March 5, 2014 —
Soup and sandwich, salt and pepper, even Bert and Ernie. Some things just go together, but fire and ice? Heading out the door last Friday, I noted that Danny Fitzgerald and the Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band were in the region, slated to perform on both sides of the river. Their first stop was in Bethel, NY (www.catskilldistillingcompany.com ), so I grabbed the Wonder Dog and (side-stepping the ice that covered my walkway) headed out, confident that they would provide a hot time in the old town that night. Fitzgerald, now 80, has not lost any of his charisma or charm and has millions of fans around the globe. Based in Europe, Danny and his ever-changing roster of musicians have performed on both sides of the Atlantic for decades in a staggering array of venues, including appearances on television and in films, but he is just as much at home on street corners as he is playing major nightclubs in New York or Paris. Fitzgerald’s résumé is (IMHO) so impressive that I recommend using “the Google” (as my mom was fond of saying) to learn more, in case anyone alive is unaware of the guy, his music and his many accomplishments over the years.
Picking up local musicians as he traverses the globe (www.lostwandering.com ) is one of Fitzgerald’s traits, and the past week is no exception. “Danny is so generous. He loves to sit back and let others shine,” said Darren Wiseman (washtub) in between sets at the distillery. “He’s a living legend. Let’s rock and roll!” Wiseman was joined by Joe Flood, Mark Herschler, Eugene Clark and Brian Price who shared vocals, trumpet, sax and guitar duties with such panache that the audience was frequently on its feet, swingin’ swayin’ and stompin’ the night away. If I hadn’t been booked the next night, I would have caught the act again in Honesdale (www.thecooperageproject.org ) where, according to Wiseman, the band experienced “an amazing audience, cheering everything Fitzgerald did.” Darren went on to say that the crowd at The Cooperage “applauded after every solo. Danny was on fire!” and that he hoped I had enjoyed catching the band the night before. Rest assured, my friends and I were thrilled to take in the show, which was filled with sugar and spice (Fitzgerald is often bawdy) and all things in-between.
Although I was loath to do so, I left the dog at home on Saturday, knowing that my trip to Lakeville, PA near Hawley (www.sculptediceworks.com ) was going to be cold. “Crystal Cabin Fever,” the annual celebration of all things ice has been on my radar for years, and I was determined to not miss out this time around. The factory, which offers tours and a variety of events throughout the year, relies on frigid temps, so I donned my boots and gloves and layered up, prepared for the best exhibit and worst thermometer reading. My first stop was at the ice-carving demonstration outside, with chainsaw artist Neil Trimper displaying his skills, right next door to Ray Keller’s glass blowing booth, both of which drew a crowd all day. Keller’s fire was cool to observe, but not warm enough to melt Trimper’s impressive blocks of ice, and I warmed my hands by the bonfire, before heading indoors to check out the icy slide, hot chocolate and enormous sculptures, all of which were made of (you guessed it) ice.
As kids shrieked with glee on the slide, I took in the incredible display, which included a New York skyline, Statue of Liberty, Egyptian pyramids and Sphynx, replicas of Mt. Rushmore, the Eiffel Tower and more. As if on a frozen trip around the world, I gaped in awe at the gigantic blocks of ice that made up an enormous Roman Coliseum, which I learned was comprised of 150 individual pieces and weighed in at more than 40,000 pounds. Thankful that the factory provides a “warm-up” room on the premises, I opened and closed the door quickly, happy that I had made the right decision and left the “mutt” home while her “Jeff” took the tour.
Later that same day, I took part in the first of 12 installments of the Yarnslingers Memoirs project, which is a partnership between this local storytellers group (www.facebook.com/yarnslingers ) and CAS (www.catskillartsociety.org ) in Livingston Manor, NY. Nine writers converged to share their chapters with a sold-out crowd and take part in a lively discussion afterward, in a process that is leading the variety of authors in the general direction of crafting their individual memoirs-in-the-making. It would be unfair to compare the individual writing styles in this diverse and talented group. I felt a bit inadequate next to so many clever wordsmiths, but at the end of the day, it’s apples and oranges, I suppose. With 11 more installments in the offing (a book of 12 chapters at the end of the year), there are plenty of opportunities to check out this interesting project in the near future. Like Fred and Ethel, the pooch and I will be there, come hell or high water.