Saturday, February 28, 2009

Leonard Pennario/24 CHOPIN Preludes 1/4

These are the first in the book of Chopin preludes, recorded by Leonard Pennario for Capitol Records. They are out of print now.

"Cliffs" notes ... and notes ... and notes ...

You would not believe this guy I talked to the other night. You would not believe what he does. He listens to very complicated and virtuosic piano pieces. Then he figures out exactly what the pianist was playing and he writes every single note down.


And I cannot even keep my credit cards straight!

This unusual man I talked to, his name is Christian Jensen and he lives in Minnesota. Where else would someone like that live? Minnesota is like Buffalo. You have long winters in which to devote yourself to arcane projects. I choose to probe the life of Leonard Pennario. Mr. Jensen transcribes pieces by piano titans including Art Tatum, Vladimir Horowitz and, of course, Pennario, which is why I wound up on the phone with him. Lounge sensation Guy Boleri utilizes the long winter to build paper castles. Sometime we have to run a picture of one of Guy's castles! That is a whole other story.

I am sure it took Mr. Jensen a whole winter to transcribe Pennario's "Midnight on the Cliffs," which is what he miraculously did. It is next to impossible to transcribe! Pennario himself could not write it down. He could not believe that Mr. Jensen was even attempting it.

I cannot find Pennario's solo-piano "Midnight" on YouTube but here is the orchestral version. It is not anywhere near as intricate as the solo piano version. Keep that in mind!

It says how smart Mr. Jensen is that he pulled off the transcription. "Midnight on the Cliffs" was kind of like his Mount Everest but he tackled it and triumphed. That is the first page of it up above. Read it and weep! There are 17 pages total.

Mr. Jensen did such a good job that Donald Manildi, the head of the International Piano Archives, played his transcription on a mind-blowing CD called "Pianists as Composers." That is Donald Manildi's CD pictured at left. He includes Pennario, Horowitz, Gould, Rosenthal, Cortot, Cherkassky, etc. Just looking at the cover can make you dizzy.

Donald Manildi was the one who got me in touch with Mr. Jensen for which I definitely owe him a beer. Note to out-of-towners: This is how we settle our debts in Buffalo. We buy people beers. They are currency here!

Back to Mr. Jensen, the miracle worker. I took the liberty of calling him "Chris" because that is how he graciously signed his emails. And here is what I loved about our conversation. Early on, when I emailed him trying to arrange a time to talk to him, he told me he was not a phone person. Piously, I told him truthfully that I am not a phone person either.

So he agreed to talk to me on Thursday, 8 p.m. my time. With which, after I had been out to dinner and had two glasses of wine, I sat down and called.

Two hours later...

I am not kidding, it was almost 10 p.m. when I finally let this guy go!


My little secret, what I had not let on to beforehand, is that normally I am not a phone person. When I am talking about Leonard Pennario I am so a phone person!

I guess now I owe Chris a beer, too.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Big Lewandowski

This is embarrassing to admit but at the moment I, um, have no credit card.

Remember my Macy's card, the problems I had with it? Well, what happened was that finally I lost it. The card, I mean. Not my wits! But it was a close contest there for a while. The last purchase I made with the card -- it is documented -- was at the Broadway Market, at Lewandowski Produce. I bought Howard a big jar of honey which is why I trotted out my credit card. It was basswood honey! It is delicious I have to say.

I thought back and I remembered joking around with the Lewandowski folks as I signed my receipt, and struggling with my bags and my jar of honey, and I thought: OK, maybe I dropped my card, or something?

Above is a file photo I took on that fateful day. It is not strictly of Lewandowski's but it gives out-of-town Leonard Pennario fans an idea of the Broadway Market where I shop all the time.

About three days after that trip was when I realized my card was missing. So I decided to call Lewandowski's and ask them if they have seen it. Now this is funny. I find Lewandowski and Associates in the phone book and I call. And this woman answers. And I go through this big polite and nice spiel about how I was at Lewandowski's in the Broadway Market etc., and I may have left my credit card there.

Then this woman says in this stuck-up vanilla voice: "I have no idea what you are talking about."

I said, "Well, I was at Lewandowski's in the Broadway Market and ..."

She said, "Your story makes no sense to me."

A thought struck me. "Is this Lewandowski's in the Broadway Market?"

She said reprovingly: "No, we are a law office."

Ha, ha! It took her that long to articulate that! She could not just say, "I'm sorry, you have the wrong Lewandowski."

What about Senior Law Judge David Lewandowski? His offices are in the Statler.

What about Wanda Landowska?

The long and short of this mess was that I could not find Lewandowski in the Broadway Market in the phone book. And I tried calling the Broadway Market office but they were closed, naturally. After that I thought of calling the butcher Jim Malczewski and asking him to walk over and ask the folks at Lewandowski if they had seen my credit card.

But then I thought, you know what, it won't be there.

Then I thought: I am sick of that credit card anyway. This is God telling me to get rid of my Macy's card the way Leonard Pennario got rid of his. I remember congratulating Pennario on having junked his Macy's Visa card. I told him I was going to do the same thing.

So I finally did. I called that Macy's card system and there it was, all this crud that had irritated me -- and Pennario -- in the past. The crummy hold music they play at you. The robot telling you: "OK." The recorded barrage of Spanish you have to sit through. I was sitting there smiling, thinking: This is the last time I have to hear this!

Naturally when they found I wanted to cancel my card they tried to talk me out of it.

"We will give you half off your next purchase at Macy's if you keep your card," the woman told me.

I said: "I never go into that store."

Offer me half off my next purchase at St Vincent de Paul's and maybe we can talk! But they did not.

So now, no credit card.

"How freeing!" Howard says. But it is disorienting. I have not been without a credit card since I was in my 20s and my brother George and I went to California to hear the Grateful Dead and ran out of money and our leftist aunt in Santa Rosa told us, "In Ronald Reagan's America you need a credit card."

That is how long it has been!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday, Schmash Wednesday

It is going to be one of those Lents. I can already tell. Last night I was kneeling up in the front of the church waiting for my ashes and all of a sudden the thought struck me:

What about my purse in the pew? Remember that GPS device Howard is testing? I had stupidly left it in my purse when I went into church.

What if the device started talking, while it was in the pew? While the church was silent except for the priest murmuring as he handed out the ashes? What would I do?

There is a button on the thing you can push if it starts talking but No. 1, I did not know where it was, because it had never really mattered before now if the thing started to talk, and No. 2, it was back in the pew and I could not get at it.

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris. That is what the priest says when he gives you your ashes. It means: "Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." It is a dark and beautiful line. Except I was not thinking about it! Here I was supposed to be meditating on my own mortality and all I was thinking was that GPS device.

And that was not the end, that was just the beginning, if I may yet again quote Byron Brown...

... which I may. I have not given quoting Byron Brown up for Lent.

Without going into detail, I had had a long, long, looong day. On my way to Mass, which was at 7:30 at night, I had had to listen to Leonard Pennario playing Rachmaninoff, just to get my head back on. And by the time I got home, the last thing I was in the mood for was a Spartan Ash Wednesday meal. You know how on Ash Wednesday that have this complicated rule about you can have two meals but they cannot equal one meal, something like that.

I thought: There is no harm in it, is there, if I fix myself a nice dinner?

I will not overdo things, I thought. I had this use-it-or-lose-it eggplant. Surely no food is more pious than eggplant. Just the name!

Remember Howard and the eggplant?

Anyway, thinking creatively yesterday, I decided I could cook up this eggplant and have it with this pasta I had. And I had gotten some frozen catfish at Budwey's when I was there testing my I-Pod.

Then I took it into my head to roast the eggplant. Along with red bell peppers. And onions. If there is one thing I love it is roasted onions. No meat, right? What was the harm? When they came out of the oven half an hour later I topped them with feta cheese. Perfect! Next I needed some red wine.

And now I am dining as if I am at Fanny's. I just do not know how to cut back!

Where do I begin?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Life is beautiful

Remember my I-Pod? I tested its limits yesterday by taking it into the field. I went with it to Budwey's and Dollar General.

"But do you really want to be walking around in your own little world?" That is what everyone always asks.

The answer is, yes, I do!!

Floating through Budwey's with Mendelssohn in my ears, I thought: I love this! Sure, my shopping took longer than usual because I was in this happy haze and also I was not used to this I-Pod. But I am telling you, this is the way to go!

Screaming kids, swearing parents, blotted out!

I was even smiling at the checkout! Usually by then I have turned into a zoo animal.

Now, off to Dollar General. This was a bigger test. Dollar General is real schuft territory and I have to say, I had to crank the volume because it was a close contest, my songs by Manuel de Falla versus the hard rock that was just blasting at us out of this speaker by the paper towels. This is the Dollar General at Hertel and Colvin and it is unbelievable. It is like being at the Icon!

Ha, ha! Has anyone else ever gone looking on Google Images for pictures of Dollar General? It is fun! Here is a Dollar General in Blossburg, Pa.

And here is one in Muldraugh, Ky.

I forget where this one is but it is a dandy DG.

What about Deutsche Grammophon?

Look at Horowitz at home. Mr. Excitement!

Where was I?

Oh, right, Dollar General. Waiting in the long checkout line, another pleasure of shopping there, I got the biggest treat. It is funny, I still am not quite sure what is on my I-Pod. As I stood there, idly eying the Word Search books, the ear buds were briefly silent. What's next, I wondered.

And what should come on but the slow movement of Mozart's "Coronation" Concerto. Played by Leonard Pennario. Calm and transcendent. That is a word Pennario and I both loved, transcendent. We talked about that.

I don't know how my I-Pod knew enough to grab that up, and sure, I would have liked the first movement before the second, but so what. Click on that link and you can see what this music does. It is not played by Pennario there unfortunately but you still get the idea.

It transcends everything!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Me and my big mouth

Just now I was looking out at this beautiful bright day and there is a funny shadow on the neighbor's roof. What is that? I wondered.

It turns out it is the shadow of the smoke coming out of the chimney of the house next door!

That is the kind of thing I will miss when winter ends.

I will miss that snowy view out my window, pictured above. Also classic quotes like the one I just heard on the radio: a cheery voice announcing: "It's 11 degrees, feels like minus one." Ha, ha!

Everyone else is dying to see winter end. But I missed last winter when I was with Leonard Pennario and I will miss this winter, too, when it ends. I love the brightness of the snow and I love the quiet. You still get boom cars, because this is Buffalo where schuft behavior like that is encouraged. But you do not get endless games of Marco Polo coming from down the block. You do not get people yelling, "OMIGOD YOUR BUTT IS HANGING OUT!"

Remember that? I do not like to use the word butt in this blog but comes a time. It is therapeutic to remember incidents like that so we do not wish away half the year waiting for summer.

Also in summer I miss the cooking. I love to cook in winter and bake bread which I have already done this morning. I had that dough rising at 7 a.m.!

Food reminds me: I have big news.

This happened the other day. I was at Dash Market on Hertel buying something heavy or other in accordance with my winter eating ways. I was at the deli counter and I was yakking with the fish guy. You know how we Buffalonians are. We will talk!

And this woman next to me says, "Excuse me, have you ever heard of Laura Ingraham?"

Which, I love Laura Ingraham. Conservative, Catholic convert, what is not to love. Howard watches her and listens to her all the time. So I beam at this woman and I say sure, sure I have.

She says, "Your voice sounds just like her."

That delighted me! I said, "Thank you!" I said, "I love Laura Ingraham. She is so great!" It is not wise to express opinions like this in Buffalo but comes a time.

I got home and lost no time in putting this woman's opinion up as an endorsement on my blog. "Your voice sounds just like Laura Ingraham's." That is up permanently now, in the right-hand column with all the other endorsements.

There is only one thing better than being told that I sound just like Laura Ingraham.

I would like to be told I look like her!

No one has told me that yet.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Shuffle off to Buffalo

I know this is amazing, but just now this big electronic being went walking down Parkside Avenue, to Hertel and back.

That electronic thing was me, carrying my purse!

You would not believe how wired I was. I had my cell phone. My digital camera. And a GPS device that Howard was making me test. The GPS thing sits in my purse and every once in a while it vibrates and sometimes it talks. When it talks you have to just not act too embarrassed and hope it will stop. Howard has it set on low volume so it is not too bad.

In addition to all that equipment I had with me my new I-Pod Shuffle that I wrestled to the ground today with the help of an hourlong conversation with Apple tech support. That is a picture of a Shuffle up above. It doubles as a barrette! When it warms up here in Buffalo and I no longer have to wear a big woolen hat, that is how I am going to wear it.

The guy I talked to at Apple, his name was Phil and several times during our conversation I think he was trying not to cry. I kept talking about my brother George who was the one who gave me the I-Pod.

"Do you know the purchase date of your I-Pod?" Phil asked me for starters.

"I do not," I said. "My brother George gave it to me."

"You can't load podcasts on an I-Pod Shuffle," Phil tried to tell me when I wanted to know how to do that.

"Oh, but you can," I said. "My brother George has done it."

George's I-Pod Shuffle is just like mine only it is pink. He gets compliments from people all the time marveling that he is manly enough to run around with a hot pink I-Pod. Here is a picture of all the different Shuffle colors so you can see how pink the pink one is. Mine, alas, is simply silver.

One thing I am noticing is that people who have the big Apple things, like I-Phones and full-size I-Pods, get tremendously bothered when someone has simply a Shuffle. But that is how we want it. These Shuffles are great. They are so cheap that if you lose them so what and if they fall in the john so what.

If someone puts a gun to me and demands my I-Pod Shuffle, no problem, I just hand it over!

The only problem was figuring out how to put music on to the Shuffle. It lived up to its name, I will say that! The first thing it did without me telling it to do that was to grab up Leonard Pennario's performance of Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," which it somehow located on my laptop, and shuffle all the variations wildly.

Then it presented the piece in this new form, interspersed with a group of monks singing various sections of the Gregorian chant Mass of the Angels. It found that on my laptop, too, and instinctively grabbed it. There was one other thing it mixed in too, and that was Miklos Rozsa's music from "Ivanhoe." For the life of me I do not know where that came from.

What a wild and woolly work of art that was when my Shuffle was through shuffling! No wonder Apple Phil was on the verge of tears.

When Phil and I had finally disciplined the Shuffle and calmed it down I had it playing me a Mozart divertimento. That is a word I love, divertimento. It means something to divert you.

I needed that today!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Angelina Jolie stole my hat

I was late for Mass today because Angelina Jolie stole my hat.

That is my Mass-going hat she is wearing in the picture above! That is the picture you always seeing these days because Angelina Jolie is up for some kind of Oscar. I forget which one. Last year, I knew all about the Oscars because Leonard Pennario used to go with me to the movies all the time. But this year, I am lost.

Back to Angelina Jolie's hat. I have the exact same hat and I wear it to church all the time because we are sort of supposed to wear something on our heads (it is no big deal if you don't, but I enjoy fussing over this kind of thing). I like this hat in particular because it does not get too hot and also it is kind of different. Well, it was, anyway. Now it is everywhere.

This morning I made the mistake of telling Howard that Angelina Jolie's hat looked just like mine. So he was taking pictures of me in my Mass-going hat so I could show everyone in Blog-O-Land that it was true, she copied it.

Mary before realizing that she did not allow time for losing her car keys.

Howard took a few pictures of me until I got it exactly right, with my lips puckered to look like Jolie's. It was hard to do it just so and I kept laughing.

Then we took pictures of Howard in my Mass-going hat. And we had to take a few of those too while he got his lips just right.

Then it was time for me to put my hat back on and go to Mass. And disaster struck! First it took me five minutes to find my missal and then I could not find my keys. I ransacked my purse. No idea! Combed through the junk in the dining room. No luck!

How do I live in the squalor I do??

Howard swung into action and started taking my extra set of car keys off his key ring. He does not go to Mass with me but surely he is receiving graces in the world to come for helping me, over and over, on my mad dash there. Once when I got stuck at the end of the driveway he dug me out. He told me: "You will get to Mass if I have to drive you there myself."

Howard looking for The Wife's car keys.

Did I find a good guy or what? You know how sometimes people get sainted for little things? One day I can imagine a card reading: "St. Howard Goldman. Helped His Wife Get To Mass."

Perhaps my Crown Vic can get sainted too. I floored it on the 190. I was going about 80 and the funny thing was, all the other drivers were getting out of my way. How polite they are, I thought. They must figure I am in a hurry to get to church. Then I remembered: No, they think I'm a police car! That is what always happens.

I thought: If this is not the dumbest thing, I am late for Mass because I was taking pictures of myself trying to look like Angelina Jolie. I got there almost on time but I missed the Asperges which is one of my favorite parts of the Mass. It serves me right. Mistakes were made as Richard Nixon said.

Now that I am obsessed with looking like Angelina Jolie, am I going to start wanting to have octuplets?

Is that what's next?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Frank talk

Yesterday I called conductor and movie music biggie Frank Collura, another great musician from Buffalo, to talk to him about Leonard Pennario.

When I told my mom I talked with Mr. Collura she said, "What a beautiful name."

And it is! Collura and Pennario are both very beautiful Italian names. Speaking of which, remember my friend Joey Giambra from a few weeks ago? He is the one who set me up with Frank Collura. Listen to me! It is as if I live in Milan.

Here is what I got a kick out of about my chat with Frank Collura. He told me a tremendous story that I completely ate up about once in Santa Barbara when he and Pennario teamed up to perform the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3. And he was amazed by the sheer power of Pennario's playing. That is Santa Barbara in the picture above. That is where Collura and Pennario, two great artists from Buffalo's West Side, played the daylights out of the Prokofiev Third.

Now here is what killed me. Frank Collura wound up his story and then he said: "So that is all I have to tell you. That is the one story I wanted to share."

As if I was going to say goodbye and hang up!

Let me tell you, I actually enjoyed that moment.

If there is one thing I love it is when people think they can tell me one five-minute story about Leonard Pennario and after that I am going to go away. Ha, ha! Pennario himself tried that on me the first time I called him from Buffalo. And we all know what happened after that.

So I sat on the phone with Frank Collura, just smiling, knowing what was ahead. As Mayor Byron Brown ...

... would put it, in his methodical, do-not-argue-with-me tones: "This is not the end. This is just the beginning."

Mayor Brown said that once and Howard and I loved it and never forgot it.

With which, Frank Collura and I went on to discuss many aspects of Leonard Pennario. Frank is a brilliant man and had many fascinating thoughts not only on Pennario but on the music business and how it works. We bounced a lot of things around. Including, of course, Buffalo. He knows the priest from my church!

That is a picture of the priest from my church, Father Secondo Casarotto. Now I really do sound as if I am from Milan! That is where Father Secondo is from.

When I finally let Frank Collura go I told him that with his permission I was going to hang on to his phone number and maybe call him back sometime. There is no fighting that either. Sometimes I just get this craving to talk to someone about Leonard Pennario and then, who knows, I might give Frank Collura a call.

I have not been calling people much for the last couple of weeks because I have been putting the book together, trying to structure it and get it ready to shop around. But now I do fancy I will start to return to the phone.

It just felt too good yesterday to be back in the saddle.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A shot in the dark

Last night Howard and I sat up in bed sharing a shot of Southern Comfort (see ad, above) and watching the Pope reprimand Nancy Pelosi. Ha, ha! The story about her and the Pope was on Fox News, Bill O'Reilly. They flashed the headline: "Catholic Scolding."

I am sorry but Nancy Pelosi and her clunky beads get on my nerves. I am not being snide here. Probably I and my clunky beads get on her nerves, too, who knows.

I do love my beads which cost me $1 at a garage sale. Well, they were supposed to be a dollar. I talked them down to 75 cents.

What about the Venerable Bede?

See, you get me onto religion and this is what happens.

The best part of the Fox coverage of the Pope and Pelosi came when they got a priest on the show who had been observing their meeting closely. The priest said that usually, when you have an audience with the Pope, immediately afterwards there are pictures of you and His Holiness on the Internet for everyone to see.

But after the Pope's meeting with Pelosi, there were no pictures!

"That is very unusual," the priest said. He concluded that the Pope did not want to give Nancy Pelosi the political advantage of having pictures of herself with the Pope that she could point to.

At least I think that was his conclusion. I hate to admit this but my mind was hurtling in a completely different direction.

When you meet the Pope, you get your picture with him splashed up on the Internet? I did not know that! That is what I was thinking about.

I want my picture on the Internet with the Pope!

Me, me, me!!

And in the picture, just so everyone is extra impressed, I want them to be holding his robes like this.

I have wanted to meet the Pope anyway. I would like to talk with him about Leonard Pennario. You have to figure the Pope knows who Pennario is. He has to! Because the Pope plays the piano and he is the same age as Pennario and Pennario played a lot in the great concert halls in Europe. He played a lot particularly in Germany and loved the audiences there. The Pope was probably in that audience. You just have to figure.

That gives a new meaning to the phrase: "An audience with the Pope."

Where am I going with this?

Oh, my new ambition to get my picture taken with Pope Benedict. I drifted off to sleep thinking that's funny, I never thought I would share any objective with Nancy Pelosi, but now I find that I do. Both of us want our pictures taken with the Pope for all the world to see.

At last, common ground!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The steer's rear, and other mysteries

This morning, checking my email, this cracked me up: "Recipes for Breakfast Casseroles, French Toast and Hashes."

"Hash" is just one of those words you never see in the plural. But why not? I found myself wondering that this morning. You cannot have enough hash. That is for sure. Why not have more than one?

What about the hash from Wacky Packages?

Ha, ha! I found that on the Internet and could not believe it. There is a whole site devoted to Wacky Packages, another thing that dates to my earliest days. That should not surprise me but it does.

It has been a long time since we last weighed in on the weird ways of cooking magazines. I was just thinking the other day, it is getting to be that time of year when it is best to stay away from them. That is because they all jump the gun on spring and summer and start behaving right away as if you have fresh tomatoes and basil. Whereas here in Buffalo and in a lot of other towns too we will not see those things until August. And not only that, your body tells you when it is time for them. It is not time for them yet!

That is why these magazines drive me crazy. Of course I read them anyway but still.

Here are other things that baffle me.

1.) Fennel. Recipes are always calling for this veggie, which, is it grown at all around here? I never hear of anyone growing it in the yard and I have never seen it at the Clinton-Bailey Market. Also, I like fennel but I do not see what the big deal about it is, I have to say that.

2.) Where are these Eat Local folks when it comes to cheese? Because all we ever see are recipes for Parmesan and Romano and feta. Especially Parmesan. It is the Leonard Pennario of cheeses. The greatest! That is what I read last night. And I am thinking, fine, maybe it is. But what about our local cheddars and Swisses? I would like more ideas on how to use them.

3.) Also along the lines of constantly calling for things on the other end of the world, this business about pine nuts. They are what, $150 a pound? Probably they are cheap in Sicily where they fall from trees, or something. But quit asking me to buy them, OK?

What about walnuts? That is what we have around here.

I am having fun with this! What's next?

4.) Please no more cutesy stories about how to cook with your husband/partner/whoever. I do not want to share the kitchen, oh no no no no no no no.

Here is a picture of me in the kitchen when I am being encroached upon.

5.) You can carry on about hard times all you want, we will still be told to use saffron and buy pre-cut vegetables at the salad bar to save time.

6.) Does anyone else froth at the mouth when told "best-quality"? As in "One pint best-quality ice cream." You know what, I know what I can afford, don't get all elitist on me, OK?

7.) Also, you know what, I will use Shur-Fine and it will still be good. I get that phrase "you know what" from my friend Gary. He says that all the time.

8.) Flank steak! Still mythical! It was not at Lupus Meats at the Broadway Market last week and if it is not there it is nowhere.

9.) Why isn't it? I picture this slice of meat off the steer's rear, and this piece, this one particular piece, gets put in a separate pile and sent everywhere in the country but here. Why?

10.) This is a big one!! Doesn't it drive you nuts when cookbooks or cooking mags assume that you have been eating slop your whole life, and they are here to save you? "Pot roast is always too dry --" "Banish all thoughts of gluey oatmeal ..."

I will just have to write my own cookbook. Toss it up on Booksurge or something.

Perhaps that will be my next project!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Squat 'n squeeze

Ay! My jeans are tight on me again. These are these Gap jeans that I may have mentioned. This despite passing up the cookies Eddie tried to stuff into my mouth at the Broadway Market. And eating only one of the chocolates that arrived with my St. Valentine's Day flowers.

What with my braces it was quite an achievement, eating that chocolate. I had to cut it up in tiny pieces with a steak knife. Don't worry, I got through it. Where there's a will, there's a way! But now I am thinking maybe I should not have done that.

Notice how old-time actresses did not have to have toned arms? Look at Rita Hayworth, above. She looks great but you are not allowed to run around any more with soft arms like that.

You have to have arms like Esther Williams.

But you cannot have thighs like Esther Williams!

Leonard Pennario's old flame Liz Taylor, this is a picture of her that is beautiful. It is a snapshot of her greeting him when he arrived for one of their dates!

But you are not allowed any more to have that abdomen thing going. She never had to go to Abs 'n Stretch at the Buffalo Athletic Club where they invite you to test the limits of your abs.

Lucky us, having been born in a different day 'n age! Because of that I have to go on a Buddhist fast, eating nothing but roots 'n dirt.

Alas 'n alack!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spring chicken

Something terrible has happened: Howard and I have both ended up with Apple products.

There is this Apple I-Pod that my brother George picked up for $10 from someone selling it on CraigsList. He bought a better one for $20 so he passed the $10 one on to me. This thing measures one inch by one inch. How do you not lose it? That is the big question. Howard says I should Scotch tape it to the side of a car battery. That way we would not only be able to keep track of it but it would hide the offensive Apple logo.

Still it would not solve the problem of Howard's I-Phone. That has Apple written all over it. The shame! Lastnight Howard even took his I-Phone to bed with him. You can read the wild and woolly story of what subsequently happened here.

But now, on to brighter topics.

This morning I heard the spring birds! They are here!

Not only that, but lastnight I had a dream about buying herbs, a whole bunch of herbs, in a pot, to grow on the windowsill. Perhaps I will do just that! Well, probably not. I never get my act together. But I can dream.

Here is something else that is springlike. Yesterday after I went to church and lit my usual candle for Leonard Pennario, Jane and Gary and I went to Betty's where they have flowers on the tables and the sun splashed in on us drinking our Poinsettias. That is a great brunch drink they make with cranberry juice and Champagne.

That is a picture above of a flower on the table at Betty's. I wish I had taken a picture of us waiting in the waiting room for a table! Because we were there for about an hour.

A few more spring thoughts before I reluctantly leave you little chickadees and get back to work. One thing I like about spring is how in Buffalo it is like being back in the Middle Ages. Everyone, religious or not, marks the year according to ancient feasts: St. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, St. Joseph's Day, Easter.

Not to mention Dyngus Day! Last week at the Three Deuces Jane and Eddie and I found ourselves talking about Dyngus Day. And here is something funny: We were talking where the parties would be and then we segued on to diets we were going on and exercise programs we were beginning.

Suddenly it hit me. "Can you believe this?" I said. "We are all knocking ourselves out so we can look our best for Dyngus Day!" It was true!

I can't stop laughing about that.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Rose Bowl

Yesterday to my astonishment Howard sent me roses. This is very abnormal! It is so abnormal that, and I am not kidding here, when he was telling me the UPS guy was going to show up and I should answer the door blah blah blah, it went in one ear and out the other. I did think it was odd that Howard was receiving a package here instead of at his business address, but so what, maybe it was something he needed right now.

Then Howard goes to run some errand and eventually the doorbell rings. And I thought: Darn, here is the UPS man, and here I am, still in Leonard Pennario's bathrobe. That had not crossed my mind, that I should get dressed! But I go to the door anyway.

I open it up and there is this box sitting there. This big, long box. I bring it in, set it on the floor and go back to doing what I was doing, which was listening to Pennario's Chopin scherzos and thinking of all the ways in which they were better than anyone else's.

Then Howard comes home and he says, you didn't open the box?

That was when it dawned on me it was the feast of St. Valentine! Notice I always say the feast of St. Valentine or St. Valentine's Day. It is more fancy and correct.

Here is a picture of the box once I had figured out what it was.

Ha, ha! Look at it precariously balanced on the piano. It will probably stay there for months! At our house things quickly become invisible.

And now a picture of the meticulous way in which the roses were packaged.

Howard chose Pro Flowers because Rush Limbaugh recommended them. He likes Rush Limbaugh's views on things because Rush is a capitalist the way he is.

Here is Howard being a capitalist.

Editor's note: I am wearing Leonard Pennario's shirt.

Rush would be happy to see how our roses turned out.

That is another picture of the roses at the top of this post! Observe the yellow chair painted by the great chanteuse Mary Kate O'Connell. I bought it at the Diva by Diva Sale so I assume she painted it, anyway. It is very valuable!

Hmmm. I wonder if that is the great British accompanist Gerald Moore in that link. It looks like him and you have to figure that Joan Sutherland would have someone really quality.

Where was I?

Also observe the headlines in The Buffalo News. Can you believe it, that business about the guy accused of beheading his wife? He is lucky that happened with the plane crash going on. No one is paying any attention.

Note to out-of-towners: Buffalo is one tough town.

We are not like other cities!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Walking blues

This morning I awoke with the feeling something was off and then I remembered the plane crash that happened lastnight. It is terrible when that is the last thing you are thinking about when you go to sleep.

Those late-night flights from Newark, we have all been on them. And Buffalo being like a big room, you know you will know some of those people on Flight 3407, or people you know will know them. I am off work this week because I am trying to get my book on Leonard Pennario into some kind of shape. So I am standing there with my coffee wondering who I am going to find out was on that plane. I am hoping there were no people I work with on the flight, no Buffalo Philharmonic musicians ...

But the trouble is, there's no good news. If it's not these people, all that means is that it's other people. It is so very sad!

So anyway, what happened was my friend Gary came over and we walked the Delaware Park Ring Road. That is a nice thing to do at a time like this. No use worrying and listening to any more rumors. It will all be sorted out and in the meantime there is no use making it worse for yourself, or for anyone else by spreading stuff around.

Above is a picture of my favorite oak tree in Delaware Park. I found the picture on the Internet and it is calming to look at on a day like this. So is this old picture of the park that I found. It is of a canoe race.

As we passed that oak tree today, Gary and I were talking about lounge sensation Guy Boleri. He can always take our minds off anything. Guy Boleri besides being a great lounge pianist is a yogi. And he does meditation. He has a Meditation Night every Thursday where he goes somewhere and sits in a room with people and meditates.

That brought us to the question: Why is meditation a group activity? Isn't it something that should be done in silence, with the meditator looking inwards?

Why doesn't Guy sit in a room by himself and meditate?

That was how we passed the time, kicking around things like that. Now I am home again and it feels pretty good to crawl back into my book.

Speaking of which, I have to say one thing. Keep in mind I have never written a book before, so this is all new to me. I am working and working on this. And I love working on it. I do not get bored with my story, I will say that! But early this morning, deep into Chapter 6, I find myself thinking:

Either this is the greatest, wildest book about music ever written ...

OR ....

... it is the biggest piece of trash and totally unworthy of the great man it is being written about!

It is one of these extremes, I do know that. There is no middle ground with my book, no sirree Bob! Is this normal, to feel this way? Will some book author out there in Blog-O-Land please tell me?

Where is the Magic Eight Ball when I need it?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

We Faked Out that Fiery Furnace

This morning I began thinking of Mad magazine. I am not sure what brought that on! But I have read that Mad is knocking back their publication. The magazine is going to come out fewer times every year, something like that.

I feel bad about that. Mad magazine was part of my childhood. Why am I revisiting my childhood so much these days? Yesterday it was "Lost in Space" and today it is Mad magazine.

I have a theory as to why Mad is not doing so well. And I know what I am talking about because (gulp) I had a subscription as recently as, um, two years ago, or something like that. Do not tell anyone! The reason I had the subscription was my brother George would give it to me for my birthday. Finally it lapsed but I felt awkward asking him about it because I thought, probably I owe him a birthday present or something and I should not bring this up.

In my recent experience Mad still had its moments. There are those great cartoons by Sergio Aragones.

And those frozen-in-the-'70s cartoons by Dave Berg.

What about Alban Berg?

I played his Piano Sonata once in a recital for the Friends of Vienna. That is a piece that I love!

Back to Mad magazine. This is probably the first time in history anyone has gone from Alban Berg to Mad magazine! The magazine was getting trashier and stupider in recent years but the worst thing was, I couldn't blame them. What jokes are you going to crack to kids nowadays? That is what I started thinking.

That cartoon by Sergio Aragones, it takes work to understand it. You have to sit and look at it and think about it. Who has that kind of attention span any more?

When I was a kid Mad did a spoof on fan magazines called Bible Babble .. it had stuff like "Seven New Psalms You Could Groove On Your Lyre," "The 103,495 Night Methusaleh Would Rather Forget" and an interview with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, called "We Faked Out That Fiery Furnace!"

They also spoofed Edgar Allan Poe's "The Bells," making it about the phone. "See the housewife on the phone/Kitchen Phone!/Talking to her neighbor in a boring monotone..." My dad thought that spoof was so clever that he xeroxed it and took it into school and passed it out to the kids when he taught "The Bells."

Does anyone these days know about the Bible and "The Bells"? I am not saying you cannot live some kind of life without knowing that stuff but it makes the joke pool much narrower if people do not, is what I am saying.

Thinking about Mad makes me think of the centuries passing. Ranging around on the 'Net just now I was looking at pictures of Dave Berg and Sergio Aragones. They must be Leonard Pennario's age! When we were kids we were snickering about stuff by guys born in the 1910s and 1920s.

That is something to think about.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oh, the pain, the pain!

Didn't someone use to say that on "Star Trek" or "Lost in Space?" My brother Tony used to watch them when I was very little. Those shows are in some of my earliest memories. That is "Lost in Space" pictured above. Look at those groovy get-ups!

The pain, the pain, because I was in the ortho's chair for something like an hour this morning! That is why I have not checked in before now.

The good news is, this big piece of plastic that was plastered to the roof of my mouth since last March is gone now. That was a surprise and a joy! This thing, it was driving me crazy. It felt as if my mouth was in a cage, which, you know me, what between talking and eating, the last thing I want is my mouth in a cage. I would fuss with this thing, feeling it, wondering what it was. Once I even got a mirror and put it in my mouth so I could see what was what. And all I saw was this wire.

I thought: Am I imagining things? What was up there did not feel like a wire. It felt like this big band.

What about the Tommy Dorsey big band?

I have a picture of Tommy Dorsey with Leonard Pennario. That is how cool Tommy Dorsey was.

So today the ortho gets these big wire cutters. I never thought I would be so happy in my life to hear someone say, "Hang on, I need to go grab the big wire cutters." That is what he said! He reaches into my mouth with them and there is this terrible heavy CLICK, and then another one, and then this thing is out of my mouth. And I finally saw what it was.

What it was was, it was this wire and, attached to it, this plastic oval about a half-inch long. And this was the secret: The plastic was see-through! That was why I could not see it!

I found that fascinating. I almost took it home so I could take a picture of it and show it to all of you out there in Blog-O-Land. But then I would have become nostalgic about it and it would be one more thing kicking around my house. I do not need that!

More good news: What with St. Valentine's Day right around the corner I now have hot-pink braces. They are much jazzier than the pale French ice-cream pink I had before for the weeks leading up to it.

St. Valentine would appreciate that, I am sure.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's a small world

Howard went to 1964/1965 New York World's Fair when he was a little boy and that is where he first heard the song "It's a Small World." The song was written for that world's fair. So says my brother George who is expert in all things.

I just went looking for a clip of that song and all I see is people complaining about how annoying that song is. Why does everyone find "It's a Small World" annoying? I don't. Once I went to Disney World and it was blasted at me all day and I still didn't find it annoying. What was annoying was, the guy I was with, his glasses flew off in Space Mountain, and we had to go back after hours so they could put on the lights and try to find them. That was annoying. But the song was not.

The reason I am thinking about "It's a Small World" is that you would not believe the people who are appearing and becoming my friends on Facebook.

George says that Facebook is like the afterlife. All the people from your past come back. That is true. But I also get a kick out of my new Facebook friends, people I have never known.

Above is a picture of my new friend Volkmar Zimmermann. He lives in Denmark. He is a member of the Corona Guitar Kvartet. I reviewed one of the CGK's disks for the paper and next thing I know, there is Volkmar ready to be my friend! Mr. Zimmermann, I accept! That is my friend Volkmar on the right in that picture.

Being Buffalonian the first thing I did was introduce Volkmar Zimmermann to my Facebook friend Bill Zimmermann. Now they are friends too! Here is a video of the Corona Guitar Quartet playing Tico-Tico.

Another thing is, I make friends with people in the middle of the night without knowing it. Luckily I do not take Ambien except in extreme circumstances such as when Obama was elected so I do not do those Ambien things like drive or eat in my sleep. But I do make friends on Facebook!

Lastnight at midnight I made friends with the U.S. editor for the British paper the Telegraph. I had no idea what I was doing when I clicked that yes, he and I are friends. But now we are friends! I found that out this morning to my astonishment. His name is Toby Harnden.

Here is a picture of my new friend Toby when he was in Zimbabwe where he was taken captive. He is on the left.

Here is his Web site so you do not think I am making this up.

You can read some of his writing about Obama here. His latest headline is "Obama Throws Joe Biden Under the Bus" but my favorite headline is "Hillary Clinton Kisses Barack Obama Instead of Husband Bill." Ha, ha!

See, this is what happens when you say yes to becoming the authorized biographer of Leonard Pennario, not of some boring schuft. Everyone wants to know you! It becomes a very small world.

"It's a Small World" is by the Sherman Brothers who wrote all the greatest Disney songs. Here is a nifty clip of the song played by Richard Sherman.

Here is another one where he is in what looks like his living room. The introduction in a foreign language is a classic.

Wow, these guys are still around! They did "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "The Jungle Book" and my favorite, "Mary Poppins." They are the real deal!

Maybe I can find them on Facebook.