Tuesday, September 30, 2008

City of taxes

I am sitting here hovering like a hawk over my M&T banking site waiting for my paycheck to be deposited into my account, because today is the day I finally, at long last, pay my City of Buffalo property taxes.

Render unto Byron Brown that which is Byron Brown's!

I am not poor. But ever since I met Leonard Pennario and began spending all that time in California, everything has been late. Scrambled. Hand to mouth. Sometime during the summer my city tax bill showed up and it got buried under a pile of Pennario's records, and I didn't find it until last week. Great going, me! Yay!

Now I owe interest. It keeps going up. It is like Monty Python's Stop That Film. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. It is also like "Gone With the Wind." I feel like Scarlett O'Hara having to pay the taxes on Tara. Ha, ha! Listen to me. If I had a dollar for every dumb movie or TV simile I could come up with for this situation, I would not be in this situation in the first place.

Today is the magic moment. Today is the opportunity to get these taxes settled. At some charmed point this afternoon, my paycheck goes into my account, and then I will have a few hours to get my taxes paid before it is October, and the interest goes up again.

Whoo-hoo! Please, paycheck, go into my account! Please, City of Buffalo Web site, work!

This day, this triumph, this gigantic fiscal victory, is the result of weeks of implementing cutbacks. See, I mention Byron Brown, now I am talking like him. I love the way Byron Brown talks.

The cutbacks remind me of something that has been confusing me. This big financial crisis we keep hearing about? Supposedly it is the worst since the Great Depression. But I do not see anyone else cutting back the way I have been.

I have the fashion aisle of Amvets to myself.

In the dried-bean section of Save-A-Lot, I forage alone.

I don't see people giving up their Tim Horton's coffee.

And just this morning, in the Wall Street Journal, the front page is all about how the markets are tumbling, how all of us are broke. But inside, there's this story about this successful entrepreneur. Her "aha" moment? "She realized there was no frozen organic baby food available for busy working parents in the U.S."

If people are shelling out for frozen organic baby food, how bad can things be?

I like Howard's solution: "We just have to figure out how to make more money."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Midnight on the phone

Lastnight, late, my cell phone rang and it was a cousin of Leonard Pennario's I had never spoken with before. She is 84 and she lives in Rhode Island and she wanted to talk to me for the book I am writing.

Luckily I could talk, I had time, so I hooked up the tape recorder and called her back on my land line and we settled in. We must have talked for about an hour. She had known Leonard only briefly, when he was 15 and came to visit her family in Newport. But it was a magical summer. I have been to Newport a couple of times and I think of it as a magical town. Leonard did, too. He wrote his famous "Midnight on the Cliffs" when he was walking on the beach in Newport. His cousin knew about that. She remembered that night.

What was wonderful about his cousin was that she is so beautifully spoken. She has a beautiful voice, and she phrased things so gracefully and so vividly. It reminded me of Joan Fontaine in "Rebecca" -- "Sometimes I do go back to Manderley..."

Anyway, for once in my life, I shut up! I kept thinking, on the phone with her: What if I ever could put together a radio documentary on doing this book? I would want her voice in it.

She was 16 that summer she met Leonard. He was 15. He had a crush on her and she wanted nothing to do with that because when you are that age, a year means the world, and you did not want any younger boy hanging around with you. But she laughed as she remembered him running into the room and jumping onto the couch with her, to tickle her and hassle her, the way guys do when they like you. It was so thrilling to get a snapshot of Leonard at that point in his life, especially from a girl's point of view. She told me about how his voice was changing, how tall and skinny he was. I was getting tears in my eyes. I wasn't sure at first why.

Then it struck me that as close as I was to Leonard, I had met him only in his last year, when he was 83 and had only six months left to live. She had known him only at the beginning of his life, and I had known him only at the end. There is something poignant about that which is not lost on you when you have had a glass of wine. Which, fortunately for the book, I had.

The cousin went on to tell me that a few years later, when Leonard was 19, they went to his debut with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. They went backstage to see him and -- oh, I can't go into this now. I have to get my head out of the clouds and get to work. But I just found her story so beautiful and bittersweet. Like a perfect cameo. Sometimes this book makes me think of a mosaic. All these colored and detailed little tiles, and they form one big picture.

Funny, it's a picture of Howard's shoes, with an eggplant in between them! Something has gone terribly wrong!

Oh, wait, I was looking at yesterday's post.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Buying the farm

Shoes and eggplant.

Today it came crashing in on me, the grim reality of what I had wrought yesterday at the Clinton-Bailey Market.

Before yesterday, I had been good at not going near the place. Because I belong to that, ahem, Community Assisted Agriculture movement, and every Saturday I go around the block and pick up a bag of produce from the farm.

But yesterday, I had to go to the Clinton/Bailey Market. What a scene there! Such abundance! And a sound system playing "American Pie" and everyone singing along. And these huge black draft horses pulling a wagon. And everywhere you looked, honey, peppers, cheese..

Now here is what is in my kitchen:

Four eggplants, 38 tomatoes, five yellow squash, 17 peppers, 2 Hungarian hot peppers, five carrots, five beets, five ears of corn, one bunch of kale, five farm onions, 10 pounds of Clinton/Bailey onions, one bunch of Concord grapes, one cauliflower, one pint of golden grape tomatoes, one pint of red grape tomatoes, one pint of tomato berries, five apples from our backyard tree, four pears, half a watermelon. I know I am forgetting some stuff, is what is really pathetic.

It is really too much. They tell you "eat local." Not: "eat the locality." I mean, you cannot eat the whole farmers' market. But that is what I try to do, whenever I go to the Clinton-Bailey market. I cannot go back there again. That is for sure.

Still, I try. I cooked for Leonard Pennario once. I made him beef stew. I can do anything. I cooked up the cauli today into soup. It used up one of the carrots. (One down, four to go.) And I got to use up this awkward half a brick of cheddar cheese. I cook through the week the way normal people do Sudoku. It is a big, complex puzzle. You have to not repeat anything and have nothing left over.

Last week I killed the fatted kohlrabi. We used it for about three dinners.

There was a red cabbage and that went into a German pork dinner.

But Howard gets the creativity award. He came up for a new use for eggplant. He uses it to check the color of his shoes, these eggplant-colored shoes that he loves. Just now I walked into the kitchen and Howard was standing there looking down at his feet, going: "Unbelievable."

Between his shoes was an eggplant. He was staring at it.

I married a nut!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The big concert

I am getting ready to go to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's opening gala tonight and I hope to heaven I am not wearing the same gown I wore last year. How princess-y does that sound? It is not as if I have a whole closet full of gowns. Well, I do, actually. But I am too fat to fit into most of them. This one black gown, I am not too fat for it and it makes me look thin and I hope I did not wear it last year.

Well, if I don't remember if I wore it, how is anyone else going to? That is what I tell myself in these situations.

The gala reminds me: I have to write what happened to me this morning at the Clinton-Bailey Market.

I ran into my old friend Dan Flintjer, who owns the Buffalo Cody Kite Company. We have not seen each other in about 10 years. He and my friend Gary and my brother George and a bunch of other people used to get together and hear this great blues harmonica player, Shakin' Smith. Wow, I feel guilty writing about blues harmonica on this blog. Leonard Pennario hated harmonica. He had his harmonica hatred honed to such perfection that it was one of the few things I could not bring up. I would ask him about the most intimate details of his love life but I could not bring myself to mention harmonica.

Anyway, Shakin' Smith. We heard him every Wednesday night at the Central Park Grill for about eight years, I am not exaggerating. Note to out-of-towners: the CPG used to be a stop on the Pony Express. This is the kind of bar we Buffalonians go to casually during the course of our everyday lives. Dan was a big Shakin' Smith fan and so was I. We would still be except Shakin' Smith married a nurse and moved to Georgia and we never see him any more.

Dan brought me over to his wife, Melanie, and her sister, Susan Peters, whom I hear sing now and then and just saw at the Elmwood Lounge a few weeks ago but never knew was his sister-in-law. That's Buffalo. And we're all talking. And Dan and Melanie ask me, "Are you going to the big concert tonight?"

"Yes," I said, my eyes shining. "I'm looking forward to it!"

"We are, too!" they said.

"Oh, I'll look for you there!" I said. "We can meet by the bar or something."

"That would be fun!" they said.

"Only thing is, I have to figure out what to wear," I said.

Melanie agreed that was a concern for her, too.

And we went from there. They're looking at me admiringly, and I'm thinking: This is one day when it feels cool to be the music critic. It is cool to be me. The Philharmonic is the place to be tonight. I am cool.

Then it turns out they're talking about the B-52s!!

Hahahahahaha! After all that. The B-52s are playing at Rockin' at the Knox and that is where Dan and Melanie are going and where they assumed that I, being the music critic, was going too.

Well, darn. I guess I won't be seeing them tonight after all.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Blue horizons

Smoking room.

One thing that's fun about getting up early is that I am usually the first on the computer and I get to see what Howard was looking at the night before.

This morning I see that he was on Google searching for "smoking room mansion."

Does this mean we are going to have a smoking room at Big Blue? I don't smoke but I do not mind the idea. Howard was doing his search on Google Images and you should see the images he found. Unbelievable antebellum mansions against blue skies, surrounded by acres of lush lawns. The text fragments beneath the photos are even better. ".. the smoking room is straight ahead..." "Relax in the library or smoking room." "The first-class smoking room was..." And this is the best: ".. the statue in the smoking room..."

I have not mentioned Big Blue in a while so if you're new here, Big Blue is the big ol' white elephant from the 1860s, surrounded by acres of parking lots, that Howard bought downtown off Niagara Square. Did I say white elephant? I meant to say blue elephant. It was painted blue originally and now he has stripped the bricks so it is red again. Brick by brick. That is the way the Apostles were told to operate and that is how Howard, being of the same lineage, operates too. By our latest calculations Big Blue will be done by the year 2050.

Yesterday a woman named Melissa Foster whom I have not met yet but who reads the blog called and told me that she and her husband had bought a Big Blue in Kenmore. That surprised and delighted me. It made me wonder if the phrase "Big Blue" is going to become a synonym for an old building someone ill-advisedly bought. I would love that!

Melissa's Big Blue is a sprawling old house that they had been worried about because it seemed to be forlorn and without a future. That is a sign you own a bona fide Big Blue: Did you buy it because you were worried about it? Worry is frequently the major inspiration in the purchase of a Big Blue.

Another sign is if number one, people ask what you are going to do with it, and number two, you have no idea.

I am interested in the life of any fellow Leonard Pennario fan, which Melissa must be if she reads this blog. So I got the location of Melissa's Big Blue so I can do a drive-by and check it out. When I do, I will post a photo.

Meanwhile, I rejoice that she called it a Big Blue! One day, who knows, This Old House magazine will be renamed This Old Big Blue. Home Depot will have specials for the Big Blue in You. And everyone will have forgotten that Big Blue ever referred to ... what was that company again?

On that day we will celebrate down by Niagara Square, in the original Big Blue.

We will convene by the statue in the smoking room.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

As the mirror ball turns

Lastnight I went somewhere I had not been in a long time which is the Marriott out by UB.

Ha, ha! Who doesn't associate the Marriott with the 1980s, disco music, singles dances, that big mirror ball? "Boom, boom, boom, let's go back to my room!" That is what my friend Michelle was singing as we walked in. We were both singing and dancing and cracking up.

And we could not have been with a more un-disco-y crowd. We were with my piano teacher, Stephen Manes, and his wife, Marta, and the great cellist Jonathan Golove, and UB concert czar Phil Rehard, and a composer from Mexico whose name I didn't catch, and his wife, Brenda. This was a celebration of Stephen's triumphant concert lastnight at Slee Hall. He rocked the house with that "Wanderer" Fantasy.

We piled in around a round table and had drinks and talked about music. A perfect evening if you ask me. I got to talk about Leonard Pennario, which I love. Plus we were discussing the haunting Mozart C Minor Fantasy , which Manes played lastnight. (Friedrich Gulda plays it in the link.) And we spoke of the controversial science of embellishment, as espoused by Robert Levin when he was here a few weeks ago. Levin had his 15 minutes of fame on this blog already so I will not go into that again.

Stephen and Marta made the mistake of telling us we could come visit them at their house in Santa Monica which is very tiny. Ha, ha!! We are there!

The day was crazy with lots of other stuff packed into it too. Which brings me to something funny that happened in the middle of the day.

I was hurrying through the Ellicott Square Building and this gentleman called my name and I turned around. Will you look at the Ellicott Square Building in today's slideshow? Note to out-of-towners: This is the kind of building we Buffalonians walk through casually, during the course of our everyday lives.

Back to the gentleman who said hello. I didn't know who he was. At least, I didn't think I did. Situations like this are always weird for me because I have an extremely bad memory for faces until I have seen someone three or four times. I honestly think I am wired wrong. I am never entirely sure whether I have met someone or not. It is a terrible way to be. I could never be a politician.

Well, the gentleman introduced himself and he said, "I'm Art Russ." I think that was his name. "I read your blog," he said.

It is not as if this happens every day. "Oh," I said.

He made a joke about wanting to see how my teeth were doing. Still in a daze, I said, "I just got them adjusted."

He said, "I know. I read what you wrote this morning."

I got such a kick out of that! I wonder how Art Russ found this blog but unfortunately I did not have the mental wherewithal to ask. I will, however, declare today Art Russ Day. Art, this post's for you!

Here is one other funny thing. My friend Jane is friends with this gay couple. I mentioned them just yesterday, in connection with their tailgating at Gay Bingo. They held a birthday dinner for Jane a few months ago that caused me to gain five pounds, it was that good. It began with a perfect poached pear and went from there.

Yesterday I didn't name the couple but now I will. Their names are Art and Russ! In the morning I am writing about Art and Russ and in the afternoon I meet Art Russ.

As I said, it was one crazy day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stand facing the parking lot

Ow ow ow ow ow!

That was me at the ortho yesterday. They worked on me for over an hour! This is good news because number one, I want to feel my teeth moving, and number two, if there is one thing I like in life it is being surrounded by a team of professionals, all of them concentrating on me.

At one point I looked up and there were three faces peering into my mouth. What was happening was, I was getting a whole new wire on my lower teeth. I had to have new cement and everything. There were a lot of commands of: "Bite! Squeeze!"

Good thing I had my fun then because now I cannot bite at all. This morning I was up at 6 cooking split pea soup because that is suddenly my favorite food.

With which, I am thinking of tailgating tonight before the Stephen Manes concert.

Stephen Manes is my piano teacher -- or was, before he ruined my life by moving to California last fall. He moved to California the same time I went there to be with Leonard Pennario, only Stephen went to Los Angeles while I was in San Diego. Anyway, Stephen is back now for a week and he is giving a concert at UB tonight. He is playing fantasies by Mozart and Schubert and also he is tackling Schumann's "Kreisleriana." Yesterday he told me he only just now learned it. So that should be something to hear.

You do not normally tailgate before classical piano concerts but I would like to do it because then I can bring my split pea soup along in a thermos. That is what I thought at first, anyway. Then my mind began soaring and now I am dreaming of making all this Martha Stewart stuff. Maybe I will ask my friend Michelle if she would like to tailgate. She is going with me to the concert.

My friend Jane is the ultimate tailgater. She goes to Bills games every week so she is in practice. Jane went with some gay guys to Gay Bingo at St. John's Grace a few weeks ago and they tailgated. Aren't Episcopal churches wild? Catholic churches would never hold Gay Bingo.

If you can tailgate before Gay Bingo you can tailgate before a piano concert.

Would anyone mind if I wore Zubaz pants? And grilled up some ribs?

I might be able to chew those ribs.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The English Impatient

Last weekend, the Wall Street Journal devoted a whole page to this writer who died, David Foster Wallace. No kidding, an entire page, turned over to this author I had never heard of before he killed himself last week. They had reprinted a commencement speech he gave at some college a few years ago.

I was careful not to read a word of it. First of all, the reason I would want advice on life from someone who wound up committing suicide is what, you know?

And secondly ... Well, today I am going to get my braces tightened and I have a long, LONG day at work ahead, so what the heck, I am going to be like Leonard Pennario and spout my opinions freely. Here goes: I am really sick of seeing so many stories about writers.

Oh, don't get me wrong. When "Pennario" comes out, believe me, there will be no such thing as too much ink. I will be everywhere, running my mouth, trust me.

But there are so many writers and editors who, all they care about is writing about writers. This has been bugging me forever. They want to write about writers who influenced them and books they love and English teachers who made them what they were. It is so boring! I look at these people and I wonder: Did you ever come out of your English-major classroom and, uh, walk around the block or anything? Is there anything else you are interested in?

I can think of three movies right off the top of my head that Pennario and I saw together where the protagonist was shown constantly sitting at the typewriter.

I am going to start collecting novels in which the hero teaches English at a small community college. You could fill a whole library with those books! There are also those endless dramas starring people like Robin Williams and Michael Douglas that center on New England academia. There is a reason for that.

Just now I saw mention of a book called -- I am not kidding -- "The English Major." That really got me thinking.

Why did I go through all the trouble of risking my job so I could fly to California and spend three months with a brilliant, complicated concert pianist?

When I could have been writing about Clemens Hall?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Messages from beyond

What with all the excitement yesterday I forgot to mention the funniest spam email I ever got in my life. All in capital letters, the subject line read:


How can you read that and not just know it is going to be a great day? Surely God is smiling on you, when you get a spam email from the desk of Dr. Pissa Ali.

I could not believe Howard was video-ing me yesterday. This is the first time he figured out how to put a video on the blog and I thought he was taking my picture, that's all. Now there I am stammering on the phone with Cardinal Egan and doing that ditzy Teresa Heinz Kerry thing with my hair. For all the world to see! Remember how Teresa Heinz Kerry used to run her hands through her hair all the time? Now I am doing it. Oh, well, His Eminence could not see me.

Does anyone even remember Teresa Heinz Kerry these days? Wow, she and her husband vanished in record time four years ago. Just like Barack Obama has vanished now. I got an email from Barack Obama once, too. These are the people I attract.

Speaking of mysterious messages: The Blog just received a comment from a Father Tom, on the long-ago post in which I was venting about Leonard Pennario's funeral and how the celebrant, a minister who was called Father Tom, handled it. But the Father Tom who commented is apparently not the Father Tom I was writing about. In his comment he did not bother mentioning that.

This is all way too confusing for a Monday morning if you ask me. It sounds like something that would come from the desk of Dr. Pissa Ali.

Now, watch, I'll find out that Dr. Pissa Ali was a good friend of Leonard's.

Nothing would surprise me these days!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A study in scarlet

Mary and His Eminence.

Lastnight, the wildest dreams! I dreamed my sister Katie, the left-winger, had gotten a hold of my blog passwords and was deleting my posts and adding her own. You should have seen me, tossing and turning. And it was ridiculous! Katie would never do such a thing. She does not even read my blog. She does not have a computer as far as I know. She lives in East Aurora.

Quite a relief it was to awaken and go to church. I have to say one thing, though: Today's Mass was the coughing-est, sneezing-est Mass I have been at in some time. I mean, I do not blame anyone for being there with a bad cold. I would not let a bad cold keep me home either. But dope up on some DayQuil, you know? Howard and I were just talking about that stuff and it works.

On the way out I bragged freely to Father Secondo about my upcoming conversation with Cardinal Egan. He said to tell the cardinal that "the grappa priest" says hello. Apparently Father Secondo makes great grappa and Cardinal Egan knows that. I am not sure what grappa is but it sounds like something I would like.

Then I flew home on the 190 so I would not be late. Sure enough, the cardinal called 15 minutes early. I am so glad I was home otherwise Howard would have had to answer the phone and I had not coached Howard in how to address a cardinal, which is "Your Eminence."

Cardinal Egan could not have been nicer. He had wonderful memories of Leonard Pennario. He met Pennario in Rome and then later in Chicago had dinner with Pennario and Pennario's girlfriend, whoever that was back then, and a few other friends. He had marvelous recollections of Pennario's personality.

He also seemed to have wonderful memories of Father Secondo's grappa. I remembered to ask!

His Eminence makes you comfortable when you are talking to him, and I did not even stumble over the words "Your Eminence," even though I had worried that I would. And even though Howard had a camera in my face so he could take my picture talking to the cardinal. We are both more impressed by Cardinal Egan than we would be by any movie star.

Once my mom and I were in New York City. This was a few years ago. I think it was when the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra played Carnegie Hall. I think it was that time we were there. Anyway, we were walking down the street and it was cold and we were squabbling about where to eat. And all of a sudden a big beautiful car stopped near us. The chauffeur opened the back door and out stepped a cardinal, in his red robes. And as we watched, spellbound, a huge door in an ornate building opened as if by magic, and the cardinal swept inside.

My mom and I stood there, staring.

"Oh," my mom said.

That is the kind of thing you do not see in Buffalo. That is what you go to New York to see.

Now I wonder if it could have been Cardinal Egan. Could have been! You never know.

If it was he, I am glad our paths have crossed again.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

An eminent call

Yesterday, I had this really long and stupid day. The great thing is, there was one bright spot in that whole nutzoid 12 hours or so. I got an extremely nice message on my cell phone. Anyone want to guess from whom?

Hint: We talked about him a few days ago.

Cardinal Egan!

Cardinal Egan called me from his New York City office. He descended into my chaotic life like some kind of angel, sounding very sweet and nice. He said, "Mrs. Goldman, this is Cardinal Egan. E-G-A-N." He spelled his name! Can you believe it???

I get to talk with Cardinal Egan about Leonard Pennario tomorrow morning. The way I timed it I just have time to come back from my Latin Mass which, you know me, I do not like to miss that Latin Mass or I turn into the Swamp Thing. So I am glad I will be able to hit that Mass and get back in time.

Howard promises if the car breaks down or anything else unthinkable happens, and I am delayed, he will keep Cardinal Egan on the line for me. He will entertain His Eminence.

Let's hope things don't come to that.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Brought to you by the letter P

Today my friend Emma, who works with me, is going with me to Pilates class at the Buffalo Athletic Club. I love that august name, the Buffalo Athletic Club. Leonard Pennario liked that I belonged to the BAC. He was a member of the New York Athletic Club and they honored his membership at the BAC so when he visited Buffalo he would stop in.

Our Pilates class at the BAC is the greatest. We have this instructor, Jim. You can remember his name because of Jim/gym. Anyway, Jim is this muscleman who can do all these unbelievable things. It is like watching a cirque artist.

At the end of the class I cannot take my eyes off him because here is what he does. We do this thing called the straddle stretch. You swing your legs out into this wide V and then you have to bend your middle forward. "Float your body forward," is how Jim puts it. As if it is the most natural movement in the world.

Which, I can do that about six inches. Then it's University Station, end of the line. Jim just keeps going. He bends forward until his head and his chest are on the floor. That is something to see!

Jim told me I was going to be able to do that if I kept practicing. He said it would be no problem.

"OK, how long will it take?" I bugged him.

I think he said six weeks. That was about two years ago.

Well, it is hard to work on that stretch when I am so busy watching him. Once after class another student and I were asking Jim some questions and as he answered them, he went through this unbelievable series of twists and turns. By the end of it he was standing on his hands with his body twisted into this pretzel shape. We were just staring. He is like the Rubber Man in the Jim Rose Circus. I wonder if the Jim Rose Circus is still rolling. That is really old-time vaudeville.

Jim is in the reserves and every now and then he goes to Germany and when he comes back he is all jazzed up. He counts our exercises in German. I like how his class if full of talk about Joseph Pilates and what Joseph Pilates believed and what he would want. I love when people are passionate about what they do.

How many people knew Pilates was a person? He was sickly and weak and he came up with these exercises to strengthen himself and they worked. Then in World War I he was a prisoner of war in England and he taught the exercises to everyone in his camp and that was the only camp in which no one caught tuberculosis. Something like that. It has been a while since I read up on him. It could be time for a refresher course.

Oh my gosh! Look at that business about how Joseph Pilates was bullied as a kid because his last name reminded his classmates of Pontius Pilate. In all these months of doing Pilates that association has never occurred to me. No wonder he learned those exercises.

Holy cow. It appears Sarah Palin has also been likened to Pontius Pilate. See for yourself. Those mean nasty Democrats will stop at nothing!

Sarah Palin should take Pilates too, to defend herself.

I like the calm of Pilates class. The BAC's gym is beautiful, with shining wooden floors and glass block windows, and everyone sitting on mats moving in synch like dancers. My friend Gary who teaches dance at Niagara University says that dancers have been doing Pilates for decades, that they knew about Pilates long before everyone else did.

Then there is the music. In Pilates they do not torture you with hip-hop as they do in Body Sculpt, which can be like a kind of prison boot camp. In Pilates I have developed an affection for certain monotonous singer/songwriters like Ben Lee and Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. Well, that is what our teacher Susie plays. Jim must consider even them too distracting. He gives us rustly, jingly New Age music. Once we had the soundtrack to "The Mission." That was fun.

OK. Now I am psyched. Today is the day that I will make progress in that stretch. Today is the day I will touch the floor.

What if someone likens me to Pontius Pilate? You never know if that will happen. And it's always good to be ready, just in case.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

House of cards

Yesterday was a great day. There is this marvelous institution, the International Piano Archives. I almost said the International House of Pancakes. That is what Howard says all the time when I mention the International Piano Archives, which I have been doing a lot these days.

Because the head of the International Piano Archives, Donald Manildi, has done me a great favor. He has sent me a 15 -minute radio interview he did with Leonard Pennario when Pennario was in Minneapolis playing Manuel de Falla's "Nights in the Gardens of Spain" with the Minnesota Orchestra.

For me, getting something like this is like Christmas to the 10th power. I was so excited I could hardly get the CD into the player. Well, I am bad with CDs anyhow.

I will have to listen to this interview many, many times, but for now, after hearing it only twice, I will say it one of the best interviews with Pennario I have ever seen or heard. So many times, whenever reporters did sit Pennario down, they asked him about dumb stuff. Like his bridge playing. Especially his bridge playing. Look, I know Pennario liked to play bridge. But 100 years from now no one will care about that. If anyone even says the word "bridge" to me again while I am trying to talk about Leonard Pennario I am going to lie down and die. Honest.

Mr. Manildi did not ask Pennario about bridge. Pennario mentioned it in passing when he was listing his hobbies but that was it. Thank you, Mr. Manildi. Thank you!

One funny footnote on the bridge business. In the early '90s I was, and I am not kidding, the bridge editor. A big part of my job was formatting the columns by the bridge columnist Alfred Sheinwold so that the hearts and spades, etc., would come out OK in the paper.

This was a tedious job and irritating job, made worse because you'd do the Sheinwold columns in batches. You'd have sheinwold/1, sheinwold/2, and so on, all through the month. The head of the copy desk, Scott Thomas, used to soothe me by telling me, "Think of yourself as the world's highest-paid clerical worker." Scott could always see the bright side of things. Eventually he left The Buffalo News to become a minister for the United Church of Christ.

The day I could put Sheinwold behind me and go on to writing about music was a very happy day indeed. I never wanted to see that name again.

Ten years later there I am in California and Leonard Pennario and I are lying around one night going over these pictures. "This is Alfred Sheinwold," he said. "He was a great bridge columnist, and --"

"I know who he is," I snapped.

Ha, ha! Well, Pennario was sympathetic. He was always very sympathetic with me. He soothed me the way Scott Thomas used to, telling me gently of how he used to accompany Sheinwold in Schubert songs, how Sheinwold loved Schubert, what a beautiful voice Sheinwold had. Which made me feel a little better about all those hearts and clubs.

All the same, I wish all those people hadn't asked Pennario about bridge. I was careful to interview him about substantial things. Such as whether or not he had kissed Elizabeth Taylor.

I know what will matter to future generations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A bug in your ear

Just now I was getting out of the shower, drying my hair, wrapping myself in Leonard Pennario's beautiful blue bathrobe -- I mentioned, didn't I, that I inherited Pennario's bathrobe? -- when...


This gigantic bug came trucking right past my bare feet. Honest, this bug was about a foot long. It passed my feet and scuttled behind the waste paper basket. I sure was not going to follow it!

That is one thing I will not miss when summer ends, these big bugs. If I wanted big bugs trekking across my bathroom floor, I would live in Charlotte, N.C.

Another thing I will not miss are the boom cars, pounding nonstop in front of my house. What happened to the surge, anyway? Not the one in Iraq. That surge worked. The surge the Buffalo cops declared back in July, against boom cars.

I have not seen any change in the situation. Oh, the cops are fantastic about setting up roadblocks checking for inspection stickers and registration. I just saw one of those roadblocks on Niagara Street. I was thinking, fine, this really improves my quality of life. Meanwhile the boom cars go on into the sunset. Boom cars are allowed in Buffalo. They are encouraged.

OK, enough kvetching for one day. It will not fix anything. I have good news.

I have lost two more pounds! The needle of the scale is now under the 140 mark! I am in the 130s! This morning, 6 a.m., I am slogging away at this one chapter that has been giving me problems, and I kept forgetting why I had this great sunny feeling. Then I would think: Oh yeah! I am at 138!

Rejoice with me! Howard did.

He said: "Who's dropping faster, the price of crude, or you?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wall Street and me

What with the Lehman Brothers mess on Wall Street, I hope nothing bad has happened to my, ahem, brokerage account at HSBC. My brokerage account is no big deal, hence the "ahem." But it matters to me. I keep an eye on it.

Which, as I understand from Howard, I should not do. Every time the thing takes a dive, which it seems to do every month, Howard tells me I should just forget about it, that it is long term. And I know Howard knows what he is talking about, because he has thousands of years' worth of financial acumen bred into him. But still I can't understand, I just can't.

"What is long term?" I asked him fretfully, a few days ago. "I mean, I have already had the thing for 10 years and it has not made me a cent. I would like it to make money while I am still around, not a million years from now after I am dead."

This is how these conversations go.

But here is what has me especially worried. Last week, I had a day off and was at my desk at home, making phone calls to people I am hoping to interview for my Leonard Pennario book. This is a loooong, sloooow process, calling these people. They are nice about talking but they are so slow to call me back. Weeks pass. Then when they do call me back, if I'm at work or for some other reason I can't grab the phone, they just say, "I'll try you back." Um, could you tell me when? I can clear my schedule but I have to have an idea of when to do that.

The actor Robert Wagner just did that to me the other day: "I'll call you back." I wanted to kill myself. I have been trying to get a hold of him for weeks. If I were at that cabin in the wilds of southwestern Oregon I would be able to grab the phone any time, presuming that it worked. But in my present chaotic life, alas, I cannot.

Back to my financial woes. Last week I was trying to reach the great cellist Lynn Harrell, whom Pennario used to play with. He had sent me a nice email telling me I could call him so I did, and I got a machine, which I am used to, and I left my message. And right after I hung up, the phone rang. "That must be Lynn Harrell," I exulted. "I left him my cell number, but he must have seen this number, my home number, on his machine and he is calling me back."

With that in mind, I did what I never do, and I answered my home phone. Normally I screen my home calls with my machine because 90 percent of the time the calls that come in on that number are junk.

And it was not Lynn Harrell. It was HSBC, wanting to set up an appointment to talk with me about my brokerage account. At first I didn't even understand this woman. I thought she asked for Marian. I said initially she had the wrong number. Then we straightened it out.

And what torqued me off was, she just kept laughing at me. "Well, it's a good thing we got that straight," she kept saying. "I mean, I would have hung up and not known what happened." Then she laughed at me when she insisted on my making an appointment right then and I didn't have my calendar handy. I just found her attitude insolent -- that is a word I like, and one we don't use enough these days -- and annoying. I was nice and everything, but, I mean, these people should not be so in your face. They don't know what your situation is. Here I had been all caught up in the stupid hope that for once, I was going to get a hold of this person I needed to get a hold of for the book -- that for once, it wouldn't take months. I had this window when I could talk, and I had been looking forward to talking to Lynn Harrell, and I had been so sure it was he, and here it is this jerk, and now she keeps laughing at me and she won't shut up.

Fie on her! Fie!

So I made the appointment because if that's what it took to make her go away, that's what I was going to do. Then I forgot about it because number one, if something on my calendar doesn't pertain to food, wine or music, the odds are pretty good I'll forget it, and number two, I was so annoyed by the whole thing that I am afraid I suppressed the memory.

Then Lehman goes blooey. And now I am thinking: that appointment might have been to tell me I was supposed to take some kind of action. When my next brokerage statement comes in and it is worth zero, HSBC will tell me, "Well, we tried to get you to come in."

Howard, of course says that things will be OK. He tells me to sit tight.

But with the bank, and with the book, I am so tired of playing the waiting game!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Into the pink

Now that I have done some work and my conscience is clear I can talk about what happened to me at the Hoowa Supermarket. That is the bright pink Oriental market on Sheridan Drive that I went to on Friday, I think it was, after I got my car photographed at Schmidt's.

Getting my car photographed was an adventure in itself. I had to do it because Howard switched our car insurance to Geico. The interview they gave me at Schmidt's drove home the point of how ignorant I really am, car-wise.

"What's your license number?"


"Are the seats leather, cloth or vinyl?"

"Uh... leather, I think."

"Are they heated?"


"Are they power seats? Do they move when you press something, or do you have to..." The Schmidt's guy imitated someone scrunching a seat forward.

"I don't know," I said. "I don't know if I have ever moved them."

I was glad when that was all over with and I could get back in the car and drive away. The Hoowa Supermarket was supposed to be my reward. I love these Asian markets. I love the smell you get when you walk in, this fishy smell. Very un-antiseptic. Does that make it septic, if you say something is not antiseptic? I will have to think about that.

While I was shopping I experienced faint embarrassment when one of their workers had to push past me and I smiled and said hi, like the Buffalonian that I am. He didn't say anything and didn't even smile, just stared at me. Stupid American, with the braces on her teeth, he was probably thinking. But oh well. That is culture clash and it is a good thing, considering that everyone told us 20 years ago that TV and computers would make all of us the same. They have not.

I selected my buckwheat noodles and curry paste and coconut milk. I want to make a coconut curry soup like the one Leonard Pennario and I used to eat at this restaurant in California. Then I picked up chili paste and a few other goodies. Then I proceeded to the checkout. And horrors!

There was a sign saying that you could not charge purchases totaling less than $20.

My bill came to only $16.

And I had only $11 in cash. With credit cards you can go around like that for weeks.

Now, they speak no English at the Hoowa Supermarket. So I said, very slowly, "I must buy more things. I do not have $20 worth of stuff."

The clerk impatiently gestured at me. "Is OK," she snapped. Then she shook her finger at me. "Next time!" she barked.

Everyone was looking at me. I slunk out of the Hoowa Supermarket with my head down, painfully aware of my smile-flashing, braces-sporting, "Hi"-saying, credit-card-using, non-cash-carrying, Crown Vic-driving, George Bush-backing, green-eyed American ways.

On the other hand, there are those cheap buckwheat noodles.

How low will I go for a bargain?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The attack of the cookbooks

Lastnight was the night my cookbooks revolted.

I have this closet off my back breakfast room, where we usually eat dinner. Up to four people, we eat in this room, and if there are more, we move to the dining room. Well, this closet is full of cookbooks. They are lined up in a three-shelf bookcase in the closet and there are more cookbooks piled on the top of the bookcase. I have too many cookbooks, my mom always tells me. But I use them! Which is more than can be said for a lot of things around the house.

Anyway, I cooked up those steaks yesterday and I tried my best, four minutes one side, four the other. They came out nicely pink and I served them up with roasted golden beets from the farm I belong to, sauteed beet greens, steamed green beans. Listen to me, sounding all fancy. Ha ha ... HA, as they used to say in Laurel and Hardy.

Because Howard and I agreed as we ate that the steaks were good, but next to the great, the almighty, the powerful E.B. Green's they were just, uh, so-so. Howard thinks I am on an upwards curve. But maybe if I went to another store, checked another recipe...

Suddenly the closet door flew open! And cookbooks came flying out!

As Howard put it, my cookbooks lunged at me! Luckily they missed me. They landed in a heap at my feet.

This morning, still a little shaken, I went to St. Anthony's. That is the church I go to, and where by coincidence Leonard Pennario's parents were married. By clicking on the St. Anthony's link you can see the picture that Howard got of my location thanks to the GPS unit he has installed in my car. Howard is like God. He is watching me every moment. (Editor's note: Please rotate the GPS image 180 degrees with your mouse to see St Anthony's. For sky view click here.)

Back to my churchgoing morning. After all my pious reflections yesterday, I am ashamed I was so out of it today! I thought I was off to such a good start, getting to Mass 15 minutes early. I got to pray a little bit of the Rosary. I had time to get my head together. The Latin Mass is tough. You have to be on the ball. Today was the day I decided I would be on the ball.

Again: Ha ha ... HA!

Because I got completely lost! I could not for the life of me find the right Sunday in my missal. I had no idea where we were! The priest announced that today was Triumph of the Cross Sunday. Triumph of the what? I kept leafing through my prayer book in bewilderment. Then I just gave up because it gets embarrassing, looking as if you're lost.

I never did find my place. And just to make things extra hopeless, in the middle of the Agnus Dei, something fell out of my missal onto the floor. It was my ticket to Robert Levin's concert at UB last week. What the heck was that doing in my missal? That has been the story of my life lately. Nothing where it should be. Everything is a mess. Triumph of the Slob Sunday, that's what today has been for me.

On the bright side, when I got home I got my act together and read the supermarket ads. Dash Markets has a sale going this week on Aged Prime steaks. $14.99 a pound. I know, that sounds scary, but usually it's over $20 a pound, I did the math. Howard says we should go for it.

I will have to consult my cookbooks and make sure it's OK with them.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday slacking

Tonight's the night, NOT going to be all right, when I try doing up steaks for Howard. I just went to Johnny's Meats on Hertel to purchase the steaks and ask for advice. Everyone at Johnny's Meats is pulling for me. The gal behind the counter suggested New York Strip because, she said, "the men all go for them." Then another woman, another customer, counseled me on how to broil it so it comes out rare. Other people got involved and the final consensus was, broil it 4 minutes on each side. You can always put it back again if it needs more cooking. But once it is overcooked you cannot un-cook it. That is what we all agreed.

So far I have been having the greatest slacker Saturday. I have not been working. As soon as I get done with this it is Leonard Pennario for the rest of the day. But that's OK. I am in the middle of writing about a year of his life that I love, 1950. That is the year he played the piano for the movie September Affair.

Wow, now I am sitting there watching that link and thinking: Was there ever a pianist like Pennario? More woolgathering. This is my day for that.

How I have wasted my day so far:

Up at 6:30, worked until 8. Well, look, I did get some work done. That chapter, I love it.

Around 8 my brother George called up and he came over. He and Howard and I sat around and I made a frittata with mushrooms, peppers, onions and feta cheese, listen to me brag. George and I ate it for breakfast and Howard, who had already eaten, ate it as a second breakfast.

We all sat around and drank coffee and talked about how short the days are getting, what idiots they are at the Albright-Knox, Howard's boiler at Big Blue and how George had not known before reading my blog about how Ludwig Koechel catalogued Mozart's works. There is supposed to be an umlaut over the "o" but I can't do umlauts so I am writing "oe" instead.

At about 10 George and I went to our friend Gary's house and sat around listening to George Shearing and watching Gary make wine. This is the wine I am supposedly making with Gary but really, I just go in for the juice, Gary does all the work. My job mostly consisted of dealing with the Shearing record when it skipped.

At about quarter to 12 Gary had to go teach a dance class and I continued my slacking by going to the Tridentine Requiem Mass being held at St. Ann's. I hadn't really thought I would go because a Requiem Mass is kind of somber for the middle of the day, but I was curious as to what a Latin Requiem Mass was like and besides, I wanted to be able to absorb the atmosphere of beautiful St. Ann's before it gets boarded up and left to rot. Can you believe Buffalo? I mean, can you believe it?

You could tell the church was full of people not used to the Latin Mass because when it was over, as soon as the procession had gone down the center aisle they all got up and started chit-chatting. Usually you kind of sit there until the priest has left the church. Well, it must have been an interesting introduction to some of them. Old people, too! I heard one old lady saying, "I haven't been to a Latin Mass in so long."

I read in the New York Times that the Latin Mass has more of a following among the young -- people who were born too late to remember it -- than among the old. I have to say I am more keen on it than my mom is. It might go along with other old-fashioned things my generation likes to do, things like canning and baking our own bread and, well, making our own wine (or watching our friends do it). People my mom's age think we're nuts. They think: We don't have to do that any more! Why do you want to take the long way?

How did I get onto all that?

After Mass I sat around chatting with a few people at St. Ann's about Jocko. Everyone knows Jocko. No matter where you go in the city that is where the conversation leads. Then I went to pick up my bag of veggies from the farm. The most interesting thing in the bag this week are these Black Truffle Japanese Heirloom Tomatoes. I will have to taste them and report.

Then I went to Johnny's Meats. Oh, the food shopping I have been doing. Yesterday I got yelled at at the Hoowa Supermarket. That is this crazy little Oriental market at Northtown Plaza where I went after I had to get my car photographed at Schmidt's. But I will have to save that story for later.

I have done enough slacking for one day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Phones, emails and Jocko, oh my

Here is an awkward situation: I think I am having problems with my email. I do not think I am getting people's email. It is awkward because it reminds me of being a teenager and waiting for some guy to call and the phone does not ring so you get all your friends to call you, just to make sure the phone works. Yep, the phone works!

Today is typical. All I get is an acre of spam. Watch, I'll find out that "sgt. joey jones," Alhaje Danco and Herve Konate were all close friends of Leonard Pennario, trying desperately to get in touch to share their memories of him for my book. But I doubt it!

And a few people have told me they tried to email me, and I never got it. Anyway, if anyone out there has been trying to email me and I never got it, the trick is to sign yourself Alhaje Danco and the message will get through. Or say you're from the British Lottery Board. That seems to work.

You know those days when you just run, run, run? I had one of those yesterday. I went to work, then to my tote-that-barge, lift-that-bale Body Sculpt class, then to the farmers' market (can't stay away) then back to work, then to UB for that lecture Robert Levin was giving, then I went to the airport with Robert Levin, which, my friend Phil was taking him there and invited me along, so I couldn't say no. We got to talk to Robert Levin about Mozart the entire drive. When his cell phone rang it rang with the last movement of K. 466! How funny is that?

When he got off the phone I said, "K. 466, on your cell phone."

And he explained how he programmed it and stuff. He is so much in his own world -- the Mozartean world -- that he takes it for granted that everyone talks in Kochel numbers. For anyone out there in Blog-o-Land new to Mozart, every piece of music that Mozart wrote is assigned a Kochel number. Ludwig Kochel was the researcher in the 19th century who catalogued all Mozart's works.

When we got Robert Levin to Jet Blue he still sat in the car and talked about Mozart. He was letting us in on secrets involving K. 175, one of Mozart's early piano concertos. I had just listened to K. 175 a few hours before. What are the odds? Anyway, I wished the ride to the airport could have been longer. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport is just too darned convenient.

After that adventure I went to cook dinner for my mom, then to .... Jackie Jocko! The glass of wine at the end of the rainbow!

When I walked into E.B. Green's it was great to know everyone in the lounge. Paul was there, which you always need because Paul sort of anchors us all, sitting by Jocko with his arms folded and a beer in front of him, talking about the great songs. Erna Eaton was there and I gave her a hug and a kiss. My friend Toni from work brought her dad. Toni's dad used to go hear Jocko years ago. He had not known Jocko was still playing. The jazz singer Diane Armesto was there with her boyfriend, Larry. Also Gary was there, and the great boogie pianist Annie Philippone. Groups like this are great. You just pull up a chair.

We were laughing about Robert Levin and how his cell phone played K. 466. I began thinking that Levin would be fascinating to write more about sometime.

But then I kept contrasting him with Leonard Pennario, and I realize it's too early for me even to think about dating again.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Talk that talk

Thanks, Jen14221 and Story Teller, for your soothing comments on my spooky dreams the other night! Lastnight was not as bad. I dreamed I had to cook a dinner for 30 people in this soup kitchen and I had only an hour to do it, but that is not as bad as dreaming about hobgoblins. So things are looking up.

Speaking of which, today I am going over to UB to hear Robert Levin, that pianist from Harvard I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, give a lecture.

His lecture is called: "Improvisation and Embellishment in Mozart."

I wouldn't dream of missing it! It reminds me of once when I was a UB student, living in an off-campus apartment. One night, I was in my room listening to a Mozart quartet. I have been addicted to Mozart since I was a teen-ager. He is like a drug to me. If I don't give him a good listen about once a week, I go through withdrawal symptoms. I get unfocused and agitated.

Anyway, I am in my room, listening to this quartet, and one of my roommates comes in to alert me to the fact that everyone else is in the other room watching some John Belushi comedy and I should come out. "What are you listening to this for?" he said. "You don't have to listen to this."

God, that guy was funny. He cracked me up. And of course I went out and watched the Belushi movie. I think it was "Neighbors." That was in the apartment I had on LaSalle, the apartment which, until a few months ago, I forgot where it was, remember? How is that for a sentence? Well, I'm not at work.

This lecture, anyway, reminds me of that incident. I don't have to be there. But I must!

Robert Levin is the only pianist since Leonard Pennario I have had fun writing about. I went to two concerts he gave and both of them were fascinating. He gives such life to the music. You get the idea he really loves what he is doing. And on the phone Levin was one of the all-time great talkers I have encountered, so I like him for that. My mom went with me to the concert he and his wife gave on Saturday. Mom liked Levin, too. She said he looked like Howard. Which he does, sort of. And that is high praise.

I get to go back to LaSalle Avenue this weekend, about four doors down from my old apartment, to go see my friend Gary, because here it is September and we must make wine. Gary called me to tell me the juice is in at James Desiderio's and on Saturday bright and early we are going to make our selection. I say, go for the Barbera again. That stuff we made last year was pretty good.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to that that lecture today. "Improvisation and Embellishment in Mozart." 4 p.m., 250 Baird Hall.

Who says there's no excitement here in Buffalo?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pork barrel project

As I plot my push into the competitive publishing world, I think it is best to prepare myself by eating more red meat. So yesterday I went to Budwey's and I picked up some pork.

I had pork on the brain ever since sampling the barbecued pork of my talented co-worker Andrew Galarneau. Plus Howard loves pork. I managed to find the one Jewish guy in the world who not only eats pork, ham and bacon, but he insists on it. As I said once before, inside of him is an old German woman struggling to get out.

But here is what makes this an adventure: I have trouble learning to cook pork. Beef, too.

Because no one can agree on what different cuts are called. It is just too confusing! I thought I knew the basics. Slow cooker cookbooks -- I am master of the slow cooker -- tell you about pork shoulder, pork loin, pork tenderloin, etc.

Here is how the label on my pork roast reads: "Pork Shoulder Butt Western Ribs."

What in the world is that? Is it shoulder? Is it ribs? What are the odds that I wind up with a cut of meat that is not referred to anywhere, in any of my thousand cookbooks?

On to beef. My specialty is pot roast. By "my specialty" I mean that is the only beef dish I do, aside from beef stew which is pretty much the same thing. I do a pretty good job with pot roast. I made pot roast once in California when I had Leonard Pennario over to dinner. That is a whole story in itself.

Back to my current culinary problems. Periodically I try to branch out from pot roast and beef stew. A couple of times I tried to make steak.

But where do you start to figure that out? "The Joy of Cooking" says that the term "Delmonico steaks" can mean five different things. Then there is the matter of "prime," "choice" and "select." In the supermarket, in the heat of the moment, with carts running over my toes and kids screaming and "Mickey Don't Lose That Number" squawking from the sound system, I am darned if I can remember which is which.

Whenever I have tried making steaks Howard always ends up telling me that they do not measure up to E.B. Green's. He is sweet about it, but still. Then he tells me I have to find out where his buddy Mark Croce, who owns the Buffalo Chophouse, buys his steaks, and buy them from the same place.

If that is not a case for vegetarianism I do not know what is.

It is so much easier just to roast a squash!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

In the land of dreams

Lastnight I had the kind of dreams that make you sit down the next morning and say, "OK. What did I eat lastnight?"

You would not believe these nightmares. Attic rooms, sighing ghosts, hobgoblins! Slime oozing out of the bathroom ceiling! On retrospect I can see that I ripped the slime off from Dickens. In "Bleak House," when Mr. Krook spontaneously combusts, they can tell in the room underneath that something terrible was happening by this slime that oozes through the ceiling.

But still. Why am I having dreams like this? Everything in my life is going so well.

Number one, it seems those pale tomatoes are getting ripe on the kitchen counter. Perhaps yesterday I kvetched too soon.

And here is something else. I may have mentioned that Mr. Idaho is valuable to my book especially because he was the only person I have found who coaxed a few piano lessons out of Leonard Pennario? Well, Mr. Idaho will always be valuable to my book. But now we have found one other person who managed to get Pennario to give him a lesson.

Would you believe, it is New York City's Cardinal Edward Egan? Oh, excuse me, Edward Cardinal Egan. I like the medieval word order better.

Cardinal Egan appeared over the weekend on a big New York classical music radio show, in which guests talk about five pieces of music that are important to them. One piece he chose was Beethoven's "Pathetique" Sonata. He chose the piece in Pennario's honor! He told that to the host, Gilbert Kaplan. Kaplan is a superb interviewer, by the way. He asked great questions.

"Leonard had a marvelous personality, an ebullient, smiling, happy, enthusiastic personality," Cardinal Egan said about Pennario.

And this is a quote I love: "Very few people I know loved to perform as that man did."

I am going to request that Edward Cardinal Egan grant me an interview for my book. I do not think he will mind. He sounds as if he loves to talk about Leonard Pennario the way I do. Well, no one loves to talk about him the way I do. But he comes close.

Cardinal Egan sounds like a brilliant man who knows a lot about music. The music he mentions is the same music I would mention, that I love. The slow movement of the Schubert B flat Piano Trio. The final trio from Strauss' opera "Der Rosenkavalier." Try to find a few minutes to listen to these links. What sheer, unbelievable beauty. That is some of the music I love the most, too!

Have I been Cardinal Egan all these years and just never knew it?

I had better watch it with the surreal thoughts. Now I am back in dream territory! One more thing about my dreams lastnight.

I was calm, even cheerful as I dealt with all those ghosts and hobgoblins. I remember that. I was looking forward to morning because I hoped they would go away, but I was smiling at them and the situation stayed under control. That is an important detail. When you remember your dreams is always important to note how you are feeling and reacting.

All I can think is that means whatever is on my mind will turn out OK.

Either that, or it was something I ate.

Monday, September 8, 2008

You say tomato, I say bummer

Here is one of life's big unanswered questions, along with how Leonard Pennario was able to play 40 different concertos a year, and why Sarah Palin gave her kids the names she did.

What is with the tomato this year?

Saturday, as usual, I got my bag of veggies from the farm. And there were three tomatoes in the bag. One was completely green. Another was a kind of greenish yellow. A third was red, but it was hard like a baseball.

The rest of the bag was no great shakes either, I have to say. One tiny yellow squash, one tiny zucchini. Two cantaloupes that the newsletter warned us about, saying in effect that they were use-them-or-lose-them, and that some disease had shown up that had taken care of the rest of the melons, so we'd better not expect any more.

Four leeks, that was the major score. (Howard jumped right on that one. "I'm going to take a leek," he said. AHAHAHAHAHA!)

But back to the tomato situation. The newsletter went on and on about how the farm is shipping onions to Whole Foods, how one of the farm girls just graduated from Cornell, and then there was the bad news about the cantaloupe crop. There is always bad news in this newsletter. That is what organic farming is all about. You share the luck, good or bad.

Which is well and good, but what about the tomatoes?

How can they not write about that?

At the Clinton-Bailey Market the tomatoes are not only lackluster, they're expensive. Even the cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes, generally your fallback, are not that great this year.

Major bummer! Allow me to kvetch. It just feels so good. Ahem. We wait all year for a windfall of tomatoes, we suffer starting in May from cooking magazines that seem to assume we have them already, we anticipate September, and this is what we get? And then the nerve -- the nerve! -- of this newsletter, giving me a recipe for tomato salad. Corkscrew and Tomato Salad.

With these tomatoes?

On what planet?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Who's running the asylum?

Avoid modern art. But when modern art finds you, call Buffalo Bloviator.
Please click for Howard's (aka Buffalo Bloviator) archived modern art story.

I would like to thank The Wife for allowing me this opportunity to bloviate on her blog. She has kindly deigned to let me expand on and amplify what she has just written.

The new Burchfield-Penney Art Center construction, located on the grounds of the old Buffalo State Asylum For The Insane, has been successfully completed and many hard working well intentioned people obviously deserve credit for completing the project on time and doing a great job.

As The Wife just kvetched, it reportedly drew several tens of millions of dollars out of the $100 million dollar fund that was originally intended for the H.H.Richardson preservation and restoration. And it displaced mature surviving Olmstead designed park land that is important to the H.H. Richardson complex.

The Wife wrote of it blocking our view of the H.H. Richardson complex. True too. But another thing that disturbs me about this project is that it is part of the movement to displace classic art with modern art. I like modern art and I believe that many pieces are the result of great genius. The rest are frauds and pawns in a giant perverse chess game to tear down and/or displace our cultural history.

Is it too much to ask to see a balance of art rather than a wholesale displacement? Did you ever notice how art has become "installations" that are huge and displace more and more space? Now all the classic art at the Albright-Knox is either stored in the basement or has been sold at auction. Some of the pieces sold set price records and were lauded as the best examples ever seen -yet they weren't good enough for Buffalonians to view them.

Forbid it, Almighty God!

Lastly, and this is strictly my own personal taste, I am very hard to please when it comes to modern architecture. It most often does not stand the test of time and becomes a mocking temple to those who signed off on it. Why is it that architects have become like hair stylists that can't resist doing shocking wild experiments with other people's haircuts? They are real brave when it's your head and not theirs.

Being a positive person by nature I will do my best to appreciate the new building design and acquire a taste for it. Since it is a done deal, I truly would like to see the building enjoyed and used successfully for good purposes. Maybe then it won't look like a big round windowless wall and remind me of the giant tanks at the treatment plant. At least those treatment plants perform a utilitarian task that I greatly appreciate.

I guess I just have trouble coming to terms with the giant $30,000,000 asset being constructed with my tax dollars to promote a cultural movement that I don't particularly subscribe to.

Posted by Howard Goldman


Today the funniest part of The Buffalo News is not the comics section. It is that picture on the front page of the Burchfield-Penney Arts Center.

Ahahahahahahahahaaaa! It looks like a big tire!

I am glad the paper is at least taking a look at the possibility that this place just could be, uh, a wee bit ugly. Also that it blocks the view from Elmwood of the Richardson Complex. Also it squats upon parkland that was supposed to complement the Richardson Complex. Where were the Olmsted Parks people? Slumbering on the grass? Picnicking under a giant oak, their faces turned the other way?

I think we should just admit we made a mistake and tear the thing down just the way we tore down Green Lightning once upon a time. We lost those beautiful trees on the parkland but we can plant new ones.

How come none of the tree huggers, usually so vocal in our town, defended the trees that came down for the new Burchfield-Penney? Where were they when those trees needed a hug?

Why didn't all those lovers of green space see red?

On the bright side, elsewhere on the building front, it cheers me to look upon the soon-to-be-aborted downtown casino. We could never have fought that without the backing of the Wendt Foundation.

I will always feel indebted to the Wendts for their help with that issue. I will bring them coffee on a daily basis and buy milk exclusively from their dairy the rest of my life.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My hand is out

This morning, at 6:30 a.m., still struggling after about nine days with chapter 2 of my book, I thought: There must be money flying around out there for me! Grants, fellowships. Tax money!

Every day I read about artists and writers far less qualified than I am getting all this money for various projects that are, ahem, not as worthy as mine. I should get someone to give me money, I thought, so I can stay home from work for 10 years or whatever it takes to get this thing done.

The world owes me a living!

So I got on the Internet and started looking around.

The bad news: I am not Mexican, a woman of color or a member of an under-served minority, unless you count being the biographer of a classical pianist. Biographers of classical pianists are an under-served minority!

Many grants, too, are open only to writers in a particular state or region.

Also, there are an awful lot of grants for poetry! What kind of loser writes poems and expects to make money off that? Well, that is the way I used to think. Now I am not so sure. Now I am looking too!

Finally I found a fellowship I think I should apply for. Not only is it open to just about anyone, but I cannot imagine I would have a lot of competition.

"Spend Three Months In the Backcountry of Southwestern Oregon," the notice read.

It then added that the nearest basic medical facilities were two hours away. The house was really just a shack. Electricity was iffy and you would have to go long periods without it. Oh, and you have to spend an hour a day on basic maintenance of this cabin, or whatever it is.

They do give you $2,900. I think that is what the stipend is. I found an account of the place written by some divorced guy who got the fellowship one year. So I guess the offer is for real.


I can just see myself making phone calls, whenever circumstances allowed it, from this cabin. Imagine calling, oh, the conductor Seiji Ozawa, to ask him about recording Richard Strauss' "Burleske" with Leonard Pennario. "Mr. Ozawa, I'm sorry, my phone is cutting out... I am operating out of the backcountry of southwestern Oregon."

Probably I could make this work. Heck, if I can get work done in our home office, with the kids in the pool next door screaming "Marco!" "Polo!" until two in the morning, I can get work done anywhere, even in the backcountry of southwestern Oregon.

But that would be a very un-Pennario place to finish my book. Pennario was a city boy. Mr. Idaho told me that. Other people have too. Plus, I could tell that myself.

In the backcountry of southwestern Oregon, I do not think I could count on having Pennario's spirit hovering around to inspire me.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Today I have to trek out to East Amherst to go to the chiro. That always gives me a boost because East Amherst makes me laugh -- it's such a silly suburb -- and the chiro, I have to be honest, makes me laugh too.

This is no ordinary chiropractor I go to. They have this new form of chiropractice -- that has to be the word, right? -- called NUCCA, which stands for something only I don't know what. Google it, if you have to know. All's I know, as folks say here in Buffalo, is that they don't crack your back, they just adjust little things in your neck.

Howard started doing this NUCCA stuff about 10 years ago and it solved problems in his shoulders. I went because I noticed in my Pilates classes that one of my legs was longer than my other leg. This could not be! I have to be perfect!

So I found this chiro. She just about wept with joy when she found I was in there for such a silly little problem. I guess normally people don't go to the chiro unless they have been in a big accident and/or they are completely falling apart. Chiros, I have since learned, love the idea of you being there for no reason, or next to no reason. That way they can just maintain you.

She had me lie down on this board. That's how she always puts it: "I'll have you lie down..."

Then: "I'll have you turn your head to the left..."

Then she pushed a few things around behind my ear. This is always the part of the appointment I find tough, because I always want to giggle. It's just so silly.

"I'll have you sit up now," the chiro said.

"What about my legs?" I said. "I thought you were going to fix it so they are the same length."

The chiro said that my legs might take a couple of hours to adjust. Then she had me sit in a little room with George Winston playing and a fish tank and a book by Anna Quindlen lying on this little table, which, I can't stand Anna Quindlen, but I read it anyway because it was part of the experience. I don't remember a word of it and I am glad. Anna Quindlen is so gloomy and she is always writing about death.

Two hours after that adjustment, back in the office, I was so curious about the progress my legs were making that I couldn't stand it any more. I got up from my desk, went over to the file cabinets and sat down on the floor. I stretched my legs out.

Everyone started coming over to see if I was OK. "Don't mind me," I said.

Guess what? My legs were the same length!

That hocus-pocus worked!

So I have stuck with the chiro. I got a kick out of her holistic approach. When I went to California to write about Leonard Pennario she sent me a sweet card saying, "Congratulations on this wonderful opportunity."

Unfortunately what with being in California with Pennario and then running back and forth between here and there, and then Pennario dying, I dropped the ball with the chiro and now my legs are out of whack again. Along with the rest of me!

Well, a few minutes in that room with the New Age music and the fish tank should take care of that.

This time I think I'll skip the Quindlen.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Lastnight I could not wait to watch Sarah Palin's speech. Howard and I went to hear Jocko at the Hyatt but we left as soon as Jocko finished his last set because we wanted to be home in time to tune in. Howard said, "This could be historic."

I am excited about Palin. People around here are critical of her -- one complaint is that she and John McCain hardly know each other, that they just met, and here they are trying to make history together. And I know that sounds reckless. But I like that about her, about both of them. It is just like me and Leonard Pennario!

So lastnight, home from Jocko, I got into my pajamas in a hurry and I cleaned my teeth hastily with the Electric Water Irrigator, aka the Water Pik. I did this in between keeping an eye on Rudy Giuliani's speech. I get a kick out of Rudy Giuliani. That grin!

Then it was time for Palin's speech.

I slept through it!

I mean I did not hear a word of it! All I remember, and I remember this distinctly, was the prolonged applause and Palin nodding and saying, "Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you."

Then I was out, like a light! I vaguely remember waking briefly to hear Howard exulting about what a terrific speech it was, how great Palin was. But I was just dead to the world. It was not Sarah Palin's fault. It is Leonard Pennario's fault. I get up before dawn every day so I can work on this book. Those hours after 11 p.m. can get pretty foggy.

I cannot believe I slept through Palin's speech. It reminds me of the time I slept through Andre Watts playing MacDowell's Second Piano Concerto. (About that link: Make sure you watch the whole thing. The ending is classic.)

When I slept through Andre Watts, I luckily didn't have the music critic job I have now. I was not reviewing Mr. Watts or anything, fortunately. But I couldn't wait to hear him play that piece. I went to the concert, at Kleinhans Music Hall, with my mom. We settled into center seats, back row. There are no bad seats at Kleinhans, and the back row is great. You're up high, and you can see the whole hall, and you can lean your head against the wall.

Which is what I did. And I must have gotten too comfortable. Because I remember seeing Mr. Watts walking out and thinking: Andre Watts!! The MacDowell Second Piano Concerto!!

And then that is all I remember.

Out, like a light! And I had not even met Leonard Pennario yet.

What was my excuse then?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

From the Artistic Executor's desk

Guy "GEBO" Boleri.

This morning I was excited to get an email from an old friend of Guy Boleri, the cabaret pianist I am honored to number among my friends. You remember Guy. He is the pianist who plays at the Buffalo Club, wears Winnie the Pooh shirts and comments in loud stage whispers at classical concerts on how Beethoven would be great music to make love to.

Pianist Guy Boleri with Buffalo Bloviator on drums.

As would be expected, Guy Boleri's old friend has a wonderful name, Derek Lamar. Actually it is Dr. Derek Lamar, Q.R.I. I wonder what Q.R.I. stands for but all I can think is it must be Queen's something-or-other. Queen's Royal something or other. Now all I am missing is the "I." I will have to email Dr. Lamar back and ask what that "I" stands for.

Guy's friend tells me that he know Guy from years ago in Beverly Hills. He said Guy had a shop on Melrose Avenue called GEBO's. Apparently that was Guy's nickname, GEBO. They arrived at it because the French pronounce Guy "Ghee" and the "Bo" stood for Boleri.

Next time I see Guy I am going to call him "Gebo."

I was thinking how things have improved since I allowed my social life to be taken over by venerable Sicilian pianists who were born in Buffalo and wound up in Beverly Hills. That is one thing that has been handed me in life and it has been a blessing.

While I was in California last winter with Leonard Pennario, my friend Gary Marino was busy back home recording Guy Boleri's piano playing. It was a long project for Gary that went on forever and he and I sent each other emails almost on a daily basis detailing the mountainous challenges of dealing with our respective Sicilians. We would give each other advice based on our individual experiences. One day our emails will be published as a book all on its own. It would be a best seller. I am sure of it.

Gary (left) and Guy working things up in the Blue Room at Big Blue.

Speaking of Leonard Pennario, yesterday I ran across a long article about the conductor Jascha Horenstein. Pennario had a hilarious run-in with him once, as only Pennario could, when they played together in Italy. That is what made me notice the story.

The story on Horenstein was written by a man identified as Horenstein's "artistic executor."

What a title! Does that make me Pennario's artistic executor? All I can think is that it does.

Does it mean that Gary is Guy Boleri's artist executor? It must!

I will tell Derek Lamar that. I will tell him he will need to contact Gebo through Gebo's artistic executor.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Life's ups and downs

Crystal Beach Cyclone roller coaster.

Dear anonymous correspondent yesterday, I am going to crown you, as my mother used to say. Because at 6 a.m. this morning I checked out the link you sent. I never should have!

First of all I wound up riding the Comet before I had even had my coffee! The video is of riding the old Comet roller coaster, at Crystal Beach. I could not look away.

Second of all I wound up riding it five times! And not being able to work!

I love how whoever made the movie didn't fit it out with any dumb rock songs. There is some annoying little music, but mostly they let you hear the clack-clack-clack of the tracks. Who doesn't remember that? Then you get to see the lake. And the bored kids in their '70s clothes waiting at the end of the line to help the riders out of the cars.

You know what also hit me, speaking of that? When you're watching the video, and the train pulls into the station when the ride is over, you get that sinking feeling in your stomach. The sense of oh, darn, the ride's over. That feeling is still there. And it is exactly the same.

I mentioned Crystal Beach yesterday because Leonard Pennario and I used to talk about it. Before I met Pennario in person, we were making friends with each other and making plans for his visit here. He said: "And can we go to Crystal Beach?"

I said, "Mr. Pennario, I have bad news for you."

That was terrible to have to tell him and Pennario took the news badly, the way we all did. The way we all continue to do! Has anyone ever gotten over the loss of that park? Isn't it awful now how it is replaced by those white-bread condos? They are a sickening sight.

I am ashamed of my nostalgia for Crystal Beach. It is a very old-fogie thing and besides, I only caught the park at the end of its life anyway. My dad used to tell me the Comet was nothing next to the Cyclone. Pennario used to tell me that too. Pennario swore up and down that he rode on the Cyclone even though I argued him, I said he couldn't have, he would have been too young. He was only 10 when his family moved to California.

Now that Pennario is gone, and I am working on the book without him, it sometimes occurs to me that I should have spent more time quizzing him about Mozart and less time eating ice cream with him, going to the movies and gabbing about the Heyday and the Tumble Bug.

But it was fun!

When you watch the Comet video, check out the comments. One slug writes: "My dad used to love this peace of crap roller coaster." I do not like to use the word "crap" on my blog but I had to in this case. I love how the dummies are always betrayed by their spelling, grammar and punctuation. That is a beautiful thing about the Internet.

Crystal Beach opens a galaxy of time-wasting possibilities. Its fans love to chronicle it on the Internet. George, my brother, found a site devoted to the Laff in the Dark, by an incredible geek who writes about every gear and pulley involved in the ride's construction. Click here for the site.

Then kiss your work day goodbye.

I already did that, hours ago.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The auld sod

Today I went and marched in the Labor Day Parade. A bunch of us from work marched, in honor of Jay Bonfatti, our friend who died a few days ago had organized it. Jay was always organizing us to do this or that -- go to a Sabres game, come to a party, something. It is funny that he is still organizing us even now that he is gone.

Being a Republican I do not normally march in favor of organized labor but I made an exception in this situation, and I was glad I did. What a cute, goofy little parade this was. It was so quiet. There was one bagpipe corps -- maybe six guys with kilts and big bellies. And one high school marching band, from West Seneca. Then just the usual small-town stuff: a few fire trucks, the painters' union with a truck featuring a giant roller and a dripping can of paint to match.

I kept thinking of that great scene in "Die Meistersinger" when all the guilds parade out, singing their hymns and strutting their stuff. The cobblers, invoking St. Crispin. The bakers boasting about how they keep everyone fed and not hungry. I love that scene's medieval pageantry. Times are different now. Wagner would not have found it so easy to create beautiful music for Local 210, I will tell you that.

Anyway, we went down Abbott past St. Thomas Aquinas and the Irish Center, then hung a left on Cazenovia and finished up the parade in Cazenovia Park where the bagpipers could not wait to light up cigarettes. Wouldn't you be a better bagpipe player if you didn't smoke?

One piper told me I could switch from piano to bagpipes, that it wasn't difficult, his wife did it.

I said, "I have enough with the piano to keep me busy."

Walking back to the car with my friend Jane and our sportswriter Keith McShea, we ran into the mayor. We clowned with him and took pictures. Buffalo, such a small town!

Speaking of which, here is a funny thing that happened. A few years ago, Canisius College Press published a book of my dad's nostalgia columns about Buffalo history, called Buffalo Memories. It is still a good steady seller. I gave a copy of the book to Leonard Pennario for a present soon after I met him because Leonard shared my dad's obsession with Crystal Beach and old Buffalo churches and movie theaters. When I got to California I was happy to see the book next to Leonard's bed, on top of a pile of books about movies and music. Anyway, just the other day, poking around in Dad's book, I found a story about an ice cream parlor he loved as a boy, called Sullivan's, at the corner of Abbott and Columbus.

I am from South Buffalo, born when my family lived on Choate Avenue and baptized, same as my dad, at Holy Family Church. But but they moved us out to Snyder when I was 5 and now South Buffalo is like a foreign country to me. Anyway, we're drifting along the sidewalk talking about Jay and suddenly I happened to see a place that looked like a bar with the sign "Sullivan's."

Wait, I thought, wasn't that the name of that ice cream parlor? Well, this couldn't be it. But then I looked around for the nearest street sign and there it was, across the street, Columbus. Yes, that was the street!

I looked again. It was an old brick building, behind the bar facade. It must have been my dad's old ice cream parlor! Isn't it funny, I was just reading that? And there it was!

By now Keith and Jane are a block up the street looking back to see where the heck I was. And I'm standing there staring at this building. This is the way I go through life, my head in the clouds.

"An old aunt used to grumble that I was turning into one of 'the gang that hangs around the ice cream parlor.'" That was how my dad's story on Sullivan's starts out.

"On hot summer nights, teenagers would naturally drift there. During my era, South Buffalo cherished Sullivan's, a super ice cream parlor at Abbott Road and Columbus Street. Owned by a glum, hatchet-faced man named John 'Turkey' Sullivan, the establishment played host nightly to droves of teenagers."

I love how he ends the story:

"If Mr. Sullivan had given diplomas for steady attendance at his institution, many familiar names would appear: Diggins, Curtin, O'Connor, slews of Murphys, generations of Griffins, Malley, many Meegans, McNamaras and Moriartys, Dolan, O'Brien, Monahan ... Such alumni often did graduate and work at Joe Cooley's famous saloon across Abbott Road in later years."

Joe Cooley's. We could have used that place earlier today! My guess is it's not there any more.

If that were open, I don't think I would have missed it.