime! There is a certain anticipation that comes with finally opening the paint can and pouring some into the pan. After all the prep work, the fun begins! As I rolled paint on the prepared wall, I could see it was a pretty good color match. It would have helped if I’d paid better attention to what I was doing, because, of course, I managed to make a mess of things, with paint dripping over the edge of the pan. oops! Even with all my careful preparation, I managed to drip paint in places where there was no cover. 

However, the beauty of latex paint is the easy cleanup, for which I am eternally grateful. Because after all was said and done, I realized that somehow I’d managed to get some paint smears  on my jeans. If anyone asks, I will refer to them proudly as my “red badges of courage”.  

My friend Gail told me to check my elbows, and yes! I have paint on my left elbow, too. How on earth did that happen? Thankfully, it’s just a throw down shirt. 

After a few hours, I thought things looked pretty good! In a situation where I had no original paint, I think the color is virtually identical to that on the other walls. I am feeling pretty proud of myself for taking on this project instead of paying someone else:  it cost all of $25.40 total. 

Day 4: Time to hang the new mirror and other Santa Fe art. Finished product looks great! Now that I’ve got this project under my belt, I am motivated to go upstairs and tackle something more large scale. Lowe’s, ready or not, here I come!

It’s Da Bomb!
October 16, 2009

071

Let war yield to peace, laurels to paeans.

-Cicero (106-43 BC))

For those of you who read my previous entry about being a horsewoman in Santa Fe, you may have learned that my husband Joel is very thoughtful about planning vacation activities that each of us enjoy. Horseback riding is something I love, but he wouldn’t have bothered to do it himself.

Conversely, he also plans things that he enjoys doing that I wouldn’t necessarily go for. There were several (like fly fishing), but the very last item on the itinerary was the whopper: to go to the White Sands Missile Range on the first Saturday of October, when the Trinity Test Site (where the first atomic bomb was detonated on July 15, 1945) is open to the public (note: it is also open on the first Saturday in April). So only twice a year does one have this unique opportunity! 

I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t figure there would be much interest in such an obscure event after all these years. Boy, was I ever wrong! We drove southwest from Santa Fe, through Albuquerque and then south through no man’s land.

There’s a reason why the White Sands Missile Range is where it is. There is nothing out there! But as we drew near, we encountered a steady stream of vehicles, and all turned in. Once we entered, we drove about five miles to the “gate” where they checked us out (drivers licenses produced and questions answered), and then it was another thirteen miles or so to the site. We were warned to watch for herds of oryx and other such plebian beasts as cows, which might be on the roadways. Alas, no oryx were seen. This was my only disappointment.

At the turnoff to the ground zero site, there was an immense parking lot FILLED with cars, tour buses, motorcycles, RV’s  and such. We were in a vast dustbowl surrounded by mountain peaks off in the distance. The weather was mild and sunny; I had a sweater on because it had been chilly when we left Santa Fe; I should have left it in the car, but instead, I just tied it around my waist.

The amenities were basic. From the parking lot, we walked about half a mile down a fenced off dusty corridor to see the obelisk that marks ground zero. There were exhibits along the way, one of which demonstrated the radioactivity of the “Trinitite” minerals that were created as a result of the atomic blast. One is not allowed to pick those blue/green rocks up!

Bathrooms? Portacans. Food? Grilled hot dogs or hamburgers made by volunteers, eaten at picnic tables. Dust? In great quantities.

Along the fenced in perimeter were hung photos that documented the test explosion. The photos of the blast itself were awesome, but I was also intrigued with photos of the people behind the scenes and the reproduction of the front page of the Santa Fe paper with the headline about the end of the war in the Pacific later that summer (after Hiroshima and Nagasaki), for it was only then that the blast which had rattled everyone in New Mexico and all the way to El Paso back in July… was revealed as a test of the first atomic bomb. And only then was the Los Alamos project exposed to the public.

I think about the oppressive media coverage now and compare it to those times, and marvel that our country was able to hide such an event and get away with it! That’s one thing I took away from our visit.

Another thing I took away was the fact that there were many very strange people there. Most were ordinary; as I mentioned, I didn’t think there would be very many at all, but I was wrong. Perhaps I thought that the crowd would be an older one from “the greatest generation”, and yes, there were some of them. But there were also young folk and families… and then there were some oddballs (to put it kindly).

It was warm and sunny that day. Here we were in the desert, for crying out loud. There was a man dressed impeccably in pants, a starched shirt and tie, and a heavy tweed coat. There was another man in a Brett Favre football jersey (when he was a Minnesota Viking) and Wisconsin football sweat pants (fashion note: maroon and purple do not go together). This man was ranting as he ambled along; we gave him a wide berth. Another man wore a full kilt, albeit a solid khaki one, instead of a tartan plaid. I knew it was a kilt, because it was pleated. That explains everything!

And then there was the man in a buttoned up raincoat with no visible pants (maybe he had a kilt on, too?). He had on a fedora and shoes that were akin to swimming flippers in that they were molded to his feet/toes. All that was missing was the flipper part. I managed to capture his likeness as I took a photo of the “jumbo” steel container (with 14″ steel walls) which enclosed the first nuclear device.

077 - Copy

This man had a major camera. Was he a spy? Am I just being dramatic here? Why on earth would someone dress like that? We still puzzle about him.

Upon leaving the site, we sped eastward towards Ruidoso and Cloudcroft. Joel had originally intended for us to stay in Ruidoso, but he couldn’t secure lodgings, so we ended up in Cloudcroft (in the Lodge, which is an old historic site, musty but quaint, with a great view once the clouds dissipated!). Supposedly the suite where we stayed was haunted, but no spirits disturbed us in the night.

It was only later when we realized the vast interest in the Trinity site may have been a factor in his initial inability in finding a spot to stay. Because at our lovely dinner at “Rebecca’s” that night at the Lodge, there was a man we spied with a Trinity shirt on. I expect things are hopping in that part of the world on those two particular weekends!

After all these years, I think that’s kind of cool, and I’m really glad that Joel made me do it.

Ride ’em Cowgirl!
October 9, 2009

034

A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!  -William Shakespeare (Richard III 1595) 

In another life I believe I was a horse woman. I’ve always loved horses and have taken advantage of any and all opportunities to be around them over the years. If I had the means, I’d probably have at least one boarded somewhere; the ideal situation would be to have enough real estate to have your horse close by. Where we live, people used to actually keep their horses at home, and there is one house nearby that actually does have a stable out back. I don’t know where they ride them, but I’ve seen the horses as I drive by. 

Joel and I were recently in Santa Fe, NM, celebrating our 30th anniversary. Joel is my travel agent; he loves to plan everything out, and outlines the itinerary for me. I just follow along and am happy that he enjoys doing the research; I have been exposed to so many new and different experiences that I would have never thought to do because of his ideas. 

He is very thoughtful about coordinating his own interests with mine, and mixes up the things I like to do with the things he likes to do. And on this particular trip, he booked a horseback riding adventure, because he knew I would enjoy it. He admitted that he’d not have done this otherwise. Which is very endearing, because I LOVED it. 

Broken Saddle Riding Company was the name of the place we went, in nearby Cerrillos, NM. I didn’t know what to expect, because various trail rides in my recent past have not been very memorable, and usually disappointing, with sad horses who plod along a trail, just following the horse in the front. 

However, this outing blew my previous experiences away; to begin with, we were equipped with stellar quality horses; a Missouri Fox Trotter for me (Abbie), and a Tennessee Walker for Joel (Duke). We and our outstanding guide, Stephanie (on Bubba, also a Tennessee Walker) were the only ones in our party, and we had the Cerrillos Hills Historic Park as our playground. 

How often do you get the chance to canter comfortably on a trail that leads to vista after vista in a 360 degree panoramic view of mountains all around with NOBODY else around? The sun was shining, the temperature was cool; it was absolutely the most picture perfect day/place/time. How I savored it… 

029

I think I am now spoiled for any future trail riding experiences; there will never be another ride that will measure up to this one. To ride like the wind is a joy that in unsurpassed in my book. When will I ever get the chance to do that again? I cannot answer that question. Instead I will cherish the memory of today and look back upon it with pleasure as one of those defining experiences that will never be forgotten.