Thursday, April 30, 2009

Buffalo Statler For Sale

Release: April 30, 2010  

For information: 716-833-6111  

The Statler Towers, Buffalo’s flagship historic downtown hotel on Niagara Square, is being newly offered for sale through local businessman Howard Goldman. As a public service, Goldman, the owner of a neighboring property, is voluntarily marketing the building through the Web site , and will also be advertising the hotel through other media.

Goldman said, "I am grateful to Morris Horowitz, court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, for the opportunity to help Buffalo's favorite building find a new owner. When a successful bidder at the auction failed to secure financing and complete the transaction, the bankruptcy estate ran out of money and there were no resources to begin a sales campaign. That is why I offered to invest a little bit of my own effort to get the word out with some guerrilla marketing. I believe in the Statler.

"The tremendous love for this building has caused many of us in the community to panic a little and over-sell the value of this property.  This creates a tremendous buying opportunity for someone with a fresh set of eyes. The closing of the Statler as a business was not the fault of the building itself -- it was an unfortunate result of an owner's external financial debacles."

A grand hotel built in the 1920s, the Statler was most recently sold in a bankruptcy auction for $1,300,000. The buyer, William Koessler, had been a former tenant but after winning the auction, fell short on the financing. Prior to that auction the hotel had been owned by British developer Bashar Issa.

The Statler has features that Goldman emphasizes have potential without necessarily requiring the type of full restoration that Issa planned. The Golden Ballroom played host to lavish weddings and parties as recently as several months ago. The Statler has been an uninterrupted going concern since 1923. Businesses occupied the building until several months ago. It is well within the realm of possibility that Buffalo's Statler Towers can have a future to match its glorious past.

One unbelievable night in Toronto

The other day I called the Toronto Symphony. It was great because you had to sit through a really long recording wherein they tell you not to make noise during concerts or wear strong perfume. I could not believe the part about the perfume! I wrote something on Facebook about it, that was how funny I thought it was.

Toronto, a very weird town!

But back to Leonard Pennario. I was calling the Toronto Symphony because I had to ask about this wild story Pennario had handed me. One day Pennario and I had been talking about our sleep. We talked about our sleep a lot. And he mentioned that one night he had played the Rachmaninoff Third in Ottawa and had to go up to Toronto and play another concert the next night on no sleep.

"What did you play in Toronto, Leonard, on no sleep?" I asked him.

He told me he played Beethoven's First, Prokofiev's Third and the Rach 3.

"Oh, so it was three nights?" I said.

"No, just one night. I played Beethoven's First, Prokofiev's Third and then, after intermission, the Rachmaninoff."

But... but ... who does a program like that? I have never heard of a program like that. Plus the Beethoven First was not even in his normal repertoire. Pennario always played the Fourth.

But there it is, in my notes. And the old man, he always told me the truth, and his memory was just spot on about everything. So this story sounds ridiculous but I am stuck with it, you know? That is why I am calling the Toronto Symphony. And eventually I get a hold of their archivist, a very nice man named John Dunn. Almost like the poet John Donne!

That is how you remember it.

John was very nice but I was apologetic as I ran through the absurd story. "I know this is ridiculous," I said. "I must have misunderstood him. But you never know," I said. "If any pianist could do this, Pennario could. He was a nut."

John started laughing. "You said it," he said. "I didn't."

He began shuffling through programs. They are still in the process of moving into the Internet age. Pennario, with his mind like a steel trap, had said the concert was in 1961 with Walter Susskind, the TO Symphony music director at the time. So John began looking through 1961 programs. Ah! There was one Rach 3. But it was by Vladimir Ashkenazy ...

... who, being your normal piano virtuoso, played that single concerto and nothing else that night.

"No, I don't see it," John said finally.

"Well, I figured I had misunderstood it," I said.

Then John said, oh wait, there was this other box. More shuffling. Then ...

Here it is!!

Leonard Pennario, Massey Hall, the Toronto Symphony, the Beethoven First, the Prokofiev Third, the Rachmaninoff Third!! On Feb. 1, 1961!

And in Ottawa the night before with the orchestra, the Rachmaninoff Third.

That's my Leonard!!!

I was filled with happiness and pride. I started laughing and babbling. "I have never heard of anyone doing anything like that!" I said. I did not even get into the business of no sleep. "Have you ever heard of anyone doing that?" I asked my new friend John.

John was laughing too and he said, "Well, we have had soloists do two concertos, but no, I have never seen anything like this. Especially when you have these two huge concertos," he marveled. "The Prokofiev Third and the Rach 3! The Beethoven is a stroll in the park next to them. Those two --"

Ha, ha! Remember in the movie "Shine," David Helfgott...

... lost his mind over the Rach 3. And that was all he had to play!

Pennario played two other concertos that same night including one he did not even know! He probably read the Beethoven over in the cab on his way to the concert. Ahahahahahaha!

Hahahahahahahhahahahahaaaaa!! That is this loud and obnoxious laugh Howard laughs when he is gloating over something and I have started to do it too.

But wait! Now things get even better. Pennario did not study the Beethoven in the cab. Because now I could put the story together and this was the concert he drove to in the back seat of a cab with a beautiful woman on either side of him, both of them holding his hands. Is that not the greatest? He did not tell me about that, naturally, but one of the girls did. She did not remember the program but she sure remembered driving to Massey Hall holding Pennario's hand. Both these chicks were from Buffalo and they came up to Toronto to see him.

I love that. I love how Pennario a.) could play these three concertos all in one night, including one he didn't even know, b.) could play them on no sleep and c.) was so unconcerned about the whole thing that he drives to Massey Hall with these girls holding his hands. And he even sits on the driveshaft, no problem!

For me that sure is a lot more fun than Glenn Gould and his pills and his heavy coats and special piano bench.

Wow, this feels great. It has been a long time since I have allowed myself to gloat and crow and take potshots at other pianists. I sort of gave it up for Lent. But now Lent is over.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The pest and the pesticide

Usually I do not comment on, ahem, politics. But this Arlen Specter, switching from Republican to Democrat.

Don't our elected officials have some responsibility to their constituents?

If you get elected on a certain platform, if people vote for you because you are this or that, what gives you the right to make up your own little mind for yourself later that you are not going to be what you told them you were?

I am just saying.

Everyone seems to have forgotten the purpose of Congress as it was founded. That is a picture of Congress above. It is kind of an old picture because I think if I used a current picture my head would explode.

Our much-glorified Congressmen are actually our humble representatives. They are supposed to communicate to government the views of their constituents. That is why they are elected.

Instead we are increasingly seeing them running around like little emperors, unaccountable to anyone, changing their minds as they see fit. Their only concern seems to be whether they get elected the next time around. And that is a little check-and-balance system there, better than nothing, I guess. But still. What about now?

You were elected to do a certain job, in a certain way, now.

It is not fair to change your mind after somebody trusts you!

It would be as if I had elected to get that unpaid leave from work to go and see Leonard Pennario in California and Pennario had told me, when I got there, "Oh, sorry, I changed my mind. I have permitted Joe Blow, from The New York Times, to write about me instead."

Oh, well. If there is one thing I am learning it is that no individual has a voice any more. No one cares what I think. So to cheer myself up here is what I am going to do. I am going to go to Adams Nurseries and buy myself some pesticide.

Actually I am buying the pesticide for Howard. He is the keeper of the apple tree. We have an apple tree in our back yard and today Howard is going to spray that baby.

What about Fiona Apple?

Once we sprayed our apple tree and we got four big liquor store boxes of Golden Delicious apples. This was before the White House, ahem, Victory Garden, too. We had the idea all on our own! Occasionally you can have your own ideas without government telling you what to do.

I wonder if the spray will work on the apple tree this year and it will repel all the harmful pests. I also wonder if it will work on Arlen Specter.


Let us not get so angry about all this that we neglect to click on the Pennario link above and hear him playing the magical slow movement from the Schumann Piano Quartet. That is Eudice Shapiro on violin. She was from Buffalo too!

The most enchanting moment is 1:41. That is when Pennario gets the melody.

It is guaranteed to take your mind off your troubles.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kill, kill, kill

Remember the bees? They are back!

This big bee just lumbered out from between a window and a screen and is buzzing around the Leonard Pennario desk. We have gotten familiar enough with each other so I have named the bee, pictured above. Its name is Deborah. Deborah is Hebrew for "bee."

But Mary is Hebrew for "bitter" and I am bitter toward Deborah. She and her buddies will have to go. We cannot deal with this again. That day when I came home from Mass and had to beat all those bees to death, I do not want to have to do that again. There was the other time I had to go to war with them too after interviewing the cellist Lynn Harrell, who played with Pennario in Aspen as I am sure I have mentioned. Both bee battles were ugly! These bees are slow and easy to swat but then they are tough and you have to beat them and beat them. And still they sit there, weakly waving their wings.

OK, that last link was kind of obscure. But I love that song and trust me, there is a bee mentioned in it, in the last verse! The German word for bee is "Biene." You have to listen for it.

What about the Bee Gees?


Howard and I have to give in and call the exterminators.

But eeuuww! Just that word!

As soon as we said it out loud the bee came alive and began buzzing crazily and hurling itself around the room. It knew!

We do not exactly like the idea either. There is nothing like having a truck pull up in your driveway with the word "Exterminator" on it. Also we are tight-fisted Germans and we hate to shell out. Howard once had to call exterminators for termites in his mother's house years ago and sometimes I can still hear him talking in his sleep about the high cost.

So I am wondering. We are just going to throw this out there for the heck of it. Does anyone have any advice in this department? Homemade remedies, perhaps? There has to be something out there: You buy this, you do that.

We want to be the only two living things surviving at this address.

But we do not want to overshoot and wipe out the Buffalo Zoo!

Come on, everyone.

What's the buzz?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hamming it up

Suddenly summer! Boom cars, motorcycles, lawn mowers, people yelling: "Omigod your butt is hanging out!"

Yesterday I took two hours out of my work and we had a ham dinner at my mom's. I picked up another 99 cents a pound ham at Aldi and we gathered in the back yard and ate it.

It was very Martha Stewart because the picnic table was way in the back of this suburban back yard, next to this storage shed. Ever notice how in Martha Stewart magazine, people put picnic tables miles from civilization?

I remember one photo spread where the table was set up over the water, at the end of a dock. Not only was this one old man's chair inches from tipping over into the water, but ... imagine schlepping all your dishes all the way out there!

And then someone would invariably speak up and ask, "Where's the salt?" And you would have to go back and get it!

That sure would make it a challenge to dine al fresco.

What about Al Jolson?

I was just reading lastnight in one of Leonard Pennario's diaries that Jolson was not his cup of tea. I love when Pennario uses that expression. "Not my cup of tea."

The ham dinner yesterday at my mom's was the usual chaos with kids running around but we let the kids run around the back yard and so it was not too bad. Annie came over to visit. She is the yellow Lab from next door. Annie is kind of old and sedate and she had some ham and rolled around with the kids. So that kept them occupied.

Our 12-year-old, Rosie, made me a wreath of flowers for my hair. That was one of the sweetest things anyone had ever given me. That is a picture of me up above with the flowers Rosie gave me in my hair.

But back to what really matters, which is the ham. I was fishing for compliments so I said to my mom, "Mom, so, did the ham live up to the memories of the Easter ham we had?"

And my mom said: "No, the Easter ham was better."

Doesn't it kill you when mothers behave like that? Then she wanted to make me feel better so she said: "Well, maybe I was just hungrier then."

Here is me with the flowers in my hair digesting that ham-handed compliment.

But that is OK. I speak Mom and I know she really did not mean that the ham was not her cup of tea.

Knowing me, next Sunday I will do it all over again.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Me and the Holy See

Pope Benedict is pushing for more Latin Masses but most of his reforms do not trickle down to Buffalo. In Buffalo, we like ignoring things that could mean more work. We do not like things like that, oh no no no.

We choose not to see the Holy See. How is that for 8 a.m. on a Sunday with hardly any coffee? Ahahahahahaha!

Which is why this Holy Thursday past I was stuck going to an English language Mass. And it was like culture shock! In the whole last year and a half I have never missed a Sunday mass in Latin, except for that one Sunday when I was sick. Here is what I am learning: I cannot handle English language Masses anymore.

People dress weird, in sneakers and Bills sweatshirts.

The casual attitude is alien to me. This one sneaked up on me -- I did not realize at the Latin Mass that I was getting used to a whole new ambience. You walk in late only when you absolutely cannot help it. You do not whisper to your neighbor. You concentrate. You would never leave early.

It is different at the modern Mass!

Which, I cannot blame these modern Massgoers. There was a time when this casual atmosphere was charming to me. It was all I knew and I thought I saw a kind of sweetness in it, in the schlepping in and out of the church whenever you felt like it, in the chatting, in the mind wandering.

Plus how is a song like this going to clue you in to that anything important is going on up there? I am just saying.

But I just cannot handle it now.

Here is a word I cannot handle: missalette.

On the other hand I love the word kitchenette. It is so 1950s!

What about Ike Turner and the Ikettes?

Yesterday I mentioned how I liked the Kaiser even though many considered him an unsavory character. I feel the same about Ike Turner. I like Ike!

Just not at Mass!

Where was I?

Missalettes and modern Mass songs. I notice my computer does not recognize the word "missalette." That is as it should be.

Of course it also does not recognize "Pennario" even though I have been writing this book for over a year. Every time I mention Leonard Pennario, there is that red underline. Laptop, get with it.

About the modern Mass songs, here is something good. Just now when I had to link to one I had to sit here forever thinking of one. They are vanishing from my memory!

The pope is trying to stamp out this cruddy music, is what he is doing. See that picture up above? That is him signaling everyone to turn it down.

And I say bravo! I cannot wait until the day when I can turn on Catholic radio and not hear cruddy music. I love Catholic radio for the call-in shows but you would not believe the crappy music they play. And this is the religion that can claim Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, Bruckner, Mahler, etc., etc., etc.


God, I say, please let the pope live another 10 years at least.

Because that is how long it will take for his reforms to trickle down to Buffalo!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Out of the frying pan...

It is rare that you cook something and it looks exactly the way it looks in the recipe picture. But that is what happened to me today!

Above observe the frittata I made after walking in the park.

Here is the picture of the frittata in Martha Stewart Everyday Food.

OK, my frittata is a little greener because I chopped up all these chives I found when I was walking in Delaware Park, and I threw them all in. But it was yummy!

Good with ketchup!

Isn't it kicky, the first summery Saturday? After walking in the park and making and eating my frittata I listened to Leonard Pennario playing the Liszt arrangement of the Schubert Serenade. Then I listened to his transcription of Johann Strauss's Emperor Waltz. I like it better in German: Kaiserwalzer.

What about Kaisertown?

Note to out-of-towners: Kaisertown is a section of Buffalo where you can go for really fattening fish fries. Real estate agents always refer to it as "in-demand Kaisertown."

Here is another picture of in-demand Kaisertown.

What about the Kaiser?

Everyone hates the Kaiser but I always kind of liked him. There is a subject to explore sometime: Figures in history you like for no particular reason, you just like them, there is a kind of chemistry there.

OK, I have to stop daydreaming and get back to the book.

As long as I am sitting inside on this 80-degree day working, I had better make every second count!

Friday, April 24, 2009

10 things on the screen this summer

Today in the Wall Street Journal I see "10 Blockbuster Hopefuls." It is an announcement of the summer movie season.

Zounds and zut alors and criminy!

It is not that I cannot stand idiot movies. Things like "Anaconda," "Final Impact," "Gladiator," I loved them. Leonard Pennario loved "Gladiator" too. Both of us, in one of those weird coincidences, went to see it twice. We admired each other for that.

But the movies this summer!

The Wall Street Journal lists 10 of them. And all of them violate my convictions that determine whether or not I see movies. Such as:

1.) No movies hyped by pictures of men with guns. So much for "Public Enemies" and "Taking of Pelham 1 2 3." Well, these movies were dead in the water anyway. Because I also have rules against movies about bank robbers and movies with stupid titles.

2.) No movies I have to have seen other movies to understand. This eliminates "Terminator Salvation," "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." And "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

3.) No cartoons. I know, I would probably end up liking them, blah blah blah. But still. Cartoons for this summer are "Up" and "Ice Age: Age of the Dinosaurs." Which, I saw one of the earlier "Ice Age" movies. It was dumb.

4.) No movies starring Adam Sandler. His face makes me physically ill. That takes care of the one "romantic comedy," called "Funny People."

Well, romantic comedies are all vulgar anyway. Sorry, but I prefer this ...

... to this.

Yo, Hollywood.

Where is the escapist fare that I require now that the government is taking over all our banks and businesses and we are losing our freedoms one by one?

Well, wait. There is one movie that sounds kind of funny. That is "Bruno," by the guy who did "Borat." That is Bruno up at the top of this post. He is some kind of deranged fashion model as I understand it. That look on the little kid's face! Ha, ha!

Howard and I went to see "Borat" with our friend Myron. That was one thing that made it funny, Myron's laugh. "Nyeeeehh, heeee, heeeee!" Myron laughed, all through the movie. All you need is one person like that to get everyone in the theater laughing.

Here is a picture of Myron in conversation with Howard's cousin Ron Moss, a couple of years ago when Moss was running for mayor. He is not laughing there! But then Moss' campaign was serious business.

Partly as a result of Myron's laugh, there are parts of "Borat" that still crack me up. The part where Borat was at the garage sale and thought all the items spread out over the grass were treasures the woman had plundered. "I will look on your treasures. I will look on them." That killed me.

And the part where he sang the national anthem including the line about all the other countries looking like little girls. I have caught myself using that line vis-a-vis my book. As in, Pennario's playing of the Liszt Sonata makes all other pianists look like little girls.

You know how books list under "Acknowledgments" all the people who inspired and helped them?

Mine will be the first classical music biography to credit Borat.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oh, oh, an oenophile

Whenever I go to the liquor store I discover marvelous things. But recently I have found something great and something for some reason nobody talks about.

Low-alcohol wines!

I mean low-alcohol red wines. Dry red wines, too. Not Lambrusco. Don't you love when you walk into a bar and they give you Lambrusco? That still happens in Buffalo, in some places on the East Side which, I do not want to admit I go to these places, so I will not name them.

But I will name the magical new wines I have found.

There is this cheapie wine from California called Tisdale that you can get for about $4 or $5 a bottle which is how I ended up with it last week. I took a bottle of Tisdale Cabernet to my mother's house and I had a glass and so did she.

Then I took it home to Howard and had another glass.

Then I had a little more because what the heck, Howard does not drink wine, so someone has to drink it, you know?

Right about then I realized something: You can drink and drink this Tisdale and not get drunk! Well, I have not really pushed the limit so I cannot say for sure. But one thing I do know. A couple of glasses of wine and that is usually it for me. From experience I know that if I go ahead and drink more, I run certain risks. I might not sleep well. Or I might start listening to my Leonard Pennario records and getting all weepy. Or both! Here is a painting someone once did of me listening to Leonard Pennario and crying after I have had too much wine.

With Tisdale none of this happens! And I found out why.

I looked on the label and it is only 12 percent alcohol.

Whereas I checked other bottles of wine and they are 13.5 or 14 or even 15 percent.

You would not think that a couple of little percentage points make a difference but oh, they do. Listen to me, doing the Pennario "but oh." I used to love how he used to say that. Anyway, I did a little research and one story in Forbes, I think it was, said that that little drop in alcohol can make the difference in whether you are drunk and whether you are not.

I am not saying that if you drink Tisdale you can get out and drive after you have downed a bottle. That is NOT what I am saying! I have to throw that in there, pardon me, excuse me.

But I am saying that I like these kinder, gentler wines, that taste good and do not knock you flat. That is a cliche we have not heard in a while, "kinder, gentler." I am bringing it back.

Does anyone out there in Oenophileland know any good low-alcohol red wines? I have found a couple. There is Tisdale. Highly recommended! And I also went through my, ahem, wine cellar and found a wine from Spain called Tatu. It is just 11 percent!

Then there is an Italian cheapie wine called Gina. The label is very beautiful. It is red and gold and says "Gina, Merlot Delle Venezie." With pictures of roses.

What about Gina Bachauer? Here is a picture of her with the British oenophile Sir John Gielgud.

Tisdale's labels are pretty too. They show a bird in a tree. Observe the Tisdale label at left.

Ha, ha! I love what the back label says.

At Tisdale Vineyards, we know that life is full of quality experiences. We want you to take the time to savor them. ... Perfectly paired with your favorite salad, pasta or grilled meat, we invite you to enjoy Tisdale Merlot and share in life's endless possibilities.

I am going to start packing up these wines and bringing them to parties so everyone drinks them and no one gets drunk and starts teasing me about Leonard Pennario and calling him Leonard Pinnochio. Note to out-of-towners: I live in a terrible city where people get drunk and behave like that. It has happened to me on a number of occasions.

Now I have the answer.

'Tis Tisdale!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Daydream believer

I am in another intensive book week which has put me into a complete daze. You would not believe how big a daze I am in.

Two weeks ago I forgot my ortho appointment. Completely forgot it. Just went on with my life, la la la la la la la.

Ortho, schmortho!

Yesterday my cell phone rings and there it is on the screen: "ORTHO." I did my usual apologizing and we scheduled my appointment for today at 10:15 a.m.

Even though it was less than 24 hours away, I know myself. So I put a stick-um on my computer so the whole time I was working on my book I would read "10:15 Ortho Wed."

And still!

Lastnight I dreamed I forgot my appointment. And this morning my dream kept coming true!

I was up at 6 a.m. No problem with getting up anyway. No thought of the ortho until around 8. At that point I decided I should put a rubber band on my wrist, the old reminder trick. But I never got around to doing that.

Instead I went back to the book. I was in this chapter that opened with my going to this one strange movie with Leonard Pennario and I wound up sitting there with my chin in my hand, lost in thought, for about half an hour. Like this.

Do not click on that Pennario link above, whatever you do! It is this dreamy Chopin waltz with this unbelievably romantic middle section that Pennario plays better than anybody. Beautiful! It will derail your whole day!

Speaking of days being derailed, while I was reflecting, Howard needed to use the computer. So I took a shower. In the middle of the shower I remembered: Ortho!! I jumped out of the shower and checked the clock. Whew! It was only a little after 9.

So I go downstairs and eat strawberries and read the Wall Street Journal. There is this big story about Andre Previn. I cannot believe Previn is 80. Now I start planning how to talk to Previn for my book. He is performing tonight at Carnegie Hall with the great cellist Lynn Harrell and I have already talked to Lynn Harrell, who had great thoughts on Pennario.

Remember when I thought it was Lynn Harrell calling me and it was HSBC?

Here is a picture of Lynn Harrell who told me wonderful things about Leonard.

Zounds! What about the ortho??? I had completely forgotten!

I checked the clock. Thank goodness, I still had 45 minutes.

Howard was still on the computer. So I drifted over to the Steinway and began to play Brahms. At the top of this post is a picture of me in my nightgown at my 1905 Steinway playing Brahms. There are these four pieces in Opus 119 that I love and I am memorizing them, here and there, bit by bit. I began playing the second one. There is this beautiful waltz in the middle and I went back and played that again just for the pleasure of it. Then I played the left hand by itself several times. The left hand part is beautiful by itself!

Then I decided to listen to one of Pennario's records because I have this yen to hear him play Liszt's arrangement of Schubert's "Serenade." Click on that link to hear it. You will recognize it! Anyway, I got up from the piano. Pennario had two copies of this particular record but only one of them was opened so I went looking for that. I found it and as I took the record out, I got a little emotional. These were his own records, and --

Oh, no!! The ortho!!!

It was five minutes until my appointment!!

And I was still in my nightgown!

I flew upstairs and downstairs and out the door. And I made it. I think I was five minutes late.

Reward: blue braces. They are blue for the month of May which is next month. May is next month, right?

Sometimes I do not know where I am!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Where the wily things are

Is anyone else on the lookout for coyotes? I am. I am on complete Coyote Alert.

Here it is this beautiful morning with mourning doves cooing and other birds chirping and not even any boom cars in front of the house yet. But I am thinking about coyotes and warnings I have read against them. They are becoming bold. And, as The Buffalo News wrote, wily! That is Wile E. Coyote pictured above.

What about Jon Wile? He is a friend of Howard's and he is a lawyer which, I always think Jon Wile is a great Dickensian name for a lawyer. Jon While is new on Facebook and for his official Facebook picture he uses a picture of himself with Jackie Jocko. Ha, ha! It looks as if Jocko is holding Jon Wile's head on a plate!

But back to the wily coyotes.

Remember a few years ago, we had raccoons. There were all these warnings about raccoons taking over the City of Buffalo but I never thought much about it. This was about a year before I met Leonard Pennario so I do not know what I was thinking about. Do click on that Pennario link and you will hear him playing the finale of this Chopin sonata that he played better than anyone. It is ominous music. It is where the wild things are!

Which brings us back to the raccoons. As I was saying, I did not think about the raccoon warnings.

Until one night!

Howard and I were on the back porch. We have this postage stamp-sized back porch we like to eat out on in the summer and we were sharing this roast chicken.

And all of a sudden an animal approached!

At first I thought it was a cat. There is this fat sleek pretty cat that wanders our neighborhood and sometimes it comes up our driveway and a few times it has jumped up onto the porch. But this was not a cat!

It was a raccoon! It was like the cat, only bigger. Fat and sleek and pretty. Howard and I agreed later it was a beautiful animal.

But at the time we just sat there frozen. We didn't know what to do.

The raccoon was giving us this friendly look as if to say, "Hi, neighbors. I heard you out here, thought I'd drop by for a bite of chicken."

Then Howard and I made the instantaneous decision to start making noise and yelling at it. And the raccoon's face changed. It got a hurt look. As if to say, "What? What's wrong? You don't want to see me?"

Then it scooted.

But the story is not over!

A few nights after that we were back on the porch. And a raccoon came out onto our garage roof. We have a garage that is separate from the house and sits a ways back. But the raccoon could see us from there. We saw him looking at us.

Then another raccoon joined him. And another! And another! Soon there were about a dozen.

The garage roof was full of raccoons!

They all were in constant motion, parading up and down, tracing loops this way and that. It was the most unbelievable sight. It was like a raccoon show of strength. I am haunted by that image, I have to say that. So often now if I look out toward the garage I remember when it was covered with raccoons.

I wonder if that will happen with the coyotes.

They are out there!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mouthing off

Just now I smiled -- and I got a funny feeling. Something was weird. At first I could not figure out what it was. Then I figured it out.

It was my upper teeth touching my lower teeth!

They lined up!

I do not know if I have ever felt that in my life! I am sitting here right now touching my upper teeth to my lower teeth and marveling at it. But I do not know if I like the feeling or not. It is just so weird.

I have not written about my braces in a long time. Not because I wanted to spare anyone anything. They have just not been on my mind.

They are on my mind so little that I actually missed my last appointment. It was supposed to have been two weeks ago. So, I hope this is supposed to be happening, that my teeth are supposed to be lined up like this. It is a funny feeling.

Speaking of funny here is another cartoon about braces.

Har de har har!! But I have to stop laughing. I do not think if I have written this but with these braces, I can not talk and laugh at the same time.

This is also funny but it is a secret. I would not have these braces were it not for this opera diva who came to visit Leonard Pennario when I was out in California with him. But that is a whole other story and I am afraid it has to wait for the book.

So many memories!

Remember when my braces got me detained at the border?

How about the time I was on one of my trips to California to see Pennario and the inflight video began showing pictures of braces and blasting: "Ugly! Ugly! Ugly!"?

I remember when my braces were new and I was stumbling over them while I was trying to read my book to Leonard. It was upsetting me but he kept telling me I was doing fine. What a darling man he was. He was so nice to me.

Now my braces are finally paying off.

This latest progress thrills me. Since I was a kid I had always had what is called an overbite. That is what my friend Herb when I was in my 20s said. Herb was a great friend and very cute and always told you the truth. And I remember he said to me once, "I like a girl with an overbite."

And I said, "Herb, I have an overbite?" I had never thought of it.

And Herb said: "Yes, it's cute. I like that."

Herb, wherever you are now, you are great!

Later when I worked at the Niagara Gazette a bunch of us got into the habit of going to Founding Fathers on Friday nights. OK, we went every night of the week. But anyway. There was one guy who I guess was there too who later told a friend of mine he remembered me.

He said, "She has huge teeth."

I did not know what to think when I heard that! But I got the general impression that he meant it in a nice way, so, no offense taken.

Furthermore, he was right. The ortho told me I had big teeth. His teen-age daughter had the same problem and she was having the same procedure I was, which was to have four teeth yanked, I mean pulled, and then the rest of the teeth would close in. I guess it is a kind of classic case.

I like what my friend Judge Barbara Howe, if I may indulge in a little bit o'name dropping, told me about the situation. She goes to the same gym I go to, and that Leonard Pennario went to. Quiz: What gym did Leonard Pennario go to when he was in Buffalo? Correct! The Buffalo Athletic Club!

Judge Barbara Howe told me: "Times have changed! We don't have to be content any more with what God gave us!"

That is the truth! I am sitting here right now smiling about it.

Enjoying that funny feeling.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday, dreamy Sunday

Today I got up at 7, early for a Sunday. It was just me and the birds!

I took a shower so my hair would dry in time for Mass -- well, so it almost would, anyway. Then, alas and alack, I worked on my book about Leonard Pennario. I could not help it! I could not stay away from it. And I always get mad at myself when I work on it before Mass because Mass is such a mind-bending thing that you really should use the time beforehand to clear your head.

Sure enough, after Communion, there I was, thinking about the book.

I think I prayed for about 10 seconds and after that, I realized to my horror that all I was doing kneeling there was going over in my mind how I should try to get a hold of Van Cliburn, should I call him, or should I write to him? If I write to him I will be ignored. I wrote to him once before and I never heard back.

But then maybe that was because I enclosed this little note with the clips of my story about him that he had wanted. Maybe he did not see the note. Maybe it fell on the floor and the maid swept it up. I have been to Van Cliburn's home and I know how grand it is and I would bet that Van Cliburn has maids to clean up notes that fall out of envelopes journalists are sending him.

I have Van Cliburn's phone number because I interviewed him for The Buffalo News -- funny, it was just a couple of weeks before I met Pennario. The phone was giving me problems and I asked Mr. Cliburn if I could call him back on my other phone and he said sure and gave me the number. I also have his number from Pennario's address book. Every pianist in the world, his or her number is in Pennario's address book.

But I do not like to call someone like Van Cliburn out of the blue.

Well, I will just have to. After I write to him one more time and he does not call me back.

I want to talk to him about Pennario being on the jury of the Van Cliburn Competition. And about the Tchaikovsky Competition and a conversation Pennario had with Cliburn about that before Cliburn entered it and won it. That is a funny story. Cliburn is nice and I am sure he would not mind talking about this.

Maybe I should just call.

No, maybe it's more proper to write. Most people I would just call but some people require special protocol and I do not like calling anyone out of the blue, really truly. Calling that girl Pennario was in love with when he was in his 20s, that was no picnic, working up to that call.

See? That is how it goes. That was me after Communion. Kneeling there thinking about Van Cliburn. Yay, me! Great going, you know?

Here is a snazzy picture of Cliburn from Life Magazine. Look at those hands. Zounds!

Here is a historic picture of the jury from the first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Pennario is the good-looking one.

Darn, I am looking and looking for this picture I have of Howard hanging out with Van Cliburn at the Rue Franklin downtown. And I cannot find it. That was fun, listening to Cliburn play at the Rue, even if all he had to play on was that little spinet. Perhaps next time he can play at Big Blue!

I thought about that after Communion too. I do not think I came out of my reverie until the priest finally went, "Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus..." which means "May Almighty God bless you" and signals the end of the Mass.

I was such a loser!

But even so I rewarded myself afterward with a stop at the Hertel Market. That is the Hertel Market pictured at the top of this post. It is all spiffed up for summer!

I bought a big pot of pink and purple flowers. And a pineapple. And walnuts and almonds.

I am having that kind of a day.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Empire State Fights Back

Such fun in The Buffalo News! The stories are full of bureaucracies defending themselves, fighting for their lives.

Howard and I always joke about our public entities being like big quivering primitive organisms, repelling all invaders. Like amoebas, I guess you would say. Note to out-of-towners: Buffalo is a veritable Petri dish for such organisms. No one can top us.

One thing that has happened is Mayor Byron Brown ...

... has taken the reckless step of going ahead and posting on the Internet all the city employees' salaries. Ha, ha! The fire union feels threatened and is threatening to sue for harassment. Too funny. That story is here.

Then there is the Water Authority, which always makes good copy. Up until now the funniest thing about Buffalo water was the plant you pass on the Niagara bike path. It is called the Jerome Van der Water Water Treatment Plant. A water treatment plant named after a guy named Water! Classic.

But now there is something even funnier. A gentleman named Chris Hawley who is a Facebook friend of mine started a group called My Pet Rock Would Be More Qualified To Be on the Water Authority. The Water Authority does not like that, oh no no no. That story is here.

You can join Chris Hawley's Facebook group here.

And while you are at it you can join Leonard Pennario, America's Greatest Pianist, here. That is my group! I slapped that picture of Pennario you see to the left up there and it is irresistible. Everybody who is anybody is joining. We are up to 114 members as of last night. Wait! Today it is up to 115. Welcome, new Leonard Pennario fan!

How did I get onto that? Wow, you have to hand it to me. Only I could go from the Water Authority to Leonard Pennario.

Back to bureaucracies. They are many and tough!

The best one is the toll taker at the Grand Island Bridges fighting back against the activist who wants to eliminate the tolls. That is the best story. This activist, Rus Thompson, has been getting nasty emails and it ends up they are from one of the people at the toll booths.

Well, who else would it be?

But still, imagine being harassed by one of those bridge trolls. It is like something out of the Brothers Grimm. You picture those trolls who lurk under bridges, ready to jump on people who go riding on their horses overhead. Here is a picture of a troll bridge in case you have not been to Grand Island recently.

The Grand Island troll, I mean toll, story is on the front page of The Buffalo News which for sure is where it belongs. You can read it here. That is a picture of Rus Thompson at the top of this post. Mr. Thompson, you are styling! We do love our second-hand clothes stores here in the city of Buffalo.

And our bureaucracies, too.

You cannot beat this town!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Emancipation proclamation

Yesterday I emancipated myself from stockings.

Nylons. Pantyhose.


There are no pretty words for those things!

Which is only one reason why yesterday I emancipated myself from them. Every year the day comes when I do that and it is early compared to other people. It is a day I like forward to. It is my own personal Boom Days. Note to out-of-towners: Boom Days is now. It is when Buffalo gets rid of our ice boom. That means that spring is here!

So from this day forward I am running around in sandals.

I have this favorite pair of sandals that I wore yesterday. They are so wonderful they make me think of the Bible. As in, their value is beyond pearls! I found these sandals last year at a Goodwill in San Diego, when I was out there with Leonard Pennario. I think I paid $5 for them.

They are from Brazil and they are leather. And the heels are decent. About two and a half inches, I would guess. I do not like flats. I need a bit of a heel. And no jokes please about my being a bit of a heel myself. I am not!

And here is what makes these sandals wonderful: From the moment I tried them on at that Goodwill, they felt perfect.

I could run around in them for hours, starting with Day One.

The wear I put on these sandals in San Diego! I have such memories of going everywhere in them. I wore them just about every other day. I remember kicking them off when I would walk into Pennario's room when he was sleeping. That is a big memory I have of these shoes. I did not want to wake him up so I would slip off the sandals so the heels would not make noise. I can still picture them lying in his bedroom by his desk because that is where I would kick them.

When I came home from California I kept wearing these sandals. I wore them all last summer.

Now I really have to get them re-heeled. I have to have that new pad or whatever they call it put on the heel. There is this cobbler on Hertel and that is where I will go.

What about Hans Sachs? He is the cobbler in "Die Meistersinger."

It is funny how with these, ahem, hard economic times, old-fashioned occupations like cobbler are suddenly relevant again. Next we might be seeing the return of the blacksmith! Hey, you never know.

What is with me and footwear? This is the second time this week shoes have put me into a reverie. The first time was my Victorian bedroom slippers, remember?

You know what they say: Two steps forward, one step back.

That is certainly true in my life!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Breeches of protocol

Wow, those Tea Parties! I did not go to the one in Buffalo and now I think I should have. What fun!

Not because I would like to have joined the protest. I have gotten to the point where I think it is useless to protest anything. I tried to protest my church closing, and no use, mean Bishop Kmiec closed it. I tried to protest my library closing, and you know what? It closed. Now we have no library at all in North Buffalo because the paltry branch they grudgingly left open closed, too.

I did not want the Aud knocked down and I did not want "Artemis and the Stag" sold and I am not wild about this huge deficit, either. But guess what? Nobody cares what I think. So.

Here is the real reason I wish I was at the Tea Party.

I love men in 18th century clothes!

It goes back to when I was a kid and was in love with Mozart. Certain things were planted into my brain and one is that knee breeches and buckled shoes and tri-cornered hats are appealing. These images ...

...were hard-wired permanently in my mind when I was a teenager and watched the Masterpiece Theatre series "Poldark." Check out that picture at the top of the post. Ha, ha! That did not come from the actual show. There was this one family who held a picnic in Cornwall and they all dressed up as Poldark characters. I guess I am not the only one with a taste for frock coats and ruffled shirts!

I also like those decanters of brandy everyone in British movies keeps handy at all times. I asked Leonard Pennario if those brandy decanters really are everywhere in those grand British houses and he said yes.

That is the kind of thing Pennario and I would be discussing when we should have been talking about Beethoven.

Speaking of which, by the time you associate with Beethoven, which would be the early 1800s, the fashions had slid. Those empire-waist gowns could make you look fat and the guys, Beethoven included, all had those sideburns. That is one reason I could never quite jump on the Jane Austen bandwagon.

People do not know this about Beethoven but before he got old and scruffy he was a clotheshorse and a fashion plate like Mozart. Here is a picture of Beethoven with his 'burns.

What about Robert Burns? He was from the same time so he had them too.

I could talk about this all day! But alas.

Speaking of fashions going to pot, my morning is going to pot. I must go and take my daily constitutional.

No empire-waisted gowns for me!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The man that got away

Today I am late Web logging because of this life-changing project I have been involved in. Sometimes it feels it will never end. But it is so exciting.

Yes, the book on Leonard Pennario, you say. How is it coming?

Book? What book?

I have been cleaning my house!

You would not believe the stuff that has turned up.

Here are some things I have found. Two Burt Bacharach albums ("Make It Easy on Yourself" and "Burt Bacharach's Greatest Hits"). A twenty. A roll of undeveloped film from God knows when. A great CD of Bach's Mass in B Minor by the Netherlands Bach Society. I had no idea I had that.

I also found my beautiful bedroom slippers I had been missing forever. These are the slippers that my mother bought me back when I had signed the papers to buy a house in Allentown. I almost lived in Allentown, I do not know if I ever mentioned that. That is Allentown pictured above. Strange, it reminds me a little of yesterday's picture. Of the pirate city of Eyl. In the lawless land of Somalia!

I found this house in Allentown 10 or 15 years ago, when I was initially house hunting. Zounds, I cannot believe how the time flies.

And it was not simply in Allentown. It was on Irving Place which, note to out-of-towners, Irving Place is one of Buffalo's most exclusive streets. The address was 39 Irving Place.

My almost-house was a beautiful Victorian with double doors in front and a long staircase up the side when you walked in. The kitchen tilted slightly which I thought was very romantic. The house had been a boarding house at one point and it had about 15 bathrooms. I loved that aspect of it.

It was near St. Louis Church which was where I was going to Mass at the time. Here is a picture of the statue of St. Louis that I love that stands in the front of the church. St. Louis died on a crusade in 1270.

What about the St. Louis Blues? I love how Billie Holiday sings it with her flat A's. "That maaaan's got a heart like a rock cast in the sea..."

Where was I?

Oh, my house in Allentown. I also loved how Gabriel's Gate ...

... was only a few steps away. I imagined going there of an evening, having a glass of wine, getting to know all the bartenders.

Anyway, I fell in love with the house as soon as I walked in to it, never mind that there was no way I would ever be able to get my big old 1905 Model M-for-monstrous Steinway into the living room. Fiddle dee dee, I would think about that tomorrow. Then I must have had a kind of beginner's luck. Because I dived in and bid on this house and all of a sudden I had this unbelievable deal going.

The price we settled on was so low that now I cannot even remember it. It was around $110,000, I think. Here is what I do remember: It was so low that I went to a party and to my horror I heard my house deal being gossiped about! The gossipers did not know the name of the buyer but they were whispering about it, how this house on Irving Place was going for whatever the price was.

I remember shepherding the people I was talking to away from that conversation, so they would not hear it! I was so afraid someone would throw a wrench into my deal.

Which, eventually someone did throw a wrench into it, and it was the old lady selling the house. She began removing items from it. The doorknobs. The chandeliers. Suddenly they were not going to be part of the deal.

The long and short of it was, she did not want to sell the house. And eventually I got the message that it was hopeless and I backed out. I cried. It was terrible.

Then they tried to get the deal going again but by that time I had found the house where I am now. I loved this house, which was built in 1920, in a totally different way. It welcomed my Steinway. There was a garage, whereas the Allentown place had had only a driveway. It was a safer area, too, which I should have been thinking about more seeing that back then I was as single as the day is long.

But these bedroom slippers survive from the days when the deal on Irving Place was still on. I was going to be moving into this Victorian house, and so my mother got me these Victorian bedroom slippers to go with it.

To this day I feel funny passing that house on Irving Place. It is like seeing an old boyfriend!

I wonder how things would have gone if I had moved into that house. I find myself contemplating that question dreamily, listening as I am to the Pennario link above. (Here it is again. I am always good at giving them again so you do not have to scroll back up.) That first waltz he plays, so nostalgic. Whenever you hear a waltz like that, you have to think of someone you loved very deeply.

Or, in the case of me this morning, something you loved deeply.

Isn't it a funny thing about houses?

You can fall in love with them as if they were people.