Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Trick of the Tail

Think you’ve got the tiger by the tail?

(See PapaBradstein’s blog for further de-tails.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Pressing Engagement

I stepped out my front door to chuck something into the recycling bin, and my neighbor called out and asked if I wanted to help press some wine.

I’m no vintner, so I told him I’d take my shoes off and come right over. No, he said, the crushing was done already. Now we were going to press the juice out of the crushed grapes.


You pour the crushed mix of grapes and grape juice into the drum, which has slotted sides that let the juice run out but not the peels and pulp and seeds and stems.

Then you put a lid on top of the mash and press down hard.

Even the littlest one gets to help press.

It was a great pre-Hallowe’en project, because all that red juice looks very, very much like blood. We sent it coursing through pumps and clear hoses and into a big vat. It looked like a hospital transfusion, except it was in the driveway.

As with any creative project, a critical part of winemaking is mastering what to leave behind.

After the vintage was properly trampled out, we retired indoors and had pizza and dessert crêpes, all the more tasty for the hard work we had accomplished.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Bad Day to Be a Pigeon

I was sitting in my bedroom tapping away at my computer when I saw a flurry of action outside.

A bird flew by with prey still fighting in its claws and landed on the roof across the alley.

Its mate swept down to land on the telephone wire right across from my balcony and glare in at me, in case I might get it in my head to try something.

I had just downloaded some pictures, so I had my camera right next to me.

I very seldom see raptors in my alley, and it's even more rare to see them with breakfast.

Two minutes later, they were gone, back to whatever haven they retreat to after a quick morning sortie, to pick over the spoils.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Hardly Strictly 2009

Todd Snider enjoys a moment with the mando player from Great American Taxi.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is put on each year by Warren Hellman, a free public musical festival for anyone who wants to come enjoy it. It features players from MC Hammer to Lyle Lovett, from Little Feat to Robert Plant, from Odetta to Allison Moorer, from Boz Scaggs to the Chieftains.

The atmosphere in Golden Gate Park is relaxed, and a lot of performers seem to look forward to coming back year after year.

At Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, each of the half-dozen stages has a name and an icon to go with it: Arrow, Banjo, Rooster, Star, and so on. Lest you forget where you are, each stage is prominently marked, up high where everyone can see it.

Golden Gate Park’s eucalyptus trees make a great backdrop for Del McCoury and his band.

Warren Hellman likes Emmylou Harris well enough that he always asks her to be the closer for the three-day show, in the final time slot on Sunday. I had never had the chance to see her at the show, because by Sunday night I’m usually hightailing it back home to Southern California to get to work on Monday. This year, I had business in the Bay Area on Monday morning, so I got to stick around and see the final act.

And this year, Emmylou Harris was presented with an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music (in Boston), a kind of lifetime achievement award for everything she’s done in a long, rich musical career. She was joined on stage by Warren Hellman, Linda Ronstadt, and Earl Scruggs, as well as Roger Brown, Berklee’s president, who made the presentation. Linda is an old friend of Emmylou’s, and Earl had played earlier at the festival; both are previous Berklee honorees.

After getting her doctorate, Emmylou traded the robe in for her playing clothes and dug into a great set of older and newer favorites that took us from early evening through the rise of the full moon.

Her final words to the audience that night, after giving her thanks to the band, the audience, and Warren Hellman, were “Yup, there’s a doctor in the house!”

The Other Half

In Golden Gate Park, what happens up on the stage is only half the show.
You want to remember to turn around and not miss the rest.

I am a little jealous of the bird flying into the sunset.

Moonrise, stage lights.

I used to live in a city.

Friday, October 02, 2009