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2010 ASTA (string teachers' association, not travel agents) convention

2010 ASTA (string teachers' association, not travel agents) convention

Old Feb 22, 10, 2:28 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: IAD, BOS, PVD
Programs: UA, US, AS, Marriott, Radisson, Hilton
Posts: 7,200
2010 ASTA (string teachers' association, not travel agents) convention

US1716 BWI PHL 0850 0920 E90 2A (was 0730 0821)
US1270 PHL BOS 1015 1145 E90 2F

was 3040 BWI PHL 1100 1143 E45 3A
and 970 PHL BOS 1315 1427 E90 3F

The Fairfield Inn Boston/Saugus is a fine and private place,
though few do there embrace, just kidding. It is listed as a
new property on the Marriott Website, but it ain't. Last
couple times I stayed there it was a Courtyard, and the
previous time something else. My friend Lichtenberg stayed
there twenty years ago, when it was a Comfort Inn; it was
pretty much the same then. About the only things that have
changed are: the breakfast nook now has expanded into what
used to be the restaurant, meaning that (as my friend the
ex-AA ex-drum corps shuttlebus driver pointed out) it no
longer looks like a mortuary, and anyhow the restaurant was
lousy; also the bar (most welcome back in the day) is gone.
The okay but slightly tired rooms are still the same, a
little more tired; the dodgy elevators are dodgier and
noisier than ever. Still, 74 bucks and full Marriott points,
and the $5 shuttlebus advertised on the Website is free.

For dinner I conned a friend into going to the Hilltop
Steak House for old times' sake. It's two miles up the road,
but with the hotel being on one side of the road and the
restaurant on the other, complications bring the journey to
four miles each way.

It's a sad shadow of its former self, when Frank Giuffrida
would strut through the restaurant, bossing his friends and
relations, who in turn would boss the customers, who would
meekly line up to be treated to Abuse 101 and the full
stockyard experience from the victim standpoint and then, if
they were lucky, some of the best beef this side of Omaha
(remember that this was before the proliferation of Capital
Grille, Ruth's Chris, Morton's, and so on and so on). Only
one room was open, and I forget which one it was, probably
Kansas City, the others gaping dark and ominous.

The staff were willing but not completely up on what was
what, having to return to the back to research such hard
questions we asked such as "what is your Sam seasonal" and
"what is the soup of the day?"

We had a Sam regular and a Sam Noble Pils, which is a bit
light but has some good hoppiness. It's supposed to be
German in style, to which assertion I kind of shrug.

My buddy ordered the filet medium rare, and it came medium
rare and actually a kind of beautiful piece of meat. I
warned against the rice, saying it would be dead salty;
it was.

I ordered the 18-oz bone-in sirloin extra rare, 5x or so the
price of what it used to be when I started going here, with
red bliss smashed and a salad. The salad was as expected, a
quart of iceberg with a few perfunctory slices of tomato and
red onion; the house dressing "yellow Italian" was acrid and
disgusting, same as I remembered. The steak was way inferior
to what I recalled: it was gristly and tough, though the fat
was crispy and tasty. It is rare to get a rare sirloin that
is almost too tough to eat. This one was; nonetheless, it
was okay (sliced extra thin with the comically oversized steak
knife) and a reasonable memorabilium of forty years ago.

It was snowing pretty hard when I got back. A nice warm
room, comfy bed.
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Old Feb 22, 10, 2:32 pm
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Programs: UA, US, AS, Marriott, Radisson, Hilton
Posts: 7,200
Breakfast was your usual starchy assortment along with a
waffle machine and microwaveable Jimmy Dean bacon egg cheese
thingys. It was okay.

I needed a Hilton stay, so what could be better than the
Doubletree Bayside Expo Center for under a hundred bucks.
Hopped a ride on the shuttle, hit the airport BoA, then
off to the Silver Line and Red Line to the place, which must
have looked like a good idea to Hilton back when
there were still shows at the exposition center. Now, the
Bayside is a derelict, pending I believe purchase by UMass,
and it appears the Doubletree's most frequent use these days
is as an airport hotel (6 miles, 15 min, a straight shot
through the Ted, not bad at all). A pretty east European
girl at the desk gave me a room on the first floor that at
least was as far from the elevator as possible. There's an
Au Bon Pain on site, nothing else within a mile, yuck. To
give the place credit, delivery of pizza and stuff is
encouraged, and there's a free shuttle to Amrhein's.

I decided to just get cold cuts and snacks at the local
Shaw's and turn in early to get a head start on the day
after a visit to the lobby bar, where I was soaked $9.50
each for a pair of Glenlivet 12s.
violist is offline  
Old Feb 22, 10, 2:49 pm
Join Date: Feb 2000
Posts: 939
Originally Posted by violist View Post
For dinner I conned a friend into going to the Hilltop
Steak House for old times' sake. It's two miles up the road,
but with the hotel being on one side of the road and the
restaurant on the other, complications bring the journey to
four miles each way.

It's a sad shadow of its former self, when Frank Giuffrida
would strut through the restaurant, bossing his friends and
relations, who in turn would boss the customers, who would
meekly line up to be treated to Abuse 101 and the full
stockyard experience from the victim standpoint and then, if
they were lucky, some of the best beef this side of Omaha
(remember that this was before the proliferation of Capital
Grille, Ruth's Chris, Morton's, and so on and so on). Only
one room was open, and I forget which one it was, probably
Kansas City, the others gaping dark and ominous.
And the cows are gone, aren't they?
joanek is offline  
Old Feb 23, 10, 1:39 am
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Nope, the cows are still there; they were covered by snow when
we walked past along the passageway (identical to in the old
days but deserted), but their shapes were visible.
violist is offline  
Old Mar 2, 10, 11:04 am
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The hotel offers a complimentary hourly shuttle - I think
I took either the 5 or the 6, I was too muzzy to recall.

As the registration desk at my convention was (I discovered
on reading the book) to close at 1530, and my plane got in
at 1630, and I needed a ticket for the evening concert, I
decided to try for an earlier flight combo; these were
showing F1 and F6 respectively, but I am pretty sure to
clear on a 752 out of Boston even on F1.

UA 339 BOS DEN 0737 1024 752 4B Ch9 Empower
was 785 BOS DEN 1008 1255 752 2A

And so it was. After a brief visit to my friends at the RCC
(where the bar has a notice about what can be had for one
vs. two drink chits), I presented myself at the gate at 6
something and was cheerfully handed a new BP by an agent who
didn't know me from Adam (i.e., my rapport with the local
old-timers wasn't a factor).

Red Carpet Club(r)

Fine Beverages at Member Prices


Draft Beer
Regular Domestic (12 oz) $5.00
Regular Import (12 oz) $6.00
Large (20 oz) $7.50

Bottle Beer
Domestic $5.00
Import $6.00


Mixed Drinks - Single
House $6.00
Premium $7.50
Super Premium $9.00
Specialty/Promotional Drinks $10.00


By the Glass
House Wine $6.00
Premium Wine $7.50

Please see our bartender for great new wine selections.

Other Beverages

Bottled Water (20 oz) $2.00
The Republic of Tea (16.5 oz) $4.00

Drink Coupons are applicable for alcohol purchase only.
Not accepted for non-alcoholic beverages available for sale
at the bar (such as bottled water, bottled tea, etc.).

One (1) Drink Coupon allowed for purchase of:
Bottled Beer
Regular Draft Beer
Standard Spirits
House Wines

Two (2) Drink Coupons allowed for purchase of:
Large Draft Beer
Premium/Super Premium Spirits
Premium Wines

Soda, Juice, Tea and Coffee are Complimentary
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Old Mar 2, 10, 11:09 am
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Location: IAD, BOS, PVD
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Posts: 7,200
Member prices my foot. Grumble.


A bunch of disruptions at the gate - handled expertly by
Joanne, one of my oldest friends here, so that nobody knew
anything was amiss (I just got the info in passing from the
BOS-based FAs, who didn't seem to want to be pressed on the
issue). Also a couple seat duplications, including mine. I'd
switched here so that if my Lasix was troublesome I'd have
an easy time getting to the rest room. Apparently someone
else had his BP issued at the same time for the same seat -
aside from passenger info, they were identical - we all
checked, hoping for that aha moment (last time that had
happened in my experience, someone was on a 4 pm flight,
only he was trying to sit in a delayed 3 pm flight). The
problem was resolved by giving the other pax 6D.

A fairly cheerful and very senior Boston-based crew.

Breakfast was the usual fruit plate with yogurt or some
unusual/new-cost-cutting eggs, about which the announcing
FA knew little except they looked scrambled. The eggs
turned out to be hard scrambled with cheese, with a greasy
side of taco meat mixed with home fries (tasted okay, but
pretty disgusting to look at). Breads: a croissant (looked
okay, if a little brown-and-serve) or a smashed-in blueberry
muffin (at best mediocre).

Flight: okay; service: matronly and good. We landed early,
so of course had to wait 15 or so for a gate.

To the RCC, where (a propos nothing) the phone jacks have
been taken out of the work carrels, and where I rechecked
the loads; the flight was F3 with everything else zeroed
out. Had time for a snack before going to the gate.

The bar had what looked like the same info sheet as at BOS.

Tried and failed for: UA 245 DEN SJC 1147 1330 752

They were looking for volunteers when I got there. It turns
out that they'd filled every seat, including the F one I
had coveted, and given a VDB or two.

I sighed heavily and went to the PC at concourse A, where
the desk guy cheerfully admitted me and treated me to an
obviously oft-given spiel about the merits of his club,
especially the free booze part. Which I took as an
invitation to the bar.

Most wines are extra. Fancy cocktails are $9. Top-shelf
booze is $6, but in addition to your ho-hum top shelf stuff
Glenlivet 15 happens to be there. Various rotguts are free.
Also cheap beer on tap (it's Dos Equis lager - pretty good
for cheap beer). I got a couple shots of Kahlua to put in my
coffee and then a double Glenlivet 15.

The news kept harping on some irritating guy who took his
Cessna into a building in Austin. I looked it up on my handy
dandy mapping program and breathed a little relief that the
incident was nowhere near the FT Do sites for next week.

I still had a ton of time, so the bartender suggested I ask
the front desk about lunch places; the guy recommended some
place with a name that sounded like The Great Denver Red
Meat Coma that was selling top sirloin for $3/oz or else
his favorite Chef Jimmy's, which serves a skirt steak that's
supposed to be pretty good for half that. I sat at the bar,
where there was immediate seating, and in a fit of sudden
perversity didn't order a steak or a burger but rather mac
and cheese with shrimp, which was fine, the cheese being
wimpier than what I'd use, but a quarter pound of 40 count
shrimp for $3 extra isn't a bad deal, especially as the
things were thrown on top just a few minutes during final
warming, so they were juicy and tender. A Sam seemed to be
the best choice to go with.

Moseyed to gate B 50-something for my flight; the trip
took maybe 10 minutes counting the subway.
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Old Mar 3, 10, 1:26 pm
Original Poster
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Location: IAD, BOS, PVD
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Posts: 7,200
UA5974 DEN SJC 1506 1643 CR7 2A

A semi-genial, slightly hyper FA.

The snack box:

Kettle Classics potato chips - the usual;

Oloves tasty Mediterranean pitted green olives with basil
and garlic - mild but surprisingly good-tasting, not too

Torino grissini (good);

Pepperidge Farm butter crackers (ok);

Rondele peppercorn Parmesan pasteurized cheese spread (ok
if you want to be reminded of the United breakfast omelet);

Chocobilly's chocolate chunk cookies from the Immaculate
Baking Co., which clearly was not the Immaculate Packaging
and Storage Co., as there was a bit of a stale taste to
the hard little things.

No Courvoisier, so I passed and took a substance-unassisted
little nap.

United now uses Terminal A instead of the wretched old
Terminal C, which is scheduled for demolition by the end of
this year. It's an improvement, though shabby in its own
way. I guess that the new B is going to be the place to be.

Deplaning and getting out into the cloudiness was a relative
snap, but finding the VTA 10 bus to the light rail was not.
I followed what I thought were the appropriate signs and
ended up across the highway from where I almost immediately
sighted the thing. So, being borderline disabled and a
borderline senior citizen, I ran across the many lanes of
road, flapping my briefcase (the strap tore) and dragging my
rollaboard behind me. Caught the bus, too.

The light rail came about a second after I'd got my ticket
from the friendly machine, and it was a very quick and
painless ride to Great America.

The Hilton Santa Clara is next door to this stop, directly
across the street from the Hyatt and the convention center.
Great location for the purpose but kind of a wasteland as
far as the real world goes. I do so prefer convention sites
in real cities. Be that as it may, it's a decent place, and
the food and drink it puts out are more acceptable than the
captives might expect or fear.

After dropping my traps, I went back in the vain hope that
someone might be manning the registration booth - there was
a couple seated there, but it turned out to be exhibitors
cooling their jets. I wandered into the exhibit hall and
checked out the neighborhood. The instruments, sheet music,
students, and even most of the teachers were too young for
me. Had some fun interacting with all of these, though,
except the students. I am a creepy old man, but not that

The evening concert was by I Palpiti, directed by the
quite famous teacher and performer Eduard Schmieder, with
featured cellist Jeffrey Solow, who just happens to be the
president of the string teachers' association.

I pled my case to the ticket people and was admitted to
the concert on my parole.

The first (obviously a warmup) piece was the first movement
of Karl Jenkins's concerto Palladio. I thought it a huge
waste of time (there have been musical ideas since the 18th
century, you know) and colored my estimation of the same
composer's famous L'Homme Armé, about which I've been on
the fence having performed it several times over these many
years. The group did a good job; but then your high-school
orchestra could have, too.

After which, a Haydn divertimento (arranged by Piatigorsky),
with Solow playing an appropriate role.

Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, which is available
in several versions, was the last programmed work. It's kind
of cool but no more contentful than either of the other


A sort of cool if stripped-down rendition of October from
Tchaikovsky's misnomered Seasons and then an amusing set of
variations on Happy Birthday in styles from the 17th to the
20th century, composer not announced.

Though it bills itself as an ensemble of international
laureates each of soloist quality, almost all the violin
riffs were taken by the concertmaster (quite good in a
smooth and uninflected sort of way), but one might have
liked the rest of the group to have a little more work.
Schmieder obviously is very high on this guy, whose name
was not listed on the program (lip service, I guess, to
the egalitarian aspect). And of course Solow's prominent
solo performance (sorry) was understandable, but I wanted
to see I Palpiti's own cellists not have so low a profile
(sorry, I think).

Afterward I scanned the audience for friends and relations
but found none, so back it was to the hotel bar for a
Guinness and then bed.
violist is offline  
Old Mar 4, 10, 7:17 pm
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Posts: 7,200
Next morning I got up early to check out Pamela Ryan's
The Capricious Composer, an examination of, of all things,
caprices written for the viola. A nicely done little talk,
and I learned a bit, which was fun. Chatted with her a bit
afterwards, then it was off to the session on the Russian
violin school, presented by the same Eduard Schmieder of
last night and presided over by moi. I had so little to do
that it was silly (but it could go on my resume, if I had
a resume); Prof. Schmieder's quiet charisma and extremely
solid grasp of his subject carried the day. All I did was
sign the continuing ed forms afterward.

Lunch at TusCA, the Hyatt restaurant. I'd popped back to
the Hilton to use the lobby wi-fi (costs at the Hyatt) to
make my Open Table reservation and then run back here.
TusCA is an obvious play on TUScan and CAlifornia. The
food doesn't actually seem to be too much of either; the
service is willing but abstracted; and the physical plant
is halfway between Howard Johnson's and trendy bistro,
with the annoyances of both and the charms of neither.

In addition to various lunchy snacky things (various sushi-
type offerings and some interesting salumi and formaggi,
with check-off ordering) and sandwiches, real food for real
people was offered. I ordered short ribs with pappardelle
Bolognese, which I came to regret.

The two young folks to my left were enjoying what looked
like not-so-great supermarket sushi; the olden lady to my
right, a steak frites. My dish appeared as gluey noodles,
underlyingly gummy but also bound together in a quite nasty
white starchy sauce (bright side: not much dairy in this
- too expensive, I reckon); with this was tossed quite a
lot, 8 oz or so, of short rib meat (trimmed of fat and
membrane - but I'd just as soon have eaten fat and membrane,
which have flavor and texture) the color of Vienna sausage,
you know that pale pink that comes from stewing unbrowned
beef. The meat tasted boiled, the pasta tasted unboiled -
rather, soaked in dishwater, and the Elmer's-like sauce was
Bolognese-ized by the presence of a few halved wilted cherry
tomatoes. Unutterably bad. A glass of Chianti was totally
unmemorable, which is good by comparison. Service was slow
but pleasant; it was the best part of the meal, coupled with
the fact that it was a really short walk to the next class.

After the Schmieder session, I'd been collared by Masha
Lankovsky, director of the classical department at the
Brooklyn Conservatory - we made some small talk, and I
promised to try to attend her presentation on the Moscow
violin school (as distinguished from the Russian violin
school, a distinction that is subtle but sometimes real)
and Yuri Yankelevich, her teacher's teacher and its prime
exponent. So I showed up as promised, and it was another
good session. This year more than last, I learned a lot
from all the lectures I attended, which makes up for the
fact that several friends who were supposed to attend were
stymied by the east coast snows that either prevented them
from traveling altogether or forced them to reschedule
events into this time span. I'd sort of hoped for a couple
joyous reunions, but in fact I knew only a smattering of
participants here.

Out of curiosity I looked in on the pre-college viola master
class with Yizhak Schotten. Turns out, he was way too polite
and lenient with the first student, taking way too much time
trying to repair the irreparable (and of course failing), so
I gave up and took another tour of the exhibit hall. An odd
observation: back in the day (from the late '70s to the late
'00s) when I picked up an instrument at such a gathering,
people would come around and listen (why, I am not qualified
to judge); something has happened since last year - heart
problems, imminent retirement, more flown miles than notes
played in '09, all of the above perhaps - and my sound is
not so beautiful and my technique not so sparkling as
perhaps it once was. Nobody came to listen to me, and I
sighed again inwardly and crawled back to the hotel. Not
really; I was perfectly okay with nobody bothering me but
not so okay with the fact that I sounded not like merde
exactly but quite ordinary indeed.

My friend Candy picked me up and took me home to dinner.
She and Ken have two kids, the younger of whom (8) I'd seen
only once or twice, San Jose being not one of my regular
stops, and when I do get here, my real relatives have first
dibs on my time. Okay, I haven't been to visit for six
years. Both kids separately had the same reaction to seeing
me. Who's that? Uncle Michael? I don't have an Uncle
Michael. I did much better with the dogs Buddy and Mimi.

As it was still New Year's (the 5th day, I think), we
celebrated with an elaborate and festive meal that Candy,
always the overachiever, fixed mostly from scratch: hot
pot with seafood, roast duck, and bao with mustard greens.
The kids ate duck and noodles.

It was in the tres grandes heures rather than the wee ones
when I returned to the hotel, because there was stuff to be
done still and sessions to attend in the morning.
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Old Mar 8, 10, 12:10 pm
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Woke early, again, to attend a collegiate-level master
class with Donald McInnes. Prof. McInnes is perhaps the
grayest eminence of the field - student of Primrose (and
his successor at USC) and teacher of many of the next two
or three generations of viola soloists. His Captain Kirklike
presence and delivery are a little odd for a music teacher,
but whatever works. The first performer, who reminded me in
demeanor and appearance of my friend Alysia, offered the
Rebecca Clarke sonata, a work underappreciated outside the
violist world but quite well known within. Alysia (not her
real name) is very gifted, but Prof. McInnes gave his best
imitation of the Negotiator as he altered both her stance
and attitude to create a much more powerful performance. It
was inspiring to see a master (much though his style I found
jarring and uncongenial to me) work wonders in just half an
hour. The second student, a meek little thing whose name and
piece I've forgotten, was treated quite differently - Prof.
McInnes was gentle and smooth as satin, bringing out the
best in a student who had much less to offer at this stage
in her development. The hour was over too soon.

There was a coffee break built in, during which time I went
to the UPS store to mail some parts I'd marked up to an
orchestra I'm playing with next month. The UPS person
spent 15 minutes screwing up the previous person's shipment,
so the line grew with the accompaniment of taptaptapping of
impatient feet. My friend Kay joined behind me, and we had
a bit of a chat, and then it was my turn. The UPS person
seemed a little more efficient in my case - but managed to
label the package with my return address as the destination,
which I caught afterward on examining my invoice, so back
to cut in line and have this fixed, which involved voiding
the last transaction (I had to sign a second time) and
overcharging me $4 for the correction (I had to sign a 3rd
time, but didn't check the invoice, as there were places to
go and things to do. I ran at top speed (yay for stents) to
the next session, where I had the honor of introducing the
pre-college violin master class and its leader from Indiana
University, Brenda Brenner. Prof. Brenner approaches music
from a much more Suzuki standpoint than do many of the
clinicians; she is also perceptive and effective. Our
students gave the Eccles Sonata (a piece I played decades
ago on the viola but which has become a Suzuki standby) and
the spectacular Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro - both big
achievements for kids in the late single and early double
digits respectively. Prof. Brenner's own performance had a
dual focus - on the students, of course, and on ways for
teachers (i.e., 90% or more of the audience) to communicate
via new channels with their students. Valuable in different
(and perhaps more substantial) ways from the previous
master class.

Back to the exhibits, where I found Prof. McInnes and talked
to him a while; Prof. Brenner came by and chatted, and I
lost track of what I had come over to say, one of the
disadvantages of encroaching senility. Visited a few more
vendors, then off to rest the body, rest the body.

Today for lunch I tried La Fontana, the Hilton restaurant,
also an iDine establishment. No fountain in sight, the vista
(obscured, thank goodness, by a translucent plastic shield)
being of the overflow parking of the Great America amusement
park. A simple request: bacon avocado burger, rare. What
came out: a bacon avocado burger, rare. Hallelujah.

The meat was first-rate though preformed and probably
thawed. The bun, of which I ate half, was of excellent
quality. Fresh and tasty lettuce, tomato, red onion.
Four slices of crisp but not hard ?hickory?-smoked bacon
and a half avocado sliced and fanned on top. A really good
sandwich. The accompaniment: shoestring fries on which the
tendency of inexperienced kitchens to try too hard came out
- the potatoes were okay, and they were crisp enough, but
the herb blend shake, Mexican shake, and gratings of grana
all together were quite too all but. Service was prompt and
smiling, and a Guinness was nicely poured.

Back to the hall for the Strings magazine strawberry whipped
cream cake, which was rich and tasty and caused me to sleep
through my friend Bill's talk and some other events.

The closing ceremony involved the Quartet San Francisco,
which I'd always promised my friend Joel (cellist of both
this group and, formerly, one of mine) I'd listen to. Of
course, now that I had the opportunity to hear them, he's
moved to some remote place, and they've replaced him with
some glamor girl (an excellent musician as well). A fun
performance with a guest appearance by the kids of the
Crowden Middle School (as Jeremy Cohen, the first violinist,
points out, it was after all a string teachers' convention,
so what more appropriate than to have students performing
along with their mentors and teachers?).

I toddled in around midnight; next door a party was going
on; annoying but not horrid, and I dozed on and off until
the noise tapered off around 1.
violist is offline  
Old Mar 14, 10, 10:34 am
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Posts: 7,200
At 0530, disaster struck in the form of room service
pounding on my door and shouting. Someone had ordered
coffee, and the hotel thought it was I. It wasn't. I told
whomever rather gruffly to go away and tried to get back
to sleep; when that failed, I rather gruffly called guest
services and complained; then tried to get back to sleep.
When that failed, I rather gruffly went downstairs and
complained to the night manager, who offered to comp my
lunch; I said that all I wanted was my too affronted sleep,
so give me free Internet, a glass of brandy, and 6 pm
checkout, potentially corrective of the situation and
costing the hotel almost nothing. This was all granted.
The brandy was a double, something really nasty and not
either of the brands advertised on the room service menu;
the Internet connection thought that stanford.edu was a
phishing site and cut my speed to 56K because of it; but
the late checkout was much appreciated and taken advantage
of. I finally did get to sleep after breakfast, and that
was good.

Speaking of which, breakfast was at 1130. I'd made that
valuable Open Table reservation and appeared for lunch only
to be told that it was breakfast until noon. Okay, whatever;
I ordered the least breakfasty thing available - a facsimile
of Joe's Special, that Bay area peculiarity of scrambled
eggs, ground beef, and spinach. The good thing was that the
extraneous cheese that sometimes comes with didn't. Less
good things: the portion was smallish, and the taste was
bland. An undercooked, prebuttered English muffin came
with. I had a beer with this, which added substance and
flavor (as did about 10% of a bottle of Tabasco). Service
was good.

At almost 6, my friends JT and the Cab, fresh from playing
in the opera pit for Boheme, came to take me to dinner and
my next destination, the Homewood Suites, essentially
apartment blocks by the airport run by Hilton. Turns out
this facility is right by the light rail, and I could have
saved a fair amount by booking here rather than the Hilton.
Or better, I could have alternated and gotten 4 stays
instead of 2.

JT popped in to look at (pass judgment on) my accommodation:
a fairly comfortable 1-bedroom apartment that one would pay
several times as much for in New York, but that's the beauty
of this kind of place - they get to rent space in less
promising parts of the country for big city prices, and I
bet if they get 25% occupancy they're happy.

A sizable living room and kitchen area with a full-size
fridge, full-size nuke, 2-burner range, pretty good cooking
stuff, corkscrew (important!), and dishwasher. The bedroom
was of generous size with a firm and newish king bed
(there's less and less difference among the sleeping
accommodations as places gradually are renovated and conform
to some kind of no doubt researched standard). Bathroom
quite spacious and clean. I dropped off my gear and then
off to dinner at Siena in Willow Glen.

We got there and it was closed (Sunday night), so we tried
Vin Santo across the street, which has a family-style AYCE
arrangement for $20 a head on certain slow nights, plus it's
iDine as well.

We asked for the pear-walnut-spinach-Gorgonzola salad to be
served with the cheese on the side, and it was, and
everything was quite good, down to the balsamic reduction
drizzled over. Next came eggplant Parm, which was lighter
than the norm, also good. The pasta course was two dishes,
rotini with wild mushrooms, mostly oyster, in a cream sauce
that was understated and delicious, and penne Bolognese,
in a robust red sauce that was overstated and delicious,
with chunks of Italian sausage instead of or perhaps
augmenting the usual ground mystery meat and parts.

Our secondo was chicken piccata, tender and lemony, with
lots of capers; on the side, garlicky broccoli saute and
roast potatoes.

For afters, tiramisu of an industrial sort, but palatable.

Maley Merlot 2004 was sort of old-tasting, sort of cooked-
tasting, but pretty brambly and okay. This didn't come with
but was something like $30.

My friends dropped me back at the motel, where the bed did
its work effectively.
violist is offline  
Old Mar 19, 10, 12:20 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: IAD, BOS, PVD
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As for some reason I was awake before 9, I decided to
check out brekkers.

It was sort of nice walking past the other buildings and
into the aroma of cherry blossom and cooking bacon.

The breakfast was one step up in aspiration from the
continentals served elsewhere but not one step up in
performance, with steam table scrambled eggs (like rocks),
hash brown pucks (like rubber), and bacon cooked hard and
fatless. Another waffle machine, which did its job; a gruel
station; and lots of toppings (pickled jalapenos, salsa,
and so on), much appreciated, for the eggs. A fruit salad
with great pineapple and lousy melon, sort of Unitedish.
Bananas, of which I took one for the road. Also cereal and
coffee stations and the usual assortment of starchy things.

Back to bed and then to Stanford to watch the Cab give
another iteration of his famous physics of music lecture
for Thomas Rossing's Music 150. This version focused mostly
on brass instruments, about which I know or care little if
at all. I protested that as a string player I should be
allowed a say on the subject, so I was enlisted to hold a
string during the discussion of simple harmonic motion.

Part of the agreement was that I was supposed to buy beers
for Tom and the Cab, and dinner would miraculously appear,
thanks to the music and acoustics program. But as we opted
for one of the least costly alternatives, the Fresh Choice
cafeteria, beer also miraculously appeared. The food here
is suspiciously green and starchy by turns, but the chicken
pozole tasted good, and the tapioca pudding didn't taste
powdered. Sierra Nevada pale ale is always good.

And now for something completely different, the VTA bus
#22 downtown to catch the #68 down to Morgan Hill. I paid
my $2 and asked for a transfer. Apparently there are no
longer transfers, so the driver counted me as a senior
citizen (I guess gray-haired people who remember about
transfers must be senior citizens) and gave me a day pass.

The ride down El Camino Real, which I hadn't done in years,
was interesting. A lot of Korean establishments now, which I
think must be a relatively new phenomenon. I got dumped off
downtown with 20 to spare, so I walked to Caper's Loft for a
drink so I could collect another MPD dine. I'd have liked to
stay longer - at the bar TV was the fascinating China vs.
USA curling match, and among them were some interesting-
looking people. But my uncle was going to be waiting for me
at the Morgan Hill park and ride, and time was a-wasting.

Impressive thing: the buses run on time. Even with pick-up
and drop-off of a wheelchair rider, the 68 ran ahead of
schedule, having to wait a minute or two at all of the time
check points. We got to the park and ride early.

And so to home, up into the hills overlooking Anderson Lake.

Next day, my FA friend Jo came over for a visit, having just
done an SFO-OGG turn, and we decided on AOI Sushi for lunch.
This is a funny little house just off the main downtown
drag, converted into a restaurant that seats maybe 30. The
food is said to be good. One of the great bargains of all
time is the bento lunch, in this case California roll,
teriyaki chicken, and fried red snapper, with edamame, rice,
and soup, $7. My uncle and Jo both had this and declared
it yummy; I tried the proteinous things - the chicken I
found a bit salty and unsubtle, but the fish was indeed
delicious. I had agedashi dofu followed by tuna sashimi. The
tofu was fresh and nicely fried; its presentation was a bit
peculiar, though, with the soy and broth dipping sauce
served in a soup-size portion, the tofu and its sauce? soup?
in a largish bowl. The fish was trimmed and cut nicely and
was of superior freshness.

Hananomai Katana junmai ginjo is a nice clean fairly dry
sake with pear notes, a very slightly sweet aftertaste,
and a sneaky 16% alcohol content. It went pretty nicely
with tuna.

We had to get food for the next couple days. Well, Nob Hill
(ominous name) seems to be a nice enough grocery store, but
everything costs 25-50% more than it should. Out east, the
Whole Foods Racket and its imitators soak us badly but not
so badly as here. We spent, ahem, too much.
A meal cooked by someone else than us: takeout from Vung
Tau, San Jose, which started out as your neighborhood place
but has apparently become famous and expanded and upgraded
itself. I thought the food okay but maybe Americanized?

Canh chua ca bong lau - tamarind soup with catfish,
tomatoes, celery, bean sprouts, and rice paddy herbs -
pretty tasty if a bit sweet, the fish nice and flaky, the
vegetables pleasantly al dente. A bit heavy on the celery.

Banh tam bi - shredded pork and coconut milk served with
big rice noodles and chopped mixed vegetables: big rice
noodles are, unfortunately, little big noodles, about
the thickness of linguine (half the thickness of, say,
the sticks you use for pad thai). Rather dessertlike in
its blandness and sweetness.

Bun bo nuong - grilled onion beef with rice noodles and
chopped mixed vegetables: this was your standard soft rice
vermicelli sided with beef round rolled around onion.

And so to bed, dreaming of getting up at 4 to catch the
early bus.

Continued chronologically speaking here, not that that makes
any difference.
violist is offline  

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