Saturday, October 20, 2007

Laws of Man and Nature

Also in Ventura--I was browsing around a vast antique store and I found a mug which, by way of fine print, sported a small cautionary sticker which said something like this:

Warning: The glaze used on this item contains lead which is known to cause serious damage to health.

Then, below it:

This warning does not apply outside the state of California

I knew I should have stayed in Vancouver; it's ever so much safer there.

Friday, October 19, 2007

San Buenaventura

Last weekend I had quite a treat; the Seaside Highland Games gave me an excuse to run over to Ventura for a couple of days. There was plenty to see at the games themselves--they are held at the fairgrounds, practically on the beach, and there was quite a bit in the way of music (my favorite Scottish fiddler, Alasdair Fraser, who I have never seen in person, was playing there. . .and I managed to miss him yet again!)

As at all other games, the various clan associations had booths set up. It is a custom I must admit I do not understand, but I admired the Morrisons' booth; they had proudly decorated it with a large cardboard cutout of John Wayne (whose real name was Marion Morrison).

As far as the games themselves were concerned, my favorite bit was the Sunday morning piobaireachd competition. I entered and got exactly what I had coming to me for several months of not practicing. I got about five bars into the tune ("Lament for Mary MacLeod"), drew a blank--no, a void--and fell to pieces. Well, better at the beginning than halfway through. (That wasn't the part of the piobaireachd competition I enjoyed, in case anyone was wondering.) I was very impressed (and humbled) listening to the other Grade III's and IV's, but even better, the competition included a Grade I/Professional division. (Pipers are graded somewhat like beef, Grade I being higher than Grade II, etc.). I was delighted to hear Ian Whitlaw play in the professional division; I had heard that he was one of the best piobaireachd players in California, but had not yet had a chance to see him pipe. He played a very delightful nameless piobaireachd which would have made the whole trip worth it had it been the only thing I saw or heard all weekend.

The Mass schedule in Ventura works beautifully for anyone who wants to attend Sunday morning piobaireachd competitions. The Tridentine Mass at the mission is at 1:30. Again, this would have been worth the entire trip. Like many other California towns, Ventura gets its name from a Franciscan mission. If I'm not mistaken the church of San Buenaventura has been mostly rebuilt and little is left of the original, but it is still an exceptionally beautiful building.

This is a statue over one of the side doors. I was disappointed not to get more pictures, especially of the exquisite statues inside, but I didn't have the nerve to "play tourist" with the crowd before and after Mass--especially as I was already making myself all too obvious by showing up in my piping uniform. Perhaps "delightful" is too flippant of a word, but it was truly delightful, in a deep, quiet, satisfying way, to attend Mass in such a solemn setting, and one with such a long history. Before Mass I got a chance to stroll around the museum (just a room really) attached to the mission. One of the most striking things there was an old thoroughly decrepit cello which, the placard informed me, made up about a quarter of the original mission choir--the other three quarters were the cello player (who sang) and another man who sang and played the violin.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Pride goes. . .

I was winding down a long phone conversation with a customer.

"And what's your name?" she asked, getting her follow-up information in order.


There was a delighted sigh on the other end of the phone. "Oh! I used to have a dog named Molly. A pit-bull rotweiller mix, just the *sweetest* thing. . ."

I like dogs, but this was not the first time I had been credited with a canine name, and it was beginning to wear, even if I did have the same name as the sweetest little pit-bull rotweiller ever. Concluding the conversation, I hung up the phone and came out of the office in a state of some indignation.

"How would you like it," I demanded of my co-worker Suzanne, "If every time you told people your name was Molly they said, 'Oh, I used to have a dog named Molly!'?"

Suzanne, who is a very patient soul, looked properly sympathetic. Unfortunately, she is also a very truthful soul.

"I have something to add to that," she offered, "I have a dog named Molly."