Fun Friday!

Today was one of those perfectly marvelous days one dreams about. At least, it was for me. Day trip!

It began least it did for me. I had set my alarm for 6:00, but I suppose I was too excited to sleep much past 5:00. I had already packed my day-bag with my tickets, a knitting project or two, my iPad, my iPod (for the audiobook I'm listening to, The Last Founding Father), and just in case I needed one more thing...a new gardening magazine. By 7:30 a.m., I was off on my latest adventure.

I've written more than once about how much I enjoy going to symphony concerts, especially the Friday Favorites series performed by the NC Symphony in Raleigh. And I have also shared a post or two about my love of train travel. Combining the two of these passions on an absolutely gorgeous Fall day, meant that I was eastbound on The Carolinian, leaving the Furniture Capital and headed for the state capital, as the sun began its steady rise in the cerulean* blue sky. Here we go! Second stop outta High Point (which got its name by being the highest point on the NC railroad between Charlotte and Goldsboro) is Burlington (pictured).

I arrived in Raleigh right on time and began the easy, less-than-10 minute walk to Meymandi Concert Hall, arriving with about 25 minutes to spare before the pre-concert lecture.

Lecture? I thought you said this was a fun day, Patricia! Well, it was a fun day for me...because I had the opportunity to learn something new. You see, growing up in the 60's and coming of age in the 70's in West Tennessee...and specifically exposure to music was limited to either Country Music (favorite of my Nashville-born & bred Daddy, and a little less fav of Momma), show tunes (Momma's favorites), church hymns, or Rock and Roll. Period. That's all I knew. Oh, maybe a march or two played by the band(s) at football games, but that was about it.

I know, I know... Miss Caroline tried her best to teach me something different during my 5 years of piano lessons. But I struggled so as the assignments got more difficult that I guess I just didn't get it. I never realized that the pieces she wanted me to learn were examples of beautiful classical music. Trust me, there was nothing beautiful about the way they sounded when I played them!

When I arrived at Mississippi State College for Women (MSCW) in '71, I was only being "nice" to my sweet (and talented) suitemate KD when I agreed to attend a concert by the W's orchestra, where she had won a spot playing the flute. When I first heard classical music played as it should be, by an orchestra, I was amazed...and I was hooked.

The train thing has been with me since Kindergarten days in Covington. We went on a train trip all the way to Atoka, Tenn ("two stores and a cotton gin"), a distance of maybe 12 whole miles. What a thrill! Moms were smiling and waiting at the station to drive us back, as the conductor helped a gaggle of us 5-year olds step off the train. Well, the other Moms were. My Momma was in tears, frantically trying to get in our car, which she had locked. With the keys in the ignition. And with Li'l Brother Jack snoozing in his car-seat. I don't know if he still remembers the trauma, but it did nothing to deter my new-found joy attached to train-travel.

[A note. As you know, Mr. T and I are extraordinarily compatible and enjoy many of the same things in life. But, he doesn't share my love of classical music...or trains either for that matter. So days like today are days that bring joy to me alone. Sigh.]

So, back to today. The lecture was excellent, and I learned new and interesting tidbits about Dukas, Debussy, Dvorak, and Mozart...all of whom were on the program entitled Mozart's Prague Symphony. I learned that the real reason composers used a Fanfare at the beginning of a piece was to tell the Audiences to, and I quote, "sit down and shut up!" It seems that 18th and 19th century audiences (especially in Paris) were a bit more raucous than we are. Who knew?

Following the education portion came a soothing 90 minutes of beautiful music, played well and enthusiastically by the NC Symphony, with a guest clarinetist...who, even though a Harvard graduate, looked to be about 15, but who played Debussy's rhapsodie for clarinet like he had many more years of experience. As usual, I found my seat in the first balcony and pulled out my knitting needles.

Yes. Knitting needles. I find that the act of knitting helps my busy brain to settle and focus on what is at hand. I choose a project that is pretty basic (no fancy patterns here!), that I can knit and purl in the near-dark of the concert hall, and that can be done on circular I'm not chasing a lost needle mid-Andante. And I purposefully knit slowly, to avoid clicking my needles and annoying the person(s) next to me. I've had folks make comments about "how do you manage that in the dark?" (it's not really totally dark). But I've never had anyone say that my knitting bothered them. They may have felt it, but no one has ever said it.

After the concert, I headed to my favorite downtown restaurant, bu ku, which offers a 10% discount to concert-goers. It was delish, as always! I had grilled salmon and pear salad with Asian Ginger dressing (pictured)...and since I didn't have to drive the train home, I treated myself to a lovely Gew├╝rztraminer.

With about 90 minutes until I had to get back to the station for my return trip, I headed down Fayetteville Street toward the State Capitol building (pictured). It isn't really the prettiest I've seen (I reserve that honor for West Virginia or Georgia, with their gleaming golden domes), but neither is it the plainest (New York in my book). It's a replacement building, as the original burned in the mid 1800's...and I guess they were aiming for solid rather than showplace. The dome is copper...meaning it's that ugly brackish-greenish verdigris. The most interesting part was seeing all the trees on the square surrounding the building. Are they all NC natives? I'll have to investigate further...

Then I made my way to the State History museum. Be still my beating heart! All this history...and free admission to boot. I'd probably still be there if I didn't have a train to catch.

I have two more opportunities to repeat this Fun Friday in the first half of 2013. I can hardly wait to hear "All Aboard!"

*Cerulean blue...yeah, I could have just called the sky Carolina Blue, but my brain has been on the Color Wheel this week. I wrote an article on Decorating for The Holidays from The Garden which is now available at:

I know, I know. It says it's originally by Karen Neill, our Horticulture Agent...and that none of the pictures show up. She tells me there's a glitch or two in the way the site is set up, and she's trying to get it reworked. No matter. Enjoy!


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