Friday, October 30, 2009

It Could Have Been Worse

As we discussed my recent speeding ticket before staff meeting this morning, a colleague told me about the day his wife got a speeding ticket on the way to work, then another, in the same location, on the way home. From the same trooper!

Now there's a big Oops!

In My [Worst] Dreams

I thought I was fine with yesterday's speeding stop, and that it was just another fact of my everyday long commute.

This morning I woke at 4:30, then was able to go back to sleep until 6:00. During that extra bit of sleep, I dreamed I got stopped [again] for speeding and had to go someplace with the policeman. I had left the front door of my house—a little square white number—standing wide open. When the policeman brought me back home, every single thing had been stolen out of my house. Every stick of furniture, every item of clothing, every knickknack and gewgaw. Gone!

I'm not sure what lesson I should take away from that dream, but I'm thinking I need to pay a little closer attention to my speed. And ask Santa for a radar detector!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


My colleague and I spend a portion of each day thinking about usability—How can we make our screens and error messages friendlier for our users? How can we get our point across without making the user feel denigrated?

On this morning's commute I had a mandatory roadside meeting with an Ohio State Trooper. When I got to the office I went onto the county website to pay my fine. ($140 - ouch!) When I clicked "Pay Court Costs and Fines", I got the screen you see below.

I'm thinking Portage County needs a little help with their usability studies!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Central Heating

This week I'm listening to "Olive Kitteridge," the Pulitzer Prize-winning "novel in stories" by Elizabeth Strout. The narration on the audiobook is beautifully performed by Sandra Burr, who nails the Maine accents.

There are so many beautifully-written lines in this book. I wish my iPhone gave me the option to click a button and bookmark a paragraph. I may have to buy the hardcopy book and read it again, just to be able to highlight all the brilliant writing by Ms. Strout.

This morning the line that caught my ear was "Bonnie was the central heating of his life." Wow! The central heating of his life. How much more graphic can a metaphor be? How much more clearly can one indicate how close to the core of one's life something is?

If you haven't picked up your copy of "Olive Kitteridge" yet, go! Borrow or buy! This writing is worth every minute you devote to it.

And what are you reading?

Don't Be Givin' Me *That* Treat!

The babes and I had our regular Tuesday night dinner date last night—Denny's, of course—while their parents attended board meetings and book clubs.

I was searching for conversation topics, and settled upon "what kind of candy do you hope you get for trick-or-treat?"

Ridley, chasing after my own tummy, replied, "Lots of Hershey's." Oooh, chocolate. I like how that girl thinks.

Boston, to my shock and surprise, replied, "Candy corn." I parroted, "Candy Corn???" "Yes", he said, "I love candy corn."

Well, somebody has to, I guess.

(If you were wondering, I was excused from creating Hallowe'en costumes this year. Boston is going as a skeleton, thanks to Walgreen's and a glow-in-the-dark marker from Jo-Ann's. Ridley is recycling her witch costume of two years ago. The only item that needed replacing was the hat.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Male of the Species

I enjoy spending time with my woman friends. We care about each other, and we show it by supporting each other's ideas and emotions. We'll let each other vent, making suggestions for possible solutions, but without denigrating the other's feelings or indicating that we know more than her on any topic.

Men, on the other hand …

The most telling movie scene, I believe, comes from "City Slickers", where the characters—several men and one woman—are all sitting around the campfire. The woman is questioning why the men only ever talk about sports. They ask what she and her friends talk about, and she answers, "Oh, relationships…".

This morning I sat down at my desk, and heard a conversation taking place over the cube wall. One guy's heat pump quit over the weekend, and I could hear various male voices offering solutions. I walked down the hall and past where they were standing, just to observe. There were no fewer than five guys clustered around the homeowner's cube. All were speaking, simultaneously at times, in loud, I-know-everything-about-everything voices. The conversation went on for, fully, ten or fifteen minutes. Every party to the conversation had advice for the homeowner, and each was sure his was the ultimate answer.

Now I will freely admit I am the Patron Saint of Repairmen. I'm not going to get on my back under the sink to fix a leak, or dig into the wires in the wall to change an outlet. I make a decent salary, and I spend a good chunk of it repairmen, who fix the problem and make it right. But even if I knew more about fixer-uppering than I do, I certainly wouldn't insist that my way was the only way.

I found it quite amusing that all these smart software developers had so many strong opinions about heat pumps and spent (wasted?) so much of the morning advising one of their own.

I guess it's all about the bonding, whatever form it takes.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Poop, Poop Everywhere!

My honeymoon with the new kitten is over. Over!

The poor little guy has had diarrhea since about eight hours after he arrived. I've tried various different foods, including all the tried-and-trues for stopping diarrhea. And yet the flow continued, unabated. He didn't like using the litter box, no matter how frequently I scooped. So he would empty his intestines on my bed, on Ridley's bed, on the comforter I laid on the guest room floor for him to sleep on, on both rugs in my family room, and so on.

I took him to the vet on Thursday afternoon and got meds. After three doses, his stool had form and he was using the litter box. But now he's decided to urinate in all the places he was previously pooping.

My entire house smells like feline urine, and I am very*very*very upset about this. I do not want a house that smells of feline urine!

The babes stayed with me last night. This morning I got up to go to the bathroom, and suddenly heard Boston scream, "Grandma!!" at the top of his lungs. I could hear the exclamation marks in his tone of voice. I raced off the toilet back into my bedroom, thinking the house was on fire. The kitten had peed on my bed and gotten Boston's pajama sleeve.


Is this kitten ever going to learn? How long does one keep a rescued kitten before giving up and taking him back to the shelter? He is a real sweetie pie, is pretty, is affectionate, is docile. But he pees inappropriately. Let me reiterate: I don't want a house that smells of feline urine.

What if I invent a cat diaper? Do you think I'd instantly be the wealthiest woman in the universe?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oh, My Aching Back!

When I left work last night, the rain was falling. I parked outside Jo-Ann Fabrics and went in to see if they had any decent cotton/Lycra knit I could use for a new dress for Ridley.

As I walked through the door, my feet went out from under me and I landed with a crash on the floor. Wet shoes. Wet floor. Some combination these factors forced me to my butt on the floor. This is now the third time in the past six months that I have fallen—twice in my home and once in public. In my home, alone, it's frightening. In public, it's embarrassing. I have decided I need to always carry my phone as I walk around my home, in order to call for help if the fall is too bad. In public, I stand up as quickly as possible and go on about my business as if nothing happened.

But today, sixteen hours post-fall, I started carrying some drawers from the basement to the new sewing space on the second floor. I could hardly climb the stairs! My back felt like it was going to seize up.

I'm only 59 years old. The lovely lady from whom I bought my home, after her fall, was 92. Is this how it starts? Do I have 30+ years of falling ahead?

How does this happen?! I don't think I'm careless. I think I walk with care. But here I am, in a lot of pain, looking for painkillers and heating pads.

Have I mentioned? Aging sucks!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I've always loved the mellow voice of Andy Williams. I remember watching his television program when I was a teenager, fantasizing about appearing on his program. This week Andy Williams was featured on CBS Sunday Morning. I marveled at his smooth skin, then heard the narrator mention that he is 82 years old. Wait. He's more than 20 years older than I, but he has no wrinkles. Zero.

I'm thinking one cannot get to be 82 years of age with that few wrinkles unless a scalpel was involved.

It's not that he looks bad. He looks darned good—for a man of 52. Not a man of 82.

I sometimes think of getting collagen injections to get rid of these sagging lines on either side of my mouth. And as much as I dislike tattoos, I think about getting permanent eyeliner.

But a facelift? I've seen the videos of plastic surgery, the peeling away of the skin, the horror stories of before and after. I've seen the photos of Barry Manilow and Kenny Rogers and Melanie Griffith.

Can I be anti-facelift and still be pro-collagen and pro-permanent-eyeliner without be hypocritical?

It all leaves me with one question: whatever happened to aging gracefully?

(Question of the day: Would you have elective plastic surgery?)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Too Nice?

Is it possible for a person to be too nice?

I'm very good at not standing up for myself, at leaving the status at quo. I don't like confrontation. I don't like hurting people's feelings. I would rather just bite my tongue than come up with a clever comeback when someone says something sharp or critical to me.

My cubemate accuses me of being too nice. She is never at a loss for words and never hesitates to stand up for herself or her work. I can't imagine having that kind of confidence and nerve.

Is it a negative trait to be quiet, to worry about hurting others' feelings? Is there some sort of balance between being subdued and being forthright.

Is it possible to be too nice?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Another Successful Concert

The reviews are in, and the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus concert last weekend of the Brahms "Ein Deutches Requiem" was a success.

From (The Cleveland Plain Dealer)


And besides being really good, it was a lot of fun. On Saturday night, our dear friends the Goulds were in the audience with Tyler, and my next-door neighbors, Jean and Marilyn, had also driven to Cleveland for the concert. After all the years of attending my son's performances, now he's attending mine!


Following our Saturday evening warm-up for the Brahms German Requiem, a fellow alto came up to me and said she had read my blog and enjoyed it very much. I tried to imagine what she was talking about, and thought maybe she had seen my Facebook profile and followed the link from there to my blog. A few minutes later I saw her again and asked what she meant, how she had happened to be reading my blog. She said my blog had been posted on, on their blog. Grabbing my iPhone, I quickly navigated over to the Cleveland Orchestra website and was astonished to see my words on their site.

I posted a note about the reblogging on my Facebook profile, and got lots of notes from friends.

Then, after the Sunday concert I went out to dinner with my old Tucson friend Ashley Smith. We had worked together on the administrative staff of the Tucson Symphony, and she is now the manager of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra. I told her about the reblogging. She said she had been in staff meeting on Friday and one of the PR people had said that a chorus member blogged about the chorus. She thought they had contracted with a chorus member to blog for them and had no idea it was me and that it was just off a Google Alert hit.

It's been a real high for me—great fun to have my words seen and appreciated and reposted.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ordo ab Chao

Weeks that are filled with rehearsals and performances are also filled with blocks of time to sit and wait. To take advantage of that gift of time, I've been reading (hardcopy—turning the pages—reading, not just listening to) Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol". A phrase that occurs frequently throughout the book is "Ordo ab Chao", which translates to "order out of chaos".

During this week of chaos, my car becomes my temporary home. I eat breakfast and dinner and, sometimes, even lunch in my car. I flip empty water bottles onto the back seat and drop excess papers from my folder onto the passenger seat. I shudder each morning, as I get back in the car, to see the state in which I left the car on the previous night. I don't like having a messy car, but during Hell Week, there are only a finite number of aspects of my life which I can control.

So now that Hell Week is concluded, the next tasks on my To Do list are to restore order to my car and start relearning the Messiah.

Oh, and finish "The Lost Symbol", which I'm enjoying very much. I like finding books that let me escape from my life. And I like books that are set in Washington, DC. "The Lost Symbol" is two for two.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Rules of Evidence

I don't remember much about my Evidence class in law school, which occurred about 21 (!) years ago. However, I do remember one of the early lectures, where the professor was trying to get us to think clearly about what did and did not constitute evidence.

He described your being in a highrise building and looking out the window at the street below. You saw several people carrying opened umbrellas. Was it the intention of these people to state that rain was falling at that particular point in time?

(Oh, don't ask me what the conclusion of the lecture was. In the 18 years since graduation, I've forgotten more law than I ever learned!)

The other day I was looking for a particular pair of earrings and found my beloved diamond and Burmese ruby wedding ring that John gave me in 1996. I have been trying to come to grips with the fact that I may never meet another man who will sweep me off my feet and become my long-time lover. The ring doesn't fit on my right hand, and I decided I wanted to wear it again. So I put it on my left hand ring finger and have been wearing it for three days.

I wonder if it can be construed as evidence. Am I "bearing false witness"?

Whenever I see a handsome, age-appropriate man, I immediately look at his left hand ring finger. If I see a Little Band of Gold, I cross him off my list. I am simply not interested in having a man who has another woman. I'm one-of-a-kind and choose to remain so.

But am I causing the same chain of events to occur around me? Might there be a man who would see me and want to come up and introduce himself but be detered by the presence of that sweet ring on my finger? (Bear in mind that no man has come up and introduced himself in the past, oh, 24 months. But the impossible can always occur, right? Maybe/maybe not.)

It feels nice to be wearing this ring again. It feels comfortable on that finger. But at the same time, I feel like I'm an imposter. It's like I'm trying to fit in in a state where the majority of people are married, or the majority of people my age are married. To find the statistics—the actual numbers for Ohio—would take more time than I am willing to devote to this project. Suffice it to say that it feels like I'm a lone reed standing in the wilderness.

I don't know where I'm going to end up on this issue, but for now I'm enjoying the ring. Again.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Unintentional Intimidation

Last night was dress rehearsal for the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus in preparation for tonight's Brahms Ein Deutches Requiem concert (to be repeated on Saturday night and Sunday matinee). As we moved through the work, Maestro Welser-Möst took no notes. But when we reached the end, he had us move backward to specific points and measures. He referred to no notes; he didn't turn to an assistant for reminders. He just knew exactly what we needed to fix. He knew what German diction was incorrect and what entrance was too loud and where a passage needed to be more espressivo or brighter.

Lisa, who sits next to me and is also new to the chorus, and I just looked at each other. She mused, "How can he remember all of that?"

I suddenly flashed back to sitting at the piano in my weekly Harmony lesson with Nadia Boulanger. I would play my 32-measure exercise. At the end, Mlle. Boulanger would correct me in her heavily French-accented English: "In the third measure, the tenor voice should have moved up by a third instead of down by a step. In the fifth measure, the alto voice . . . ." Whaaa? How did she do that? She wasn't looking at my manuscript paper. When I was studying with her, the summer of 1971, she was almost blind with cataracts. She just had this incredible, phenomenal, [insert other superlative here] musical sense and ability to remember what she heard.

She was, after all, Nadia Boulanger. How do you think she got to be as famous and influential as she was?!

I was telling Lisa about this, in response to noticing Maestro Welser-Möst's ability. I said, "I was in tears three days before and two days after my private lesson every week. I was totally intimidated."

Lisa asked if the intimidation was intentional. I thought for a moment, and then replied that I felt it was absolutely not intentional. It was an outgrowth of my having grown up the big fish in a small pond, and then reaching Fontainebleau, where I was a minnow in the ocean. (Okay, so minnows are freshwater fish and the ocean is saltwater. Change minnow to the smallest saltwater fish you can think of, and the analogy will be correct.)

And yet, I consider that educational experience, surrounded by some of the biggest names in the universe of music, to be one of the most important and formative of my life.

What did I learn? I learned how little I knew. And I've been trying ever since to fill in those holes. I'm not there yet. I'll never be there.

But I'll always keep trying and learning and growing.

[Note: While searching for a photo of Mademoiselle, I found the photo of her studio, taken in 1969, two years before I attended. A number of the people in that photo were in attendance the year I was there—which happened to be the 50th anniversary of the school. It was a mind-blowing summer. I was invited to dinner the night Soulima Stravinsky, Igor's son, was Mademoiselle's dinner guest. I met any number of world-renowned musicians. And I met and sang under the baton of Robert Shafer, whom I would re-meet in Washington in 1984, and sing under his baton for 15 years. And, through that association, meet my good husband. Isn't life funny?!]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Portrait of a Lady

A lovely lady named Ruth died this morning. I never met her face-to-face, but we shared several phone conversations over the past fifteen years and passed greetings back and forth through e-mails and Facebook, thanks to her daughters.

Our connection was through my "good husband." She was his second mother-in-law, and he held her in the highest regard. Even after her youngest daughter divorced him, Ruth stayed tuned for updates on his life. She knew how happy he and I were together, and was thrilled for him to have a totally fulfilling marriage. She was devastated by his early death, and I imagine today they are playing cards together or singing old show tunes together in the Great Beyond.

Because I loved this man whom she loved, she accepted and embraced me as if I were her own daughter. She had three daughters, and if you can judge a woman by her offspring, she was an incredibly successful mother and grandmother and great-grandmother. Her daughters are all active in their communities and in their churches. They take good care of themselves, physically, and have large and loving families who share their love of life. These daughters all open their hearts to those around them. They are adept at expressing love and acceptance. Sometimes you hear cynics express the opinion that all families are dysfunctional; that opinion has no place in this family.

Her passing was quick and as untimely as a death can be at age 92. She fell a week ago and broke her hip. Two days later she had surgery to repair the hip, and went quickly downhill after the surgery. She hung around long enough to hear from all her kids, grandkids, and greatgrandkids, and died this morning with her three daughters at her bedside.

Anyone who has made so many people happy for so many years should have no problem resting in peace.

Thank you, Ruth, for your caring heart.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Challenge Yourself!

Many choral singers joke about being in Hell Week during the days immediately preceding a performance. I have posted on Facebook that I'm in "Brahms Req Hell Week", as we are performing the Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem on Thursday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon this week. Those performances are preceded by back-to-back rehearsals. Last night we had the Conductor's Piano Rehearsal with the chorus and Maestro Welser-Möst. Tonight we have our first orchestra rehearsal, which will be attended by invited guests of chorus members and invited Cleveland Orchestra donors. Tomorrow night we have dress rehearsal, and—too soon— 5:00 p.m. on Sunday will arrive and the excitement will have concluded.

I love choral singing. I love becoming so intimately acquainted with a piece of music, whether it's Bach or Beethoven or Vivaldi or Brahms or Verdi or Britten. I may not love the work for the first two or three rehearsals, but the longer I listen to the notes, the harmonies, the exquisite work of the composer, the more I grow to love the music.

And it stays with me for years and has emotional attachments that last and last. Any time I hear the Vivaldi "Gloria", I am transported instantly to the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, where John and I sang with the Oratorio Society of Washington in 1996, three months after our wedding and three months before his diagnosis with metastatic prostate cancer. The Fauré Requiem that we performed on that same tour is one of my most beloved works, and members of that chorus sang the work at John's memorial service twenty-one months post-diagnosis.

I could probably tell you indiosyncracies of each choral performance in which I've participated since 1984 when I joined the Oratorio Society.

I'm blessed to have performed for years with first-rate choruses. I'm a perfectionist, and I like to perform with like-minded singers. I don't have any desire to perform with, or patience for, singers who simply don't care. The chorus with which I sang last year was filled with singers who had been in that chorus for forty years and seemingly used it simply as a social outlet. When I would find myself, rehearsal after rehearsal, tweeting and posting on Facebook about the agony of that particular rehearsal, I knew it was time to rethink my choral membership for the coming year.

In that chorus, I knew I was one of the best musicians in the alto section. I wasn't being egotistical—I was just listening to what was going on around me.

This year I am singing with the most talented and committed and musical group of singers it has ever been my good fortune to be a part of. I know, for certain, that I'm not one of the best musicians there. And it's humbling. It's challenging.

I'm challenged to keep rehearsing and perfect my technique. I'm challenged to exercise my ear. I'm challenged to listen to the incredible alto voices around me and try to analyze what they're doing that I could adopt to make my voice more beautiful.

This is a good thing. Challenge, to me, equals growth.

I don't want to stagnate. I don't want to become complacent. I don't want to just get along. I want to be better and better, to recognize growth in myself.

So I drive to Cleveland a minimum of once a week—or in weeks like this, six times— and I put aside all other interests for three or four hours. No knitting, no tweeting, no reading, no surfing the Web. Just total focus and undivided attention to the conductor and the lessons he wishes to teach us.

And I'm a better musician because of it.

In what ways do you challenge yourself?

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Classless Society

We got a new CEO last December. Naturally, I first looked to see if his ring finger was adorned. (It was.) Then, dreaming about possibilities in my life, I ran a few Internet searches to see what I could learn about him. He was already taken, but might I find someone similar with whom to enhance my life?

He's modern American royalty. He married well; his father-in-law of thirty-plus years' standing is the past president, CEO, and chairman of a Very Large American Corporation. He lives in a chic western Connecticut town, belongs to several country clubs, and—by anyone's definition—is a very classy guy.

I don't live in his world. Never have. Probably never will.

I am the [adopted] daughter of a doctor who grew up dirt-poor in rural southern Florida and rose above his beginnings to get an education and succeed in his chosen field. I grew up very sheltered, raised in a conservative evangelical Christian denomination where we kept to ourselves. My mother's friends were all members of her church. My dad's friends were electricians and auto mechanics and pharmacists. We were more comfortable at a drag race than at the golf course.

In my years as a professional pianist, I have played for many society parties. The wives or the office managers of doctors and lawyers and chiefs of commerce have employed me to make beautiful music for their holiday cocktail parties or birthday parties or wedding receptions. I would sit at the long, black grand pianos and underscore the clinking of champagne flutes. I would wonder what it would be like to wear that designer gown or that diamond ring or to be married to that handsome blue-blazer-wearing man.

And deep inside I would know that I was sitting where I belonged—support staff rather than esteemed guest. I was capable of doing something people admired and loved, but I was not the person they would ask for a coffee date the next day. They didn't know what I had accomplished in my life—with whom I had studied; how beautifully I could sew; what advanced degrees I had achieved; how kind and loyal a friend I was. They only knew that their host knew someone who knew me and knew I could play the piano beautifully and would do so for the right remuneration.

The two circles do not easily intersect. Sure, there are hugely successful people who had very humble beginnings. The prime example of this type of person is Oprah—she has worked hard and succeeded large and surrounded herself with trusted advisors and friends who have helped her stay centered.

But my sense is that, for most people, class does exist. There is a lower class and a middle class and an upper class, and various stratas within those segments. Random crossover from class to class is possible, but not probable and not customary.

By no means am I suggesting we are a caste society, but I am asserting that there are divisions, and that breaching those divisions is an unnatural act.

Do you agree? Or disagree? Or think I'm living in an earlier century?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Housemate

With a very happy Boston. The g'babes named him (given a range of choices) "Angel" for the character in "Rent". Rudi is named for Rodolfo, the character in "La Boheme". And if you follow musical theatre, you know that "Rent" is drawn from "La Boheme".

Other suggested names were Vivi or Tony for Antonio Vivaldi, George for Georges Bizet, and all the male characters from "La Boheme" and "Rent".

He's a little cutie, ten weeks old, and—so far, knock wood—is getting along find with Rudi.

Inhale, Exhale, Repeat.

Time seems to evaporate. Every Monday several work colleagues ask where I went over the weekend, and every Friday they ask where I'm going this weekend. I've developed a reputation for being the driving queen. I love the weekend trips, but I'm very tired of the daily 120 miles back and forth to Akron.

This past weekend was my annual Broadway weekend with PianoLady. In case you don't remember, she and I met as piano majors at Florida Technological University (University of Central Florida) in January of 1969. If your brain is tired, I'll tell you that's forty—count 'em, forty—years of friendship. We started our Broadway weekends in 1999, then skipped a few post-9/11 years while I was living in Tucson. And now we're back at it. This year I drove into the City—a first for me, and not much different than driving in D.C.

I arrived around noon on Friday, checked into the Marriott Marquis, then set out to explore. I've fallen in love with a sectional sofa in the CB2 (offshoot of Crate & Barrel) catalog, but refuse to buy a sofa without first sitting on it. CB2 only has about five stores, and one is in NYC's SoHo, where I've never before visited. After doing a little research, I set out in search of the M-1 and M-6 bus lines. After walking about 25 blocks in 3" heeled boots, I divined that buses were not in my future, and hailed a cab. I found CB2, sat on and loved the couch, got the salesman's card, and hit the streets again. I looked up at each storefront I passed, and was astonished to see Pearl River. I had been hearing about this shop for years, and now, by happenstance, here it was. I went in and petted a few yards of silk yardage, but resisted the urge to buy.

Back on Broadway, I walked one block north and into the Swarovski boutique. If you make jewelry using Swarovski crystals, or you love sparkly jewelry, you must go into a Swarovski boutique at some point in your life. In*credible! They have every style of crystal bead, in every color they manufacture, plus finished jewelry, and crystal embellish bags, and …, and …. Again, I resisted the urge to buy, but enjoyed every moment of the visit. In the back of the boutique is an equally embellished lounge. I can imagine the after-work Cosmos and martinis flow freely.

Leaving there, I headed north again, this time on a back street rather than on Broadway. My destination was Sullivan and Houston (pronounced HOW-stun, if you didn't know) to find a precious little island of yarn in the big city. PurlSoho is well known to anyone who reads yarn or knitting magazines. And it's worth the search to find this little tucked-away gem. Beautiful yarns, knowledgeable yarn-loving sales associates, and fellow yarn-loving shoppers. Yummy! There was nothing I really needed at the moment, so I picked up some more sock yarn for my favorite sock-knitter, Tani. She loves to live vicariously through my travels, and I love bring fiber mementos back to her, as I know she'll use and love them.

After PurlSoho, I went three doors north to PurlPatchwork, and petted some lovely quilting cottons before hailing a cab and heading back to the Marriott.

PianoLady arrived at the last possible moment after not being able to hail a cab from Grand Central. Let's just say that this nonsense with closing Broadway between 42nd and 49th has really messed up cab service in the City.

She took a moment to catch her breath, and then we headed out to meet her friend, Susan, for a visit to the Titanic exhibition. I think we spent two hours looking at these incredible relics that rested on the ocean floor for 50+ years. I'm not a great lover of things historical, and tend to get glazed-over eyes when I go into a museum, but this was a fabulous exhibition. I'm so glad we went!

And then dinner. Susan had chosen Chez Josephine for our dinner. Fun! French food, French-speaking servers, a sweet little kimono-clad Maitre d'. And live piano music. Toward the end of the evening, after the theatre crowd had cleared out, I asked the pianist if I could play a piece for my friends. He had me clear it with the Jean Pierre or Jean Claude or whatever the Maitre d's name was, and I sat down. PianoLady and Susan were so deep into their conversation they didn't realize I was playing, thus thwarting my intention. Oh well. The pianist loved what I was doing and kept asking for more. And after I sat back down at our table, diner after diner complimented me on their way out the door. Fun!

Susan headed for Grand Central to go home to Westchester, and PL and I headed back to the Marriott. And that was Friday.

Saturday morning we grabbed a Starbucks breakfast and headed for the TKTS line. This is the first year we haven't had our show tickets at least three, if not six, months in advance. We decided we were just going to go with whatever we could get at a discount. Our first two choices only had obstructed-view seats, so we went with "Burn the Floor", starring Anya and Pasha from "So You Think You Can Dance."

After getting our tickets, we did our annual walk through the shops around Rockefeller Center and into Colony Music. We stop first at Dean & DeLuca for coffee. Then I got some music Tyler needed at Colony, and cool earrings for Jaci at Banana Republic. As always, we followed our shopping with salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden.

Then it was time for our matinee. "Burn the Floor" was dance and live music, lots of Latin dance, lots of skin and tattoos and piercings. I loved the swing and jive and waltz numbers, but didn't love all the Latin numbers. I want dancers to look like they're happy and enjoying each other's company, not like they're angry. But that's just me.

I was happy to see so many dancers and musicians with jobs. I enjoyed the show, but I didn't love it. When we left, I said to PL, "Can we please go see another show tonight? I want to go home with that urge to tell everybody about the show I saw." She acquiesced; we went back to the room and I got online and ordered tickets to "Next to Normal".

Our annual Saturday night dinner is at Café Un Deux Trois. (If you're reading this at work, turn down your speakers before clicking that link.) And it always finishes with profiteroles. (My profile photo, above, was taken at this dinner in 2008.) We love this annual rite. Every year we talk about going somewhere else for dinner, but always end up back at 123 44th Street. They've expanded the menu this year, and have included some smaller plates. The crepes with goat cheese, spinach and mushrooms, and crepes with chicken where fabulous and a nice alternative to a full entrée. This dinner is always a highlight of the annual trip.

After dinner, we relaxed in our room for a while, then headed to the Booth Theatre for "Next to Normal". (Again, speakers off if you're at work.) Small, talented cast; brilliantly composed and orchestrated score; clever lyrics and book; sleek, industrial set. I enjoyed every moment of the show. The score reminded me, in places, of "Rent", and now that I look at the website, I see that it's from the director of "Rent", so that makes sense. If you're heading to NYC, see "Next to Normal"!

After the show, we had drinks in the Marriott lounge, The next morning, we again did our Starbucks run before I headed off, driving west to make a 6:00 p.m. rehearsal in Cleveland.

I've included, below, links from previous years' trips. And in closing, I repeat this year's implicit theme: Old friends just can't be beat.

2008: 1 2

2007: 1 2