Monday, December 05, 2005

Ansel Adams and Lyambiko

It was a crowded weekend. The lovely mother-to-be Ms. A. arrived in Boston Friday night for her much to brief first visit to Bean Town. We joined a casual crowd celebrating the end of a conference on Friday night for a memorable meal at Bertucci’s. Gastronomical note: next time, pizza only.

Saturday we snuck into the Trident for brunch just ahead of the crowd. We were seated dead center in the front dining room and enjoyed our shared freshly squeezed orange juice (very pulpy indeed) and the breakfast burrito. As usual, the buzz of the morning crowd was lively. We didn’t stop talking for even an instant.

We made our way down Newbury Street, stopping in various boutiques and galleries. In the heat of the dressing room I gave in and bought a pair of AG jeans. They do fit like magic. But I admit that I have having morning-after regrets. I may take them back, I may give them a few days to acclimate to my world. We’ll see. The sales girl was very kind. Thankfully she was not buy break dancing on the show floor as her colleague was.

Amazingly enough it was soon time to head back the other way and find the Museum of Fine Arts. We had 2:30 entrance tickets to see the Ansel Adams exhibit. The walk was a bit farther then I remembered and we were a few minutes late, but it was no problem. The real problem was the crowd. We entered the first exhibit room to find a wall of people and overwhelming body heat, not to mention a toddler who was coughing, crying and literally repeating, “no, no, no” in a tiny plaintive voice.

Many of the photographs were Mona Lisa size. Thus you had to be within a foot or two to appreciate the fine detail. Hordes of people are not conducive to this kind of viewing. It would have been ideal with half the people in attendance. It was hard to love the art under such conditions. Yet, how could we not fall in love with every shot? The photographs are amazing. It is well worth your time to see the show….but not on a weekend and not in the middle of the afternoon. Crowds. It was a theme that day.

By then it was almost three and we needed calories. Sadly the upstairs café, which appeared quiet and relaxing, closed at three. Ms.A. made the executive decision to exit the building. We made our way to the nearby Au Bon Pain for soup and more conversation.

After the walk home and a quick planning session with L., we headed off for the North End to find a table at The Daily Catch. For those in the know, it is a heavenly stink. Literally the kitchen is in the eating area and the place serves about fifteen people tightly crammed at closely packed tables. Crowds. We had mussels, black pasta with putanesca, linguine with shrimp and the calamari plate. There was a calamari meatball.

We walked across the street to Mike’s Pastry Shop where we scored a table. The crowd in front of the pastry display cases was three to four people deep. Impossible. L. spotted a pastry at the next table and ordered the Lobster Tail. I shared his; it was easier than trying to order. It was a crisp pastry shell filled with whipped cream. So simple. So divine. And yes it was shaped like a lobster tail. Ms. A.’s pistachio cookie, well, let’s just say they deliver across the country.

We then taxied over the Cambridge to the Real Deal Jazz Club to see Lyambiko perform. Lyambiko is a German Jazz artist who is backed up by a jazz trio. It was not all together displeasing show. A mixed bag. She walked on stage, eyes downcast and performed her first number without making eye contact. I was underwhelmed. I wasn’t sure if her style was by choice—was she restrained or did she lack the depth and range to hit notes? I am no singer. Yet I felt that she was reaching.

Then, her attire. I am not known for my sharp dressing or eye for accessories. But I realized that I wanted an attempt at a stage presence that she was unwilling to make, for whatever reason. Casual black pants, a casual top. As Ms. A noted, the downcast eyes and casual attire set a tone for the whole night. I was not uplifted by the tone, rather I was busy making up excuses in my head. I want a jazz singer to be in control and be cool. I was worried that she was acting the part of a jazz singer instead of being a jazz singer.

L., on the other hand, felt that she her appearance was cool in an “European way.” Hhhmmm. Not sure what he meant by that, other than he was sticking up for a fellow non-American.

A few of her numbers did amaze me—especially the songs in French and Portuguese. She is a chameleon on stage. Each song was brilliant or decidedly not brilliant. Maybe she is still finding her voice? Her style? Certainly she has got it, whatever that it might be. But it needs to be it for the whole show. Would I recommend her performance? I don’t have a clear YES on that. Nor do I have a definitive NO. Did we enjoy ourselves? Of course. Did I mention that it was crowded? It was packed.

Luckily we avoided the crowds, finally, Sunday morning as we enjoyed pastries and tea as the snow fell. Time was too short, however. Soon Ms. A. was off to the airport and we were left too un-crowded. Next time, less crowd for sure.

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