Saturday, December 31, 2011

I love you, Buffalo

This picture is the spirit of Buffalo as far as I am concerned. It comes from the Buffalo Sabres Web site. I found it posted on the wall of my friend Jennifer, author of the popular and pioneering Web log All Things Jennifer.

It is a classic!

You have the Buffalo Sabres battling the enemy, one of the enemy players down and everyone screaming. Jennifer is the gal in the front cheering with her arms in the air. Next to hear is her fiance who has the Buffalo name of Weber. Jennifer has that in common with Mozart, both of them married people named Weber. Well, Jennifer has not married her Weber yet but she is about to.

So they are there in the front. Also check out that person on the other side of Jennifer, hammering against the glass! And all around people are screaming and yelling and carrying on.

That is Buffalo! I used to laugh with Leonard Pennario about that, that there is no place on earth like our hometown. Stuff here you could not make up.

Another Buffalo thing: that story about the hit and run in the parking garage downtown.

We can go ahead and laugh about it because nobody died and the people who were hurt were treated and released. The suspect in the case is named Booze. The guy he allegedly hit is named Beers. And not only that but as my mother points out, it all happened in the Augspurger Ramp. That is a great name that conjures up visions of beer steins, Oktoberfest and the St. Pauli Girl.

As Howard said it all sounds like The Onion.

A great note on which to begin the New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Kicking my cold

Today I am feeling much better. I am kicking my cold! But I am still, as we say, convalescing. I did convalescent things. Isn't that a great picture up above? I found it on the Internet. It is called "A Convalescent."

I went walking in Delaware Park today with a friend from work who was kind enough to call me up. I wrapped myself up warmly.

A couple visiting the bison exhibit asked that we take their picture which we did. Tourists! They are everywhere!

Back home I did cooking chores and worked on my Leonard Pennario book which is coming together fast now. It is like a jigsaw puzzle, you get enough pieces and then it all starts coming into focus. That is the way I am thinking anyway! Watch, it will be five years from now and I will be writing the same thing.

Also while I was on the phone I made vanilla extract. You take two vanilla beans which somehow I had ended up with after my scrambled evening Christmas shopping last week. You cover the vanilla beans with vodka. Voila!

The only trouble with the vanilla extract is now it sits in a cupboard undisturbed for a month. I do not like things that sit for a month without my doing anything to them. It is just how I am.

Maybe I can at least shake the jar daily.

Anyway. So there was that. After I worked on my book for longer than I thought was healthy I did a little Web surfing. I read up on the Republican candidate Rick Santorum. I like that Rick Santorum goes to the Latin mass and I do too. I mean, a candidate who goes to Latin Mass, what are the odds?

If I ever meet him I will say, "Dominus tecum, Rick."

And he will say benevolently:

"Mary, et cum spiritu tuo."

Ha, ha! That was fun. What else did I do? I made a pot of lentil soup.

I made a pot of chili.

I think tomorrow I will be totally back to normal.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The mystery picture

A nice gentleman wrote to me and said, "Is this the picture of Leonard Pennario you bought on eBay?"

Because yesterday I wrote and said I could not find the picture to post because I had bought it and it was gone from the site. This is the picture of Pennario with the conductor Eugen Jochum.

This guy who wrote to me, unlike me he had two brain cells to put together, so he went and looked under "Completed Auctions."


SO cool.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Must have

So I am sitting home getting over this cold and what do I do, I start looking at eBay. Bad business! Step away from the computer!

Too late.

I am looking at all the Pennario stuff which is what I do at the end of the night when I am too tired to do anything else. And there was this cool, cool picture of Leonard Pennario with the German conductor Eugen Jochum, rehearsing a concerto.

I had never seen this picture before in my life! Most pictures of Pennario, even if I do not have them, I am aware of them. This picture, I could not get over it. I imagine it was taken at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Jochum conducted there a lot and Pennario played there multiple times.

Here is a picture I love of people at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw admiring a portrait of Eugen Jochum.

Here is Eugen Jochum on a stamp.

If you are wondering how to pronounce Jochum you say it the same as you say the country singer Dwight Yoakam.

Darn, the picture I bought of Pennario and Jochum is no longer pictured on eBay because I already bought it, so I cannot lift it and put a picture of it here. Even with the seller's watermark splashed all over it, you could get the idea of why I could not resist it.

This picture will be SO COOL in the book. And, I mean, there were other great pictures, like this one...

... which I like, because you can see his hands, what great hands. But I already have that one.

This shot with Eugen Jochum cost me over $20. I do not like to spend money like this but you know what, God knows when this picture would surface again. Plus you go out for drinks with your friends after work and you spend $25 without blinking. I spend that much when I go with my mom to the Wehrle Restaurant.

Plus at the rate the economy is going none of our money is going to be worth anything anyway in the long run, you know?

Eugen Jochum is looking intense and cadaver-like, leaning over Pennario's shoulder. Pennario is at the piano and has one hand resting on the piano desk. And he looks great. Plus he looks as if he does not have a worry in the world. Here I am, playing the Concertgebouw, with this conductor breathing down my neck, who cares, what me worry.

There was never a pianist like Leonard!

Yesterday I was reading an article about the Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin. And I am thinking, Pennario could do everything he did with one hand tied behind his back. Kissin played both Chopin concertos when he was 12, big deal. Pennario played the Grieg Concerto at 12 and he learned it in a week. And he didn't grow up coddled in some special school with some special teacher, either.

OK, Mary, time to take your medicine and go to bed.

Cybershopping and Nyquil.

A perfect evening!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Octave of Christmas

The, ahem, liturgical calendar says this is the Octave of Christmas. That means you sit for a week, technically eight days if you count the first and the last day, and drink all the leftover wine that ended up at your house. Did I say drink wine? I meant contemplate everything that happened 2011 years ago.

That really puts it in a new light, to say 2011 years ago.

I have to say I did kind of burn myself out over Christmas weekend and I was pretty foggy when I made my way to church on Christmas morning. But then I woke up. The church was full of crimson and gold. Why write "red" when you can write "crimson"? Anyway it was stunning.

We sang the great Gregorian Gloria and throughout it the altar boys rang the bells.

Plus at the start of Mass, the priest, Father Secondo, chanted the Christmas Proclamation.

I had never heard of the Christmas Proclamation! I looked it up and found it here. It is a fascinating piece of paperwork. What it does is, it places the birth of Christ in the context of time. I had not known for instance that it occurred 2,051 years from the birth of Abraham. I had not known how that worked out. Also 1,510 years after the Exodus from Egypt.

These are not really long time spans we are talking about, you know?

I mean, when you start guessing about the Second Coming, it could really happen around now, couldn't it? There would be a kind of symmetry to that.

How is that for a thought for when you cannot sleep?

I love all these details. They are thrilling because they are proof that the story was not made up. That this happened. Oh, this reminds me of something funny that happened this weekend. Howard and I were going to Christmas Eve at my mom's. Howard has been an angel putting up with me and my Christmas, I have to say that. And my religious zeal.

Anyway we get in my car and I have this CD in the player that is playing Gregorian chant. What was it? Thank you for asking! It was "Puer Natus Est." Howard was driving but he was polite and did not turn it off. I said, Howard, you don't have to deal with my Gregorian chant. And I switched it to WBEN.

But WBEN was broadcasting a sports game or something and Howard pushed the radio button again and it switched to Catholic Radio 101.7 because that is how my car radio is rigged. And right at that moment this voice kicks in with the Gospel of Luke.

"At that time there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child ..."

At that point I could not help it, I said: "What, you want to listen to Scripture."

Hahaha! Three cheers for the bus driver who puts up with me!

Subsequent to that Howard did change the station and he put on Al Jolson.

But later my mind returned to that thrilling Gospel and I was chewing on those details. The order came from Caesar Augustus, a person in the history books. There is this one friend of Leonard Pennario's, her family comes from Augsburg, Germany, and she told me recently that Augsburg was named for Caesar Augustus, who personally founded the city. Augsburg is very proud of that, she said.

So that happened at about the same time, during the reign of this emperor. Augsburg dates to the time of Christ. I also love the bureaucratic little note pertaining to Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. Was Syria named for Cyrinus? Seriously? Hahaaaaa.

Anyway all these little things that make what happened believable.

Things to contemplate during the Octave of Christmas.

As you finish up all that leftover wine!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas alien

Howard took this picture on Christmas night of our nephew George Henry. Howard calls him Hank.

George Henry, or Hank, likes to have fun with the orange plastic bags that The Buffalo News arrives wrapped in. He pulls the bag over his head and then rips it for maximum alien effect.

This is another thing about George Henry: One winter day my sister got a call from his school. He had hurt his tongue, they told her.

Then they said, "Do you want to know how he did it?"

Steeling herself she said yes.

What had happened was, he had licked the outside of the school bus. It was cold and his tongue had stuck to it.

Hahahahaaa! We should not be laughing probably in this politically correct day and age but laugh we did, last night. George Henry joined in the laughter. And his uncle Joey said to him, "You learned your lesson, right? So if you see another school bus, you will be ready, and you won't lick it."

George Henry is endlessly amusing. As Howard says he is right out of Mad magazine. It will be pity when he grows up!

Remember when he and I went sledding? That was three Christmases ago, ye gods.

Ye gods how long this book on Leonard Pennario is taking.

Howard took this picture of me in my pajamas under the tree.

Howard gave me the funniest present. It is a Mood Alarm Clock! You set it and it turns different colors during the night to alter your mood and your dreams. The directions are written by someone who does not quite know English so this will be an adventure.

"Living in a fast-paced society brings a lot of pressure and stress to people," the directions begin, bravely. "How to soothe and relieve these problems has been an important project to researchers and scientists for years. They have discovered that light and color change can bring a significant improvement on these problems. Our cutting-edge product MoodiCare clock is made based on that idea The special features are, it can soothe and relieve your pressure and stress which are caused by many other factors such as work."

I have tried to keep the punctuation and capitalization the same. When I was reading it out loud I had to stop at the point I just left off because I was laughing too hard.

And so to bed.

I am going to test out this clock!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The pumpkin on the doorstep

Today I finally finished using up the big pumpkin that some mystery person abandoned after Halloween on my mom's doorstep. I do not know if I wrote about this pumpkin before. It was huge!

People say you cannot cook with these jack o'lantern size pumpkins but you can.

And you should! I had fun with this pumpkin. I took it home -- well actually it rolled around in my car trunk for four or five days before I was home the requisite few hours it took to roast it -- then I cut it up in wedges and into the oven it went. That was a very pleasant Sunday evening I roasted the pumpkin. I worked on my Leonard Pennario project while it baked and reveled in that I was getting around to doing two things I was loving doing.

All in all this jack o'lantern yielded me two pumpkin pies and two Chilean Squash casseroles. That is a recipe from the old Moosewood Cookbook and I have made it with butternut squash but I prefer it with pumpkin. Pumpkin is milder and goes better with the rest of the ingredients which include corn, eggs and Cheddar cheese.

Let me see if the recipe is on the Internet. Ah! This is pretty much it.

It is delicious. My little niece and nephew love it. I took the Chilean Squash to my mom's for Christmas Eve and the leftovers went home with them. Speaking of pumpkin my brother George and I have been laughing for the entire Christmas season about the lines from Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" ....

There's a special feeling nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie


And, just as funny ...

There's a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray
It'll be the perfect ending for the perfect day....


OK, maybe you had to be there. Isn't that a cute version by Harry Connick Jr.? Dear Harry. I interviewed him once back when I worked at the Niagara Gazette. I might have interviewed him since then. I do not remember, I am ashamed to say.

Yikes, that video cuts off so abruptly!

Oh well. Back to the big old pumpkin. It is funny to think that it was part of our Christmas Eve.

Christmas got a little help from Halloween!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Evening with Kenny

Seeing Kenny Rogers at Kleinhans last night at Kleinhans, I have respect or this show business veteran.

He was kind of startlingly frail considering the big, husky guy we remember from the '80s. But his heart was in this show. Here is a guy born to perform. There is a beauty to seeing someone like that out there on stage. It is as close as we come to old-style vaudeville. Plus, his voice is still beautiful.

The bad news was, Kenny did not change his speech about "O Holy Night" as I had asked him to. You cannot teach an old dog new tricks! He did the whole thing, starting with that hilariously wrong-headed statement that the song "was written as a Catholic Mass."

Hahahaaa! Next he said "Silent Night" was written "as a Catholic Mass."

It is rare to find someone so at sea as to the Catholic Church, you know?

The good news was that in the Meet and Greet -- a story in itself -- Kenny was nice to me and wanted to talk to me. Which was fun! Except I did not notice. My brother George was kind of disappointed in me because I did not pick up on that. George said, "Kenny wanted to talk to you and was trying to get your attention and you were just busy finding your coat."

Hey, you know what? That is just too darn bad.

Leave 'em wanting more, is my philosophy.

Plus you have to watch it with these guys. Leonard Pennario came to town and he asked me to sit down next to him and I said yes and look what happened, suddenly boom, I am in California.

I would get talking with Kenny Rogers and suddenly there I would be on his tour bus with his band, helping him with his memoirs. Instead of Lenny it would be Kenny. No thank you, I have to wrap this project up first.

You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Better late than never

Naturally I wait till now to go Christmas shopping.

I went to TJ Maxx after work which, I was surprised it was not a zoo. The music was mercifully soft, and other than one kid with a really piercing scream, the place was pretty quiet. I got a cart and walked around throwing stuff into it. This is the fun of last-minute Christmas shopping! You just say, what the hey, and toss it in.

While I was thus shopping I ran into my Facebook friend Steve Cichon. He was buying an unusual present. I do not want to write what it was in case the recipient is a Leonard Pennario fan and reads this. But anyway, I trailed after Steve Cichon for a while and we talked about TJ Maxx and our families. It felt kind of surreal, trailing around after him. It changed my shopping experience.

Steve is the, ahem, news director for WBEN-AM and when I got home I saw that he had already posted on Facebook that he had run into me. Steve has a million Facebook followers so now I am famous. That is how life is in Buffalo! As is often said it is like one big room.

Now Christmas closes in.

I am going to jot down the few remaining things I need to get and then comes the big Christmas Eve family gift exchange. The big gift exchange, haha. We just give each other little stuff, including stuff we buy at garage sales and Goodwill.

After that comes the big family Christmas Day dinner.

After that comes the getting together with friends for big glasses of wine. Well, I already started that last night with my friend Gary. Howard and I went to Gary's and sat around with huge glasses of wine. The lounge piano sensation Guy Boleri was there too but he was drinking Krupnik. Krupnik is this wonderful Polish honey liqueur. Howard and I have a bottle that was a gift and we treasure it but I have to watch it with it because it puts me on the floor, does that Krupnik.

I am enjoying my yuletide! That is for sure.

Let us pause to hear Jussi Bjorling singing "O Holy Night."

Now that is a voice! Listening to it I find myself reflecting on what the season is all about.

Speaking of which...

Where did I put that Krupnik?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mystery fruit

To celebrate my clean house I have purchased persimmons.

Now, what to do with them?

When all else fails, look at pictures. I apply that philosophy to my Pennario book too. If I am stuck I look at pictures ...

... and it helps me to figure things out.

In our alphabetical listing of subjects Persimmons will follow Pennario.

Here is a pile of persimmons!

Here is what I may expect when I cut one up.

Beautiful! Somewhere while looking at pictures I learned that persimmons come from Japan.

Finally here is a picture of persimmons on the bough.

Now there is no more dodging the issue. What to do with my purchase?

What to do?

Mrs. Reagan's Persimmon Pudding looks yummy. I like the mention of the Brandy Whipped Cream.

And Persimmon Cookies.

This is terrible! I am so in the Christmas goodie zone. I wake up thinking, OK, what can I eat today? Yesterday I had pumpkin pie for breakfast. Other people have long eaten their Thanksgiving pumpkin pies. And I did too. But I took the step of baking new ones!

A relatively pious persimmon salad.

Your tax dollars at work: The Smithsonian Institution instructs us on use of persimmons.

This will be an adventure, dealing with this most exotic fruit.

I have never tasted one in my life!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Miss Clean

I am sorry for my silence. I had to clean my house! With other people that is just something they do on a Saturday afternoon along with their other chores and errands. With me it is this big deal.

The reason I had to clean my house was, I was the host of the office cooking club. When I took it into my head to do that I had know way of knowing that Larry would leave his post.

Larry, remember, is the friend I pay to come over and clean the house.

Larry's car went on the fritz and he lives somewhere out in East Amherst where the buses do not run. I do not think he has plans to fix his car. Apparently he is just going to sit in his house like some troll.

So Larry was not here and naturally, everything also conspires to make this into the perfect storm!

There was this cider from the Clinton-Bailey Market that Howard and I were ripening in the fridge and it leaked through its plastic bottle, creating this sticky mess.

Then I thought I had my act together with my Christmas tree put up in a stand I bought at a garage sale. Well, guess what? That stand leaks too!

I am going to have to sell my story to WikiLeaks!

But anyway. The up-side to this story, the triumph of it, the Leonard Pennario-like aspect of it is that I soared like an eagle and cleaned the house myself. I did a masterful job. It took days, but were I to tackle it again say, next weekend, it would not be that big of a deal.

I feel empowered! When I got up this morning I was walking around the house amazed.

Thinking: I did this!!

Perhaps Larry walked away from his post at just the wrong time! When he finally fixes his car he will be out of a job.

As Howard puts it, he left his bowl.

Ha, ha! Normally I picture a big dog but the puppy is cute too.

Big dog or little dog the moral of the story is the same:

Do not leave your bowl!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Big night

Howard and I celebrated our anniversary today! It has been seven years since Father Butch married us at St. Gerard's Church.

Howard and I met at Fanny's and this year was traumatic because Fanny's not only closed, but the building was torn down. If you go down Sheridan in Amherst you will not even be able to see where it was. It is now a medical building or something.

We used to go to Fanny's to celebrate our anniversary but now it is as if we have been orphaned. What to do? What to do?

We thought of doing something new, going for sushi. But we do that anyway, once in a while at least.

Then we thought of Oliver's.

It is practically right down the street and we love it, the dark inside, the circular booths. We sat in one of the booths near the bar and enjoyed the ambience. I chose the Cornish hen because that is my job at the upcoming office cooking club, to make Cornish hens, and I wanted to see how the masters do it. Just like, if you are learning the Liszt Sonata, you want to hear Pennario play it.

The bad news was, I ate and ate and there was no stopping me. Well, finally I had some of that hen wrapped up to go. This was one of those dinners I just love remembering. Cutting-edge foodies would probably not think it interesting, but it was just good, you know? This perfectly roasted hen and mashed potatoes and I think spinach. So yummy. The mashed potatoes, mmmm.

I left really feeling I had been fed.

Howard got lobster tail. Afterward we hung around and gabbed with Mike, the bartender, who remembered the Round Table which is now Big Blue. Mike was little at the time that the Round Table was still opened but his dad had been one of the owners. As I understand it. At the time I was thinking more about my dinner than anything else.

One other nice thing, as usual I was scrambling around at the last minute trying to figure out what to wear. I tried one thing and did not like it. Tried another outfit. Not quite right. And I was all mad at myself. God forbid I plan in advance, you know? God forbid I have a plan.

Then I found this one red dress I had forgotten I had. No way, I thought, this will not fit me. Or it will not look right. But ... I stepped into it, I zipped it up. It did fit! Not only that but it felt good. And it looked right! Well, I thought it did, which was good enough for me.

It is funny how when you find the right thing to wear, that makes your evening. Nothing could go wrong because this red dress had turned up out of the ether.

I hope next year I am as lucky!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A tree grows in Buffalo

This weekend has been a very Advent weekend, what with the "Rorate Mass" I went to Saturday at St. Ann's Church, and then the Gospel today, all about St. John the Baptist shouting in the desert to prepare the way of the Lord.

So today I chose a Christmas tree!

I went between Budway's and going to my mom's. There is this garden place on Kenmore Avenue where I go every year. They are always crabby and not at all in the Christmas spirit and they do not offer a good deal but so what, my life being what it is, I am grateful that I can just pick up a tree between errands.

So I went and as is my custom I picked out the tree in about five minutes. Throw it in the trunk, boys.

As is the staff's custom at this garden place, nobody cracked a smile. Not even when I said how wonderful the tree had been that I had bought from them last year. How it did not lose one single needle even with me forgetting to water it for weeks on end.

No smile. No "Merry Christmas."

Hahahahaaaa! I made sure I said "Merry Christmas" just so I would look like this idiot.

I got that tree home later on and unlike last year I was kind of prepared. I had a stand I bought at a garage sale last summer. Except Howard said the stand was made for a bigger tree. Well, he got it into the stand more or less, me standing there holding it and apologizing for its poor fit. If it is not one thing with me and trees, it is another. The tree is too big or too little. Its trunk is too fat or too thin. And another thing, no stand works completely well. With this stand, one of the screws is frozen and does not turn.

I would not mind buying a new stand except they are never to be had in the stores this time of year.

So. We jerry rig. We improvise, like Leonard Pennario. Well, not quite as gracefully as Leonard Pennario. But we get through it!

I take time out from my travails to enjoy the season.

The "Rorate Caeli" is a chant I love.

And Oscar Peterson is a pianist I love.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!

I have started my little niece Barbara in on Edward Lear.

There was a time at my mom's when I thought she needed entertainment and so I asked her if she wanted me to read her the poetry of Edward Lear. She said yes! A most excellent thing in a child.

I went and got the book. I remembered where it was from when I was a kid. And we sat down on the couch. We read "The Pobble Who Has No Toes."

It was all about the Bristol Channel and porpoises and red flannel and I could not believe Barbara could even follow it. She just turned 6. I never know how old kids should be for stuff like this. I always find it hard to believe any kid these days could understand it. But Barbara did!

You have to love the quaint correct Victorian grammar:

"The Pobble who has no toes
Had once as many as we..."

We read a huge number of limericks, Barbara loving the pictures. Like this one:

There was an Old Man of Cape Horn,
Who wished he had never been born;
So he sat on a Chair till he died of despair,
That dolorous Man of Cape Horn.

Then we reread, by popular demand, "The Pobble Who Has No Toes."

Here is the poem read to you so you may enjoy it as Barbara did.

At the end of it I went, "It's a fact the whole world knows, that Pobbles are happier without their..."

"Toes!" Barbara got to cry out.

As Howard would say the software still works. That is amazing, I thought. Considering that these poems were written when, 1910?

I looked up Edward Lear and zut alors, they were published in 1848!

How about that??

Still charming the 6-year-olds after all these years.

Edward Lear sounds like a strange character. To begin with he was his parents' 21st child. Also Wikipedia said that Edward Lear made two marriage proposals in his life, both to the same woman, who was 46 years his junior. Both of them were rejected.

You cannot blame a guy for trying!

Here is "The Pobble Who Has No Toes" complete with, would you believe it, analysis. It is sweet actually. One gentleman comments, "I read this poem when I was 6 and am rediscovering it after 67 years." Someone else writes, "EL is the most underrated of children's writers." Being the authorized biographer of Leonard Pennario, who has sometimes been called the most underrated of pianists, I can appreciate that.

After that the comments sort of descend into spam. Edward Lear would probably have appreciated the humor of that.

I cannot wait to move on "How Pleasant To Know Mr. Lear."

Friday, December 9, 2011

From the desk of the ice princess

What I love about the first snowfall: the silence.

This morning the street was full of cars but when I woke up it was as if I were a princess in a castle. In that castle, pictured above! No sound.

Last night I was expecting the snow and so I made sure that besides waking up to snow outside I would wake up to soup in a crock pot. This is a work day for me so it is not as if I will be able to make soup during the day. I have to think in advance!

Last winter I wrote about making yummy white bean soup. Last night I went with black-eyed peas. To most people the Black-Eyed Peas are merely a band but with me, they are dinner. And not just on New Year's. Black-eyed peas on New Year's are a Southern custom. And it is funny, if you research recipes on the Internet you will see all these people saying, "This is great -- I made it for New Year's." Where does the law say you cannot make these yummy peas any other time?

In the end I did not really use a recipe. I just poured in a pound of black-eyed peas, covered them with water, chopped up an onion and two carrots and threw them in, and I think that was it. This morning I had this bunch of kale I had washed a few days ago and stashed in a plastic bag, so I chopped up the kale and threw that in too, while the coffee pot was brewing. Then I tossed in kosher salt and a pinch of dried thyme and oregano.


One thing, I hate to say this but it is one more sign of our economy going south (south, black-eyed peas, this is all adding up to something but who knows what):

The other day I picked up these black-eyed peas, and they are the Goya brand, and they are now in a really cheap-style crackly plastic bag. Used to be, only foods from foreign Third World-type countries would come in these crackly plastic bags. Our plastic bags were nicer.

No more.

I am not saying the quality of our plastic bags should matter to us. I am just saying.

This bag is another sign that I have to get my Leonard Pennario project done before the world's economy collapses.

I have to work fast!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Memo from the mat

I am ready to apply to the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Or one of our famed local companies, Configuration Dance or LehrerDance. I am sure I qualify.

That was because I went to Pilates class after work and we got killed because the teacher was not our usual teacher. It was Jim! And whatever the dancers in Configuration, LehrerDance or Alvin Ailey go through, it cannot be as strenuous as this.

Remember Jim? I used to take his class downtown.

Then I ran into him that night at Founding Fathers.

Zounds, that was almost three years ago!

How long have I been keeping this Web log, anyway?

Will I get this book on Leonard Pennario done by the day I die?

I sure hope so because otherwise when I get to the other side he is going to be there waiting for me and he will not be happy. If I even get there. A big if, especially if I do not finish this book.

How did I get onto this? Back to Jim and the gym. This class I went to, it was at the Buffalo Athletic Club for Women. We are not used to guy instructors and Jim used that to his advantage.

He was way tougher than our usual teacher, Jill. Jill is a great teacher but she pretty much leaves you on your own, whereas Jim walks all over the place, adjusting you, policing you. He used me for the model a couple of times. I loved that. "Mary's a downtowner," he said. "She's used to the drill."

Then he would twist me this way and that and I would stand there obligingly on my mat and let him do it.

"Imagine there are 20 of me," he told the class as he did it. "Imagine I am pulling on your arms the way I am pulling on Mary's."

Ha, ha! At one point I glimpsed a figure all tied up in a kind of knot. It was me! I was looking in the mirror and I did not realize it!

We were all sweating and miserable and by the end of class there were these girls just lying there. I was not lying on my mat but I confess to having cheated a couple of times. I always imagine a magazine called Grueling Pilates. It would contain articles on how to deal with these stretches and poses.

I have to say though that Pilates is worth it. Zumba is easier and more fun and sure, you can say Pilates is boring in comparison, but Pilates tones you up, if you stick with it. And it makes you strong. Which, as the authorized biographer of Leonard Pennario, I have to be.

The things we do to stay healthy and strong.

I am telling you!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A visit from St. Nick

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas. Happy St. Nicholas Day! That is a picture above of St. Nicholas in his bishop's robes.

The other day in The Buffalo News we published this essay by a kid who has begun celebrating St. Nicholas Day. This was funny, at the end of the essay she was writing that St. Nicholas reminded her of Santa Claus. Both of them show up in the night and leave you presents, etc.

Um, honey, St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are, like, the same person?

No one had ever explained that to her!

I am not blaming her. I am honestly just floored sometimes by the things that are not -- how do you say it -- universally understood. Everyone should understand that Santa Claus is St. Nicholas, you know? As in "A Visit From St. Nicholas."

Just like everyone should know that Leonard Pennario was America's greatest pianist. Well, educating people on that is up to me.

Here is a bit of trivia I bet you did not know about "A Visit From St. Nicholas," the famous poem that begins "'Twas the night before Christmas" and goes back to, yikes, 1823. Can you believe it is that old? It is holding up rather well.

This is a nice reading except the reindeer are supposed to be "Donner and Blitzen," not "Donder and Blitzen." Donner and Blitzen is German for Thunder and Lightning.

But that is not the trivia I was talking about.

Here is what I love: The poem was written by Clement Moore who was a professor at Columbia University. He was friends with Lorenzo da Ponte, who collaborated with Mozart on "Don Giovanni," "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Cosi fan Tutte."

Should your day need jump starting the way mine does, take two minutes to hear the famous Champagne Aria from "Don Giovanni" sung by my favorite singer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

Hahahahaa! Is that marvelous or what?

Lorenzo da Ponte was born in the Jewish ghetto of Venice but came to America after Mozart died. That is where he met Clement Moore and my understanding is that the two poets hit it off.

I like playing this "six degrees of separation game." Who knew who.

Probably if we could go back far enough we would only be six degrees away from St. Nicholas.

And maybe Santa Claus too.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mystery priest

Yesterday I went to church in the morning and afterwards I was in the vestibule gabbing with a friend. And while we were talking this cool-looking guy came in to go to the Italian Mass. The Italian Mass is after the Latin Mass. And he waved to me.

I waved back but I said to my friend, "Who is he?"

The guy looked like someone I had seen only I could not think who.

Then I realized who he was. He was the Italian guy from the other night whom I had said ...

... to!

Ha, ha! This would not happen if I were single, I will tell you that right now.

Meanwhile the padre and I were laughing about our Friday night at the Hyatt.

"A night out on the town!" he said.

I guess he and his friends really made the scene, going to the Statler too, and to the Convention Center.

Me, working on the book about Leonard Pennario has clipped my wings somewhat. I could not go out until later! I have to ask the padre if he heard Howard playing the piano at the Statler, because Howard was playing that night.

When Padre Secondo came into the Statler he said hello to Howard first thing, even before saying hello to Jocko. Howard was bragging about that.

"Everyone must have thought I was really important," he said.

Howard liked meeting the padre. "He wasn't the way I had pictured him," he said.

"How had you pictured him?" I asked.

"I guess I pictured Father Guido Sarducci."


I really did not know who Father Guido Sarducci was. I thought he might have been on "Saturday Night Live" and sure enough he was.

"He was this hipster," Howard said.

Howard was educated by the Vincentian Fathers but sometimes he has a hilarious conception of the Catholic Church.

Imagine, all these past four years here I have been going to St. Anthony's and talking about the Tridentine Mass there and Howard has been picturing Father Guido Sarducci.

Whenever I mentioned Padre Secondo saying this or that, Howard would imagine Father Guido Sarducci saying it.

You never know what people are thinking!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In a mellow tone

Today I went estate-sale-ing with my mom where I added to my Melachrino Orchestra collection.

Remember the Melachrino Orchestra? I found another copy of "Music For Dining" and snapped it up.

My mother said: "But you already have one."

"No," I said. "Actually, we already have three. But we can always use one more."

That is because Howard and I have more than one location. Plus you never know, in those hectic moments before dinner is served you may be unable to find one copy of "Music For Dining." If you have multiple copies, there is more chance you will be able to get your hands on one when you are ready to eat.

Besides the coveted "Music For Dining" I also found the Melachrino Orchestra's  "Music For Two People Alone," pictured above.

These covers are the greatest!

And "Music To Work Or Study By."

Ha, ha! Look at the woman looking at the kid studying. I will have to work on my Leonard Pennario book while listening to this album, see how this record works out in the field.

And I saved the best for last.

It is "Music For Courage and Confidence"!

Priceless, is all I can say.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday night fever

Tonight I went with my mom to the Wehrle Restaurant and then we walked for a while around the new Tops picking up this and that. We had to walk a little because we had both absolutely cleaned our plates and needed to move.

My mother said it was her first time she had ever gone grocery shopping without a list.

"Hahaha," I said. "Welcome to my world."

I never have a list when I go shopping! I told my mom, "That's why, after I call you up from Tops or Budway's to see if you need anything, and you tell me what you want, that's why it takes me an hour to get to your house. Because I am in supermarket going 'Uh....'"

Usually when I go food shopping it is after work and Zumba and I am hungry and zoned. I get overwhelmed with all the choices. But I forgive myself. You cannot go to work and Zumba and also be the authorized biographer of Leonard Pennario and always remember your grocery list. Sorry Charlie.

After the Wehrle Restaurant and Tops I went and met Howard at the Hyatt. I almost did not go down there and then when I got downtown there was no parking. I parked about a mile away by TGIFriday's. Well, it was Friday! So, appropriate.

When I got to the Hyatt all kinds of people were there. Howard was sitting with our friend Gene. Also sitting at neighboring tables were our friends E.O. Smith, the great Buff State history professor, and Gerhardt Yaskow, who owns Gene McCarthy's Tavern. That is a place I should take my mom for a fish fry, McCarthy's. Remind me, someone, otherwise I will just home to the Wehrle.

Then we were joined by another group including the priest from my church, Father Secondo, and our friend Lucy, the Vice Consul of Italy, and her husband, historian Martin Ederer. And a friend of theirs, a guy visiting from Italy. I love dropping the title Vice Consul of Italy, you know? And it felt chic to have the padre there. At Jocko! We were laughing about it.

It was all over too soon but I got to tell the visitor from Italy ...

... which made me feel cool.

And now it is the weekend!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Moon over Buffalo

Last night we were driving home from Denton, Cottier and Daniels -- the august piano store that sponsored Leonard Pennario's first piano recital -- and Howard called my attention to the moon.

"It's in the bushes," he said.

A funny way of saying that the moon was way down near the horizon half obscured by trees and brush and such. It was big and red and a kind of crescent. Sort of a half moon. And it was arresting. It was weird. Tom Bauerle even talked about it on the radio today, how strange the moon was.

We went home and went to bed and I could not sleep because I had a lot on my mind, work stuff mostly. So I got up. I was not upset or anything because this happens rarely these days. Normally I am a good sleeper. I made myself some chamomile tea and I sat down on the couch to enjoy it. I love the taste of chamomile tea.

And sometimes what I do when I am up in the night is, I read my missal. It is fun to read Latin and I kind of try to translate it, only I am lazy and do not work too hard. I just kind of take a stab at it. It is sort of like doing a puzzle, and you feel you are learning something, so it helps me get sleepy again.

So. I am re-reading the prayers and the readings from Sunday which was the first Sunday in Advent. I love Advent, Christmas, all of it. It is a magical time for me and not just because you can go to the Place and drink Tom and Jerrys, yum. I just love this time of year. And I am reading how Jesus said to his disciples...

There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves ... For the power of heaven shall be moved. And then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when these things come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.

I read this and remembered the moon.

Could that be a sign?

Jesus said the moon. The sun, the moon and the stars.

Everything has been looking weird lately come to think of it!

This is silly but I got up off the couch and went out to the sun room and looked up at the sky. I felt like an idiot but I had to check, you know? Everything was pretty much sitting there as it was supposed to. The stars. The moon, I guess that was there somewhere although I do not think I saw it.

I sort of hoped a star would fall or something but none did.

For a minute or so I stood there. The streetlight changed on the corner. It is funny, when it gets quiet enough in the middle of the night you can hear the mechanism that changes the streetlight.

You just get to wondering sometimes. The world sure does look strange these days. All the unrest, all the chaos. The trouble is, we do not have a good grasp of time given our short lifetimes. Now it is 2,000 years since Christ was born but we do not know if it will be now when He comes back or 20,000 years from now. There is just no way of knowing. I am not one of those people into Nostradamus or anything like that.

It is just that I can imagine Christ coming back. And I can imagine it being now. It has to happen in somebody's lifetime, doesn't it? It could be ours.

Well, couldn't it?

It is strange to think of what we are told will happen. The graves will open up, the dead will return.

I was remembering a conversation I had with a friend of mine who is a fundamentalist Christian. He is not a Catholic but we have certain things in common which, one of them is that he wonders about this stuff too.

He said, "You know, the thought of Christ coming back in our lifetime, it's scary. But it's kind of exciting, too!"

Sure, we were into the beer, but we both sat there with our eyes wide and thought about it.

So: From now on I am going to be on the alert. I am going to be keeping tabs on the sun, the moon and the stars. Everyone should.

If you see anything weird, let me know!