Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter 2010

December 16, 2010: As I start this review of 2010, we are having our first measurable snowfall of the season. Last winter was the snowiest on record, with a total accumulation of 73". By January 1, 2010, we already had 24" of snow on the ground, and it never melted away. Thanks to bracing temperatures, the ground was white from mid-December through March.

January 5-6-7 found me in Palm Beach, Florida, where I was fortunate enough to be working on a design project. Commuting back and forth between DC and Florida would afford me many welcome escapes from a cruel winter.

I'm so easy to spot: second row, third from the right. Click to enlarge.

In mid-January I was performing on stage at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. I was conductor of the Vienna Choral Society, a community chorus in the northern Virginia area, and we had performed “The Armed Man,” a moving choral expression of the vagaries of war and hope for lasting peace. In NYC we joined several other community choruses who had recently performed the work to form a 200+ choir supported by a professional 60-piece orchestra. The young neighbor of composer Karl Jenkins flew all the way from Wales to sing the boy soprano part. There was a sold out house for the performance on MLK Day.

By late January I couldn’t take the winter weather any more. On the 26th my travel pal Rob and I fled to Puerto Rico, where we holed up at the El Convento Hotel in old San Juan. The economy had taken its toll on this favorite winter playground. Several famed restaurants and hotels were shuttered, and those still open were sparsely populated. Naturally, we rallied to the rescue, spending vast sums of cash to shore up the local economy. The centuries old El Convento structure had once served as a convent, but I don’t think the nuns would recognize the place today, with a roof-top hot tub and the daily wine and cheese parties for hotel guests. Their former chapel now serves as a ballroom.

February was especially cruel weather wise (see photo above of my street in Reston). A snow storm on the 5th and 6th caused Sunday services at Vienna Pres to be canceled for only the second time in the 19 years I’ve worked there.

Mother nature was obviously dissatisfied with her earlier attempts, because right on the heels of the month’s earlier snowfall we had another winter storm February 9 and 10 (the DC area had 43" of snow in February alone). I like to think I’m made of pretty tough stuff, but I snapped. I couldn’t bear being snowed in a third time, so I fired up the computer and bought a ticket back to San Juan, jumped into my car and made a bee line to Dulles airport, hoping to be on my way south before they closed the airport. Three hours and twenty minutes after purchasing a ticket, I was on my way to Puerto Rico – without a hotel reservation. A few hours later I stepped out into 80 degree weather and took a taxi back to El Convento. Fortunately, they had a room available. I sent and answered E-mails with my feet dangling in the rooftop plunge pool. I had not even told my mother I had fled to San Juan, and no one was the wiser. I highly recommend this tactic for battling an aggressive winter. After a couple of nights in San Juan I rented a car and drove to the western part of the island, where I spent my life’s savings renting a villa for one night at the strangely named Horned Dorset Primavera. I had a two story townhouse with two huge bathrooms (see photo above), bizarrely furnished with a Moroccan chandelier, Venetian wall mirror, walk-in marble shower and a free-standing tub with antique plumbing fixtures and a floor lamp. The bedroom, dining room and living room were furnished with antique British plantation furniture, not a piece of it comfortable enough to sit on. No one suffers like Terry. Broke, but restored to mental health, I flew home to the land of Snowmageddon.

I spent my 61st birthday at Foti’s restaurant (a favorite, photo below) in Culpeper, Va. with best friends Rob and Karen. Management allowed us to play a few rounds of cards at our table as we dreamed of an early spring.

Another visit to the job site in Palm Beach helped me limp through March with sanity intact.

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