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Dear Friends,

After more than a year-and-a-half, I have revived my blog!

However, it is at my original blog address at:

http://cameronkopf.blogspot.com/

Now that I’ve added a new twist, typing all my posts, my interest in blogging has been rekindled. My switch to Blogger is because many fellow typewriter enthusiasts have their blogs on that particular platform. In fact, it’s a nice, rather extensive network.

For those (few) of you who have my old blog linked on your blogs, please change the URL to the Blogspot one above.

I look forward to your comments on my “new” blog! Your participation is very important; it’s a big part of my motivation to resume blogging and keep blogging!

Thanks very much.

Cameron


As you can see, we’re getting wilder and woolier!

Well, here we are in sunny, warm and dry Tempe, Arizona. I’m very busy playing Phantom shows, hardly a chance to catch my breath. The show schedule is relentless!

I’m thankful to be employed by the Phantom touring company for the rest of the year, however. Durham NC from late Nov. – late Dec. and then Christmas Week in Ft. Lauderdale.

Perhaps my Dear Readers will be able to discern a slight change in our hair this week. I started using “product” to shape it past my ears a couple weeks ago, and have now begun parting it. Sort of.

James is a couple weeks behind me in hair growth, and has just started using “product” (i.e., Krew Komb). It is really interesting — to ME anyway — to see James’ hair longer than it’s ever been during our 11 year+ relationship. I feel like I’ve got a new boyfriend/plaything. 😉

Ha ha.

Well, I made it just under the wire tonight folks, with less than an hour of Sunday remaining.

If I could make each day of the week some-special-something, then I’d be posting to this blog daily!

It’s definitely a new experience to let my hair grow out. By most people’s standards it’s still very short, but it already feels long to ME. Are you bored with this yet?

Sorry about the poor photo quality — I’m using “PhotoBooth”, the built-in camera on my Macbook, and it’s nighttime. Very grainy! But you get the idea.

James and I have sported very short hairstyles for years. James, in fact, says that he’s had short hair since April 15, 1980. I think it’s funny that he knows the exact date, but I’m kind of a date-freak about some things myself and understand where he’s coming from.

I have had short hair since October 1997. Sorry I don’t recall the exact date. I decided to have my hair cut a few weeks after going on the road with Phantom. I was ready for a new look (which, in fact, landed me James a few months later, he claims).

One of the people in Phantom’s Hair Department cut my hair. He wasn’t cheap! But he was tawdry. But I digress. 😉

At that same time, I decided to stop coloring my hair. Oh wow, it’s Truth Time!

I started going gray in my mid-thirties. I wasn’t ready for that, so I decided to have my hairstylist color it. I did that for eight years.

But I finally got tired of the charade, and besides, I was curious how I looked with gray in my hair.

The funny thing is, when I look back at pictures from that time, my hair wasn’t NEARLY as gray (and white) as it is now. Yet I thought I was being so darn adventurous.

Anyway, back to the Hair Sunday thing. James and I have decided to grow our hair long! A few months ago we would have recoiled in horror at the thought. But now it somehow seems attractive; it’s something fun to “do”.

We may end up hating it. But we’ll never know until we let it grow out a bit.

James suggested that we take pictures of ourselves every Sunday to chart our hair growth, and I came up with the idea of posting the pictures to my blog.

So now you have something to look forward to every week, Cameron’s Hair Sunday! You’ll probably be sick of the sight of us by the time our hair grows out.

Here’s the first set of pictures, taken a few minutes ago. Believe it or not, my hair is already longer than usual right now; this would be the time that I’d have James take clippers in hand to give me my usual buzz-cut.

But this will not happen. I’m letting it grow out.

Oh Lord, please give me the strength to avoid itching and scratching and flipping hair out of my eyes — activities which have not been part of my repertoire for well over a decade.

Okay, I can just hear you saying right now, “Which one is James and which is Cameron?” Do you know or do you need me to enlighten you?

Over the past month, James and I have lived at the beach in Pacifica, the central valley in Sacramento, back at our home in the mountains, and NOW, in the completely different vibe of LA-LA land.

Backtracking…

The Beach
We spent the first day of 2009 with my cousin S. She lives in a quaint fisherman’s cottage, a stone’s-throw from Half Moon Bay.

It was a gorgeous noon, sunny and mild. We walked along the water along with many other beach wanderers and enjoyed the springlike weather, and laughed at S.’s two dogs frolicking with the crowd and other canines.

Here’s a shot of a little Australian boy who was perfect for the camera:

I’ve very much enjoyed reconnecting with my cousin, who I hadn’t seen in thirty years.

We had been very close as kids, since S. lived in San Francisco and I was in Sacramento, and our families would get together several times a year.

In high school I moved to the East coast and I didn’t see S. again until after I’d graduated, when I visited the West coast. Then we went off to our respective music conservatories (Cincinnati, Baltimore) during our college years.

Until recently, I hadn’t seen S. since she was in Baltimore, at the end of 1978. I was in the city for an audition with the orchestra, and stayed with my cousin and her college roommates in a big, rambling house that they rented. (I was playing in the Nashville Symphony at the time.)

Working in the San Francisco bay area for six weeks during the holidays provided me with a chance to connect with a few friends and relatives that I hadn’t seen in years. But the show schedule is always relentless and it was challenging to set aside little chunks of free time to see people.

I’m glad that S. and I found time to visit on two occasions during my sojourn in the Bay area. I look forward to having her come visit us in the Woods when the weather warms up.

Here are some shots taken during our stay at the San Francisco RV resort in Pacifica:

I faced away from the beach as I took this picture on the night of a Full Moon:

The view towards the ocean:

Early on in our visit, I had James take this shot of Ringo and me:

Rupert trying out his new scratching post:

It was challenging to practice horn in the small space of the trailer. I used a mute to dampen the sound.

Whenever James and I walked a few blocks to the grocery store with Ringo, I stayed outside with the dog while James went inside to shop. I sat on a nearby bench and watched the passerby, many of whom smiled at Ringo and often stopped to chat. Having a dog is a good way to meet people!

I finished the very successful Phantom run in San Francisco on January 4th, then had a rehearsal with the Modesto Symphony (in the central valley) the next evening. James and I made the two-hour drive there and back the same day, arriving back in Pacifica at midnight.

We decided to stay at the beach a couple more days, to allow the road conditions to further improve at home in the Woods. We didn’t want to repeat the disaster of getting stuck as we had on our previous visit! Every mild day that passed would increase our chances of being able to get our trailer back up the hill and parked in front of our barn.

The Valley
We left the beach on the 7th and went to Sacramento (on the way home) to see our family. We had regretted missing them at Christmas and looked forward to spending time with my brother, his wife and my niece and nephew. The latter was home from music school in Boston and I was anxious to hear about his first months there. He’s maturing so quickly!

Originally we had planned to spend only a few days in Sacramento, staying in our Airstream parked in the family driveway, and then venture on up the hill for home.

But a drive up to the Woods for a brief exploratory visit that weekend convinced us to wait another few days, as that last steep dirt road to our place (where we had gotten stuck just before Christmas) was still covered with ice and snow. Nearly a foot of snow continued to blanket the meadow and area around the barn, which doesn’t get much sun this time of year. It would be very difficult to back the trailer over that slippery mess. It was best to wait a few more days.

So it was fine to go back down to the valley to hang out with the family, and had a lovely visit. There were many excellent meals alternately prepared by my sister-in-law and James, while my brother is a master at the barbeque grill.

My niece and nephew, home from college on break, had a steady stream of their friends in and out of the house. The place was very much enlivened by their presence and we all enjoyed each other’s company, an extended family. There were several meals in which we managed to fit ten people around the huge round table in the diningroom. What fun!

James and I both preferred staying in our Airstream in the driveway rather than in the guest house as we usually do when we visit the family in Sacramento, because it’s our own familiar, intimate space. It also minimized the hectic atmosphere in the main house, at least a little bit.

My father designed and built this adobe brick house in 1952, and it is amazing that it continues to be the family home.

The weather in Sacramento was unseasonably sunny and warm for January. The standard winter day there usually entails fog and cool temperatures. We were very thankful that the weather was so nice while we were there, although the region desperately needs rain.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the country suffered with snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Living in California can feel like being on another planet, in more ways than one! (Especially in the southern portion of the state, which I’ll get to in a moment.)

The Woods
We finally took our leave of the family in Sacramento on the 18th, and towed the Airstream back up to our home in the Woods. There were a few slippery sections on the steep dirt road where it was shady, but not enough to pose a serious problem.

However, there was still quite a bit of ice and snow in front of the barn where we wanted to park the trailer.

The truck’s wheels spun on the ice as we tried to back up the rig to level it properly. We spent the next hour-and-a-half trying to move it a few inches. We finally thought of putting tire doormats under the truck’s back wheels, which helped.

A neighbor happened to pass by and he suggested that we put a series of boards under the trailer wheels rather than try to back it up on the large metal chocks, which we usually use to level the trailer on uneven ground.

This worked! The trailer was finally level, on a combination of snow, ice and mud.

Besplattered with mud from head to toe, we thanked the neighbor and James filled the Airstream’s water tank directly from the well so that we could have running water inside. He needed to replace the pipes by the pump and by the faucet in the barn that had burst in our absence.

It was so nice to be home!

The peace and quiet. The lovely views of evergreens and mountains.

Temperatures were mild all last week and the snow and ice gradually receded, helped along by much-needed rain for several days. The trailer needed to be leveled again as the ice melted.

Here is a shot of the snow behind the barn, near the meadow. This area doesn’t get much sunshine during the winter as the sun dips behind the mountain in early afternoon. As you can see, there was still plenty of snow even a month after the storm:

It was quite different to live in the trailer rather than in the Music Room as we had done last year. The Airstream is so much easier to heat! James had basically spent three months last winter tending the woodstove, so we wanted to see what it was like to spend the winter in the trailer this time. As we had lived in it full-time since before Thanksgiving anyway, it was a very familiar, comfortable feeling to be in that small, cozy space.

We still need to install the new woodstove in the Music Room. Meanwhile, we are using a combination of kerosene heater and small portable electric heater, which warms up the large room quite adequately during my horn practicing sessions.

I needed to keep in strong playing shape for my upcoming stint on Principal horn in Phantom in Los Angeles this week. I prefer playing the horn in the Music Room rather than in the small confines of the trailer. Brass instruments like a lot of space!

It was also nice to play my three harps again. I had to devote quite a bit of time tuning them, as the cold temperatures had changed the strings’ pitch, and a couple of strings had snapped.

It always amazes me how musical instruments feel “dead” when they haven’t been played in a while, and how they magically come alive when they are played.

Of course, our dog Ringo loves the Woods. The wolf part in him definitely comes out as we walk the trails. It was nice not to have to pick up his poop as we did at the RV park at the beach, and he was much more calm not having to sniff the traces of numerous other dogs.

The week went by in a pleasant blur. Neither of us wanted to leave our beautiful slice of heaven on Sunday, but duty called! We needed to get to Los Angeles for my week of Phantom.

We woke up on Sunday morning to find three inches of new snow on the ground! And it was still snowing heavily at 9:30 a.m.

We had intended to leave the Woods in late afternoon, but decided to get the heck out of there immediately, before the roads became difficult to navigate.

So we threw a minimum of things together and packed them into the car, along with the dog and cat, and managed to escape just in time.

It amazed me that only twenty miles down the hill, there was no snow whatsoever in Nevada City.

We spent the day at my brother’s house in Sacramento, and stayed overnight. Although the kids are back at college, one of my nephew’s friends is staying in the guest-house and the five of us had an enjoyable dinner together at the Big house.

We left Sacramento at 10 a.m. on Monday morning.

LA-LA land
The weather on our drive down the state was beautiful — sunny and cool. Interstate 5 is often a very boring road to travel, but it is considerably faster than State highway 99.

We arrived at the huge, sprawling apartment complex at Toluca Lake (in the Hollywood Hills) in late afternoon. Traffic was zippy and aggressive but not too horrible on Highway 101 going towards L.A. at 4 p.m. I imagine that it got worse not long after.

We’re staying in a one-bedroom corporate apartment which is completely furnished. It feels HUGE to us! We would have preferred a studio but they were all taken.

This complex was built in the ’70s and has seen better days, although it is certainly tolerable for one week. Our apartment is on the end of the building and has nice wrap-around windows in the corner of the livingroom.

At the front desk, I had to sign an affidavit accepting the fact that the walls contain lead. “Don’t be licking the walls,” the clerk quipped.

There are twenty-six large buildings nestled in these hills, from A to Z. We are in building Q. No comment!  😉

Parking is at a premium. The tiny, narrow spaces fill up completely in the late afternoon after work. When James picked me up from the theatre at 10:45 p.m., we had to park in another lot further away from our building.

After we had brought our possessions into the apartment and made a cup of tea, we ventured out to a nearby Vons grocery store (in Hollywood) for supplies.

What a trip that store was.

Lots of trendy, packaged foods. Young women wearing black jeans and t-shirts with gold sequins, spelling “PINK” on their butts. Older women in power black suits with lots of gold jewelry and major attitude. People racing their shopping carts with great urgency down the narrow aisles, as if they were speeding in their cars down the congested highways.

Everyone on cell phones.

I imagined that there would be a wide selection of health foods since Southern California has such an emphasis on keeping fit. There was indeed a wide array of juice drinks in attractive bottles, but not many natural juices. There was no bulk food health section. Almost everything is packaged in eye-catching and glitzy ways.

The produce was adequate but not inspired. The aisles were very narrow and the attitudinal women racing here and there got on my nerves.

All of a sudden, all the commercials and TV programs make much more sense, watched in this setting of L.A. It’s like a light bulb has gone off in my head. Most of the commercials here are different than the ones shown further north. I have never seen so many weight loss, home fitness “systems” and weight-reduction surgery ads as I have here!

My first Phantom show of the week was on Tuesday night at the Pantages Theatre, on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.

It dates from 1930. You can read its history here

The orchestra pit is twelve feet below stage level, so most of its occupants are invisible to the audience. I was amazed at how informal the musicians can be in such a setting, unseen by the public.

Several players have tables next to their music stands, where they surf the Net on laptop computers. Others are busy online with their PDAs. There is quiet laughing, joking and talking while the show is in progress, when the musicians aren’t playing.

This behavior would not be allowed amongst the traveling musicians on the road. But this is a different kind of situation, with mostly local musicians who play regularly in that particular venue. Most pits are visible from the audience, but the one at Pantages is not.

The locals have been very welcoming and complimentary to me, which I appreciate. I will enjoy the week, but am greatly looking forward to spending more time at home. At last!

Every morning, James and I take Ringo for a walk through the neighborhood near our little brick 1922 house, in a residential section only two blocks south of the main street which eventually reaches downtown. Further south, the neighborhood abruptly ends with the Interstate highway.

Having been truncated by two major thoroughfares, the neighborhood has definitely seen better days. But perhaps it may have seen worse and is now on its way up. One can dream, anyway.

The oldest houses appear to have been built in the late 1800s, with the majority having been constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. There is a sprinkling of post-war houses as well, and less common, new construction usually consisting of “project”-type housing.

If I had a LOT of cash, this neighborhood would be a good investment, buying up cheap houses, fixing them up and selling at reasonable prices. But who knows what direction this neighborhood will really take, especially during these tough times?

It is rather sad to walk through this neighborhood. Echoes of a bygone era whisper as we walk through the narrow alleys choked with weeds and discarded furniture and appliances.

One can tell that the houses were grand at one time, with detached garages lining these rutted little byways. It is a sad testimony of neglect and careless dumping.

Alleys and fields are perfect places for Ringo to “do his business”. There are more vacant lots close to the Interstate. The juxtaposition of wide-open weedy spaces and the roar of the cars on the freeway offer a clashing contradiction for the senses.

Walk #1:  10/19/08

Yesterday morning was sunny and clear — cool but not brisk — as James, Ringo and I started our walk. There were more people up and about on a Sunday than we see during the week.

The first person we encountered was a man of indeterminate age shuffling aimlessly along the cracked sidewalk in our direction on the opposite side of the street. He stepped into the intersection and veered left, weaving into the middle of the street.

Ringo perked up his nose and sniffed the air, his attention immediately drawn to a flock of large, black crows picking at an object in this intersection.  As humans and dog approached, the birds rose up in a clattering flurry of wings and caws.

The roar of the highway increased in volume as we neared Ringo’s favorite vacant lot.

At the far end of this lot are two abandoned houses. I finally remembered to bring my camera in an attempt to capture some impressions of this neighborhood for the blog. I snapped this shot of the first “foreclosed” house, where new plywood has been tacked onto the windows just over the past couple of days:

…and the house next to it, in similar condition:

We walked up a couple of blocks back towards our house, away from the highway, and were treated with the sight of this yard full of “collectables”:

Then we turned down the alley which eventually leads to our house, and I took a picture of this garage and back yard which had caught my eye over the past few walks:

A few doors down, this house shot from the alley:

Further down the alley, on the other side, was this structure which looks older than the others:

Another sad house, with a larger weedy lot, taken from the alley:

And now for something more cheerful — a couple shots of the Fall colors:

James asked me to take a picture of this place with the tall pine and the tiny smudge of the moon to the left:

Walk #2 (today)

I took a break from writing the above to go on this morning’s walk. It’s one of the few overcast days we’ve had since we arrived on Oct. 6th. It looks like it’s going to rain soon, so we were glad to do the walk beforehand.

I suggested to James that we walk in the opposite direction from our house than we did yesterday, so I could take a picture of this colorful assemblage at “The Kings”:

An informal playground for the kiddies:

Lots of local residents park their cars and boats in their yards:

Here’s a sad little house. For some reason I could actually see myself living in this, if it were spruced up.

…and the house directly across the street:

Many yards have wood ready to be split:

I trust that the string of lights in this front yard make this place look better at night (with passing shot of Ringo):

A typical alley in the ‘hood:

A bit o’ this and a bit o’ that, including Halloween decor:

Another temporary change-of-scene with more Fall colors:

More creative Halloweening:

Combining “car in the hood” with Fall color:

As we approached the following house a few doors down from the car, the dog in the front yard started barking furiously. I snapped the shot without realizing that I caught the owner, who emerged to see what all the barking was about:

I don’t think he saw me taking the picture. I noticed him standing in front of his door afterwards, when we had already passed by, and he didn’t even look in our direction as he was so focused on his barking dog.

James and I are back on the road with Phantom, briefly, for the three-week show run in Spokane.

It’s like deja-vu all over again…

The two-day drive up here was unexpectedly beautiful, through central and north Nevada, then eastern Oregon and Washington.

Neither of us had been in that part of the country before. It’s always a refreshing change to drive along different highways, instead of the usual suspects such as I-40, I-80 or I-20. We’ve been up and down those roads too many times!

As soon as we crossed eastward over the green, pine forested Sierras last Sunday morning, the terrain in Nevada abruptly turned to desert. Bare, brown sandy mountains shimmered in the background while sparse clumps of low sagebrush-like vegetation surrounded the highway on the desert floor. It rather reminded me of the Mojave: stark and desolate.

It is a land rich in minerals; industrial processing and hydroelectric plants could be seen occasionally in the brown, hazy distance, adjacent to little towns carved out of the desert which service the factories.

The advent of Fall manifested in very subtle ways with compact, scrubby sagebrush in red and orange hues lining the roadside.

There were more flashes of green near Winnemucca in north-central Nevada, with more cattle ranches. Winnemucca is a town of cowboys and hookers and casinos, with a slightly disreputable, hardscrabble atmosphere. It is in the middle of nowhere, where gas prices are even higher than in California, because of the remoteness. Drivers are a captive audience there, at $4.19 a gallon for the lowest fuel grade.

When we entered town, a police cruiser kept a discreet distance behind us as James carefully observed the 25-mph speed limit. We weren’t about to give the local constabulary the satisfaction of nailing us “out-of-staters”, adding to their coffers!

The terrain grew more dramatic as the larger mountain ranges appeared closer to the highway as we headed north towards Oregon. There was slightly more moisture here, with fields of brilliant yellow mustard and occasional stands of trees nestled between the mountains.

Eastern Oregon has a great deal of variety in its terrain, from low, flat prairies to “mesas” such as are found in New Mexico, to steep, winding roads wending their way through lava moonscapes, then through more green swatches of ranchland.

We stopped overnight in Ontario, Oregon which is near the Idaho border, at a Motel 6 which is relatively inexpensive and allows pets.

We were pleasantly surprised that our dog Ringo and cat Rupert traveled well in the confines of our small car, a Scion XB. Rupert spent the whole time on my lap in front, with occasional trips to the back where Ringo had just enough space to lie down. He and Ringo seemed perfectly comfortable to be in close proximity, which was definitely a relief!

The next morning, we drove up through the rest of eastern Oregon, with even more dramatic mountains closer to the often winding road. The trees are now starting to show their Fall colors, mostly yellows.

At last we emerged at the top of a pass through which we could see an amazing vista of flatlands spreading out far below.

I took some video footage of this, along with some brief shots of Nevada the previous day; hopefully this will provide some idea of the spectacular country we passed through.

As we progressed through the eastern part of Washington, the land gradually turned more green again, with more grassland and trees. The areas became more densely populated as we approached Spokane in the late afternoon on Monday.

We arrived at our rental house after about fourteen hours of total driving-time over two days.

It turned out to be a fairly pleasant trip and we weren’t totally exhausted.

The place where we are staying for three weeks is a very pleasant Craftsman-style brick cottage, built in 1922. It has one bedroom and is about 850 square feet, which is actually spacious for James and me, as we spent many years living full-time in an Airstream travel trailer while on the road.

There are attractive built-in cabinets and moldings in this house, which adds personality and charm. It is located in a rather “basic” neighborhood which, at least, appears to be on its way up rather than down.

There is a huge Fred Meyer grocery store nearby which is very convenient, and it takes less than ten minutes to drive westward to the theatre in downtown Spokane — even better!

It feels good to be playing Phantom again, actually. I am comfortable with the show routine; I know what to expect after ten years of doing the drill. The people in the company are very nice and are always glad to see me, which is gratifying. I feel fulfilled in my horn-playing career in a way that has been sporadic over the past year and a half; the show continues to please a lot of people, and I feel appreciated for what I do.

I wouldn’t necessarily wish to go back on the road full-time again, but these occasional returns are fine. This week, James and I are settling back into the rhythm of this life away from home, after long years of practice. It is now made more bearable by the fact that we’ll be back in our wonderful place in The Woods by the end of this month.

We are enjoying having a dog very much. Here in Spokane, Ringo takes us on walks through the neighborhood several times a day, providing much-needed exercise and fresh air for all concerned.