Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Walking in snowy Buffalo


As one does in January, I began a new exercise initiative. I committed to 10,000 steps a day.

I did this before, and I remember it really had effects on me. The deal is, however, you have to stick with it. And so I have stuck with it.

The third day or so, I went, "Results! I want to see results!" And there were none. That I refused to make any other lifestyle changes no doubt did not help.

However.

After a week and a half, I could fit into things I could not fit into before!

Ergo, I keep walking. A week and a half -- that was fast! I was shocked and delighted. And so I have been walking in the park even on the days when it is just me and the dog owners. And I have seen beautiful sights.

Up above, that was last night's sunset!

Here is another view because you know me, I can never take only one photo.


Today was a whole new ball of wax.

This was this morning.


And this was at around 5 p.m.


Mozart had a powdered wig. And he also had snow on his nose.


David was shivering.


I loved this tree.


It is hard to walk because I keep having to take out my phone and take pictures and to do that I have to take off my mittens. And it is cold!

However it is never boring.

And I am going to look like a supermodel!

Saturday, December 31, 2022

My Dark Academia Life

There is this Dark Academia trend fueled by people who like Harry Potter and libraries. You imagine yourself back in an earlier era, lost among old books and music and poetry. I have never read any Harry Potter or seen any of the movies. However this is a trend I love. And yesterday while I was playing the piano I began thinking about how Dark Academia my life is.

I did not plan it! It just worked out like that.

Just looking around my living room absolutely killed me when I thought about it.

Steinway grand piano from 1905.


Photo of the Van Cliburn Competition jury from 1963. Next to busts of Chopin and Beethoven.

Tapestry from my friend Brenda, as seen from the piano.


Portrait of Franz Schubert, a gift from my friend Peter.


That is the ultimate Dark Academia portrait if you ask me.

And speaking of the ultimate, how about this...


This was the book I was playing out of when these thoughts came into my head. It is Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words."

It is copyright God knows what year. I mean I would have to go down and check. However it is the 19th century. I know that because the book has an inscription. A father inscribed it to his daughter in 1898. She was at the Richmond Preparatory Academy in Virginia.


There is writing throughout the book where someone, it appears to be the father, went through and wrote the titles to the various Songs Without Words.

I acquired this book at some sale somewhere a few years ago. Perhaps I should not be playing out of it because I have my own copy of the Songs Without Words, as every pianist should. I worry that I will hurt the binding or the pages. However you know what, I think this father and daughter would be happy that the book is being played out of, as it was once upon a time. I always get a beautiful feeling when I sit down of an evening, and open it, and start to play.

One of the WNED-FM hosts, I think it was Stratton Rawson, said one night that in the Victorian era there was always a piano book in every house and it was the Songs Without Words. And every pianist played them.

So there I am, smack in the middle of the Victorian era. Wearing my long dresses, playing my Victorian-era copy of Mendelssohn's Songs without Words. This was the first music by the way that I ever played on this beautiful old Steinway, back when I bought it. I think of that when I play it.

I never thought of it being Dark Academia.

I always just thought it enchanting!



Sunday, December 25, 2022

My virtual Midnight Mass

 Because of the big Buffalo blizzard I have spent Christmas snowed in.

I treated myself to Christmas midnight mass from St. John Cantius in Chicago. That is it at the top of the post! Remember when I went to St. John Cantius? Yikes, that was eight years ago!

It is long, I am not suggesting anyone watch the same thing. However being snowed in, I watched pretty much all of it. I even rewound it here and there, especially near the beginning before I quite realized how long it was.

There is a lot that is interesting about this mass. It is kind of a hybrid of Latin and English. Perhaps a Novus Ordo presented in Latin? The readings were what you would have at a modern Mass. There was a kind of responsorial psalm -- it was tasteful as responsorial psalms go however I fast forwarded through that. Hence the "pretty much" when I wrote I watched pretty much all of it.

Anyway. If you do not want to watch pretty much all of it here is what to check out.

The mass begins with a candlelight procession to "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." You would not normally think of this Christmas carol as accompanying a solemn procession at mass however it was stunning. It gave me shivers.

There is a chorus and orchestra! I could not identify the mass they were performing. I know "performing" is not the right word. It is late and I cannot think of the right word, forgive me. The music seemed a little later than the classical era however it was not quite Romantic either, at least it did not sound like any composer I could think of.

Just now I got around to looking it up. They tell you in the notes to the video. It is by Otto Nicolai. It is his Mass in D. What a curiosity! I had the era exactly right. Not quite classical, not quite romantic. Otto Nicolai lived only from 1810-1849. 

The only Otto Nicolai I know off the top of my head is the overture to "The Merry Wives of Windsor" -- a piece I have always absolutely loved. I will have to listen again to his Mass in D because I really enjoyed it today.

The Midnight Mass ended with "Silent Night." They cut the lights and the ending procession is also by candlelight. The arrangement made me think of 1950s and 1960s Christmas records that I love. The mass has a full orchestra, did I mention that? The orchestra plays and the chorus sings this beautiful "Silent Night" in English, then in German, then in other languages. I think Polish is one. 

Just beautiful. I was gazing at it thinking: This happened last night!!

Long story short, I do feel I made it to mass on Christmas. And at times like this I am happy that  there will be other chances actually to be at Mass in person, not just in spirit.

It is only the First Day of Christmas!


Friday, December 23, 2022

Christmas in a Blizzard



We are in the middle of a blizzard. Buffalo is no stranger to blizzards however I do not remember one since the big one, in 1977, when I was a kid.

We have had storms, sure, however that is not the same thing. The snow flying around, the winds roaring, this is not something that happens every year.

Our next door neighbor, Dave, he had two huge inflatables on his front yard and both of them took off this morning. The snowman took off first. He belly-surfed across our yard and the yard next door and then took off down the street and whipped around a corner and that was the last we saw of him.

Santa was still sitting in the neighbor's yard. However when I took another look 15 minutes later, he was gone too.

They're outta here!

I was concerned for the werewolf. Last I checked, however, the werewolf was fine, menacing in the back yard. His big paws were covered in snow and he looked even more scary than usual.

With traveling out of the question I cleaned the first floor of my house. The renovations are proceeding -- the ceiling of the, ahem, solarium is in good shape after 10 years, the bathroom is repainted, the peeling wallpaper is down and the hall is repainted, the kitchen countertops are replaced. However the renovations are paused now for a couple of weeks and the house was in terrible disarray. 

Cupboards and cabinets are pushed into corners where they should not be. I had stashed all kinds of stuff into these cupboards and cabinets, and garbage was everywhere. Notice I said "was." It is not there anymore! I took two giant stuffed trash bags out to the tote. It was like the Perry expedition, taking the totes into the back yard! That was Howard's joke.

Howard texted me: "Good job, Commander Perry!"

I am telling myself: You could not have done this yesterday. You had to wait till today. The good news i is, now the house looks great.


 I vacuumed, I cleaned, I dusted, I rearranged.

Which is funny, when you think about it. It is not as if I am going to have any guests for Christmas. Heck, I might not even have Howard! Howard went to his garage earlier today not realizing there was a driving ban and he is stuck, riding out the storm in the apartment over the garage. So, it might just be me for Christmas Eve, who knows.

That's OK. I found this video.

So I am set. I will be content with my lot.

Christmas will be celebrated in this house.

Even if it is just me!



Tuesday, December 20, 2022

You Can't Tell the Difference After Dark


Because I have been having house renovations done, I have been on my high horse and running my mouth about I might get a real Christmas tree this year.

My old Christmas tree has been getting yellowed over the years.

Fie on these trees, you know? You put them up for a couple of years and then you read in the fine print, oh, do not place these trees in sunlight or they will discolor.

Where do you place your Christmas tree if not in the window?

I ask you.

Anyway, so the old tree, the one I have been putting up for the last 10 years or whatever, the tree Howard bought for Big Blue, it has become old and yellowed and I decided I would put it out with the trash and get a real tree. The house is looking better and the tree should as well.

However.

Weeks pass. I would wonder: What am I going to do about my tree?

Finally I had an idea. 

Why don't I just put up my old tree?

The thought struck me like a thunderbolt. Like Donner and Blitzen. The tree  is still here. I had not the stomach to put it out at the curb. The house is not yet a showplace anyway. There are tools and paint cans and stuff all over the house. Furniture has been moved everywhere. Nothing will be close to normal until after the First Day of Christmas anyway.

Hence, the old yellowed tree lives to see another Christmas!

And as the old blues song...  

... goes, you can't tell the difference after dark.

So true! I just said that to my friend Ryan just now. He had gotten in touch helpfully to tell me that trees are marked down at Family Dollar. However I had just finished putting my old tree up. That is it up above. It looks spiffy, does it not? 

Besides which Dave, the handyman helping me with my house, he and I have hatched a plan. In the spring, when the weather is warm, Dave is going to take certain beat-up radiator covers I have in the house and spray paint them white.

"Dave," I said, "could you spray paint my tree along with them?"

And he said he would!

Spray-painting these old trees works. I have seen that on YouTube so it must be true. So we have a plan to rejuvenate the tree. And meanwhile...

You can't tell the difference after dark!


Saturday, December 17, 2022

Howard Trolls the Miami Dolphins


Yesterday when we were at the Hyatt and Howard was playing Happy Hour, the Miami Dolphins arrived. The are playing the Bills today.

We both got excited when we learned the Dolphins were staying at the Hyatt because they are the Bills' arch-rivals. It is like the Capulets and the Montagues. It goes back countless years.

When the Dolphins arrived Howard serenaded them from the piano.

"Welcome to Buffalo," he sang. "🎵Welcome to Buffalo

Just in time, its gonna snow, 

You're gonna be stuck here for weeks in the snow

and we love it🎵"

Those musical notes came from the Twitter post by @Oreo Speedwagon who edited and posted a video shot by our friend Ryan. It was Oreo who really got the ball rolling on this.

Last night at the Hyatt I tried taking a video however for whatever reason it did not come out. I think it was because I was too busy laughing! Just the sight of the Dolphins coming in, riding up the escalator, and being serenaded like this, it was just too much.

Howard has gone viral. Something like 30,000 people have watched this video on Twitter. Many more have seen it on Facebook. A group called Niagara Action was the first to put it on Facebook, I do believe.

The Buffalo News did a story.

This story appeared on a variety of sports sites. I love the headline: "Piano Player Trolls Dolphins in Hotel in Buffalo, N.Y."

I love, love this little video. It is not just Howard and his song. It is how beautiful the hotel looks. The lights! The escalators! It is like something out of a Christmas movie. The Hyatt is a beautiful place. And yesterday before Howard's happy hour began, all afternoon the hotel was playing Christmas music from the 1940s through the 1960s. Love to the Hyatt! That was wonderful.

Here is something else that I adore. In all the coverage, it is baked into the cake that hotels have pianists. When was the last time you heard the phrase "hotel piano player"? And yet here one is, in Buffalo.

Yes, in Buffalo we have hotel pianists. 

The rest of the world should, too!



Thursday, December 15, 2022

Artists Painting the Ordinary


My brother George sent me a link to the painting up above. It is called "Don Valley on a Gray Day" and it is by the artist William Kurelek. The painting is at the Art Gallery of Ontario and dates to 1972. George was just up in Toronto admiring the picture in person.

George and I share certain views on art and we both admire this picture no end.

There is a hidden crucifix in this picture. Kurelek was a Catholic convert and that had something to do with that. However that is a matter for another day. For now, what George and I admire about the painting is that Kurelek took a view no one would think is anything special, and depicted it so creatively and realistically.

I think this guy was influenced by Andrew Wyeth. A while ago I sent George and interview I found on YouTube with Andrew Wyeth. I will have to find it again and link to it. In that interview, Wyeth talked about how he loved dull landscapes with nothing in them. He didn't use the word dull but he meant that, kind of static. He found them interesting. I cracked up when Wyeth said about his famous painting "Christina's World," that sometimes he thought it would have been better without Christina in it. That is something I will never forget!

It's interesting to me how all these guys, the Don Valley painter and Andrew Wyeth and Charles Burchfield too, they worked with crazy uninteresting scenes that conventional artists would not ever have noticed or thought about painting. I identify with that way of thinking. I was thinking that way naturally when I began drawing things around Buffalo several years ago. Someone told me that my pictures reminded them of Burchfield, so I started researching Burchfield, and I loved learning that he thought that way. Burchfield believed that an artist did not have to live in Paris or Venice to create great art. What he saw before him in West Seneca was all he needed.

These artists knew you could do something interesting with anything. There was one artist, maybe it was John Singer Sargent, used to carry a chair and just set it down anywhere and start drawing. 

Sargent did a lot of paintings of great European scenes so I am not sure he was the one who did that. I will have to do some Googling. However he did leave advice I agree with and that reflects what we are talking about.

"You can't do sketches enough," he said. "Sketch everything."

He added: ".... and keep your curiosity fresh." However I prefer my abbreviated version. 

"Sketch everything."

Even the Don Valley Parkway!

Sunday, December 11, 2022

When the cat bites, when the bee stings

 Howard, the guy I married, has been doing daily vlogs. He does not call them vlogs, or video logs as I would. You know me, I cannot say blog. I must say Web lot!

Anyway, Howard calls his daily video logs just by their opus numbers. He is now up to Opus 5.

Opus 5 does not interest me too much. It is about pizza. Men will always chow down their pizza and there is nothing that anyone can do about that. Well, I have an Amish chicken in the oven tonight so if Howard filled up on his pizza, that's fine, I will eat this chicken all on my own over the next few days.

However back to Howard and his opus numbers.

My favorite is Opus 2!

I linked to it up above. I think it should go viral.

That moment when Jeoffry just lunges at him and bites him! I cannot stop laughing.

Jeoffry really does not hurt you when he bites you. It just looks so dramatic and that Howard caught it on film is amazing.

It bodes well for Howard's video log, I will say that.

I have subscribed!

Friday, December 9, 2022

When Buffalo was buried in snow


 We have had only one snowfall this year. It was a big one. 

Now it is safely in the rear view mirror. All we have are the memories.

These were all taken when I was walking in the park.







At least that was the first day. The second day more snow had fallen. And when I tried walking in the park there was no walking to be done! It was the first time I could remember when Delaware Park had not been plowed. A runner agreed with me. The runner and I were the only people in the park foolhardy enough to have a go at taking our exercise under such circumstances. He could never remember the park not being plowed, either.

Since then, no snow. I am wondering if we will have our traditional Christmas Eve snowstorm.

As the Magic Eight Ball would say...

It is decidedly so!


Sunday, November 6, 2022

The Werewolf Next Door

 


I ran this photo extra big so you can see the view from my kitchen window.

It is the werewolf next door!

The werewolf arrived well in time for Hallowe'en. I saw a big cardboard box on the porch next door. The box came from China and there was an amazing label on it.

The label read: "ANIMATED IMMORTAL WEREWOLF."

And sure enough.

For weeks the werewolf presided over the next door neighbor's front yard. Its eyes glowed red and it open and shut its jaws all day. And at night it cast crazy shadows on the bedroom ceiling. The cat would be looking up, wondering what was going on.

Meanwhile a witch went up in front of the house on the other side. It emitted constant cackling. It was like being at Crystal Beach!

You cannot go back to normal just because All Hallows is in the rear-view mirror. And so the werewolf was brought into the neighbor's back yard, the equivalent to being put out to pasture.

However.

It is more scary in this new location!

Actually this is the original location. When the werewolf was first assembled it sat in the back yard and Howard and I agreed it was scarier there than in the front.

So it is good news that the Animated Immortal Werewolf is back where it was.

More good news: The fact that this thing made it here from China puts to rest any concerns I ever had about the supply chain, I will tell you that right now.

If the werewolf can get here, anything can!

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Indian Summer


We are in Indian Summer, as we used to call it when I was little. Above is one of many pictures I shot in Delaware Park. The best part is the tote! That is my signature. That is how you tell the photo is by me.

It is in the 70s and sunny and the living is easy.

How did the name "Indian Summer" come to be? Can you still call it that? I looked it up on Wikipedia, as I am wont to do. I am happy I am not the first person to wonder about it. Wikipedia is the first to tell you if what you are saying is, ahem, incorrect. Yet in this case it does not. Here is what I read:

"Although the exact origins of the term are uncertain,[6] it was perhaps so-called because it was first noted in regions inhabited by Native Americans, or because the natives first described it to Europeans,[7] or it had been based on the warm and hazy conditions in autumn when Native Americans hunted.[6] John James Audubon wrote about "The Indian Summer that extraordinary Phenomenon of North America" in his journal on November 20, 1820. He mentions the "constant Smoky atmosphere" and how the smoke irritates his eyes. Audubon suspects that the condition of the air was caused by "Indians, firing the Prairies of the West." Audubon also mentions in many other places in his writings the reliance Native Americans had on fire. At no point does Audubon relate an Indian Summer to warm temperatures during the cold seasons."

I am not sure what this is all adding up to, but it seems to be all good.

"Indian Summer" was the title of a jazz song that Frank Sinatra sang.

   

What a great record! I am listening to it. Sinatra is singing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Right away you can hear that growly restless sound. The Duke is on piano. 

This is funny, yesterday we were discussing Duke Cariadoc and today it is Duke Ellington. Tomorrow we will have to introduce yet another Duke, I am not sure yet who.

I am listening to this song. That is the great Johnny Hodges on saxophone! I read in the comments that Sinatra was so impressed by Hodges' solo that at 2:58 in the video, the singer was a half second too late.

That really is a beautiful solo Johnny Hodges plays. It is as if someone is talking to you.

Around the world they also have Indian Summer. However they call it other names.

In Germany and Austria and Switzerland it is "Altweibersommer" -- Wikipedia translates that to "old women's summer" however really it is "old wives' summer." Other Europeans call it "old wives' summer" in their own languages. That includes the Czech, the Polish, and the Ukrainians.

I love that in many countries they name Indian Summer after saints whose feast days fall at this time of year. In Portugal, Spain, and France, it is named for St. Teresa of Avila. It is St. Teresa's Summer. In Bosnia and Serbia it is St. Michael's Summer. Wales also salutes St. Michael by calling it haf bach Mihangel. I am not sure how that parses out.

The Dutch and Italians associate it with St. Martin. Swedes call it St. Bridget's Summer.

English folklore reveals another term that also surfaces in Shakespeare. This one is really nice. 

It is "All-Hallown summer!" All Saints Summer! We just had the Feast of All Hallows, or the Feast of All Saints. I went to Mass at the Carmelite Convent! But that is another story for another day.

For now, back to Indian Summer. I guess we can choose our own name for it.

I go with All-Hallown Summer.

We are blessed!



 

Friday, November 4, 2022

Duke Cariadoc


The other day Howard was watching a video featuring Milton Friedman, the great economist. And I did what I always do whenever Milton Friedman's name comes up, which is to boast that I know his son.

"His son was in that medieval group I was in," I said. "His son is Duke Cariadoc."

It is pronounced, for everyone's informatiion, Car-EYE-o-doc. I do not exactly know him. He would not be able to pick me out of a lineup. Cariadoc was my rival in the Society for Creative Anachronism. That is to say, we were on opposite sides. He was king twice of the Middle Kingdom. I was queen twice of the East Kingdom. We had it out every year at the Pennsic War in Pennsylvania. 

Once, I think, I was in Duke Cariadoc's encampment. However as I said I did not know him well. He had the reputation of being kind of a stuffed shirt, meaning he was scholarly and followed medieval nuts and bolts to the letter. How many metaphors did I mix there? Forgive me, I am still on my first cup of coffee.

Looking back now on the SCA, as I periodically do on this Web log, I see I was wrong about many things. One of those things was looking down on stuffed shirts. Those people were the ones playing the game right. Heck, about Cariadoc, he was supposed to be a duke. Dukes are supposed to be stuffed shirts. The poor guy, he was just playing the part.

Back in the day I also looked askance at Countess Mara. She was also a stuffed shirt. Once at Pennsic, Countess Mara was walking along the path in her coronet and someone asked to take her picture. Countess Mara looked down her nose and said, "As you wish."

Oh, we roasted her for that, my friends and I did.

However she was right!

If you are a countess and someone asks to take your picture, you sigh and say, "As you wish." Oh wait, I think she said, "If you must." Even better.

Anyway, I did not understand any of this. I was 19 and a not very mature 19 at that. That is me in the SCA at the top of this post, by the way, with my partner in crime Jacquetta. I was about 21 by then. My name was Kunegunda.

Back to the other day, when the name "Duke Cariadoc" was spoken in our home. I went on to look up Milton Friedman on Wikipedia. Howard and I are always doing that. And Milton Friedman's son was mentioned! His name is David D. Friedman. He had his own Wikipedia entry because he is some kind of scholar, no big surprise there.

Now this is what floored me. The Wikipedia entry went on to describe David Friedman's involvement with the SCA, at great length and in great detail. His name, the site accurately reported, was Duke Cariadoc of the Bow. I remembered that correctly.

And it explained all about the East Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom and it said that Cariadoc had founded the Pennsic War. That last bit I had not known however it makes sense.

It is amazing, the publicity Cariadoc has! I was puzzling over it the next morning as I was engaged in the very medieval task of untangling my hair, Then I hit on an explanation.

"His minions must have done this," I said.

That is a shocking moment when you think you have grown up and you suddenly realize you are the same person you were.

All of a sudden I was back in time!



Thursday, November 3, 2022

Switchin' in the kitchen


The house is in upheaval because the kitchen is getting fixed and so is the peeling wallpaper.

Above is the "before" picture of the kitchen.

The "After" picture will have to appear tomorrow. It is not done yet. However it will be. The cabinets are being fixed and I am getting a backsplash which, this kitchen never had one. I will also be replacing the hardware on the cabinets.

Everyone says, paint your cabinets white. However these are what they are, which is a nice old-fashioned oak, and you just know that as soon as I painted them white, all these people would be saying, oh, never paint your cabinets white. So the natural oak stays.

I am getting butcher block countertops to go with the cabinets. I told my sister Margie a few weeks ago because she shares my excitement over things like this. However Margie said, oh no, go with granite! She said if you spill wine on the butcher block, it is all over.

You know what, I will not spill wine.

You also know what, I will not tell anyone else that I am doing this. Because everyone has something to say and I want to follow everyone's advice and I end up like that guy with the donkey in the Aesop's fable


"You can't please everyone," is the moral of that fable. That is the truth!

Looking at that picture, I love that fable, you know? What a great story. Still funny after all these millennia.

Back to my kitchen. The sink is also going. Perhaps I will end up with a double sink. There is also this hood over the stove that broke a long time ago and that is going.

Howard said this is genius because it is a short project. We have two or three days of upheaval. Right now dishes have to be washed in the bathroom and my only counter is this wheelie cart next to the stove.

But after two days it is done! Then I can get onto the trimmings such as getting the new cabinet hardware and changing up the lighting. I have these pendant lights I bought at a garage sale that will be going over the counter.

We are switchin' in the kitchen! Gettin' ready for the party tonight!

OK, maybe not tonight.

But soon!