Monday, March 6, 2017

Fondue Boogaloo

Having explored northeastern Switzerland and the Jungfrau Region from our base in Zurich in 2012, we figured it was high time (pun intended) to visit the western end of the Confederation Helvetica on its borders with France and Italy. Since the Alps can be tricky weather-wise, we booked our sojourn to Geneva for August.

With headquarters in Zurich, we toured Rheinfall and Schaffhausen, the small country of Lichtenstein, the towns encircling Lake Zurich, and Lucerne and Interlaken en route to Jungfraujoch, the top of Europe. This summer, we’ll tour towns on Lake Geneva, such as Montreux and Lausanne, as well as Chamonix and Zermatt.

Much like Zurich afforded a handy base to explore the mountain villages of Lauterbrunnen, Gridelwald and Kleine Scheidegg (above), Geneva will provide our headquarters for exploring the Alps of western Switzerland and France, including Mt. Blanc (or Mt. Blanco on the Italian side) and The Matterhorn (below).

Our base: The Edelweiss Hotel, a three-star hotel is known for its exquisite cheese fondue. Conveniently located near transportation hubs and the shores of Lake Geneva, a boat tour will likely be in order. The highlight: an excursion to The Matterhorn, a massif that has captivated me since my first trip to Disneyland.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tijuana Class

In remarks for his insightful UO SOJC presentation titled “Guitars, Artists, Culture,” my colleague Tom Wheeler, a former editor-in-chief for Guitar Player Magazine and free lancer for Rolling Stone, now journalism professor-cum-author, noted that the 60s were a uniquely eclectic time for popular music in America.

For example, he said, you could turn on your car radio at any moment and hear the quite diverse sounds of Chubby Checker, Percy Faith And His Orchestra, Helen Reddy, Elvis, Tony Bennett, The Beatles, Jimmy Dean, Marvin Gaye, The Who, the 5th Dimension and Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, in no particular order.

As luck would have it, we caught the legendary Herb Alpert and his wife Lani Hall when they brought their own eclectic blend of jazz, world beat and American pop standards to The Shedd Institute in Eugene. Now 81, Alpert burst upon the music scene in the 60s with the pop confection known as “Spanish Flea.”

Now primarily a jazz musician, his most recent CD is called “Human Nature” and features his wife on vocals; Hall is the former vocalist for Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66, another pop staple of the 60s. Alpert also founded A&M records, won nine Grammy Awards and his “Spanish Flea” became the theme music for “The Dating Game.”

The concert featured medleys focused on his popular hits and movie themes, along with cuts from dance grooves, electronic music and jazz tunes from his new CD. The concert vibrated with energy yet was very informal. In between sets, Alpert would reflect on his storied career, asking nobody in particular: “Do you have any questions?”

During one of his soliloquies, he referenced his most notable album cover from the early days: “Whipped Cream & Other Delights.” A friend told him: “Hey, I love that album cover.” “Have you listened to the music on the album?” Alpert asked, hoping for feedback. “Well, no,” came the reply. “But I will soon.”

Friday, January 13, 2017

Winter Of Our Discontent

Yeah, I know: the headline on this post directly contradicts an entry in December singing the praises of winter. Just chalk it up to another instance of paradox in life. This story could take several twists and turns, but let’s start with the weather. We finally had a real winter this winter.
As we enjoyed our holiday sojourn amongst the snow and ice in the State of Washington, an ice storm of Biblical proportions slammed Eugene-Springfield, taking down trees and limbs virtually everywhere in the vicinity. Tens of thousands of utility customers, many who heat with electricity, were without power for days.

On the heels of that silver thaw, the snowstorms came, first to Eugene-Springfield, and then to the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area. For the first time in my decades-long association with the University of Oregon as an instructor and a student, I experienced a snow day. It seems that hell hath truly frozen over.

In Portland, the headlines on The Oregonian’s website reads like the weather equivalent of The National Enquirer: “Is It Done Snowing In Portland?” "Why Was Forecast So Far Off?" “Where To Buy Tire Chains In Portland” and “Governor Declares State Of Emergency” What really happened was we had a real winter this winter.

Having wintered in the North Cascades for five years, we know what living in snow country is like. It’s a tough row to hoe and not for the faint of heart. That’s why we -- as many others, including of our forebears from the unmerciful snows in the heartland -- moved back to the Willamette Valley. The good news: winters like this are rare.

I take solace in another Steinbeck tome, Travels With Charley: “What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” Worse than the elements, we’re having to weather a critical season of political transition. Never has there been such stark contrast between class (Barack Obama) and crass (Donald Trump). 

Expecting spring will bring renewed vigor to fight the good fight, I find consolation in the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from indomitable will.” Or Bob Marley: “Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up. Don’t give up the fight.”