Friday, August 15, 2008

That There Is My Pa

My Dad and I spent a week at the Chautauqua Institute last month. That's Dad in the picture above, enjoying the amazing breakfast we grabbed most mornings on the porch of the Tally Ho. Now the Tally Ho not only throws down some outrageously delicious Swedish pancakes, it's also host to one of the Institutes best (and, so far as I could tell, only) nightly dinner buffet's.

The way to go with the Tally Ho buffet is to do it take out style. You can fill your styrofoam containers to your stomachs content for, as the above sign informs us, just "$6.95 per pound." But what's a pound if the food isn't any good. And that's what really made the Tally Ho so endearing, the food was amazing. It should be known that there is a positive dearth of eating options at the Institute. I wondered while I was there if the Institute shouldn't broaden its pedagogic mission to include a culinary school, a summer residence for budding chefs to come and study with with some of the arts best teachers. And of course they'd test their new culinary tools on the no doubt adventurous tummy's of the Institutes seasonal guests. But the Tally Ho's dinner buffet was a really nice surprise. Always a beautifully cooked fish with a light, tasty seasoning, a few bowls of cool pasta salads and vegetables, the cool black and crunchy green beans being what I seemed to be craving and enjoying the most. There have been dozens of times over the years when, fork full of delightfully crispy green beans hoisted before me, I've exclaimed, "Man, I was really craving these tonight!" I've seen Cathy do it, too.

I got about 20 minutes of footage and 100 or so photographs from my vacation with my Dad to Chautauqua Institute that I plan on making into a video. After not having been to the Institue for over 20 years and having spent a few very idyllic summer there in my "I am immortal but the concept of infinity freaks me out" pre-teen years (now commonly known as tween), I was genuinely excited to go there and see how it, as a place, had changed and how it had stayed the same.

I also got to have some great talks with my Dad in his environment. Though I never felt it right to try and capture these on video. I'm still hesitant to carry on a conversation while wielding a video camera, too conscious of the obvious mechanical, impersonal aspects of it. That'll change, I hope, with a bit more practice. In any case, there's something about Chautauqua that creates a fierce loyalty amongst a healthy number of folks who go there. My Dad is smitten by it though I regret never having a chance to really find out just what about Chautauqua interests and excites my Dad the most.

No doubt, one of the things I'll remember most fondly about my week there is watching as my Dad helped launch the standing ovation given to the young and charmingly histrionic Russian piano prodigy, Alexander Gavrylyuk after his piano recital. My Dad would ecstatically lurch up out of his seat and shout, "Bravo! Bravo!" I think maybe only my sister Robin can relate or fully appreciate how this very action, of my Dad jumping up in the Institutes Amphitheater and expressing his appreciation of whatever performance had just wowed him with, what we thought 20 years ago of as something of an embarrassment, a bit of overly enthusiastic Vaudeville, was magically transformed by this new context. I'm simply 20 years older. Not necessarily more mature, but more willing to give myself over to the moment if it deserves it. More willing to forgive my Dad's quirks. I joined him and gave Gavrylyuk an ovation, too.

I did not, however, shout Bravo.

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