Sunday, July 22, 2007


Saturday morning, 7:06 AM. I wake up, grab a couple of magazines, and camp out near the front door. Coffee's on, phone's off--there will be NO spoiling this surprise today!

9:45 AM. Two National Geographics and one Sunset Magazine later, I sigh and get my computer (no internet!) to do a little work on my dissertation.

10:39 AM. Kind UPS delivery man drops off long-awaited package. Move over Peter Philips, I'm Harry Potter's mistress today!

10:45 PM. DONE! I hand the book over to dear, patient Z and promise that tomorrow I will cook for him as he has done for me.

11:30 PM. As I cool my brain with a little late-night TV movie, courtesy of John Hughes, Z runs in and asks: "Quick, give me a recap! What happened in Book 6 again?"

1:35 AM. Been trying to fall asleep for about an hour but am distracted by little gasps and "ah-HA"s from Z on my right. As I finally drift off I hope I don't give away anything in my sleep!

Friday, July 20, 2007


For several years Zach and I have been making an effort to squeeze in a visit to Wooster with every trip we make back to Ohio. The College of Wooster is where we met, where we made some of our closest friends, where we both decided to pursue music as a career, and where we've shared some of our happiest memories. We want to send our kids to Wooster. (You know those parents that show up at football games wearing "Proud Wooster Parent" sweatshirts? We can only dream!) Heck, after this last visit we were ready to return ourselves!

The highlight of our Wooster trip is always seeing a favorite music professor, J. He was Z's trumpet prof and taught classroom theory to both of us. He was so enthusiastic about teaching that he used to run (almost literally!) into the classroom, carrying a huge armful of scores and recordings, and proceed to play through each of them at the speed of light, spouting off composers and titles as he went. He was such a stickler about details that he insisted we know all studied composers' first and last names (correctly spelled!) as well as birthdates and places. We used to study for hours for his famed drop-the-needle listening exams in which we would need to name not only the piece but also the movement. Many grumbled about the difficulty of his classes, but the pay-offs in our careers have been invaluable. Z has said that his dream was to become J in his own career (a dream which he has fulfilled!) He is truly a special person.

The College campus has undergone some major changes in the ten years since we graduated. Many of the science buildings have been renovated, a new dorm has been built with another on the way, the central part of campus has become tree-lined pedestrian zone. And now the pride of Wooster, Kauke Hall, has just completed its own interior overhaul. The building that was universally known as a deathtrap now has quaint little study corners, virtual classrooms, and a cafe in the basement!

We were lucky in that we also got to spend much of the day in the town of Wooster itself. We ate lunch and dinner (!!) at the best Chinese Restaurant in the world, Sue Min's. We wandered around the beautiful grounds of the Arboretum at the north side of town. At the end of the day we visited Seattle's, the coffee shop downtown where I used to work. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that Seattle's also serves fine Belgian beer! A perfect cap on a perfect day.

(Not only did Z remember his old box number and the combination, but we couldn't beLIEVE that it still opened!!)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Finding Belgium in the Backyard

Z and I have just returned from a wonderful three-week trip out east. I have stories and pictures galore, but those will have to wait. First I need to share a unique Washington moment.

All year I'd been telling myself I'd like to apply a little of what I've learned in Belgium to my new life here in the Pacific Northwest. Among those things include a renewed ability to decompress, enthusiasm for scholarly work, taking time to enjoy long meals, walks, books. And, of course, a higher respect for fine food and drink.

As part of his efforts to make my transition back to American life a smooth one, Z bought a six-pack of beer. This was no large feat for the man who enjoys fine beer, but this was very special beer. Z understood that, along with the general anxieties related to reverse culture-shock (big cars, big coffee, etc.), I would also need to teach my taste buds to enjoy American beer again. My friends back in Belgium had been warning me all year that I would never be able to go back, and I feared that it could be true. So I was more than a little hesitant to try this new beer, Abbey Ale brewed by New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado. One evening soon after my return Z and I retreated to the back porch. Since we lacked an appropriately Euro-style nibble, we picked the last of the cherries from our tree. Folding chairs out, cherries in bowl, a little REM on the stereo, the late-afternoon sun still high in the sky...we were poised for our first sip.

I was flabbergasted. I am telling you I have never tasted anything so good from an American brewer! And my apologies to N, D, and S back in Belgium, but it was every bit as good as many Belgian beers. And it sells for only $7 a six-pack right down the street! It was a beautiful "Old World Meets New World" moment.

"The color of just-polished mahogany crowned with a tightly laced, mousse-like head, our Abbey Belgian Ale raises eyebrows just on sight alone. An ethereal swirl of banana, spice and smoky aromas compels further study. Cross the liquid threshold and discover flavors evoking ripe fig, caramel, coffee and clove. Settle into the solace of Abbey’s other-worldly finish. This is ale consecration."

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Mad Byrd

What does it mean?

First, Mad Byrd reflects my love of early music. The name combines elements from the first two early music groups helped to start: Early Byrds and The Mad Consort.

Secondly, for those who don't know, William Byrd is in my opinion the greatest composer of his generation. He just rocks.

Finally, think of "mad" as "mad about" or "crazy." I am not angry about anything.

And now enough of the pleasantries. Welcome to Washington!