Monday, November 30, 2009

Another manic Monday

Into another work week. I am going to have to face another big slate of stuff to do in addition to suffering the fallout from the many mistakes I am sure to have made last week because I was stressed out.

You know what I hate? When I write a story in the paper about someone and the person emails me afterward and all it says in the subject line is:


All I can think is that I screwed up!

This person is not writing because he or she wants to be like Leonard Pennario and tell me, "This is so charming." This person wants to kvetch!

You know what, if I write about you, and you email me, here is what your subject line should say:


Better still:


And after that when I open the email there had better be no surprises.

Better still do not email me at all, you know?

I will have a heart attack no matter what!

Well, one thing is good about this week and that is what happened yesterday has stuck with me. That is the miracle of St. Anthony finding my checks.

It is not just the checks although it is good to have them back, I will tell you that. It is the thought of this 12th century Doctor of the Church tapping me on the shoulder and telling me, "Hey, Mary, I'm here."

That makes me feel good!

There is this prayer they say at church after the Rosary that has a line I love. The person leading the prayer says, "May the Divine Assistance remain with us always."

And then you say: "And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen."

You are supposed to say that anyway. I am afraid I sometimes drop the ball. That is because I am too dazzled by that line about the Divine Assistance. That is a concept I love!

I could use a little Divine Assistance as I head into this work week, I will tell you that right now.

And yesterday made me think that I have it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The miracle morning

I have been having the wildest day. The most supernatural day.

In case you have not gathered this by the way the Web log has been going lately, my life has been terribly chaotic. Just as an example there is this record I have been trying to find. Nothing important, nothing by Leonard Pennario, nothing I need for work or anything. Just this Mozart record that I bought when I was a teenager that I have been thinking about.

This record somehow came to symbolize everything that is wrong-headed about my life. I actually brought it up a few days ago in my morning prayers. I was complaining about how I needed to get my act together. "I mean, there's this record," I said. "There's no use even looking for it. It could be anywhere. That is how big of a mess my life is. Everything is like that. Everything."

But this story is not about this record. I am just trying to illustrate how nutty things are. The story is mostly about my checkbook.

Well, it is actually about my checks. I was out of checks and I knew I had some more checks somewhere but for the life of me I could not find them.

And I know, I could order new checks, but just the idea of going through that trouble made me want to go lie down. Plus I knew those stupid pads of checks were around somewhere. I knew it!

But I could not find them. Once I got all excited when I found a box of checks inside this old yellow cabinet I have but zut alors, they were for an old account. I actually burst into tears and Howard, who witnessed the whole pathetic incident, had to josh me out of it.

So. That was a couple of weeks ago. Today I was getting ready to go to church and I thought of those checks, as I do every Sunday. I think of them because I have been behind in my church contributions because they have been missing.

My church is St. Anthony. And our priest, Padre Secondo, always tells us to pray to St. Anthony when things are missing.

Usually I would not pray unless it was something really big. But now I thought, why not. We are never told only to ask St. Anthony to find big things. These checks might not be big but they have become a big irritation.

Howard was still asleep and I was by myself so I explained the situation out loud to St. Anthony. I said, "One reason I need these checks is because I am behind in my church contributions. My church is St. Anthony of Padua. That is you." Ha, ha! But I figured that would not hurt.

Then I went back upstairs. And I had a funny feeling to look in that yellow cabinet. This is ridiculous, I thought. The only thing in that drawer was that box of old checks. But I opened it anyway.

And the drawer was not empty. There was an envelope I had not noticed. I opened it.

And in the envelope were my checks!

I had been looking for a box. They were in an envelope and that was why I had not seen them.

It all happened so fast. I just sat there dazed. I mean, I had that prickly feeling you get when you KNOW that there is something out there and you have connected with it. Here I had called on this man who had been dead 700 years and I saw beyond a doubt that he had heard me.

Then something else happened.

I went downstairs and I should have been leaving for church but I was too dreamy and dazed. I drifted over to the record player and began putting away a few records that were out. There was this Ahmad Jamal ...

... record without a jacket and I started leafing through a pile of records looking for it.

And guess what I found?

That Mozart record I had been wondering about!

It was as if St. Anthony said, "Oh, and by the way, there's your record."

Son of a sea cook, that was strange. And after all that I went to church and I did not even tell anyone! My Facebook friend John Callahan showed up again and I got laughing with him after Mass about stuff and I did not think to bring it up.

But now I am thinking about it. I even told Howard about it. Howard is not Catholic but he was impressed because he was there for the situation with the yellow cabinet. I told him if he loses anything to remember that St. Anthony is there.

Howard is so cool. He said, "Now that I know I have an in, I will."

That is St. Anthony up above. It is his famous Sermon to the Fishes. St. Anthony was preaching and all the fish swam up and stuck their heads out of the water and listened to him.

It sounds like one wild story!

But I will tell you one thing, I believe it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Goodwill hunting

That picture makes it look as if the Buffalo River is on fire! It is the sunset from the day before Thanksgiving. I took it from my office window.

That weird object you see in the sky is the fluorescent light reflected in the window!

Not long ago I read that Buffalo gets wonderful sunsets because of the Great Lakes. There is something about the clouds and the weather patterns. And that day proved it. All day it was drab and miserable. Then suddenly came this wonderful sunset.

That is the way I remember it anyway. So much has happened since then what with being up at 4:30 a.m. and cooking my Thanksgiving dinner. Now all that is behind me. Te deum laudamus!

One thing funny this year was that I had almost no leftovers. That turkey went.

All of it!

My last act upon retiring was to crack up the turkey carcass and put it into two crock pots and cover the bones with water and set it on Low. Listen to me, talking about cracking up the turkey carcass. I sound like Sarah Palin talking about her father teaching her to hunt. Rugged language!

So now I have all this turkey broth.

Although the table still looks like this.

I could have cleared the table today but no, I went to Goodwill with my mother. I bought this Arthur Fiedler box set. Three records! Just because one of the tracks was Leonard Pennario playing the Litolff Scherzo. That link gives you the version only by Philippe Entremont but although he is wimpy next to Pennario it is better than nothing.

Best of all the box set had a picture page which, Howard asked, does it show Fiedler on the roof? No it does not! But it does show Fiedler with a small select few greats of the musical world. One was the singer Robert Merrill and another was Duke Ellington. And I loved the picture at the top of the page. Arthur Fiedler with Leonard Pennario!

It was a picture of Pennario I did not have!

I will have to work at scanning it into the Web log.

Clearing the Thanksgiving table will just have to wait.

Friday, November 27, 2009

In the night kitchen

Thanksgiving is over and for me the day began at 4:30 a.m. I was restless and I could not sleep! I was in the middle of this terribly busy week at work, which is due to continue shortly, may I add. And I had this huge Thanksgiving dinner to do.

Anyway I got up at 4:30 and then I went downstairs to the kitchen and began making Concord Grape Pie. It is so funny, that time of day! No boom cars which is rare in our neighborhood. Well, there were one or two. And me just standing there peeling my grapes. These are Concord grapes. Note to out-of-towners: Buffalo is in, ahem, wine country. And these Concord grapes are an ancient variety with seeds and dark blue skins. To make Concord grape pie you have to peel them one by one. Which is not that difficult. You just hold them over a bowl, squeeze, put insides in one bowl, skins in the other.

It was ridiculous to make the grape pie because it was so labor intensive and I had so much else to do. And I did not have to make the grape pie. But that was what made it fun. It is like a skater doing a Double Axle. You not only do Thanksgiving dinner but you throw in this rare and labor-intensive Concord Grape Pie.

I do not make pies that often and whenever I do, I am amazed at how happy it makes me. Making the crust is a challenge and I have to cheat and patch things, and when it comes to the top crust I do a lattice. That way you do not have to get a neat circle. All you need are a few strips.

So the world is quiet and there I am in my pajamas, doing this lattice crust.

La la la la la la la.

I would step back from time to time and evaluate it, then adjust it, fuss with it. I patched up the perimeter. It is lucky that Martha Stewart has come along and made it chic for things to look homemade. Because this pie sure looked homemade, I will tell you that right now.

Finally it was time for the artist to lift her brush. And into the oven it went. Oh, here was another thing: I had misjudged the grape amount so I had enough for two pies. I could not see making another crust so I topped the second with a streusel topping.

Above is a picture of my handiwork in the oven!

Here is a closeup of my streusel grape pie which Howard took with him when he went down to work at Big Blue.

The pies woke me up and it was as if I had gotten a full night's sleep. I was all happy and awake. I put on my I-Pod Shuffle and listened to Leonard Pennario. Then I listened to this Catholic Answers podcast I get. They had a guy on there in Donegal, Ireland, who used to be addicted to pornography and had kicked the habit and was taking questions. These podcasts, you would not believe them.

One caller began his call with the usual, "How are you doing?"

And the guy in Donegal says cheerily in his musical accent: "I'm fine! I'm here in my pajamas, talking about porn."

Ha, ha! I laughed out loud at that.

While I was listening to Catholic Answers I stood there in my pajamas and chopped all the Brussels sprouts off the stalk...

... and cleaned all the junk off the back table ...

... and then it was time to go to Mass.

Why do you go to Mass on Thanksgiving? Howard asks me that every year. You do not have to go to Mass on Thanksgiving. It is not a Holy Day of Obligation. But I go because going to Mass on Thanksgiving is like a skater doing a Triple Axle.

Not only do you make your labor-intensive pie and pull off your dinner but you make it to Mass!

St. Anthony's is by Niagara Square and when I got downtown you could see the runners from the Turkey Trot all circling the square. That was exciting! It is fun to see this ancient race playing itself out. Note to out-of-towners: Our Turkey Trot is the second oldest race in the country. Only the Boston Marathon is older.

So there I am at Mass and I am all happy and excited and Thanksgiving-ish. And after Mass we sang the Te Deum!

That is that ancient prayer that begins "Te deum laudamus..." Our priest, who has the glorious name of Father Secondo Casarotto, said it goes back to the third century A.D. The used to sing it at military victories in the Middle Ages. It is a song of praise and thanks and a lot of it comes from ancient Hebrew psalms. Yesterday at church they handed out sheets of paper with the old medieval score. The ancient kind of score, with square notes and four staves. And we sang our Te Deum.

It was great to hear Father Secondo leading us in the chant because he had surgery about six weeks ago and was kind of weak and we were worried about him. Now he was back and strong and on his feet and singing the Te Deum. That was something to be thankful for and it added an extra dimension to the chant.

Not to be corny but we all have so much to be thankful for! So it is great to know the Te Deum is out there for when you need it.

Here is a video of it I found with translations and everything. It is timeless and beautiful and haunting.

What a situation! I have filled up all this space and I am out of town and in the chronicle of my Thanksgiving Day it is not even noon! Well, all in all, the day went well. However I had a lot of help from my brothers and sisters. I needed it because a few things fell in on me because of my grape pie and my Te Deum. Those things come at a price!

Also I have to be honest.

I am dead today!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What we never think to thank for

What with Thanksgiving coming up everyone is talking about things he is thankful for. I thank God for slow news days.

Today is a dandy!

They caught that pickpocket who has been taking money out of people's purses when they are at church. She was hiding in a trailer in the Southtowns.

Governor Paterson's cuts go nowhere.

To shop or not to shop the day after Thanksgiving?

A bank robber suspect was caught red-handed.

Showers are likely, particularly after 3 p.m.

There is even a story about our sleepy grizzled old-as-Lou-Rawls motorcycle gangs, the Kingsmen and the Chosen Few.

That is a slow news day!

Sometimes I think I do not normally appreciate them enough, these days when I try to get done what work I can, take phone calls, see what Tom Bauerle and Sandy Beach are talking about on the radio, stop by the Pearl Street after work, cook dinner, see my mom, remember this and that about Leonard Pennario.
How about that picture of Pennario up above? I just found it on the Internet. I never saw it before.

Look at his hands. As I wrote on my, ahem, Music Critic blog, I used to love his hands.

And listen to that link, that beautiful Chopin waltz. I love the person who comments on the video. "Very deep and sweet."

How eloquent that is! And how true.

Where was I?

You go through all these slow news days like this and don't think about them much and then suddenly something disastrous happens. Planes plow into our buildings, someone you care about dies, an oik gets elected president, whatever. Or think about this, you might catch a cold. Even that can be ruinous.

So on Thanksgiving I give thanks for days like this.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Un-game

Behind the eight ball, terribly, terribly.

House untidied.

Body, un-exercised.

Thanksgiving, unprepared for.

Correspondence unanswered.

Lost checkbook un-found.

Computer unhinged.

Rosary unprayed.

Stories at work unwritten.

First draft of Leonard Pennario book unfinished.

Day ahead unimaginable.

But ...

...Me, undeterred!

Monday, November 23, 2009


Everyone is off this week except for me. Not only am I not off, I am not anywhere near off.

I am one busy bee this week!

By the end of this week I am going to feel like this.

Ha, ha! You know me, that is my Thanksgiving song. It is funny because it actually is a hymn of thanksgiving. Not to us, Lord, but to Your Name be the glory. I always play it when Thanksgiving dinner is over and I will do that this year, that is for sure. As long as I survive it that is.

Every Monday I find myself actively resenting that the weekend is over. I mean I take it personally. I grow nostalgic thinking back. That picture above, that is a dog that I hugged on Saturday! You cannot tell from the picture but he was huge. When we were getting out of the car we glimpsed his rear from behind the house and my mother said, "That looks like a cow."

The dog was at the estate sale...

... where I bought my black telephone. Unfortunately the dog was not for sale.

This week is an especially tall order because Thursday is Thanksgiving.

We have special challenges for Thanksgiving this year the chief challenges being my little nephews George Andrew and George Henry. We have to use their middle names to tell them apart.

George Henry is 6 and does not know fear. Remember, last Christmas I went with him on the infamous Sled Ride Into the Unknown. Wow, what a sloppily written Web log post that was! You could tell I was out of it.

George Andrew is 2 and has just discovered that crayons can write on walls. So there go the crayons for this year. For years I have relied on crayons to keep the kids busy. Well, they do not work that well anyhow.

I was sitting there the other day thinking, I hope the French doors survive! They have survived generations of various families who have lived in this house. But with George Andrew you never know.

Also what about the Czechoslovakian china? My mother has handed over to me this beautiful set of Czechoslovakian china with delicate red, blue and gold to be used at the Thanksgiving table. I am looking at it thinking, um, Mom, are you sure?

My sister Margie is coming in from New Jersey. My sister Katie called making plans for Friday. "You're off, aren't you?" she said.


Zut alors, these people from another planet!

That Non Nobis Domine, that is me going through my week! Carrying my book on Leonard Pennario on my shoulders while holding down my full-time job.

Well, the book is going well anyhow!

I think I will have the first draft done by the time my braces come off which is Dec. 30. There is a rightness to that because the reason I have the braces goes back to when I was in California with Leonard. Then early in 2010 I can do what I have done for the past two years and blow all my vacation early in the year. That will give me four weeks which should give me enough time to revise my first draft and do my second draft.

After that is when publishers will come calling.

Well, first there is Thanksgiving to get through. I say for Thanksgiving the same thing I say for the book.

I can do it!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bruce at the bar

Last night Howard and I were down at E.B. Green's having drinks with Bruce Springsteen. No kidding, he was there at the bar, listening to Jackie Jocko.

Howard saw him first and he whispered to me, "Is Bruce Springsteen in town?"

"He's giving a concert tomorrow night," I whispered. Bruce is in town tonight, giving a concert.

"Then that's him at the bar," Howard said.

Howard's middle name is Bruce and that is why he is good at spotting other Bruces.

Springsteen was sitting in a seat where you would sit if you did not want to be seen. That is the seat at the end of the bar behind the wall near the door. The Hyatt is used to celebrities so it would make sense that no one would call your attention to him. Dave Matthews was there one night. We all left him at his table undisturbed. Last week it was Metallica. When we had Leonard Pennario in there people did not leave him alone but then he is from Buffalo so everyone saw him as public property.

How did I get onto talking about Pennario? I was talking about Bruce Springsteen.

The only reason there is a chance it might not have been he is that the Springsteen we saw at the bar lastnight seemed less beat up than the one you see in pictures. He did not look like this.

He looked more like this.

But maybe he can adjust his looks depending on the situation. If he does not wish to be recognized perhaps he can clean himself up so he blends in. As the poet Ogden Nash wrote:

If there is nothing on the settee
It is the chameleon that you see.

Now that we are bar buddies with Bruce Springsteen here he is singing "Shenandoah."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Princess Phone

Howard and I have now converted completely over to dial telephones. Above is a picture of my desk now that I have replaced my annoying Big Lots phone with that sleek black classic. It is a Western Electric!

Click on the picture and you can take a closer look!

The people who owned that black telephone before clearly respected its classic nature. Because those stickers they used to hand out, with the emergency fire and police numbers, they stuck it on the bottom of the 'phone, not on the cradle where you would usually put it.

Imagine, your house catches fire, you are scrambling in the smoke going, "Where did I put that sticker?"

And someone says, "Oh, you have to turn the telephone over."

This was a well-loved and well-respected telephone! I paid $5 for it. The 'phone was originally marked $10 but I got it half price from this wonderful Polish family in Cheektowaga.

I also bought a record player from them, and a Dinah Washington record. There was also a statue of the Blessed Mother and I would have bought that too except I heard someone else inquiring about it. And the woman from the family smiled and said, "Mary is going with us."

Isn't that sweet to hear?

We proceeded to another sale where I bought another 'phone. This one cost me only $1.50. I put it in the kitchen to replace the 1964 'phone I bought a few months ago.

This long-cord telephone is from the 1970s but I like the long cord because I can work in the kitchen while I gab. I am going to use it today to call Leonard Pennario's friend Doris! Whenever Doris and I talk we talk for a long time and I can talk to her while I make my Thanksgiving pie crusts.

The 1964 'phone will be going into the bedroom. Three 'phone jacks, three dial 'phones. That is what God intended!

It is great having exclusively dial 'phones. Number one I no longer have to listen to that ear-splitting ring my old Big Lots 'phone used to have. I get that robust, musical Western Electric ring.

Secondly on the old 'phones it is easier to hear than on my cheapie Big Lots 'phone, which I bought when I was in San Diego with Pennario. On the Big Lots 'phone the volume was really low and I could hardly hear people talking to me. If Howard walked in and stepped on the squeaky floorboard it would drown the person out. This is a problem if you are interviewing someone, which I often am. I make all my Leonard Pennario calls on this line. It will be nice to be able to hear these people.

And this is one more thing. Just now I was downstairs and the new long-cord 'phone rang. And it was the robot from CVS calling to tell me this scrip I had ordered was in.

The first thing the robot did was to boss: "If this is the right number, press 1."

And I just stood there! I could not press 1 if I tried!

No more bossy robots for me!

And after a moment of silence the robot just went on, accommodating me and my dial phone. I liked that.

From now on the world will have to work around me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Old as Lou Rawls

The reason I was in the kitchen was I was looking through my Cooking Light magazine. There is a cranberry sauce I am thinking of making for Thanksgiving. Not that anyone in my family will eat it. The only kind of cranberry sauce they eat is the canned jellied kind.

Just the way I can put out all the Beaujolais and Riesling I want and fine, everyone in my family will still just drink beer.

Well, I will eat the homemade cranberry sauce and that is enough for me. So I am thinking of making it.

But this recipe, it kills me!

It calls for three-quarters of a cup of fresh orange juice. "From three oranges," it says.

Excuse me, I am not going to squeeze three oranges into this cranberry sauce. There are some occasions when it is perfectly justifiable to use ready-made orange juice and this is certainly one of them, you know?

Unbelievable, these cooking magazines. On the one hand they are always telling you to use canned broth and -- this is the best -- refrigerated potato slices. Which, has anyone ever actually bought those?

On the other hand oh, we are not supposed to buy ready-made orange juice, oh no no no.

So I am standing there in the kitchen thinking about that. Then I looked up.

And I saw the world's oldest fly, on the Venetian blinds!

No kidding, this fly is so old that he could not even turn its head and look at me, much less move.

I decided to let him live.

He is just so old!

Every once in a while you run into something like that, a thing that has lived long past its season.

Old as Lou Rawls! That is a line my brother George heard once in a rap number and we never forgot it. It was one line that jumped out at him.

I see Lou Rawls ...

... died in 2006. He was born in 1933 which makes him nine years younger than Leonard Pennario. Somehow it seems Lou Rawls was older, though. You never hear a rapper say, "Old as Leonard Pennario!"

Well, do you?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cafeteria Catholics

Look at that picture. That is me! Lastnight Howard and I went to our friend Steve Cichon's book signing talk at St. Mark's up the street. Howard took that picture of me while we were waiting for Steve to step up to the podium.

Here is a picture of Steve giving his talk.

It was fun to observe an author in action because soon I am going to be one myself. I am finishing up the first draft of my book I will have you know. And after that I am going to have to get used to the idea of going around talking about Leonard Pennario.

Steve's book is on the History of Parkside. That is the part of Buffalo where we live. It is a historic area and one thing Steve told us about was how 300 soldiers from the War of 1812 are buried right here in Delaware Park.
That is another picture of Steve Cichon to the left. He is manic!

Last night was memorable for several reasons. For one thing Howard and I had not realized it was a retirement group playing host to Steve's talk. Ha, ha! Here is a picture Howard took of the program.

Also because this was a retirement group Howard got a dose of old-guard Catholicism. There was lots of talk about how Steve Cichon is the lector at the 9:30 a.m. Mass and no talk at all about how he is an announcer on WBEN-AM. Furthermore a shout went up when Father came in. Father was immediately asked to say a prayer. I could not catch all of it but it ended in that classic Catholic: "And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen."

For another thing as I sat in the cafeteria of St. Mark's School I could not help thinking about my cousin Howard who was thrown out of that school years ago.

Just last summer I finally got around to asking him, "Howard, what did you do to get thrown out of St. Mark's?" And you know what, he told me but I forgot. Whatever he did, it cannot have been that bad, or I would have remembered.

One other thing about the above picture. Get a good look at my braces. Because they are going to be coming off soon!

I just went to the ortho yesterday.

He took a look inside my mouth and started singing and dancing! I am not making this up. He was dancing and singing and he said that on my next appointment the metal bands in the back of my mouth are coming out and I will be fitted for my retainer.

That will happen on Beethoven's birthday. Which did not surprise me because Beethoven is always with me through thick and thin.

And then on Dec. 30 the braces are coming off!

Just in time for New Year's!

I am a happy gal.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From the mailbox

These days Howard is preoccupied with his International Harvester Scout. That is his Scout pictured above last winter. Howard put a snowplow on it even though at first the man at the snowplow place could not find it in his conscience to do such a thing, so pristine and beautiful is that Scout.

Howard has been obsessed with making the Scout snowplow into a convertible model because local weather guy, Don Paul, explained that El Nino was going to provide our Buffalo winter - warmer weather but with the same amount of snow. Ironically, yesterday his "new" convertible was carrying a load of newly purchased gas heaters and fireplaces.

What about Scout Willis?

That is Scout Willis on the left. She is the daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis. Her sister Tallulah Belle is on the right and appears to be living up to the promise of her name. My mother would never have let me leave the house wearing that, I will tell you that right now.

Movie star kids get so trashy so early!

They cannot wait to put it out there!

It is funny how Scout Willis looks like her father.

Tallulah Belle seems to be taking after her mom.

How did I get onto all this? I cannot waste all day talking about Howard's International Harvester Scout. I have work to do.

I am way behind in my Leonard Pennario correspondence. That is what I will do this morning. Late lastnight I was cleaning out my email and it is terrible, people write in these little stories and I am so interested in them but then I have to go to work and they just fly right out of my head. Brain like a sieve! That is what I have these days.

The best letter came from a man with the best name. It is Gabriel Guy Reid Rivers-Rivet!

Howard said what is the greatest is that Mr. Rivers-Rivet managed to make his email look as if it was written on an old typewriter. I tried cutting and pasting it and it worked! Here it is:







That is the sweetest note! Darn, I am realizing I cannot make the lines of type reproduce as they really are in the email. In the actual email the left-hand margin is not even. You will have to use your imagination.

There is something about Pennario that touched people's souls. I am seeing that over and over.

And now, to my writing desk.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The morning that got away

Today I had an "I Love Lucy" morning. That is why I could not check in!

It started when the phone rang at about 8 a.m. I was working on my book, I was up and everything, and I answered it, because often it is my friend Gary or my brother George. But it was not! It was this tree cutter.

He was cutting a neighbor's trees and he wanted to cut ours too, something like that. At first I told him he had to talk to Howard but later after I had had my coffee and a shower I relented and called him back and apologized and said go ahead, have his way with our trees, we did not care.

Howard takes forever getting up. It is as if he is on California time and I am on Eastern Standard Time. That is how far our schedules are apart.

At 9 a.m. the doorbell rings. And I figure it is the tree cutter.

But zut alors! I was wearing just this bathrobe and my hair is wet and I did not want to answer the door like that. I went flying upstairs and Howard was just getting up.

He said: "Go answer the door and tell the guy he can cut our trees."

Darn, I was hoping he would do it! I go flying downstairs, tying the bathrobe more securely around me. This is Leonard Pennario's bathrobe, the bathrobe I am always talking about. I tied it tighter and then I answered the door.

And it was not the tree-cutter.

It was my friend Diane!

She was back from the dead!

My friend Diane had throat cancer and went to the Mayo Clinic and she was there for months and almost died. Now here she was on my doorstep. I could not believe it. "Diane!" I yelled. We hugged each other and then she came in and I got her a cup of coffee.

And this is funny: Normally I would not have answered the door but I thought it was the tree cutter!

So Diane and I talk even though now I am getting worried I have to get in to work because I have a heck of a week this week, I will tell you that. I have a ton of stuff to do! It is almost hopeless. Of course Dianne sees things differently. She says once you get sick that is all that matters.

"Your job, everything, is crap," she said.

I am thinking, it might be crap to you but unfortunately it is not to me, at least not in the short term, it isn't. And it is not to my editors either! I mean I cannot exactly call the office and say, "Excuse me but I have realized my job is crap, and I will not be in until noon."

Right when I was pondering this the doorbell rang again. And it was still not the tree-cutting guy!

It was Larry Solomon!

Standing there on the step with his vacuum cleaner. And Diane, you could tell she loved it. What in the world is this, her face said.

I ushered Larry inside and the first thing he did was somehow break MY vacuum cleaner which was inside the house. He managed to break it and then he started winding duct tape around it.

Now here it is something like 10 and I am still standing there wearing nothing but Pennario's bathrobe. "Why is your hair wet?" Diane asked me.

"Because I just got out of the shower and I washed my hair."

Because, uh, it is a weekday morning!

These people with life-changing experiences, don't they kill you?

By the time I was able to get out the door and go to work the tree-cutter had still not gotten there, can you believe that? Howard was downstairs by that time. I left him sitting on the couch, eating oatmeal, with Diane. Both of them were talking eagerly about health issues.

Ergo, no Web log this morning.

Ergo, Web log now.

Great therapy, this!

What a crazy day I have had.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Extreme Monday

This morning I am imagining being in the Extreme Makeover house on Massachusetts Avenue. Note to out-of-towners: The TV show Extreme Makeover was here in Buffalo over the past week and it has been a huge happening.

They did over a house on our Lower West Side not far from where Leonard Pennario used to live. That is how I think of it anyway! Pennario's family lived on Jersey Street and this is a house on Massachusetts Avenue.

This Jamaican single mom with four kids and I do not think any job lived in that house and they knocked the house down and put up a new house for her.

It bugs me that they knocked down the house because reporters made a big deal out of that this woman had done a lot to fix it up. She had installed windows, fixed a hole in the floor, all this stuff.

Now, all gone!

All that work for nothing!

Zut alors!

But that is how I think. The world thinks that newer is better. So here she is in this new house and that is what I am thinking about today.

For me it is just another Monday and an especially stressful one at that because I have a ton of stuff due. It is like the other day, on the treadmill...

... except, alas, without my friend Leroy next to me to tell me funny stories about people falling into graves.

But for this family, they are waking up in this new house with all this new furniture and Rich Products filling up their fridge every week for a year plus scholarships for all of them at Canisius College.

So what do they do today? Do they go back to work?

At what point does this new house start growing old?

Howard and I were also wondering what about the taxes. You would think the house would be assessed for more than these people have money to pay taxes on. And then what? Perhaps someone will set up a fund to pay the taxes. That is what I am imagining.

Anyway. It is certainly the first day of the rest of their lives. It will be an interesting story over the next few years to see what happens to these people, starting on this Monday morning.

You know what they say. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, you might get rid of him for a whole weekend.

Hahahahaha!! That is a joke that comes from Mary Kate O'Connell.

Oh, wait. What I meant to say was: Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. Give a man a fish, he will flounder.

Flounder, get it?

That joke was Howard's.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rubberband Woman

We had our company party last night! It was our Guild party. Above is a picture of me arriving at the Guild party. I had the photographer cut off my head so you would not see the braces on my teeth.

The good news is, I did not end up with a lampshade on my head. The bad news is, I was one of the last people to leave. Then this morning I go to church on no sleep. I open my mouth to sing the Asperges, I have lost my voice!

I am afraid that too many people asked me the magic question: "How is your book on Leonard Pennario coming along?"

With these rubber bands in my mouth it takes a lot of effort to talk. But where there is a will there is a way and so when people asked me about Pennario, I talked.

And today I paid the price. Well, there was no one around today to talk to anyway. It was just me and the book.

I have three days until my next ortho appointment when I will find out what is going on with these rubber bands. They are a trip! I have had them for a month.

When I am out at restaurants I have to run to the ladies' room and take them off before I eat and run back and put them back on afterwards. It is not a terribly unpleasant task. But it sometimes takes me forever because they flip off and go flying all over the place.

Inevitably someone walks in while I am struggling with them. I have a stock line for such occasions.

"Please ignore me and my orthodontia." That is what I say.

It usually goes over big with my visitor telling me about the time that she had braces or her kid who has braces.

I have started to notice people and their teeth.

The Kennedys.


Burt Bacharach.

And you cannot say his name without also saying the name of Hal David.

My ortho has said my braces will probably be off by Christmas. I cannot wait!

I will look like a TV-head.

I will eat with my new teeth like never before.

I will have to have a party!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

And you cannot say his name...

It is the Saturday estate sale report! My mom and I went first to one in Amherst, on a street called, well, Amherston. Finding it was a big hassle and then when we got there it was a bigger hassle. However!

I got a pair of green hand towels and a four-record box set, "Burt Bacharach and Hal David: A Celebration."

I am going to give that to my brother George because of a joke we had. Once I interviewed Dionne Warwick and I said something about Burt Bacharach and Miss Warwick interrupted me smoothly and she said:

"And you cannot say his name without also saying the name of Hal David."

I could not get over that!

So with George and me it is always Burt Bacharach and Hal David, pictured above. We never mention Burt Bacharach's name without also saying the name of Hal David.

True story: I got a text message from George after his first child was born and he wrote, "Coming home from the hospital today and you cannot say his name without also saying the name of Hal David."

Ha, ha! I still have that message on my cell phone. I saved it! On the rare occasion that I am blue, I look at it.

I have a picture of Leonard Pennario with Burt Bacharach at the races but some things will have to wait for the book. Pennario and I used to gab about Burt Bacharach and Angie Dickinson and these conversations will be invaluable to future musicologists.

Here is a nifty picture of Burt Bacharach and Angie Dickinson from Life magazine.

Where was I? Estate sales. We went to another off of Englewood. And here I bought two more hand towels, this time in pink. I do like my color pink as they learned over at Beth Tzedek.

Also I bought a missal because I like to have a few extras for my Facebook friends who sometimes join me at Mass. This one is a beauty. It is copyright 1941-1958!

I also picked up three scapulars. Those are old-time Catholic accessories people used to wear around their shoulders under their clothes and they have promises associated with them. I like picking up things like this at sales so I know they will not get thrown out or treated with disrespect. One of the scapulars is still packed into its little plastic envelope. It says in Gothic script: "Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

That is quite a promise!

I guess maybe I should wear this thing!

The estate sale people gave that to me free. One guy was going to charge me but this woman working with him said, "Charging for scapulars is bad karma." A fascinating mix of religions in that sentence!

Now that I think about it I do not think any sane person would charge for something saying in Gothic script, "Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

You would be afraid you would wind up being the one suffering eternal fire!

So. All in all I would say today I had a pretty good haul. Burt Bacharach, and you cannot say his name without also saying the name of Hal David. Plus two sets of hand towels. Plus eternal salvation thrown into the bargain at no charge.

Life is good to me!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pretty in pink

It is so late! And yet it is as if this day never happened.

I went out into the world in this beautiful pink sweater I got at the sale at Beth Tzedek. I love that word. I want to keep saying it. Tzedek.

I wonder who used to own this sweater. Howard said it looks expensive.

This morning I was going to a Philharmonic concert. It was one of the orchestra's Coffee Concerts. Which are this weird invention. You go to the Phil at 10:30 a.m. It is fun but it feels illicit. I am used to going to the Philharmonic at night so when I go in the morning it feels weird and the rest of the day I feel as if I have a hangover.

As soon as I got inside Kleinhans I started forgetting it was morning and thinking it was night. There are no windows. It is like the casino! I mean, I was looking around for the bar. And I kept saying things like, "How's the crowd tonight?"

The ushers kept telling me, "Uh, Mary, it's morning."

And I would say, "Oh, right."

That is a weird feeling! It is like having your day turned upside down!

When the concert was over I had to go to the office and before I knew it, it was dark. I had to work late because I had screwed up certain deadlines.

When I was finally done working I went to the Hyatt with Howard and my friend Michelle to catch Jackie Jocko's last half an hour. That is Jocko in the middle of this picture.

Here is something surreal. Jocko told us that Metallica had been in to see him.

Metallica was just playing in Buffalo. Anyway, Jocko said that this guy from Metallica said, 'Holy #$*#$*, that guy can play piano."

We all laughed about that. Then Michelle said: "What happened after that?"

"Nothing!" Jocko said. "I didn't talk to him."

Hahahahahah! For some reason after my upside-down day that struck me as awfully funny.

Michelle is great. She is a real journalist and peppers people with questions. As opposed to me. I just want to sit there and laugh. That is how I wound up writing about Leonard Pennario. The night I met him I just sat there and laughed. I do not think I asked him one single question! Guys love that, I am telling you. They love when you act like a ditz. Which, luckily that comes naturally to me.

"What did the guys in Metallica look like?" Michelle asked Jocko.

"Oh, Michelle," Jocko said, as if he were trying to break it to her gently. "They do not look like you and me. They are not normal people."

"What was their hair like?" Michelle would not give up.

"Terrible!" Jocko exclaimed.

He looked dismissively away and launched into "Lemon Twist."


At the top of this post is a picture of Metallica who thought Jocko was a hell of a piano player and who do not look like you or me.

It seemed like years later when I finally got home, still in my pink Beth Tzedek sweater.

I had put it on a lifetime ago!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meeting of mystery

Yesterday we had a meeting at work and I agreed to a story which, I have no idea what it was! I was so out of it yesterday. The night before had been one of those nights when I just could not sleep. Then I got up at 6 anyway because morning is my Leonard Pennario time and I do not like to give that up.

So I got up and worked on my book for two and a half hours and after that I was kind of floating through my day. La la la la la la la.

Days without sleep are better if you look on the bright side, I learned that in my two years as an insomniac. There are things it is fun to do on no sleep. One of them is go through Delta Sonic. You sit there and watch all the soap and rags slapping against the car and it just moves you along and it looks like this.

Once I had to go give a speech before a group of piano teachers on no sleep. At 9 a.m. That was an adventure! I wonder what I said! All I remember is I was so out of it that I did not even use any notes. Notes would have been useless under the circumstances.

It is amazing, operating on no sleep! The experiences you have!

Back to that meeting. We were all sitting there and suddenly I became conscious of everyone looking at me.

"Mary would do a great job on that story," someone said.

Someone else said, "Yes, that would be perfect for Mary. She would make it good."

And I love flattery! I think that was what brought me out of my fog, that someone was flattering me. And I opened my eyes wide for the first time yesterday and I heard myself saying, "OK, I'll do it. That sounds like fun!"

Uh ... what sounds like fun? This morning I am awake and suddenly I am wondering.

After a day on no sleep you have to go back once you have slept and assess all the damage. One thing was the Web log post I wrote lastnight. Hahahahahahaa! Parts of it made no sense!

The other thing is that story.

The story of mystery!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I am a camera

I have been revisiting some of the wonderful photographs I have taken. I am skilled. I am gifted!

The picture above cracks me up. You would think it was in Europe. But no, it is just downtown Buffalo. It is our old City Hall.

Only in Buffalo would a building like that not be big enough to be our City Hall.

It could not contain our bureaucracy!

So we built a new City Hall and now the old one is our County Hall. That is how I understand it anyway.

Here is a picture I took in my Blue Period.

Also in my Blue Period, a record I bought the other day.

The sun setting today outside my office window.

Fog outside my front sun room.

A photo I took one day walking along the waterfront listening to Leonard Pennario and hoping that a big freighter would sail into view.

Nope, no ship. No luck.

Still life with estate sale.

It is amazing how the time flashes past. Digital cameras make this worse. You take more pictures than ever before and then you go through them and you think, oh, I remember that day. That was so long ago! How did it get to be so long ago?

Here is a picture I took of a sunrise across from my house. Last winter. Was that a year ago?

Sunrise, sunset.

Quickly fly the days!