i met Amy Beth Hale once when a bank decided to dig up my football field, actually Castle Heights football field named after Stroud Gwynn. It was several years ago when that bank decided they needed a corporate headquarters where once the Castle Heights Tigers ruled the gridiron, soccer field, and track and field site. Several of the alumni of the defunct school attended the sad event and even created a formation roughly of the kind that marched into that sacred ground every Sunday for the parade and pass-in-review. i was in that pass and review roughly 160 times, not counting practice runs.
Amy’s father, Gene Hale was a professor there when i attended. Good teacher. Good man. Amy came along much later. She is currently “Director, Member Services at International Bluegrass Music Association.”
That is why Thursday night, i wished she was here along with a couple of friends. You see, my buddies, Alan and Jim Hicks, Cy Fraser, and i love bluegrass. Alan and Cy are downright aficionados. Alan plays the banjo like his mother, Miss Tarwater, played the banjo in Greenwich Village a long time ago. Cy Fraser bough a mandolin, but i don’t think he has played it very much. i own a guitar. i pluck. About once every two years. Badly. But we all love bluegrass. i teased Alan and Cy about joining me Thursday, figuring they might just be crazy enough to show up from San Francisco and Orcas Island respectively. i didn’t tease Jim because i knew he wouldn’t come from Connecticut.
i was going alone. Maureen’s annual dinner with six of her closest girl friends was scheduled up at Del Mar for the same evening. But Wednesday night, her dinner was cancelled. It actually rained, really rained in the Southwest corner. With thunderstorms even. Now, i hope you never get caught in the Southwest corner when it rains, even a little. These people go nuts. They have no idea how to drive in the rain. So then Maureen says she might go with me to the symphony. It’s a special show. i’m glad she’s joining me. She has second thoughts then changes her mind again. And again. Finally, she says she’ll go but is worried about the flooding. i said “Don’t sweat it.” Not the best thing to say. We go in the middle of a gully washer complete with thunder. It doesn’t let up the entire trip to downtown. Maureen gasps about every thirty seconds with a splash of water from a nearby car, a lightning strike, crazy drivers cutting in front of us, crazy drivers almost stopped on the freeway, crazy drivers period.
We make it downtown. It is pouring still. i let her out near the symphony door. i park about a block away. i’m okay because i’m well prepared unlike about seventy-five percent of the other folks living downtown walking about (for some inexplicable reason). i do fine except for the guy with a skateboard tucked under his arm dashing in front of me requiring me to sidestep into ankle deep water by the curb and i’m not that prepared. i don’t have galoshes. Finally, i am inside. Whew.
We take our seats. Some pseudo science guy who admits to be a nerd but he’s too old to be a nerd i think engages Maureen in a conversation about we might live on mars because of the surface conditions or something.
Finally, it begins. The orchestra’s composition is nearly all strings with a harpsichord for the evening’s slate is music from the 17th and 18th centuries. The first piece is just beautiful, lyrical. It’s “Chacony in G Minor by Henry Purcell, written around 1680. i now have another composer for seeking classical music.
Then what i went for is next. Avi Avital is the star artist. He plays the mandolin, a classical mandolin. His first piece is “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” concerti. Avi plays the mandolin instead of the lead violin. i am entranced. i wish for Alan and Jim and Cy and, of course, Amy Beth.
Avital played his mandolin in Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, replacing the lead instrument the harpsichord. Again i am enchanted. Again, i wish for my friends.
Bill Monroe, Vince Gill, and Ricky Skaggs. Les Thompson, eat your hearts out. Avi is that good.
And best of all, when it was over, it had stopped raining. We drove home gaspless. And i played golf the next morning. After all, it was Friday morning.