Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer vacation

Brooklyn did indeed take me in when I left Maryland, and was my home for three days. This was enough time to enjoy Park Slope’s culinary offerings in the German and bagel departments, and take in two Celebrate Brooklyn concerts in Prospect Park by Wilco and two Lees (Fields and Ranaldo). I was also thrilled to get some quality hangout time with Allison and her family, and of course my gracious hosts Kristina and fam. As an extra special bonus, each family includes one of the most adorable babies of all time.  

The concerts were everything I’d hoped for. A rainstorm on Night One couldn’t dampen (har har) the crowd’s enthusiasm, and my friends and I lucked out in our positioning: we were just under the edge of the stage overhang. Night Two had better weather, though it was still hot. Both shows sounded excellent, and the crowd was in top form – as a sea of fans clapped along for the intro to “Monday,” Jeff claimed this was what he dreamed about. “I’m going to cry.” As si typical for a multi-night run of shows in the same city, the first night’s setlist was more familiar than the second, which contained more surprises. I’ll bet you can guess which I prefer. 

I should also mention that the catering for the Celebrate Brooklyn shows was superb: affordable small dishes from The Farm on Adderley. It’s not every day that you get to stand in front of a big concert stage and scarf up grilled eggplant sliders, truffle fries, a bowl of creamy polenta with slow-cooked beef, or a kale salad. The food prep area was close to the stage, leading to some distractingly tasty aromas during the show. Jeff announced that it was the most like bacon things had ever smelled during one of their shows. 

After the second Brooklyn show, some friends and I headed to the bar at the McKittrick Hotel for a late-night Autumn Defense performance. The full Autumn Defense band was in the house, which is always a plus. In such an intimate venue it’s hard not to run into people and start chatting, but we eventually made it out for a late late meal and back home.

I decided to forego the third Wilco show in NYC – a late addition at Terminal 5. Though missing the last show of any multi-night stand is kind of a cardinal sin (and I did feel a little pain when I saw the setlist), the sacrifice was more than worth it for four days in upstate NY and Vermont. Allison and I began our road trip driving from NYC to Malone – getting mistaken for college students along the way! – with a brief pit stop at Lake George.

Why Malone, you ask? Well, that’s easy. Malone is where Farmer Boy grew up! The childhood farm and homestead of Almanzo Wilder (husband of Laura Ingalls Wilder) is in Malone, and it offers tours to visitors. When Allison came across this information earlier in the year, we knew it was only a matter of time before we made a pilgrimage. Who knew the opportunity would arise so soon?

The Wilder Farm tour was great, led by a local high school girl who grew up on a farm nearby. We were shown all of Father’s innovations in the barns, admired Mother’s weaving loom, saw the actual spot on the parlor wall – and photographic evidence from the restoration – where Almanzo threw the blacking brush at Eliza Jane (!!!) and were set free to wander the grounds and eat the Wilder blueberries after the tour was finished. 

 Malone wasn’t just about the Wilders, though – okay, it mostly was, but there were a few other things to do. We went antiquing, toured the town Historical Society, went out to dinner with one of our fellow B&B guests, and explored the B&B itself. The original owners of the home left their entire library – they were mystery fans. Our bedroom upstairs was cozy and quaint, and I’d nearly forgotten what it was like to have windows and shades open at night and not have light flooding in. Ah, Adirondacks.

From Malone, Al and I drove and ferried to Vermont, where our first order of business was Shelburne Museum. Ever since my first Shelburne visit five years ago, I’ve looked forward to returning. We had a gorgeous day to wander the museum, and made the best of our time: we managed to hit almost every building on the grounds before closing. My one disappointment was that the 1950 House – one of my favorite exhibits – is no more. However, we still saw the Circus Building, the train car, the steamboat, the apothecary and general store, and the print shop! The guy manning the print shop gave us free letter press posters, featuring molds he carved himself, so SCORE. The changing exhibits were interesting, and included a selection of super creepy dolls (this wasn’t the actual theme of the exhibit, but they were), a bunch of quilts made by men dating back as far as the Civil War, and a collection of robots and steam punk art. They even provided steam punk dress-up clothes.

We didn’t have lots of time in Burlington, but made it to a fine farm-to-table restaurant on Friday evening and strolled the ped mall by night. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out if the guy juggling fire on the street would bust out a tightrope and unicycle. On Saturday morning we hit the downtown farmer’s market and craft fair. The Madison farmer’s market is about ten times the size of Burlington’s, but for all that, Burlington had a far more eclectic selection of food vendors. We sampled cider, mint and maple lemonade, and could have chosen from all manner of ethnic culinary delights. I made a few craft purchases, and discovered that the woman who made my dress pattern wallet – which I still love dearly – has given up crafting for med school.  

After a leisurely walk and lunch on the shore of Lake Champlain, it was time to head out. By evening I was in my hotel room in Hartford, and flew out Sunday morning. It was an excellent trip, with wonderful friends, and I can’t wait for the next one. The next one isn’t scheduled yet, but it’s only a matter of time.