Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The 12 Scents of Spring

Today as I convalesce from the plague I caught from Howard I have allowed myself to open the windows, as you can observe in the picture above. It feels like spring! And it smells like spring too.

There are those who gripe because summer is not coming fast enough for them but really, it is rare to have a nice spring day like this in Buffalo. Usually our days are either total summer or total winter. But today it is spring.

Here are 12 spring smells I love in Buffalo.

1.) The smell of roasting coffee from McCullagh Coffee. Every time I smell this downtown I realize how lucky we are.

2.) The sugar smell from the Cheerios plant. Another downtown smell we are lucky to have when other cities have smells not nearly as attractive. How would you like to live on Staten Island where the local business is garbage? Think about that.

3.) The zoo. Not everyone would consider this smell attractive but to me it means spring. When the zoo smell starts drifting all over the city you know that the winter is over and gone.

4.) Other people's grills. I normally do not get my act together to get mine going until August but in the meantime I feast vicariously on the smell of the grills from my neighbors' back yards. Just like in the winter I like the smells from other people's fireplaces even though I cannot get my act together to get my own fireplace going.

5.) Cigars. When you catch the scent of a cigar that is a summer smell and I welcome it, though Leonard Pennario did not and we argued briefly about that.

6.) Beer. It is spring when you pass a bar and the doors are open and you smell beer. At least Pennario did like his beer now and then.

7.) Musty old-house smell. You do not realize how summery this is until you smell it drifting out from indoors. You can smell it a lot in Allentown because the houses are close to the sidewalk. Mmmmmmm. In a pinch you can go looking for this smell at an antique shop.

8.) Pizza and chicken wing grease. Stop outside a pizzeria and inhale. Remember when pizzerias were called pizza parlors? We used to have a classic one, Giuseppe's, out in Snyder when I grew up. Dark booths, jukeboxes, disreputable characters hanging out, our parents frowning on our going in. Those were the days.

9.) Gas at the gas station. People are sharply divided over this smell. You love it or hate it. I love it. To my parents' distress when I was a kid I also loved the smell of car exhaust.

10.) The first time you cut the grass. That has not happened yet.

11.) I was going to stop at 10 but what about when you pass those big refinery tanks and you smell that stinky smell? Surely then it is spring. And if you are not sure you can always drive down Buffalo Avenue in Niagara Falls.

12. Those first chives, in the garden! They are already here.
As they say in "A Room With a View"... Inhale, my dear!

Spring brings out the poet in all of us.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pillow talk, Day 2

Seeing that I am spending so much time in bed with my NyQuil I began feeling sorry for myself today and looking at pictures of great musicians on their deathbeds. It made me feel better! And I would rather look at musicians on their deathbeds than read about my Facebook friend Governor Paterson's taxes. That is for sure.

There are a hundred pictures of Mozart on his deathbed. He had arguably the most famous deathbed of all time. The one up at the top of the post is my favorite. I love all the commotion, everyone standing around, women weeping over him, kids in the picture, someone at the piano -- playing the Requiem, no doubt. The story has it that when Mozart was dying he was directing people on how to complete the Requiem.

Here is a picture of Mozart on his deathbed that I never saw before.

This vision of Mozart's deathbed is kind of dark for my tastes.

Isn't this fun? Where else would you find this? Everywhere else you look today, people will be talking about boring stuff like our taxes and government spending. But we are talking about musicians on their deathbeds.

There is a beautiful picture of Chopin on his deathbed. That looks like the piano I have in my dining room! And that is me playing it.

This calls out for music! Here is Chopin's famous Funeral March as only Leonard Pennario could play it.

You get the best deathbed pictures when the dying person is young. Chopin was something like 39 when he died. So was Mendelssohn. Here is a famous drawing of Mendelssohn on his deathbed.

Here is a picture I found of Beethoven on his deathbed.

Here is another picture of Beethoven on his deathbed. It is by Josef Eduard Teltscher, 1801-1837. Poor Josef Eduard Teltscher, he did not live to be very old himself.

On the Web this picture is accompanied by the greatest sales pitch. "Why settle for a paper print when you can own a real handmade oil painting on canvas? Order your handmade reproduction of Ludwig van Beethoven 1770-1827 on his deathbed, 28th March 1827 today!"

Ha, ha! I love that.

I wish I lived in the 19th century because back then you could do great things with your hair. Looking for deathbed pictures of Beethoven I found this picture of his buddy the Countess Therese von Brunswick.

His girlfriend Toni Brentano went for an even wilder look.

Imagine if you could bind your hair into a turban like this and go to work! Would that be great or what?

How did I get onto hairstyles? I thought I was talking about deathbeds.

I must be feeling better.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pillow talk

With the temperatures falling through the 40s and rain in the forecast, today is not a bad day to be in quarantine, which is what I am. I have the cold that Howard had last week.

Zut alors!

I hope no one else got it!

I slept all morning because of this cold and zut alors again, I missed yesterday's estate sale because of it. Above is a picture Howard took of me while I was sleeping. The room is kind of messy but I am in there somewhere. You just have to look for me.

This is not a bad cold I have but, as Mercutio says in "Romeo and Juliet" when he is stabbed, "'twill do." I think half of Buffalo has it. Howard was listening to Kevin Hardwick's radio show and he said Kevin Hardwick had it.

For some reason I think of "Romeo and Juliet" a lot when I get colds. Here is a silly secret. I never swallow the NyQuil at night without thinking of Juliet taking that potion that is supposed to put her to sleep for a week. She says, "Romeo, I come! This do I drink to thee."

Then you gulp down that NyQuil and you are asleep! It is almost like Ambien, where right away, you start to feel funny.

There is this comedian who riffed on NyQuil, big rude comedian. Well, is there any other type of comedian? Airborne Eddy is that kind of comedian.

The NyQuil comedian's name is Denis Leary and he would say that NyQuil is stronger than anything you can buy on the streets. I just went on YouTube looking for his NyQuil routine and here it is. It is foulmouthed, I am warning you! But if anyone else out there is taking NyQuil it will make you feel better.

Here is another thing, I could not make it to church. I was feeling bad about that. I hate missing Mass. Here is a painting of me today missing Mass.

But you know what, I had this coming to me. Because last Sunday I went twice. I went once where I normally go and then my mom wanted to go to Our Lady Help of Christians for their 1:30 p.m. Latin Mass so I went there too.

That is binge behavior so today I am getting my what-for. I was getting too holy for my own good! That is how I interpret my illness.

I wonder what that estate sale was like yesterday. I am going to quote more poetry: "Visited estate sales are sweet, but those unvisited are sweeter..." My mother was going to go without me. She was going to walk over and see what was there.

Watch, she is going to tell me, "What a record collection they had! Thousands of piano albums! I did see a few by Leonard Pennario. Good thing you weren't there. You have so many records."

I would die!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The estate sale at the end of the universe

Is anyone else hearing that blah-blah-blah about this Earth Hour protest tonight? We are supposed to turn off our lights for one hour, something like that.

Ha, ha! I have a better idea. Well, Howard has it and I am repeating it.

How about we turn off these people's idiocy for one hour?

How about for one hour these zealots do not tell us what to do?

Well, I am not going to carry on about this. I am in a great mood today. My mother and I are going to an estate sale. I will have to report back on what I find.

My mom and I have gone to hundreds of estate sales over the years and I have also gone to a few with my friend Michelle from work. We have found serious treasures. The last estate sale I went to, I paid a quarter for a little booklet for Howard, called "Ted Kennedy: Wine, Women and WRONG." Where else would you find that?

One of the best estate sales I ever went to was on Parkside Avenue. A couple of gay guys were moving to San Francisco. The stuff they were selling! The things I found!

I got a set of black mixing bowls I still use. And the mirror that sits behind my piano. Observe lounge sensation Guy Boleri reflected in that mirror. You can sort of see it anyway.

I also believe that fabled sale on Parkside was where I got my living room couch which, it is kind of beat up now, but it was nice back then. And I got this vase that sits on my hearth. The jazz singer Mark Murphy admired that vase, that is how pretty it is. He said if I ever wanted to get rid of it, he would take it.

Wow, that is quality name dropping. Mark Murphy admired the vase that sits in front of my fireplace. That is a nice thing to be able to write!

Here is a picture of Mark Murphy with our friend Ari Silverstein. Murphy is on the left.

The best estate sale I was ever at was also one of the worst. I will give you the good news and the bad news of it.

The good news was that the person who, um, died, or whatever, had been a piano fanatic. There was a huge bookshelf that took up a whole wall and was filled floor to ceiling with impeccably catalogued classical piano albums.

It was like being in a library! You could just look for whatever you wanted and there it would be. It was like a dream. I went looking for Rachmaninoff playing his piano concertos because though I had the set already, I had lost the booklet that went with it and that had really been bugging me. I was afraid I had thrown the booklet out by mistake with my recycling. And I loved that booklet because it had wonderful pictures of Rachmaninoff. I do like looking at pictures of Rachmaninoff.

So there that set was, and I bought it. I also bought a load of records by Rubinstein, Horowitz, Kapell, Brendel, etc. And when I got home I realized that the collector had even clipped reviews of these records, and saved concert programs, and had slipped them into the jackets. Incredible.

So that is the good news of the situation. The bad news was, I went to that sale with my mother.

She was following me around going, "Don't buy that. What are you doing with that? You have all those CDs. You have more music than you are ever going to listen to in your life. Put those records down." Etc.

And I let her bug me into using moderation!

In my dreams ... in my dreams ... I go back to that wonderful sale. I imagine all the treasures I could have bought. I bet there were tons of Leonard Pennario records there. Back then I had hardly heard of him, so I did not know enough to look for them. In my dreams, I find all those records. And I do not listen to my mother.

Yeah, I do not listen to my mother. Right.

In my dreams.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Smith College

Last night I went to a retirement party. Howard Smith, one of our managing editors, retired. It is wonderful to go to these parties because you hear all kinds of stories about the person retiring. And in the case of Howard Smith the stories were top quality.

Howard Smith may be retiring but he is not a retiring person!

Ha, ha! How is that for only 7 a.m. and on my first cup of coffee?

There is one story about Howard Smith that is legend. I remember hearing it when I was new at The Buffalo News. Someone passed it on to me then. It is like great oral tradition. And I have kept this story with me and told it here and there but I had not retained the name. Until last night I had not realized it was Howard Smith.

The story is that someone called the paper mad about something.

And this editor who I now find out was Howard Smith told the person: "I'm sorry, you leave me no choice but to cancel your subscription."


I say that is genius. That is why when Howard Smith made his speech and ended it with: "If anyone ever wants to finish off a bottle of Scotch, I'm around," I thought: Yes! I would love to drink Scotch sometime with Howard Smith. It is an honor to know the man who can claim that legendary quote. Plus Howard Smith has always been nice to me even though he is famous for being the paper's longtime sports editor and I do not know one team from another. I am serious. Whenever I am so unfortunate as to have to go to a game, it will be halfway through the game and I will whisper ashamedly to someone: "So, which team is ours? Are we the blue or the red?" But Howard Smith is nice to me anyway.

Another Howard Smith story. Bob Summers told this one. Bob Summers is our longtime horse racing columnist. I wish when Leonard Pennario was in Buffalo, that I could have introduced him to Bob. Because Pennario, he loved his horse racing. For years he crowned the winners at Del-Mar, did Leonard, which, you cannot say the same about Sviatoslav Richter.

Heck of a pianist, Richter. But you could not picture him crowning the winners at a horse race, is all I am saying.

Bob told this story about a caller who rang The News' sports department and asked, "When is the World Series?" He said probably the caller was planning his vacation or something.

Bob did not know the answer right off so he went to look it up.

Howard Smith said, "What are you doing?"

Bob said, "A caller wants to know when the World Series is."

Howard Smith said, "Tell him to go @8#@$(*@*."

I cannot write what Howard Smith said exactly because this is a refined blog about Leonard Pennario and let me tell you this, famous concert pianists read it.

But it was so out of bounds that you had to love Howard for saying it!

Former mayor Tony Masiello ...

... was at the party with his wife, Kate. You know how sometimes you have this thing going on when you are always underfoot? That was my situation lastnight with Tony Masiello. I kept bumping into him and stuff and once when he was blocking an aisle talking to someone I was trying to get past him with a huge plate of food.

Finally he said to me, "Who are you, anyway?"

He did not say it quite in those words but that was the gist of it. Because we had never been introduced. He was so graceful and I felt so clumsy! But now I am laughing about it.

Also at the party was our current Mayor, Byron Brown.

He said hello to me, by name! In front of our political reporter, Bob McCarthy! I gloried in that. Who matters in this town? The Leonard Pennario biographer, that is who.

That made me feel better.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What a day for a daydream

Help! The Countess Maritza shot my worth ethic.

Just now I wrote a little thing for my, ahem, Music Critic blog. I was running my mouth about musicians named Kunz, not that there are that many of us, and I ran a link to this courtly Viennese baritone Erich Kunz singing a song from the operetta "Countess Maritza."

Here is the link. But I warn you. Do not listen to it!

It will totally shoot your work day!

You do not even have to understand what Herr Kunz is singing!

Music can do that to you. When I worked at the Niagara Gazette I had been working there for exactly one week when, and this really happened, the Grateful Dead shot my work ethic. I went to California with my brother George to go to the Grateful Dead's New Year's Eve show and I never, ever recovered.

I just had so much fun! Here I had been all enthusiastic about my new job and I got back home and I am sitting there thinking: What am I doing here? After a year and a half or something I walked.

Watch out what you listen to!

So this morning, here I am, listening to these dreamy Viennese songs. By the second time I listened to that song from "Countess Maritza" I had my chin in my hand and I was staring into space.

I began thinking of this trip my mother and I took to Vienna where we went to the opera every night and after that went to this cafe for a glass of white wine. We heard a Brahms concert at the Musikverein. That is one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world. It is all gold. Leonard Pennario played recitals there. My mom and I decided on that trip to Vienna on the spur of the moment. I mean, we decided on Wednesday to go on Friday. I don't know how I was able to pull that off. Probably I was unemployed, who knows.

That is a picture of Vienna up above. I don't remember where that fountain is exactly but we were there.

What about Old Vienna? It is second from the left.

Then there was my brother Tony's birthday last summer. We all went to see my sister in East Aurora. I went swimming in a pond with my nieces Rosie and Millie and my nephew George Henry. And after that Tony's friend Peter showed up in his little convertible and he asked me if I wanted to go for a ride and I said yes. With which, we put the two little girls in the back seat and Peter put on a straw hat and we drove the byways of East Aurora on that beautiful summer day, laughing and listening to Fritz Wunderlich singing songs from "Countess Maritza." Including the one Erich Kunz just sang. And this one.

What a wonderful day that was. I want to live it over.

Zut alors, or ach du lieber I should say. I was going to continue yesterday's pattern and piously write about miracles and now look, suddenly I am sitting here all dissatisfied with my lot. I do not want to work. I want coffee. I want pastries! Then I want operetta. And white wine.

Well, at least I have the coffee.

That is a start anyway.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

We begin to discuss miracles

As we count down to Easter it is time to talk about miracles. It can be like last October when we talked about the supernatural on a daily basis. Miracles are especially good to talk about on a crowded weekday morning because now is when we need the reminder that there is something out there bigger than we are.

What about Smokey Robinson and the Miracles?

I had one miracle happen 10 years ago this month. Perhaps 10 years ago today! I am not sure of the date.

This was the spring of '99, in case like me you have not yet had enough coffee to do the math without assistance. I had just broken up with this guy and I was going forward trying to do things to make the breakup stick. You know how you can get addicted to someone just because that person took up space in your life. That was how it was in this situation.

One thing I did was enter the, ahem, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs. I should stop and emphasize "amateur." The other day my friend Art, when we were in his kitchen preparing my appetizers for his dinner party, he said, "So you were in the Van Cliburn Competition, with Leonard Pennario as a judge?" No, and no! The competition Pennario judged was the competition that makes headlines, the one not for amateurs.

But the amateur competition -- this was the first time they held it, in '99 -- was a big challenge for me because I had not been playing piano for something like 20 years. I figured that practicing for it would keep me off the streets and away from the guy I was trying to break up with. I was right about that! But that is a whole other story.

Back to my miracle. The other thing I did besides enter that competition was say a prayer.

I said it about a week after I had broken up with my Mr. Wrong. I had just come back from this stupid date with this guy I had met, I remember this, on St. Patrick's Day, at the parade. I had met him in Colter Bay or somewhere, and he was just wrong, which I knew within two seconds when he met me again at the Lafayette Tap Room. That is the Tap Room pictured above. Someone did a painting of me!

Anyway, after my silly date at the Tap Room I was standing in the upstairs hall of my house. I was already living in this house. And I said, "God, please find me someone decent. It's time."

I wasn't angry or depressed or anything. I was just being practical. "God," I said, "please get me someone cute and smart and kind. It's time," I repeated. "I am tired of wasting all this time on all this. I want this settled and I want someone good. It's time."

Something like two days after I issued God that gentle reminder, I went to Fanny's to hear the great jazz pianist Al Tinney and that was where I met Howard.

Here is a picture of Fanny's where Howard and I met on adjacent barstools.

Which, I know you could say it might have happened anyway. But something Howard said brought that prayer back to me. We had been going out something like two months and we were talking about that and he said, "I don't know what it is. I get this funny feeling that some higher power is controlling me."

That was when I remembered that prayer!

Isn't that weird? A little while ago one of my friends, we were having a glass of wine, and she was wondering aloud how she should go about finding someone right. And I said, "Have you tried praying about it? You should say a prayer." I said, "It worked for me."

We are sort of shy about saying things like that but maybe we should not be.

The truth is, something is out there, and it is for real.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Gym dandy

Ay, that post yesterday! Totally rambling Monday morning! My brother George even emailed me. "That thing about the Brussels sprouts, it was so ditzy, I had to read it three times," he wrote.

I was initially shamed by that so today I almost deleted the whole post. Then I read it back and you know what, it is glorious in its ditziness, in its Monday morning-ness. I will leave it be.

"What I have written, I have written." Pontius Pilate said that.

Which, yesterday after two months I went back to Pilates class.

Yikes, yikes, yikes and ow!

So ran my thoughts throughout class. But of course I kept them to myself. It is funny about Pilates class. The class proves that women are stronger. Our Monday teacher, Susie, she dishes out crunch after crunch. Sometimes she stops exercising herself and just sits there and looks at us, issuing commands.

"Forearm plank," she might announce. "30 seconds. Start."

A forearm plank is when you are on your stomach and have to rise up on your forearms and stay there while Susie counts.

Here is a picture of this strenuous and dehumanizing pose.

Then there are roll-ups where you lie back with your hands over your head and have to curl up, slowly, until you are sitting up. It is easier if you are holding weights and you better bet that yesterday I was holding those weights. No way could I have done that without them!

Observe a man in his underwear doing the roll-up.

I was getting to why women are stronger. Throughout all these exertions I am keeping my moans and groans to myself. But the guys in class, they do not!

"Oof," they are going. "Oh. Oooh. Ooof."

And between that they breathe very hard to show that they are sweating.

This does not annoy me. I actually like it. It is as if these guys speak for all of us. It makes me feel better when I am suffering through that Chair Pose to hear my Pilates friend Joe, on the mat next to mine, grunting and groaning freely.

There was one Pilates class when Susie was pushing us and pushing us and finally, in the silence, one man went: "Jesus."

Usually it bugs me when people say "Jesus" like that but I have to admit, that time I just started laughing. I absolutely could not help it. Because boy, I was feeling his pain!

Yesterday the teacher made the mistake of saying, "And if you need to, you can get into Child's Pose." I was in Child's Pose before she was even done speaking, I will tell you that right now.

Here is a picture of Child's Pose. It is my favorite pose!

Throughout all this drama Susie was playing this CD with one of those singer/songwriters who strum a guitar and sing these long, aimless songs. They always play that in Pilates and it cracks me up. We used to listen to Ben Lee and he had a song that went, "Wake is the new sleep." He would repeat that like a kind of mantra. Ben Lee had another song called "Gamble Everything for Love." The calories I burned to that song! I start to sweat just listening to it.

Yesterday this was a different guy. Over and over in this one song, he kept asking, "How do you feel?"

Uh, I'll feel fine, after the 30 seconds run out on this forearm plank!

Why couldn't they be playing this?

Wow, that link. The first waltz. Is there anything more haunting in the world?

All my gym drama took place at the Buffalo Athletic Club where Leonard Pennario used to work out when he was visiting Buffalo. It gives me strength, remembering that. Though I do not think anyone ever forced him into the forearm plank. Pennario would not have liked that, oh no no no.

When Pennario went there, the Buffalo Athletic Club had that dining room pictured above.

Like Proust, I weep like a child for the past.

From Brussels to Buffalo

As we begin another work week... Who in the world is ready??

Hello!!!?? Anyone out there prepared and psyched, bright eyed and bushy-tailed? I know I am not!!

But listen to what is making me happy. I have this Facebook group that I may have mentioned, "Leonard Pennario, America's Greatest Pianist." I started it as a lark maybe a month ago and now we are up to almost 100 members globally, even with me being half asleep at the switch and doing next to nothing to promote it.

When I started my group I typed in, "This is for people who love classical piano and wish to celebrate the greatness of Leonard Pennario ..."

A few weeks ago I went back and edited it and wrote: "This is for people who love classical piano and wish to celebrate the supremacy of Leonard Pennario ..."

Somewhere the old man is loving that. Well, it is true!

Yesterday I got a communique from a pianist in Belgium. That is a word I plan to use more often, communique. His name is Marc Bauwens. That is a picture of Mr. Bauwens up above. He graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels. He looks brilliant and intense! Which he must be, seeing that he plays Messiaen. I do not play that, I will tell you that right now.

Here is a picture of Messiaen at the piano crafting one of his thorny, uncompromising, orthodox Roman Catholic creations.

Pennario loved Messiaen and had a million CDs of his music and had a funny story about when he met him. You have to love anyone who has a funny story about Messiaen. Leave it to Leonard!

Here is a bit of Messiaen played by Ilya Itin, one of our new friend Marc Bauwens' teachers.

Marc Bauwens sent me a little note. He wrote: "I have been an admirer of Leonard Pennario for the past 30 years, mainly through his Rachmaninoff recordings. When I heard his interpretation of the Rachmaninoff first concerto with André Previn, I immediately decided to learn this work myself, I had just finished the Conservatory at that time..."

Which really warmed my heart. Isn't that great, that Pennario's performance influenced this pianist to learn this concerto?

I am so proud of Pennario. Look at how he makes Buffalo look in the eyes of the musical world. Here we spend so much time sitting around kvetching about we lost four Super Bowls, blah blah blah. And here is this pianist in Belgium, we are over the top in his mind because we produced Leonard Pennario, America's greatest pianist.

Thinking of Brussels and Buffalo begs a question. I wonder if Brussels is as proud of Brussels sprouts as we are of chicken wings. They should be! I love Brussels sprouts. I have a bunch of them in the vegetable crisper right now as we speak.

I wonder if Brussels has a Brussels Sprouts Festival.

Hmmm. I think they do not. I did research and found that the only Brussels sprout festival the world over is in a place called Rogersville, New Brunswick. Trappist monks brought Brussels sprouts there relatively recently, in 1905.

I cannot believe Brussels dropped the ball on this. They should have a Brussels sprouts festival. They could crown a Miss Brussels Sprout and power eaters from the world over converge and see how many Brussels sprouts they can eat in five minutes. They could have a Brussels sprouts sauce contest. We could let them borrow Drew Cerza and Donn Esmonde for a couple of weeks to help hype the festival.

Here is another thing. My friend Art, who made the Blood and Sand cocktails I talked about yesterday, he once found a guy named Russell Sprouts. The Brussels Sprouts Festival could welcome Russell Sprouts as their emcee!

C'mon, Brussels, how about it? I have been to Brussels and it is a beautiful city and I think it cries out for a Brussels Sprouts Festival.

A city that produced Leonard Pennario cannot be wrong.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Big load o' bull

Today is "Laetare" Sunday, which means "rejoice." And I rejoiced! But I have to admit that I began my rejoicing a little bit early. I rejoiced so much last night that this morning after 9 a.m. Mass when I hit the church coffee hour, I was in such a hurry to scarf that coffee down that I burned my mouth on it.

And not only that, but when someone made the mistake of trying to talk to me I distractedly dumped about a pound of Cremora into my cup.

Then I drank it anyway!

Let us not dwell on that. Let us dwell rather on what I was drinking last night, the reason I was so desperate for the coffee.

Last night we went to a beautiful dinner party where our friend Art made cocktails called Blood and Sand. That is a drink named after a 1922 Rudolph Valentino movie. You will need 2 parts Scotch to 1 part sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering and the juice of a blood orange.

The drink is dark orange, the color of a sunset. I wanted to take a picture but zut alors, I had forgotten my camera. Howard could have taken one but he had a cold and was out of it. I should not have brought Howard to this party, I will say that. If Art or any of our other friends there comes down with this bug Howard has I would never forgive myself. I encouraged him to go. And he went, because when I gave him the option of staying home of course he said no, he wanted to go. Because he knows that otherwise we all would have talked about him behind his back. Over our Blood and Sands!

Above is the poster for the original silent "Blood and Sand" starring Rudolph Valentino. The remake starring Tyrone Power ...

... does not measure up. Sorry.

There was one person on earth who viewed remakes with the distaste that I do and that was Leonard Pennario. We had that in common. We established that the night we first met.

Here is a picture of Rudolph Valentino in the original "Blood and Sand."

Here is a shot from the movie with Rudolph Valentino and friend.

On the Music Critic blog we once explored the work of Valentino in "The Sheik," which co-starred the daughter of the pianist Leopold Godowsky. It is a steamy post! You may revisit it here.

But as the Wall Street Journal reported, in the story that inspired Art to re-create the drink, Valentino was more proud of his role in "Blood and Sand," in which he plays a bullfighter. Such a funny, brief moment in time, when they were making silent movies. That era was gone in a flash.

Like my Blood and Sand last night.

And the Blood and Sand that I drank after that.

Here is a clip of Rudolph Valentino in action in "Blood and Sand." Here is a quote from it I love: "Senor President, I toast you and dedicate this bull to your honor!"

To whom shall I dedicate my bull?

There is no end to it. That is for sure!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Evening on the East Side

Lastnight to the Broadway Market -- to eat, perchance to drink Sobieski vodka. That is what I did! Though the Sobieski was under the table. There was a bureaucratic tangle that kept the organizers from offering the vodka to the people. And so I had to accept the little bottle from Airborne Eddy -- he is the one grinning on the extreme right of the picture -- on the sly.

Eddy slipped me the bottle and I put it in my pocket. He did the same with other people and toward the end of the evening we brought the mini-flasks out and did some sipping.

There is a picture up above of our table going over the edge. Darn, I should have used a flash! Oh well.

The Broadway Market looked pretty, the way a high school gym does when you hold a dance there. An accordionist serenaded us.

Ha, ha! That picture needs a flash too. Alas, no light bulb went on in my head and so no light bulb went on in my camera either.

The accordioniast played polkas and klezmer music and he also paid tribute to my culture with "Muss I Denn" although he did not know the words. Being descended from Bavarians, I do.

Muss i denn, muss i denn, zum Staedtele hinaus und du mei Schatz bleibst hier..
Wenn i komm, wenn i komm, wenn i wieder umkomm, kerr i ei, mei Schatz, bei Dir...

Here is the song sung by Marlene Dietrich. It means: Must I leave this little town, when you, my darling, stay here? When I come back, I will come back to you. The Germans always came up with wonderful sad goodbye songs.

Here is "Muss I Denn" performed by kids in the Congo.

I am not Polish but I have become somehow involved with Buffalo's East Side. Well, I had family there too, on what I guess you would call the Near East Side, the Fruit Belt area. There was the Polish East Side and closer to the city you had the German East Side. And on the West Side you had Italians. That is where Leonard Pennario's family was.

Howard and I both had family members on the German East Side. Among them were my great-grandfather August Ernst who was a blacksmith and Howard's grandfather Samuel Rosenblum who had a shop where he sold cigars and fixed umbrellas.

August Ernst's house is still standing but it is on its last legs and my guess is that it will be gone soon, if it is not already. Samuel Rosenblum's cigar shop was plowed under a long time ago. There are parts of the East Side where, it is as if World War II was fought there or something. The secret to dealing with it is to go there frequently so you are used to it and it does not shock you. I go there a lot because I love to shop at the Broadway Market.

But the good news is that the neighborhood is on the way back. It is turning around!

That became clearer lastnight with every sip of Sobieski.

Friday, March 20, 2009

There goes the neighborhood

Writing that bucolic, peaceful post yesterday about staying overnight at my mom's house, I did not have time to mention one thing.

My car alarm went off!

At quarter past midnight!

On this silent suburban street!! In case you forgot since yesterday what the street looked like, there is another picture I took of it up above.

What do you do when that happens? This has never happened to me before. I was lying by that time in my monastic bedroom, reading that book on Mozart I keep on the nightstand...

... and my eyes were just beginning to fall shut. Reading about Mozart is one of the most relaxing things I can do. Because I have read a million books about him, and I know the whole story by heart, and all the people in his life are like old friends to me, and I love just to open a book about him and read again about whatever.

One day before too long people will be talking like this about my book on Leonard Pennario! (That is a great link to his marvelous performance of Chopin's haunting A minor waltz, by the way. Do not skip it!)

Anyway, so there I am, just at the point of falling asleep. I am just about ready to turn out the light. And that is when I hear this "BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!!!


Now, I am a city girl. Here is where I realize how urban I have become. My first thought was not: "Oh, dear, my car alarm is going off." My first thought was: "Oh, gee, someone's car alarm is going off." And I am waiting for someone else to fix it.

Because in my neighborhood -- perhaps at this point I should say my "hood" -- car alarms go off all the time and no one thinks anything about it. The car alarms just blend in with the boom cars and the sirens (I am right around the corner from one of the busiest fire stations in the city) and the howls of the monkeys at the zoo. Not to mention the howls of the neighbors. There is that too!

But the other night, the car alarm keeps going and no one comes to its aid. That was when it occurred to me it could be mine.

I leap up out of bed and look out the window and sure enough, the lights in the driveway are blinking crazily on and off. What to do? What to do?? I have had this car for several years and the alarm had never once gone off. I scrambled for my keys. Found them. The red button, with the picture of the horn, would that shut the thing up? Please, God! I pushed the button.

And the car alarm stopped.

Deo gratias!! I am saying that a lot these days.

Then I was not sure what to do. You cannot have car alarms going off in this neighborhood. You just cannot. I thought maybe I should disable the alarm but No. 1 I realized I had no idea how to do that and No. 2 I was in these ridiculous improvised pajamas and could not imagine going out in the driveway.

And No. 3, I had this other thought:

Maybe someone was messing with my car!

This will teach them!

Thinking about that calmed me down and within 15 minutes I was asleep and next thing I knew it was day.

A little bit of Buffalo.

That is what I bring to Amherst, when I spend the night there.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

You CAN go home again

Yesterday my mother came down with this stomach disorder that was tearing through my brother George's family last thing we knew and now it had her, too. So I stayed overnight with her because she would do the same for me if I needed her to.

That pork butt I wrote about yesterday, it turned out to be a dream deferred!

I like to stay overnight at my mom's because I get to sleep in this bedroom I love. That is the bedroom pictured above. It sure beats my cluttered bedroom in my, ahem, residence, which, I will not even put a picture of that.

Here is another picture of my monastic bedroom at my mother's house that shows you the front window that overlooks the ideal suburban street.

On the night table I keep a biography of Mozart that is my night reading before I go to sleep. Lastnight I was reading about Mozart and that Count Arco who kicked him in the rear. It is a true story!

Next to my book on Mozart my mom has put this picture of my sister Katie and me when we were kids. Guess which one I am! I am on the right.

Katie the left-winger is on the left, MKG pictured on right.

If you click on the bedroom picture you will get a better look at the pictures on the other side of the bed. They are my mom's and my sister Margie's First Communion pictures!

Behold the view from the bed.

The picture is a famous etching of a couple walking along the Kurfurstendamm. This is the main promenade in Berlin.

At home, as I love to brag, I wear Leonard Pennario's bathrobe, which is Ralph Lauren. At my mom's I wear a Pierre Cardin summer bathrobe that is in the closet. Here I am this morning greeting the day in my Pierre Cardin bathrobe.

Ha, ha! Observe my cell phone charging on the dresser. I have the oldest cell phone known to man. It is something like six years old. I bet all the people who see my number on my blog and call me to talk about Leonard Pennario have no idea that I am talking on a phone that old.

This morning my mom got up and made coffee and ate eggs and she is all well. It is like the Song of Solomon: the rains are over and gone. When I got out in the street it was so beautiful that I took this picture.

Deo gratias for this beautiful day! And thank you St. Joseph. Today is St. Joseph's Day and he is the patron saint of families.

I wonder who is the patron saint of pork butts.

Because that is what I am thinking about again now.