Thursday, October 19, 2006
So, she called and it took me about three and a half seconds to say yes. I picked two consecutive Wednesdays in October and proposed the history and traditions of Opera under the title "The Ultimate Art." I put together a program supported by slides, videos, sound clips, and scale models.
Greenfield is in the center of the state, or just a bit west of center, in beautiful countryside on the western side of the Connecticut River valley. It's about two hours out of Boston via Route 2, an old-fashioned road that's mostly parkway. It crosses the Connecticut just south of French King Rock over the lovely French King Bridge, built in 1932 and renovated in the 1990s. When I drove out there this summer on my way to the Glimmerglass Opera Festival, it was to check out the Community College's seminar room and make sure they had all the AV equipment I'd need.
You come upon the bridge unexpectedly, around a curve and up a slight incline. It's elegant with its white marble pylons and black iron columns, each topped by an eagle and twin lanterns. I had no idea what it was called then, but my first thought was, "how French--it looks like it should be crossing the Seine in Paris."
Yesterday, Fritz came with me to sit in on the final session. He'd known about the bridge for years, so I asked if he knew why it was called French King Bridge, why so many things in the area were French King this and French King that--and which French King, for heaven's sake. He didn't know, beyond a speculation about the close proximity of Montreal and the large French Canadian population that reaches down from French Canada all the way into northern Massachusetts. We decided to ask the Symposium director since she passes across the bridge from her home every time she goes to work.
Well, she didn't know, and the seminar members had some theories but nothing concrete. My personal speculation was that it had to do with the French and Indian War that was fought right in the middle of the 18th century. As we drove back to Boston over the bridge and commented on its beauty amid the even greater beauty of color-drenched autumn foliage in the Connecticut River Gorge, I told Fritz I'd Google the bridge and see what information, if any, there was to be found on line.
The story is that during the French and Indian War, a French lieutenant is reputed to have camped his troops by a great rock on the Connecticut River which he named for King Louis XV. Louis's name didn't stick in the popular American mind at the time, but the fact that he was the French King did. Thus the spate of place and road names and the name of the bridge honored for its beauty by an award the year it was built.
It's a bridge I will be crossing again. The reaction to "The Ultimate Art: the History and Traditions of Opera" was highly favorable. During the break between the two hours of the presentation yesterday, the program director was approached by several of the members asking "can we have him back next year to do a program just on Wagner?" ". . . a program just on Mozart?" etc. They're talking about a several year association and I couldn't be happier--it's just the kind of thing I want to be doing once I've left MIT and am free to explore new things. I thought it was a good excuse to celebrate, so I told Fritz I wanted to go out to dinner instead of cooking when we got back to Boston.
We decided on Apollonia, the Albanian restaurant with Greek and Balkan cuisine where we went to celebrate the night we got our marriage license two and a half years ago. We split a half carafe of wine and shared orders of lamb shanks and Moussaka. We ended with Greek pastries. And we sat and looked at each other, laughed and smiled and said we loved each other as if we'd just met and were still in the euphoria phase of our relationship. Because we still are.
Alan--me, too. Fritz and I are both into the little and the big romantic gestures. It makes such a difference and it'such a beautiful way to communicate.
ur-spo and Thom--thanks. I love teaching and lecturing except that I don't "lecture" so much as work from a "spine" of cue words and phrases that I print out and then deliver as naturally and casually as I can. I slip in the little anecdotal stories about actual people and their reaction to events that I think make history real for my classes and other groups. That way I can maintain eye contact and keep all of us engaged all the time.
Also, if you and Fritz would like a wonderful restaurant near GCC, Ristorante Dipaolo in Turners Falls is fantastic, and I say that as a South End resident who eats out most nights, so hopefully I have *some* foodie cred :^)
I'm sorry I didn't know about your lecture series earlier - I couldn't have attended, but my mother might have liked it. Please post when the next series might be.
The two sisters never returned, remaining in Canada, marrying and producing issue. I descend from both of them seperately. The name was Stebbins.
Sounds like a great trip in any case.