Son of a sea cook, the heat is on for me to join the choir at church. It is not as if they have no women in the choir but most of the women they have are teenagers or kids in their early 20s. They need a more, ahem, mature voice.
Two jokes here.
No. 1, who would have guessed that the choir for the Latin Mass would be overrun by kids in their 20s? I am telling you, the Latin Mass is where it is at!
No. 2, big laugh thinking of me as having a mature voice.
I sound like a 10-year-old!
Especially before my second cup of coffee which is usually the situation on Sunday mornings. One cup is probably bad enough. I am ashamed to say I do not know exactly what the food rules are before Mass for an, ahem, traditional Catholic. I only know the modern rule where you are not supposed to eat for an hour beforehand. I am sure in my present situation the rule is much more stringent. That is why I have not gotten around to finding out exactly what it is.
I have a couple of problems with joining the choir. First I have trouble sleeping on Saturday nights because often I work and I do not know what it is, I can not go to sleep. Last night at 3 a.m. there I am, up and wandering the house sipping Honey Reserve.
Secondly having been a church organist I know what goes on in organ lofts and it is not a lot of praying, I will tell you that right now. It is a lot of stressing. Well, you often have fun in organ lofts too. At Gerard's I remember one day Dorothy, who sang with me, and I were getting ready to do the "Danish" Amen.
And a split second before we began, Dorothy goes, "I wish I had coffee and a Danish right now!"
Ha, ha! There was just something about it that got me. That is how sophisticated my sense of humor is.
Perhaps I will try the choir and see how it goes. All I have to do is show up an hour early. There is no rehearsal during the week which is lucky because telling the story of Leonard Pennario leaves no time for that.
The Gramophone Magazine archives are a kick. I was on it just now looking over a 1958 story about which records had gone out of print that year. I did not find the Pennario reference I was looking for. But I did find something great: a reference to "Kiss Me Kale."
Hahahahaha!! What is that, a musical about vegetarianism?
The Gramophone archives admit that they have not quite ironed out a few kinks. They have a computer system that "reads" the old print copies somehow and puts them up in Internet type so you can read them. And things get lost in translation. "Pennario" might appear as "Rennario" or something. This is a robot doing the reading and it does not know.
"Kiss Me Kale" was my laugh for the morning.
Here is something else that gave me pause, to use an expression I love, as I was looking over these old Pennario-related clips.
I have written before about my experiences long ago in Lily Dale, the, ahem, spiritualist hamlet. Well, it was three years ago. But it feels like a lifetime ago and in a way it was. Because now that I take being Catholic more seriously I cannot go to mediums. I do not even look at horoscopes any more! You know what, it is just as well. I was never much into it to begin with and who needs this stuff.
Still there is no undoing the past and I did go to those mediums that one time, back before I knew to stay away. And I wrote about how that one medium had predicted that I would get involved in a project with an "elegant" individual and the project was going to be extremely successful.
"Elegant" was the word she used. If you look back you will see that I wrote that word consistently. I told the story then told it again by accident exactly a year later.
Anyway, yesterday I was making a note about how often journalists, describing Pennario, used that word "elegant." I was struck by that. I was thinking about the implications of the word. It is kind of cool and remote. It is often used to describe, say, German officers in World War II.
I am not saying all this will end up in the book but I love words, the implications of words, how one word is a shade different from another. Leonard Pennario was into words too and turning a word over in your mind is a very Pennario thing to do.
It was only this morning while I was playing the piano that it came back to me how the medium had used that word, specifically, "elegant." Isn't that strange?
There is no doubt at all who she was talking about, that is for sure! She had also said that the piano would be important and I was thinking, that's odd, I love my piano studies but it is not as if I am going to be doing that for a career or anything. Now I see how it all fit together. Again: isn't it strange?
Howard says it is not strange because that is what mediums are supposed to do, predict the future.
My back and neck have been killing me and all of a sudden yesterday I figured out why.
It is the 'phone!
When I am on the 'phone interviewing someone I cradle the receiver on my shoulder! And the other day I was on the 'phone for an hour and a half. It was because I was talking to another biographer. I never get to talk to another biographer so I just could not bring myself to end this conversation.
I was talking with the biographer of the composer Ernst von Dohnanyi! Here is a picture of Ernst von Dohnanyi who was rather a good-looking man.
Now it is in vogue to say Erno Dohnanyi because he was Hungarian. But I prefer Ernst because that was my grandmother's name, Ernst, Rose Ernst. So to me he will always be, and I am sorry, Ernst von Dohnanyi. He used to sign himself that way anyway so I do not think he would mind. Another thing, how often are we going to go changing everyone's name? Isn't there a case to be made simply for being consistent?
Anyway, when the Leonard Pennario biographer gets on the phone with the Ernst von Dohnanyi biographer, watch out. The conversation went on forever. We were talking about great finds we have scored, when things turned up that we were looking for, and how exciting it is. Pennario played the occasional Ernst von Dohnanyi piece so you cannot say that our paths did not cross.
I was remembering the day I got all those letters that Pennario wrote to Miklos Rozsa, the composer who wrote the music for "Ben Hur" and also wrote a piano concerto as a gift for Pennario. No one ever plays that concerto now because it is too hard for anyone other than Pennario. But anyway, Pennario and Miklos Rozsa were good friends and I had this bunch of letters that Rozsa wrote to Pennario and what I was missing was the other side of the correspondence, the letters Pennario had written to him. I found them in a university collection and one day I got this huge envelope full of copies of these letters.
That was a great day!
It was like Christmas!
That was what I told the biographer of Ernst von Dohnanyi and he understood. He told me he had found the manuscript to Dohnanyi's Second Symphony just lying in this closet somewhere.
Wow, he and I are just such a couple of nerds!
I was so transported by the stories he told me that I dreamed about Dohnanyi that night. But that was also the night I began having this pain in my neck and my back. And yesterday I was on the phone again and I tried doing that cradling-the-receiver thing and a pain shot through me and that was when I thought: Aha.
I will have to take my chiro's advice and get a headset. I will have to do that before I call any more biographers, that is for sure.
Yesterday I went to the dentist and by the time she was through with me my face was completely numb up to my ears. Honest, I could not feel my left ear.
The dentist was at me three times with the Novocain because I just would not go numb!
She kept asking me if my lower lip were numb yet. And I would feel it to see and then reply dolefully that no, it was not.
Then I went really numb.
All that did not clip my wings though. I left the dentist and went straight to Albrecht Discount which is across the street on Sheridan. I bought Cherries Jubilee yogurt and milk and pork tenderloin and who knows what else. Then I did not go home! I went to Premier Liquor.
I ran across someone I knew in the parking lot and my numb mouth did not stop me from gabbing and gossiping. It is Buffalo's public square, the parking lot of Premier Liquor. I bought a ton of wine. My fellow shoppers were looking at me with envy as I strolled the store, piling bottles in my cart.
I took my time shopping. One thing, I go for lower-alcohol wine. My cutoff is 13 percent. The wine has to be below 13 percent. You would be surprised how many are 14 or 14 and a half percent.
There was one time when I was flying home from seeing Leonard Pennario and Howard tracked the flight. That was hysterical. My brother George could not believe it. You would see the plane inching across the country.
On my way home from the dentist yesterday, two daymakers: No. 1 they began playing this Brahms piece on the radio that was ravishingly beautiful. Howard has forbidden me to listen to classical music in the car and he is right, but sometimes I cannot help it and this was one of those times.
Howard and I rose before dawn because today is the liftoff of the Channel 2 Weather Balloon. That is a picture of it up above! Hmm, that is kind of odd-looking for a weather balloon now that I think about it. Well, it is only 5:30 a.m. and I am not quite awake.
We are drinking coffee and Howard is on the 'phone with Andy Parker, the Channel 2 weather man. Andy was up at 4 and so were we! Andy is at the airport where he is launching the balloon. He is at the weather station out where Flying Tigers used to be.
I was just laughing at what Andy wrote on the TV station's Web site. The company www.followthatcar.com that he is talking about is Howard's company which is why we are involved. On the site you can see a picture of Howard bloviating to the school kids at Thomas Jefferson School.
The balloon is launching at 6:30 a.m. They have the countdown going on. I just saw it on TV and Andy has all these schoolkids and personnel out there with him at the Buffalo airport. All these people, including me, up before dawn! That is so Buffalo.
Track it with Howard's tracking system by clicking here. Ha, ha! This is so cool. You see the Buffalo airport!
This morning I made a big mistake. I had a pan of sweet potato oven-fries I had not yet baked. And I stuck them in the oven so they could bake while I did all my morning stuff: took a shower, read the paper, said my prayers.
I thought: Those fries will not get better the longer they sit out. It makes sense that I bake them.
After that I could not stop eating them!!
I think I left five of them sitting there on the pan and that was just so Howard would not think I was piggy eating every last one.
While I devoured these fries I read a story in today's Wall Street Journal about sweet potatoes. There is a big picture of a sweet potato on its front page, how is that for a coincidence? Apparently scientists are working to develop a sweet potato that will be uniformly palatable to everyone and easily cuttable into McDonald's fries and things like that. It will be a differently shaped sweet potato because the sweet potato's pointy tips add up to a lot of waste because machines cannot cut them easily.
Messing with the sweet potato makes me uneasy. Here is a food that is perfect the way it is. It is time for the artist to lift his brush, as Howard would put it.
Try my oven fries and see if you agree. Here is what you do. Take a big sweet potato, one or two pounds. Here is where you can take advantage of the fact that big sweet potatoes are cheaper. Take this big, cheap sweet potato and cut it into fry shapes, about a half inch wide. They can be strips or wedges, whatever satisfies your artistic needs.
Next take a big bowl and pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into it. Toss in 2 teaspoons of paprika. I used this wonderful Hungarian paprika because I do not like to compromise when it comes to this recipe. I also threw in a teaspoon of cumin and a few grinds of black pepper and a teaspoon of dried thyme. In the winter it might be fun to use cinnamon. Mix this all up and then throw in the sweet potato strips and toss them around. Then spread them on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until they are browned.
Last night I was cooking a turkey and so they baked at 350 degrees but now I wish I could have been able to bake them at 400 degrees because that makes them crisper.
When you eat them they need no ketchup, no nothing. And you would swear there was honey on them but there is not!
Howard has his fingers in a lot of pies and what he is doing right now is tracking WGRZ's weather balloon. Our TV station WGRZ, better known as Channel 2, is sending a weather balloon half way to space and Howard is lending them the technology to track it. There he is above teaching schoolchildren about the technology. I took the picture from WGRZ's Web site.
What if the balloon vanishes into space and is lost? That is something to consider.
What if it just keeps going?
Here is another question. You know how everyone is always wondering if we will find intelligent life in space? We are humble here on Earth and we always assume these beings will be smarter than we are.
Here is something I heard on Catholic Radio. "What if we find other beings in outer space and they are really stupid?"
Ha, ha! What do you want to bet?
They will embrace our earthly culture of backwards baseball caps and pants halfway down their butts. And then we will have twice as many of those people as we have now!
No one out there on that distant planet will be interested in Mozart or Leonard Pennario or Art Tatum or ... here is a name we have not mentioned in a while ... Camille Pissaro.
No, they will be stupid!
They will want to do what I did all day today and sit around and play Pac-Man. Has anyone else been taking advantage of Google's free Pac-Man? Howard is sitting here trying to work on his weather balloon technology and I just made him sit through me playing the game twice, complete with arcade music and those crazy sirens. I had forgotten all those noises!
Back to Howard and his space balloon. You can get in on the fun by going to his Web site where you will see the countdown to liftoff. Then you click on "Click to View Live."
I went walking on the waterfront and while I walked I listened to Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman."
That is the opera to listen to while you are walking by the sea! And looking at our old lighthouse which dates to when Wagner was alive. I listened to some of Act I of the opera.
The overture, with the waves crashing against the rocks. We did not exactly have waves crashing but we had rocks at least ...
... and I was able to use my imagination.
I also love the Norwegian sailors' songs, like the famous sailors' chorus. I love how the sailors are trying their darnedest to pretend that everything is OK. It is not OK! Not when you are faced with the Flying Dutchman's ghost ship it is not.
With rue my heart is laden now that Jubilee Foods is closing. I am sorry for the many times I mocked out their little stressed-out manager and joked about how dirty the store was and complained about how you could not buy meat there without getting blood on your hands.
I mean, look at that tiled floor and that ice machine.
The checkout counters were the best of all. That red trim!
They were like that when I was a kid. Heck, they were probably like that when Leonard Pennario was a kid in Buffalo.
Another view of the checkout.
The meat counter stripped bare.
Tops is going to chew up this market and spit it out. All that red trim. Notice the red stripe on the floor and also along the meat counter. Observe the retro "Milk" sign on the far wall. And those classic fluorescent lights on the ceiling.
I loved the comments that appeared on Facebook about the Chartreuse so I am going to reprint them and I hope nobody minds.
What a scholarly conversation! This is me again, talking now.
Who knew that Alma Mahler...
... was a victim of Chartreuse?
But then Chartreuse is made by monks so it has to be all right. We do love our booze in the Catholic Church! That is one of many reasons I am in it. I used to joke with Leonard Pennario about Catholic guilt and stuff, but they do give you your alcohol, so that is one good thing.
As long as it is not Chartreuse!
That is too strong for me (she said piously). A woman's got to know her limitations.
However, that VEP= Veillissement Exceptionellment Prolongee that my friend Panos alluded to?
The other night I stopped by a friend's house and in egregious error accepted a cocktail made with Chartreuse. There is this liqueur called Chartreuse. And much as I enjoyed the evening I have to say that drinking that cocktail was a most imprudent move. I am never drinking Chartreuse again, I will tell you that right now.
Chartreuse makes you chartreuse!
That is a picture of Chartreuse up above. Here is another picture that will serve as a field guide to various types so if you see it you will be readily able to identify it and steer clear.
I do not deliver these warnings lightly. However this is the second time I have drunk Chartreuse and both times have been awful.
You do not even get the fun of drinking to excess! Just a few sips of this stuff and you are in trouble.
That is not fair. At least when you are hung over you should be able to think well, I had all that fun. This situation reminded me of what Leonard Pennario told me about a time in the Army when he pounded an evil drink. I laughed and laughed, hearing him tell that story. But when it happens to me, it is no joke!
There are new nuns in Kansas City. I have seen pictures.
Young nuns, in old habits!
I do not think we have the like here in Buffalo.
Above is a picture I cribbed off a Kansas City Web log. Apparently when nuns take their vows they are crowned with flowers. These are Benedictine nuns. They have incredible names like Sister Scholastica and Sister Gemma of Jesus.
Here are pictures of the nun ceremony. I have heard there is a part to it where they lie on the floor and that appears to be the truth.
Admit it, who is not interested in this? I know I am! Another person fascinated by nuns was Franz Schubert who wrote a song called "The Young Nun." It ends with a haunting "Alleluia." Someone has made a cool video of it on YouTube.
Here is Dame Janet Baker singing the song. This video has a translation so you can understand the Gothic story the song tells.
After their ceremony the nuns in Kansas City gather for a picture.
And because a nun is the bride of Christ, naturally there is a wedding cake!
Here is something to think about on a Monday morning. If you were a nun what kind of nun would you be? I would be a contemplative. I would garden and bake bread and pray the Liturgy of the Hours. And when no one was looking I bet I could get in a few hours of working on my book on Leonard Pennario.
Initially it might disturb the peace to hear the Pennario/Leibowitz Liszt emanating from my cell in the middle of the night but I am sure the convent could get used to that.
One thing, I would not teach! Pennario was not a teacher and I am not either. So if I were a nun I would not teach.
Although the idea of taking a ruler and rapping the knuckles of people who annoy me is attractive, I will say that.
For $2 -- less 30 percent off -- at an estate sale, I got a cake pan that can be used for so many things. It is in mint condition and had the label still inside telling me what to bake in it.
FOR NUMEROUS POPULAR RECIPES, it says.
BOHEMIAN COFFEE CAKE.
FESTIVE JEWISH CAKES.
DELIGHTFUL POUND CAKE.
DELICIOUS CRUMB CAKE.
FANCY FRUIT CAKES.
ANGEL FOOD CAKE.
UPSIDE DOWN CAKE.
Howard says we should go down the list one by one. Then we can take it again from the top.
That would be fine had I not bought size 4 pajamas at a garage sale I also went to. What to do? What to do?
For now we will just admire the pan. Alert Leonard Pennario fans will recognize the handwriting of the great cellist Gregor Piatigorsky to the right of the pan. I was studying that letter earlier today which is why it was sitting there. Six a.m. while the rest of the world slept in, there I was drinking coffee and pondering the words of Gregor Piatirgorsky. Don't worry, of course I xeroxed the letter. That is not his actual letter kicking around my desk with my avocado cake pan.
Our friend Christopher Byrd made the announcement on Facebook that Jubilee Foods is being snapped up by Tops! That is the supermarket I go to when I am going to my mom's. It is a shock to see it is being bought by Tops. The following Facebook conversation ensued.