Tired of Waiting for a Snowy Day
Yesterday's miserable weather notwithstanding, I've been waiting since January 2nd for a snowy day. There was one snowday—January 21st (is that right?), a Saturday. But that was the day of a memorial service for a beloved Aunt, who passed away just short of her 103rd birthday. Besides that, my computer completed failed after a malware attack before Christmas. So between no-snow, the memorial service, and the defunct computer, I have been waiting nearly two months to complete this posting about Middletown's Middnight on Main 2012.
As I began this posting on Tuesday, 22 February, I was still hoping (sort of ... theoretically anyway) for that snowy day. But now, as it's almost the end of February, I'm tired of waiting! So here it is. Perhaps you'll read it regardless of the continuing fair weather (until today). ... After all, that was a night to remember.
Middletown’s New Year’s Eve celebration has been pronounced by many a resounding success; so what could be better than reminiscing about that time on Main Street? The streets bright, the sky darkening by the hour. Walkers by the dozens – big kids, little kids, strolling hand in hand, both sides and down the middle of Main Street with fancy hats, new mittens (hardly needed), little crowns flashing gold and red and green, Christmas lights, wreaths and holly, shops lit up, feeling the groove. Note: No moving cars!
A light fog creates a wisp of mystery in the balmy chill of the Eve of the New Year. And these are the reminiscences of one person in the crowd.
The Grand Slambovians
The heart of the matter for me—the places where I spent most of my time: the First Church sanctuary and Parish Hall. Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams pretty much took over the Sanctuary for a while that night—The Grand Slambovians (below, left), as they call themselves. It seems they’re from—where else? Slambovia! But perhaps via Kazakhstan, or Woodstock (NY), or Santa Cruz, or Portland, maybe with a quick detour through Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Their Amish-esque front man’s gravelly voice rises as if from Middle Earth as I assess singer Tink’s exotic head-dress (alas, not shown)—half human, half divine, then find myself looking for a camel … or at least a camel saddle! (Midnight at the Oasis
?) … And I wonder, knowing about Slambovian coffee from The Buttonwood Tree menu (it’s an aromatic fair-trade variety that the group markets as a sideline), I wondered—does coffee really grow in Slambovia? I doubt it! But then, really, just where is Slambovia? Is it on this Earth? Maybe east of Eden? South of the Taklimakan Desert? Or maybe just this side of Paradise?
Note: Anyone who spends any amount of time with Senorina Sycamore (aka Anne-Marie) has heard a fair amount (or perhaps more than that) about Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams. Well, now, we have seen them perform in Middletown, and I think they are fine. Very fine.
Sock Hoppy New Year with My Friend the Witch-Doctor
Moving on to the Parish Hall, after a few minutes at the Sock Hop, I start thinking about the people I grew up with, danced at sockhops with — some are dead and some are living. I think of sweet Tom H. (aka "Kookie" because of his habit of whipping out his comb and combing his hair), who survived Viet Nam, only to die riding his Harley through the back roads of CT. (Last night I watched the film, Girl Interrupted,
interesting film, with at least one memorable line: "The lucky ones went to Woodstock; the rest went to Viet Nam.")
Ok, back to the sock hop: Beach Boys (I didn’t hear their songs at the sock hop, but I wasn't there for long.... were they played? I would think so. And, Surfer Girl
, Surfin’ Safari
, or maybe even California Dreamin
’, Blue Velvet, Kathy's Clown)
. Timely, to some extent ... history repeating itself somehow, at least for me.… Anyway, here we are swaying on New Year’s Eve at the First Church Parish Hall—a perfect place for dancing, actually (dare I say, better than Vinnie's?). And watching a quartette of seasoned and sweaty ladies facing off on the dance floor, going for the beat with wild abandon, I listen to strains of "My Friend the Witch-Doctor," sung by a bona fide witch-doctor type. I couldn’t decide which was scarier--the hair on his head or the hair on his chest. We may be thankful that he didn’t have a spear! (Did anyone get a picture of him?)
Looking for the Parish Halls
Moving around through the crowd that evening, twice I glimpse a diminutive woman, slight, with longish grey-white hair, hand in hand with a platinum-haired, long-haired, pony-tailed gent. Twice I turn and watch, looking to see their faces, and wonder, could they be the former First Church Pastor and his bride? …. Has he really grown a 6-month pony tail since retiring? No ... both times it’s not the pastoral pair, but another handsome couple, people I don’t recognize. Probably just as well.
Slambovians in the Sanctuary
Back to the Slambovians in the Sanctuary. They sing Pushing Up Daisies
, a mysterious tale of a place where no one ever dies. Quasi-psychedelic daisies multi-morph in back of the altar on dark, polished wood beneath the rising ranks of organ pipes (below, right).
The music riffles on. I watch, feeling the beat, as the daisies come and go (did you see them?), whirling and fading. And then they glow and grow into a face. It’s a familiar face—a face I’ve seen before. Could it be?— I see a face resembling the face on the Shroud of Turin. I’m surprised at first, but then listen to the words... "where no one ever dies."... Eternal Life? Daisies? And then it seems to make sense. After all, if the face of the Virgin Mary can appear on a potato chip or a piece of toast, then why not the visage of Christ above the altar at First Church? Why not, indeed! (Did you see it, too?)
(Above right) Full-Service Sanctuary: Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams sing "Pushin’ Up Daisies" at First Church of Christ, Congregational (UCC), Middletown, CT, at Middnight on Main, 2011, Middletown’s own New Year’s Eve celebration
Feathers and Dreds
Back at the sock hop, I see the Doorman, a tall, dignified fellow in a mask with feathers, and dredlocks—a little flamboyant, as befits the occasion (and the man!). The Parish Hall is packed, the Parish Hall is hopping, and he is calmly watching. Who is that masked man? And more importantly, did anyone get a picture of him? I wonder.
Roof-Top Light Show
Outside, earlier, I watch as blasts of roof-top fireworks play up the carnival atmosphere. Oohs and aahs. Lights show through misty branches of trees at the south side of Holy Trinity (as at left), which is exactly where I’m standing for the show. Smoky washes and blitzes of light. Mingling wisps of fog and smoke. Waves of laughter, then giggles, and waves. Little kids loving it, parents glad for a safe night on the streets of Middletown, a safe place to come home to. Safe to celebrate in, safe for now. And safe, we pray, for a long, long time.
At left: Middnight 2012's Roof-top Fireworks: So much better than last year’s rooftop drama!
Cascades of Confetti
Those who stayed around long enough were treated to a showers of confetti on the stroke of midnight!
The After Glow
The next day, New Year’s Day, parts of Middletown were still shimmering—still humming, and smiling. Maybe we all were, for a few days….
And no doubt Mr. Mark Maselli (at right), the happy organizer as someone I know called him—(you know him as the Community Health Center (CHC) President and CEO, the Chairman of the Board, as it were). No doubt Mr. Maselli is still smiling. Well, he has reason to smile: It was a fine show!
p.s. The best of management is "invisible" management, in my view. And from my viewpoint, the management of this event was virtually invisible--so smooth and so well done that I did not notice it! Which is why this little reminiscence doesn't even mention it. Invisible management and "overseers," the sign of truly superior planning and performance.
Photos from roof, balcony, street, venues, and of Mr. Maselli, courtesy of Mr. T. Davis. The photo of The Grand Slambovians is from their publicity materials.