Saturday, February 26, 2011

Message from Europe

I heard from the violinist in Germany. Remember him? He is sending me the Pennario clip from French TV and he also sent me that adorable picture which, I posted it up above.

I did not have that picture before although I have seen versions of it on some of Pennario's record albums.

Look at that hand he has draped over the piano. That is my favorite thing about the picture. I love that hand. That is a pianist's hand if I have ever seen one.

I cannot wait to see that TV recital. I will keep everyone in Blog-O-Land posted because I know you are sharing my suspense!

This is nice, the pace the violinist and I have going. I send a message to him and wait and think and then he sends me a message back. It is like my favorite comic strip, "B.C." 

This is funny. Remember, the last email I sent this violinist was in German. He wrote me back in English. He wrote, "I thought you wrote you were born in Germany."

Hahahahaa! I guess my German straightened out that misconception pretty darned schnell!

I learned most of my German through operas and Schubert songs and I have a vague idea it is kind of archaic. Once in Vienna I asked directions or something, I forget what, but I remember this gentleman kind of looking after me amusedly as I went my merry way. That was when it crossed my mind I was probably speaking the Kaiser's German.

Pennario's German was better than mine. Well, they loved him in Germany.

Anyway, this TV recital, this is good news to share. Also I had a long conversation yesterday with this record producer who worked with Pennario. He had a lot of interesting things to say. One thing I love, I love when someone gets on the phone with me to talk about Pennario and thinks he or she will be off the phone in 10 minutes. Ha, ha! That is a good one.

We were on the phone for two hours!

That poor guy!

But I had fun, is what counts. Oh, this is interesting too. This violinist, I had been explaining where my family was from, which is Baden-Baden. That is where my father's family is from anyway. All this time I had thought of Baden-Baden as being Bavaria. But now I stand corrected.

It is not Bavaria.

Quoth my new German friend, and I will cut and paste here because I do not know how to do umlauts: "Baden-Baden isn't Bavaria but Baden-W├╝rttemberg (former K├Ânigreich Baden)."

Live and learn!

North Buffalo CVS Pharmacy Cited By Erie County Health Department

CVS Pharmacy North Buffalo location at Elmwood Avenue and Amherst Street.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Water under the bridge

Today I forgot to pay my water bill. I mean, I had forgotten to pay my water bill. And so they shut my water off.

The meanies!

The grinches!

It is not as bad as it sounds. This sort of thing actually happens a lot now that I am working on my book on Leonard Pennario.

Plus my water bill delinquency led to a story I will be laughing about for the rest of my life.

The deal was, I had to go downtown to Exchange Street to pay. As soon as you are in serious trouble with the water department they make it as tough as possible to pay your bill. I had to go and Mapquest my way to their office and then go there in a snowstorm.

The scene at the water office was not pretty. At first I breeze up to this teller thinking I can pay my bill and be out of there. Oh no. Oh, no! Not so fast! I had to take a number and go see the person in the office.

They point me to this numbers machine exactly as you would see if you were at a deli. My number was 68. I took the number and sat down obediently because I am German and I follow orders.

There is only one desk open for customer service and this one woman is parked at this desk. Ten, 15 minutes pass. The woman keeps talking. I can hear the conversation. She owns a bunch of slum properties and she is trying to straighten out all her water accounts. I hear: "That house on Bailey was torn down. I just want to make sure that's off the list."

I have nothing to do. They had a sign forbidding cell phones and I was afraid if I took out my cell phone it might be taken away from me. Let us pause to contemplate the idiocy of this situation. Here these people are supposed to be working for us. And instead they are bossing us.

Meanwhile a few more people join me in the little waiting room. This Chatty Cathy comes and sits down next to me. She starts this conversation about these cuffs I am wearing, that my sister Katie knitted for me. Being a Buffalonian I am always ready to talk so, OK, I answer her questions. The conversation quickly gets boring with this woman doing all the talking. She is talking this nonstop talk about all these cats she has. My eyes keep straying toward the room where the slumlord is still talking. I was so desperate I began praying. Please, God, please, get this slumlord out of here so I can pay my water bill and go home.

The cat woman keeps talking. The minutes keep passing.

Ten more minutes pass. They feel like 10 hours.

Finally .... finally .... the slumlord gets up. She stops and chats for a few minutes with the clerk. Apparently they know each other. Fine, just chat on my dime, you know? I'm not in any hurry or anything.

At last she leaves. The clerk says, "Next."

Not: "Number 68."

And in that split second, Cat Woman gets up and sprints into the office and shuts the door.

And I am sitting there in shock. Thinking: I was here first.... or was I? Yes, I was. I was here first. There was no one here when I took my number and sat down and after that was when this woman sat down.

Then I saw what had happened. This woman had been this kind of con artist. That was why she had been chatting me up. She was clearly familiar with this place, which I was not, and she knew that if she talked and established this friendly atmosphere she could cut in front of me and the odds would be less that I would make a stink. No, I would hesitate. I would be nice. Which is what I had done. It had all gone according to her plan.

As Howard said later it was like being mugged.

So here I am still sitting there. Now the door is shut so I cannot even hear what is going on. Five minutes pass.

Holy cow ...

... I thought.

I could be in here all day!

And I started getting mad. My bill was not that much. A few hundred dollars. As Howard said it is almost impossible to have your water shut off. This has never happened to me in my life. I have heard of stories about delinquent water bills but they are always in the tens of thousands of dollars. Here I am, small potatoes, and now this woman has cut in front of me and my whole day must be sacrificed.

Finally I got up. I went over to the teller. And I began to complain.

"I have to get back to work," I said. "That woman in front of me cut in line. I'm worried about how long this is going to take. I was here first and she dashed into the office in front of me."

The teller gave me the usual bureaucratic runaround. "I am just the teller." Etc.

"But that clerk in there mishandled the situation," I complained. "I took the number as you told me to and the clerk did not call the number. She said, 'Next, please.' That paved the way for that woman to cut in line. It isn't fair."

After a minute or two the teller told me to wait a minute please. And she vanished. She seemed to be heading for the clerk's office.

Where she went, exactly, I do not know nor do I care. All I know is, in a few seconds the door burst open, the door to the clerk's office. And Cat Woman, the woman who had cut in line, was ejected.

Just like that!

As if she were kicked in the pants!

And I was ushered in.

I could not believe it. I kept looking over my shoulder with my mouth open. After I paid my water bill I was still looking over my shoulder wondering if this woman would be out there waiting to cut me. Luckily she was not. Where she went, exactly, I do not know nor do I care.

Our water...

... was turned on in a few hours. The crisis was over.

But this memory is different.

It will stay with me forever!

  • Larry Wroblewski Does seem strange for a shut-off for one late bill, but the Mayor did say he was going to hold the line on property taxes, gotta do that somehow. Now settle back for this Summer's major re-val.
    3 hours ago · 

  • Libby B. Maeder How incredibly aggravating! At times like this aren't you glad you are a writer so you can vent and avoid having a stroke? How utterly ridiculous and inefficient. Imagine a private business trying to run that way and stay in business longer than a month.
    2 hours ago · 

  • Arthur Page Be sure Cat Lady isn't lurking outside your door! Think she might be Jeremiah's sister? Seem to share the chatty gene.
    about an hour ago · 

  • Edziu Kornski Man some of my bad Karma must have rubbed off on you, I hope you dont de-friend me because of it?
    about an hour ago · 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Coming clean

It is time for another game of Accomplishments.

This is the game in which I add up satisfaction points earned for accomplishing different things.

Yesterday I...

1. Rewrote a chapter in my Pennario book that had been giving me problems. (I did this in the middle of the night when I could not sleep.) .....10 points.

2. Did interview for The Buffalo News and it came out better than expected.... 10 points.

3. Reorganized crowded Leonard Pennario file box. ....15 points.

4. Got two nice emails about something I wrote in the paper:  .....15 points.

5. Scored Purex detergent at CVS for 99 cents ...... 25,000 points!!

There is no rhyme or reason.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A hill of beans 2

Yesterday was A hill of beans 1 and so this is A hill of beans 2.

Last night I went to office cooking club and guess what?

I came home after that and cooked!

Born to cook!!! That is what I tell myself when I cook at the soup kitchen. It gets you in the mood! Anyway, last night I made white bean soup. Here is how. You will want to clip and save this. This recipe is a keeper.

I had a two-pound bag of white Great Northern beans from Albrecht Discount and I dumped half the bag into the Crock Pot.

Then I chopped up one (1) onion.

Next I chopped up two (2) carrots.

I put everything together in the crock and then I covered it with water, enough water to cover it by a couple of inches. No salt. No salt yet! You want the beans to get soft. Note that I had not bothered soaking the beans. I am an old hand at this.

I turned the Crock Pot on low and went to bed and slept like a stone, never mind that I had drunk a cup of coffee after dinner at cooking club.

In the morning I woke up and went downstairs and gave the soup a stir. Then I dumped in a baggie of turnip greens I had washed and cut up the other day. Another stir. I added some salt.

An hour later it was done! Marvelous, yummy white bean soup.

I ate it for breakfast and packed some for lunch.

I am the master of the Crock Pot. I cooked for Leonard Pennario out of a Crock Pot.

I can cook for anyone!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A hill of beans

It is strange how now, with Valentine's Day out of the way, Easter stuff is everywhere.

How now, brown cow?

That is what Howard says to me when I say "how now."

Where was I?

In all the stores the St. Valentine's Day stuff is out and the Easter stuff is in. I mean, aisles and aisles of the stuff. Easter candy already on sale, the way candy canes go on sale weeks before Christmas. But this is different. I mean, between now and Easter is, uh, Lent.

And Lent does not even officially start for another three weeks. Today is only Septuagesima Sunday. Lent does not even begin until after Quinquagesima Sunday which is two weeks from now. In between is Sexagesima Sunday. That is a Sunday I love! It hit when I was in California with Pennario and we got a giggle out of it. That was the first time I had heard that term, Sexagesima Sunday, because I was new to the traditional Mass.

My point is, it is forever until Easter.

It may as well be next century.

And still .... and still... all the stores are holding up all this Easter candy, as if to say come on, eat it now. It does not work like that!

All of this righteous griping did not stop me from taking advantage of a special at CVS for free Gold Emblem jelly beans. Isn't this funny? We just got through talking about Goldhen eggs and now we are talking about Gold Emblem jelly beans. And my name is Goldman! What does this mean?

It means that this week at CVS the Gold Emblem jelly beans are free. Ordinarily they would be 99 cents but they give it back to you in Extra Bucks, that is, a coupon that prints on the back of your receipt. Next time you go in you can put that 99 cents toward your next purchase.

It is a treat to look for pictures of jelly beans. If you click on that link it is a delight just to look at the page.

But it will be a long, long time before we will be able to say...

Friday, February 18, 2011

A night at the studio

Howard was being interviewed last night at Entercom Radio, WWKB, and so I went with him to the studio as decoration.

The host of the show was late and we had 10 minutes in the lobby so we took pictures. Here is Howard seen through the fish tank.

Howard took this picture of me.

That is better than the picture of me they run in the paper! As I told someone on Facebook it is funny how you take your best pictures when you are just clowning around.

During the interview the interviewer, Brian Rusk, tried to talk to me but all I would talk about was Leonard Pennario so Howard did most of the talking.

I like that last picture.

Howard looks so visionary!

Later we wandered the studio. We visited with George Thomas Apfel, Entercom's head engineer, in his native habitat which is a room full of plugs and wires.

We observed Sandy Beach winding up his afternoon show.

See the "0" in 930 AM? Right below that "0" you can see the top of Sandy Beach's head.

After that we actually got lost! We could not find our way out. The building was one of those vast recently built office park behemoths that do not make sense to the human mind. There were absurd long hallways ...

... and long strings of rooms without windows.

Finally we had to ask directions and even then it took us a while to find our way out. At last we did. We went and ate sushi at Orchid and Kenmore and then we went home and today it is Friday. It is Feb. 18.

It is amazing how fast the year is passing.

But at least it is full of excitement!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My little chickadee

Blog-O-Land is wonderful. You post a question and someone will answer it.

For instance the other day I wrote about a bird chirping in my back yard, for the first time in 2011, and it made two notes, the second lower than the first. I did not know what bird it was. But now that question has been answered. The bird has a wonderful name.

It is the Black-Capped Chickadee!

I had never known a chickadee was an actual bird. I thought it was something vaudeville comedians made up. I said something last night on Facebook about Mae West but then in the cold light of day I realized it was W.C. Fields. Now I see the reason I thought it was Mae West was that she was with W.C. Fields in the movie called "My Little Chickadee," a still from which is pictured above.

"Come to me, my little chickadee." That is what W.C. Fields used to say! My father would imitate him.

Here is a picture of the Black-Capped Chickadee.

Howard and I blew half the night watching W.C. Fields. And I was reading up on him. The Internet makes this time-wasting all too easy. Hmmm, I did not know W.C. Fields was on the cover of the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." (There, now Beatles fans will find themselves inexplicably on the Leonard Pennario Web log). I also like Wikipedia's list of Fields' supporting players, the actors he worked with again and again. There was Kathleen Howard, "as a nagging wife or antagonist." And "Baby LeRoy, a pre-school child fond of playing pranks on Fields' characters."

All this knowledge gleaned, thanks to that little chickadee! Which, by the way, I do not hear right now. Even though it is the morning and not chilly.

Come to me, my little chickadee!

News flash: The daffodils are also up. Last night I checked and there they were. They were an inch high. They will be in this holding pattern for at least another month but still.

Spring is on the way!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chirp, chirp

Today brings a surprise: For the first time this year, I hear the spring birds chirping.

There is one bird in particular and I do not know what it is, but it chirps two notes, one slightly lower than the first. It is out there singing.

Weather minded as we are in Buffalo everyone has passionate opinions about things like snow and spring. I have always considered St. Patrick's Day the official start of spring. Sometimes we are standing there bundled up and sipping whiskey to keep warm as we watch the shivering little girls from the Woodgate Irish Dance Academy out there hoofing it, but it is spring!

So that is my opinion. However there is also the theory that St. Valentine's Day is the start of spring. Or more accurately the end of winter.

The bird outside seems to agree.

If that is true I would say anyway that I saw the winter out in style. Last night my Valentine's dinner was a success. I made Bouillabaisse. Ha, ha! Look at that, I can finally spell it. I did a lot of Internet searching for it over the weekend, is why.

In the end I did the old-fashioned thing and simply cooked out of a book, Mark Bittman's "The Minimalist Entertains." Haha, I wonder if Philip Glass...

... being a minimalist composer, ever has a party and calls it "The Minimalist Entertains." If he does, I recommend this Bouillabaisse. It is a keeper!

It calls neither for fish stock nor for bottled clam juice. It took about 15 minutes and then it sat for a while which improved it. Then you toss in the fish which in our case were lobster, mussels, haddock and shrimp.

Meanwhile his menu that included the Bouillabaisse suggested a Free Form Apple Tart for dessert. Seeing that the Bouillabaisse was easy I thought, what the heck. And I made the Free Form Apple Tart!

I still managed to be disorganized enough so we did not eat until 10 p.m. or something -- not as bad as it sounds, as our target time was 9 p.m. But the good news is, dinner was a success.

We listened to Nat "King" Cole on the 1950s stereo. I listen preponderantly to Capitol Records albums because that was Leonard Pennario's label when he was not with RCA.

Howard brought me tulips from Pro Flowers.

First tulips and today, the spring birds.

The down side is, it might be time to take down my Christmas tree.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In the pink

Happy St.Valentine's Day! I have already been celebrating.

First I washed my hair with pink shampoo. It is Passion-Fruit Smoothie! My favorite brand, V8. Did I say V8? I must have thinking of the tomato, or love apple. I meant V05. Followed by pink conditioner, Strawberries and Cream.

My breakfast included apples, the food of love.

Next I listened to one of the most romantic Chopin waltzes, played by my favorite pianist, Pennario. What a beautiful comment someone left on that video! "Ex-aequo avec Mr. Dinu Lipatti." That means "The equal of Mr. Dinu Lipatti." Dinu Lipatti's Chopin waltzes are also exquisite.

Howard got up and wished me Happy Valentine's Day. While he was enjoying his oatmeal and newspapers I caught up on my St. Valentine knowledge.

You can tell from his name that Valentine was Roman. That is a marvelous Roman-sounding name. Our story today is full of wonderful names! Valentine was a Roman priest and he was martyred during the reign of an emperor with a marvelous name, Claudius the Goth.

Valentine was apparently marrying Christian couples in secret in defiance of Claudius. The emperor apparently took a liking to him -- I am reading from the site I linked to above -- but Valentine tried to convert the Emperor, which the site says was "a tactical error." Even saints are not perfect! Valentine was stoned and beaten with clubs and finally beheaded, around 269 A.D., outside the Flaminian Gate. It always strikes me how these details come down through the ages as a reminder that these figures from the distant past are real.

There is a story about St. Valentine that has come down through the ages. When he was imprisoned, the jailer had a blind daughter. Before he was killed, Valentine sent a note to the daughter and her sight was restored. The note was signed, "From your Valentine."

Above is a painting of the event by an artist with a marvelous name. It is John Calcott Horsley!

St. Valentine's feast day was established in 496. It is Feb. 14 because that was the day he was martyred -- or buried, depending on what account you read. It was the day before an old pagan Roman feast honoring Juno Februa, or Juno the Chaste, which was linked to love. I guess that settles the question of where "February" comes from. Or "Feb-yoo-ary" as we say here in Buffalo. 

Good St. Valentine is the patron saint of a spectacular array of things: engaged couples, happy marriages, love and lovers, young people, greetings, bee keepers, epilepsy, fainting, plague and travelers. How about that? When you travel, you may pray not only to St. Christopher, you may pray to St. Valentine.

Here is a marvelous old St. Valentine's Day postcard from around 1910.

St. Valentine himself is often pictured with birds and roses, as he is in this picture from this sweet Web site I found. Look at the birds paired off in front of him! Chaucer wrote in "The Canterbury Tales" about how Valentine helped birds find mates.

St. Valentine, pray for us!

And now I am off to my Monday.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Son of a pup

With gloom I greet the ending of the weekend. Every weekend I have big plans. This is the weekend I am going to straighten out my life, finish my book, clean up the house, work out my bank account, do my laundry, pay my bills, catch up with my Leonard Pennario correspondence and plan the next week's menus.

Plan the next week's menus? Did I say plan the next week's menus?

My friend Gary has a phrase for that.

He says, "Well, THAT's not going to happen."

Oh well. At least I have my memories. One funny thing was Saturday morning. My brother George comes over a lot on Saturday mornings and Howard comes downstairs and we all sit around drinking coffee and eating oatmeal and reading the papers, kind of the way I described yesterday only in this case there are two guys to ignore me instead of one.

OK, I am just kidding. We do talk. The other day the conversation turned to this dog my sister and brother-in-law, Katie and David, have that will probably have to find a new home.

Originally there were two dogs, Sophie and Brutus, both yellow Labs and I loved them. They would lurch around under the table at Christmas dinner, their big tails whacking this way and that. Brutus had to go to a new home because he did something, I think bit some kid in the neighborhood. Sophie is still there but she has started to whine and cry at night, I am guessing because maybe she misses Brutus. She wakes my sister up and it now looks as if Sophie might have to go.

George was suggesting we take Sophie. I looked at Howard hopefully.

Is there anything cuter than Labs?

Maybe black Labs.

But whatever, the point is moot.

"Well, THAT's not going to happen," Howard said. He did not say so in so many words but that was the gist of it.

"But Sophie would match the kitchen floor," George joked. He pointed to the kitchen floor which is yellow.

"And the dog-do would match the carpet," Howard said. He pointed to the carpet which is brown.

George said: "Howard, I thought you were thinking about getting a German shepherd." Howard was thinking of that, a couple of years ago. He was going to order one from Germany where it would have been trained and ready to behave and be of service.

Those a German shepherd puppies at the top of this post! I put them up there because that would make my Web log irresistible. Who can resist puppies and kittens?

Howard can, that is who.

"There are already too many Germans in this house," he told George.

George said: "But I thought you were going to order a pure-bred direct from the Fatherland."

"I did," Howard said. "I married her."


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Opera with your breakfast

There is an ability men have that women do not and that is the ability to read the paper in silence.

Just now I was downstairs with Howard, The Buffalo News and the Wall Street Journal. I was drinking coffee and Howard was eating his Millville oatmeal. Howard has the front section of the Journal and I have the Friday review section.

I am like Twitter. Talk, talk, talk.

"These people in Egypt, I hold out no hope. I mean, I would like to be happy, but .... They are chanting, 'Hold your head high, you're an Egyptian.' Ha, ha! I would respect them more if they played 'Walk Like An Egyptian.' ... They should blast that song from loudspeakers.

"Oh, look, Bianca Jagger is back in the news. .... I have not heard her name for years. ...

... She splashed a glass of red wine all over a painting at an art gallery."

At this point Howard did not look up but he replied. "I hope it was modern art," he said.

"It was modern art," I said. "The painting sold. The artist did not mind that Bianca Jagger spilled the red wine on it."

Back we went to our separate universes.

"That is a great British name, Jagger. It's like something out of Dickens. ... Oh, look at this story about how all these musicians thank God for their success. It says that if you believe you are doing what God intends you to do, the odds go up that you will be successful. Ha, ha! Lady Gaga thinks that. And P. Diddy."

Then even I lapsed into silence, thinking about how my book on Leonard Pennario will be an international blockbuster, because I believe I am doing what God wants me to do. No particular evidence for that, I just do.

That having been thought out, I began again to talk.

"Another huge story about writers talking about writers. I am so sick of writers writing about writers. Does anyone care? Don't these writers ever listen to music or anything? .... Oh, look a new biography of Judy Garland. I wonder if it mentions Leonard. Oh wait, it's from 2000. ..."

Howard and I joke about how we tune each other out.

Mozart captured this situation in "The Marriage of Figaro" and I always think of that. The opera opens with this engaged couple, Figaro and Susannah, talking about two different things. He is measuring the space for their bed and she is talking ... and talking and talking ... about this new hat she bought. Mozart, being a married guy, got the mood exactly right.

This is not the greatest sound quality but they have sort-of subtitles so you can see what I mean. It is hard to find opera clips on YouTube with subtitles. Plus, Jose van Dam is a singer I love.

Ha ... here is a cute modern staging. Well, it is a little dated now. The point is, though, he opera is kind of like "Upstairs, Downstairs." It can play out in any time, in any place.

It certainly plays out in our breakfast room!

Friday, February 11, 2011


This morning my friend Brian Meyer from work posted something on Facebook looking for our grammar pet peeves. The things that people say that drive us crazy.

You know me, I love being given a soapbox like that!

Before I knew it I was dominating the conversation. So to avoid driving everyone crazy I thought I would allow myself the luxury of listing on the Web log the top things that drive me crazy about how everyone talks. Me, of course, my speech is perfect. Not. I remember in California I would get into some convoluted sentence and Pennario would start laughing at me and I would say, "And Leonard, I promise I will use better sentence structure when writing the book."

Ha, ha! But enough about me.

Here are my Top Irritants.

1.) Like, like, like, like, like. This is the one I wrote on Brian's page. I wrote, "What drives me crazy is the word "like," over and over. Women are the worst offenders. In the gym locker room all you hear is "It's like... it's like... I'm like... like... like... like..." I guess it's better than what you hear in guys' locker rooms ; ) but until women stop talking like this I do not want to hear any talk about glass ceilings."

That is a picture of me in the locker room!

Ttalk of locker rooms reminded me of another peeve which is:

2.) Swear words whenever you turn around!

Well, that is kind of off topic. Let me continue.

3.) "Disrespect," used as a verb. It seems to be accepted everywhere now.

4.) That nasty ugly "suck," everywhere you look. "That sucks!" It is so obscene and no one thinks about it. It is as if everyone has turned into Beavis and Butthead, you know?

5.) That reminds me, "you know."

6.) "Snuck." You see this in print and it kills me. "He snuck into the house." It just looks so unprofessional. I get great pleasure out of writing, correctly, "sneaked."

7.) "Really, really, really whatever." My dad yelled at me for piling too many really's on top of each other with the result that I always notice it.

8.) This one is timely: "Feb-yoo-ary." 

9.) This one is in the kiddie pool, I realize I am being fussy but I do not like when people say "their" instead of "him or her." "Got someone special in your life? Name a star after them!" I do not like that!

10.) "Omigod" and "I swear to God." Usually the same person is guilty of both.

Wow, 10 gripes, about 15 seconds. That was as long as I took to write that!

Next week I should do the next 10!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Christina Aguilera and me

Being Super-Bowl-ignorant I was not aware until the next day of the flap surrounding Christina Aguilera goofing the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner." I may be Super-Bowl-ignorant, by the way, but oddly enough I am not Christina-Aguilera-ignorant. I heard Christina Aguilera live in concert once, at Darien Lake.

Isn't that strange? I never heard Leonard Pennario live but I did hear Christina Aguilera live.

But anyway, about the anthem. I agree with this writer that my Facebook friend Ward Hamlin posted on Facebook. This author, Mark Corallo, says oh say, the anthem is not a pop song. It should not be subject to all those vocal curlicues that pop singers love to affix to everything they sing.

I have felt the same thing about some Christmas carols. You hear some R&B singer warbling through "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," and two bars into it, poor old Mendelssohn's noble melody is totally lost. My sister-in-law Natalie does a great imitation, by the way, of those singers. It is getting to be a Christmas Eve tradition, that Nat mimic one of those singers singing "Hark the Herald" or "Joy to the World."

Back to the anthem. At my mom's house, my mom and my brother George and I were discussing the Super Bowl situation and I proudly invoked the name of my grandmother, Barbara Geber. She was my mother's mother. She was the soprano soloist at St. Boniface Church. And she used to sing the National Anthem at Offermann Stadium.

When I mentioned that, proudly, my mother said, "She never sang the National Anthem at Offermann Stadium."

"What do you mean?" I said.

My mom patiently repeated what she had said.

"But you always told me she used to do that, once in a while."

"I told you that?" my mother said.

"Yes! I'm sure!" I could not believe my ears. "I'm sure you told me she used to sing the National Anthem."

"She did sing it, yes," my mother said. "But not at Offermann Stadium."

"Well, I know she sang it," I said. I mean, do not we all sing the National Anthem, in the shower or something? Now George sees how ridiculous the conversation has gotten and he starts laughing.

This was a big bummer. All my life I have been proud of this story. I have bragged about this to a million people, that my grandmother used to sing the National Anthem at Offermann Stadium. I bragged to Pennario about it. I may even have written about it in the paper. I do not think I would even know what Offermann Stadium was were it not for that story. Wasn't it knocked down before I was born? How would I screw something like this up?

Next thing you know I will find out my grandmother was never the soprano soloist at St. Boniface.

"She did sing hymns, yes, but not as the soloist at St. Boniface Church."

Here I thought I was descended from greatness.

Thanks a heap, Christina Aguilera!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

As Schubert would say...

Remember the film on French TV of Leonard Pennario? There is an update.

I heard a few days ago from the gentleman in Germany who told me about it. He is a violinist! He said he has it and will send it to me!

(Blast of trumpets.)

The one thing funny about his note when he told me that was, he wrote the email in German. That was because in my first email to him I mentioned in a postscript how much Leonard had loved German audiences. I said, "Maybe he told me that because he knew I was German, but I think he meant it."

My friend in Germany interpreted that to mean I spoke German!

He thinks this ...

...  is me!

Which, I do speak German, because I studied it. But I speak it only to an extent. And not to a very great extent, I found as I tried to answer him.

I wanted to write in German, just because. Because he is being so nice to me, I guess.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo: It took me two days to finish my email back to him. I am sitting there at the computer and I have a new window open to an online German dictionary. For the first time in years I am sitting there thinking, OK, if I am going to write, that is wonderful news, what is news? Nachricht. What gender -- der, die, das? Die Nachricht.

Das ist wunderbare Nachricht. Does that sound right?

I get up early and there I am, crafting these convoluted sentences. The one thing I have going for me in German is word order. A lot of kids in school saw the word order as backwards or confusing but I always had it right, I just sensed it. I think it comes from listening to so much Schubert.

But fine, it's great if you listen to a lot of Schubert but the end result, as we say in Buffalo, is that you can discuss love and friendship and Gemuetlichkeit and sunsets and woods and nightingales until the cows come home, but you are short on vocabulary when it comes to talking about DVDs and television programs.

I found myself just staring at this dictionary.

Keine Nachricht ist eine gute Nachricht. No news is good news. Our two languages share that saying.

Der Postbote brachte schlechte Nachrichten. The postman brought bad news.

I get foggy on endings so it takes me forever to copy these sentences.

Was gibt es neues? That is the terrible phrase "What's new?" Don't you hate when you are asked that? Nothing you say is ever good enough.

There was one person the other day who asked me that, I forget who. And I spoke excitedly of this gentleman in Germany, and this TV recital by Pennario. And this person, whoever it was, said to me: "That's really important. Don't drop the ball on this, now! Make sure you get back to him!"

Right, I am going to go drop the ball on this, you know?

Was rauchen Sie? That means, "What are you smoking?" I did not even have to look that up.

Since writing my email I have gone on a Schubert song jag, listening to Schubert in the car, thinking it might be time to improve my German again. It is good to know languages.

I will tell you when I hear back from my violinist friend.

He is probably scratching his head over my email!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The remains of the day

When I brought in the papers just now, Howard and I realized something. Surely we are the last two people in the world to know who won the Super Bowl!

What teams were even in it? Earlier this morning I was checking out this one priest's Web log I kind of follow and he made mention of the Bears. There was a Bears fan at Mass, he wrote. I am thinking the Bears must be one of the teams. But where are they from?

Somewhere I picked up mention of Wisconsin. Is Wisconsin in the Super Bowl? I thought the teams came from cities, not states. Wait! The priest mentioned the Packers. That would be the Green Bay Packers.

The Super Bowl from a priest's perspective. Or a brother, or whatever he is. This is the nerdiest post I have ever written! Well, I have this long Monday ahead of me. I do not have time to scrutinize the Super Bowl as if it were Pennario playing Chopin.

There is one thing I think is funny about the Super Bowl. It hits me every year. Every year, cooking magazines are all about Game Day. There are spreads you make, dips you make, stews and chili. What this tells me is, this is how women deal with the Super Bowl. This is what gets them through it. They try to design this perfect menu around it and cook all these glossy recipes.

As if the guys know the difference.

As if your husband or boyfriend is going to go, "Honey, what a wonderful Broccoli-Mushroom Casserole. And the Spicy Roasted Potato Wedges!"

Ha, ha. Right!

Wide right!

Ahem. Back to Super Bowl 2011.

I am lucky, I guess, that I do not have a sports husband. Though if I were single and met a great guy who liked sports, I would not let that be a deal breaker. I would learn to get by the way all these other women do, by cooking.

There are few things in life that food cannot get you through!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blaise of glory

Today I got my throat blessed! I think I confide this to the Web log every year! But it is a topic that is forever new.

All I did was write on Facebook "Got my throat blessed!" and I got all these comments! I could write that I had finished my book on Leonard Pennario and it would not get half as many comments as I get just by saying I got my throat blessed.

My favorites are the people who go, "Oh, I remember when they used to do that." Get with it, they still do it!

Most of the comments though were very astute including some people observing that St. Blaise was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers! It is time we refreshed our memory of the Fourteen Holy Helpers Church in Gardenville, outside of Buffalo, in case you are ever in the neighborhood and you run across it.

St. Blaise's actual feast day is Feb. 3. Someone on Facebook tried to argue me and say it is Feb. 2! We are passionate about St. Blaise here in Buffalo.But according to my missal it is the 3rd.

Here is a painting of the tormenting of St. Blaise. It was painted by a follower of Caravaggio.Caravaggio did not wait for Twitter to have followers! The painting is chilling to look at with the person on the right smiling like that.

This picture, "The Scourging of St. Blaise," is in the Tweed Museum in Duluth. Here are directions to the Tweed, which is a name I love, so you can go and see it in person.

At the top of this post you see St. Blaise in the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers near Bamberg, Germany. I believe our Fourteen Holy Helpers in Gardenville is the only Fourteen Holy Helpers church in America.

I had not known St. Blaise was a physician. Here is everything you wanted to know about St. Blaise but were afraid to ask. This is cribbed from a most amiable Web log.

Tradition tells us that St. Blaise was a physician in Sebaste before being elevated to the episcopate and was a man of such kindness and persuasion that he once talked a wolf into releasing a poor woman’s pig. He was martyred in the early 4th Century by being beaten, raked with iron combs, and beheaded. His reputation as a healer made his cult very popular in the Middle Ages and he is counted as one of the 14 Holy Helperscommemorated in the formerly Cistercian Basilica of the Vierzehnheiligen near Bamberg.

Blaise has been invoked for a number of causes over the centuries. He is counted as a patron of wild animals and veterinarians and was popular among wool carders in England, who credited the saint who was torn with combs, with bringing them prosperity. His primary cultus, however has been around his protection from illnesses of the throat, a logical attribution for a physician who was beheaded.

When we get our throats blessed here is how it is done.

The priest says: "Through the intercession of St. Blaise, may God protect you from all ailments of the throat, and from every other evil."

It is marvelous in Latin. Let us cut and paste: "Per intercessionem S. Blasii liberet te Deus a malo gutteris et a quovis alio malo."

Gutteris, that is throat. As in guttural. Perhaps as in gutter! Gutters are kind of like throats. The water goes down.

With the Feast of St. Blaise we move into the time of year when it is as if we are in the Middle Ages because we track the year according to the saints. There is the Feast of St. Blaise followed, in a couple of weeks, by the Feast of St. Valentine.

Some people say that after St. Valentine's Day you may believe that it is early spring. Others say St. Patrick's Day, a month later.

Whatever, the important thing is, it does not mean that I will take down my Christmas tree.

It is still green and healthy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

So it is written

Today we scrutinize other people's Web logs.

No. 1 I have this Web log buddy now, Liz Savino. Howard and I are friends with Liz and her husband, the attorney Bill Savino. You cannot say merely "attorney." It must be "the attorney." Recently our friendship was galvanized when we went together to hear Jackie Jocko.

On New Year's Day, to my delight, Liz Savino began a Web log. And she said she was inspired by me! Here, I know that is unbelievable but you may read it for yourself.

Here is a painting of my friend Liz Savino writing her Web log.

She said the way I mention Leonard Pennario every day, she is going to mention Bill. And so far it has worked. So far.


Today I log on to my Web log friend Liz Savino's Web log and she has fallen beneath the wheel!

There is no post!

It is now 11:35 p.m. Liz, Web log buddy, you have 25 more minutes until it is midnight and your Web log turns into a pumpkin.

So that is No. 1 on the list of other people's Web logs, Liz Savino's Web log.

No. 2 is the Web log of my sister Katie.

I get this form-style email today announcing that she is, ahem, beginning a Web log, under the auspices of some friend of hers. I do not know which friend. I care not. The reason I care not is my sister has not only never looked at my Web log, but she has mocked it.

"I don't have time to read blogs." That is what she has said.

Now I am supposed to read her Web log, about German poetry in the classroom? I think nein.

Howard said I should tell her, "Read my thousand Web log posts and then I will read yours."

We drive a hard bargain here at the Leonard Pennario desk!

Speaking of which, news flash. I just checked Liz Savino's site. She has posted!

That was a close one, Liz!

A close one for me, too.

I have only six minutes to spare!