Saturday, May 03, 2008

Another rainy Saturday Pt. I

Today did not turn out as advertised. Earlier this week, we had been promised sunny if cool weather. As the week progressed we were told partly cloudy, then partly sunny, then showers. What we got was chilly and suck out loud.

I was especially disappointed because last weekend, I was suppose to go on a photo expedition to the Arnold Arboretum with C, but we had weather that was pissing down rain all day Sunday. Oh, and I forgot to mention, cold. We hadn't made a contingency plan and it just turned into one of those, stay home and read days. We did however make plans to go out this weekend, since the weather was suppose to be nice. Hah!

So, when I called C. this morning, one of the first things I said was, "Looks like we need an alternate plan." C. suggested a little light retailing. Since I sort of wanted a new frock for the GBV trip in a couple of weeks, we decided to hit Target and I also said I wanted to go to Homo Depot to pick up some seeds and some fertilizer for the garden.

Our first stop was Homo Depot. I went a little crazy in the seed section, though it had been kind of picked over, then we went in search of fertilizer. I had originally wanted to get time release pellets and a bag of compost.

For non-gardeners, what compost is, is shit. In a bag. Yes, there are those of us who will indeed pay good money for a bag of shit. I think it is also a testament to the value of true friendship that C. is willing to let me put a 40 lb. bag of cowshit in his car. His small car. His very, very, small car.

Now on bags of compost a good many of the manufacturers have the audacity to say that the product is "odorless". On a cool dry day, I think I can fairly say that it has a bit less personality. It's coy, it knows it's place and it's fairly quiet, but you know it's in the car.

On a day like today, after the afore mentioned, 40 lb bag of shit has been sitting out in the pouring rain in the gardening section outdoors at HD, it's developed a bit more personality. You could say, it's a bit more... gregarious. Put it in a warm car, and it's downright robust. It sits in the back seat, sprawled out, with one hand down the front of its pants, talking loudly and would try to eat the french fries off your plate while asking "You're not gonna eat those are you?"

In the interest of preserving a friendship of almost 20 years, I decided that the compost could wait for another day.

I then picked up some daylilys and we headed off for cashier land.

The checkout line anywhere these days seems to be a real coin toss. You are either going to get good service or it is going to be one of those trials that are a preparation for the next life if you have not been particularly well behaved in this one.

Suggesting that the woman that scanned my purchase was a stupid bitch, would be a gross calumny on stupid bitches everywhere. At one point she without my noticing missed the bag with a packet of seeds. The young woman at the cash register behind her interceded, by picking the package of seeds up off the floor and tossing them into the bag while giving me a "I feel so sorry for you look." This piece of helpfulness was greeted by my cashier with an indigent, "I was going to pick it up after I finished ringing."

I should have known there was going to be trouble, but at this point I just wanted to get the hell out of there before there was any trouble.

Trouble, however, has a way of finding me. As we were sailing out the door, C. said to me, "$71? What the hell did you buy?"

I pulled out the receipt and sure enough, I had been charged 30 bucks for something that I didn't buy, had no interest in owning and that was not, in fact, in my possession.

C. and I did an about face and were back through automatic doors barely before they had closed behind us.

Walking up to the cashier, I was greeted with a flamethrower stare of hostility before I even opened my mouth. However, having worked in retail, I try to be polite, even when I am dealing with rude bitches. "Excuse me", I ventured under this gorgon like gaze.

"What's the matter!", she barked back.

I pointed to the first item on the receipt. "I was charged for this."

"What? It says right there, it's 28.95."

"Yes, but I didn't buy it.", I somehow managed to get out levelly.

"Well, it's right here. $28.95. Do you want to return it?"

"No', I replied patiently,'I was charged for this and I didn't buy it. I didn't bring it up to the cash register and I don't know why I was charged for it."

"Well, it's right there...", she began. But C. had had about enough at this point.

"You didn't clear your register from the last transaction.", he said in very clear tones.

Our new friend at the cash register rewarded him with a glance that shot daggers.

"WELL! You're going to have to go to returns. I can't do anything about it!", and with that went back to harassing her latest victim.

C. and I began to walk away to look for returns and our ambassador of customer service excellence barked at us, "Returns are in the OTHER direction."

Thanks to the helpfulness of the cashier we did actually find returns with no trouble. However, the returns line was pretty much what you'd expect. A long line of the disgruntled. Some, from what I could tell from casual observation, in all likelihood have never been gruntled in their lives and were relishing the chance to take it out on the poor schmoe behind the register.

I have to say, I was impressed with the kid at the counter. He seemed to either be possessed of an infinite well of patience, or was simply resigned to the fate of being Home Depot's whipping boy.

He managed to get through the 3 disgruntled people in front of me without murdering any of them. The elderly Russian man directly in front of me would have wound up as so many bags of grade A composted manure if I'd been dealing with him with all that heavy equipment so conveniently close at hand. But the young fellow soldiered on patiently.

Finally, I got up to the register. While I wasn't worried that this was going to be "Rude Bitch II, The Returns Dept.", I did start to get the sinking sensation that this was going to be one of those bottomless explanations that was eventually require 1 or 2 managers to straighten out.

Lo and behold. C. and I had been entertaining an angel unawares.

While getting into the fateful check out line, C. and I couldn't help but notice the head cashier. He was one of those slightly scruffy guys who are just adorable. Not some obvious hunk, but cuter than a box full of kittens and you would probably, if you had any sense, choose over some hunk, since he looked like he'd actually be nice and you'd make him a cup of coffee morning instead of hurrying him out the door with excuses about needing to do your nails before a big day at work tomorrow as soon as you'd taken care of business.

He apparently had witnessed the entire little drama with that shining example of customer service that makes Home Depot your number one choice for all your home repair and gardening needs.

"You can just give him the refund." he said over his shoulder as he walked past on some head cashier related errand.

The returns schoe shot him a look of mingled gratitude, question and hope.

"Yeah. I saw the whole thing. Just give him his money.", he said and then carried on in his head cashier related quest.

Returns schmoe apologized, but he would have to refund the money in cash. I would have preferred to have it just credited to my card, but at this point, was so grateful for anything that looked like an easy escape I smiled and told him that would be just fine.

The transaction was over in less than a minute and as C. and I walked away, the little Russian man had returned to further harass the returns schmoe.

Clint and I headed towards the doors to see if we could a) remember where the car was parked and b) grab a quick nosh as a reward for our trial and sustenance against our upcoming trials at Target.

"It was lucky for me the head cashier had seen the whole thing with the bitchy cashier", I said to C.

"Yes', C. said,'it was."

Thinking for a moment I then suggested,"I suppose I should have offered him a blow job for his help."

"It would have only been polite." was C.'s answer.

We then went off to see if by rubbing the 2 brain cells remaining between us together, we could remember where the car was.

The Fat Lady Sings

Last night I saw the last of the operas in my series at Opera Boston. I was not overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't terrible, it just wasn't very exciting either.

The production was Ernani. Not one of Verdi's strongest operas and while a good fair few of Verdi's opus has holes in the plot that you could drive a train through, quite often you don't mind because the music is so gorgeous and if well sung make for a compelling if incomprehensible evening. But as the late Anna Russell once said, "It doesn't have to make sense, as long as you sing it!"

The production itself was quite handsome and rather elaborate by the standards of Opera Boston. They are saddled with a stage that is the size of a postage stamp, and in the past have made the most of it with inventive sets and lighting.

Last night was an attempt at a much more traditional production and while well executed managed to fail to dazzle. The costumes were beautiful, but once again seemed to be just standard operatic furniture.

I won't go into the lighting, since it managed to simply be unnoticeable which far from a condemnation means only that is was workmanlike and adequate to it's purpose.

Musically? Praise where praise is due. Gil Rose is a talented conductor and the orchestra played beautifully and the chorus of Opera Boston put in a superb performance throughout. I was impressed from the moment that the troup of bandits began and was impressed with the quality of the singing. Verdi's chorus work is beautiful and the ladies and gentlemen of the chorus did the music justice.

However the principals are another matter. Ernani, (Eduardo Villa) got in trouble pretty much straight out of the gate. He started off his opening aria with a great deal of strength, but half way in started to wobble here and there. He has a very pleasing tenor, but may have been having an off night because throughout the evening I failed to get a sense of confidence in his voice. I was a little disappointed, not because the singing was over all terrible, but because there were moments of truly wonderful singing that were spoiled by other moments of lack of vocal control.

Elvira sung by a local girl, Barbara Quintilliani sang well and if she had a rather lackluster start continued to grow vocally as the evening progressed. She really does have a good voice and technically I can not find any fault in her singing. As I said, her performance grew as the evening progressed and rose above mere technique and leant some emotion and verve to what is really not a terrifically good role. What after all is she to do with a character that has been written so one dimensionally and really is only a vehicle for Verdi's early attempt at a star crossed heroine? Whatever else, Verdi's music is vocally very challenging and Quintilliani was more than equal to it. I think I would enjoy hearing her in a better role where she would be able to express a better defined character and be given the full range for emotion that I was only able to get hints of.

The baritone roles of Don Carlo (Jason Stearns) and Don Silva (Young-Bok Kim) were probably for me the most..... not mediocre, lets just say, uninspired of the evening. In all fairness, the character of Don Carlo is a continuous contradiction. One moment he is overwhelmed with jealousy for Elvira's love for Ernani, the next he is all noble forgiveness, the next he is plotting to steal Elvira from Don Silva, the aging nobleman who is scheduled to marry our hapless heroine. It may be too much to ask of any actor to try and create a consistent performance for a character who seems to be suffering from multiple personality disorder.

Don Silva is probably a more comprehensible character, he seems to have 2 motives, lust for Elvira and hatred towards his rivals, Ernani and Don Carlo. Yet, I never got the sense of this bitter old man from Mr. Kim.

Add to this mix, the rather unfortunate choice in translation that was projected on the proscenium and it made for a rather more humorous evening than one usually associates with grand guignol opera. Some, what one would hope were, inadvertent double entendre as well as unintentionally funny lines caused a certain amount of tittering from the audience. In a way, it may have added a level of enjoyment to the evening.

On the whole, I have to say I'm pleased with Opera Boston. Enough so that I will be going to next years series. They choose interesting material. I can't help but admire the way they are able to work to such great effect with the limitations of their home at the Cutler Majestic. They also seem to have the chops to bring in some real talent, be it someone like Dawn Upshaw, or some new and coming talent. Next years series which is comprised of "Der Freischutz", "The Nose" and "The Bartered Bride" all look interesting. Some of this seems to be rubbing off on Lyric Opera, which will be producing "Tales of Hoffman", Hansel and Gretel" and "Don Giovanni".

Next year should be an interesting opera season here in the provinces, so you might be getting more opera reportage out of my in '08-'09. I know Cowbell and RG can hardly wait.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Son of a bitch!

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

I saw this over at Cowbell's blog. So I took the test.

I can't tell you how disappointed I am. Aside from getting a shitty 14.6% there is the feeling that I have somehow let our noble family down.

My dad was a pretty good all purpose cusser, but Doris. Well, as you can imagine, Doris was a gifted, creative and imaginative cusser. Between the both of them I was taught how to turn the air blue with swear words by the best.

Hell, my brothers and I were able to fling insulting invective at each other as children in such a way as would have made a longshoreman blush.

Have I been reduced to this? 14 fucking point 6 fucking lousy percentage points. This shitty score sucks the farts out of a dead goats ass.

The only answer I think, is to introduce an f-bomb day, that will leave the reader wondering of I suffer from some form of Tourrette's syndrome.

Something this important to maintaining my own self esteem and upholding the family honor as accomplished cusser's may require some thought.

Son of a bitch, 14.6%! I have to go hang my head in shame now.

Another route

Off to get the rent into the mail. I was awakened to the fact that April has ended, thinking, it's only the 30th, I have another day to get the rent out. Then I remembered it's April. April fools?

Perforce a different route to work this morning. Stop at the post office. Check in the mail. Mental inventory of what I laughingly call my checking account. Co-pay for physical therapy, co-pay for head shrinker, cell phone, co-pay for PT, internet, c-pay for PT, netflix, co-pay, gas, etc. Nickled and dimed.

The bus pulls up and I am whisked down Mass. Ave. one of the main drags, as the new green of the trees sails by my window. The trees are amazing. Every shade of light green you can imagine as the new leaves start to make their appearance. The magnolias and ornamental plums and pears, already past it. The crabapples and dogwoods coming into their own.

People on the bus are drinking their to-go coffees and reading papers. Crammed together in a city bus they are all separated, as am I. I am watching my fellow commuters. The cute young guy, looking out the window, occasionally stealing a glance at other people. A stealth observer. Others cocooned with their paper and their ipod and their coffee. Soldiering through another commute with as little contact with strangers.

Oddly, there are not annoying cell phone conversations.

I am observant for a switch. I eschew my ipod and the paper tucked in my bag. Looking at the people on the bus, looking out the window at the pedestrians walking to and fro.

The bus pulls in to a stop, just as an urban cycling warrior, armored in his spandex outfit, helmeted and wearing what must be the mandatory wrap around sunglasses of those that think of themselves, or want others to think of them as serious riders all wear. He is weaving through the crowd on the sidewalk, too fast, obviously impatient. Finally, he bumps the bicycle off the walk onto the street and races off, traveling against the traffic. I wonder if he is aware that so far he's broken the law twice, riding on the sidewalk in a commercial district and then riding against traffic. He probably doesn't care. Like most people, autoist, bicyclist, pedestrian, I am sure he feels like the laws are suspended for him.

The half empty bus fills up. People jostle to get on. Seats are snatched up. Crowding on, people seem to do their level best to avoid contact, physical and visual. Don't touch me. Don't even touch my with your eyes.

Outside the spring day continues to whirl past me. The sky is so blue, the trees are chartreuse, pink, soft white and the air is beckoning. "Take the day off. Don't waste me."

The bus heads over the bridge. Sailboats and rowers already out on the water. The rain of the past 3 days has transformed the view along the river. The clear air makes the view look like a postcard.

Next stop, my stop. Off the bus, up the stairs, down the hall. Spring disappears behind me as the doors close. The mild gloom of the corridors sweep away the day, the impulse to run away swells for a minute and fades away. Responsibility shouting over the siren voice of the day.

Key in the office door and work begins.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Today just stinks. It's gray, cold and wet. It's been pouring all morning.

Monkey pinged me on chat and asked if I wanted to go out for a smoke break. I answered yes and we headed downstairs.

Standing under the sheltering eaves of the library, we proceeded to bitch about the cold and the rain.

Monkey: It's cold and it's wet and it's making my joints ache!

Me: God! Now you sound like me.

Monkey: Actually, it's all my fault. Wanna know why?

Me: Sure.

Monkey: I brought the grill up from the basement on Saturday.


Monkey: It gets worse....

Me: How?

Monkey: I've been looking at picnic tables online.

Me: Great. Now you want it to fucking snow. I'm so blogging about this. Everyone is going to find out this crappy weather is all your fault!

Monkey: I don't blame you. Uh....

Me: Yeah?

Monkey: Will you call me a skanky, bitch, homo on your blog.

Me: Sure.

Monkey: Cool.

Me: No problem.

Underappreciated Gift

Trying to keep up with Doralong here, I suggest Roland Gift as another underappreciated artist. I became a fan with the release of the self titled "Fine Young Cannibals". Teamed up with David Steele and Andy Cox formerly of "The Beat" they put out only 2 albums.

Gift has a great voice, he's sexy as hell and I never quite understood why his career never took off in a more main stream way. And RG, I figured you'd like this, 'cause scooters! Not to mention Mr. Gift.