Highlights of our week-long trip to International Falls:
1) Grasshopper and I were rehearsing with the Rainy River Orchestra along with my mom and dad. We rehearsed for an hour every day and spent at least another half hour every day practicing. We got the music on Sunday, and the concert was on Friday night, so we had to learn fast.
Each stand of the junior orchestra consisted of a more experienced player, and a less experienced player. My dad helped Grasshopper, and I helped a woman named Celeste, who is 29 and has Downs Syndrome. She is very bright and a hard worker. He technique is very good. Her only real problem is that she has a difficult time tracking the music because she is blind in one eye. I suggested to her mother that maybe she would benefit from enlarged music. I mostly just helped her find her place whenever she got lost. I also helped her follow the speed signature changes as she had a hard time tracking the music and the conductor at the same time.
The concert went very well. The senior orchestra did a fantastic job, especially the two cello soloists. Their performance was amazing, and followed by a stunned silence from the audience and then a thundering standing ovation. The evening was completed by a group of teenagers doing a fiddle ensemble. It was awesome.
Typical of small town community center performances, however, was the fact that part of the concert was marred by a chorus of barking from the neighborhood dogs, and a couple of hot-dogging pick-up trucks tearing up and down the street with after-market exhaust systems roaring their Godly White Male Virility. You couldn’t help but imagine the sloped foreheads and dragging knuckles of advanced testosterone poisoning. As all the doors and windows had to be opened to let in the night air (the building would have been stuffy without it, as there is no AC), the disruptions were significant, but the orchestra just played on, and all disturbances were temporary.
The local paper covered the concert. Grasshopper ended up with his picture on the front page.
2) I went canoeing with a fellow cello player, a girl named Sammy. We were going to canoe to town and back, but the wind came up. At one point, we spent twenty minutes paddling at full speed just to keep from being swept out into the lake. We made it most of the way there, but decided that it was taking too long, and we were almost out of time, so we turned around and went back to the resort where Sammy was staying. She got in trouble from her grandmother for being gone for too long. Here I am, nearly forty, and still a corrupter of youth.
3) We were camping at another campground not far from Rainer. We were right on Rainy Lake. A couple of guys lost the lid of a minnow bucket from their boat. Adventure Boy kindly swam under the dock after it and retrieved it for them. The next day, one of the guys lost his glasses over the edge of his boat. Grasshopper dove under the boat several times, and eventually retrieved them from the bottom of the lake. The man who lost the glasses offered him a dollar for retrieving them. His buddy ridiculed him for being stingy and only offering a dollar. Grasshopper said he didn’t want any money. The man eventually persuaded him to accept two dollars, one of which went for ice cream, and one of which will be saved for a rainy day.
4) Rocky went out and bought Grasshopper his very first grown-up rod and reel. He’s had a number of kiddy sets in the past, but this is a wonderful Cherrywood rod. Rocky presented it to him the night before their first big excursion into Black Bay. The awe in Grasshopper’s voice when he breathed the words “thanks Dad” left a glow in our hearts for a couple of days.
5) Rocky and the boys spent a lot of time fishing. One of the places they went was out on Black Bay in the canoe. Black Bay is in Voyagers National Park, and it is really cool. They also put into an island there, and explored it. Then they had a shore lunch and came home.
6) There were bald eagles and Blue Heron everywhere. There was a small island of rock a short distance from the end of the dock, where a couple of eagles came almost every day and spent some time fishing. They were impressive to watch with or without binoculars.
7) We had a pot-luck picnic. I brought some picante sauce I had made from our garden, as well as some Teriyaki pork spare ribs. There was much rejoicing.
8) We checked out a little Chinese restaurant in International Falls one day. It was bland and flavorless…flawlessly conformed to the palates of Northern Minnesotans. The nice Chinese family that runs it were recent immigrants from China Town in New York city. I used my few words in Chinese. The girl politely informed me that I should talk more through my nose when I spoke Chinese, because if I didn’t I would continue to sound like a man. Easy for her to say, she’s smart enough to learn passable English in three months. I have enough trouble with the words and tones and grammar…much less undoing a lifetime habit of cultivating an impressive contralto speaking voice.
9) On our way home, we had to stop at the Big Fork River. Where it crosses Hwy 71, there is a small rapids. We pulled over into the city camp ground and let the kids climb around on the rocks and swim in the rapids for a little while. If Rocky gets the footage up on our website at some point, I’ll be sure to put up a link to their exploits.
10) Adventure Boy was his usual helpful problem-solving self. He helped with setting up camp, maintaining equipment, watching his brother, managing the dog, carrying heavy things for various people in the orchestra and generally making himself useful and helpful. Things would go a lot less smoothly without an Adventure Boy around.