Saturday, January 31, 2009

Beers, bars and Beethoven

Yesterday after work my friend Jane and I stopped by Founding Fathers. Note to out-of-towners: In Buffalo when we want a glass of something we do not have to go to Applebee's or TGIFriday's. Not to knock Applebee's or TGIFriday's, they are good in a pinch, but we do not normally have to go there, is all I am saying.

We have options!

The reason I forgot to photograph Founding Fathers on my own was that as soon as I walked in a raucous gentleman called to me from the bar. The place was crowded and dark and at first I couldn't make out who it was calling my name. Then I peered right at him and I still didn't know who it was!

"What are you, all stuck up?" he yelled at me.

Then he came into focus: He was my Pilates teacher! You do not think of running into your Pilates teacher in a bar. But here he was! Not only that but he clearly was on very familiar terms with the bartender and the waitress. Well, I knew the waitress too. She has the greatest name, Gil. You say it French style. Gilbert is her full name. Her parents named her for Sabres star Gilbert Perreault. Note to out-of-town Leonard Pennario fans: In Buffalo we name our kids after our hockey players. That is perfectly normal.

"Gilbert!" my Pilates teacher kept shouting. And he would order drinks for people. He immediately forced me to drink a shot of Jack Daniels, which, you know me, it is extremely difficult to get me to drink anything. But he did it!

My Pilates teacher's name is Jim. Jim, gym. That is how you remember it. He reassured me as I sipped the Jack that Joseph Pilates enjoyed a good cigar and a good drink. One thing I like about my Pilates teacher is that our classes are full of references to things Joseph Pilates approved of and what he would have wanted.

Leonard Pennario liked a good drink but he did not like cigars. It is funny how great men differ from each other.

Here is a picture of Joseph Pilates.

That is Joseph Pilates' niece with him in that picture. It is a little like when I have stayed after class and Jim and I have helped each other with our stretches. I will tell you this: I have always liked my Pilates teacher a great deal but after lastnight I see him in a whole new light. He was like Mr. Founding Fathers! He knew everyone! When Jane ordered the famous Independence Burger we moved from the bar to a table and he followed us there. When he announced he was going to go bug the people at a different table, Gilbert, the waitress, approached discreetly.

"Is that gentleman bothering you?" she whispered.


What with all this excitement I did not think to take a picture of Founding Fathers. And I wish I had because it is a beautiful bar in an old livery stable that was built when Beethoven was alive. So I cribbed the picture at the top of this post from Julian Montague's blog. Montague is a writer and photographer who lives in Buffalo. I don't know him, but, now I do! Here is another picture of Founding Fathers from Julian Montague's blog.

The picture of former county executive Dennis Gorski reminds me of the famous photo of Howard's cousin Ron Moss, back when Moss was running for mayor. Here is the picture. It is of Moss greeting a supporter.

Here in Buffalo we all write books and interestingly, Montague's book is called "Stray Shopping Carts: A Field Identification Guide." We are sure at least one of those carts is in there courtesy of Howard's cousin Ron Moss!

Moss leaves a trail of shopping carts behind him. He leaves a trail of records too. Once he left Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in the bushes and we had to go and get it.

Oh no, here I am listening to Beethoven's Ninth!

Am I ever going to get any work done?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Under the bright lights

Zounds! Zut alors! Yesterday I ran a picture of a boxer Joey Giambra who was not Joey Giambra. He called me up late to tell me that and told me that the boxer Joey Giambra was the father of the county executive Joel Giambra, pictured yesterday.

Ach du lieber! I have no right living in Buffalo without having my Giambras straight.

Good thing I am writing a book about Leonard Pennario, not Joey Giambra!

Subsequently, shamefacedly, I deleted the picture from yesterday's blog. Joey Giambra said, "Take it down," so that is what I did. He was laughing and everything so no one need get all upset. But still.

Since then, what the heck, I put the picture back up. Go ahead and revisit yesterday's post. There it is!

Meanwhile ... Yesterday, what a day, under the bright lights of Joey Giambra's cameras!

They sat me on this stage and I had to talk into this light. I felt like in "A Chorus Line," above(think of me as the one in purple with the big thighs) where Michael Douglas is out there in the darkness and the questions come out of the darkness and the dancers are answering. I had to talk about Leonard Pennario which for me is no problem. But it is a funny feeling, having the lights turned on you like that, and being told just to talk.

Oh my gosh! Here is "A Chorus Line" in Japanese!

Back to my experience on stage. This was at Buffalo State College's Media center which, if you have never seen it, you should go. It is like the Pentagon. It is huge and there is equipment everywhere. They led me through all these halls into this studio and sat me in a chair alone on this soundstage and a Buff State student clipped a mic on me and got me a glass of water which, being me, I managed to knock over so they got me another one. Then Joey Giambra and his colleague Mike sat out in the darkness like Michael Douglas and Mike asked me questions.

At one point I almost cracked up. That was when I mentioned how Pennario's family was from Sicily. I saw Joey Giambra give Mike a shove and start laughing and I almost started laughing too.

At another point I started crying and I had to get a grip. That was when I was talking about how when I met Pennario, he was actually dying.

At still another point I heard Joey Giambra saying something like: "This is crazy. This should be a movie. I could see this as a movie."

I did not plan on talking about myself and my personal dealings with Leonard but they asked me questions specifically about that and I felt as if I were in a courtroom and had to tell the truth. That courtroom thing kicks in when you are sitting there with the lights shining on you.

This went on for I am guessing about an hour. At the end of it I felt kind of drained but also happy and more focused than I have felt in a long time, I have to say that. It is an interesting challenge having to sum up in one minute what makes Leonard Pennario great. Instead of holding forth for three hours.

Which, you know me, I could do!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Into the big ring

Today is the day I step into the movies. Today the legendary Buffalo actor and filmmaker and musician Joey Giambra is going to interview me for the sequel he is making to "La Terra Promessa," his film about Buffalo's Italian immigrants. I am going to be talking about Leonard Pennario.

That is Joey Giambra pictured at left. He is legend in the boxing world! (Editor's note: We have since learned that Joey Giambra the Buffalo boxer is no relation to Joey Giambra the Buffalo filmmaker. Please see next day's post.)

It is bittersweet for me to be appearing in Joey Giambra's movie because last summer, just two weeks or so before Pennario died, I told Pennario about it. The old man loved the movies and he loved the idea of my being in this movie talking about him. He said something very beautiful to me about that and I treasure that memory. It was about how happy he was that we had met each other.

Back then I was hoping that Pennario could be in the movie himself. Alas, that was not to be. Still it is nice to know I have his blessing as I step before the cameras! I am grateful to Joey Giambra for giving me this opportunity.

What about Joel Giambra, our former county executive?

Focus, Saul, focus! There is work to be done! I have to decide what things of Pennario's I should bring to this interview which will take place later today at Buffalo State College. The interview is at Buff State but here is how high maintenance I am: Mr. Giambra will be picking me up behind the Albright-Knox and shuttling me to Buff State.

Here is how sweet and old-fashioned Joey Giambra is. He never says simply "Leonard Pennario."

He always says "Leonard Pennario, God rest his soul."

Even if it is in the middle of a sentence. He will say: "Mary, and maybe you could bring along items pertaining to Leonard Pennario, God rest his soul, and we can show them on the film."

This is old-guard Catholicism and, you know me, that is the type I love. Anyway, I am really looking forward to today. I imagine myself sitting with Joey Giambra for hours, answering hundreds of questions about Pennario. Bliss!

What about Sir Arthur Bliss? Pennario played his Piano Concerto. There are letters Bliss wrote that showed his great admiration for Pennario. Here is a picture of Sir Arthur Bliss with the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, Andrew Lloyd Webber's brother.

Wow, look at this video of Sir Arthur Bliss that I found! It is from 1975.

Back to the present day. As I said I have to figure out what to bring. Probably I should bring some pictures of Pennario. Perhaps some publicity brochures. There is a coffee cup of his that I have. I could bring that. Here is an idea. Maybe I should bring his bathrobe! That would be a unique show-and-tell item.

Speaking of his bathrobe, I am still in it. On a workday morning, that is not good news!

I had better get moving.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A call from the Grammy Awards

This is how important I am now: Yesterday my cell phone rang and it was the Grammy Awards. They are putting together a tribute to Leonard Pennario for their "in memoriam" segment.

The ceremony is what, next week? I am glad I am not the only one flying by the seat of my pants! All over the world are people operating last minute, just the way I do. That is a comfort and a relief.

Anyway, I am going to buzz them over a few pictures they can show. That way when they get into work today in Los Angeles they will have a few nice pictures of this gorgeous man to look at while they have their lattes. The person who called me from the Grammys was a woman and we laughed together about how good-looking Pennario was.

That picture above is one that I like. There is also this one.

Well, there are a million to consider. They called the right person! That is for sure.

The Grammy people are also trying to find videos of Pennario. Lots o' luck, I say. I did tell them of two that I know exist and they are going to go after them. Undoubtedly they have connections I do not so this could help me get my hands on them too.

There was one video that BBC made in England of Pennario playing Leonard Bernstein's "The Age of Anxiety" with Andre Previn conducting and Bernstein doing commentary. Pennario looks great in it. And his performance is really exciting. I just wish he were playing music I liked more. I do not think "The Age of Anxiety" will stand the test of time. Pennario playing Prokofiev's Third, now that I would like to see.

Then there is also a video that PBS made in which Pennario played the music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk and he portrayed Gottschalk, too. He even grew a beard to do that! I have not seen that yet but I would like to.

And that seems to be about it in the video department. Although as Pennario told me, you never know what those people in those little booths are up to. He said he would not be surprised if there was other stuff kicking around.

Well, there is this video! I wonder if they would want this!

Maybe I should call them and ask.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My buddy Barack

Last night I dreamed about Barack Obama. I dreamed I was his buddy. I do not know what I ate lastnight that brought this dream on! We had red cabbage and apples and cornbread and this great wine and parsley sausage from the Hertel Farmers Market. Would that do it?

Usually I dream about Leonard Pennario. Sometimes he is an old man the way he was when I knew him and sometimes he is my age.

Remember when I dreamed about Hitler?

In my dream lastnight Barack Obama was not president yet. He was just campaigning. And true to real life, I was not on his side. But we were buddies! He had a house in Buffalo or a place that he stayed, and I would go over there and we would sit around, by ourselves, for hours. There was no hanky-panky going on between me and Barack Obama, I must stress that. Although there was one time in the dream when he changed his clothes, all the while joking around with me. And I was sitting there drinking coffee looking at him in his underwear and thinking how cute he was.

What about Michelle Obama?

My dream had taken care of her. She was off campaigning in another town. That is a picture above of Michelle Obama campaigning in another town.

I remember rejoicing that Michelle Obama wasn't there because I was enjoying my access. This must have been a reflection of my situation with Leonard Pennario. Many times I have thought how lucky I was that he never got married. You do not want a wife getting in your way. My friend Alenka who wrote that book about the British flying ace Leonard Cheshire ...

... said that Leonard Cheshire's wife was always getting underfoot. You do not want that!

There was one time in my Obama dream when Obama was going to go on Kevin Hardwick's show. Kevin Hardwick is a Canisius College political science professor who has a show on WBEN-AM that Howard listens to called "Hardline with Kevin Hardwick."

I said: "Barack, not that I want you to win anyway, but do you think this is the way you should be prioritizing your time, going on this show? It's just Buffalo."

Obama said that didn't matter, he was looking forward to going on Dr. Hardwick's show.

I said: "Well, as I said, I don't want you to win anyway." And he laughed. We got along well, Barack and me. It would have been nice if I had used my time to change his mind about a few matters like abortion and Gitmo, you know? Those things depress the heck out of me these days. What do you bet those baddies from Guantanamo Bay wind up somewhere near Buffalo? You just know that they will.

But I did not. Instead I am just sitting around thinking: here I am with a celebrity and this celebrity is good-looking and likes me! That is how Americans think. We love celebrity and we get so caught up.

This morning, when I got up, I even missed my buddy Barack!

How silly is that?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Focus, Saul, focus

Today I got a secret message from someone from the music world who knows a thing or two about what we were talking about yesterday. He does not want to be identified but here is a hint: He could be a major, major figure!

Our mystery letter writer says he understands why I giggle when people refer to great musicians by their nicknames. He says it makes him laugh too.

One thing that cracks him up is when people say "Fima" Bronfman. This is the pianist Yefim Bronfman, pictured above playing at Grand Central Station. Bronfman is coming to Buffalo this spring for a recital at the LaSalle Street Metro Rail Station. Oh, excuse me, he will be on the Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series, at Holy Trinity Lutheran. But whatever. I am going to be on the alert for "Fima"-ers.

What about FEMA?

Also, remember when I went to that Tick concert with lounge sensation Guy Boleri? That is a whole other story.

Back to our secret message writer. He tells us also that we will run into people who say Pinky Zukerman when they mean Pinchas Zukerman. They are out there! Here is an up-close-and-personal picture of Pinky Zukerman.

What about Pink?

What about Tuesday Weld? Wasn't Pinky Zukerman married to her?

What about Tuesday Morning at Transitown Plaza? It closed.

What is with me on Mondays? I keep jumping from one thing to another! I have to stop now. This is a week when I have to buckle down.

Because next week I begin a two-week furlough (from the office, don't worry, not from the blog) so I can start to get my book into some kind of shape where I can shop it around and get the business end of this project in order. When people ask me, "Do you have a publisher yet?" I am tired of having to go, "Ummmm..."

A little while ago I took the plunge and called an agent so that is a start. I did not know this agent but a friend of mine knows him so I decided I would take the plunge and call. I did not enjoy that, I mean punching in the number and listening to it ring and wondering if this guy would be able to understand what in the world I was talking about. Plus, we got off on the wrong foot and it did not help that he did not know who Leonard Pennario was. But then things worked out and he ended up talking to me for about an hour.

And the end of the conversation I said, "I didn't expect to be talking with you for so long."

He said: "Neither did I." I was not sure if he was being funny or what.

But whatever. I think what he liked about me was how much I love Leonard Pennario. I hear that is what agents and publishers look for, passion for your project. I have no shortage of that. That is for sure!

The agent and I did not sign on any dotted line but we agreed I would send him some stuff. If I am going to do that this is the time.

"Focus, Saul, focus." That is what the great Shakespearian actor Saul Elkin once told me he says when he is acting at Shakespeare in Delaware Park and looks out and sees all his friends. That is what I tell myself at times like this.

Here is a picture of Saul Elkin as King Lear. He is on the right.

What about Saul who became St. Paul? We celebrated his feast day yesterday.

Oh, dear. This is going to be a long week.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The power and the glory

Rejoice with me! The numbers are in. And among blogs on Facebook devoted to piano, the ranking of the Leonard Pennario blog is ...

No. 1 !!!!!!!

We are the No. 1 piano blog! You are allowed up to three "tags" to identify your blog. Mine has the tags of "music, piano, humor." I put the "humor" in there so people don't get all upset when I kid around. Well, some people will no matter what. But this is my way of hedging against that happening.

Of all the blogs that have "piano" as one of their tags, we are at the absolute top. The blog in second place is the, ahem, Piano Pedagogy Blog out of Michigan State. They have fewer than half the number of readers we have. They are not even close. (How do they resist spelling blog "blogue," like "pedagogue"? Well, reasons like this are why we are at the top and they are not.)

Words cannot express my happiness and optimism. Here I was worried that the world had forgotten who Leonard Pennario was. Apparently the world has not!

According to Facebook, the Leonard Pennario blog leaves the blog of Jeremy Denk...

... and Emanuel Ax ...

... behind in the dust. I am not saying they are not fine pianists. I am just saying.

As far as "music" and "humor" go we are in the top 50, worldwide. That is pretty good too. I rank No. 31 in music and No. 32 in humor, or maybe it is the other way around. Those are competitive categories, too. Music encompasses pop as well as classical.

So thank you, everyone, who has responded to my shameless pleas to join my blog network on Facebook or who has signed up here as a Follower. We boast five followers as of press time today. Well, one of them is me. But that number will grow.

Meanwhile, looking at Emanuel Ax's picture reminds me of something.

Doesn't it crack you up when people are talking to you about a famous musician and they use the person's nickname? Every time someone says "Manny Ax" to me it is hard for me not to start giggling.

"Josh Bell." You get that one a lot, too.

There is this friend of mine, Steve Baker. He used to be in charge of public relations for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and now he is with the Seattle Symphony. See that picture up at the top of today's post? That is Seattle. That is where Steve Baker is now.

I get a big kick out of Steve Baker and he knows it so he will not mind if I tell this story. I have to tell it. I'm sorry.

Once when Steve worked in Buffalo he and I were talking and he said something about "Gerry Schwartz." That is Gerard Schwartz who is the conductor of the Seattle Symphony.

What about St. Gerard's?

Where was I? Oh, yes, Steve, talking about "Gerry" Schwartz. I could not let him get away with that.

"Steve," I interrupted him. "Gerry Schwartz? Gerry?"

"Yes," he said. "Gerry Schwartz said that --"

"Gerry!" I said. "Listen to you, Steve! Gerry Schwartz." And I would not let up. Until finally he started laughing too.

I miss Steve in Buffalo. We had fun.

Maybe I'll look him up on Facebook and get him to join my blog network.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Of mice and men

This is terrible but Howard thinks there might be mice in the bedroom. The other night he heard a rustling coming from his nightstand.

"What's that?" he said.

"I'm sure it's nothing," I said. That is my answer to everything like this. If I am driving and the car starts making a funny noise, my solution is to turn up the Beethoven. That is what I do.

"I heard something," he said.

Then I tried to tell him it was his sleep apnea mask. Howard has this sleep apnea mask he wears and it always making these rustling and puffing sounds. At least I always thought it did. Maybe it was mice I have been hearing! Maybe he is right!

Howard says maybe the mice are in the walls. That makes me remember when I was 16 and I spent a summer in Chautauqua with my cousin Caroline, when I was studying piano there. I can't remember what Caroline was studying. I think she was studying partying. Whereas I was like this little nun. It was a miracle we got along as well as we did.

Anyway, Caroline and I in addition to our respective studies worked as chambermaids at the Maple Inn. It is still there! We slept on the third floor, in this bed under the eaves. Back then everyone always shared beds and no one thought anything about it. And all night long we would hear these mice in the walls, inches from our ears. They would scamper around and you could hear their little paws scrabbling this way and that. And sometimes one would take a tumble, and you would hear it fall down a great distance and then clamber up again.

Here is a picture of the Maple Inn. It is on the left. They do not show you the mice! We got used to having them around.

But just because I got used to them then does not mean I want to get used to them now!

So what I am going to do is clean up the bedroom from top to bottom. It will be tough because the bedroom is a mess with dressers too crammed with stuff and clothes lying around. I have just had no time to clean it up.

When I started writing my book on Leonard Pennario no one told me there would be days like this! I think I am too preoccupied with Pennario's life to look after my own life adequately. I am afraid that is what is happening.

Well, I am not going to let this depress me. Everyone has a mouse story. That is because in Buffalo we have these long winters and old houses. Long winters + old houses = mouse. That is the geometrical truth.

My piano teacher, the eminent pianist Stephen Manes, had the world's best mouse story. That is Stephen pictured at left. I wish I could have found a bigger picture on the Internet but that is all I could find. There are no pictures of him out there. It must be his way of making sure he stays off my blog. Ha, ha! Lots of luck!

Once years ago, I interrupted my performance of Beethoven's Opus 109 to tell Stephen about a mouse problem I was having. He got that funny look people always get when they have a mouse story and are not sure whether to tell it to you. Their sense of humor is struggling with their sense of shame. I know that feeling, believe you me.

But then Stephen spilled. And it was a good story. There had been these mice in his house. They had tried everything to get rid of them but the mice seemed to survive everything. Finally he found out why.

What was happening was, every night, he and his wife would set the table for breakfast. And they would put out their vitamins so they would remember to take them.

And the mice were eating the vitamins!

They were turning into Supermice!

I can't remember how Stephen was ultimately able to solve the problem. I was laughing too hard to absorb the story's ending. But maybe I should ask him.

Then again, maybe the noise in the bedroom was really Howard's sleep apnea machine after all. Yes, I am sure that it was.

And if I find out it isn't, I can always just turn up the Beethoven.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The pajama gallery

My blog buddy Ivan Ilic is coming to visit! He is the concert pianist who lives in Paris and, miraculously, stumbled on my Leonard Pennario blog and, even more miraculously, read it. One morning, remember, when I was still in my pajamas, he called me to talk about Godowsky. It took me a while that morning to wake up to the fact that here I was not even on my second cup of coffee and a pianist I did not know had called me out of the blue. From Bordeaux, France! To talk about Godowsky!

That is Ivan Ilic in the picture above. Since our talk on the phone he has become my Facebook friend and now he is part of Howard's and my life the way our friends here in Buffalo are. He is going to be giving a recital Feb. 19 in Toronto's Glenn Gould Studio. And he and his Toronto manager are going to be coming down to Buffalo and Howard and I are going to go out with them and talk about Godowsky and life.

Here is a picture of the pianist Leopold Godowsky.

Thinking of Ivan Ilic's and my chat about Godowsky leads me to remember other musicians I have talked to in my pajamas. It is an impressive and august list! Here are just a few musicians I have talked to while I was in my pajamas.

1.) Pennario, naturally. He was in his pajamas a lot when I would go over to see him. In fact I inherited his pajamas. I am wearing his bathrobe right now. And often when he called me I would be in my pajamas so that counts too. When I was in my pajamas I would tell him. We had a kind of joke about that.

It is wonderful to look at pictures of the incomparable Leonard Pennario and here is one I could look at all day.

2.) Gil Shaham, the violinist. I had to call him not long ago at my job at The Buffalo News and his publicist had set us up to talk at the unholy hour of 5 p.m. Who in the world can talk at 5 p.m.? You're tired, you're hungry, you're crabby, you are thinking about that glass of Bordeaux. I could not deal with that time and as it turned out Gil -- I started out Mr. Shaham-ing him but he let me call him Gil -- could not handle it either. He and his wife were having some kind of problem with the babysitter canceling, something like that.

So I said, "Gil ... how about we talk later?"

He said: "Oh, could we? Would you mind?"

So we made plans to talk at the far more decent hour of 10 p.m. By that time I had had a glass of wine and I was, you guessed it, in my pajamas! Although unlike with Pennario, I did not tell Gil Shaham that.

Here is a picture of Gil Shaham. You can see he is a laid-back kind of guy.

3.) Seymour Lipkin. I mentioned him the other day. He had been at Tanglewood the same summer as Pennario which is why I called him. He had been studying conducting then and had conducted Pennario in the Prokofiev Third. Pennario was 25. That must have been something and judging from the clippings I have dug up, it was. Anyway, Mr. Lipkin was a delight to talk to. And let me tell you, I really loved my life, sitting there in my pajamas on a Saturday morning telling Seymour Lipkin how I admired his Beethoven. All these unexpected pleasures have come out of this book.

Here is a a sweet picture of Seymour Lipkin who was so nice to me.

4.) Jimmy McGriff, the great jazz organist. Yes, one jazz musician does make it onto this list! I talked to him a long time ago for the Niagara Gazette. I worked nights back then on the city copy desk and I was always out all night anyway and I had totally forgotten I had this interview to do.

On the appointed morning I awoke and that was when it dawned on me. "Jimmy McGriff!!" I gasped out loud. Back then I lived by myself in this huge turn-of-the-last-century apartment on West Delavan Avenue and I slept on this futon and when I remembered Jimmy McGriff I literally rolled off the futon onto the floor. The phone was right there on the floor so before I even had my eyes open, while I was still wrapped in my quilt and IN MY PAJAMAS, I called Jimmy McGriff. I wonder if I still have that story around anywhere. I would love to see how it turned out.

Here is a picture of the great Mr. McGriff.

What about Dr. Lonnie Smith?

He looks as if he is in his pajamas!

Dr. Lonnie Smith is another great jazz organist and he is from Niagara Falls. I had the privilege of interviewing him a couple of times but I do not remember that either time was in my pajamas.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

A toast to a legend

We went to the Hyatt lastnight to celebrate the immortal lounge pianist Jackie Jocko's birthday. Jocko turned 80! The above picture shows Howard and me with Jocko. Wow, my braces! I just cannot handle looking at pictures of myself these days. If I had known I was going to sacrifice my looks for two whole years I might have thought twice about getting them. Well, there is no going back.

Besides which, when my book on Leonard Pennario is done and I go on my book tour, I will look like a supermodel. That is one benefit.

Mark Goldman was at the party lastnight too. Note to out-of-towners: Mark Goldman is an important person around here because he single-handedly brought about the resurgence of Chippewa Street. When I was in high school Chippewa Street was a red-light district. At Sacred Heart, the all-girls school I went to, your friends would draw pictures in your yearbook of you on Chippewa Street, to give a prediction of your future. I have several pictures my friends drew in my yearbooks of me wearing a short skirt and high heels and there would be a street sign saying "Chippewa Street."

And you know what, that predictions came true! Because shortly thereafter, Mark Goldman opened the Calumet Arts Cafe on Chippewa Street and that led the way to it becoming a party district. So yes, there I was, in my short skirt and high heels! But it was not the same thing. Admittedly the street is not what Mark Goldman imagined, which was a street filled with interesting arts and music. It is just a college-partying street. But still, an improvement.

To give you an idea of present-day Chippewa Street, here I give you Howard and our friend Ari Silverstein on Chippewa Street a couple of years ago.

Like Chippewa Street, Howard has changed his look somewhat. Here are Howard and Mark Goldman lastnight at Jocko's birthday party. They look like brothers, with their glasses.

Chanteuse Ruth Killeen serenaded Jocko on the ukelele.

Here I am enjoying the company of Dick and Decoda. Decoda is at left and Dick is at center.

Ha, ha! That reminds me of something. When we were leaving we are all putting on our coats which takes a while these days. I have a hat and boots and a scarf that you pull down over your head. Every time I dress to go outside I look like one of the Knights Templar.

And while I'm getting into all these layers, I keep feeling something brushing against my rear. What in the world? I started sort of looking over my shoulder but I didn't see anything. It kept going and finally I turned around fast and I found what it was. It was Decoda, in this outrageous long fur coat, dusting me with this hilarious feather duster from the Hyatt coat closet! I laughed about that all the way home.

I am easily amused!

But, as we say in Buffalo, whatever gets you through the winter.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I have a dream

It would not be the morning without my taking a solemn vow that today is the day I get some exercise. So here goes:

Today is the day I get some exercise!

It has been something like a week. I am turning into a schuft! And lastnight I made pork roast and ate it. Including the fat because I am German and I cannot help it. I will have to find out what "Oink" is in German because that is what I am saying today.

And as usual I start my day behind the eight ball.

At midnight lastnight I was still on the phone with the mysterious Mr. Idaho. He is the pianist in Idaho I have become friends with as a result of writing my book about Leonard Pennario.

Mr. Idaho and I have gotten to the point where we speak freely.

"Horowitz was not half the artist that Pennario was," he said once. That is the spirit! Plus it is the truth. I am sorry, but it is.

Mr. Idaho asked for my address because he wants to send me a video of him performing. He told me my address was like something out of a movie. Note to out-of-towners: In Buffalo even our normal addresses sound like something out of a movie. Life here is like that.

I am anxious to see a video of Mr. Idaho performing because I would like to know what he looks like. When I refer to him as the mysterious Mr. Idaho I am not kidding. There is something about him I do not have a handle on. I would like to see what he looks like and one day I would like to meet him, too. Perhaps one day Howard and I will journey to Idaho and we will meet with Mr. Idaho and his girlfriend in front of a roaring fire drinking goblets of red wine. That is what I imagine. I have never been to Idaho but I think that is what people do there.

This all makes me think of a daydream I have.

At Pennario's funeral it was odd, seeing people come to life whom I had known only as names. Now I imagine having a convention of all the people I have talked to for my book. I imagine us all meeting each other, talking about this great artist who drew us together. It would be a surreal occasion!

Maybe we could gather at Big Blue. The inside of the place is not up to it but the terrace is not too bad. The terrace of Big Blue is painted bright orange and red. It has a kind of Spanish look. Once in the summer I had a group of reporters from work over for a happy hour on the terrace. We have actually entertained there.

Photo taken by our fallen "502" soldier, Jay.

So that is where we could convene: Mr. Idaho, Pennario's old flame Diane, and Diane's sister Eleana, when she gets back from Antarctica. And we would also have to have beautiful Doris who would flirt with Pennario backstage and once sat all night on Frank Sinatra's lap. And Chuck and Susan from Honolulu, and Pennario's cousin Liz, another person with whom I have long, late-night conversations. And the great cellist Lynn Harrell. And you know who else I would like to invite? The pianist Seymour Lipkin. I had a great conversation with him one Saturday morning when I was in my pajamas drinking coffee. Seymour Lipkin's picture was with Pennario's and 10 other pianists on the cover of the November 1958 Steinway News. They were the only ones in formal white tie.

That is a picture of Byron Janis up above. He was on that cover and he is not wearing white tie! What is up with that?

What about Byron Brown?

Byron Brown could be at the party, too. Seeing that City Hall is right across the street from Big Blue we would be happy to have him.

Anyway, all of us, musicians and non-musicians, old and young, Jew and gentile, gay and straight, would all mix and mingle and enjoy finding out what each other looked like. And we would celebrate this marvelous man, this miracle of nature named Leonard Pennario, who was the center of so much. There would be a rightness about it, all of us gathered in the town of his birth.

I am looking forward to that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In a jam

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly to LaSalle Avenue. Lastnight I was at my friend Gary's house till 2 a.m.! He had the jam session to end all jam sessions. Even I participated. I played two Chopin etudes and a Chopin waltz.

My friend Phil Neuhaus, the trumpet player, asked me if I practiced every day.

"Yes," I said, beaming.

Because I do! I have practiced 10 minutes a day for three days. You ask me if I practice every day, the answer is yes!

Had Phil asked me that question last week, the answer would have been quite different. Now, the situation being what it is, I am like Leonard Pennario. I practice. And lastnight, I got through my three pieces, from memory, with no problem. One thing that helped was, people were talking. I am not only like Leonard Pennario, I am like Eric Satie. Satie liked people to talk while he was playing and so do I.

Howard played drums lastnight the way he did the night before. Here is a picture of Howard on drums and our friend George Caldwell sitting down at the piano. You have to have a glass of red wine in hand when you ascend to the piano bench. That is the rule at our jam sessions.

Now we give you George on drums and Gary on piano.

Here is our friend Lou on congas. Lou was also at Dick and Decoda's party on Sunday. He helped me find the bathroom. We had to walk through the whole house looking for it and it took about an hour.

Lou brought along his Schnauzer, Uncle Lou.

Here is Guy on piano, Peggy singing, Howard on drums and Phil playing his horn.

Gary Marino at the piano.

Below is George and his wife, Connie. They got married last year. Their first date was at our house! It is true. Howard and I had a jam session at our house every Monday for about five years and Connie and George went there on their first date. He was in town playing piano for "Cooking at the Cookery," a great show about Alberta Hunter.

Here is a picture of Alberta Hunter.

Click here to hear my favorite Alberta Hunter recording. This is off the record "Amtrak Blues." I own that record and I believe I have listened to that track 500 times.

Back to our jam session lastnight. Our friend Elijah, on the stairs, listened rapturously to Howard's artistry.

On the way home lastnight it looked like Mars.

What a night! It is lucky for my physical and mental wherewithal that today I have no partying to do.

Tonight, I can work on my book.

And, for 10 minutes, practice my Chopin.