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Sunday, June 26, 2005

You're welcome, ma'am

A friend came to visit, whom I'd only met online. She's traveling around the country, seeing whether there might be an area to move to, because two married women (married to each other) tend to be regarded with a lot of disapproval in the Deep South.

I was working late when she arrived, and Beloved undertook to be the hostess for two unsupported hours -- not that easy for her to do as she's a private person. I arrived, and my houseguest and I thanked Beloved and hit it off right away, talking deep into the night, and made plans for the next day, which I had taken as vacation for the purpose.

First order of business was to go up and see the reservoir. A serious accident blocked the intersection of our road and the highway, so we backtracked along the highway to another route, which went up through the mountains briefly, and after fifteen miles of, to me, God's country, small farms and big timber, came out a mile farther up the highway. We drove around to the covered bridge and up into Lowell.

The marina was unavailable for inspection because the weekend would be one of three every year when the lake is closed for high-powered boat races.

So we went around to the rowing dock, admired the scenery for a bit, and headed down to the dam to see the salmon.

There aren't a lot of them this year, but we could find a few milling about in the depths below us, including a June hog weighing around 35 pounds. Most looked to be fifteen pounders. Every now and then one would jump, with a plop that could be heard over the roar of the spillway.

These are hatchery fish, born here on the north bank and released to go to sea every year. The hatchery is a series of holding pens, and we walked in and examined these; already full of fry about two inches long; life in abundance. Soon they would be big enough to attract the attention of ospreys, eagles, and herons; hence the netting that covers each pool.

It's a sad business, really; there are no more wild salmon here. This dam has no fish ladder, and when the fish come back upstream, the tailrace is as far as they can go. With a dim memory of a concrete holding tank as home, some of them make it up the chute to the hatchery, to be milked and, perhaps, trucked to some nearby creek to die and return some of their nutrients to the local salmon-starved ecosystem (at considerable expense); the rest whiten around their fins and tail and begin to drift back downstream, coming to rest on some gravel bar to be picked apart by, mostly, crows.

Not many fishermen were vying for them, maybe eight on the far bank and four at the bar downstream on the hatchery side. No one got action while we were there. They looked weary and bored.

We went to town and I introduced my friend to my work crews. She checked her mail while I trained a student as a closer (last shift at night), then we went to explore the campus. After that, we walked down 13th a ways, and were "ma'amed" by the free-newspapers guy, which was nice for both of us. We stopped in to visit Mother Kali's (more), ate a bit at Napoli, and I went to my counselor appointment while she explored the downtown.

I finally asked the counselor about the M on my DL and he said he would begin the paper work, and also had a question for me to ask the SRS surgeon that I've corresponded with.

Gee, nice. But it's been three years, people.

A few months ago I would have jumped around on the sidewalk afterward, screaming for joy. But the harsh experience I had with the previous counselor has tempered my expectations somewhat. Things might turn out the way they seem they're going to, or other hurdles may throw themselves across my path. Best not to get carried away.

We then stopped by the house for a bit, and then on to Cottage Grove. I dropped her off to explore the town, went and got my weekly hour of electro, and came back. As we drove back to the house in the gathering dusk, she described the Dallas experience: all day, one side and then the other. I had heard of this from others, and said so.

"Yes, people go to them from all over the world."

The next day, after she left for parts east, I went to the Library to make sure I had crew, then noticed Beloved's car in front of my son's apartment, where clearly no one was at home. Deducing the entire family had walked to Saturday Market, which had been mentioned, I set out across town.

It's easy not to find someone at the Market, with several thousand people milling about, but I got them on my third loop. We visited long enough for me to cadge lunch money, then I ate a Burrito Bowl while listening to a set by Tom's Kitchen, a good local band specializing in Celtic music. Many people were dancing, and I joined them, lunch in one hand, fork in the other.

From there I made my way to the Hult Center, going around to the back and, having been mistaken about whether I had been invited, managed to talk my way past the nice security guard to get into a Bach Festival rehearsal. The justly famed Helmuth Rilling was putting full orchestra and chorus, made up of invitation-only musicians from all over the world, through some final adjustments to the Christmas Oratorio. The soloists lounged about in the auditorium a few seats ahead of me, conversing in German, and made their way, one by one, to the stage for their parts, sweaters carried over both shoulders like capes, water bottle in hand. Then they would pick up their scores with seconds to go, and fill the cavernous, almost empty hall with sounds of a stunning beauty. The soprano turned toward the fifteen or so of us and the eight hundred or so empty seats and and gave us her all. I broke into tears three times.

Rilling was interested in better work than satisfied me, however, and frequently halted passages of soaring genius, rendered by about ninety geniuses, to explain what he wanted from them. He spoke quietly but urgently, and everyone got out pencils, furrowed their brows, made notes on their scores, and lifted their instruments or filled their lungs for another go. At the end he made a warmly encouraging little joke, and they all laughed good-naturedly and packed away for the next day's performance.

As I left I thanked the security guard.

"You're welcome, ma'am."

An amazing afternoon -- but wait -- then I went back to the Saturday Market, where I found a local, much loved band -- Eleven Eyes -- at the moment, a trumpet, sax, two guitars and a sampler, with a small child choosing old records to hand to his dad, who was running the turntables -- in the middle of a raucous set, with about eighty people dancing in front of the stage area. I joined them, for about three numbers; then, deciding it had been a full two days, walked back to my car, about six blocks away in the low afternoon sun and long shadows, and drove home, happy. It would be an early bedtime, though...

-- risa b


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