Here’s a video of the premiere of my trombone quartet entitled Vegas Vespers, performed by the Las Vegas Trombone Company (Nathan Tanouye, Hitomi Shoji, David Philippus, Mike Dobranski). This may be the single best performance of one of my works.
The trip was fantastic. Saw some great scenery, got to see some old friends, and checked off two more states (we’re up to 43).
So this past week the missus and I set off (with the in-laws) for the Black Hills and Devils Tower. We took two days to get out there, stopping the first night in Mitchell, SD, home of the Mitchell Corn Palace (as well as the home of George McGovern). Long-time readers will know that I’ve done a musical “portrait,” albeit tongue-in-cheek, of the Corn Palace as part of my work Next Exit. The building is actually quite fascinating.
Go to their website and read about the artworks.
From there (after a brief stop at the tourist trap known as Wall Drug), it was out to a cabin at the Powder House Lodge in Keystone, SD. If you ever need a place to stay in the Black Hills, I highly recommend this place. This was the view from our cabin:
I haven’t been this relaxed in ages.
The first full day in the Black Hills meant monuments. We went first to Mount Rushmore, and I cannot overstate the power and majesty of this sculpture. The attached picture does not do it justice. (I chose this picture so you could get a sense of the scale of the thing.)
I also recommend having some of Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream (made from his recipe, the first ice cream recipe in the US) at the café. Very creamy, very sweet, not at all what you’d expect.
From there, it was off to the Crazy Horse Memorial. I have a larger post on that one; for now, here’s a picture.
Day two meant checking off states 40 and 41, as we went to Devils Tower in Wyoming and then clipped the far southeastern corner of Montana. I had seen this movie many times, of course, but I was caught off-guard by the beauty of the real deal. See for yourself.
Of course, no trip to Devils Tower is complete without mentioning the Prairie Dog Town.
After one more night in that heavenly cabin, we set out for home via the Badlands. The panoramic photo below gives you a sense – just barely – of this area, so famous in western American history.
The closest I ever got to the rim was about 6 – 8 inches; at that point, I had to pull myself back. It’s a long way down.
This little excursion came at the best possible time. We are back home now, and my life has returned to composing, working on this book chapter, and planning next semester’s courses. I am refreshed and excited about what the future holds again.
(1) All of our stuff finally arrived yesterday. The unpacking has begun. Everything which needs to be at the office is at the office, and almost unpacked. The bedroom is complete. The kitchen is about 85 – 90% done. (That’s all Jawa Girl’s doing.)
(2) I lost two relations by marriage in two days. My cousin Betty’s husband Paul died Sunday after a long illness, and my cousin Harry Lee’s wife Rhea Dawn died suddenly Monday after a massive stroke. Betty and Harry Lee are siblings (two of seven from my mom’s Aunt Jessie and Uncle Ralph). It’s been challenging back home, to say the least. Paul and Rhea Dawn were both wonderful people, and though we weep for them, we know they are at rest.
(3) This is a really good bunch of students. I have to bring my “A” game every single day, and then beyond.
(4) Presenting at a conference in early October. Guess I’d better book the flight.
I have made it to Morris, MN, home of my new gig. We’re buying a house, but we don’t close for a couple weeks yet, so I’m spending the rest of the month in a local motor lodge. It’s…quaint. Jawa Girl and the pets will be up at the beginning of September, once we’re in the house.
Yep, that’s me and Jawa Girl with President and Mrs. Carter. They still live in Plains, GA (pop. 675 or thereabouts) and we went down to hear him speak this weekend.
The mug I am holding was a gift from my beloved late Aunt Ginny, who was for many years the only other Democrat in the family (for all I know, that has not changed). It has a picture of President Carter on it.
(1) The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal should be one more nail in the coffin of high-stakes standardized testing, but it won’t be. I have seen everything from teachers’ unions* to desegregation** to parents blamed for the decline in American public education, but I still lay most of the blame at the feet of the Testing Über Alles mindset.
(2) I had the opportunity to audition for a Big Name Game Show! this week, so I drove up to Lexington, KY and used the opportunity to see some old friends and visit my Alma Mater. What a good trip! If you’re my friend on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the pictures. I may post some on here later. Thanks to Tom Musgrave and his lovely wife Julia for the room and board on Wednesday night.
(3) For unrelated reasons, I spent most of the week of July 4 up in Indiana visiting family. That was most relaxing as well, and the visit inspired Jawa Girl to come up with a new band name – Acidic Lard Water. (That’s why I married her, kids.)
*even though states with teachers’ unions invariably have stronger education systems and higher graduation rates – and yes, higher test scores – than nonunionized states.
**I actually can make this argument, but from the other side; when the schools were desegregated, many school districts here in the South intentionally let their public schools fall apart while the white kids were all whisked away to “private academies.” Anyone who says racism is dead need only read the comments to any blog post in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.