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

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

Old Mar 29, 09, 12:36 pm
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ASTA (string teachers' association, not travel agents) convention

US1651 BOS PHL 0930 1101 734 2F

I settled into my seat and got ready to take a nap, but an
exuberant woman of about my age sat beside me, and when I
said good morning saw that as an opening to start a rather
loud and excited conversation. I allowed as how I needed to
sleep but would try to be as convivial as possible as long
as possible.

She collared the male FA and asked for a glass of white
wine, anything but Chardonnay, said she, but the guy said
that he couldn't offer anything before takeoff. Well.
Shortly, though, he came back with a glass, and my seatmate
convinced me to join her. I took a sniff: it was a cheap
unoaked Chardonnay, a little sweet, but not unpleasant.

The steward was very entertaining (and warmed up noticeably
as the short flight proceeded); the female one, who, thank
the heavens, worked mostly in coach, was Frau Blucher.

Shortly before pushback, a tallish fellow on his way to
Atlanta for a dance convention decided to push his luck and
self-upgrade. Or so he said, see below.

My seatmate and I killed a bottle of Beringer Stone Cellars
Chard between us, getting more hilarious by the moment.
The self-upgrader joined us glass for glass but with water;
nonetheless he seemed to be getting into it and became
almost as silly as my seatmate. The flight went by even
quicker than the 25 min flying time. We landed a bit early.

I rewarded Chris, the self-upgrader, who was going on to
Atlanta on my flight, by guesting him into the Club, where
he bought me a Dark & Stormy, the cocktail of the month
(Gosling and ginger beer). It was $8.

US3241 PHL ATL 1145 1408 E75 3F

Chris flashed his boarding pass for this flight: it said 1F
and Zone 1, which makes me guess that he was bullbleeping us
all along for laughs and had been entitled to the up-front
seat on the previous flight. I slept through, as there is
no way to defend oneself against the rigors of traveling on
a regional jet except by becoming unconscious.

I'd checked a bag, as my friend Babette had convinced me
that as I was going to a string teachers' convention I ought
to carry a violin; so that became my carryon, the computer
bag was the personal item, and the clothes went into the
cargo hold. Philly being famous for disappearing baggage,
I didn't have high hopes for seeing my stuff again, but lo
and behold, there it came, and off I went to the MARTA,
which was mere steps away.

MARTA works fine to get downtown and a few other places. A
pity the coverage is so geographically limited, though.

Got off at Peachtree Center, headed to the parking garage,
and then to the Hilton, which I discovered to be 1. under
reconstruction, so the entrance was through what is normally
a side door and 2. the site of a gigantic Furry convention.

Though according to HHonors I'd never stayed at a Hilton
(it turns out, something I'd never known before, that Orbitz
rooms and travel agency booked rooms don't qualify as stays,
which explains my perennial zero balance and why my old
frequent-user account had aged off), I was given a sizable,
attractive (so I thought) room on the 16th floor.

glasses: fairly nice, heavy gauge plastic
toiletries: La Source from Crabtree and Evelyn
wireless: $12.95/day
bed: king with good firm mattress, 5 pillows all the same,
sort of soft.

Off to the American String Teachers' Association convention
at the Marriott Marquis across the street, where I got there
just in time to catch a most interesting lecture by Kurt
Sassmannshaus about the various kinds of temperament and
their relation to Bach performance practice. Okay, I can see
that your average joe isn't going to be thrilled by this,
but too bad for him.

After which there was a reception in the exhibit hall
featuring green lemonade (very sweet, not very lemony, and
didn't make my pee green later - all disappointments).
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Old Mar 30, 09, 11:46 am
formerly known as seanthepilot
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Violist, you've got an enjoyable style to your trip reports. As usual, looking forward to reading more!
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Old Mar 30, 09, 3:14 pm
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Has anyone ever successfully self-upgraded?

I know I failed back when I was 16 years old...I have not tried since then.
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Old Mar 30, 09, 7:26 pm
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An interesting and fun read!
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Old Mar 31, 09, 11:23 am
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Readers and friends: thanks for the kind words.
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Old Mar 31, 09, 11:24 am
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Toddled off to Nikolai's Roof back at the Hilton, where I
was given a nice window table with a panoramic view of the
city. Vasil, my waiter, was courteous and competent. I was
pleased by everything except the sight of the other diner
across from me, who was myself reflected in a mirror. Oh,
yes, the food.

The Louis Michel Chablis 06 was pleasantly acid, once the
sulfur blew off, not so flinty as I'd have expected, but
with good fruit. Went well with the first couple courses.

Trio of pirozhki - beef tenderloin, unidentified poultry
("pintade" - Guinea fowl - according to the menu, but you
could have fooled me), gray shrimp. A really nicely done
buttery puff pastry, not Pepperidge Farm for a change, with
less than stellar fillings. The first tasted like hash, the
second tasted like chicken sausage, and the third tasted
like fishy fish. On the side, a rich Bearnaise that was most
likely made here, or at least in a factory of the better
sort: this was necessary for the shrimp one, whose filling
had seen better days.

When subwaiter Duane presented these, he named them off
accurately but gave the peculiar editorial comment that
they had been "nicely garnished with fresh herbs" - being
a few black sesame seeds on one of them and a sprig of
baby chervil on another. I do not need to be told that my
food is "nicely garnished" - I can make that determination
myself, thank you.

The whole-wheat roll that came was notable, perhaps unique,
in that it didn't taste rancid, the way almost all whole-
wheat things do. The butter, though salted, was okay.

Seared diver scallop, Maine lobster, osetra caviar,
shellfish foam, braised leeks - at most half a scallop,
sliced horizontally - there was more lobster (a half ounce
of claw meat) than scallop; this was a blessing in disguise,
as the scallop was nastily tasteless with that tongue-
numbing quality that solution-soaked not-so-good scallops
often have. The shellfish foam was aerosolized lobster
bisque, not bad; the leeks, though not meltingly tender,
were fine. Osetra caviar? A blobby blin-like thing with
a dozen specks of black stuff inside. I tasted a few of
the eggs alone, and they were fine. But eaten with the
blob, the flavor was fugitive at best.

Beef tenderloin (rare) with Savoy cabbage braised with
applewood-smoked bacon, truffled black trumpet risotto
was quite nice, the meat not quite trimmed and with an
odd vein of fat in the middle (neither of which bothered
me at all, except that there was a bit of blue mold on
the outside of a bite or two) - a bit more than the
expected 6 or so ounces, but that might have been owing
to the imperfect trim. The risotto was properly done,
but there was more mushroom than rice! Truffles were in
the usual form, which is "truffle oil." The vegetable
was appropriately Southern and porky and mushy and good.

With this I had Coppola Director's Cut Pinot Noir, I
believe also 06, which was soft and drinkable with plum and
cherry flavors, a bit of herbal quality, a bit of meaty
quality: pretty good.

I was still a bit unsatisfied, given the tininess of the
starters, but I am not really a sweets person, so instead
of dessert I ordered a cup of borscht, which may have been
a mistake - very salty, not very beety or sweet at all.
Chunks of beef absorbed a rootiness and made the stuff
taste like Campbell's vegetable beef soup. Very odd. With
this I finished off the bottle of Chablis, which helped.
By the way, this came with a garnish of a Kobe beef cheek
raviolo, which had an odd texture, the pastry a bit stiff
and the meat gelatinous and crumbly at the same time. I'd
expected maybe some smoothness and unctuousness; I was
wrong. Still the best part of the dish.

Toddled muzzily back to my room, wrote a little speech
for the next day, and off to bed.

It turns out this room has an issue with soundproofing.
I could hear all the people and their screaming infants
on their way to and from the elevator, and worse, the
elevator itself, which sounded like a train running past
every few seconds throughout the night. I ended up with
maybe three hours of sleep.

Interesting quirk about the telephone. I pushed the button
for a wake-up call, and it dialed 911. Of course I hung up
immediately and tried to call the front desk, but the phone
called 911 again. Ah, well. Shortly thereafter, the hotel
operator called to clarify, as 911 had called back. I
unplugged the phone and left a note for the technician
before running across the street to my first session.
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Old Apr 2, 09, 12:37 pm
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Checked out between sessions and picked up an early lunch
at Peachtree Center's food court, a dismal little affair.
Special Thai Cuisine seemed the best choice, but the rather
Chinese-looking lady behind the counter seemed unduly
pleased when I actually made a purchase, which was a combo
of chicken in red curry (not enough flavor; the heat could
be doctored with the available Sriracha, but the lack of
basil, onion, and coconut could not); fried tofu with
vegetables (actually pretty good in a Chinese sort of way);
and a substrate that was styled as pad thai, but was about
as Thai as I am (it was lo mein-style rice noodles). Back to
the classroom for more sessions, then the UGA Symphony,
which gave committed and intense performances of Webern's
Langsamer Satz and the ballet music from Romeo and Juliet by

Off to find my room and my presenter, whose early career it
turns out had been facilitated by a grant from a fund whose
general counsel had been my high school dream girl's dad
(small world). I had actually very little to do - make sure
everything was set up, which it wasn't, give a little
speech, moderate any discussion (there wasn't any), and
sign continuing education credit forms.

After presiding over my session, which was marred by the
audio being on the fritz, I stayed over for the next, an
intro to jazz improv by Christian Howes, presided by my
friend Babette. This presenter brought his own audio
equipment, a good idea.

I finally excused myself to check in here at the Marriott,
where the blessed computer kiosk gave me a deluxe room on
the 39th floor with a very similar view to that I had had
from my seat at the restaurant the night before.

The bathroom was slightly less nice than the newly renovated
one at the Hilton, with a somewhat mildewy shower curtain (I
complained, and it was replaced); otherwise the room was
superior because of the noise issue and slightly nicer

glasses: fairly nice glass
toiletries: hotel brand I believe, ginger citrus, pleasant
wireless: $12.95/day, includes unlimited local and LD calls
bed: king with okay firm mattress, 5 pillows, 2 kinds

A reception in the exhibit hall, where a passed snack of
rubbery sweet satay provided not enough sustenance. Babette
was representing the Mark O'Connor workshops, and we chewed
the fat with those people and a couple of the makers with
nearby booths, and then I tried without success to find
someone to go to dinner with. Apparently, the satay
substance had provided enough nourishment for them, either
that or I was being even less charming than usual.

So off to Trader Vic's in the Hilton, because I had a
coupon from the last night, entitling me to a pupu platter
and a Mai Tai for $10.95, such a deal. Plunked me down and
sat while a totally slammed bar made dozens of umbrella
drinks for a large party, and sat and sat and sat. Now the
very pretty blonde waitress could have done a few walks up
and down to the private function, distributing cheer, but,
no, she stood there doing nothing until two huge trays were
full, and she and a sidekick took them unsteadily off to
their destination. And then, what did the bartender do but
start making a third trayful ... so I left and checked out
the scene back home.

Pulse is a striking bar overseen by a sailboat thing that
reminds one of the Burj-al-Arab; the clientele largely
imports - the cream of Atlanta youth at its most fashionable
and vapid. I escaped quickly next door to High Velocity,
equally depressing but a sports bar, so I could fit in
somewhat more easily. I had an excellent Sweetwater 420
ale and an order of screamin' hot wings, which were sort
of murmuring warm and of mixed levels of tenderness and
freshness and proper cookedness. I got one short of my
dozen, but by this time I didn't care and had to head off
to the next event.

Which was a truly spectacular concert by the winners of the
Alternative Styles competition, elementary, junior, and
adult (to age 26 I believe) divisions. I was totally blown
away by the talent of these kids. Unfortunately, there was
a dearth of printed programs, and I have no idea who them
were. I'm sure I will recognize some of them in the future,
though. Afterwards, there was a jam session, but I was
pretty tired, so off to bed.
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Old Apr 4, 09, 8:34 am
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In the morning I eschewed the sessions but rather hiked
around; in a slightly more dodgy part of town, tummy
rumbling, I found Gladys Knight's Chicken & Waffles, which,
even though it was just before 12, had a 45-min wait! I
guess church must have let out. I asked the host if there
would be a lull in the afternoon, but he said it was
likely to be crowded all day. Oh, well. I came back to
listen to the national solo competition winner, Deanna
Talens, who gave an unbelievably professional and polished
performance of the sonata for solo cello by George Crumb and
Pampeana #2 by Ginastera, neither of which I am thrilled by
as pieces, but she certainly came close to making a case.

The orchestra competition winner was Stringendo from
Poughkeepsie; I escaped from K.138 to poke my nose in a
seminar for a few minutes but returned to hear them do a
nice job on David Diamond's Rounds. There was another
piece on the program, but lunch was calling, so I went
across the way to the hotel's fancy restaurant, Sear, where
there was a brunch buffet ($21.95) that didn't look very
interesting. For a buck or two less I got a steak frites
blue from the regular menu: a pretty good 12-oz strip,
topped with a superfluous Worcestershire-spiked butter,
sided with excellent fries.

In keeping with my fondness for trying local products, I
ordered a glass of Wolf Mountain Coupage (White County) 05,
a decently Bordeaux-style blend, medium-bodied, nice though
light color, good tannin, a little acid, but somewhat muted
in flavor and with a bit of wintergreeny aftertaste. That
was the second glass; what originally came was a blackberry
oaky fruit bomb that was obviously wrong - turned out to be
Columbia Crest Merlot.

A dessert reception with excellent cake, of which I ended
up having 5 pieces. What can I say, people just kept handing
me food.

Off to a seminar on rock and roll in a classical setting,
which I didn't want to stay for (Elizabeth Matesky was
speaking on Nathan Milstein downstairs, and I sort of wanted
to go to that), but some friends of mine were here.

Caught up with them a bit afterward and then went off to
the silent auction, for which they were charging $25
admission, and why that was I couldn't figure. Well. It
turns out there was open bar with Maker's among other things
as well as copious snacks (quesadillas, stuffed cherry
tomatoes, empanadas, crudites, mixed nuts, lots of cheeses),
of which I made a copious if unhealthy dinner. Missed a
Mexican dinner with my friends.

I bid on a few interesting things, such as a Yankee gift
assortment from the New York state chapter (not for me, but
rather for friends of mine who are silly enough to like not
only me but also the Yankees) and an electric violin; ended
up being talked into bidding for (and winning) the Idaho
state chapter's gift basket and some earrings (not for
myself, I don't have pierced ears) made by Judy Bossuat,
the association's secretary, whose sideline is jewelry.

The Idaho basket started off with a 10-lb bag of potatoes
and went down from there. I ended up giving the taters as
a consolation prize to an unsuccessful bidder on the
earrings (she was driving home). The book about places to
hike in Idaho I lugged back, along with the DVD of some
locally renowned folk singer.

Next event was Zuill Bailey with the Atlanta Symphony Youth
Orchestra; I got there early to stake out a good seat near
the exit (good acoustically, I mean, not good by virtue of
being near the exit). Noticed an attractive woman about my
age; I must have seemed to be giving her the eye, as she
started talking to me. Turns out, after twists and turns in
the conversation, that she is the orchestra director at
my high school - which had no music program to speak of
when I was there 40+ years ago. Small world.

The orchestra gave a spirited but technically average
rendition of Roman Carnival and then sensitively accompanied
Bailey in the Saint-Saens cello concerto, which was one of
the fleetest and most dazzling versions I've heard. I didn't
care for it, because I think that Saint-Saens was a better
composer than people give him credit for, and there's more
emotion behind the flash and dash than this performance
offered. Then ... not another Dvorak 8th! I like the piece,
but it's done by every high-school and college-level
orchestra in the known universe, so I excused myself to my
room and set the alarm for 10:30, so I could get washed up
and ready for the jam session at 11.

I slept through the alarm, waking at 5 in the morning
feeling ready for music. Alas, nobody else was.
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Old Apr 5, 09, 9:00 pm
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High Velocity again at noon. Whoops! no beer until 12:30
in Georgia! But I noticed Mighty Mo on the menu. For those
who are not familiar with this delight, it's a precursor
of the Big Mac, invented at the Hot Shoppes, Bill Marriott's
first hospitality venture. So I ordered one. The one I
recall was a nice fistful of flavors, 35 cents. This one
was $14, a 4000% increase in 50 years.

The original was 2 little 2-or-3-oz patties, squishy with
sauce. This one was two regular-size half-pounders (I am
guessing that they were out of the little guys, either that
or the Sunday cook was unfamiliar with the specifications).
It was a sizable sandwich, and I was right filled up, even
though the sauce was just a smeary presence on the bottom
bun, and there was still no beer. I was all set to order my
brewski, it being about time, when my high school buddy,
whom I haven't seen in a decade or more, and with whom I
was supposed to have dinner, rang me - she'd come back from
her retreat early, and could she pick me up? No beer. I
got the check, hustled out front, and M shortly was out
there in her little Prius, just as sweet and lovely as
when I'd met her 44 years ago.

She's married and has 4 kids, so there's no question of,
you know, that, not that there ever was, but it was just so
wonderful to see her and catch up on the last decade or so
since we'd seen each other and talk about, well, pretty much
the same things that we talked about when we were finding
ourselves back in high school and college.

Went home and chatted with her husband and their youngest
son (now in high school), and played with Maggie, the
black goldoodle, and then she and he and I took me to the
botanic gardens, which is making a big thing (and righfully)
of its orchid collection. There is a temporary offering that
juxtaposes glass sculptures with the flowers, very
intriguing. Following that, we blundered into the Georgia
Daffodil Society show, which was intriguing in its own way:
I could never figure out how to judge such things - county
fairs, and the like, where one daffodil (or potato!) looks
to the untrained eye just like the next. I talked to one of
the judges, and when I said that I judged music
competitions, she said, now that's a tough job, at least
we have a rubric (which she gave me a copy of).

They had wanted to take me to their favorite local
joint, Pomodoro, but there wasn't a table outside, so we
went across the way to Caramba Cafe, which had outdoor
dining available. M doesn't care for the food here, but her
husband had taken charge and gotten us a table while she
had been negotiating with Pomodoro for accommodations.

The best parts of dinner: Negra Modelo and chips (fresh)
and salsa (fairly spicy, out of a jar I think).

I had "Maggie's favorite," in honor of the dog - three
chicken enchiladas with rice and guac - okay tasting, not
very spicy at all, but very salty.

M, not thrilled with her meal (which looked dubious), went
from margarita to Modelo but still stayed sober enough to
drive me southward to my next stop, the Hampton Inn Atlanta
Airport. We made tentative plans to attend our 40th reunion
this summer. The hotel staff was friendly and the facility
neat enough. I got a clean, adequate, but not generous room
with a handicap-accessible bathroom (what's this about? half
the time these days the hotels give me one; did I check
handicapped on a form once? - I do have a rather mild visual

glasses: fairly cruddy plastic
toiletries: Purity Basics, nicer than they sound
wireless: free with the code provided at the front desk
bed: double with slightly squishy, lumpy mattress, 4
pillows all the same, plus a small bolster.

Slept okay but woke with a backache.

Breakfast (provided) - a buttery, flaky biscuit with sausage
gravy (meaty but not very tasty); a Krispy Kreme raised
doughnut. There is also a cereal bar, toast, juices. Back to
the room and the Internet.
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Old Apr 5, 09, 11:05 pm
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very pleasant reading, thanks a lot!
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Old Apr 6, 09, 7:59 pm
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As the hotel checkout is noon, I decided to try for the
earlier flight. The agent said that it was 50-, so I pulled
out my credit card ... then she said elites are exempt, so
I put back my card and promptly forgot where I'd stuck it,
causing a fine little panic (she was supposed to go on
break but offered to delay her break! until I found it; I
told her no, go on break, and eventually I found it anyhow).

Security took one minute, despite or perhaps because of the
huge multiplicity of lanes.

I had time to try out Paschal's, where I had a fairly bland
fried chicken leg with very bland rice (converted) and
decent collards cooked with smoked pork hock. 50% more than
Popeye's (and twice what Popeye's costs in the real world)
and about minus 50% better.

US3165 ATL PHL 1450 1658 E75 2A
was 3460 1728 1940 E70 3F

It's a mile to the US Air gates, and there's a terminal
even farther out (I wonder what unfortunate airlines are
relegated to that area), puff puff. Boarded a little late
and took off a little late. My seatmate had bought a new
double bowling ball bag and had cleverly put his boarding
pass for his connecting flight to MKE in it. And, as this
was an RJ, he had to check the bag. Bye, bye boarding pass.
So he was fretting amusingly. I said not to worry.

The flight went without a hitch, and we landed a few
minutes early. I got my seatmate into the club, where he was
fixed up expeditiously by Hoa, the attendant, and I presume
all went okay. I excused myself and went to the RCC, where I
complained to the woman at the front desk that I hadn't
received my renewal card. She issued me a month temporary
card after confiscating and destroying my old card, the
danger being that there might be two of me, I guess.

A Numi "Simply Mint Moroccan Herbal Teasan" (Ingredient:
organic Moroccan mint) was just the relaxing thing I needed.
It tastes a little like mint, a little like dope.

Did the e-mail and the FT, and off to the bar, where the
chips and salsa were an almost exact duplicate of that at
the Caramba place. No draft beer! They were supposed to be
getting some in, but at this point there were neither kegs
nor mugs, but meanwhile, might I be interested in an
umbrella drink (pleasant blonde bartender pointing to
mockups at the bar)? No, thank you, Sam Adams in a bottle.

I rode the RCC to closing time, then ducked in briefly to
the B-C US club, where I was greeted like an old friend,
which I am.

US 769 PHL BOS 2030 2146 319 3D

This was a perfectly decent flight, complete with 2/3 of a
bottle of Stone Cellars Cabernet. We took off and landed on
time. Waiting for my bag I encountered a toddler who wanted
to know about my guitar. His mother said "it's probably a
violin," so I took the thing out and let him play a few
guided notes on it. He was fascinated by the instrument,
and I hope a few years hence he remembers this. My bag,
tagged with a Star Alliance priority tag, was the first
out, and off I went into the 25 degree night.

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