Sunday, February 10, 2008
We lost a full day of the ceramic tile crew’s work on Friday because while the plow guy showed up and did a good job, the sanding guy went AWOL. It wasn’t a problem for me personally, because the Jeep’s four wheel drive got me up to the new house with no problem.
But I’ve discovered that a lot of the subcontractors don’t have four wheel. They drive standard pick-ups that are light in the rear end to begin with and if they aren’t packing a lot of gear or supplies in the bed of the truck, they fishtail all over the place, give up, and take off, pissed that they’re missing a day of work. This being northern New England, I’m surprised anyone whose business depends on his vehicle wouldn’t be properly set up for New England weather.
The two brothers who did the acid dye on the floors turned them out beautifully. I managed not to take a camera up there with me when they were done, so pictures will have to wait for a couple of weeks. These guys can always get through no matter what the road conditions. They’ve got muscle pick-ups, big bad Ford trucks with four wheel drive and double tires on the back axle.
We spent the morning yesterday covering the floors in the three rooms that had been dyed and sprayed with sealer. Heavy construction paper we put down will protect them from the next wave of subs—the painter, the tile guys and the finish carpenter. After covering the floors, we moved all the kitchen cabinets back into the great room to allow the kitchen to be base painted and its tile floor to be laid down. We’re playing a shell game these days from room to room with cabinets, finish grade lumber and other equipment and supplies.
We’re ventilating the house by opening downstairs windows and pulling down the fold-up stairs that lead to the attic with its “solar chimney” cupola, creating a great upward rush of air. The sealer on the floors gives off a heavy chemical smell as it cures and the house currently isn’t a pleasant place in which to work. The odor gets into clothes, particularly bulky soft items like sweaters or the fleece lining of Fritz’s leather jacket.
I was back down in Boston twice last week. Tuesday was Opera Boston’s final performance of its run of Handel’s Semele. Semele is relatively late Handel when he had transitioned from Italian opera into English oratorio, except that the libretto for Semele is unquestionably meant for the operatic stage.
When the work premiered, eighteenth century London arrived expecting yet another uplifting Biblical experience, but what they got was a ribald tale of a young woman erotically fixated on the god Jupiter and determined to use sex as a means of being created an Immortal. The first audience hated it all, despite one of the wittiest libretti ever written (by playwright William Congreve) and music from Handel’s top drawer. Semele languished until the 20th century-- which knows a thing or three about sexual social climbing--rediscovered it and made it a hit wherever it plays.
The opera succeeded very well indeed in Opera Boston’s production which was set in an anonymous-luxurious suite of hotel function rooms where the story was updated to dovetail with modern neuroses—a very good idea indeed. Lisa Saffer, an internationally known specialist in vocal music of the 18th and 20th centuries, was in complete command of the role. Boston Baroque and its conductor Martin Pearlman played the score with verve and beautiful tone.
Thursday was a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert featuring Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Petite Symphonie Concertante for Harp, Harpsichord and Piano, Sergei Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto, and that grand French 19th century sonic extravaganza, Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony #3 for Organ with piano and lots of brass. Charles Dutoit conducted with an ideal mix of elegance and showmanship.
On the way home, I tuned into WBZ Radio’s nightly talk show that’s moderated by political reporter Dan Rea. Things were bouncing along nicely concerning Barack, Hillary and Mitt for the most part, when James called in from Medford. James had something else on his agenda entirely.
“Why don’t you ever discuss how the Communists are destroying this country?” he demanded of Dan. “They make all this terrible weather in China and then they send it over here to destroy our towns and businesses. They’re poisoning our children. And you go into any city, any town in this country, and every two blocks there’s a Communist restaurant. I will NOT EAT Communist food!” You never know what’s in it. I do not want to eat cat.”
Dan handled it very well: “James, you’re obviously an extremely perceptive man. You can see things the rest of us can’t and you’re concerned for our safety. My advice to you is to go to the police or the FBI with your concerns, and make sure you take the evidence you’ve collected with you as proof.”
James wasn’t having any of this. He wanted Dan to discuss Communist-cooked Mu Shu and fried rice, and Chinese weather aimed at us like weapons. After a five second drop out because James crossed the line with some obscene language, Dan said good night to him and cut him off. “James seems to be living about 60 years ago,” he said.
Somehow, I do wish Dan hadn't cut him off before asking how you aim a tornado at another country.
Is Shelby Scott still around?