Just now while I was Water-Piking my teeth I thought of the grossest thing. This is a true story and I dare anyone to top it.
Well, there was the worm story which Leonard Pennario said was the grossest thing in the world and I might agree with him on that. But this is something else I just remembered.
Once years ago when I was living in my apartment on Parkside -- the haunted apartment, remember -- we had all kinds of squalor. My roommates had dogs and the dogs were not toilet trained well and there was a cat too and things were always out of control.
And one night when I was sleeping a mouse...
... ran over my face!
See, I warned you it was gross!
I cannot believe I can even think about that. I cannot believe that memory is in my head. It is like something out of "Les Mis." See that poster above? That was me!
There is this business with the dentist. I have decided it is time I did something about it.
Remember when I couldn't stand the idea of going and I postponed it? That is how desperate I get.
It is just that every time I go I get hurt and yelled at. My visits are beginning to remind me of the 1622 painting "The Dentist," pictured above, which is fine when it is at the art gallery in Dresden but not when it is my life, you know?
My dentist is great but I never see him any more. I have not seen him for years. All I see are his hygienists. And they are all alike. They are these skinny, pretty, severe women. It is cliche to think of them as being like Nazis but that is what they remind me of, I am sorry.
Yesterday I was stuck with someone named Chrissie.
Now, you know me, I am always Water-Pik-ing my teeth and I take my time with it and I go over and over my teeth and I do everything I can. But it was not enough for Chrissie just as it was not enough for whatever little Nazi I had last time I was at the dentist. Chrissie was digging and scraping and removing stuff from my mouth that had gotten lodged in there apparently. "You have to floss better," she was telling me.
"I am flossing as much as I possibly can," I said.
Not to get into big bad detail, but she had this bib on me and she was using the bib to set up a kind of display of all the stuff that had been stuck in my teeth. And she began getting all sharp with me.
"Just let me show this to you," she said.
"That's great, I just don't know what else to do about it," I said.
"Well, I am just telling you--"
"Well, I am just telling you there is nothing more I can do." That was me getting mad.
Later I got conciliatory because I always do that and besides, I realized I had to be nice or I would never get out of there. But honest, the whole time I was in that chair, I started thinking, I should get up. I should leave. I just do not like being talked to like this.
They are not supposed to talk to you like this at the dentist anymore!
This is a new day and age. We hear all the time that you are no longer supposed to be afraid of going to the dentist. Leonard Pennario even used to go to lunch with his dentist. It was in his diaries. His dentist's nickname was Smiley. Why can't I have a dentist called Smiley?
My dentist situation is terrible!
It is like grade school. When I was a kid at Christ the King School ...
... my friend Jean Schneggenburger and I were obsessed with dentists and dentistry. Her dentist actually had initials that were DDS. We used to ponder that, sitting on the logs by the side of the school yard.
Back to Chrissie and yesterday. The indignities visited upon me during my cleaning were bad enough. That is a phrase I love, "visited upon." But things got worse after that.
Chrissie took an X-ray of my mouth. This always happens! I am sure there are more X-rays of my mouth than of anyone else's mouth in the whole world. Millions exist! There are even some kicking around my house. That is how many there are.
Then she pronounced the news bad and I am supposed to go back next week and get numbed out and she is going to root deep into the area under one tooth and do something or other. She will do this herself and insurance might not cover it and it will cost $188. "Just so you know," she said.
Later I started thinking about this. Since when do hygienists do this kind of stuff? If I am going to get a root canal, or whatever this is, I do not want a hygienist doing it. Perhaps my dentist has been taken captive and is strapped into a chair in the back somewhere. As I said I have not seen him for years.
I want a second opinion!
So I switched to Howard's dentist.
Howard's dentist is nice and he will be there supervising his hygienists and he will not yell at me. I have met this dentist before. He turned up at Little Portion Friary as a volunteer once when I was cooking. We yakked with each other for about two hours about your normal soup kitchen stuff -- cooking and our parishes and priests we both knew -- before we put it together that my husband was his patient.
So I am going to go to New Dentist. It is like New Boyfriend used to be when I was single. All my friends and I would joke about New Boyfriend and New Girlfriend when we were discussing our lives and the lives of people we knew.
I have to call up Old Dentist and get my X-rays, all 1,000 of them, sent to New Dentist. That is one thing I am not looking forward to. Thanks, stupid privacy laws!
I am late checking in because number one I was at the dentist. Remember when I decided my dentist appointment could be postponed, so I postponed it? Today the bond came due and I had to go. Ow!
Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow.
Number two I went to renew my driver's license because it is expiring. What an adventure that was!
I went to the Tonawanda DMV and the line was long and everyone was talking. Did you know that the DMV inspires artists? Above is a fine-art print I found titled "Waiting at the DMV."
Here is a DMV cartoon.
And here is a DMV drawing.
What if Leonard Pennario had written "Midnight at the DMV" instead of "Midnight on the Cliffs"? That is something to think about.
I started thinking about that when I heard the woman behind me in line say to someone that she had been to the DMV a few days earlier. "I got there at noon," I heard her say. "I was there for four hours and I never did make it through."
Then I got worried! But after a half hour or so we did reach the head of the line. As we finally rounded the corner into the office behind the frosted glass window, the woman behind me started laughing. "I'm excited," she said. "Isn't that stupid? But this is exciting, finally getting here."
We all felt like that!
From then on once I had gotten past the slug at the reception desk, everything went pretty smoothly. When I got my picture taken everyone was smiling at me because of my braces. The woman who took the picture was consoling me and saying you could hardly see them.
Only one thing did not go smoothly.
I had dreams of getting a New York State Enhanced Driver's License for my very own but alas and alack, you know you will always be missing something, and in my case I was missing my Social Security Card. Before facing the DMV I went by the Social Security office naively thinking I could get a new card because I had all the stuff, but of course they have to mail it to you, and of course it takes a week.
Such a silly thing to trip you up. The Social Security Card, my Achilles heel! I had one in the distant past. But you know how those things are, they wash up and down on the tides of your life and sometimes they are there for years and sometimes they are gone for years.
... where Leonard Pennario played the Rach 3, the Proky 3 and, just for the heck of it, the Beethoven First? Remember that? That was just about a month ago that concert came to light. How is that for a quick month?
What if I want to stay at the Skyline Inn?
On the positive side, I did manage to change my name to Goldman. Until now I had not done that because my license had not expired. So there is that anyway.
Plus I wrote a chapter of my book in my head, waiting for the line to move.
After setting down yesterday all the things I wanted to do this summer, I got right on it! The first thing I did was go to the Hatch for a glass of wine.
I may have said I would go to the Hatch for a beer but the glass of wine, it had to be done. When in Rome do as the Romans and when at the Hatch do as the Hatchlings, so I ordered Chablis. You could see them pouring it out of a huge jug. It is $4.50 for 8 ounces. No little wimpy 3 ounces for us here in the big bad city of Buffalo, N.Y.
While I was sipping my Chablis we watched a tugboat tugging this big Great Lakes freighter named LeFarge into the harbor. Very cool.
Here is the freighter getting closer. It is from Montreal! 'Tis a fine brooding sky.
Everyone at the Hatch was lined up at the railing and waving to the Frenchies on the freighter. In Buffalo we get used to always knowing each other. It is in the water here! I mean, look, when I met Leonard Pennario we immediately began talking about shared childhood experiences and priests and nuns we both knew. Do click on that Pennario link. It is appropriate!
After watching the freighter Howard and I took a walk to Nussbaumer Beach. Then we went to the Hyatt and heard Jackie Jocko. Here is a picture I took at the Hyatt of our friend Brenda with our friend H.
H. used to own a bunch of stores in Buffalo and he and Jocko were reminiscing about the time one of them was shut down by the FBI. They also reminisced about the time the sprinkler system in one of the stores went off in the middle of winter and Jocko was mopping and mopping.
Today I am wondering how Brenda is doing because last night was the night she and her sister were going to drive all night to New York so they could get in line to compete for "So You Think You Can Dance." That is where she is this morning! She promised to check in and let us know how things go.
I know I wrote about Louie's, but the truth is, I am in shock that it is summer.
The interns are already at work! We have summer interns every year and I am looking at these people thinking, What are you doing here?
How did this happen that it is past Memorial Day? Today I went outside and the mint was in the back yard and it was two feet tall. The other day it was not there at all.
I keep looking at my desk calendar. I remember when I cut open the cellophane and opened it up. When I did that I was thinking: Well, I will not be using this for a couple of months, but this way it will at least have a space on my desk.
Then I started using it. And now it is almost half used up!
I should have given up wine, left, during Lent. That would have made the year go more slowly.
But I already have the braces on my teeth. Isn't that supposed to slow things down? That is what I wrote but now it is over a year later.
Buffalo is buzzing about these urban farmers who are now planting up a couple of acres on our decaying East Side.
I wonder if I would like that life.
What would it be like if I got up in the morning and I had to hoe up six acres of dirt instead of hack away at a chapter of my book on Leonard Pennario? Oh, wait, there is some dirt in the Pennario book, too. It will be well worth reading!
But anyway. I cannot imagine the farming life.
I tried farming once, remember? I farmed the back yard of Goldman Motors. That is a picture above of my gardening effort. Which was successful. I got tons of tomatoes!
Among urban farmers Howard and I were as urban as you could get. We were so urban that our friends would not eat what we harvested because we were growing it in the former back yard dumping ground of an old car repair shop. Now that is urban!
I think if it got into a contest between us and these new East Side so-called farmers about who was more urban we would surely win.
What about Pope Urban?
What about Bishop Kmiec? His middle name is Urban.
Howard ran into the not-as-urban-as-we-are farmers, Mark and Janice Stevens, last week at Buffalo ReUse on Northampton. He said they seemed like overwhelmingly good people. He spoke to them and he said it was like speaking with Jesus or someone.
They were buying a big load of wood and hauling it back to their homestead to do God knows what with it, but it looked strenuous. So as Howard said, they are walking the walk.
Speaking of farmers it is great how the paper today quotes Hans Mobius, a farmer in Clarence. We remember him! He is, or at least was, the guy who owns all those houses on Elmwood at the corner of Forest that he wanted to sell out so they could build that big hotel.
That was quite a controversy! And all of a sudden it ground to a halt in the middle of it because Hans Mobius was on the front page of the paper saying that he had seen Big Foot on his farm out in Clarence.
Wow! Everyone stopped thinking about Elmwood Avenue and whether it would lose its quaint character and began thinking about Big Foot instead. That is life in Buffalo!
I should not be writing a book about America's greatest concert pianist.
It is funny to have it summer so suddenly. We can wear white now! I wonder when the White Party is. That is that party that a group of gay guys in Buffalo used to have where everyone shows up wearing white.
I did not get to wear white today. I was thinking about wearing a white dress I bought at a garage sale yesterday. It was billed as a nightgown but I decided I could use it as a dress. But all my plans came to naught because today Howard and I went the one place where you cannot go wearing something white.
We went to Louie's Foot Long Hot Dogs!
I cannot wear white to Louie's Hot Dogs because I would end up wearing all this ketchup and mustard.
But I had a good time all the same. We drove to Louie's on Sheridan Park in Howard's '70 Javelin. Not to be confused with his '71 Javelin or his '72 Javelin! He has three of them!
On our way we passed this truck.
Isn't that beautiful? We love the cool purple color. I love how all you see is that hairy arm stretched out the window. That is funny too.
Here we are approaching Sheridan Park. That is Louie's visible to the left of the Town of Tonawanda water tower. It is red and yellow. Click on the picture and you will be able to see it in more detail.
Does it get better than this? Memorial Day, beautiful weather, two cars on the road and that is all. As Howard says now is when Buffalo has it all over other cities. Everyone else has insects and traffic and sweltering heat. But not us!
Here is a view of Sheridan Park itself which I took from the passenger window.
Other cities do not have places either like Louie's. Louie's son was even manning the checkout! In Buffalo, hot dogs are serious business. Louie's goes back to 1951 which means it was built when Leonard Pennario was 26. I did the math while we were in line. Here is Howard waiting to order.
I cannot bite hot dogs because of my braces and my top teeth touching my bottom teeth for the first time in my life. So I was going to get the Eggplant Bomber. But zut alors, they had no eggplant! So I got the Turkey Burger cooked over charcoal.
Alas! I could not bite the Turkey Burger either as it turned out. But I got a plastic knife and did my best.
Here is Howard eating. Observe the Javelin in the background. It is red with patches of brown.
Howard loves those foot-long hot dogs at Louie's. Note to out-of-towners: In Buffalo normal hot dogs are not big enough for us. We need them a foot long. Louie invented the foot-long hot dog. He had special rolls made and everything. I wrote a story about Louie's once for The Buffalo News and they have it framed there. But they cut out my name so you do not know who wrote it. Zut alors!! Zut, zut, zut alors!
But there is an even better story about Louie's that I wrote a couple of years ago in the Buzz Column of The Buffalo News. This story concerned Howard and Louie's. A seagull swooped down and grabbed Howard's foot-long. The whole thing, out of the bun! And the bird flew with it into the air.
And Howard raised his arms and began yelling at the bird. And the bird was so startled it dropped the dog.
And Howard ate it!
"Well, I was hungry," he said.
I wrote that up and my editor, Liz, she started screaming with laughter and said: "That is the funniest thing I have ever read in my life!!"
It is the truth!
Today nothing so dramatic happened, other than I swooped in like a big bird and ate half of Howard's curly-Q fries. Next time we are going to try the Fries With Gravy. Has anyone had those?
We had to leave before too long because I had big plans to work on the Pennario book and Howard had car repairs to make.
Here is a picture looking south down the avenue toward Niagara Square.
We paid an arm and a leg at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society to get pictures of Big Blue as it used to look so here is one. Big Blue is directly behind the tree in the middle of the picture.
How times have changed! Now Big Blue stands alone. Here it is the other day when Howard was getting stuff delivered.
Michael Gainer and company from Buffalo Reuse delivering 600 pound stone fireplace mantel yesterday.
Now it is time to stop thinking about Big Blue and go back to thinking about Leonard Pennario. Very much work to do today and I must get to it. No holiday weekend for me!
Well, there is time for one more picture. Here is something Howard bought this week that I am excited about. It is a pedestal sink!
It is for me! For my powder room. When Big Blue is complete.
Yesterday I wrote about the Boulevard Mall and someone named Paladino left a comment. And I am wondering if Paladino is my friend Steven. I used to have this friend Steven in San Diego and he has disappeared. My emails go unanswered and I have lost touch with him.
I know Steven's last name and it is not Paladino. But this Paladino's comment -- which he left on the post about Babik and my mom -- mentioned Angola and I thought Steven's family was from out that way. And he talked about San Diego too.
Paladino, are you Steven?
Isn't this crazy? The Internet. We are all losing our minds.
The anonymity on the Internet can turn your life into Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro." It is like that final scene at night in the garden where everyone is wearing everyone else's clothes and nobody knows who anybody is.
I was just writing in my music Web log about this duet in that scene I love.
Here is the scene with Renee Fleming and a translation!
Then there is the ending where everyone finally figures out who everyone else is and the Count Almaviva has to beg his wife's pardon. It is piggish listening to watch that scene by itself because it just might be the most glorious moment in all music. But here it is anyway and I am a pig, I just watched the whole thing.
That is what my life is like now, "The Marriage of Figaro"! Which reminds me, the other day when I was writing on my, ahem, Music Critic Web log about operas that made me cry, I heard from an anonymous "Marriage of Figaro" fan.
"'Figaro' fan, why are you anonymous?" quoth I. "Stand up and be counted!"
And it turned out yesterday it was my friend Panos! Panos is a very handsome Greek physician who lives on the West Coast and goes to operas so it should not have surprised me that it is he. But it did!
These days you do not know.
Remember the mysterious pianist Mr. Idaho? He was one of Leonard Pennario's friends and I have spoken with him for the book. Once I called Mr. Idaho and a woman answered his phone and she was someone who comments on this Web log. She is Mr. Idaho's girlfriend! And I had no idea. Here is a picture of them together.
There is this reality TV show Howard likes to watch late at night where everyone goes by goofy names. There was a mother-daughter team named New York and Sister Patterson. I used to laugh at that. No more!
I have friends on Twitter I know only by Piano Geek and La Valkyrie and Kuhlau. Most of these people post their real names on their profiles but it gets so you can not keep them all straight.
So I will not even try.
Hmmm. I am looking and looking for a nice picture of a masked ball to illustrate my musings. And here is what I am finding: It is difficult to find any picture on the Internet of a masked ball that is not kinky, trashy or Tarot-card creepy.
That is another sign of our times.
Well, luckily we have no such problem in the music department. Admittedly we do not yet have up on YouTube a recording of Pennario playing Schumann's "Carnaval." That is too bad because Pennario's "Carnaval" is magnificent.
But there is always Pennario playing "La Valse" by Ravel. That is the piece he was the first pianist to play and no other pianist even attempted it for something like 20 years.
One of my favorite Web sites is mentioned today in the Wall Street Journal. It is www.deadmalls.com!
The site explores all the dead or decaying malls in America. My brother George got me onto it. Above is a picture of the Rainbow Mall in Niagara Falls cribbed from DeadMalls.com. Someone connected to the site must have local ties, because the blurb reads: "My dad used to take me here when I was a kid."
DeadMalls.com has whole photo galleries of malls all over the country. You click on your state and you can read the latest on all of them. But about Main Place Mall, the site writes: "Good luck taking pictures. Signs on all the doors read, 'No Cameras Allowed.'"
I have never seen those signs! Well, they must be there if this site says so.
It makes me want to go to Main Place Mall today and take pictures.
The site is mentioned in the Journal because they are running a big story on dying malls, malls that were once vibrant and are now deserted. From what I understand our malls here in the Buffalo area seem to be doing better than most.
I just bought a purse in Main Place Mall a month ago!
But the big question today is not whether our malls really are doing better than others in the country. It is this:
For my whole life, I have heard rumors that the Boulevard Mall ...
... is the oldest mall in the country. It was built in 1962. Howard's Uncle Jake built it! His Uncle Jake who was a construction worker -- a laborer, we would have said then -- said that after they finished the whole floor of the place they had to add a whole new floor. Apparently something was wrong with the first one.
I used to go to Boulevard Mall a lot when I was a kid. They had a Sattler's with a great record department. Being a nerd I lived for my trips there. You could get great classical albums for $2 or $3.
But I never bought any Leonard Pennario. His records were too expensive for me. He was on the Angel label and Angel was off limits to me because they were something like $8. That was not for me. I am a thrift shopper!
Would someone who shopped at the Boulevard Mall be a boulevardier?
Uncle Jake was not a boulevardier. That is for sure. Here is a picture Howard took of his Uncle Jake whom he loved ...
... but no, Uncle Jake was no boulevardier.
Ay me! I keep getting away from the big, the burning question. It is: Is the Boulevard Mall really America's oldest mall?
Last night I went over to see my mom and when I got there she was in the middle of telling my brother George the story of our going to see Babik, above, last week. Look, there is a poem starting.
I went to see Babik Last week But eeeeek!
The eeeeek was because the fiddler Geoff Perry was AWOL.
Note to out-of-towners: Babik is a gypsy jazz band that looms large in Buffalo. How large you can tell from their touring vehicle. Here is a picture of it.
My mother is Babik's No. 1 fan and knows the musicians personally. The concert we went to was Friday at Denton, Cottier and Daniels, which is the world's oldest Steinway dealer, which is the store where Leonard Pennario began taking piano lessons. Well, that was when it was downtown. Now it is out in Amherst and that is where I was with my mother because she had wanted to go.
But zut alors! As the musicians were setting up, she was getting more agitated by the second.
"I don't see Geoff Perry," she was fretting.
Which is a big deal because Perry and the guitarist, whose name is Stu, re-create the sound of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. Babik is named for Babik Reinhardt...
... the son of Django. I will tell you this, if a time machine were ever invented, I would be zipping back to see Pennario circa 1958...
...but my mother would be blowing past me to go and hear Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. She is a die-hard fan!
So, not good, that Geoff Perry is not there. Not good! I am looking up at the stage as the musicians do that endless sound check that musicians do. And I am getting worried too.
Finally I went over to my friend Michelle who is vice president at Denton, Cottier. And I asked her about the situation. I was hoping against hope she would tell me Geoff Perry was in the men's room and he would soon come out.
No such luck! "Geoff is in Florida," she told me.
Well, I had known that. He moved there. But I was hoping he was coming back for this gig because when I had called him on his cell phone some weeks ago he had told me he would be coming back for occasional Babik gigs.
But now he is not here. And I have a bitter mother on my hands. And I am supposed to be the bitter one! Mary is Hebrew for "bitter." It did not matter that Dr. Jazz was filling in for Geoff Perry. That was no consolation. Dr. Jazz plays saxophone and that is a different thing entirely.
All I am hearing is: "I would not have come if I had known Geoff Perry was not going to be here."
Even though Dr. Jazz was great and sang "The Sheik of Araby" which is not a song you hear often these days.
So that was my experience with Babik last week. Eeeeek! And now my brother George was hearing the whole bitter rundown.
My mother will probably be talking about it for the rest of her life.
It is back to the ortho today with my crooked-toothed self. Well, my teeth are straightening out as you can see from this picture my friend Gary took of me talking to our friend Eddy in a Black Rock bar.
That is something I love saying: "When I was talking to our friend Eddy in a Black Rock bar."
Just as I love saying:
"When I was in California with Leonard Pennario..." I say this every chance I get!
"At our Delaware Avenue address..." People do not know that is Big Blue!
"My friend the French concert pianist..."
"When I was in the Van Cliburn...
...Competition." I like to put it that way, leaving out "amateur." I just said it yesterday downtown and I liked the feel of the words in my mouth.
"My agent." I have not signed on any dotted line but there is this agent whom I pretty much cold-called and talked into the idea of my book. He was moved by my passion for Pennario. I know that is what did it.
"My technical director." That is my friend Larry who comments frequently and whom I have not met or even talks to, but who helps me with computer stuff. Thank you, Larry! Because of him I get to talk big.
Talking about my agent, my technical director and my Delaware Avenue address, I am feeling better already! I think today I will go with pink braces.
Here is a picture I took the other day. It looks like Newport, R.I. Or a beautiful small town somewhere.
But it is Black Rock!
I have had my head buried in the books the last few days, doing Leonard Pennario stuff. So today it was between writing about my recent journey to Jubilee, where I bought steak that did not turn out well, or sharing pictures I took of Black Rock. I decided to go with my Black Rock pictures. They are beauteous!
Above is a picture of the Johanneskirche with a pretty Allentown-like house in the middle and, at the right, a house built by Augustus Porter, the brother of General Porter, which "Airborne Eddy" Dobosiewicz thinks might be the oldest house in Buffalo.
I like to write "Johanneskirche" instead of plain old "St. John's Church" because "Johanneskirche" is what is written on the cornerstone. I went past on my bike once and noticed that.
I took this picture from atop the International Railroad Bridge. Yes, if there is anything good about any landscape, I sure know how to zero in on it, that is for sure!
Herewith, the bridge itself.
And there is beautiful Mason Street. I almost wrote Mason Alley because that is what I think it should be called.
Here is a closeup of the tiny white house on Mason Street which, Eddy thinks the oldest house in Buffalo might not be Augustus Porter's, it might be this one!
After I took this picture we went and rang the doorbell of the house. A man answered the door and Eddy made this speech about how he thought it might be the oldest house in Buffalo. The man looked at us as if we were crazy but then he invited us in.
And we went inside and visited with the man and his wife and petted their kitten. Eddy said to me afterwards: "That's how it's done."
Now we have been inside that mysterious white house!
I do like my pictures of billboards.
And here is a picture of us horsing around near the railroad bridge.