Monday, January 18, 2010

First Night Northampton

Just a quick note to say that one benefit of being unemployed is that I didn't have to work on New Year's Eve. I got to spend it with my family, instead, going around to First Night events. I like to brag that I went with friends from high school to the first First Night, in Boston, in 1976, and it was indeed a gas, although it was so cold we left around 10:30 to go home and party.

(I also went to the first 4th of July on the Esplanade, with the Boston Pops playing the 1812 Overture, complete with cannon booming and fireworks over the Charles River. It was my mother's idea. We got there with a blanket and some food around 4:30 that afternoon and sat in the Oval between the stage and the river, so we would have a good view of the fireworks. These days people line up hours in advance, and it would be days in advance if the city let them. By the time I went back two years later, the Bicentennial and it was wall-to-wall people.)

At any rate, First Night Northampton 2010 was mild, gray, and full of kids and activities and music and art. Wicked good fun. We heard Lily's flute teacher, Sarah Swersey, and her musical partner, Joe Belmont, play wonderful guitar and flute. We saw the Paintbox Theater, kids theater, perform their version of Mother Goose, complete with slides of several drawings (Jack and Jill, a strong mouse, and others) by Lily herself up on a huge screen.

The best of all, though, was the Yoyo team from A2Z, which bills itself as a science and learning store. It's a great, great store, and the best part is they teach kids how to yoyo really, really well.
The show included a pretend competition with very funny mom judges--"I loved number two's green sneakers!" "He has a wonderful haircut!" A teenager actually threw a stringless yoyo from a string it was riding on all the way from the back of the 490-seat theater down to the stage, where it was caught by another teenager on his string. This was a big deal and got a rousing round of applause, even without the prompt of the scantily clad woman who out every now and then with a big applause sign.

My favorite, though was when current national champion, Eric Koloski, acted out a movie ad, creeping around the stage dressed in all black with a ski hat over his head. The voiceover, complete with action movie music, announced that it was 2029, Massachusetts had been taken over by robotic aliens, and the only one who could save them was Eric, with his yoyos. The movie's title: "Robo Yoyo in Noho." And the sequel, "Robo Yoyo in Noho part II: Doublefisted" (he's famous for working two yoyos at once). Hilarious.

I saw lots of things in Brooklyn, but I never saw a yoyo team with a national champ being silly and funny, and an applause lady getting lots of laughs, and while there was tons of community there, it was usually centered around a school or a workplace or a church, not the entire town. I didn't really have the sense of the whole community coming together that way to celebrate their town, which is what it felt like.

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