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Last Wednesday, James and I accompanied our dear friend L. to a Tea Room in Nevada City. It’s upstairs from an antique store; part of the same family business which has been in town for many years.
Ordinarily, James and I wouldn’t seek out such a place, but L. has been wanting us to go there with her for a long time now.
It was an honest-to-goodness tea room in the British tradition. Little round tables were covered with heavy white tablecloths, set with gleaming, substantial silverware; white porcelain teapots with tea-cosies, whose fabric exactly matched the wallpaper; little silver covered dishes with clotted cream, lemon curd and jam for the scones.
Classical music was discreetly piped into the room, which had high ceilings and crystal chandeliers. It would have been even nicer with a live harpist, I thought. In fact, I spoke to the owner after our lunch and she seemed receptive about having me play there some time, so I’ll keep you posted on that!
Our table was located near a small kitchen, where three women garbed in crisp aprons — again, matching the wallpaper and tea cosies! — prepared the light fare and set up the teapots.
There were only a couple other small groups at tables a discreet distance from ours, so the general atmosphere was private and quiet. It was lovely, really; harkening to an earlier era characterized by leisurely grace.
The little tea-sandwiches, scones and cakes were delicious, and I enjoyed my individual pot of Kensington Ceylon tea so much that I later bought a tin of it in the shop downstairs.
The waitress knew L. by name, so obviously our friend is a regular. After this thoroughly enjoyable, “civilized” experience, I can see why. We look forward to many more visits.
After lunch, we brought L. up to the land In the Woods, as we had invited her to stay overnight. In fact she is the owner of this 38 acres of property, and is very pleased with our tenancy and what we’ve already accomplished in the barn and attached rooms.
Almost every Wednesday, there is a sit-down dinner hosted at the hotel on the town’s main street. Various cooks take turns preparing the meals, which cost only $6. It is a nice opportunity for locals to eat home-cooked food and socialize.
James and I had not heard about these dinners until last week.
We thought it would be a good chance for L. to meet some of the locals, and perhaps connect with someone from her past years of coming up here, as she bought the land up the hill from town in 1969.
Although she didn’t know any of the dinner participants directly, several of the locals recognized the names that L. remembered from years past.
That week’s cook, Paul, was the same one who prepared the best chili I’ve ever eaten, at last month’s fundraiser for a local boy with cancer. So I looked forward to this dinner.
We were not disappointed. Paul himself came out to serve huge bowls of beef stew, brimming with potatoes and carrots and onions. This was topped off by homemade biscuits.
Perhaps a dozen people sat around a long table in the middle of the main room of the hotel, adjoining the historic, picturesque full bar. Many objects dating back from mining days adorn the walls and ceiling, which create a homey atmosphere.
We knew all the people at the table, some better than others; the ones who regularly attend the weekly “Saturday Trailer Trash Potluck” dinners were the most familiar, since we stayed at the campground on Main St. for a couple of months this summer.
So there was L., dressed in her embroidered Chinese jacket and adorned with gold jewelry, sitting in the midst of women in T-shirts or flannel and jeans. She remarked softly to me that she will “dress down” next time.
But no-one batted an eyelash or made any kind of judgement about L.’s obvious “class”.
Generally, James and I have found that the locals are welcoming and accepting; after all, here we are a gay couple, and no-one appears to have a problem with that.
After the delicious dinner, the three of us adjourned to the bar in the next room. This, too, contains many historical objects from the mid-1800s when this mining town first appeared in the middle of the woods, when gold was extracted from the Yuba River which is located just behind the hotel.
The young bartender “Rye” looks like a big, shaggy biker. He recognized us from our few past visits and was very amiable. We introduced him to L. and he tipped an imaginary hat while saying “Ma’am”.
There were a few familiar local guys at the bar who seemed to know us by sight, but we haven’t formally met most of them. They looked at the three of us curiously for a moment but didn’t stare. We all eventually exchanged bits and pieces of conversation as we enjoyed our drinks.
The guys didn’t seem to feel inhibited by the presence of a lady, yet I imagine that they might have toned down their usual rough language just a tad. L. mentioned this later, and hit the nail on the head when she said that mountain men are ‘often chivalrous’. Yes, I believe this to be true.
I will never forget the sight of this fine woman sitting on a bar-stool in this local, rather rough and down-home establishment, and enjoying herself immensely!
L. kept laughing about the day’s events — starting out at an elegant tea-room and ending up at the local bar. She remarked, “From the sublime to the ridiculous”, hence the title of this post.
She didn’t really mean that the conclusion of the evening was ridiculous, per se, but it was quite a contrast from our genteel lunch earlier in the afternoon.
A good time was had by all and I was pleasantly surprised when we received several genuine, nice “goodbyes” when we left.
Yes, we are liking this tiny town (population 166) and its people, very much.
And tonight is Wednesday and we’re attending this week’s sit-down dinner. Paul is cooking again, this time it’s chicken stew. Yum!
For over a week, I’ve been immersed in composing a new piece of music, called “Suite: Darker Side of Nowhere” which is for Halloween. It’s meant to be played for trick-or-treaters, or at a party.
It’s in three sections (or movements) and totals fifteen minutes. You can listen and download it from the song page on MacJams. Click on the title below to get to the page:
I am very proud of this new work if I do say so myself. I hope that you enjoy it, and play it this Halloween. Please feel free to comment here!
Over the past two days, I have laboriously copied all entries and their accompanying comments from my old blog, into a document that will serve as my memories of a certain small town that I thought I would spend the rest of my life in.
I did this because I have just deleted that blog. As I am no longer living in that town, why keep it?
Ever since I moved to The Woods, I knew that I would delete the old blog eventually, but now that I’ve done it I feel a bit sad.
It has been nostalgic (and very illuminating!) to read over those entries as well as my readers’ comments, especially the early ones when I waxed so eloquently about the place. I was so enthusiastic, singing its praises. And people responded so supportively.
Then as we got to know the town’s inner workings and people better below the surface, we discovered that it was less-than-idyllic — and in fact, was not a good fit for us.
I can only hope that the same flip-flop doesn’t happen HERE. I don’t think it will, because the connections with this land, and with the people who own it, with all my family, friends and colleagues who live nearby, and the more down-to-earth townspeople we are meeting — are much stronger than in our previous location.
In retrospect, (hindsight is so cheap!) I shouldn’t have freaked out and deleted “controversial” blog entries when a few local residents complained about some negative aspects of town that I brought up. Most of you blog readers encouraged me to continue writing, without censorship.
Well, I wimped out. I was pragmatic in that I realized that we would be leaving anyway, so what was the point of being a bad-ass?
It seems that I have a bit more processing to do, concerning this recent major change in my life. When I think about it, it IS pretty significant, and needs acknowledgement. Then I will be able to let go and move on more effectively.
When I started this new blog, a few faithful readers have followed me here, for which I am grateful.
I have been bad about posting lately, and even worse about visiting other blogs to comment, so it is no wonder that “Into the Woods” gets less traffic than my old blog.
I can only hope to become more involved again, and not be such a stranger to you all.
Well, um…let’s see…
Where to start?
As more time passes without an update, the job of “catching up” becomes more daunting.
When I first started keeping diaries as a teenager, there were periods when I didn’t write every day. But the little hard-bound red book had a date for each page, so I would faithfully go back several weeks through the blank, accusing pages to fill in each one. It’s amazing what the imagination can conjure up.
Then as an adult, weeks and sometimes months would go by without an entry. I didn’t bother trying to fill in each day “in retrospect” any more. Whenever I resumed writing after a protracted absence, my first sentences would invariably read: “So much has happened! It will take a BOOK to catch up!”
I am fighting the urge to write these very lines now. Well, I just did.
James and I are gradually settling into our place In The Woods. It is getting colder now and James has fixed both wood-burning stoves — one in the Music Room and the other in the Bunkhouse, where we sleep. These rusty old stoves work surprisingly well; the blast of heat will put you out of the room if you’re not careful.
We are currently burning some cedar logs which were originally cut into large sections; it started out as a huge branch which was cut from the tree out front, a few years ago. Then it was chopped into smaller chunks which still needed to be split further, and left in the front yard.
James and I spent an afternoon splitting wood. He had seen it done but I hadn’t, so we were both inexperienced. We took turns holding the wedge while the other wielded the hammer-end of the axe. Luckily no hands were harmed in the process.
But we quickly decided that buying a wood-splitter was in order.
Since wood needs to “cure” for a season before use, we will need to buy several cords, preferably oak, which burns better than the ubiquitous pine which is everywhere on this land.
Over the past several weeks, we have unpacked almost every box and James has decorated the rooms attached to the barn in his usual fine, artsy style. Our things look better here than they did in Bisbee. Of course, we feel better in this location!
Yesterday I asked James what project we should pursue next. He said that there are so many things to do. I suggested that we put on a new roof of corrugated tin, since there were several leaks during last Friday’s storm. So hopefully we will get to that in the coming week.
I am already starting to get horn work in various area orchestras, and have been busy practicing to get into better shape than I was while playing the same “Phantom” music over and over again for ten years.
I played a gig with the Sacramento Philharmonic on Sept. 15th, and then the opening concert “set” with the Symphony Silicon Valley in San Jose last week. Next up is the Sacramento Philharmonic’s opening concert set (including Mahler’s Fifth Symphony) from Oct. 10th-13th.
This is the time of year when orchestras gear up their new seasons, and I am fortunate to be a part of two excellent ensembles right at the beginning of their concert series. These sets usually consist of three or four rehearsals starting on Wednesday, culminating in one or two concerts over the weekend.
It will be interesting to see how much substitute work I am called for with these groups over the coming orchestra season, which generally lasts through late May or early June.
I am making my first appearance on harp in Nevada City this afternoon, at the County Library’s 100th anniversary party. I will improvise background music for about 45 minutes, before their main entertainment starts at 5:30.
Yesterday, James printed me up some business cards for my harp gigs; they turned out very well. It will be good to have cards to pass around at the Library today. I have asked James to make me some horn business cards as well.
Reading over this entry, it sounds like a group family letter at Christmas! Well, the readers of this blog are in fact a “family” of sorts, so if the shoe fits….however, I hope that my writing style is not too mundane today.