Saturday, March 21, 2020

Remembering Kenny Rogers, and our 'O Holy Night' fight

I am distraught to hear that Kenny Rogers has died.

Here we are wanting good news and not bad news in the middle of this Coronavirus craziness and we get that, you know?

Kenny Rogers was a gentleman. I got to know him slightly the same way I got to know a lot of musicians slightly, in my line of work for The Buffalo News. He stands out in my mind as one of the very nice ones. Working for The Buffalo News you get a good look at people's true colors. They do not have to be especially nice to you. You are not The New York Times. And a star like Kenny Rogers is going to pull in an audience no matter what.

But Kenny was nice. He would be in my top 10. He was easy to talk to on the phone and he was a hoot at the Meet and Greet after the show. I wrote about it all, just for fun. Funny thing, I was just reading back on it a few weeks ago and cracking up. I did not know, when I was reading back on it, that Kenny Rogers was in hospice. I did not know he was sick. I really did not think about anything other than how funny all that was, when our paths crossed.

Here is my blow-by-blow account of the argument I had with Kenny Rogers over "O Holy Night."

Hahaa.. I even wrote: "Let me say this right now, Kenny Rogers is a doll and were it not for my religious convictions and the fact that I am already married to Howard, I would cheerily be his sixth wife. That is how much I liked him!"

Great fun. I have been blessed, you know? Just getting to know some of these people in the off-the-wall way that I have.

And to have written down the details, all these little things I would have forgotten otherwise.

Dear Kenny Rogers.

I will treasure the memories!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus entertainment freebies

We need grand opera at a time like this! This is from the Met's "La Traviata," streaming free March 19.

The Coronavirus scare has spawned another phenomenon -- the Coronavirus freebie.

These are things of which you may partake at home.

Granted, there are already millions of things you can get free at home. YouTube is full of them -- old records, a universe of tutorials, old movies, documentaries, master classes, you name it. Master classes!! I will have to sit down at the piano and study one.

But above and beyond that...

There are free museum tours you take online. That link will take you to the British Museum, the Getty Museum, and a bunch more.

I tried touring the Van Rijk Museum and it taught me one thing: I need help going around corners!

Google Earth, I have to get with it!

The Met has a list of simulcasts which has begun with Bizet's "Carmen." Wow, just now I notice this is just the first week of streams. I wonder how long this will go on!

What if you watched all of them, one every night? Imagine how knowledgeable you would be! Perhaps I will try. "Carmen" actually aired last night but I read they will be available free for 20 hours following that original stream.

OK, quick update... My attempt to do that is a bust. There home page is just not working.

Crudele, as they say in "Don Giovanni"! It means Cruel One.

Well, you can always find tons of free operas on YouTube, many with English subtitles. I should post a link to my favorites. Meanwhile, on to other options.

Libby Maeder, who runs the famous foodie Web log The Sensibly Shod Commoner, posted on Facebook yet another option, 15 Broadway Plays and Musicals You Can Watch on Stage From Home.

However as I pointed out to her, I do not see the magic word -- "free." Sure enough, I looked into "Kiss Me Kate" which they said was available on Amazon Prime but even if you have Amazon Prime, you have to rent or buy it.

Still, this is promising. I am going on Coronavirus Freebie Alert. Eyes on the prize! I am looking for free online courses, free quality old movies that you cannot find on YouTube or Amazon Prime, free Pac-Man, free everything.

I also need a quality Latin Mass that is live-streaming now that I have been cut off. I am sure I can find that along with everything else.

I will report!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Sanitize, memorize

Coronavirus is among us and we are in lockdown. Well, there is nowhere we may go but to the park, which I did today, taking the picture up above, of my quick sketch of the Parkside Lodge.

Not only that but it is necessitating us to wash our hands for an interminable length of time. And my sister Katie came up with the idea that we should memorize poetry and use that time to practice it.

I love memorizing poetry. And it is easier than when I was a kid, far easier. A couple of years ago I memorized Yeats' "The Fiddler of Dooney" and it is still with me. I learned it because I was writing a story about the St. Patrick's Day Parade and there is a float in it that reads "And Dance Like the Waves of the Sea."

I also memorized Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem that goes, "We were very tired, we were very merry, we had gone back and forth all night on the ferry." I forget the name. Isn't that silly, I know the poem, every word of it, I can recite it beautifully at the drop of a dime, but I did not bother to memorize the name. But anyway I know it.

The memorizing of that poem dates to when I had to write a story about staying out in a bar till 4 a.m. That and the St. Patrick's Day parade story were both part of that series I wrote for The Buffalo News called "100 Things Every Western New Yorker Should Do At Least Once." It sounds dumb now but I took that series very seriously. I took the series seriously, get it? I would walk around thinking about the one I was working on. My editor gave me this long list of 100 Things and miraculously I was able to fit them all in, on a weekly basis, in something like 102 weeks. It was tricky because so many were seasonal and I had to bring a photographer. But we made it work!

These 100 Things would percolate in my mind and sometimes I would memorize a poem. That is funny, the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem, whenever I say it to myself, it brings back that time when I did indeed go out -- with my friend Ryan and my friend Lizzie -- and stay out till after 4 a.m. We were very tired, we were very merry! That is the truth.


With which, my sister suggested we memorize poems so we may utilize that time we are spending washing our hands. I have just memorized Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat."

I already knew half of it so it was not that hard. One thing that makes it easier is that every time I see someone with a ring in his or her nose -- which is often -- I think of the Piggy with the ring at the end of his nose.

Next I will move on to "The Courtship of the Onghi Bonghi Bo."

This lockdown may be long!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Through the Presbyterian looking glass

Today I stopped in my day and did a quick sketch of this massive, fortress-like edifice that used to be Central Presbyterian Church. It is in Buffalo's Parkside neighborhood.

It is funny, the things right in your own back yard that you pass a million times and never look at! This was one of them. Since I have been drawing I notice so much more. A few weeks ago I stopped for the first time in my life and noticed this place. I said out loud, "What in the world?"

It is so huge!

What I drew was just a back corner!

When I got home I looked this church up on one of our Buffalo architecture websites. I did not know what the name of it was because it is a school now. I found out the name and I learned that when it was built in 1911, it was the biggest Presbyterian church "east of the Mississippi," and that the architect was one Williams Lansing, who was very distinguished.

Lansing, it turns out, also designed Holy Family Church, where I was baptized. And a whole lot of other buildings, many of them churches, both Catholic and Protestant. He himself was Episcopalian. He was one of the founding members of Buffalo's Canoe Club. He is buried in Forest Lawn near the famous Fargo plot which I pass many times while walking. Listen to me! I am now the clearinghouse for all things Williams Lansing. I am a fan!

Looking up something like this is dangerous because you go down the rabbit hole and can waste hours if you are not careful. I was also fascinated by the history of this church;s erstwhile congregation. There is this one article by James Napora -- fascinating all the way through, but I will just mention for starters the nicknames.

Organized as the Pearl Street Presbyterian Church, they quickly erected a log meeting house on the west side of Pearl Street just north of Genesee Street. Built at a cost of $300, the building contained over 500 seats for a congregation of only thirty-five. It became known as the "ecclesiastical blacksmith shop" as it resembled a large blacksmith shop.

The congregation grew rapidly and within two years, with almost 200 members, they built a new church. Modeled after the Parthenon, it had an oval interior lit by a stained glass skylight. This feature earned it the nickname of "goose egg church."

From the Ecclesiastical Blacksmith Shop to the Goose Egg Church!

And we are not through yet.  A few paragraphs later you read that "between 1849 and 1851, the congregation now numbering 475, worshiped in the basement church referred to as 'Dr. Lord's Icehouse.' "

Dr. Lord was a person in town. He was not the Lord. Just to clear up any confusion.

What a history! How could anyone do it justice?

When I go back to this place I'd better bring my big drawing board.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The buzz about Candlemas

Today at church we finally got Candlemas right.

It is not easy, getting Candlemas right! Not only is it not easy, it is a journey. A long journey. Looking back on the time the incense burner snapped I find it hard to believe that six years have passed.

There were other unsuccessful Candlemases too. But they are none of your beeswax.

Beeswax, get it?

I could not help that!

Not for nothing did I write that column The Buzz for so many years in The Buffalo News.

This morning we all went up to the communion rail at the start of mass and were given candles. Beeswax candles with a wonderful aroma.

It was breathtaking to see more and more candles lighted. After a while you extinguished them, and then you lighted them again, and then you extinguished them, and then you lighted them. They were lit for the Consecration. How beautiful that was, a couple of hundred people kneeling there with lighted candles. I could not get over it.

Not only that but as they blessed the candles at the start of Mass the Latin prayers translated to this, which I am cutting and pasting:

O holy Lord, almighty and eternal God, who didst create all things out of nothing, and by Thy command didst cause this liquid to come by the labor of bees to the perfection of wax ...

 My friend Meghan and I were following along in her missal and it seems the translation there was even better. However I will have to go and find it. The reason I was reading her missal was that mine was over in the social hall somewhere. I left it there while setting up the coffee hour and when I went flying over to church trying to get there in time, I could not find it and had to leave it behind.

The hurry was worth it. What a great experience. The priest even mentioned in his sermon that today is 02-02-20. It is a palindrome which means it reads the same backwards as forwards. I had read about that yesterday but had he not brought it up, it would have slipped my mind. You must enjoy something like that on the actual day or it is not as much fun.


It rhymes with "Et cum spiritu 2-0."

A most magical day!



Thursday, January 16, 2020

Roux-ing the day

It is funny considering how long I have been cooking, but today I made my first roux.

At least I think it was. I do not think I ever made a roux before. It is noux to me!

I was getting ready to make dinner, and I had a recipe planned out of the new Eating Well magazine. But all of a sudden I found this recipe for Gumbo Zeb in this vegetarian cookbook I had, by the hippie cookbook writer Crescent Dragonwagon. And I had to make it.

These things are unplanned, you know? It looked so onerous, this roux, and this spice blend, and this vegetable saute, and the rice, and what else? It seems there was one more thing. Oh, right, the pot of greens. There is that too. It was amazingly onerous and yet all of a sudden you are into it.

And it came together. I think it is coming together anyway.

It is still simmering on the stove. On three different burners.

I will have to report!

I am not exactly vegetarian so at the end of the recipe I am going to add shrimp. And maybe some sausage.I am not sure yet.

I do like trying different things. Last night I did an Eating Well recipe with roasted broccoli over pasta. I took liberties. I added roasted cauliflower to the broccoli because I did not have quite enough broccoli. I added anchovies because Howard and I both love them.

But at the end, I loved it. It reminded me of how I used to eat. Before I was married I made a lot of these slapdash vegetarian dishes. You get a husband, all of a sudden you have to add bacon to everything. Before that you do not.

Now, as long as all goes as planned, I will know how to make gumbo with roux. As opposed to gumbo with okra, the way I always made it.

It all made me remember fondly Bill Wharton, the Sauce Boss. That is a poster of him up above! He used to come to the Lafayette Tap Room and my friends and I would go.

The Sauce Boss would make a huge pot of gumbo on stage and at the end of the night you would eat it. Meanwhile you would assist in the preparation of it. It was a tremendous gimmick and my hope is that it is going on till this day.

You would get up on stage with your friends looking on and you would stir the gumbo with great pomp and circumstance, as the band played. Then you would hop down and resume drinking your beer.

Such fun!

The gumbo would be served at about 2 a.m. if memory serves me. And it was good!

I wonder if mine will be as good tonight.

I can only hope!!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The oldest houses in Buffalo

Today my friend Meghan and I went out drawing in Allentown. We stopped in a coffee shop where we found a good view of the city's oldest houses.

Buffalo's oldest houses sit on Allen Street one after another. There are three in a row, maybe more but I have always considered these three the oldest. I drew two of them. There they are up above.

As I worked I had to come to terms with an uncomfortable truth.

Pretty as the houses are, and old as they are, what really interested me was the "Do Not Enter" sign and the fire hydrant.

I am still a young enough artist that the bends in the street still amaze me. Every time I sketch a scene like this one, I cannot get over the scale of the houses that stretch down the street. I have to be very careful as I go forward. Those houses around the corner, they take up only a few millimeters beneath the eave of the house on the corner.

That is incredible!

I keep holding up my pen, checking, marveling.

Only when I got it down did I let myself sketch in the "Do Not Enter" sign.

Cool things to look at are everywhere. When I was taking a break I stopped in the coffee shop's restroom. and I saw this:

You have to wonder how many beers went into that logo.


And earlier today I took this picture of Jeoffry in his holder.

So many images.

So little time!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Snowbound with Ferrante and Teicher

Today to Howard's and my astonishment we sold the second record in a week from our record shop on Etsy, The Old House Downtown.

We sold a lot over Christmas but after Christmas Day you would think it would die down, the world not being privy to the fact that Christmas actually extends until Candlemas which is Feb. 2.

Perhaps the world is privy to the fact!

One record we sold had a Christmas theme, sort of. It was Ferrante and Teicher's "Snowbound."

That video is all well and good however the art is distorted. The record cover in reality is beautiful.

I will tell you one thing, listening to that YouTube recording I am bitterly regretting selling that record.

"Snowbound ... we're snowbound ...." That is amazing. Alas, the record I sold looked so perfect that I did not want to listen to it and maybe scratch it or something.

Anyway, now I am hoping.

Perhaps people are celebrating Christmas into January!

Perhaps they still have their trees lighted, as I do, and they were listening.

We have the art store on Etsy and that is the one I have been paying the most attention to. But I would like to make the record store a success too. On account of it can dovetail with the book about Leonard Pennario. If I run the world's most successful record shop that adds to my cred.

I will tell you one thing, I have learned a lot from being a record dealer. That was how I thought of it when I worked for The Buffalo News. I would leave after a long day at work and then remember my alter ego, as a record dealer. It was fun to switch gears.

And you learn a ton dealing in records. I love Capitol Records because that was Leonard's label, and face it, it was the coolest label. Founded by Johnny Mercer, need we say more?

But I also love the other labels at the time and the records they made. When I list one I will look up information about the artists involved, and the artists who designed the covers -- because of all my years at The Buffalo News, I learned to turn over rocks. You learn so much. When a big album of Leonard's came out, it is fascinating to see the world it entered. Who else was recording what. What else was going on.

Records are the greatest. I wish I had kept "Snowbound"!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Little Christmas

Today was Epiphany, affectionately known as Little Christmas, and I went this evening and heard Mass.

I not only heard it, I sang it!

Not that it was easy. There was this 10th century Credo we sing that, the whole time I am singing it, all I can think of is skiing down a tricky hill, not that I have ever skied down a tricky hill but if I did this is what it would be like.

There is always something that makes you pray, "O God, let me not blow it."

And there is likely a time when you do blow it. That is a whole other story.

This Mass I have to admit was an uphill climb starting when on the way up to the choir loft, I ran into our youngest singer who is 12. And she told me, "Your veil is upside down."

Only I could wear a veil upside down!

But it is all worth it in the end. We ended Epiphany Mass with -- what else? -- "We Three Kings."

Someone else really should write an Epiphany carol because this one really has the stage to itself. However it was beautiful as we sang it. I sang alto, a part I learned on the fly at Sunday Mass yesterday. It was me and the 12-year-old and six kids in their 20s.

One gift I have is the most important vocal gift of all, and that is the gift of watching the director. I did that and was able to make up for that I had missed whatever rehearsal it was where they had covered this hymn. It was honestly giving me shivers. It was that beautiful. The guys came in one by one and sang solo the verses the Kings sing ... "Myrrh bring I, its bitter perfume..." And we all hummed our parts.

It made me think of Christmas Eve. At Midnight Mass we sang "Silent Night" as the procession was beginning the Mass. I happened to turn and look over my shoulder from the choir loft and the scene was so transfixing, I could not look away. The altar boys, the cross, the incense.

Today we also reprised "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," in Latin of course. The alto part is magical in that. 

This Christmas has been unique in my life. One reason I will remember it is for the singing. How enchanting it was. The last-minute rehearsal on Dec. 23. The "O Magnum Mysterium" at 1 a.m at Midnight Mass. This beautiful Three Kings mass. The medieval chants that are like skiing down a tricky hill.

We were given holy water and blessed chalk and for the first time in my life, when I got home I did as I was directed and I sprinkled the rooms in the house with holy water, said prayers, and took the chalk and wrote over the door, "2020 + C + M + B + 2020." The letters stand for Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. That is their portrait up above on the cover of Success Magazine -- where they belong, being kings. If the Three Kings do not deserve to be on the cover of Success, who does?

We are blessed!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

West Side story: Sketching Holy Angels

I hate New Year's
What's wrong with the old one?
Who could ever hold one?

Our great friend the cabaret artist Guy Boleri penned those immortal lines in his musical version of "A Christmas Carol." Scrooge sings them.

Much as I love Guy's musical, I am no Scrooge. I love Christmas and I love New Year's.

Resolutions? I am full of them!

One is to write in this Web log every day in 2020.

Another is to sketch every day.

OK, with both resolutions I think I will make it six at least out of every seven days. Because there will be one day once in a while when you just cannot get to it and then you do not want to bog down.

But so far on the sketch front I am doing pretty much perfectly!

I have gone out every day in 2020, minus one because it was impossible. And I sketched the last three days of the old year as well.

One thing I drew was Holy Angels Church, pictured above, on Buffalo's West Side.

Now I will sound like my old Web logger self and point out that this was Leonard Pennario's church when he was a boy. And when he came back to Buffalo in the last year of my life and I met him, he asked to go back to the church and have a look. We did that.

Pennario had his moment and gazed at Holy Angels. He said, "She looks beautiful."

That is an old-fashioned thing that I love. Ships and churches are feminine and so are a lot of other things.

My great-uncle Andrew, the Rev. Andrew Kunz, was treasurer of the order of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Pennario always referred to them by that full formal name) and was at Holy Angels for something like 50 years starting in 1905 or thereabouts.

All these things were in my head as I sketched. So was F. Scott Fitzgerald who also went to Holy Angels School, for a little while anyway. I kept thinking of him, of Leonard, of my Uncle Andrew.

I also brooded about Holy Angels closing. It is scheduled to close next year, I mean this year. What a crying shame. I am glad it was still open when Pennario went looking for it. So I thought about that too.

Then gradually as happens, all the thoughts fell away and all I thought of was shadows and angles. That is a wonderful thing about drawing. Your mind gradually clears of everything except what you are working on.

Here is a photo I took when I was through in case I needed to refer to it. I try to remember to do that when I am folding up and getting ready to go home. The sun finally came out!

After drawing all week I can say that the sun has been out during that time for all of 10 minutes, total. This is bogus, you know? I can see why John Singer Sargent liked to work in Italy. I tried to get the sun in there when it came out. You always have to work fast because it will not be there long!

That happened again to me today, the sun coming out late and just for a bit, when I was drawing a shopping strip with a hair place and a halal market. Buffalonians can try guessing where I was. I think I will post that one tomorrow.

This is my year!

I will be unstoppable!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

A Christmas wreath

In 2020 I want to write in this Web log every day. And so I am going to get warmed up now.

I cannot tell you how much it means to me now that I wrote every day for so long. My mother passed away and it is as if she lives on, because all these little conversations we had, all the fun we had, is right here. Plus all these things I would have forgotten, I remember them! Because I wrote them down.

Why everyone does not keep a Web log I will never know. But anyway. In the spirit of this new resolution...

My friend Meghan, pictured up above, and I made wreaths!

This was on the Second Day of Christmas, also known as the Feast of Stephen.

We went for a walk through Delaware Park and collected things we would need. We amassed pine boughs, several different kinds. And beautiful wintry berries, probably poisonous because they were sitting there having not been eaten even by birds. There were black and red berries.

As Meghan said later, the red berries were like gold, because there were so few of them. But the black berries were striking! And when we got back to my house we realized that I have growing by my front door -- drum roll please -- actual holly! With the red berries and the shiny leaves.

So we cut all this stuff up and we went to work at my dining room table.'

Later I swept everything up and I thought I had done pretty well. However Howard went to sit down for dinner and he goes, "What the heck?"

His chair was covered in pine needles!

Not so surprising considering not long before the table had looked like this ...

... but still.

Long story short I have a wreath on my door, better late than never. Howard admired it. And I am happy with it.

And today, the Fourth Day of Christmas, I actually sent out a couple of cards.

What will things be like by Twelfth Night?

You never know!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Love Boat

Thursday was Howard's and my anniversary. We have been married 15 years!

I think the first year I had this Web log going it was only five years. We went to Fanny's that year. Haha, I laugh reading back on that. Fanny's was where we met. That was 2009.

The year after that, 2010, we went to an Asian restaurant called Orchid, because Fanny's had closed.

That was the year Howard showed his aplomb with chopsticks.

In 2011 we went to Oliver's.

In 2012 it seems we celebrated at home. Howard brought me roses and we had lobster from Wegman's.

In 2013 our anniversary coincided with this terrible snowstorm. Haha, I remember that snowstorm. I was just thinking about it the other day, because it was my worst drive home from work ever. I had forgotten it was our anniversary.

But it did! And after St. Christopher got me home in one piece we went to Tokyo II.

That was where we went on Thursday. It is hard to beat a Japanese restaurant. The yelling, the screaming of the birthday parties. The 18th century headdress they put on the birthday girl. The booze they spray into the mouths of the people gathered around the table. These birthday parties are always going on and it is so funny and so much fun.

Howard took the picture of me at the top of the post. That is me with the Love Boat! That is what we always order.

Back home, Howard had special ordered a bottle of German caraway liqueur. It is called Kaiser Kummel. That name would make sense to anyone in Buffalo because we are used to Kaiser rolls and Kummelweck. Kummel is caraway!

I tried it without looking at the label. I sipped slowly and then I said: "That is caraway."

Sure enough!

One of my favorite things.

Kaiser Kummel has been around for over 150 years which means Johannes Brahms could have tasted some. And he did, if I know Johannes Brahms and I do believe I do.

Sushi and caraway!

I wonder what the next 15 years will bring. I do not know but I believe I know one thing.

It will be good!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Christmas decorating begins

Today I decorated the mantel for Christmas for what I believe to be the first time in my life.

I mean, I had decorated it before with Candle-Lite candles and whatnot. But it has always been kind of slapdash, as Jeoffry, above, has clearly realized.

Today for the first time, I got some garland and mounded it on the mantel and put lights with it.

Which looks pretty good if I may say so myself.

I am playing host to our Christmas carolers this week so I need the house to be festive. We had great success last year and so this year we are feeling our oats and thinking of adding to our repertoire. We are dreaming of "In Dulci Jubilo" and the Gloucestershire Wassail.

Our surroundings must be right! Next I will go about putting up the tree. I might do it right now. I might wait till tomorrow. For tonight I might just rest on my laurels, you know?

I have a rule I am abiding by and that is to use what is in my house. That explains the colored lights. I know white lights are more tasteful. But colored lights were what I had and you know what? I like them.

I make no apologies!

Recently watching one of those corny Hallmark Christmas movies, about which more later, I saw a comment from someone in ... Denmark, I think it was. One of those countries.

He wrote: "You Americans, do you all decorate your houses like that? I think it is ugly."

It did not matter that a few minutes before, I might have agreed that the houses were overdone. All of a sudden I grew defensive.

What a rude jerk!

Butt out, plain Dane!

Go back to your hygge!

We will decorate our homes as we see fit. All of a sudden I want to overdecorate my house and I will not stop until it is done.

Wassail, wassail!