College Craziness, Boston-Style

Last weekend we took a quick road trip to Boston for yet another college visit. Jon Morgan made the first cut at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and was invited up for an interview and portfolio review. He’s applying as a Composition major, not a Performance major, so he did not have to audition on piano or violin.

I said it was a quick trip: three nights, three different hotels. One on the way up, one in Boston, and one on the way back. I think we spent as much time in the car as we spent in Boston! But that was all the time we had for the trip; we didn’t want Jon Morgan to miss more than one day of school.

We had planned to leave home early afternoon Friday (which was a teacher workday at school) but we were delayed by several hours by more College Craziness involving a different college. Read about it here.

But we finally did get on the road to Boston, about two hours later than expected. Our stopping point for the night was Old Forge, in Northeastern Pennsylvania. My parents were born in this small town outside of Scranton. It’s also known as The Pizza Capital of the World. ‘Nuff said. It should have taken about 4.5 hours to drive there, but traffic was lousy and it ended up taking nearly 6. But we finally got our pizza, and a hotel room for the night.

The next day of driving was uneventful, and we arrived at our hotel Saturday afternoon. We stayed in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, just a block or so from Boston Conservatory, which is part of Berklee College of Music. My sister Maria, who lives in New Hampshire, was supposed to meet us there, but she had car trouble and had to cancel. Across the street from the hotel is the Prudential Center, with an upscale mall inside that features kind of an Italian marketplace called Eataly. We had dinner there (do you sense a theme to this trip?) and the next morning, walked over to the school for Jon Morgan’s interview.

He was nervous going in. But it was over much sooner than we expected, and as he came out, he was joking with the panel of professors who had interviewed him, and they were laughing. He was relaxed and smiling, and felt that he’d done well. It didn’t hurt that several of the professors on the panel had taught at the summer Composition program he’d attended there before his junior year, and remembered him. So the interview turned out to be a great experience. And his dad and I were able to get some questions answered by an admissions officer, as well. So the trip was worth the drive, even though we had to get in the car Sunday evening immediately after the interview and information session and start the long drive home.

The drive home started out fine. Traffic was light and the weather was good. Then, somewhere in New York, we hit a blinding snowstorm. It had been unseasonably warm and clear in Boston, but suddenly this storm barreled through. Visibility was next to nothing, and cars had spun out and were stuck on the side of the interstate. If I had been driving, I probably would have stopped early for the night. But when I proposed that plan, I was shouted down by Bob and Jon Morgan, who were determined to have Old Forge pizza for dinner. Bob has a lot of experience driving in winter weather in Michigan and Wisconsin, and he didn’t seem worried. At least there were few cars on the road. Everyone was home watching the Super Bowl.

We finally made it safely to Old Forge. Our usual pizza place, Revello’s, and our backup pizza place, Arcaro & Genell’s, were both closed. So we went around the corner to Salerno’s, where the bar was packed with beer-guzzling, pizza-eating football fans and the back room was empty. So we had our own private dining room for eating pizza, and even ordered a couple extra to take home. We don’t get to Old Forge nearly often enough.

And now, we wait for April 1, when Berklee releases acceptance notices.

If you’d like to know more about the college search saga, see my other posts on the topic:

February 8 Writer Birthdays

1819 – John Ruskin, English art critic of the Victorian Era, best remembered for his five-volume work, Modern Painters.

1828 – Jules Verne, French novelist, poet, playwright, and pioneer in the science-fiction genre, known for such classics as Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

1850 – Kate Chopin, American novelist and short story writer, most known for her novel The Awakening.

1911 – Elizabeth Bishop, American poet and writer who was a Pulitzer and National Book Award winner and the U.S. Poet Laureate.

1924 – Lisel Mueller, German-born National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet and translator.

1926 – Neal Cassady, Majorn figure of the Beat Generation, the model for the Dean Moriarty character in Kerouac’s On The Road.

1940 – Zahid Hussain, better known by the pen name Wasim Barelvi, leading Indian poet in the Urdu language.

1951 – Ashok Chakradhar, Indian writer, poet, literary critic, and university professor who works towards the propagation of the Hindustani language.

1955 – John Grisham, American author and attorney, lauded for his bestselling legal thrillers.

1955 – Nancy Oliver, American screenwriter, best known for Lars and the Real Girl.

1962 – Malorie Blackman, British screenwriter, children’s book author, novelist, and science-fiction writer.

1969 – Mary Robinette Kowal, award-winning American science-fiction and fantasy novelist and short-story writer who is also a professional voice actor and puppeteer.

Month of Letters, Day 7

On this seventh day of the Month of Letters (LetterMo) challenge, I sent four Postcrossing cards, all of them overseas.

  • To a nature lover in Finland: a beautiful shot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in all their fall colors.
  • To Brazil, a black and white photo of a sparkly chandelier at the historic Bolling-Wilson Hotel in Wytheville, a property once owned by the family of Edith Bolling Wilson (First Lady to President Woodrow Wilson).
  • To Germany, a colorful wallpaper design from the Arts & Crafts era.
  • To a college student in Moscow, a cat doing yoga. Of course.

College Craziness Gets Crazier

We had planned to leave home in the early afternoon last Friday for my son’s audition at Boston Conservatory, Berklee. But at the last minute, he received an email from a different university. The message said we had missed the merit-based financial need deadline for Johns Hopkins University (and its conservatory, Peabody Institute) but that we could still be considered for need-based aid if we got the paperwork in NOW.

Weeks earlier, we had finished the complicated and time-consuming FAFSA form and the even more complicated and time-consuming CSS form and had both submitted to JHU, among other schools. But we did not realize that JHU requires several complicated and time-consuming forms of its own. In all fairness, I’m pretty sure there were emails saying so, but the emails all go to the applicant’s email address, and we all know how diligently teenagers check their email.

It was hard to see the point, since the school’s forms asked for all the same stuff that we’d already submitted on the other forms. But if those were the hoops we were required to jump through, all we could ask was, “How high?” So we finished the paperwork and submitted everything, and left two hours later than planned for our trip to Boston Conservatory at Berklee School of Music.

But I am bummed about the merit aid deadline. I think JHU and its Peabody Conservatory may be the very best choice for him, if he can get into both. But we can’t afford it without financial aid, and a lot of it.

And now we go back to visiting colleges for auditions, interviews, and portfolio reviews; filling out whatever other forms are required for the various schools; and waiting for the decisions….

The spectacular library at Johns Hopkins, on the Peabody Conservatory campus.

If you’d like to know more about the college search saga, see my other posts on the topic:

Photo Friday: Siena Window

I’ve been thinking about Italy lately and wanting to go back. I guess it’s because of my rushed weekend in Boston a few days ago, with dinner at Eataly (an Italian marketplace in an upscale mall in Back Bay) and stops in Old Forge, Pennsylvania (Pizza Capital of the World) on the way up to New England and back. Also, I have been watching the Netflix show, Medici, filmed in Tuscany, with such evocative Tuscan scenery.

In any case, it made me want to pull open my photos from Italy and dream about going back. This one was taken in Siena. We arrived in town during one of the many contrade (neighborhood) parades leading up to the famous Palio horse race. This one was for the Drago (Dragon) contrade, with banners in vivid pink, green, and yellow. I snapped this shot of a woman watching the parade from her window. I love the texture of the walls, and the vivid laundry hanging beneath her.

February 7 Writer Birthdays

1478 – Thomas More, English Renaissance writer and humanist who coined the term “utopia.”

1812 – Charles Dickens, English writer and social critic; one of the major novelists of the Victorian age, his works are still widely read today.

1837 – James Murray, Scottish lexicographer, philologist, and primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.

1867 – Laura Ingalls Wilder, writer and journalist whose “Little House” book series for children was based on her childhood as a pioneer on the American frontier.

1885 – Sinclair Lewis, Nobel Prize-winning American novelist, playwright, and magazine writer lauded for his “vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters”; he was offered the Pulitzer Prize for his book Arrowsmith, but he turned it down.

1908 – Fred Gipson, American author best known for his 1956 novel Old Yeller.

1922 – Marion Cunningham, American food writer best known for her work on editions of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

1932 – Gay Talese, American author, memoirist, and literary journalist.

1943 – Eric Foner, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian.

1950 – Karen Joy Fowler, American author of science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction, best known for The Jane Austen Book Club.

1974 – Emma McLaughlin, American novelist who wrote The Nanny Diaries with Nicola Krau.

Month of Letters, Days 4, 5, and 6

I’ve been continuing to write and snail mail at least one letter a day in the Month of Letters challenge. Here is what I’ve sent in the last few days:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 4 — I wrote a long, newsy letter to a Month of Letters participant in Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 5 — Just one Postcrossing card today, one with a picture of a dragonfly-patterned Tiffany lamp. This card, strangely enough, also went to Alabama, but to Birmingham.
  • Thursday, Feb. 6 — Today I wrote a long letter to a penpal in San Antonio, a penpal I don’t manage to write to nearly as often as I should.
Hanging Head Dragonfly Shade on Mosaic and Turtleback Base, 1906, by Clara Driscoll, Tiffany

February 6 Writer Birthdays

1564 – Christopher Marlowe, English playwright, poet, translator, and (probably) government spy of the Elizabethan era; he is sometimes credited with authorship of plays attributed to Shakespeare, but most scholars refute this.

1753 – Évariste Desiré de Forges, vicomte de Parny, French poet who was extremely popular during his lifetime; Pushkin once called him, “My master.”

1778 – Ugo Foscolo (born Niccolò Foscolo), Italian writer, revolutionary, and poet.

1833 – José María de Pereda, Spanish journalist and novelist of the native realism school.

1860 – Johan (Eliza) de Meester, Dutch writer, publicist, and editor.

1864 – John Henry Mackay, Scottish-born writer and philosopher, known for his anarchist views.

1879 – Carl Wilhelm Ramsauer, internationally known German physicist, professor, writer, and editor; he pioneered the field of electron and proton collisions with gas molecules and is best known for discovery of the Ramsauer–Townsend effect.

1882 – Anne Spencer, African-American poet, teacher, civil rights activist, librarian, and gardener who was an important member of the Harlem Renaissance group of intellectuals.

1888 – Ljudmil Stojanow, Bulgarian poet, short-story writer, and novelist.

1898 – Melvin Beaunorus Tolson, American Modernist poet, educator, columnist, and politician whose work concentrated on the experience of African Americans and includes several long historical poems; he spent most of his career in Texas and Oklahoma, but was named Poet Laureate of Liberia.

1900 – Rudolf Värnlund, proletarian Swedish novelist, playwright, critic, and social commentator.

1903 – Peter G. Buckinx, Flemish poet, essayist, playwright, and magazine editor.

1905 – Irmgard Keun, German author noted for her portrayals of life in both the Weimar Republic and the early years of Nazi Germany.

1913 – Mary Leakey, British paleoanthropologist and writer who made several important discovers that advanced understanding of human evolution; she is best known for her discovery of the first fossilised Proconsul skull, an extinct ape believed to be ancestral to humans.

1919 – Louis Philip Heren, British journalist and author of political theory and autobiography; he is considered one of the great foreign correspondents of the 20th century.

1921 – Carl Neumann Degler, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian and author.

1924 – Paolo Volponi, Italian writer, poet, and politician.

1925 – Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesian novelist, journalist, and human rights activist.

1929 – Keith Spencer Waterhouse, British novelist, newspaper columnist, and television writer

1940 – Tom Brokaw, American television journalist and nonfiction author.

1947 – Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and economic researcher.

1955 – Michael Pollan, American author and professor whose work centers on food and culture; he is best known for his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Book Challenge, Day 7

I have accepted a challenge from Lisa Mills Walters to post seven books that I love, one book per day, no exceptions, no reviews, just covers. (This is a Facebook thing, and I’m posting them there, but it couldn’t hurt to get the word out on this site too.)

Each day I will ask a friend to take up the challenge. Let’s promote literacy and a book list! Today, I nominated Kate McDevitt.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling , 1999

February 5 Writer Birthdays

1813 – Jermain Wesley Loguen, American writer and abolitionist, known for The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman, a Narrative of Real Life.

1871 – Jovan Dučić, Bosnian Serb modernist poet, political writer, and diplomat.

1893 – William Earl Johns, English pilot and writer of adventure stories, usually under the name Captain W.E. Johns (though he was never actually a captain); he is best known as creator of pilot and adventurer Biggles.

1915 – Margaret Ellis Millar (née Sturm), American-Canadian mystery and suspense writer; married to Kenneth Millar (better known by his pen name Ross Macdonald); she often used Santa Barbara, California, as a setting in her novels, but fictionalized it as San Felice or Santa Felicia.

1928 – Andrew Greeley, prolific American novelist, journalist, columnist, sociologist, and Catholic priest; his novels were controversial because of his explicit treatment of sexuality, leading the National Catholic Register to accuse him of having “the dirtiest mind ever ordained.”

1936 – K.S. Nissar Ahmed, prominent Indian poet and writer in the Kannada language; he is also a geologist.

1941 – Stephen Joseph Cannell, American mystery novelist and television screenwriter and producer who created or co-created nearly 40 television series, many of them popular crime shows.

1951 – Elizabeth Swados, American novelist, nonfiction author, children’s book author, composer, and theatre director who often wrote humorous satire, but also explored racism, murder, and mental illness; she collaborated on two musicals with cartoonist Gary Trudeau, writing the music to his lyrics.

1953 – Giannina Braschi, Puerto Rican novelist and poet who is considered an influential and revolutionary voice in contemporary Latin American literature.

1957 – Azouz Begag (عزوز بقاق ‎), French writer, politician, and researcher in economics and sociology.