3-4:30 PM I finish listening to The Fellowship of the Ring on CD while showering, creating an outfit, and doing my hair for the evening to make the cheap meal and free concert in the park seem much more of a date than just something to do.
4:30 Sam comes home. I continue playing with my hair and put on some make up while we talk about funny things people have said to him at work
5:30 Sam and I gather an array of ponchos, tent flies, umbrellas, and blankets to keep us dry in case the forecasted intermittent thunderstorms decide to pop up during the concert.
5:45 Sam and I discuss our siblings' love lives and our own courtship experience on the long drive into Southwest Houston. The fastest way to get there is via a toll-road, so we opt for the slower, but more scenic (and free) Westheimer parkway.
6:30 We arrive at Vic's Backyard BBQ for dinner because Sam has gotten a 50% off coupon for his birthday from his work. The decor is mostly neon beer-brand lights, antlers (both on and off the bucks they came from), and photos of famous celebrities of the 40's-60's. We pick up a tray on our way in, order our main course-- a bacon cheese burger for me and chicken fried steak for Sam-- and point out which "side dishes" we want from the aluminum cafeteria-style vats of mixed vegetables and macaroni and cheese. The man behind us fills his tray with eight Coronas.
7:00 We drive further in to the city, through the very pretty university and museum district. We go around the round-about twice, passing our exit the first time, and almost getting hit by on-coming traffic.
7:35 We get to the park. We easily find free, close parking. We are given programs and red bandannas with Target brand (the free concert sponsor) targets all over it. We are early enough to get a great seat right at the front of the lawn and begin alternately reading our programs and people watching.
8 PM Four senior citizens just 10 feet to our right argue over whether they should move off the grass and under the pavilion or stay on the lawn. Eventually the ladies win and one of the men gets up to carry their chairs and cooler to the pavilion. The other man stubbornly declares it would not rain, reclines his chair as far back as it will go and refuses to budge.
8:10 Sam points out that the guest conductor for the evening (James Gaffigan) is the assistant conductor for the Cleveland Orchestra and has participated in the Blossom music festival.
8:15 The old man's friend comes back to retrieve an extra blanket. The old man still doesn't move.
8:20 Sam and I decide we will attend the 4th of July free concert which includes "A Star-Spangled Salute," a Texas Sing-A-Long Medly, the 1812 Overture (we both hope for real cannons), and a fireworks display
8:25 The old man's wife comes up to the lawn and says while flapping her arms about, "There's a nice breeze down there." Man: "What?!" Wife: "A BREEZE! (arms flap more wildly) AIR!" Man: "There's a breeze right here! We're outside!" The wife goes back to her seat.
8:30 The concert begins with the William Tell Overture. Immediately a huge grin comes across my face as I remember playing with my dad and brothers and sister while listening to this. I tell Sam about it: "Here we would prance around and Daddy would spin us." The music gets to the foreboding part. "I would always get so excited because I knew the storm was coming and my little stomach would be all a-twitter." The "storm" rages in the symphony; I'm almost laughing and can't keep from bouncing my feet. "Dad would toss us onto the couch and we would jump off in time with the music. We'd squeal as he'd catch us and throw us about." The storm calms. "More twirling" The trumpet sounds the call for the "race" in the now infamous Lone Ranger theme part. "We'd all line up and sometimes ride our wooden horses or yard sticks and race around the house, Daddy coming up behind and poking our sides to scare us silly. We bounced the house so much and scratched the record so badly it wouldn't play any more."
Sam points out to me a bassist who flings his head back at every emphasis in the music. It's hilarious to watch. I point out the little shoulder shrug the conductor does as he conducts the "ba-da-bum. ba-da-bum. ba-da-bum-bum-bum"-- obviously a member of the hip-hop generation. By the time the song gets to the part where it has ending after ending I'm so giddy I can hardly stand it and I cheer and whistle when the piece is finished.
8:45 The piano is moved in and the symphony plays Mozart's Piano concerto No. 22. During the third movement I think of how many times I've used this piece to calm me down, ease my worries, accompany my homework, or remind me that life is good and beautiful.
The old man is asleep.
9:30 Intermission. Sam and I switch chairs so he can have the comfy one. A woman sitting in front of us returns from the concession stand with nachos and Sam and I say "Mmmmm" simultaneously. I make Sam try on the Target bandanna to see how he looks in a do rag. He looks like Prison Mike. The old man's friend comes over to him with a box full of ice cream bars. The old man looks at each one, reads its package, and changes his mind three times before choosing one. As his friend walks away he shouts, "Tell [my wife] it hasn't rained yet!"
9:45 The orchestra begins Beethoven's 7th Symphony. During the second movement I remember hearing the piece for the first time on a CD my best friend's Dad made for us our freshman year of college as a balm for our tried spirits. That too has been used to calm and comfort me many times since then.
Later (around the third movement) : The old man is sprawled and lounging, sucking on the fudge-sicle in one had and grabbing mint Milanos out of a bag on a cooler next to him with the other. I point him out to Sam who says that's what he hopes to be doing at that age.
The last movement: Sam and I reconfirm our position that the conductor seems to have a bit of hip-hop in his style. His stance is wide as he bounces in time. He nods his head and shrugs his shoulders, all the time looking relaxed and fluid. I watch, fascinated. Sam watches the flailing bassist to keep him awake.
10:40 We clap and cheer as the concert ends and we pack up. I am thoroughly pleased with the beautiful evening (we felt only a few drops the entire night) and the beautiful music. Sam and I are reminded why we come to the symphony so often -- every couple months or so. The old man struggles to roll out of a full-reclining position and stand up again, rubbing his back and knees. We all head to our cars.