I must be doing something wrong. Vacations are supposed to relax, refresh, and recharge you, right? Right?
1. GPS Follies.
Beware excessive reliance on your GPS-based navigation system. On this trip, we used the C.S.O.'s recently acquired Garmin Nuvi. It's a fine piece of work, generally speaking. However, as with most such devices, before placing full confidence in it, one should learn a bit more about it than just how to turn it on and set a destination.
On our descent from Mount Greylock, we managed to take a wrong turn just before I set a new destination into the Nuvi. The unit cheerfully told us to keep going as we were -- eight and a half miles -- before it directed us into a side street to make a 180-degree course change. We were dumbfounded...until we discovered that the options include a choice to "avoid U-turns," and that the unit arrived with that option turned on.
One of engineering's favorite acronyms is "RTFM." The RT stands for "Read The," and the M stands for "Manual." I don't need to tell you what the F stands for, do I?
2. The Concert.
Our main reason for going to the Berkshires was Sunday evening's concert by Gary Burton and Chick Corea at the Tanglewood Music Center. Had we done nothing else but attend that show, the trip would have been fully justified.
Virtually everyone knows Chick Corea. No contemporary pianist stands in higher esteem. Like the late Nicky Hopkins, his touch seems to turn whatever it falls on to gold. He's distinguished himself not just as a piano virtuoso, but also as a composer, with works of many kinds to his credit. A variety of those works graced the concert we attended.
There's never been a vibraphonist to approach Gary Burton. Burton literally invented modern four-mallet vibraphone technique, and remains its supreme practitioner. He and Corea have been recording and performing together for forty years, starting with their duet album Crystal Silence. Their latest recording, Hothouse, a collection of standards rearranged for their instruments, will be available starting on September 4.
We didn't know before the concert that Corea and Burton would be accompanied by a string quartet -- specifically, The Harlem String Quartet. These four young musicians added a striking new dimension to Corea's and Burton's stylings, one I would not have expected given the instruments involved. It would appear that the bowed instruments are about to re-enter the mainstream of jazz.
One last observation: Corea is 71, and Burton is 69, yet these gentlemen played tirelessly for two solid hours, and never put a note wrong. I know, I know: "There are no mistakes in jazz." (Miles Davis) All the same! Clearly, old age doesn't mandate decrepitude, especially for those who love what they do.
When you have a large in-home menagerie, getting away for more than an afternoon requires that you engage a housesitter. On Long Island, housesitters tend to be young folks, typically college students or graduate students. Our experience with the ones we've engaged has varied, as you might expect. However, the one whose services we've enjoyed most recently, a young lady named Courtney, is a gem.
The rule of reasonable expectations, as applied to housesitters, decrees that you should expect no more than the following when you return from your sojourn:
- The house will still be standing.
- None of your animals will have died.
- Your plants, however, will be a different story.
- There will be a moderate amount of mess and disorder.
- At least one phone handset or remote control will have gone AWOL.
- Don't count on coming home to any particular edible item that you left behind.
Those are not pessimistic statements; the experience of vacationers nationwide testifies eloquently to them. That's what makes Courtney, and her boyfriend Ian, who's inseparable from her, such a treasure:
- Not only was the house still standing; it was cleaner and neater than we'd left it.
- Rufus and the cats fell in love with them and were unhappy to see them leave.
- The plants...well, they were already mostly dead when we left.
- Everything was exactly where it belonged.
- Yes, that includes all the phone handsets and remote controls.
- I don't think they ate anything we hadn't bought specifically for them.
They expressed great pleasure at the opportunity to enjoy our home and look after our animals, and assured us that they'd be available whenever we might need them. Ian particularly enjoyed playing with Rufus -- so much so that Rufus practically slept through our return home, a blessing of sorts for two weary from a long drive.
What's that? You'd like to engage Courtney and Ian for your next housesitting need? Of course, of course! We'd be happy to provide you with their contact information. Just send $100 to my PayPal account.