Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The wicked stepsister

Ay me, things have been busy at the Leonard Pennario desk!

We have the University of Southern California including Pennario in a display they are doing of their august faculty. Pennario did not teach there but two of his most famous colleagues, Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky, did. They asked me for a picture of the three of them together, with the violist William Primrose.

Then there is a doctoral student at Juilliard who is working on a thesis concerning Pennario's performance of Ravel's "La Valse." It is wonderful that students are beginning to rediscover his work. This student emailed me about her thesis and I am conferring with her on it. I do not know why I think it is a she. The name is Asian so I cannot tell.

What else?

That round of letters I sent out at the evil Post Office are continuing to bring results. I just heard from the assistant to Pennario's manager at Columbia Artists. I have been wanting to get a hold of her so that is a big breakthrough.

Tomorrow is the day I talk with Kaye Ballard!

I was over at my friend Gary's house and he was excited at the idea of talking to Kaye Ballard so he played one of her records. It was "Ha Ha/Boo Hoo"! The cover has two pictures of Miss Ballard, one happy and one sad. She is an excellent singer and a great comedienne it will be an honor to converse with her.

Kaye Ballard played one of the wicked stepsisters in the Julie Andrews "Cinderella." Here she is in this picture. She is second from left.

Here is a clip where you see her at the beginning hilariously trying to get the prince's attention.

Then the clip goes into "Ten Minutes Ago." What a beautiful waltz that is. You could be corny in musicals back then. You were allowed to be.

Now I feel as if my life is a movie, talking to all these people!

Except for while they might never come down to earth again, I sure have to, on this rainy Tuesday morning. What is on the agenda today? Is not today the day they are planning some stupid send-off for our Memorial Auditorium?

It is a little late for nostalgia, you know?

Or, as this goofy German exchange student we used to have used to say: "It is not interesting." You should have heard that in his sleepy, condescending accent. My father nicknamed him Klutz. I feel like calling Klutz on the phone right now, just to hear him say that. Just to hear him say, "It is not interesting."

I do not want to see that silly Aud send-off. I want to watch that scene from "Cinderella" again.

"Ten minutes ago..."

Ay me!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Why did the turtle cross the road?

Ay me, here it is Monday morning! And how I am wishing it were Saturday.

That was when I saw that turtle pictured above!

Howard and I were walking in Delaware Park and we took the route around the lake. There is one section of the path where it is beautiful and quiet and you can hear the birds and for a minute you forget all the slugs and schufts who like to make noise on summer days with their car stereos. Why doesn't the mayor ban car stereos in city parks? There is a question we can all chew on.

While we were walking down this path we stopped for a moment to stare into the water of the lake and watch the fish flitting about. It was like watching an aquarium. Howard pointed out how every fish had its own little territory and would snipe at other fish who got near it.

When we turned, a gentleman was standing in the path. "Look," he said.

And he pointed at this turtle crossing the road!

He said the turtle had just come out of the bushes. Now it was making its way across the road, one clawed foot in front of the other. Howard marveled at its single-mindedness of purpose. It is like me working on my book about Leonard Pennario!

The turtle seemed conscious of us but unafraid. It must have known that if we did anything it could either snap at us and take off one of our fingers, or else disappear into its shell. We did not know what it would do and we did not want to find out.

With immense dignity, its head held high, dragging its prehistoric tail, it kept on walking, ponderously and steadily, until it reached the water on the other side that it somehow knew was there.

Then plop!

It simply dropped in, like a stone. For an instant we saw it, swimming gracefully away, all four legs stretched out and paddling. Then it disappeared.

It is in the lake somewhere! Our turtle! A half an hour later when we were boating ...

... we thought about that.

Do watch that link. What a Schubertian morning I am having. I am supposed to be getting to work and instead I am listening to songs and looking at pictures.

Speaking of pictures Howard put that picture of me and the turtle up on Facebook and he asked for captions. You would not believe what people came up with.

"There should be a hare coming along any minute now." Budd Bailey, our sportswriter, wrote that.

"On second thought, why rush this whole Leonard Pennario thing?" That is my friend Carl Herko who works at the Portland Symphony!

"I see another authorized biography in the making." That is Marto Vago who is married to my piano teacher, Stephen Manes.

"Wanna race?" That is from my athletic friend Michelle Wlosinski.

"I don't know what the dentist gave me for this @#$*& tooth, but now I'm seein' prehistoric reptiles..." That caption is from our photographer Bob Kirkham.

"That's it! I'm never drinking anything Gary makes again, ever!" Dave Lundy, the actor, wrote that.

"Hmm. I wonder if he fits into Howard's new chair?" Ha, ha! That is my piano teacher himself, Stephen.

"Zut alors... now what would Leonard Pennario think of all this waste of time?!" My Facebook friend Toni Taber whom I met last week at Niagara Square wrote that. Toni, I shudder to think what he would think! Zut alors indeed!

"I'm so damn lost. Where's the Appalachian Trail?" That from our editor Scott Scanlon!

"See what just once kiss will get you." Our friend Kenny Larkin wrote that.

My friends Melinda and Lizzie made jokes about soup. We do not want the turtle to hear those! And Jeff Cooperman wrote the caption I used as my headline today.

Then Howard himself wrote something: "A magnificently engineered creature! ... and the turtle isn't too bad either." Hahahahaha!

There were so many good ones, I do not have time to copy them all. Oh! I forgot this one!

"I'm sorry Howard, I thought I had one more wish left." Our friend Art Page came up with that.


Now here it is Monday morning and ay me, I am in the mood for nothing but fun and games.

That turtle was moving faster than I am!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

LA Story

Yesterday we observed an important anniversary and today we observe another one. It was 100 years ago that the City of Lackawanna became a city! So yesterday we went to Lackawanna. It was another one of those outrageous bus tours led by our friend "Airborne Eddy" Dobosiewicz. That is our bus in the picture above.

But that is not I next to the bus in the purple! That is another woman on the tour. I remember her because she was in the bathroom forever in one of the joints we visited and I was waiting for her to get out and I thought I was going to be left behind.

When she finally got out I smiled as I went into the bathroom and I said: "Hold the bus for me, please, will you?"

"I'll do my best," she said.

You'll do your best?? Honey, your best is not good enough! Had you not been in the bathroom for three years, we would not be in this situation.

But anyway.

Our first stop on the bus was the brownfields of Bethlehem Steel where I took this picture to bring home to Howard.

The music from Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" played on the sound system of the bus as we went into areas normally accessible to authorized personnel only. We all cheered.

Here is another picture I took.

And here is one which shows my friend Jane.

Aren't these pictures great? My brother George and I were talking a while ago about one way in which we are different. That is the fact that George has no interest in industrial history while I am very interested in it for some reason.

At one time all kinds of railroad lines thundered through Lackawanna. They included the Erie/Lackawanna, the New York Central, Lehigh Valley, and the Pennsylvania Railroad.

We got to go up close to the monster wind turbines that are now creating energy on the site. The height is 365 feet from ground to hub. Each rod of the turbine is 150 feet long and weighs 17 tons!

Why do I find all this fascinating? But I do!

The tour stopped by Our Lady of Victory Basilica so I could light a candle for Leonard Pennario at this very holy place on the year's anniversary of his death. Isn't this a sweet statue of an angel? I chose a candle that was kind of near her because I thought he would like that. I am fussy when I light candles for Leonard. I do not light candles for him just anywhere I will have you know.

After I lit my candle for Leonard and got the ball rolling all kinds of other people on the tour, even people who are not Catholic, began stepping up to the plate, putting money in the box and lighting candles. While they prayed I sought the counsel of Our Lady of Victory.

Father Baker named the basilica for Our Lady of Victory because he was a Civil War soldier and he was in the Battle of Gettysburg. That is an experience you do not forget. Victory was a high priority for him as it is for me too.

Up by the dome of OLV ...

... you can see St. Michael the Archangel. I think that is who that is anyway. It is either he or St. Gabriel! But I think it is St. Michael because he is the one who defends us in battle and is our safeguard against the wickedness and the snares of the devil.

What about the snares of the devil's food cake?

St. Michael the Archangel does not protect us from that!

Late that night after many other stops we wound up drinking beer at a veterans' post. It is Post 63! "I hope you all dug it," our guide Eddie Dobosiewicz told us.

We did! Especially seeing Father Baker's picture on the bulletin board.

There was this poster too which I took note of at one of our other stops.

Ha, ha! My friend Jane and I have a joke for when we have a drink and are toasting each other. For years we said, "Cheers, Big Ears." Jane got that from somewhere and I like it. Then once when we were at the Broadway Market we were looking at pig ears and then we started saying, "Cheers, Pig Ears."

Now we are saying "Cheers, Weird Beard."

It is not every night you find yourself on a street corner on Electric Avenue talking with Eddie, right, a woman out walking her cat, left, and the Mayor of Lackawanna, center. The mayor of Lackawanna is named Norm Polanski.

We also met the mayor of Lackawanna's wife. Jane asked her, "What's it like, being the wife of the Mayor of Lackawanna?"

"It's all right," she said.

She met the mayor of Lackawanna in a bar! I asked her. It was Egon's Bar at the corner of Ridge and Abbott. She said Egon's is closed now.

On the way home Eddie made the rash decision to stop the bus so we could get a glimpse of Lackawanna Days. That was a big carnival they had set up and they were showing fireworks because as I mentioned, it is the 100th anniversary of the City of Lackawanna! It was incorporated in 1909. Prior to that it was part of West Seneca.

Eddie gave us 10 minutes so Jane and I thought we had time to make it to the beer tent. We did and we took our beers and tried to return to the bus but an official stopped us. He yelled: "Where are you two girls -- er, women -- going with that beer?"

Isn't it a riot how everyone is afraid to say "girls"? They are so afraid you will be offended.

So we stayed at the beer tent, figuring we had a couple of minutes. But then we were busted by the mayor of Lackawanna's wife! She saw us there and she went and told Eddie and Eddie came running up in a tizzy asking us if we were crazy and telling us to return to the bus, that he could have lost us.

Meanwhile our friend Lizzie, on the bus, was calling us on my cell phone. She knew where we were!

Lizzie and Jane and I wanna go back to Lackawanna.

Anyone else wanna?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A year later

It was a year ago today that Leonard Pennario died and I cannot decide if it feels like a long year or a short year.

It feels long because of all the time I have spent missing him and thinking about him. But it feels short because of all the time I have spent working. The time does fly when you are having fun, and doing this book is a never-ending thrill.

Well, I guess it will have to end sometime! I will have to finish this thing up.

I cannot go on for years like this, that is for sure. I work on my Pennario project for at least a couple of hours every day, and as my friends are always quick to tease me, I think about him all the time.

You cannot go on forever with a dead concert pianist living in your head. I believe I have said that several times along the line. I know I have thought it!

I would put the book at half done, maybe three quarters done. A lot of people ask me for a percentage so there, that is the best I can do. There is just so much to get a hold of and research and collect. It is not like writing a memoir about your own darn self. It is also not like writing a book about some no-count pianist.

Sometimes I think Pennario downplayed how great he was to me so I would go ahead and take this on.

"Oh, Heifetz? That was nothing. That was just a few concerts we gave."

"What do you mean, how did I learn that Grieg concerto in a week when I was 12? It was easy. It was nothing. C'mon, let's go out to this movie."

Now here I am.

I will never forget my life that week Pennario died, that is for sure. In this crazy hotel room, calling the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press. For some reason I forgot the Washington Post. The Washington Post never entered my mind losing Leonard. I feel bad about that.

What a week. Flying out to California and dealing with that crazy Hertz. Wow, I remember writing that blog post. I did not want to let on that anything terrible was happening.

Then losing Leonard the next day. Above is the picture Howard ran with my Web log that day. It shows Pennario and me in the Century Grill in Buffalo deciding we would do a book together.

I have a memorial Mass scheduled for Pennario on October 25. That was the earliest they could give him a Latin Mass and I know that was what he wanted. So that is settled anyway.

Meanwhile I hope that he is happy with how things are going.

I hope he is not aghast that it is taking so long!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Darkness at noon

Yesterday after meeting former Common Council president George K. Arthur and African Cultural Center director Agnes Bain for lunch at the City Grill. And when we emerged the sky was as dark as night!

A storm was brewing!

As I ran back to the office the wind whipped. My skirt was flying this way and that and I had to take shelter behind the wall of one of the trolley stations to get out my camera. But it was worth it. Can you believe that picture above? It looks like Armageddon!

Clouds of dust filled the air because of the destruction of the Memorial Auditorium. That is the Aud on the right in the picture at the top of this post.

Here is a closeup of our city's handiwork.

The Skyway stood out in sharp relief.

Such stormy skies! I was lucky to make it back to the office right before the rains came down.

Speaking of frightening sights, you would think that in eulogizing Michael Jackson, Fox News would have been able to come up with a more flattering picture than this.

That was a shock yesterday, losing the Gloved One. My brother George called me about it. I have to say this: I do not quite understand or appreciate Michael Jackson's art. I cannot quite see what makes him great. I mean, with me it is not like Leonard Pennario, where it hits me right in the face.

But I admire his skills and success as an entertainer and how he was able to market himself. And he was a first-class weirdo which I also admire. As Howard said, Jackson was one of the great weirdos of the last century. Perhaps the greatest. As for the new century, the competition promises to be keen, so the jury is still out.

I feel nostalgic for Jackson as a part of my growing up. I even had a "Beat It" nightshirt. I picked it up somewhere and I slept in it when I lived in my haunted apartment on Parkside.

Remember Weird Al Yankovic and "Eat It"?

Leave it to me to get the conversation around to food!

One thing, this hysteria over Jackson, I wonder how long it will go on. It has become like a religion with some people, mourning these pop culture figures. Think back to when Princess Diana died, the endless zeal with which people mourned her. It is still going on!

It is like me mourning the Aud!

With which, here is a still life featuring our E.B. Green-designed edifice visible behind one of our trolley stations.

Here is another shot of it with the sky.

What a dark and dramatic day! Later on last night the light was still weird. I took this picture of Howard in the driveway.

I ended the day relaxing in Howard's new smoking chair.

Howard did a picture gallery of the chair's odyssey from the bus station to Big Blue that has me laughing and laughing! You can view it here on his Web log.

It was an honor to sit in the chair after viewing Howard's gallery.

A dramatic end to a very dramatic day!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trailer trash

The other night when my mom and I saw "Easy Virtue" they showed us a trailer for "Away We Go." Wow, that is a terrible title, "Away We Go." Couldn't they have thought up anything more vivid or descriptive?

I mean, "Leonard Pennario, America's Greatest Pianist." That is a title for you. It tells you everything you need to know. It is descriptive and sexy!

Anyway. From the trailer "Away We Go" looked really annoying, about a couple who are expecting a baby and they apparently move all over the place, trying to figure out what to do with their lives and where to settle down. That is what it seemed like from the trailer anyhow. I am not going to be seeing the movie!

Plus there are unsavory sex scenes which naturally they splash up there on the big screen when here I am at the movies with my mother.

Of course we've got that big "R" rating!

Plus you have to look at that ugly actor. Whatever happened to the image of the leading man? At least when I show you pictures of Pennario ...

... he is something good to look at. I would write "eye candy" only my mother and I agreed that we do not like that expression.

Anyway. I am watching the trailer to "Away We Go" thinking, these dopey kids, you know? Because I thought they were maybe 20. I remember being 20 and I ran around then acting like an idiot, that is for sure.

Then today I find out that these "kids" are supposed to be in their 30s!

Here is an annoying picture of this couple from "Away We Go" smug in their dumbness.

Adolescence is extended now into your 30s and I do not see this changing. It is because kids cannot ride their bikes around the block by themselves.

Dogs cannot roam!

Lastnight I was at my mom's house helping babysit our little Bobbie and Georgie. Bobbie is what my mother calls Barbara because my mom's mother was named Barbara and they called her Bobbie. And we were joined in the back yard by Annie. Annie is the old yellow Lab from next door. She always walks around like a cow grazing, her muzzle to the ground, sniffing, sniffing.

Annie is free the way dogs used to be.

She is old and docile but when we were kids a lot of dogs were not. And as Howard pointed out, we learned how to deal with them. When we walked to school -- we were allowed to walk to school way back when -- we had to learn how to deal with Big White Dog ...

... who knew its domain and once bit my sister Katie.

There was also Yar the beagle. And J.B. the Scottie dog that belonged to the Robshaws two doors down. Mrs. Robshaw would come to the door and call in the dog when she called in the kids. "Karen Ann Robshaw!!" she would yell. And the little girl would come running from down the block. "J.B!" And the dog would come running on its little legs down the sidewalk.

We also had Baron, the regal and skittish German shepherd next door, and the really old black Lab from down the street, so old she walked sideways. What was that dog's name? Stacy. She was the Teapasses' dog and she would come reeling into your yard.

Now all the dogs are on leashes and all the children are wimps. And we have couples like the couple in "Away We Go," in their 30s and stupid and proud of it.

I am glad sometimes that I caught the tail end ...

... of civilization.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On a blue note

Lastnight my mom and I went to see "Easy Virtue" at the Amherst Theater. A lot of the movie was annoying but it was worth it for this one scene, when Colin Firth dances the tango with the lead actress. I have forgotten the name of the lead actress because 90 percent of the stuff that is not Leonard Pennario-related flies right out of my head.

There is that moment when Colin Firth stretches out his hand to do the tango with this actress.

Wouldn't you just die??

That is what I whispered to my mom.

That is a picture above of Colin Firth doing the tango. It is one of those movie things, everyone in movies knows how to do the tango. In real life no one knows how but in movies everyone does.

Here is a tango I love. It is Lester Young! With Oscar Peterson. Pennario was an Oscar Peterson fan. As is every thinking human being.

That sleepy saxophone of Lester Young. I love that. I have not heard this record in years. There is this funny moment between takes on this recording. The producer says: "Do it the way you did before. With the funky introduction."

"But there's ladies out there," Lester Young says.


"You said a funky introduction but there's ladies out there."

Dear Lester.

Then there's the "Drop your drawers, drop your drawers, drop your drawers, take 'em off, take 'em off, take 'em off."

I know every word in this song and every solo by heart. It is kind of off color but that is the charm of it, Lester Young just sang it so sweetly.

That reminds me.

Yesterday I was on the phone with Pennario's producer for Angel/EMI for TWO AND A HALF HOURS. This woman is brilliant and I loved talking to her and I am going to talk to her again. I would still be on the phone with her except I had to go to the movies with my mom and it got down to the wire. It hurt to hang up. I was just enjoying the conversation so much!

She told me one sort of off-color story Pennario had told her about this woman who had shaken his hand after a concert. Well, it was hardly off color. It was very mild. But I was thinking, I am not surprised he never told that story to me.

Pennario was chivalrous in a silver-screen sort of way and he would not tell me off-color stuff. He would not tell me this one Army joke either. He got to the point where it would have fit in to whatever story he was telling me and then just looked at me and said he could not tell me this joke.

Dear Leonard.

Nowadays most people do not care what they say in front of you, that is for sure.

You just pass people on the street and they are dropping that F bomb! That happens to me all the time. All I have to do is get near someone and the person immediately gets on his cell phone and starts dropping that F bomb.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. To Lester Young singing his sweetly naughty little tango. To getting to wear a long slinky gown and doing he tango with Colin Firth.

Colin Firth stretching out his hand to you.

Wouldn't you just die?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It was a hot and torpid night

Am I ever glad I braved the Post Office From the Black Lagoon and got all those letters mailed! Because suddenly my life has become very exciting.

Well, I mean, my life is always exciting. But now it is more exciting. Because whenever my phone rings I never know who it will be! Those letters I mailed, remember, were to people who knew Leonard Pennario, people who for some reason or other I had not gotten around to talking with yet. I am trying to get this book into shape.

Anyway, yesterday my phone rang and it was Kaye Ballard, the cabaret artist and movie actress. She could not have been more gracious and she is going to talk to me next week.

Here is a classic picture of the great comedienne Kaye Ballard.

I was "Miss Ballard"-ing her and she told me to call her Kaye. "I'm calling you Mary," she said.

It is so nice of her to get in touch with me so fast. Pennario's friends really loved him.

Good thing I have such nice matters to dwell on because lastnight, I do not know what it was, I could not sleep. And I had gone to my killer Pilates class and everything! I think it was that I was just warm. We have this electric fan in the window but sometimes the air just grows torpid. Torpid. That is a great word! I just looked it up and it comes from the Latin "torpidus," from the verb "torpere," which means to be sluggish or schuft-ish.

Look, now I know another Latin word. Congratulamini mihi!

So I could not sleep in the sultry night and I rose at dawn which, this being two days after the longest day of the year, occurs at about what, 2 a.m.?

It could be the excitement of lastnight. The conversation with my new friend Kaye, and then my friend Gary showed up out of the blue and picked me up in his Spider convertible and took me downtown.

What about the spider I saw the other day?

What about Spider Martin?

Spider Martin was the first jazzman I ever interviewed. We conducted the interview on the sidewalk in front of the Ontario House in Niagara Falls on a torpid and sultry night. Look at his hip trio, with Dr. Lonnie Smith! This is not the first appearance Dr. Lonnie Smith has made on this Web log.

Back to last night. Gary and I took the Spider down Grant Street which was sultry and torpid in the evening heat. He said he was hoping to impress hot Latina Grant Street girls. Gary has been working construction at Lorigo's Meating Place and he says that now that he is a construction worker he can ogle girls openly.

That is the phrase he used! I am still laughing about it.

He added: "We're up there on those beams, we're yelling all kinds of filth!"

Ha, ha! Well, I know Gary and I know he would never yell filth.

Gary and I sat on the patio of Shanghai Red's and drank margaritas and were soon joined by Howard who ate a fish fry. That is a beautiful picture of Shanghai Red's up above.

After that we stopped by the free all-night concert in Niagara Square. Gary said a pianist was playing there, named Leonard something-or-other. It was not Pennario! That is all I know.

But zut alors! As soon as we turned up Leonard whoever he was ended his set.

Plus there was nobody there anyway!

There were about two other people at this all-night concert besides us and both of them were friends of mine who up until now had existed only on Facebook. Their names are Toni Taber and Diane Strawbrich. They came up separately and introduced themselves. It was like magic, Facebook coming to life!

Last night lying awake I kept thinking of this all-night concert, going on and on, into the night, all through the night, with nobody there. It is still going on now! I think it goes until late this afternoon. Perhaps I will walk over on my lunch hour and see how it is going.

Note to out-of-towners: In Buffalo there is so much going on that you can have an all-night free concert in the middle of the city and nobody has time to show up.

We are the city that never sleeps!

Monday, June 22, 2009


Congratulamini mihi! That is Latin for "congratulate me." As if you could not have guessed!

Every week when I go to church there is some phrase that I get a kick out of and yesterday "congratulamini mihi" was it. It is what the woman in the parable says when she has 10 coins and loses one and finds it. We usually translate it as "Rejoice with me," and that is how my prayer book translates it too.

But I prefer "Congratulate me." Because that is what it means!

So. Congratulamini mihi, for I have found a wondrous kitchen scale. That is it pictured above! I found it as an estate sale where I went with my mom on Darwin Drive in Snyder the other day. It cost me only a buck.

Howard covets it for Big Blue.

That is a picture of my new scale above. Zounds, the picture is blurry. Something on my camera is not set right. When I am not in such a hurry, later today maybe, I will have to correct it and take new pictures.

There is also this Osterizer.

I bagged that for $4! I had a vintage Osterizer already, and it was a good ol' wagon, but now it done broke down. I am very fussy when it comes to blenders. I want a vintage blender, and I want an Osterizer. So now I have this new one. Well, new in a manner of speaking. New to me!

After the estate sale my mom and I stopped by Goodwill where I picked up a fine pile of tapes. I may have mentioned the Goodwill cassette department last time I was there. It was as if a piano nut unloaded his whole collection. There was all this dandy piano music. Last time I was there I bought $10 worth. That would have been 20 cassettes! But I kept thinking of treasures I had left behind, what with my mom watching over my shoulder and everything.

Specifically I was remembering Guiomar Novaes playing Chopin Nocturnes. What had ailed me, not picking those up? So I was happy to return to that Goodwill because even though it was a month later, I figured those Nocturnes would be there.

Which they were! Along with other treasures. I walked out of there with 14 more tapes! They are great to take in the car or on picnics or to the beach. And I am thinking I might scrounge around the house for my old cassette Walkman. I want to be the only person still running around with one.

I am looking through the bag right now. I got Emil Gilels, Alfred Brendel playing Beethoven, Robert Casadesus playing Satie, Barry Douglas, Charles Rosen playing Stravinsky and Schoenberg, Earl Wild, "Wild About Liszt," Vol. 1, etc. I got "Wild About Liszt" Vol. 2 last time and did not see Vol. 1. How lucky it was that I went back.

And the gem of the haul: the Leonard Pennario/Erich Leinsdorf Tchaikovsky First. It is out on Seraphim. I had a funny conversation with Pennario about that but that will have to wait.

Wow, this tape also seems to have Pennario playing a bunch of solo Tchaikovsky piano pieces! A fine find.

Congratulatimi mihi!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

That which does not kill us...

Friday, I went to renew my gym membership at the, ahem, Buffalo Athletic Club downtown. From now on I decided I will go only to places with stentorian names. The Buffalo Athletic Club. The Lockport Town and Country Club.

When I went to renew my gym membership here is what was an outrage. They said I had been to the gym -- I mean the club -- only twice since December.

Only twice??

I must have been there more than that!!

But I was not. Last time I went to Pilates, I wrote about it, remember. That was what a rarity it was.

I have been walking and in the winter I cross-country ski and now, every week or so, Howard and I do a little volleying on the Delaware Park tennis courts. We prefer the court near the Scajaquada so we are not observed. Anyway, I have not been a complete schuft, is what I am saying. I do get out and move.

But the book keeps me home and sedentary more than I like to admit. For hours on end I just sit. And I know I do not have a lot of weight to lose or anything but I am horrified to say that some of the clothes in my closet that I want to wear do not fit anymore. This is an outrage! And it is no longer fair to blame Leonard Pennario and the chocolate sundaes he used to order and make me split.

I bet if I had been working on a book with Emil Gilels...

... he would not have been ordering chocolate sundaes and making me split them.

Yep, I know how to pick 'em. That is for sure!

When you stay away from the athletic club for a long time one benefit is that when you get back all the technology has changed. I went to the Buffalo Athletic Club by the Boulevard Mall and there were all new machines!

It was fun just walking around looking at them and that is what I did for a while, listening to Walter Gieseking play Cesar Franck. The I-Pod Shuffle makes the gym a lot more pleasant, as long as we are speaking of technology.

Finally I got up on this machine that has you "float." That is a kind term for, well, what happens is you have to put your feet on these pedals and then the pedals go up and down and around in circles at the same time. At first I thought the machine was malfunctioning but no, that is what it is supposed to do.

It takes only 10 seconds for it to kick in, which means, for your thighs and butt to start burning terribly and your heart to start pounding in a most unnatural way.

One and a half minutes into this and I am thinking, I cannot possibly go on.

But being German I did.

Then I went on for another 10 minutes. At this point Gieseking was playing Beethoven so luckily that absorbed me. Now, Walter Gieseking...

... there is another pianist who would not have been making me share his chocolate sundae. At least that is what I am guessing. And now I can see that would have been just as well.

After 15 minutes I finally let myself off the Float machine. I could hardly walk! But I dragged myself over to a bicycle machine and I began pedaling.

I chose a "Variety" course which means sometimes it is very easy and sometimes it is very difficult. The easy part was not too bad. But then it went up to just "moderately easy," as opposed to "completely easy."

And I am sweating and straining!

What in the world??

I have turned into this weakling!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What happens in Lockport...

Good news! Remember all the letters I mailed at the hostile post office? They are arriving at their destinations! And lastnight when I was at the Lockport Town and Country Club, I felt my cell phone vibrating and later I listened to hear who it was. And it was this producer at Angel Records -- now EMI -- who had worked with Leonard Pennario on a number of his later albums.

That thrilled me!

This was one of the top people I had wanted to get a hold of!

It is especially great because Pennario just loved her. Which, he did not love everyone. I wrote in my letter to her how Pennario had respected her and I am so looking forward to hearing her recollections of working on those albums.

I am full of happiness and optimism.

The reason I was at the Lockport Town and Country Club was it was my Aunt Marie and Uncle Joe's 50th wedding anniversary. That is a view above as the Lockport Country Club as seen from the golf course. Here is another view.

There must have been 100 people there and it was so much fun. Because in too many families, people get into the wine and they start fighting. In the Kunz family what happens is people get into the wine and we all start hugging each other and telling each other how much we love each other.

So, lastnight. It was all so great. My cousin Caroline and I were hugging each other and saying we loved each other and asking each other's forgiveness for mean things we had said and done to each other when we were 16 and being forced to spend a summer in Chautauqua.

"Truce?" Caroline said after owning up to I do not remember what. And we were laughing and laughing.

Later my Uncle James and I were telling each other how much we loved each other. Remember my Uncle James from New Year's? Lastnight we were reminiscing about that day at St. Gerard's when he walked me down the aisle. That was five years ago! That is hard to believe. And Uncle James was kidding me about how I had been shaking.

Then he told me, "You are my daughter."

Ever since then I have been totally over the moon.

There was this spinet piano there next to the bar and all of us were playing. Howard played through almost all of the evening and he was awesome, and I mean awesome, in the real sense of the word. As in "Our God is an awesome God." That is how I say, Howard Goldman is an awesome pianist.

Everyone was coming up to me saying: "Having him playing totally changes the whole atmosphere!"

And I would take credit, as if I were the one doing the playing, and say, "Thank you."

Here is Howard working his magic. Guess whose glass of red wine that is sitting on the piano? One hint: It is not his!

Here is Howard looking enigmatic.

My brother Tony played medleys from "The Sound of Music" and his specialty which is "Camelot." He sounded terrific.

But my brother George was the one who soared like an eagle!

It came time for the highlight of the night, which was my Uncle Joe and Aunt Marie slow-dancing to "Moonlight Serenade." Whenever we have a family gathering like this, Glenn Miller ...

... is never far away.

Anyway, a hush fell over the room as Aunt Marie and Uncle Joe danced alone on the floor, and emotions ran high because this was the very room where they had had their wedding reception, 50 years to the day before.

And I am getting weepy with everyone else. Then I thought: Who is playing the piano?

And it was George!

George, playing "Moonlight Serenade"!

Totally competent, with a steady beat, so you could dance comfortably to it!

I honestly could not believe it. I was so in awe. Well, I had to snap out of it pretty darn quick because Caroline and Alan, her husband, were on their way to the dance floor to join in the official dance. As they disappeared Alan said over his shoulder at us: "You had better join us."

Which we did. After "Moonlight Serenade" George went into something in 4/4 time so we were all waltzing to that and cracking up.

What a night.

I had fun.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Got Hope?

I got the rest of my letters out yesterday to the people from Leonard Pennario's address book. Well, I have five more still to go. But I got most of them mailed.

After kvetching the other day about the post office on Hertel near Elmwood I decided to go back to the very same one. I just wanted to see what would happen. Things like that are what make life exciting!

Would you believe, there were no cars in the parking lot? I thought the place was closed!

But it was not. I walked in and the place was empty except for the guy who had given me problems the other day.

This time he was just quietly disgruntled.

"Slow day today," I said.

"For now," he said.

Yesterday they actually had commemoratives. They set me up with a Bob Hope stamp. That is perfect! I mean, Leonard Pennario knew Bob Hope and so, I am sure, did most of the people I was sending these letters to. So the Bob Hope stamp was great.

It crossed my mind that maybe I was taking a chance because what if they had had a fight with Bob Hope or did not like him? But then I thought no, no one fights with Bob Hope, and everyone liked him.

Above is a square picture I love of Bob Hope with a variety of presidents and first ladies.

Here is a picture of Bob Hope with Dorothy Lamour and Bing Crosby.

The Hope stamp is nice enough looking. Here is a picture of it.

It is not to be confused with this.

I do not like that poster! It reminds me of Soviet posters, as typified by this.

Speaking of workers, I am getting no work done!

The morning started out slow with me starting the coffee not realizing I had put the carafe in the dishwasher the night before. Ha, ha! Yay, me!

Next we got into a fight with the Wall Street Journal because the divorced person with the noisy car who usually brings it to us under cover of night brought us USA Today instead. This seems to happen a lot especially on Fridays and usually there is no hope. There is that word again!

Just now someone delivered the Journal. But they did not realize, our real complaint was not that we needed today's Journal necessarily. We wanted them to take the USA Today away!

We cannot have USA Todays lying around the house.

I could get infected!