Monday, October 6, 2008

A dark missive from Philistine Hall

This morning my alarm didn't go off and my body, clearly in revolt over its usual pre-dawn waking hours, went on and slept like a pig until I do not want to say what hour.

There go two hours of work on my book about Leonard Pennario, right out the window! Every day, it seems, it's two steps forward, one step back.

That reminds me of a new word I have learned. My mom and I were at the Wehrle Restaurant the other day eating spanokopita before going to hear Michael Feinstein at UB. And she started telling me about my Uncle Howard, whom I never remember meeting. He died when I was maybe 21. I remember that because I was on the phone with my boyfriend and the operator cut in. Remember when operators would cut in if the call was important? Wow, I am sounding like my grandmother.

Anyway, Uncle Howard. My mother was telling me that he caused tension in the house. She said her parents would worry about him and fight over matters involving him.

She said: "He was a..."

Then she paused, and I am wondering what I am in for, if Uncle Howard was gay, or what. In our family you never know. We have gay people.

Mom said, uneasily, "Have you ever heard the word.... schuff?"

"No," I said, delightedly. "But I can guess what it means. Is it kind of shiftless?" She said yes, that was exactly what it meant. And immediately it dawns on me, what schuff --pronounced schoof, rhyming with "hoof" -- means. It is not quite "loser" but it is something parents could fight about.

Those old German and Yiddish expressions, they are the best. We cannot let them fade away. About five years ago I did a recital where I played the Piano Sonata by Alban Berg and there was a part where Berg wrote: "Nicht schleppend." Don't schlep! I loved that. Keep the music going, don't schlep.

I am kind of schlepping these days when it comes to my piano practice. And I schlepped today, sleeping in. But I would not go so far as to say I am a schuff. Not yet, anyway.

I have another spooky October experience to share.

Yesterday I got a message from Mason Winfield. A message from Mason Winfield in itself is a spooky story. It is the equivalent of a message from beyond. It was addressed to "My friends in spirit."

Which was one of those phrases that made me pause in appreciation of life and all it has to offer. Lots of people live out all their days without ever once getting a message addressed "My friends in spirit."

Mason is the greatest. He is this sunny blond preppy tennis-playing cutie but he has this unbelievable dark side. I mean, check out his Web site. If you dare. Brrrrr!

Mason reports on all the ghostly doings in Buffalo and surrounding environs in his books, like "Shadows of the Western Door" and "A Ghost Hunter's Journal." I wonder if any other town has its psychic phenomena so impeccably chronicled. I very much doubt it. As I continue to share October stories of the supernatural a couple will probably touch on experiences I have had with Mason, because let me tell you, there have been some strange ones.

Here is what Mason wrote yesterday to his friends in spirit:

Algonquin mystic Michael Bastine, author Mason Winfield, and others have founded a new society devoted to the study and preservation of the sacred/spiritual legacy of Western New York. SPIRIT WAY PROJECT is a chance for any of you to help us in our mission, even to participate in research and investigation. We have two October meetings scheduled for anyone either curious about SWP or simply looking for conversation with like-minded individuals. One is Monday, 10/6 (convened by Mason Winfield and and the other Monday 10/13 (convened by Cassandra Butler-Bauerle and Mysha Webber-Eakin). Both are held at 7 p.m. in Philistine Hall, 21 S. Grove St. (on the Roycroft Campus), East Aurora NY.

Note to out-of-towners: Here in Buffalo we take names like Philistine Hall for granted and toss them around in conversation during the course of our everyday lives. "We convene at 7 p.m. in Philistine Hall." Isn't that fun to say?

I am afraid I will not be able to make it because now as a trad Catholic I am discouraged from seeking out the company of ghosts and hobgoblins, not to mention schuffs.

But I hope someone else reports to me on what happens at Mason's meetings!


Anonymous said...

Having taken Mason's tours in Saratoga Springs - We can only say one thing...We have never heard so many made up stories. Historian ? No, the stories are based on David Pitkin books and then twisted.

Anonymous said...

Our buddy Beethoven once scrawled an angry note in the margin of a critical review of his Battle Symphony that began "O du elender Schuft!" Same word, different spelling.