Sunday, August 31, 2008

The joy of accomplishment

Every Sunday I take stock of what I have accomplished over the last week. Here are a few things on this week's list, along with the Satisfaction Points I gained from them.

Reworked Chapter One of my book on Leonard Pennario: 3 points

Read thoroughly all of composer Miklos Rozsa's letters to Pennario: 5 points

Wrote letter to Gramophone Magazine about the obit they ran on Pennario: 6 points

Cleaned toilet: 65,000 points

What screwed-up priorities I have! I guess I forgive myself. After all, the more onerous the task, the more satisfaction at having completed it. But it makes me fear for the future.


Find publishing house to give me big fat record-breaking advance for my book on Leonard Pennario: 50 points

Subsequently buy Knox Mansion: 60 points

Am approached by my favorite singer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, begging me to write his biography next: 75 points

See needle on scale slip below 140 pounds: 1,150,000 points

Ha, ha! Do check out that Fischer-Dieskau link when you can clear your head for a minute. Also read the listeners' comments. I love how one person identified as "Sarah Vaughan Fan" comments: "Awesome." Someone else writes: "Holy crap. The last two lines made me cry."

Well, back to the real world. Yesterday I got an email from Edward Summer, the head of the Buffalo International Film Festival, the group that brought us "Gone With The Wind" at the Riviera. He wanted to thank me for what I wrote in my blog yesterday! What a gentleman! I wanted to make like Scarlett O'Hara at the barbecue and say, "Why, Edward. You came all the way from North Tonawanda just to break my poor heart." But I was not sure he would get the joke.

Edward was nice enough to ask me if I would like to offer input about what movies I might want to see in the future.

How about a series called "The Favorite Films of Leonard Pennario"? Pennario had great taste. Meaning, he liked the same movies I did. There was this great old movie called "I Know Where I'm Going." We used to go around singing the title song all the time. After "I Know Where I'm Going" the series could continue with movies featuring his big three: Greer Garson, Irene Dunne and Loretta Young. Often of an evening Pennario and I would talk about his dancing with Loretta Young. That was a very important memory of his. He had this beautiful picture of her on his wall and when he looked at it his eyes would glow.

"The Favorite Films of Leonard Pennario." It would give me some satisfaction, getting a series like that going.

Maybe not quite as much as cleaning the toilet, but still.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gone with the $6

Lastnight Howard and I went to see "Gone With The Wind." It was like going to the moon. We walked into the Riviera Theater and we were in there for hours and hours, out of touch with the modern world. And we did not even go to the All You Can Eat Southern Barbecue, which ran for a couple of hours before that! On account of -- to use my Southern talk -- I tend to avoid all-you-can-eat situations. I am not proud of my ability to eat vast amounts.

"Gone With The Wind" cost $6. And this killed me: In line at the box office, there was this guy about 100 years old in front of us and he said to someone, "So, 'Gone With The Wind' still pulls them in."

"What?" said the person with him, who was about the same age.

"'Gone With The Wind,' people still want to see it," the guy said, as if amazed.

Howard had never before seen "Gone With The Wind." I think this is the fourth time I have seen it.

The first time was at the Granada, on Main Street. I was 16. My sister Katie and I went. My dad dropped us off and we were protesting that we didn't want to see this dumb movie about the Civil War. He had the last laugh about 12 hours later when we finally came home, dazed. We had sat through the movie two and a half times!

After that I had a rule. I would never see "Gone With The Wind" under less-than-perfect circumstances. I will watch it only on the big screen, never on TV. And even if it's in a theater, I won't go if it's free, because that means the theater will be a zoo and people will be talking and joking and making fun of it. It is easy to mock out "Gone With The Wind" while you are watching it but for some reason people always think they are being smart when they do that.

Because of my fussiness I have seen "GWTW" only a handful of times. I saw it once at the old Allendale -- now the Theatre of Youth -- where the print was bad and it skipped. At the end, Rhett Butler said, "Frankly, my dear, damn." Then it just ground to an ugly, ungraceful halt. Ha, ha! That made me mad at the time but now I laugh about it.

I also saw "GWTW" at the Regal Cinema Quaker Crossing. That was memorable because a girl from Buffalo Publishing, where I worked at the time as a typesetter, went with me. She was this biker chick and had all kinds of pictures of rockers around her desk. She didn't want to go to the movie -- I forget why I dragged her -- but she was so bowled over that she took down the rockers and went out and got a framed picture of Clark Gable and put that up instead. No one in the office could believe it.

Last winter I remember telling Leonard Pennario that story. He had trouble getting the point of it because he was too upset at the mention of the biker chick. Pennario did not like bikers and got agitated at the thought of my going to the movies with one. I remember saying, "Leonard, no, you have to wait to hear what happened."

Lastnight's showing was probably the best "GWTW" I had ever encountered. The circumstances were pretty close to perfect. We did have a couple dimwits behind us who had to comment on the action. When Clark Gable said told Scarlett, "This is one night you're going to turn me on!," they said, "Wow." I hate when people have to do that.

But otherwise, it was fun. What a beautiful theater the Riviera is. They played the Mighty Wurlitzer before the screening. And it was fun when the movie ended to see the marquee lit up, people streaming out into the street.

My favorite line from "Gone With The Wind" is what Scarlett says to Cathleen Calvert when she sees Rhett Butler looking at her from the bottom of the staircase at Twelve Oaks.

She says: "He looks as if he knows what I look like without my shimmy."

At least that is my favorite line today. There is so much competition.

And, after all, tomorrow is another day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tough day

Jay (center) enjoying himself at Big Blue.

This morning I was awake at 5:30 a.m. because number one, Howard's alarm went off for some goofball reason, and number two, I was still jolted by something that happened yesterday.

It is so funny how things can change on a dime. Yesterday morning went great. First I wrote that flipped-out blog post. I had a riot with that. Next I had to interview this pianist and famous Mozart expert, Robert Levin. And I had a blast talking to him. Levin is coming to UB to play Mozart's 23rd piano concerto, which is way up there on my list of favorite Mozart piano concertos. He is a talker, I was delighted to find, and I was in no hurry to get him off the phone. So we talked for over an hour and a half.

I got into the office a little bit late because I did the interview from home. And I was so excited and happy about writing this story I was bouncing off the walls. Then, right away, something terrible happened. I got the news that we had lost a friend at work we all loved.

The friend was John F. Bonfatti. His obituary is in today's paper. His last name in Italian means "well made." I know that because Beethoven's doctor's name was Malfatti, which means badly made. Sorry, I know this is weird. But I have often thought about that.

We called him Jay. He was on vacation with his brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and he died in his sleep.

Jay was not just any colleague. He was the center of everything at work. Last summer when I was on the News' kickball team Jay was there in the outfield yelling at me to look alive. That was always what he yelled: "Kunz! Look alive!" Because I had a tendency to zone out in the outfield and he knew that.

He was one of the warmest and most welcoming human beings ever. I remember when he was hired at The News (or re-hired -- I guess he worked there earlier). The very first words he spoke to me were, "I'm having a party." I went to the party and Jay, the ultimate single guy, had the barbecue going and speakers in the window. I have a million memories of Jay like that. He was at my house too. He was everywhere.

And here is what really got me. Last fall, when I met Leonard Pennario, I was in this tough spot because Leonard had asked me to have dinner with him but to do that, I had to get out of reviewing a concert by the pianist Andras Schiff. Wow, what an "I Love Lucy" situation that was. Leonard was in his glory. Speaking of which, watch out, if you're at work, before clicking on that Pennario link. That performance is really a thrill, which is why I am listening to it today -- it is boosting my spirits!

Anyway, I had a matter of hours that day last fall to work out a complicated switcharoo. The only person who could catch Schiff for me was our reviewer Garaud MacTaggart. But he was already booked to do some silly pop concert. So I had to find someone else to do the pop concert, so Garaud could do the Schiff concert. I went to Jay. I begged him. Jay understood the situation. He said yes. I remember him laughing with me about it: "Let me get this straight, Mar. There's this pianist in his 80s...."

I just cannot imagine the office without Jay. It is terrible to think of walking past his desk and not seeing him sitting there. I took my cell phone and went outside because I had to call Howard and break the news to him, which I hated doing because Howard loved Jay the way the rest of us did. So that was how my day yesterday went. One minute I was on top of the world, and the next I was standing on Washington Street crying.

Isn't it awful how you have to lose someone great like Jay, while the people who annoy you go on forever? Heck, the people who annoy me never even leave town!

Why is that?

In the afterlife, that is one of the questions I will want to have answered.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

World affairs

One of The Wife's single friends. File photo by Howard.

Lastnight I went over to a friend's house and spent an extremely pleasant evening. Four of us gals sat around drinking red wine, admiring the sunset, listening to sultry music by Johannes Brahms and discussing our past and present love lives and the love lives of people we know. And I got to pontificate freely on my knowledge of the Italian male psyche, as gleaned from the extensive time I spent with Leonard Pennario.

File photo by Howard of The Wife and her friends sitting around drinking red wine, admiring the sunset, listening to sultry music by Johannes Brahms and discussing their past and present love lives and the love lives of people they know.

Pennario may have been 83 and the greatest piano virtuoso in the world but he was still a guy, I will tell you that. And he was still Italian, I will tell you that too. Not only that, but he was Sicilian. That is like Italian to the 10th power.

Howard and I love to challenge the overreaches of modern political correctness and draw conclusions about people based on their nationalities. This kind of thing is absolutely verboten because of the increasingly intolerant nature of current political correctness but for my money it makes more sense than astrology.

I am German so I love to beat the dead horse. I never give up on anything, no matter how hopeless or stupid the situation. The world will be collapsing around my ears and I will be sitting there saying, "Somewhere, somehow, there is the right thing to say, the right thing to do. If I could only just figure out what..."

Howard is German too and we joke about our penny-pinching tendencies. Because he is Jewish he has that double. We have an ethnic joke book from about 1910 I found at a garage sale and the German jokes and the Jewish jokes are interchangeable. They all have to do with tight-fistedness.

Pennario being Italian I used to tease him about his romantic ways, including the way he pronounced things. "Leonard, say 'Modigliani,'" I used to say. "Say 'Cantelli.'" Even a short name like the conductor Guido Cantelli, Pennario could draw that out for all it was worth.

But one thing I found myself thinking about yesterday was how being American influences us too. For some reason I had never thought much about that. My friend Alenka, whom I wrote about yesterday, was going on in that proper British way she has about how Americans can be so alien to her, how over here we're all so optimistic and enthusiastic.

I started to murmur something about how we are not really all that different.

But then five minutes later, I hear myself yapping: "This book about Leonard Pennario is just the greatest thing in the world for me! I just know it's going to work out great! I just know! I don't know HOW exactly, but I know it WILL. I just have this feeling...."

Ahahahahahahahahahahaaaaa! God bless America!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Two guys named Leonard

The other day, at this interesting old tavern in Springville called the Legacy, I had lunch with my new friend Alenka Lawrence. I met her at church, at that Latin Mass I go to. How square does that sound? But Alenka is British and exotic. She is also the only person I know who has written a biography. I wanted to talk to her about that.

Both our guys are dead now, both were old men when we met them, and to top it off, both were named Leonard. Alenka's book was about Leonard Cheshire. He was a highly decorated British flying ace who observed the bombing of Nagasaki (that is the word Alenka used, "observed" -- I understood he watched through special glasses, or something), and he also did a lot of bombing of the Ruhr Valley in Germany. Listen to this! We are continuing our theme from the day before!

By the way I almost fell off my chair yesterday when Ward sent in that Monty Python skit. Ha, ha!! That is why I cannot check my blog while I am at work. I would be fired so fast!

Where was I? Leonard Cheshire. He was a flying ace and he was also this playboy. After the war he had a big conversion and turned Catholic and founded a string of homes for disabled people who had no one to care for them. Alenka, bless her heart, admits that this is where the story gets boring. And she said it was all her Leonard wanted to talk about, that he didn't want to talk about his colorful earlier life of playboying and bombing. So she was stuck in the situation I was in with Leonard Pennario, trying to pry these colorful details out of the reluctant old man.

We keep our Leonards straight by saying "your Leonard" and "my Leonard."

But our situations were somewhat different. Alenka was set up with Leonard Cheshire by a religious publishing house that was looking for someone to write a book about him. I guess they never warmed up to each other. Whereas Leonard Pennario and I decided to do our book together because we had just met each other and liked each other and thought it would be fun.

She was with her Leonard for two weeks. She stayed with him in a rambling country house in an idyllic British village. I was with my Leonard for three months. I had my own apartment nearby -- remember, the apartment I got a discount on, because of the shootout that happened there.

My Leonard wasn't married, so there was no Mrs. Pennario underfoot, telling me I couldn't ask this or that or that no, her husband could not go to the movies with me. We even laughed about that. Poor Alenka had Leonard Cheshire's wife to deal with. She said Lady Cheshire was a pain. I could only imagine.

I would say I got the better deal! But I am envious of just one thing. Her book is actually done!

Well, mine will be done too, pretty soon. I am going to get back to work on it this minute.

After I reread Ward's Monty Python skit.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hitler dreams

Voyeurism! Anonymous, yesterday, accused me of voyeurism!

Because I went to the window and watched this couple fighting, after I couldn't work because they were screaming the "F" word two houses down. Imagine!

All other things being equal, I would just as soon my reveries about Leonard Pennario not be interrupted by people screaming the "F" word. Not only is it distracting but it reinforces my conviction that my neighborhood is slip-sliding into slumdom (to coin an appropriately sloppy word).

But when it happens, and I cannot concentrate, I am darned if I am going to turn my back, piously, and say that these people deserve their privacy. Forget that! When life gives you lemons, etc., etc. And these people are lemons. I have lemons for neighbors.

I also have lemons in my dreams.

It is hard to admit this, but twice, this week, I have had dreams about Adolf Hitler. I have no idea what Hitler is doing in my dreams. I wish he would leave.

Lastnight was my second dream about Hitler. It was the same as the first dream, a few nights ago -- Hitler was sitting around with my friends and me. He may have been drinking wine but I am not sure because in real life, Hitler did not drink. That he was not eating chicken wings in the dream makes sense, because Hitler was a vegetarian. Wow, I bet vegetarians hate hearing that. I always think of this sour quote from Jascha Heifetz: "No matter what side of an issue you are on, there are always people you wish were on the other side." Think about that quote. It is so true.

Anyway, back to Hitler. He was sitting around with us, and lastnight he was wearing a black suit, though not aggressive or ominous-looking. And he was nice, making small talk, gabbing about this or that. But he made me uneasy because, I mean, he was Hitler. And I remember thinking there was no telling what he might do.

Once, in my dream lastnight, I slipped away and made a phone call, I can't remember to whom. I said, "Isn't it weird that all these other big Nazis were executed, like Ribbentrop and what's-his-name, the head of the Hitler Youth, but Hitler got away and no one seems to care?" When I awoke I was proud of myself for having my facts straight. Ribbentrop was indeed executed, and so was the head of the Hitler Youth, whose name I cannot remember in waking life either. I took History of the Third Reich at UB. I know what I am talking about.

What does this dream mean? I wish Leonard Pennario were around so I could tell him about it. He was such a great audience for the serial dreams I had last winter about Jascha Heifetz. And I was a good audience for his dreams too.

I wonder if dreaming about Hitler means that someone in my life is acting like a Nazi.

That someone could be Anonymous, accusing me of voyeurism.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Life in the zoo

Yesterday I was sitting here writing about Leonard Pennario's childhood in Buffalo when, gradually, these voices began penetrating my consciousness. You can imagine how loud these voices were. When I am writing about Leonard Pennario it is not easy to get my attention.

Warning: If you are at work reading this, wait until the coast is clear before you click on the Pennario link in the sentence I just wrote. Otherwise your boss will come running!

Back to the voices I heard. Someone was screaming the "F" word, over and over.

Actually, two people were screaming it. I turned and looked out the window of our home office, which is in the back upstairs of the house. The disturbance was taking place two houses over. Two people were in the backyard yelling at each other. They looked to be in their 20s, like a couple you would see on Chippewa .. a good-looking gal with blond hair, wearing shorts, and a muscular guy with a tattoo around his upper arm.

"Debbie's my F#$*&-ing friend! OK? She's a friend! I never #$(*-ing touched her!"

"Don't you F#$(*#-ing lie to me!" The woman yelled this so loud she jumped into the air with the effort.

"CRAZY! You are f#$*#*-ing crazy!"

You can't imagine how they were screaming. They were like the apes in the zoo. Like screeching birds in the Bird Walk. They didn't sound human.

The girl ran up onto the deck of the house. She threw something at the guy.

"Want to be an #$(*-hole?" he yelled. "I'll be an #$(*-hole right back to you!"

On one hand, in a way it was a beautiful fight. You never get a chance to watch something like that, unseen, hearing and seeing everything that is going on. I just sat there staring. I couldn't look away.

On the other, it makes me uneasy. I tend to give people a one-time pass on this sort of thing. Sometimes, I figure, passions just boil out of control. But you just know that if it happens once, it will happen again. And who am I to talk about giving people passes? Who do I think I am, Cleopatra? The truth is, I will be able to do nothing about it. Just as I can do nothing about the boom cars out front. That stuff is allowed here in Buffalo. I will just have to live with it.

On the bright side, when I told Howard about the fight, he said: "I hope they heard it on Tillinghast."

Tillinghast is the next street over and they think they're great because of their Frank Lloyd Wright house. The people on Tillinghast look down on our block as if we're the low-rent district. They are always whining about something.

If the fight annoyed just one person on Tillinghast, it was worth it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Night of 1,000 pierogies

Where is the vomitorium? Yesterday at Corpus Christi, I must have eaten a thousand pierogies. That, and I drank a Polish beer and a generous pour of this sweet-ish red wine from the Winery at Marjim Manor, which they were serving at the bar. I know, I am no stranger to red wine. But this time I wound up kissing Mike Igoe from Channel 2. Just on the cheek, but still.

Wasn't it just a couple of weeks ago that I found myself hugging Dr. James Williams, our superintendent of schools, and telling him I will write his biography when I am through with the one I am writing on Leonard Pennario? And now I am running around kissing people I have seen on TV. I'm telling you, I should just stay away from that wine!

Mike Igoe and I were judging pierogies next to each other and it was a bonding experience because comedian "Airborne" Eddy, the emcee, kept barking into the microphone inches from our ears and someone else was shoving a camera in our faces for public access TV and a new pierogi arrived roughly ever 10 seconds. I kept trying to dodge the cameras because of my braces. It is not pretty to watch me eat!

Then an old schoolmate of my friend Jane, who was judging pierogies across from me, showed up, sat down next to me on the other side from Mike Igoe and began bugging me to death.

"How come you're not at the Toby Keith concert tonight?" he asked.

"I'd rather be here, eating pierogies," I said, smiling politely.

"But you said you're the music critic."

"I do classical music," I said.

"Oh, like Beethoven?" he said.

I hate conversations like this, where I can tell from the beginning that my chances of getting the topic around to Leonard Pennario are totally zilch.

The funniest thing about the Dozynki Polish Harvest festival, where all this excitement unfolded, was all the boozy talk you overheard about joining the church. "I'm going to join Corpus Christi," everyone was saying.

Ha, ha! See you at Mass, everyone! Something tells me when these people woke up this morning the thought of joining Corpus Christi didn't seem quite so compelling.

Because no matter what song and dance people feed you about why they are lapsed Catholics, it invariably boils down to: It can be so darn tough to get yourself to Mass. Well, it's not tough for me now, because I love the Mass I go to. But it sure used to be, and I fell off the wagon myself for a few years. So now there is no bull #$*&#-ing me.

Speaking of which, classic phrase from Mass today: "Ipse se seducit."

It means: "He deceives himself."

I told you Latin was sexier than English.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Classic hits

What, didn't people get the joke yesterday? Was everyone so distracted by the end of the hectic work week that there was no room in life left for silliness?

Howard and I were laughing so hard taking those pictures at the Buffalo Club that I could hardly hold the camera steady and he had trouble keeping a straight face for two seconds. Those guys looked like ghosts over his shoulder! For the first picture, Howard kept his glasses on and tried to adopt the same wary look as the man in the frame. For the second, he took the glasses off and tried to look jowly. Oh, well.

We had a good time, anyway!

The fun continues today. Not only is today the day I am judging pierogies at Corpus Christi, but I got a look at our hits counter. That is this nifty service that tells you who in the world is reading your blog.

Don't worry, no one knows who you are. And I do not get access to this information very often. But in the rare times I do, it is a kick!

Would you believe we have a reader in Jiddah, Makkah, Saudi Arabia? Welcome, Sheik of Araby! I would not imagine that listening to Leonard Pennario would be permitted under Sharia law. Are you allowed to listen to his really smoldering performances -- say, Scriabin's Nocturne for the Left Hand? Or do they draw the line at Mozart?

There also appears to be a Pennario fan in Hyderabad, Andrha Pradesh, India. Pennario did not enjoy his time in India, flying supplies over the Himalayas in World War II. But I am sure that as he monitors this blog through heavenly channels, he is happy that he has his fans there.

I have saved the best revelation for last.

We have gotten at least a half-dozen hits from people doing Google searches on -- I am laughing so hard I can hardly type -- "Penthouse Forum."

Can you believe that? These people type in "Penthouse Forum," looking for we do not want to know what, and they find themselves in the middle of a blog about Leonard Pennario, Buffalo, farmers' markets and the Tridentine Mass. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!

It happened because a few weeks ago I wrote that business about looking at the Buffalo skyline from Ruth Killeen's penthouse apartment. And I headlined it "Penthouse Forum."

Ha, ha! I will have to throw in other naughty phrases, see what other hits we can get. Ahem. Hustler! Screw! (As in Curtis Screw, the time-honored Buffalo business.) Busti Avenue! Dick Road!

We could find ourselves pulling in a whole new audience.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Out of the woodwork

Howard morphing into several Buffalo Club past presidents.

Howard and I went lastnight to the Buffalo Club, for the birthday party of the jazz singer Diane Armesto. I had fun. Many, many people asked me about Leonard Pennario.

Because Howard is in the middle of refurbishing Big Blue, he spent a lot of time scrutinizing the Buffalo Club from top to bottom. I now know all about its woodwork -- burled walnut, if I understood correctly. And its fireplaces, which are massive, and there is one I especially liked, with a big buffalo head high above it. And its radiators, which are recessed into the wall.

We stopped short of inspecting the boiler room. But we did inspect the Stephen Watson Library, with its beautiful wooden shelves filled with actual books it would be fun to read, like Mark Twain's "Pudd'nhead Wilson" and John Updike's "In the Beauty of the Lilies." Over the fireplace in the library is carved an oddly pessimistic saying, something about "Rest Here From Life's Vexations, Grasp the Threads of Vanishing Dreams."

Stephen Watson, the library's namesake, was the man who owned this mansion before it morphed into the Buffalo Club. Howard knows that from memorizing Father Dunn's book "Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families." I work with a reporter named Steve Watson. I wonder if he knows that the Buffalo Club's library bears his name.

We are lucky that the Buffalo Club has hung on. Rochester recently lost its Rochester Club, and also another venerable social club they used to have. A man from Rochester told me that lastnight. He says it was a tragedy, that those clubs folded. But they still have the Genesee Valley Club. Whew! What if I ever went to Rochester? I would need somewhere where I could go and put my feet up, where I could rest up after that long dull drive down the 90.

Speaking of putting your feet up, that is exactly what Howard did lastnight. He felt right at home at the Buffalo Club. And you can see why! I mean, look at him, photographed with the club's founding fathers.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

City of squash

Step away from the farmers' market!

That is what I will be chanting as I go -- again -- to Body Sculpt class today. I went crazy at the market Tuesday after my last class. I have to pass it on my way back to work and there is no stopping me. Get this: My fridge was already full of zucchini and summer squash and what did I buy? Zucchini! There was this bright yellow variety I couldn't resist. I had to have it.

So I come home, lay it out on the counter and I tell myself: Mary, this is the dumbest thing you have ever done in your life. And you have done some dumb things.

Since then I have made squash frittata, squash gratin and roasted Mediterranean vegetables featuring, you guessed it, squash. For dinner the other night I made this huge, medieval pie. It was topped with a cornmeal crust and inside were black beans, ground turkey, onions and what else? Did someone say squash? You got it!

You can tell I am the top Buffalo farmers' market customer because when I go to the Main Street market, I am loved. I am greeted, personally, by the farmers. One of them wanted to know why he hadn't seen me recently at Clinton-Bailey. Well, this is why!

So I am trying to figure out how to avoid the downtown market today when I go to the gym. I could be like the Three Kings and return by a different route. But that is not as easy as it sounds. If I took one alternate route, that would take me past Social Services. No one wants to walk past Social Services. Passing the old Memorial Auditorium depresses me. I hate the sight of them preparing it for demolition. Even St. Joseph's Cathedral stresses me out. Leonard Pennario was baptized there, so I like to think about that. But the trouble is, Bishop Kmiec might be in there. And I am so mad at him for closing all those churches, my own church, Gerard's, included.

Navigating downtown Buffalo, it is not easy!

I am afraid I see the market in my future.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Carry that weight

Here is how abject my life has become: The other day, the phone rang and it was the gym.

"Where the #@*$ have you been?" the gym asked.

Well, I am loosely translating. What they said was, I had not been at Body Sculpt class. There is this deal at the Buffalo Athletic Club that Blue Cross will fund your membership, but only if you go to a prescribed number of classes in an agreed-upon length of time. In my case this means eight Body Sculpt classes in eight weeks. I agreed to that in a moment of recklessness.

For a number of reasons, one of which was that I was channeling all my free time into bothering Leonard Pennario's friends for gossip and information, I had not been appearing at the class.

I have to say this, the gym's strategy worked. Yesterday there I was, back at Body Sculpt. Had the BAC not bugged me, I might not have gone. It's hard to make the time.

I got there late, of course. And this is a complicated class in that you have to assemble all this equipment. You have to get a platform you can step up on, and plastic risers that the platform sits on. Then you need a body bar, and weights. So because I'm late, I'm this disturbance. I'm threading my way among all the other exercisers, getting this and that, setting myself up.

Then I have to make repeated trips to the back of the room to get the weights that I forgot to pick up the first time around. I saw my friend Lenny, who sets up his mat back there by the weights. Lenny runs the Three Stooges Film Festival, at the Riviera Theater. He reminded me recently that it is coming up.

"Lenny," I told him over the pounding music, "this is the secret to surviving this class. The more trips you make to the back of the room, the less exercise you have to do."

The truth is, though, I am not sure how much good Body Sculpt is doing me anyhow. I have been to the class three times and it no longer challenges me. The first class, I was sore for days afterwards, and that felt good. No pain, no gain! But now when I do the class I never feel a thing. My robust German Master Race body has craftily adapted. It wants that extra five pounds. It wants them. It has come up with strategies to hold on to them.

It gives me a kind of satisfaction when the teacher is panting and complaining and I am not.

But darn, I'd rather look good!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Street of dreams

The dwindling days of summer! This morning it is actually chilly. There is this chilly breeze coming in through the windows of our home office. My Uncle Bob used to say you could expect that this time of year. He would say, "Oh, you get cold days in August."

Yesterday my friend Gary and I were talking about how fast the summer had flown. "But think of what we can look forward to in the fall, Gary," I said. "Think of all the cooking and eating and wine making we will do." Gary and I make wine together. That is, I pitch in for the juice, at that big Italian place out near the Clinton-Bailey Market. James Desiderio's -- the name just came to me. Then I sit around and watch Gary make the wine. He is a pro. Last year we made this killer Barbera.

Lastnight I put a beautiful summer night to good use by going to the Elmwood Lounge. My friend Jane went with me and we had a glass of wine outside on the sidewalk. Lance Diamond sat with us. How great is that? Note to out-of-towners: Lance Diamond is the legendary crooner at the Elmwood Lounge. He sings "Unforgettable" and gives roses to the ladies. He was also my adversary in the recent Cheese Building Competition at the Italian Festival.

Anyway, Lance and Jane and I sat on Elmwood and watched the world go by. Well, we watched Eric the jewelry guy go by. That is almost just as good. Eric is this hippie who wanders Buffalo and sells jewelry on the street. Once, Jane saw this other girl we know kissing him. I mean really kissing him, after a night out on the town and no sleep. This is a beautiful girl, too. Howard thinks she is one of the sexiest women in Buffalo. She must have been really hung over and out of it, making out with Eric the jewelry guy in the bright morning sun, for all the world to see.

We hashed over that story lastnight. We had done so before and we will do so again.

Then we went inside and listened to Sam Noto and Don Menza and Louie Marino -- all the giants of Italian Buffalo jazz. Sam Falzone was also in the audience and people were hoping he would play but he didn't. I guess he had to run.

I used to play in the UB Jazz Combo under the direction of Sam Falzone. I remember when I first met Leonard Pennario we were sitting around talking about stuff and he somehow got that out of me, that I used to play jazz piano. "Well, I tried to," I told him.

Pennario told me: "I'll bet you are a wonderful jazz pianist."

He was so nice to me.

Lastnight I was thinking it has been too long since I was out listening to jazz of a summer evening. I will have to try to do that again before summer ends and the season of cooking and wine making begins.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Little Italy

Questions, I have questions.

Story Teller (see comments, yesterday), who are you, anyway? What do you write, what stories do you tell? You are always so nice to me but I have been meaning to find this out about you. Are you in Idaho? I will have to ask Mr. Idaho if he knows you.

Chris Byrd -- also speaking of yesterday's comments -- had I known you would not be at the Dozynki Festival I never would have agreed to judge pierogies. Why can't you send your kid off to college by herself? Waaaaah!

I did nothing yesterday but write. Well, first I went to church as usual, then I went to Betty's with my friend Jane. I drowned myself in coffee. Then I sampled that drink they had that is half champagne and half cranberry juice. What the heck is the name of that drink? Well, whatever it is called, the little servers with the pierced lips and noses had to return to our table again and again. As we ate, Jane and I gossiped about the shower the night before and studied the bulletin from St. Anthony's Church. You do not look truly hip having Sunday brunch without displaying a church bulletin on your table.

The priest at St. Anthony's came up to me after Mass as I knelt in my pew -- don't we all love that word, pew? -- and he said, "Thank you for the designated charity." Actually he said, "Thank-a you..." He has a wonderful Italian accent. I love that the priest at my church comes from Italy. Nothing in my life is normal.

I was sort of dazed -- remember, the red wine the night before -- and I couldn't think what he meant. Then I realized it was the cheese-building contest, at the Italian Festival. Remember that? The Sorrento Cheese folks were nice enough to kick in something like $250 to St. Anthony's because of my cheese-building skills, which are considerable. I had named St. Anthony of Padua Church as my designated charity. That is what the padre was talking about, in his-a beautiful accent.

The priest at St. Anthony's has the most wonderful name, Secondo Casarotto. I am in awe of him. He just has this presence about him. The way he blesses us at the end of Mass. That is one line that is spoken, not sung. Father Secondo looks at us and makes the Sign of the Cross and he says, "Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus." May Almighty God bless you. I love that line. It brings tears to my eyes and I am not sure why.

Father Secondo is one of those people who make Buffalo an exotic place. One wet, snowy evening last spring I got to stop by the rectory. I had forgotten my prayer book in the church, and I called and made arrangements to stop by and get it. So I went after work, and I rang the doorbell, and Father Secondo answered the door himself. He ushered me inside and let me sit down and talk to him for a while at his desk. What I remember was how great the place smelled. Something unbelievable was cooking. Something Italian. You could smell garlic and tomato sauce.

Anyway, I never even took my coat or hat off but I remember looking out the window at the sleet and felt absolutely delighted. It was as if I were in an Italian movie. Lucky me, to know men named Leonard Pennario and Secondo Casarotto! Surely we in Buffalo live charmed lives.

When I left, Father Secondo handed me my missal. There was a yellow sticky-pad sheet affixed to it, saying "Goldman."

St. Anthony being the patron saint of lost objects, the padre joked: "Nothing gets lost in this church."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pianists, parties and pierogies

This morning I was thinking about the good things that have happened this week. I was asked to judge the pierogi contest at the Dozynki Festival at Corpus Christi Church this coming Saturday, I think it is. (Don't worry, I'll get it straight. Far be it from me to screw up when it comes to free pierogies.) Also I got this great new source going on the Leonard Pennario book. That is this gentleman from Idaho who is an accomplished pianist and asked Leonard a lot of questions about piano. It's fun to compare notes. You always find something new.

In the middle of talking about Rachmaninoff and Ravel we had special fun piecing together what we both had heard about Leonard's brief encounter with Grace Kelly. Mr. Idaho had heard a little bit more than I had. I think because I am a woman Leonard had a little trouble confiding certain details. I used to have to drag things out of him, often in a series of courtroom yes/no questions. Once, such a series of questions ended in us both laughing. Another time, we both wound up crying and I was sent home.

Extreme music interviewing! I used to tease him: "See, Leonard, if you had picked a guy to write your book, you would not be going through this. But, the situation being what it is..."

God, I just miss him so much.

On the bright side, lastnight I went to the best bridal shower. It was at night, not at 2 in the afternoon, plus there were guys there. I got to bring Howard. Other girls brought their husbands and boyfriends. A few husbands and boyfriends even showed up by themselves. The party was in a North Buffalo back yard and the night was so beautiful. They lit tiki torches. And they had a little fountain bubbling away in one corner. It was just $70 at Lowe's! I want one.

Not to shock anyone, but I drank too much red wine. Well, actually I didn't have that much, but what I had hit me extra hard because I wasn't eating. Because of my braces it is easier to drink than to eat, alas and alack. After the party Howard and I hit the Hyatt for Jackie Jocko's last set. This great guy we know from City Hall was there and bought us drinks and silly me, I accepted. Heck, I wasn't driving. I should not have said yes to that extra glass. I ended up hugging Dr. James Williams, the Buffalo superintendent of schools, and I am afraid I told him that after I finish my book on Leonard Pennario I would write one about him. Then Jocko got me talking about Leonard Pennario and I just kept talking and talking.

But here is my saving grace: I was not so gone on wine that I swallowed Jocko's nonsense. He tried telling me that Pennario had confided in him when he was at the Hyatt. "He told me, 'Jackie, there is something special about that writer. I could tell that on the phone. I could tell there was something different about her.' He told me that."

At the same time I was eating it up I knew it wasn't true. I said, "Jocko, cut it out."

But that is one thing I love about Jocko. He tells you what you want to hear. Accuracy comes second.

We all need a person like that in our lives.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Being that nobody reads blogs on the weekends, I thought I would take the opportunity to air my controversial views on law enforcement.

I love starting sentences with "Being that." Back in college, my sister the left winger's boyfriend wrote a paper on the Boer War (no more specific than that -- it was titled "The Boer War") that began: "Being that Cecil Rhodes..." I loved that. Ever since then I have used the phrase "Being that..." every chance I got.

Where was I? Oh, my views on law enforcement.

Today, The Buffalo News' city page bears the irresistible, The Onion-like headline of "Police Batter Their Way Into Wrong Home." It seems the police were supposed to be looking for heroin in an upstairs flat and instead barged their way into the downstairs flat. The people barged in on are complaining and suing.

Excuse me? If police had reason to believe people over my head were dealing in heroin, I would want them to investigate it. If they broke into my place by mistake, I would not complain. I would say, in grand Buffalo fashion, "No problem." Then I would offer to help them batter their way into the suspected heroin dealer's apartment.

What is wrong with these people? Do they want their neighborhoods cleaned up or don't they?

And now, about these cameras.

I am reading everywhere about that we are getting cameras on street corners. They are supposed to help deter crime. It seems a no-brainer that yes, they do deter crime. If criminals think there is a camera over their heads, they might think twice about sticking a gun in your back. It's common sense. It's logic.

But journalism always requires another side to the story, so we bring out the usual suspect, the head of the Civil Liberties Union, saying there is no indication that it deters crime, blah blah blah.

If there is no indication that it deters crime, maybe that is because these cameras are new and we have not had them long enough for statistics.

And even if they did not deter crime, so what? At least we're giving them a try.

Don't tell me about privacy. I don't care who watches me at the street corner. They can watch me pawing through my handbag, looking for my keys. Then they can listen in on me on my cell phone, asking people questions about Leonard Pennario, and trying to figure out if he returned to Steinway from Baldwin in 1952 or 1953. Go ahead, officers. Knock yourself out!

The way I see it, I am not losing freedom.

I will gain freedom, if I am ever able to walk to the corner in the middle of the night.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Batman and Robbins

Downtown Gotham last night.

After Howard took me out to Jocko lastnight I forgave him his ignoring of my artisan bread and his consumption of the Wegmans sub. Well, I am still working on forgiving him the sub. But after another trip to Jocko that should be OK.

If he didn't butter up the bread, at least he is buttering me up. And it is working!

Jocko played us "Midnight on the Cliffs" in honor of Leonard Pennario. Afterwards, Howard took pictures of the Liberty Building, Big Blue and the full moon. (See above. Big Blue is in foreground.) Buffalo has an unusual skyline, as we discussed a while ago. Lastnight we were thinking it looked like a set for "Batman."

Speaking of which, look at Howard's comment the other day about keeping company with a bat! Howard is Bat Man!

And there is a Haydn manuscript in Big Blue.

There has to be. I am sure of it. Last week I had lunch with Chuck and Kay Martina, old friends of Leonard Pennario. Kay gave me a sheaf of old newspaper clippings to look at from The Buffalo News. One was a book review of.. I forget what, because what really caught my eye was a story on the other side.

It was an interview with the musicologist H. C. Robbins Landon. He is famous for his research on Mozart -- I read all his Mozart books when I was a kid -- but he also did a ton of research on Haydn. He had a lot to do with all the Haydn that is played these days. The interview talks about how he found excuses to knock around Austria and Germany after World War II, so he could dig up all these old manuscripts.

Landon seems to have been a great interview. He has a very gritty way of talking. When he's talking about releasing the first recording of Haydn's "The Creation," he recalls seeing: "hard-bitten New York s.o.b.'s with tears streaming down their faces." And I liked this: "I had been admitted to go to Harvard and get my Ph.D., and I thought this over, and I said I'm not going to do it. I'll get myself into the army here so I can stay in Austria and get my hot little hands on those manuscripts. Harvard was insulted beyond belief. Nobody had ever said, 'I'm not going to come.'"

Ha, ha! I like anyone who insults Harvard. Anyway, Landon goes looking for those manuscripts, and he finds them in buildings -- well, like Big Blue.

"All over Austria -- the Frankenstein-Dracula country -- there are these really spectacular, dank, frightening castles that have Haydn manuscripts," he says. "One of them is called Harburg -- that's in Bavaria, and you can see the bats swarming out of it sometimes -- and it has a huge collection of Haydn."

I am not sure that Austria would be considered Frankenstein-Dracula country. I think that is Transylvania in ... Romania, wouldn't that be?

But I am sure that there must be Haydn in Big Blue. I mean, look at the place, in the picture above. All the signs are there. The bats. The dank and frightening aspects. Well, in the basement anyway. And the third floor.

I am thinking the third floor is where the Haydn is hidin'.

I am going to go in with a flashlight.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Not by bread alone

Monday, whatever day it was before I went to Chautauqua, I baked two loaves of bread. Baking bread is one of the goofy Amish habits I have. I have a number of other Amish habits I do not want to own up to now. (Hint: Roasting my own granola is one.)

Anyway, I baked these two beautiful whole wheat oatmeal loaves. I brushed them with beaten egg so they had this gorgeous dark glaze. And I sprinkled oatmeal flakes over the top of the glaze so they would look like something from Wegmans. So I have these two unbelievable loaves of dark, wonderful, artisan bread.

I brought one loaf as a hostess gift to this friend of Jane's we were staying with in Chautauqua. Jane, who is also in touch with her inner Amish person, brought homemade preserves. She is the canner. I am the baker. I do make a mean orange marmalade but that is too sticky a topic to get into right now. AHAHAHAH!

The other loaf I left on the counter at home after bragging about it to Howard and telling him it was for him.

Two things happen. Number one, hostess in Chautauqua refuses, over the course of the weekend, so much as to sample the bread. Don't say she had a wheat allergy, either. I saw her eating pizza and all kinds of other bread-like stuff.

I even took a slice out of it and left a note: "I tried this. It's good!"


Then I get home to Buffalo and -- hurray, the loaf of bread I left with Howard is gone from the counter. He ate it! I am loved! I am appreciated!

But no! I open the fridge and there it is. Sitting in there. Without so much as a slice out of it. And just this afternoon when I called Howard he was at Wegmans, buying a sub! Can you believe it?

Doesn't he appreciate that he married bread?


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Greetings from Perfectville

You wouldn't believe where I am right now. I am on this beautiful patio and there are banks of flowers and a bird feeder teeming with yellow birds. We are at the top of a gentle hill and all you can see are trees and flowers and cottages. And there are no boom cars!

Well, I just glanced at the bird feeder and the yellow birds have flown away for a moment and the thing is occupied by a giant squirrel. So all is not perfect.

But it is pretty close to it!

Every time I am in a place like this -- this is the home of Jane's friend Linda, by the way -- I think reproachfully of my own house, and I wonder why I have so much trouble keeping it clean, keeping it neat. I do not know what the secret is. What I do know is I come to houses like this and everything is perfect. I would be relieved to find that the vases of flowers are fake, but they are not.

Contrast this with my house. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, as Leonard Pennario used to say as a joke to me to apologize for something.

This house is in the new build section of Chautauqua. Sprawl, at the Chautauqua Institution! There are whole neighborhoods that were not here when I was a teenager studying piano for a summer and working for these two drunk old ladies. I will always remember that summer. My cousin Caroline, who is my age, was there with me. We started cracking under the stress of having to clean a hundred rooms a day -- we were chambermaids -- and missing our friends back in Buffalo, and we started to fight. To keep the peace our parents would bring us bottles of gin. We would make gin and tonics and sit on the porch at night and all would be well.

Chautauqua has more stores now than it did then, and places sell energy drinks, and there is an Eckard Drugs and also this is the first summer they serve booze. You see, you let in the Catholics and the Jews, and now anything goes. Years ago when I was a teen-ager here the Catholics and the Jews were not recognized. They did not have their religious houses here. Chautauqua was the only place where I experienced anti-Catholic prejudice. But you know what, it didn't bother me that much. It wasn't so much annoying as it was quaint and curious. It was also true to Chautauqua's roots in old-guard Protestantism. I was seeing a bit of history.

The pianist lastnight was excellent. But that is a matter for the Buffalo News blog. I blog on the Buffalo News Artsbeat blog at and I am supposed to write about music so when I have something good to say about music, I put it there! Except about Leonard Pennario. I am not supposed to write about Leonard Pennario in The News because I am writing a book about him.

All I hear right now is the ticking of a clock and the chirping of birds. My cell phone does not even work. There is no cell signal.

Tomorrow morning, I go back to my old hectic environs.

How will I do it?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Today I am going to Chautauqua. I don't go there very often and every time I do, I can't quite make up my mind whether I like it there or not. I love the area, the Chautauqua County wine country, Bemus Point, the Hotel Lenhart. But once I get inside the gates of the Institution I sometimes start feeling a little funny.

One thing I do appreciate about Chautauqua is how weird it is.

There is nothing like it in the country. There can't be. This odd little gated community, frozen in time, like the setting for Booth Tarkington's "Seventeen." (Remember George's and my little book club that I talked about the other day? That is one book on which we disagree. I love it and he finds it annoying.)

You would think people would at least try to film movies at Chautauqua. It is like a turn-of-the-last-century Pleasantville. Those old WASP names. Pratt Street. The Miller Bell Tower. One thing I do love is Palestine Park. I have read that it is built to scale and everything. Who could make this stuff up?

And here is what really blows my mind when I contemplate the uniqueness of Western New York. We have not only Chautauqua, but Lily Dale. Is that ever a strange place!

You would think that Chautauqua would have cinched our gold medal in the Weirdness Olympics, but no, someone had to go and create this musty moldy old community of spiritualists and mediums (media?). A whole village of them! Why is this place not played up in horror movies? How does Hollywood miss it? Just like Chautauqua, I am sure there is nothing like it in the world. There cannot be.

As a trad Catholic I am forbidden to dabble in the occult, and to tell you the truth I am happy for the excuse not to do it. I have enough problematic people in my life. Why do I want to go usher in ghosts and goblins?

What about "The Fall of the House of Usher"?

But I did have my (very few) encounters with Lily Dale. Growing up around here you cannot completely avoid it. Once in Lily Dale I went to Inspiration Stump (now there is a place name that has to be unique in the world). And to my astonishment I was contacted by Elmore James, the dead bluesman.

Not only that, but a couple of years ago, when I went to Lily Dale for a Halloween story I was writing, I am pretty sure that a medium predicted my book on Leonard Pennario.

But that is a story for another day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic blogging

What with roasting my turkey and marveling at the butchers at the Broadway Market and grilling Leonard Pennario's friends, I have had no time to watch the Olympics. I didn't know how exotic they were getting.

Who knew there was such a thing as Olympic Air Pistol? The paper showed a picture of the Russian medalist in air pistol with her arm around the Georgian medalist in air pistol.

I know, it takes skill to fire an air pistol. But what do you exercise, your trigger finger? What about Olympic Air Hockey? That's more athletic than air pistol.

What about Olympic Air Guitar?

How about Olympic Lotto? Or Olympic Video Slot Machine? Or the Screwing Up Newspaper Delivery Olympics? You train by tossing the papers into the bushes, more and more expertly each time. Howard suggests the J-Date Olympics. Or the Gladhanding Schmoozer Olympics. Or ... here's one for Buffalo... the Coupon Olympics.

We should have a Bureaucrat Olympics. How many fees and knee-jerk headline laws can you impose on the public in a two-hour period? New York State could have that one sewn up.

Wait, we've got it. Olympic Road Rage! First, the mall parking lot event. Then the highway event. Then the cloverleaf event. Then the backing out of your own driveway event. The being late for church event. It would be costly for the host country to set up this infrastructure but then there never seems to be any financial limit when it comes to these things.

What about Olympia Dukakis? Or the Olympic Towers? Or Olympic Family Restaurant, on Military Road?

Or Olympic Avenue, where Troidl's used to be? Why are there no festivities there?

And I wonder why I never get any work done.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Autumn in August

Who can believe this weather? What is it today, 50 degrees or something? I'll tell you how cold it is. I am roasting a turkey. Well, it is roasted now but I am waiting for Howard to get back from Big Blue.

Are those TV weather-heads talking about this weird weather at all? Because they sure should be. I do not remember any summer at all the way this one has been for the last month. Brilliant sun one minute, dark clouds the next. This morning I came out of Mass and it was raining. I got to my car and the sun was shining. I could not get over that.

The other day this friend of Leonard Pennario's who called me from out of town asked me what the weather was like here. I think everyone across the country is talking about weather. He was from Idaho. Anyway, I told him how it was storm clouds one minute, sun the next. Then I said, "But I don't mind. Cause that's the way I've been feeling." Which, I felt silly for saying that, but it is true. I have been so up and down working on this book.

I'll tell you, though: I have had enough of summer. I have been very happy today, thank you very much.

I know, it's blasphemous to say that. But you wouldn't believe our street on a hot summer day. The noise. Everyone has his windows open. I feel as if I'm in Hell's Kitchen, living in a tenement, circa 1880. Is that how you spell "tenement"? It looks funny. And I realize I have never had occasion to use that word, until now.

Every day boom cars line up in front of my house. It happens from about 7 a.m. till about 10 p.m. I feel as if I'm under attack. This one set of neighbors has a pool and if it's hot, you hear "Marco!" "Polo!" "Marco!" "Polo!" "Marco!" "Polo!" until midnight.

Forget summer! Forget it!

Bring on the fall! I want to roast beets and sweet potatoes and drink that serious heavy red wine that I love. I want everyone's windows shut and when I practice the slow movement of Beethoven's "Appassionata" I want to be able to hear myself. I also want to go cross-country skiing in the park with no cars blaring their stereos, no people swearing, no rugby, no slugs, nothing. Just me, and the soft scrape of my skis. I love that. Plus, I lose weight.

With luck, my book will be done by then.

I want to be able to enjoy the pleasures of the season.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Vegetative state

Saturday is a great day because it means I get to pick up my bag of vegetables from Porter Farms. I look forward to that. Last week I joined the, ahem, Community Assisted Agriculture movement. I think that is what it is called. I must be the only Republican in the world engaged in this push.

I have to pick up my bag a couple of blocks away, on Woodbridge Avenue. Naturally though it's close, I drive. As a Republican I must assert my carbon footprint somehow.

Last week's bag is pretty much gone so I can congratulate myself on that. I ate it all up! They gave me two frying peppers, and I fried them. Two small heads of lettuce, about a half a grocery bag of green beans, five beets, about eight zucchini, two yellow squash, gone, gone, gone. I am on the South Beach Diet in perpetuity so I burned through it all. I did leave half of my last salad in a Tupperware thing under my desk at work by mistake yesterday, so there's a possible waste -- boooo! But I was going to go downtown later today to go to confession so I can stop by the office then and get it and see what shape it is in.

Listen to me. I am so stupid when it comes to money.

I agonize over wasting half a head of lettuce. And just now -- I have the floury hands to prove it -- I just kneaded up the dough for two loaves of bread just so I could use up this oatmeal Howard cooked yesterday and didn't eat. So on the one hand I am this model of thrift. On the other, I go ahead and rack up hundreds of dollars' worth of overdue book fines at the library. How silly is that?

But let's not talk about my stupidity. I will do enough talking about that in the confessional this afternoon. Let's talk instead about food. I have a new favorite thing. It is that chicken-wing sausage they make at Cammelia's.

It's made out of chicken, and they put this cheese in it, and this chicken-wing spice. Howard said, "It tastes just like chicken wings!" But with a million fewer calories. Of course not when it's consumed in the massive amount that we consumed it in the other day.

For the life of me I can not remember if it's Cammelia's or Camellia's. But I have to write one thing more about that place. It has been at the Broadway Market what, two years now? I remember when it got there. And overnight, it looked as if it had been there forever. Faded family photos on the walls, battered-looking specials signs, crucifix, the works.

Also, Eric, the owner: Surely he is the world's hunkiest butcher! When I met Baby Joe Mesi, I remember thinking, he is the best of his kind, a beautiful Italian man. You could say the same thing looking at a picture of Leonard Pennario, tall and dark in his white tie and tails. Perfect specimens, both of them. Just perfect. God does not make them better.

Gazing at Eric over a pile of pork chops, I think, he is the best of his kind, a handsome, buff, hard-working Polish man. Check him out, ladies!

And Howard wonders why I don't mind all those trips to the Broadway Market.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dreaming big

Thanks, Mr. Stevens, for hipping me yesterday to that story on Van Cliburn in the Philadelphia Inquirer! I like that I am not the only one obsessed with concert pianists.

Naturally I got right on the Inquirer site and read that story. I actually think the writer was fair to Cliburn. But wow, he was unfair to Pennario last week in the Guardian. Boo to him.

Now on to more intellectual matters. Lastnight was great sleeping weather -- so cool and breezy. My goofy subconscious celebrated by sending me this really silly dream.

I dreamed I worked for the New York Times. And I had to go review a concert at Carnegie Hall. My sister Katie, the left-winger, was with me. We were all done up in evening wear. But we were supposed to ride bikes to the concert. We got onto the bikes in our long gowns and I said, "Katie, this won't work." So we sent my brother Tony -- he was there too -- to hail a cab and keep it waiting for us. By now it was 8:30. The concert started at 8. I remember hoping that it had started late. Also, someone had stolen my purse.

Leonard Pennario was in the dream too. He was an old man but he was not in a wheelchair, as he was when I knew him. He was walking, a little unsteadily. He was tall and I was walking next to him and I put my arm around him, I remember that.

What a funny dream! What does it mean? I am open to interpretations.

Leonard and I used to discuss our dreams last winter in California. He would usually ask me to come over at 3:30, and that was the time he was finishing up his nap. I guess the idea was that I would wake him up. So when he awoke, as he was lying in bed, we used to talk about dreams. Leonard always dreamed about the concert hall. He would tell me about what he was playing, what was going on. He got me dreaming about stuff like that too and one night I had hilarious dreams about having to play with Heifetz. Leonard was a great audience for that dream. He listened interestedly to all its twists and turns and then he said, "I wonder what it means!"

About the dream lastnight, I was planning on writing an email in the morning to James Barron, the New York Times reporter who wrote that great obituary for Pennario, so maybe that explains the part about the New York Times. And about being late for the concert, that's always a concern of mine in real life.

But what about the rest of it?

I wonder what it means!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My favorite butcher

Today I think I will stop by the Broadway Market. I do a lot of my food shopping there, and I hear that my favorite butcher, Beverly, is back. She used to work at Malczewski's but recently she was nabbed, apparently, by headhunters working for Camellia's. Up until last week she was at the Camellia's on Genesee but now, rumor has it she is at the Camellia's stand at the Broadway Market.

Everyone should be able to toss around the phrase "my favorite butcher." I am glad that here in Buffalo we have that privilege.

When I go to the Broadway Market I will be trailed by law enforcement throughout the country. That is because I am the tester for Howard's covert GPS vehicle tracking business, Cops (including those Detroit DEA NARC guys on the reality TV show) follow my car everywhere, which means they track me regularly to the Broadway Market. I am reminded of this when I get the inevitable call from Howard: "I see you're at the market. Can you pick me up some bacon?"

The big question then: Malczewski's or Camellia's?

I love both places. Come to think of it, Jim Malczewski is also in the running for the My Favorite Butcher award. He is so handsome. Oh. Remember Rick, this other butcher? He used to work at the sausage place where Camellia's is now. The saga with Rick was so funny and odd. All of a sudden his personality just changed. He came out, is what happened. After years selling sausages, Rick realized he was gay.

The funny thing was how it happened overnight. One week, Rick was just this regular guy, telling you in a normal voice, "Yeah, I got these pork chops here on special." The next, he was this drama queen. "Look at these beautiful sausages..." And he was joyously telling us about his transformation.

Then, next thing we knew, he was gone. Poof. Like that. He got another job somewhere, we were told. We missed him. Probably now he is dancing nude in Vegas. I heard about one nude male revue in Vegas called -- a title I love -- "Thunder Down Under." I am guessing that is where he is. Think of it, he could have his own shtick. He could be the butcher, selling sausages, when suddenly ... but now I am getting naughty. I will stop. All I will say is I hope Rick is happy, wherever he is. We loved him.

Wasn't that fun? Gossip like that keeps the Broadway Market interesting.

They should put me on the board. I would make the place successful.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

All Things Forsyte

If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, I got the best flattery from blogging colleague All Things Jennifer. She responded to my Cast of Characters by saying she wanted to write one of her own.

Do so, Jennifer, in good health! I actually think a Cast of Characters should be obligatory for everyone's blog. It helps keep everything straight.

My Cast of Characters was really Howard's idea. But Howard, in turn, borrowed it from "The Forsyte Saga." He didn't read the book, but I did. Funny, I never saw any of the TV adaptations or anything. I must be the only person in the world who knows "The Forsyte Saga" only from the book. Anyway, I couldn't put "The Forsyte Saga" down, and for weeks, I would read it in bed until I could no longer keep my eyes open. After I fell asleep, with visions of Soames Forsyte dancing through my head, Howard would have to take "The Forsyte Saga" out of my hands and lay it on the floor next to the bed. In doing so, he often noticed the family tree that was printed on the inside cover.

Howard suggested that I blog a Cast of Characters and I said sure, because it gave me one more chance to mention Leonard Pennario, which I never get tired of doing.

My brother George read "The Forsyte Saga" too. We have our own informal book club, just us passing books back and forth. We read this select list of titles and discuss them obsessively.

Here are books our book club has tackled.

1.) "The Forsyte Saga," by John Galsworthy.
2.) "Marjorie Morningstar," by Herman Wouk. George is actually reading this one again at the moment, that's how good it is.
3.) "I Am Charlotte Simmons," by Tom Wolfe. Before text messages went up to 20 cents we would often text-message each other lines from this book.
4.) "Lost Horizons," by I forget who. This one is more one-sided. I couldn't really get into it. But George swears by it.
5.) "Brideshead Revisited." George has already read it and I am going to start it. I have only the sketchiest memories of the TV series so I will be approaching this one, too, from a TV-free perspective. (Naturally I will avoid the movie too.)

Meanwhile I will await All Things Jennifer's Cast of Characters.

Her blog belongs, of course, on anyone's list of classics.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Appliance hell

All my appliances are giving out. I am starting to think the problem is me. Maybe I am radiating electricity or magnetic force.

Anyway, there have been three. The first was my turntable. When I was a kid, vinyl was already on the way out, but I stuck with it then, and I stick with it now. And last week, my trusty old stereo system, the one that I won in a mortgage contest when I worked at Citibank, it began making a noise. So I need a new turntable. Listen to me. How 1950s could I possibly sound?

The next was the Water-Pik. At least I took care of that. Going without a Water-Pik is for me like going without oxygen, so I can cross that off my list.

But also, somewhere along the line, my CD Walkman quietly kicked. Not with any drama, either. It is like a person who decides to stop eating. It just quietly refuses to accept any disk. You put one in and it asks you "Disc?" "Disc?"

I went to Kmart last week looking for a new Walkman. I got to Electronics and no one was there. Also, I did not see one thing that resembled a portable CD player. Also Kmart is a total zoo on Saturdays and I just could not handle it. So I left. And yesterday I went to Walgreen's to get one.

What a slug experience I had!

The Walkman, God knows why, was locked up like Fort Knox behind the Camera counter. Things were fixed so you couldn't take it off the rack it hung from. If that isn't the dumbest thing! This thing cost $15.95. Whereas the Water-Pik cost something like $50, and that you can just walk off with.

The kid behind the Camera counter expertly avoided my eyes until I finally yelled "Hello!" right in his ear.

"Could you please help me out with that CD gizmo?" I said, pointing out the one I needed.

Then I had him help me get a pair of headphones, too. A cheap Walkman sounds a lot better with decent headphones.

He got these things for me. But he never met my eyes and never said anything aside from a series of grunts.

Then of course I am the one saying, "Thank you."

And he just grunts again, and returns to whatever slug pursuit had occupied him before my approach.

Why are we always the ones thanking these people?

But the strategy works for them. Because as I tested the Walkman out yesterday, I was dissatisfied because it skipped a lot. I mean, I didn't pay top dollar for it but it wasn't THAT cheap, either. It really should work better than it does.

Still, do you think I'll return it? No!

I just can't face that slug.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Black cord fever

All day I have been on the phone with people who knew Leonard Pennario to varying degrees. I talked to a wonderful guy who was an army buddy of Leonard's, and a former RCA executive, and a bridge buddy from his later years. Three very different people, all with different but very useful vantage points.

There is something that keeps me going through all this work on the book, and all I can think is that it is a gift from God: that I have this endless curiosity about the tiniest thing involving Leonard Pennario.

Interviewee: "So then he wanted to go to this ice cream parlor, and he got this strawberry sundae, and--"

Me (Dreamily): "Oh, when I was with him, he always got chocolate. So did he order strawberry ice cream a lot when you knew him?"

I am making up that exchange but I am not exaggerating by much. I ask people what their first impressions of Leonard were, if he ever expressed opinions on this or that, if they were lucky enough to go to movies with him and, if so, what movies they saw. I found myself asking the RCA guy what Leonard's residence had looked like, the penthouse where he lived on Wilshire Boulevard. Was it comfortable? Or was it the type of place where you were afraid to sit down on the couch?

The thing is, Leonard and I had kind of a joke about that. I was curious about what the places where he lived over the years looked like, but when I asked him, he would get all haughty and say, "I'm not a decorator. I'm not going to start talking about dishes and wallpaper and stuff." Typical guy. So I started asking him those questions just to tease him. I'd make it a point to ask about other people's houses, too.

"So, Leonard, Cole Porter's house, what did the dining room look like?"

"I'm not a decorator."

That was fun. I am never happier than when I am annoying someone I love.

Anyway, that was my day, poking and prodding at the endless, fascinating mystery of mysteries that is Leonard Pennario. I never get sick of it. Never. But now here it is -- gulp! -- 5:50 p.m. And I can't do any more work.

That is because I made the mistake of reading back on my blog and I saw the comment RaChaCha made the other day about Ron Moss's summons. RaChaCha suggested that next time Moss runs for mayor we have a parade of shopping carts down Delaware, with everyone yelling obscenities in the general direction of City Hall. He wrote it better than I did just now but ... what an image!

Now I am in the mood for nothing but fun and games.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Artpark Nazi

I have been to Artpark five times this summer, for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's Summerfest. Funny, it has rained all five times. The sun usually comes out when I get there, but I have wound up eating five picnics under the shelter. Anyway, that is an odd coincidence. So is that, on all my trips to Artpark, I had never yet this summer encountered a rude usher.

Until lastnight!

The concert was ending. The orchestra was bowing. The people were on their feet applauding. And I headed for the door. I had to write about the concert for the paper and the deadline is really early so the object is to get out the door before anyone else does. And this battleax old usher saw me moving toward the door. I saw her see me. She got up from her seat and made her way down. And she barred my path.

"No one goes out these doors until the house lights come on," she said.

Then I made my mistake. I explained sweetly to her what I did and that I had to leave because of my deadline. That was a mistake. People like her are motivated by power. Her determination to boss me only increased when she realized what a relatively big fish I was, that I was now subject to her domination. She planted herself in front of the doors and glared at me.

"You can use the tunnel at the end of Aisle 3," she declaimed, shaking her head.

At this point all I wanted to do in the world was yell an obscenity at her the way Ron Moss did the other day. There is this halo around me today because I did not. I walked away.

Mean ushers are the worst!! And they are everywhere. You run into them at Shea's, too. The mean usher is cousin to the guy who stands in the street when there is a race going on and tells you that you cannot drive here or there. They are volunteers and in return for volunteering they have been handed authority. And the more important they think you are, the more pleasure they take in thwarting you.

Being nice to them does not help. That is the part that really kills me. I usually try to be nice to people. I hate it when it is thrown back in my face.

On the bright side, I cooked a masterful picnic for my Artpark visit lastnight. My friend Lizzie went with me. Lizzie is a prison guard at a big, bad house in the Finger Lakes. (No, in answer to your question, I have no normal friends.)

I made this Moroccan chicken tagine out of this glitzy Williams-Sonoma cookbook I have. There was a time I bought all these coffee table cookbooks at Waldenbooks downtown. They would cheer me up in the middle of dreary workdays. While other people display these books, I actually cook out of them. They are all slopped up and stained.

This Moroccan stew called for a gigantic amount -- a tablespoon and a half -- of this spice called sumac that I have never used. I was thrilled for a chance to use this sumac! ! I bought it at the Broadway Market a few months ago for no reason at all other than the spice lady, Cheri, told me that it had a very interesting taste and there was no other spice like it. Cheri has never steered me wrong so I knew I would use this sumac someday. Yesterday was that day.

The stew also called for sesame seeds, not ground up, and a big eggplant, which I had just picked up at Guercio's. To go with it I made North African couscous, out of "Moosewood Cooks At Home," and steamed green beans, which are just about the only green vegetable I can eat these days with this metal in my mouth. And Lizzie praised my picnic!! I love that. I hate when you pack up a picnic and go through all this trouble and no one compliments you. That happens.

When it does, it is almost as irritating as a mean usher. But not quite.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Not another pretty face.

Wow, the blog is famous, ever since news broke yesterday of Ron Moss's City of Buffalo violation ticket. Moss, in case you are just checking in, yelled obscenities at an officer. This breaking story is being covered on the much-read blog of Buffalo Pundit as well as other news outlets throughout the area.

I should not be writing a book about Leonard Pennario. I should be writing about Ron Moss. Except it is a lot more fun to look at pictures of Leonard Pennario, I will say that.

Goodness, how I veer from topic. Back to Moss. We bring you an update: At a news conference today, Moss expressed his determination to fight the charges against him. We will put the word out when the date of trial is determined. Seats will go fast.

Here are things Moss says that are immortal.

1.) "Like a caged animal." Applies to how he feels when his wife won't let him leave the apartment.
2.) "Where can a white man get a sandwich in this one-horse town?" Uttered to a local when we were on a family junket to Davenport, Iowa.
3.) "Byron Brown!" This loud reference to our mayor is yelled in Metro buses.
4.) "Better than the wife." Tossed in the direction of females.
5.) "You're not too bad." Ditto.

I was going to do 10 but we will save the other five for another day. We can't shock all the newcomers who are being hooked today through Pundit's blog. We have to start them off easy.

And I thought the big news yesterday was going to be my new Water-Pik. It is the Steinway of Water-Piks. I am in love with this thing. You fill up this huge reservoir with water and .... oh, forget it.

Next to Moss, nothing is that interesting.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Ron Moss participates in city crack-down.

Ron Moss does not sweat the small stuff.

The City of Buffalo announced this week that they are following New York City's 1990's "broken window" model by cracking down on minor offenses. It has been demonstrated that by sweating the small stuff, the more serious crime and quality of life issues can be managed.

Please click on ticket for larger view and to read the offense.

Not to be left out, Buffalo cab driver emeritus - family nut - mayoral candidate Ron Moss decided to volunteer for the program. So today he yelled an obscenity at an unmarked police car after being told to get his shopping cart out of the street.