Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The countdown begins

Just now I took the rubber bands off my teeth for what I believe is the last time.

Enough of those rubber bands!

Yesterday horsing around on the Internet I found to my astonishment that it looks as if Ugly Betty and I could get our braces off the exact same week. Remember Ugly Betty? Entertainment Weekly says that Jan. 6 could be the magic date for her. That is next Wednesday! In that episode she is supposedly meeting with her ortho and the people who follow such things think that she is going to get the braces off then.

Even though I have not seen "Ugly Betty" I get a kick out of the genuine effort she seems to make to be ugly. Without the braces she is this beautiful Hispanic model-type but for this Ugly Betty character she does seem to go that extra mile. I mean, look at this picture from an episode where she goes to the ortho.

Here is a picture of Betty's ortho. Ha, ha! I have been there!

Much, much speculation surrounds Ugly Betty and her "signature braces," as people refer to them.

A lot of the show's fans are worried about what is going to happen when they come off!

Speaking of which there is speculation surrounding my braces and what the opera singer who loved Leonard Pennario said to me to make me get these braces. That is a good story and it is nice of people to ask about it! But I cannot tell it just yet.

It is so weird to remember that situation! Those days in California. It is like remembering a strange dream.

Back to Ugly Betty. I have never watched the show but you know what, I just might have to watch it next Wednesday. Once in a while it would behoove me to look in on shows like this, anyway. For instance I have never seen "Sex and the City" and I have never seen "Seinfeld" and I miss out on a lot of references because of that. Last week I was wondering what Festiva was because everyone was talking about it and then, oh, of course, it's "Seinfeld."

The power these people have to shape how everyone thinks and behaves! It is amazing!

Anyway, Wednesday I will have to see Ugly Betty get her braces off. I will have to compare my experiences with hers.

Of course it would be better if she watched me get my braces off too.

That way it would be a two-way street!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The last day

Today is my last day with the braces on my teeth! It gets me thinking about a lot of things.

One is I am remembering the circumstances in California that made me wind up with these braces. I got them because of this woman, this opera singer, in California who loved Leonard Pennario. This is funny, just now I almost wrote I got them "in a roundabout way" because of her. But the truth was, there was nothing roundabout about it. I got them directly because of her!

It is kind of a nasty story but it all worked out in the end. Because tomorrow the braces are coming off, God willing, and I will have straight teeth.

You always have to get that "God willing" in there! On account of you never know, as the saying goes.

So that is one thing I am thinking about, why I got these braces on my teeth. The other thing I am thinking is that it is funny, you never know when your life will change or what is ahead for you.

I am not talking about change for the sake of change. I hate glib slogans like "Change is good," or "The only thing we can count on is change," stuff like that.

When people say things like that to me I want to grab them and shake them. Change can mean anything! The planes flying into the World Trade Center, that was change. Vatican II, that was change. The Jews being loaded into boxcars and taken to concentration camps ... there, you want change? There's change for you.

Saying "I like change" is like saying "I like... stuff."

So that is not what I mean! I mean that momentous things can always be around the corner for you. I was thinking that when Leonard died. I thought: isn't this strange, this is one of the big deaths of my life. There is a phrase for you, the big deaths of your life. It is a funny phrase but it is true. There are big deaths in your life, milestone deaths when your life is turned upside down, and this was a big one. And I am sitting there thinking, a year ago I did not know this man.

The fall when I met Leonard was another funny time when things happened to me. In the space of two weeks two big things happened: I met this mysterious old pianist, and I went to my first Latin Mass. The Latin Mass came first, about a week and a half before. Both things changed me.

Here I was in my, ahem, 40s. You think your life is settled but it is not! I got married, was one thing that happened to me. And then all this other stuff happened.

Things had happened before that, too, that knocked me on my ear. I never would have predicted the line of work I would be in. Another big thing in my life was going back after being out of college for 15 years and resuming my piano studies and becoming a better pianist than I ever was as a kid. That was something I had never dreamed I would do.

The things that happen to you, the people who come into your life! It is amazing when you think about it.

All this philosophizing!

Philosophizing, on the eve of my big day!

Monday, December 28, 2009

When in Rome

Zut alors, I did not weigh in on the Web log yesterday because my computer was kaput. Howard built me a new one. He is a clever man! It is fun to have a fresh computer. It is like a new start.

Howard took pictures of all the components that went into the computer, including a vintage 1980s keyboard.

Why are we talking about computers anyway?

I need to get out. All day yesterday I was cleaning the house. I was trying to follow the Roman New Year's custom that the priest at my church told me about. In Rome they get rid of all their clutter and all the stuff they don't use. It is high time I did that with my life! So I am trying to do that.

But there is so much clutter! At one point in the living room I almost burst into tears. There was clutter wherever I looked!

That serving cart I bought a few weeks ago at that estate sale, there was even clutter on that!

I persevered.

My computer was pretty much kaput anyway so I could not work so what the heck.

Before the computer fritzed out I worked and I wrote this big long chapter about Leonard Pennario in the late 1940s. It was funny, that chapter appeared by magic. Between all the Christmas going-out and all the cookie baking, suddenly there it was.

I wish my housecleaning could be accomplished so easily!

Oh my gosh my golly. Wandering the Web I am finding proof of what the padre was telling me. He told me that in Italy it is an old custom actually to throw your old things out of the windows on New Year's Eve.

Now I am on and I am finding that is true.

They throw their stuff out of the windows!

Not only that but they listen to classical music. I am reading that in Rome a huge crowd turns out in the Piazza del Popolo. "They celebrate with rock and classical music and, of course, fireworks." That is a picture up above of New Year's Eve in the Piazza del Popolo.

A perfect world!

You listen to rock and classical music and then you go home and throw your stuff out of the windows!

Of course in Buffalo everyone would be going around picking up the stuff other people are throwing out of their windows.

We would all end up with more clutter than we had to begin with.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

House hopping

Leonard Pennario's old property on Calle Vista in Beverly Hills is for sale and they are asking $8 million. But now it appears the price has fallen because the place is in foreclosure.

Pennario had a handsome house but they knocked it down and built that ugly place pictured up above. If you watch this slide show you will see other pictures. The interesting thing is the views the place has. Pennario told me it had a wonderful view of Beverly Hills.

That is too bad it was knocked down! Jascha Heifetz used to go visit Pennario when he was there. They should not have knocked down a house where Pennario and Heifetz played. Well, nobody asked me. And there is nothing to be done.

So tonight Howard and I did not go to Calle Vista Drive. We went to Parker Boulevard! There was a Christmas party at Howard's friend Mike Lauria's house.

Here is my brother Tony with a blond.

Here I am with my braces and our host, Mike Lauria. He is an airline pilot.

Another view of my braces from Christmas dinner at my sister's house in East Aurora, with my niece Millie and my nephew George Henry.

George Henry was inspired to flash his own toothy grin.

George Henry is wearing his new Christmas pajama pants and I am wearing mine too although you cannot see them in the picture. It was fun riding home in the car in my pajama pants. My mom was in the front seat with Howard so I got to stretch out on the back seat. I have not gotten to do that since I was 12, stretch out on the back seat, let alone wear pajamas when I do that.

We had a hilarious situation at Christmas dinner with George Henry's front tooth. It was loose and he kept twisting it. My nieces apologized to me saying it was the grossest thing. George Henry would brag that he could turn it backwards. And he could!

Finally he went "Ta da!" And it was out! He was waving his tooth and crowing in triumph.

Speaking of teeth I look at pictures of my braces and I cannot believe that a week from now they will be ausgegangen as my father used to say. Ausgegangen is German for out the door.

Wednesday is the big day!

It will not be the same going through life not looking like a 12-year-old. As in this picture Howard took of me in my pajamas on Christmas Eve opening my Christmas presents.

Something about braces makes you not concerned with looking good so I just smile for the camera, la la la la la. I

After Wednesday, who knows?

I might become all self-conscious!

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas of coal and Old Crow

Above is Howard holding our little nephew George Henry. George Henry is a little wild man and tore up Christmas Eve last night at my mom's. He was running around with that camo canteen pictured above and earlier in the evening he had on a Spider-Man do-rag.

Howard gave me presents! He gave me a coffee cup from Ulbrich's. Ulbrich's closed something like 20 years ago so this is of tremendous nostalgic value to me. Howard also gave me a leather-bound memo pad/calendar I can keep in my purse stamped on the cover with Covert Vehicle Tracking Systems.

Plus there was the Coal Calendar. That is a wall calendar put out by the Centralia Coal Company in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. In big letters it says: "Anthracite Bituminous." Howard had last year's calendar at Big Blue and I have always admired it so this year for Christmas he gave me my own. That is the Centralia Coal Company at left. Howard sells bagged rice coal at CHOICE Of 25. It may be the only place in Buffalo that sells anthracite rice coal for stoves.

Other people get coal in their stockings but I get a coal calendar!

And here is something else exciting: My nieces Rosie and Millie gave me a pair of pajama pants they had made themselves. They are learning to sew and made pajama pants for everyone and we were all running around wearing them.

My mother gave us a bottle of Old Crow!

We were thrilled with the Old Crow because the unopened bottle had been my dad's. The funny thing is, that did not seem to matter to anyone but us. Howard had to ask my mother if there was any story behind the bottle of Old Crow, because the price tag on it said $9.50 which is not the price you would pay now. Then she admitted it had been my father's. I do not think she would have told us that if we had not asked!

Howard told my mother that every time he saw the Old Crow he would think of her. We all laughed and laughed about that.

The carnage of the family Christmas Eve was ultimately tremendous. Here is Howard among the carnage.

Luckily I did not drink too much of the Old Crow so this morning I was able to bounce out of bed early and get to Mass. My Facebook friend John Callahan joined me. He had his act together too and both of us got there early enough to say the Rosary and we had even brought rosaries. The Mass was so peaceful after last night! Then again a Nascar race would have been peaceful too after last night.

I took this picture during the Offertory when they are passing the plate so it was not too awkward. This is St. Anthony of Padua Church where Leonard Pennario's parents were married and where he was baptized. Did I ever mention that? I just may have.

The church looked beautiful with the gold and the poinsettias. In winter I love how they painted the area behind the statues blue. I think the Italian immigrants liked to imagine bright blue Mediterranean skies outside, as opposed to their chilly new Buffalo surroundings. That is my personal theory.

At Mass the greatest thing was they rang the bells all through the Gloria. You get to sing the Gloria for the first time after Advent and all through it, as you sing it, they ring the bells. That was thrilling.

Home after Mass, I made a frittata with cheddar cheese and butternut squash and leeks and we ate it with cider and sausages and stewed apples. I told Howard, I am afraid I am drinking too much cider. It has become this morning treat that I look forward to. First I was drinking too much wine and now it is too much cider. I cannot win!

Well, now it is Christmas.

A time of excess!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Christmas Top Ten

Today I worked like a yeoman, wrapping presents and making a, ahem, Provencal Winter Squash Gratin to take to my mom's for Christmas Eve. It took forever and while I worked I listened to my Firestone Christmas records on my Sputnik-era stereo.

Those Firestone Christmas records are everywhere! But I did not have them until a month or so ago, when I was at Goodwill with my mom. I decided it was a good time to pick up these Firestone albums, because Christmas was coming up, and I grew up with these records, so it would be fun to have them.

Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. I bought them all. The green one, the blue one, the yellow one. With Julie Andrews, Roberta Peters, Franco Corelli, Gordon MacRae.

I did not even take the records out of their sleeves to look at them!

And the Ghost of Christmas Past must have smiled on me. Because over the last couple of weeks I have been playing these albums. And there is not a scratch on them! These records are in mint condition.

So today I listened to Jack Jones singing, "It's That Time of the Year."

And Roberta Peters singing Mozart's "Alleluia." It was funny remembering being a kid and listening to that. My sister Katie and I, we knew nothing about opera and we absolutely could not handle Roberta Peters' voice. We would go to pieces. Then later as a teenager I bought "The Magic Flute" and there she was singing the Queen of the Night. Finally I understood why she needed a voice like that.

It is funny to think of an era where they would give out records like this. They had this guy Irving something-or-other conducting the Firestone Orchestra and Chorus.

Someone has posted part of the green Firestone album here. And one of the commenters writes you would get the albums when you gassed up the car.

For real?

Too funny.

OK. It is time for a Christmas list. I have wanted to do this for years. Christmas carols I love, perhaps to be followed tomorrow by Christmas carols I can't stand. Leonard Pennario and I used to play this game in California while we were out to dinner and the sound system would be throwing Christmas stuff at us.

The ones I love:

1. "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming." Kind of awkward in English but the greatest Christmas carol ever. Michael Praetorius wrote wonderful melodies.

2. "In dulci jubilo." I guess I am a sucker for medieval German carols.

3. "O Come O Come Emmanuel." Technically this is Advent but so what.

4. "Here We Come a-Wassailing." Simple but good.

5. "Adeste Fideles." Probably should have put this first, love it so much. Love to sing it in Latin. We learned it in Latin in school.

6. "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." A few weeks ago when I heard the Buffalo Choral Arts Society at Our Lady of Victory, this was the one number that did not sound out of place among all those angels in the basilica. You need a superhuman and Mendelssohn was one.

7. "Ihr Kinderlein Kommet." This is a German song.

8. "O Holy Night." Gotta love it.

9. "Ding Dong Merrily On High." This is an old French medieval tune. I used to prefer "Angels We Have Heard on High," which I still love, but this one now has the edge.

10. Zut alors, I am down to one! I'll say "Christmas Time Is Here," from "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Brings back my bar-going days. You would be out having drinks with your friends and this would always be playing.

I know I have forgotten many. I will wake up in the middle of the night wondering why I did not mention this or that.

Perhaps tomorrow I will write Part Two.

After I finish this eggnog.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Back into the box with me

Here is a beautiful Buffalo Christmas angel for everyone. It is not just any angel either. It is St. Michael the Archangel!

I took the picture today when I went to St. Michael's for confession.

It is traditional to go to confession before Christmas the way it is traditional to go before Easter. You get yourself back on track. St. Michael's being Buffalo's go-to place to confessions there were a lot of people there besides me. I had to wait in a line which barely moved. Whatever priest was in there hearing confessions was not in a hurry, I could tell that.

I could not help noticing that besides me with my Ugly Betty braces, everyone in line was very good-looking. This is the kind of person who gets into trouble. Speaking of which we were all exhibiting the kind of behavior that insures you a place in the confession line. We were all interacting, Buffalo-style, smiling at each other, chatting here and there.

The Jesuits must have noticed this because you know how at Target, when the checkout line is out of control, they open another one and say, "Can I help the next person over here?" They opened a new confessional! After that things moved a little more quickly.

It is funny to see guys in Bills jackets emerging from the confessional. Only in Buffalo! Perhaps they are confessing shaking the port-o-potty while a fan of the opposing team is in there. That is the kind of sin Bills fans commit.

When I finally entered the box it occurred to me it was the exact same one I was in when I made that dramatic return-to-confession confession. I will tell you this, what a relief it was on this occasion to be able to say, "My last confession was four months ago." Not 20 years ago!

My first sin, not that I am going to subject you to the laundry list I gave the priest, was, "I drink too much wine."

Here is a picture of me drinking wine at Pizza Plant just the other day.

The beautiful blond with me is my friend Michelle. She goes to confession at St. Michael's too! We are St. Michael's girls, are Michelle and I. The Archangel knows us by name. Oh, and you know what, Leonard Pennario knew his way around St. Michael's too. He hit Mass there at least once. I saw it in his diaries.

Back to my confession today. Here is what I loved, the priest completely passed over the wine as if it were of no concern.

In the counseling session that always follows your sins, he skipped it over and went on to other stuff!

I have said it before and I will say it again: I LOVE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

I love the Jesuits!!

I came out of that confessional feeling all shiny and new and then I saw they were getting ready for Mass so I stayed for it. The priest announced the Mass was late because there had been so many confessions. He was very happy about that. One thing about St. Michael's, they might be a little gruff about it in the confessional but they always take time to thank the grace of God for bringing you in there. "Let's thank the grace of God for your good confession," was what the priest told me yesterday. These priests are such good men.

After Mass was when I took the picture of the statue up at the top.

Which, I have to say, took a million years. There was this woman praying in front of the statue so I had to wait forever, kneeling in my pew. After a while I found myself growing impatient. Will you stop praying already, I am thinking, so I can take my picture?

Oh no, there's a sin! Impatience at another person's prayer!

I am already working on my next confession!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Update from outer space

This being the end of the year, when we normally take stock of things, I have been sitting here working on an update on how the Leonard Pennario book is going. Above is a painting of me working on my update.

The plan is to enclose this screed with Christmas cards I am sending to friends of Leonard's and also people who have helped me with the book, granting me interviews, bringing me coffee, encouraging me, etc. I would also like to zing this update to the 183 people who have demonstrated their good taste in music and life by joining my Facebook group, "Leonard Pennario, America's Greatest Pianist."

That is the plan.

What about Plan 9 From Outer Space?

My plan is almost as complicated as that! That line about paralyzing the living, that hits home, I will tell you that right now.

Because I am sitting here paralyzed as dawn is breaking. Zut alors, I cannot write! All I am trying to do is put together this little newsletter, I guess you could call it. It is almost like a Christmas newsletter. That is what I have been telling myself. But I have never written a Christmas newsletter. How do you start it? Then for some reason everything comes out convoluted.

So I thought if I confided my difficulties on this Web log it would loosen me up.

The basic points I need to make, ahem:

The plan is to publish the book in 2010.

Wait, would this sound better:

Plans are in place to publish the book in 2010.

By the time I figure out just this one sentence the sun will be high in the sky. I am sitting here thinking, this is the goofiest thing. I have no problem getting up and pouring my coffee and sitting down and knocking out a whole chapter about Pennario's first year with Capitol, his studies with Isabella Vengerova, his collaboration with Jascha Heifetz, all kinds of arcane and complicated stuff. But try to write a chatty little newsletter and oh, that paralyzes me.


Perhaps the secret is to write the update here and then I can cut and paste.

Perhaps the secret is to go downstairs and eat something.

Maybe I should take a shower.

How about that snowstorm that hit every other city but missed Buffalo?

How about that health care bill Congress is ramming down our throat?

How about them Bills?

What about my clean bedroom? I should put that in the newsletter, that I cleaned up the bedroom.

Zut alors, alors, alors!

I must get this done!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bright, shiny Monday

I awoke this morning all excited about my clean bedroom. Yesterday I will tell you this, I hated to take time out from working on the book to clean the house. But comes a time, you know?

All I can think is that it will help me think and be organized. It works that way in the office, too. Every once in a while I take two hours or something and just deep-clean my desk and its surroundings. It makes me feel so much better and tasks do not seem as onerous. When things are a mess you start to feel defeated. That is not me! I do not like to feel defeated. It is unnatural!

We are not going to be or feel defeated here at the Leonard Pennario desk.

Speaking of which, last night news reached the Leonard Pennario desk that my friend Larry has taken the clip of Pennario playing Debussy and boogie-woogie on the Kraft Music Hall show and posted it on YouTube. Click here to see it! Larry is my indispensable tech director. He is from Pennsylvania but originally he is from Appalachia. He goes back to Appalachia once in a while to visit and while he is there he is unreachable.

But last night he was not in Appalachia and he posted this Kraft Music Hall show. It is so sweet to see. He keeps returning to this picture of Pennario in the Army. Just the spirit of the whole thing is wonderful.

I told Larry, anyone who watches this will fall in love with Pennario. Besides being this great pianist he is just so adorable!

Which, how many great pianists can you say that about.

I know how to pick 'em!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Decisions, decisions

Zut alors, I have been cleaning the house all day! And before that my computer was fritzing out. So now I weigh in, after all this time.

All day I weeded through the bedroom taking stuff off of dressers. Then I cleaned out the dresser drawers. It took forever. Depressing and dusty work. However. However! I did find two letters I had written about Leonard Pennario to two very important personages, hoping I could interview them. I thought it was funny they had not gotten back to me, now I see why! Well, I hope this is the reason why anyway.

There were these two letters, sitting there unstamped and unsent.

Tomorrow, off they go! Well, I will rewrite the letters to update the dates.

I have an idea that if I can get the house less chaotic I will be able to work better. Let us hope! I have to say that cooking dinner was easier. There was this Cooking Light kicking around and I found a rice pilaf with apples to go with this pork tenderloin I have at the ready.

Above is a picture of my prep work, with leeks and apples on the cutting board. Observe the green cabbage visible at left. "Cabbage is often served with pork at the German table." I read that in a cookbook. Howard and I are German so our table is too and cabbage is often served with pork there.

If you are wondering what that green column is to the right in the picture it is Comet cleanser! Howard swears by it and it turns up everywhere in the house.

Two ancient brand names: Comet and Ajax. They are both my best friends these days, I have to say that!

Are you a Comet person or an Ajax person? It is like asking if someone is a Beatles person or a Stones person. Or a Coke person or a Pepsi person!

I love to play games like that. They are always floating around Facebook!

Beatles or Stones? Stones.

Pennario or Gould? Pennario.

Pink or red? Pink.

Apples or oranges? Apples.

Kander and Ebb or Shire and Maltby? Shire and Maltby.

Chicken wings or beef on weck? Beef on weck.

Quality or Jubilee? Jubilee.

Skirts or pants? Skirts.

Bath or shower? Bath.

This is fun! Coming up with the questions is as much fun as coming up with the answers. But back to the beginning.

Comet or Ajax?

That is the big question.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Brace yourself

Yesterday I had to call the priest at my church to ask him about something and the first thing he asked me was, "Are the braces off your teeth yet?" Those are my braces pictured above.

I said no, Padre, but they were almost off, they are coming off Dec. 30!

He said: "We have to have a party! This is a community event!"

That is how big-mouthed I have been about my braces!

But the priest at my church has been actually inconvenienced by my braces because he has to give me Communion and it has not been easy with those rubber bands. At first when I got the bands and realized I could not open my mouth, I thought maybe I should do the Communion-in-the-hand thing. That is what most Catholics do.

But going to the Latin Mass I have gotten used to the old-fashioned way of doing things, and now Communion in the hand just does not feel right to me any more. Even when I wind up at an English language weekday Mass and we are just standing up there instead of kneeling, I cannot put out my hands the way I used to. It just feels funny.

Here is something weird: At English language Masses I remember most of the responses all right but what I forget is when to sit and when to kneel and when to stand. I have to watch other people.

It is like being a visitor from the 1950s!

Excuse me, why are you saying Mass in English, why is the priest facing the people, why do the cars look so funny, and could you tell me if Leonard Pennario is coming to the Philharmonic this season?

How did I get onto this? Oh, right. The braces on my teeth.

What happened the other day, the 16th this was, was they took off the rubber bands and then they took off these big metal rings that were around my back teeth since they put the braces on me a year and a half ago.

Then they fitted me for my retainer. That is a retainer I will need at night. I wish it were retainer, as in servant. I would like a retainer at night like the one pictured at left to bring me wine and draw my bath.

To fit me for this retainer they had to plunge first my top teeth and then my bottom teeth into this plaster-y stuff, kind of like ABC gum. Remember that phrase from grade school? That was super-yuchy. I hate that feeling, this big bit in your mouth all filled up with this gooey stuff. Gag me! But I got through it.

They had to do the bottom teeth twice, alors.

Then they sent me out in the hall to the sink to clean up. Zut alors! I had all this white plaster smudged all over my face! I took a paper towel and cleaned myself up. Then I picked out a plastic toothbrush to clean the gook off my teeth.

Here is where I realized that inside I am 8 years old. They had this tub of plastic-wrapped toothbrushes and the toothbrushes were all these neat colors, iridescent blue and chartreuse green and orange and yellow and hot pink. I stood there staring at the toothbrushes while minutes passed. I picked up one and then another and looked at them. I could not make up my mind!

I am what, 45? And this is a big deal for me, picking out a pretty toothbrush.

Finally I selected an orange toothbrush and brushed my teeth. Then they put my wires back in my mouth. So now I have my braces back although they no longer extend to my back teeth. Unfortunately now they are scraping against my mouth but so what, I can stand anything for two weeks.

The Padre says that Dec. 30 is a perfect day for the braces to come off. He says there is a custom in Rome that for the New Year, everyone throws out everything they no longer need or want. It is out with the old, in with the new! He gave that phrase to me in the original Italian and it is very pretty.

So my braces are going to be thrown out.

I will no longer need them!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Howard covers the waterfront

We celebrated Beethoven's birthday by going from Carl Paladino's Christmas party last night at the Ellicott Square Building to Shanghai Red's where Howard played the piano.

Above is a picture we took of Carl Paladino's party. Note to out-of-town Leonard Pennario fans: F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in Buffalo until he was 5 and that is why we like to live as if we are out of "The Great Gatsby."

Here is a picture of Howard serenading the lounge afterward at Shanghai Red's.

We almost did not go to Shanghai Red's. Howard wanted to go home and so did my friend Jane's friend Andy, who was with us. But Jane and I talked Howard into going and then Howard refused to drop Andy off at his car. He said, "You can be the one who makes sure we stay for only 20 minutes."

Ha, ha! Shanghaied, to Shanghai Red's!

At the ungodly late hour of 9:30 p.m.!

That is Howard up above playing the piano at Shanghai Red's. I have a story in my book about Leonard Pennario playing the piano after hours at a restaurant and this could have been like that.

Except for at Shanghai Red's the hostess was trying to throw us out!

When we were walking in, she snapped to us, "We're closed." And my friend Jane, her friend Andy and I were going to say, "OK," and walk meekly away, even though we had been looking forward to Shanghai Red's with its fireplaces and view of the water.

But Howard was wise and he just walked into the lounge. And we followed!

And the bartender poured us all drinks.

And right as soon as he was done the hostess stalked in and she told him he should not have served us, that they were closed.

But the genie was out of the bottle and so was the wine. And we stayed!

Immediately we took over the piano. Here you can see Jane and Andy and the twinkling lights of the harbor.

Howard was playing "The Christmas Song" and "P.S., I Love You" and other songs and the people who were already in the lounge were turning around and smiling and getting into it and ordering more drinks. The hostess who had tried to tell us no room at the inn got mad. She came in and yelled at the bartender and then she turned off our fireplace...

... and we still stayed!

There are only two Shanghai Red's as you can see on their Web site. One is in Marina Del Ray, Calif., and the other is here in Buffalo.

We have worn out our welcome at the Shanghai Red's in Buffalo.

Next time we will have to try the other one!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Big day

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the orthodontist's office. Today is Beethoven's birthday and it is also the day they begin dismantling the hardware in my mouth! Howard says it is like the Aud coming down. That is the Aud up above which I had to watch being torn down right outside my office window. I took a bunch of pictures on that stormy day, remember?

Wow, I hated that! I did not want to see that majestic building go.

Buffalo is full of unfeeling, uncaring, short-sighted oiks!

Howard says when you think of it my mouth is shaped like the Aud. There is this big space in the middle and around it there are the seats. Right now I have orange braces so they would be the Oranges. Here is a picture of the Oranges I lifted off the excellent Web site Clarence Grad 72.

The goofy thing is that my life is scrambled enough so I do not know exactly when my appointment is today. I had it in my head that it was on Beethoven's birthday, so I know it is today. (I know, nerd!) But I have no idea what time.

Perhaps I will just go over there when they open and wait until I am called.

Today they are going to take out the bands that are in the back of my mouth. These are metal bands which are not to be confused with the rubber bands in the front of my mouth. I have the sneaking feeling that the rubber bands will stay for the next two weeks until everything else comes out.

For some reason now that the end is in sight for all this these rubber bands and everything else have become unbearable.

It is sort of like the situation with the Leonard Pennario book. Now that the end is in sight I just cannot wait to get it done. I have in mind a beautiful last line for it and I just want to type and type until I get to that last line. And then I will have the pleasure of typing it.

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Oh, wait. That is "The Great Gatsby." I get mixed up.

Well, if my line falls through I can always use that.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Me and Bobby McGee's

Suddenly my life is all about blues! These evening we went to Bobby McGee's and heard, ahem, Sir Walter Jedermann playing the blues. Well, he played jazz too. He played the song "Sweet and Lovely" which I love. This is the new Bobby McGee's. It has moved from its dark little University Plaza location to spiffy new digs where the Dakota Grill used to be.

That is Howard up above with Wally Jedermann! This being Buffalo where everyone knows everyone Howard had known Wally long before I did. There is this funny Buffalo story that dates from about 9 years ago, when I had not known Howard very long. I was able to get Wally over to my house for some holiday. It may have been Fourth of July, I don't know. And Howard came over and flipped! Because it turned out Wally had been at his house for holidays when he was growing up. Howard had not known I knew Wally and I had not known Howard knew him.

Jedermann means "Everyman" and that is one thing about Wally we get a kick out of.

Also when he plays the vibes he is offhanded about it. Just like a kid grilling hot dogs at Ted's Hot Dogs! That is what Howard said last night.

Here is Wally imparting wisdom to Howard after the show. I love Howard's look of concentration. It is like me listening to Leonard Pennario!

You know what I hate? How every time I mention Pennario my computer underlines the word in red.

As in, huh?

Are you sure that is how it is spelled?

"I never heard of him." That is what the computer is telling me.

"Does not compute."

This is been going on for over two years. You would think the computer would get the hang of it by now who Pennario was or at least realize that I tend to type this name rather a lot. But no. It does not.

It is insulting!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pennario playing the blues

Son of a sea cook, I did not get a chance to weigh in until now on the Web log. And I have so many questions to answer!

It is a beautiful world when people ask questions for you to answer on your Web log, I will say that.

Number one question, for everyone clamoring to hear Leonard Pennario playing the blues, click here and you will get the link. You can hit "play" and listen, or else download it so you can play it in perpetuity for yourself and your children and your children's children.

Pennario plays "The Girl With the Flaxen Hair" and then he played the "Drum Boogie."

In between there is one of my favorite radio quotes from all time: "Well, fluff my hair and call me Stokowski."

Ha, ha! That is a picture of Leopold Stokowski and here is another.

He does have fluffy hair!

Also on the show there is a funny treatise from Leonard about how you play blues, eight to the bar.

So cute. He was such a kick. That is a picture of him up above that ran in the magazine The Etude when he was in the army. I used to love to get him talking about that. He would tell me stories and I would just sit there and laugh.

I actually like to listen to the whole show because after Leonard they have the Noel Coward song "I'll See You Again" which I love, and then the show ends with "Old Man River." That was great, when radio shows were like that!

So that is one question. There is the question about Howard taping me when we first met.

How that happened was, when Howard and I met, we had both gone independently to Fanny's to hear Al Tinney who was this old jazz pianist we both liked. Howard was working on his jazz piano playing so he was taping Al. Then I came up and sat down and started yakking, starting with when he asked me what song that was and I replied "Sophisticated Lady."

Howard always teases me that in an instant, all his future taping of Al was ruined. Because ever after there I was, gabbing.

Al Tinney was a wonderful pianist though I have to admit he could not turn out the barrelhouse blues the way Pennario could, I can see that now.

One footnote about the tape of Howard's and my first conversation: He was afraid to tell me it existed for something like two years.

He was afraid I would think he was some kind of loon!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Big night

Howard and I went to Fanny's last night to celebrate our 5th anniversary. Fanny's is where we met, sitting on adjacent bar stools.

I still remember our first conversation. Howard said, "Do you know this song the band is playing?"

And then I said, "Uh.... I think it is 'Sophisticated Lady.'"

That is how I know I liked Howard! Because I know my Duke Ellington and I knew darn well the song was "Sophisticated Lady." And here I was stammering and acting as if I were not sure.

Howard taped our entire first conversation so we have it. He was afraid to tell me for something like three years that he had taped that conversation because he was afraid I would think it was strange.

That is Howard pictured above with his Manhattan.

Here I am with my braces.

Get a good look because they will be gone soon!

I called earlier yesterday for reservations and you would think Fanny's would make some kind of little fuss out of us because we met at Fanny's, as I explained on the phone, and for years we were regulars there. But no. No one could have cared less that we had met there. The red carpet was not rolled out for us. That was OK. We were laughing about it. We were saying it was like New York City where nobody cares.

That is our waiter you see on the left in the picture of me.

We ordered this seafood diablo which we always used to get. It is kind of like our dish. Only now it was 10 times spicier than when we used to go there. All we could think was someone got into a fight with someone in the kitchen and they started throwing cayenne pepper all over into everything. Sicilians are always fighting. I used to tease Leonard Pennario about that.

The spicy food got me laughing too. It is not fun to laugh when you are eating something this peppery!

But it was a wonderful anniversary and all the goofiness about it just made it funnier and more memorable.

Our friend Ross on Facebook says that in today's world the 5th anniversary is the new 50th anniversary.

Looks like we made it!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

He's my handyman

Today is Howard's and my wedding anniversary. We have been married five years! And Howard did the most romantic thing which, if you want to know what it was, you have to read his Web log. I do not have his way with words!

This morning my brother George and our friend Gary and I were walking the Ring Road in Delaware Park and we were crunching these numbers and George said I have to listen to Buddy Guy's "Five Long Years."


Howard would kill me!

From there we moved onto a long discussion of Buddy Guy...

... and how now he is the king of blues just because he is the oldest one left next to B.B. King. As opposed to a few years ago he was kicking around the Tralf and sitting around with us for as long as we wanted him to. I have pictures of us all sitting around with Buddy Guy. Once a friend of mine caught Buddy Guy's cold because he kissed her and she was really mad about that.

Just today I found a recording on the Internet of Leonard Pennario playing blues! I am serious. Well, he would kill me if I said he was playing blues. He is playing boogie-woogie. But he is the greatest! He is a maniac. He sounds like Pete Johnson. William Kapell ...

... could not do that, I am sorry.

I could not believe it, finding that recording. I had to call Howard and make him hear it.

Howard! I knew I would find my way back somehow to what I was talking about. Today Howard and I have been married for five years.

Five years ago there was a snowstorm blowing in and I always remember leaving St. Gerard's with Howard after we got married and we got into the back seat of his friend Dave Van Stone's car. Dave Van Stone was his best man.

Here is something else funny I remember. Not long after that there was a cooking club meeting at our house. We were in this cooking club and at the end of it there was just us and this one other couple, these man and his wife we had just met that night. It was a warm night and the four of us were sitting out on the back porch and we opened another bottle of wine. And we're all kind of kicked back and the other wife asks me:

"So, how long have you guys been married?"

And Howard and I looked at each other and had to do the math.

"Five months?" I said.

Howard said, "December."

And these people had kittens because they had thought we had been married forever! In a good way, of course. Do not misunderstand me.

Now it's funny, they are divorced. I feel bad about that. Had he done for her what Howard did for me they would have been like us.

Happy ever after!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Candle in the wind

This is the time of year when we thank God for small pleasures as well as big blessings in our lives. And I thank God for this wonderful scented candle I have found.

It is Cinnamon Pecan Swirl!

Our love affair began on Thanksgiving morning. I was coming home from church and I detoured to CVS. I am getting a kick out of CVS. They have all these specials and whenever you buy anything they give you a receipt a mile long -- that is to say, as long as this sentence -- and on the back of the receipt is an array of coupons, and the coupons are good only for three days so you have to go back soon and buy something else.

Anyway. I was supposed to have been home starting to roast that turkey but instead I was wandering the aisles of CVS. And they had these candles marked down from $10 to three for $10.

You could not beat that!

They were 18 ounce candles, squat and wide and in glass jars so Howard would not get mad at me if I lit one. The brand was Candle-Lite which, now that I read about it, I see goes back to 1840. How about that? Robert Schumann could have bought a Candle-Lite candle.

There were a bunch of fragrances and I did not have time to stand there sniffing all of them which, to be honest, I could do that for hours. I am not proud of my ability to waste time. But on Thanksgiving I was in a hurry so I bought six, all different. Pine, Cinnamon Apple, Black Cherry, Pumpkin Nutmeg Pie and Cinnamon Pecan Swirl.

We did light three of the candles on the Thanksgiving table and they survived the dinner and so did the house, although we had a couple of close calls. That is not our family in the picture up above, I will say that right now. I got that picture from the Candle-Lite Web site.

What about the Candlelite tavern in Chicago?

Would that I were going there today instead of to work!

Back to my Cinnamon Pecan Swirl candle. Since Thanksgiving I began realizing that whenever I passed it, I had to pick it up and take a whiff.


I even made my brother George sniff it. George like most guys is not much for scents or candles but even he loved it and acknowledged its supremacy.

"Don't burn it," he said. "You might ruin it."

Would that we could do Scratch 'n Sniff on this Web log!

Would that we had Smell-o-Vision!

But alas, we do not. So you just have to use your imagination when I tell you that the other day, when our storm was kicking in, I took time out of the storm to detour to three different CVS's hoping to find more Cinnamon Pecan Swirl candles! They had since risen in price to $5. But I had a coupon for $5 off a $15 purchase.

Zut alors, I could find no Cinnamon Pecan Swirl! The CVS by Goldman Motors had Pumpkin Nutmeg Pie which was close, but, and George had agreed with me on this, not quite as good.

The palatial CVS at Harlem and Kensington near my mom had the Vanilla Spice which was also not quite as good. This Cinnamon Pecan Swirl, it is the Leonard Pennario of candles. Other candles can be good but they are missing that certain something.

I held out!

Late that night, on the way home from my mom's, I thought, one more CVS would not hurt. So I stopped at the CVS on Hertel. The night was becoming surreal with howling winds and blowing snow. The clerk looked oddly glassy-eyed. It crossed my mind that maybe I was dead. Maybe it was like this movie "Carnival of Souls" and I was dead and I did not realize it. Nevertheless I was going to go look for this candle! I found my way to the display.

And there it was. Cinnamon-Pecan Swirl!

There were three of them, too! The exact number I wanted!

The little things that can make your day.

Know what I mean?