Wow--what a weekend! Robin beat me to the punch and wrote a great description of at least our time together on her blog. I don't think I'd do as well, so read her perspective here.
You know what I just realized? I don't have any photos of me and Ray Still. How dumb was that? Well, I do have five DVDs worth of lesson at least!
Let's start at the very beginning. ("A very good place to start.") (Hmm--I think that's the second time in 48 hours I quoted something from The Sound of Music...right, Robin?)
I flew to Washington D.C. on Friday morning, arriving at about 10am. Did you know that as you fly into D.C. you can see many of the major sites? I had no idea everything was so close to the airport. It gave me a little rush! I made my way to the hotel--the Renaissance downtown (screaming deal on Priceline)--and was able to check in early. I organized myself and proceeded to practice for 2.5 hours straight. I didn't know I had it in me. I was a little paranoid about reeds--I wasn't quite able to do the subtle things required of Ray Still's flexibility exercises. When Robin arrived from New Jersey (taking longer than she'd anticipated--crazy Good Friday traffic), we grabbed a burger at one of the hotel restaurants and walked over to Ford's Theatre. (Note how it's spelled correctly--proving that even Americans once knew how to spell. ;)) The theatre proper was closed for a rehearsal :( but we were able to visit the museum below and learned about Lincoln and the whole assassination plot. (Read Robin's blog for more detail.)
That night we went to a great concert at the Kennedy Center (not spelled correctly--they lost their gumption). Huge building--three events could happen simultaneously. Beautiful hall. We had good seats up in the second tier. I like the view from up there, and generally the music carried well. It did seem a bit removed, probably because of the acoustic drop they have over the stage. The concert was great. Rebecca Henderson played principal for the Liszt concerto and the Prokofiev. She was wonderful--really sang out. (Read Robin's blog for more detail!)
We got the cabbie to drop us off at the Hard Rock Cafe afterwards, where we stayed until the wee hours of the morning, enjoying life and a few too many "hurricanes". They may cost $15, but you get to keep the glass. Guess how many we got to keep! OK, I'm kidding. We weren't that exciting. I think we both had water and a side salad. Living it up. The walk back to the hotel was a little chilly. I did check the weather report before leaving Iowa, but somehow "high 30s" didn't register as THAT cold to me (no, I wasn't thinking in Canadian temperatures), so I only brought a very thin raincoat (no hood, as I brought my umbrella). Neither helped in the snow the next day.
Speaking of the next day, the next day was my big lesson. I won't go into details, but before leaving, I'd heard various things about Ray Still as a teacher and person. Let me say for the record, all the good things were true. I thought he was a warm, funny, bright, and generous person. We had about 2.5 hours together, and Robin was kind enough to videotape our session. His advice was invaluable and he was so nice to both of us. I was so honoured to play for him, and even more honoured to have such kind praise from him about my playing. You can't believe how good it felt to hear someone of that caliber and reputation compliment you. (You know it: read more at Robin's blog!) It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I will never forget it. He gave me a lot to think about, and I'm looking forward to applying so much of what he said to my playing.
As if driving the 4 hours (really 5-5.5 hours with traffic) from New Jersey wasn't enough, Robin drove me to Annapolis on Saturday morning...and back to D.C. Saturday afternoon...before driving the 4+ hours back to Jersey. What a friend! Our time was so short together, but we had such great time catching up. Thanks for everything, Robin!
On Saturday afternoon, after a little rest period, I realized I had 24 hours left in this city, and I hadn't done much sight-seeing. I walked to the National Archives, which I had read closed at 9pm...nope--it was 7pm and I arrived behind a giant tour group, getting in to the rotunda (where the most-viewed documents are: Constitution, Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, The Magna Carta) at 6:50pm. It was all very rushed and forcibly touristy. (OK, I'm standing in front of another document; must not just look at it and enjoy it--must take picture and move on.) I was still glad to see them.
Afterwards I decided to walk to the US Capitol, only I didn't know the best way, and goodness knows it would be too smart of me to just follow the tourists. I followed my map, which got me there...on deserted side-streets. A little nerve-racking. The Capitol was pretty amazing (no tour for me--just views from outside), as was the view of the Washington Monument on the other side of the National Mall (otherwise known, to me, as "wind alley"). By the time I got part-way down wind alley, covering my ears with my hands (smartly, for once, I'd layered two shirts and two sweaters underneath my thin coat--and at least I had hand/wrist warmers--thanks, Katrina--they saved me), I was a frozen little ice cube needing some thawing at the nearest Starbucks. (Thank you, Margaret, I am now a big fan of the half-sweet hot chocolate--half the pumps--all the goodness.)
Still with me? Good for you.
I then walked to Chinatown (on the way back to my hotel) and found a restaurant (Italian--just kidding). There was a little incident at dinner--a homeless man walked in and starting asking everybody for money. He went table-to-table and the manager kept trying to get him to leave. He would touch his arm, and the man would freak out, "get off me, man" or "stay out of my business". I was expecting something even worse to happen. I was about 3/4 of the way down the restaurant, and he still made it to my table. I used the old "Je ne comprends pas" trick, and he moved along. After a few more squabbles, he left the restaurant.
I walked back to the hotel, noticing nobody else on the streets around me. There are always plenty of people at the destinations--how do they get there? Does nobody else walk alone at night downtown in a strange city?
The next day was my big sight-seeing day. I took the "Tourmobile"--for $20 you get on at any of their stops, have a tour of the city, and get on and off as much as you want all day. I highly recommend it. Great things: Cherry Blossom Festival--lots of trees in bloom. Museum of Natural History--so fun. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial--my favourite of the memorials. Not so great things: The line-ups for trams at the Arlington National Cemetary that made me doubt my timeline to getting back to the hotel on time. The decision I made to take a cab from Arlington to the hotel, deciding to miss the end of my tour (didn't see the White House). The lady that tapped on the window of the cab as soon as I got in, asking the cabbie for directions to [wherever] (I got out and got in different cab). Calling the airline on the way to the airport to find out that my flight was delayed 1 hr. & 50 min. (I called earlier on my tour, and it was on time.) Yes, I could've seen the White House afterall and saved the taxi fare from the cemetary. Last not-so-great thing: waiting at the airport for 4 hours total, as the flight was further delayed.
So it was a fabulous trip all in all, with a bit of a lousy end. I took lots of great pictures, so I'll do a Kodak gallery and post the link tomorrow. Here's a teaser:
If you made it through all this, thanks for reading!