Sunday, July 15, 2007
She and her current beau were leaving the next morning for a week in Belize. This trip may be a sign that something serious could be beginning to develop. We had a good time. I caught her up on the move and my beginning to settle in at Fritz's. She talked about her job (liking it more and more) and about how surprisingly comfortable she is in the new relationship.
The opera, the first part or "Prolog" to Wagner's RING, was a huge success vocally and orchestrally. I wasn't carried away by the direction, a dutiful walk-through of the required action, but neither was it inadequate. The scenery, part of a production that was conceived specifically to be light-weight enough to tour easily, was mostly symbolic and didn't captivate many in the audience. I didn't mind the symbolic approach but do insist that if you're going to use symbols, you have to apply them consistently—although individual scenes were certainly striking.
The most interesting moment in the evening, for me at least, came very late in the opera. As Wotan was preparing to lead his brother and sister gods into the newly completed Valhalla his wife, the goddess Fricka, entered wearing a tall headdress with a bear's face mounted on top. She carried a similar one with a jackal or dog's head and helped Wotan put it on. Their costumes and these headdresses were white, and as they progressed upstage to the appropriately empty and bombastically ceremonial music Wagner provided for their entry into the new house, they looked as if they'd been institutionalized into iconic idol figures.
As I was going to make the visit to my old employer in the retirement home in central Jersey, I drove out of the city after the opera through the Lincoln Tunnel and found a motel in the town of Cheesequake. For someone who's lived so much of his life in Boston, home of the Great Molasses Flood, Cheesequake sounded like it might be an interesting place. Alas, no.
The motel was far from full so my economy room was kindly upgraded by the desk clerk to "a very beautiful room—a really lovely room." Remember, I was in northern New Jersey--heavy Sopranos territory--and beauty is in the eye of the beholder depending on the local culture. I was on route 9, a dreary commercial strip full of auto body shops, restaurants and lounges (Nonna's Italian Feast, Connie's Italiano Bar, Grill and Dancing). The beauty of my room (that came complete with full kitchenette) was that the cheap masonite-backed wall paneling was laid on in a herringbone pattern and--so classy!--the stippled plaster ceiling had multicolor glitter embedded in it. All this for $62, including all state taxes.
Saturday morning I headed south on route 9 hoping for some change of landscape but the miles and miles of strip malls, shopping plazas, pool and spa centers, etc. never let up. Eventually I turned west onto route 70 and passed through Lakehurst (site of the Hindenberg hydrogen-filled airship disaster in the late 1930s) and into Whiting, my destination. I stopped to pick up a potted flowering plant for my old employer's window sill and our meeting was a delight.
At 94 she's sharp as a tack and very animated. Earlier this year she suffered a small stroke that thickened her speech, but I soon learned how to understand her. She positively lit up when I entered her room and we had a lovely time together. At one point I asked her if she'd like to show me around the place which she liked the idea of, so I pushed her wheelchair wherever she indicated she wanted me to go and she explained what was what. Through one of the windows we saw a beaver waddling through the edge of the woods, which consists of a lot of short scrub pines and low underbrush making an inland town look like a beach community. The place itself is lovely and the staff extremely nice.
She showed me a stack of books she'd gotten out of the local library--a lot of travel books and a history of opera. I told her how important my earnings from the business were in keeping me in theater and opera house ticket money as a kid. We talked a long while. I took some pictures and a staff member took one or two of us together before I said good-bye. I'll probably go down again next winter on one of my trips into the city. It's not that far from New York and she seemed to enjoy it tremendously.
Saturday night was the second of the RING operas, this one far better directed with scenes that crackled with energy and dramatic tension. The last two are next Friday and Saturday night.
Here’s a picture of the kind of rock that was blasted out to make way for the foundations of the new house. As you can see, it’s very complex stuff with all kinds of minerals, crystals, silica and other kinds of rock embedded in it. It’s volcanic and should make really interesting and beautifully colored facing for the big concrete piers across the front of the house.
That rock is gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful.