Friday, November 30, 2012

The Oscars

We stopped by Jocko's tonight, in part to celebrate because E.B. Green's was written up in the Gusto today by my friend Toni.

The lounge was crowded. This family shows up and the dad brings a toddler up to the piano.

"What's her name?" Jocko wheedles.

The man said: "This is Oscar."

"Oh, it's a little boy!" Jocko said. And he got little Oscar to sit next to him and play notes.

It was funny because not long ago we had that other Oscar, Oscar Torres. He works for the Federal Reserve but they sent him to Buffalo and so Oscar Torres missed Hurricane Sandy because he was lounging in the lounge of the Hyatt watching Jackie Jocko.

Now there is this kid named Oscar!

Later little Oscar comes toddling up to Jocko.

"Oh, hi, kid, go eat your food," Jocko said. He can take kids only so long. His grouchiness on occasions like that is one thing we love about him.

That, and he always plays us "Midnight On the Cliffs."

Luckily Jocko is more patient when teaching Howard.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Note to self

Howard and I are big note writers and handwritten memos are always kicking around the house. Sometimes literally, I mean they are kicking around on the floor.

My notes are usually shopping lists for Albrecht Discount or Leonard Pennario sessionography details, or something like that.

Howard's, the sky is the limit.

The other day there was one that had been underfoot forever. It even spent time on the bathroom counter. Finally I picked it up and read it.

I quote:

Skillen Street.

First junkyard on the left.

Skillen Street is in Riverside. I know because I got lost on it once. I got off on this one exit, I think it was Kenmore/Sheridan, looking for something, and I wound up on Skillen Street, this major street I had not only never seen, I had never heard of it. Buffalo is amazing that way. You can live here your whole life and there are whole sections of it that are a mystery.

Anyway, about Howard's memo, I love how there are apparently multiple junkyards on Skillen. He is to look for the first one on the left.

You could not make it up!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cooking up rumors

The good news: There is a rumor going around about you.

The even better news: It is that you own 20 Crock Pots!

That is the rumor going around the office about me. Someone is considering having an office Crock Pot Competition. A goodly idea! I could be a contender, just as I was in the ahem, Van Cliburn Amateur Competition.

Except for with Crock Pots I am no amateur.

Certain co-workers derided the rumor of 20 Crock Pots as unbelievable. Above is a drawing of them whispering that it cannot be true! But I assure you it is believable.

I even had a Crock Pot in California. I  made dinner for Leonard Pennario in my Crock Pot. That crock was cool. It was red. I should have had it shipped back here.

But anyway, I began counting my current Crock Pots up on a scratch pad. Two Little Dippers, for artichoke dip and such. One with a timer. Two antiques. Two at my mom's. Four portable Crock Pots, or is that five? Two large-size...

... for turkey and duck. I used to make Broadway Market duck in a Crock Pot. That was when Malczewski Poultry was there. And Beverly the butcher. That is a whole other story.

Anyhow I just went on counting. And I got as far as 15, anyway. The hobby gone out of control. Well, they are not all on my kitchen counter or anything. If you walked into my house you would think that aside from the three pianos everything was normal.

Next time we will play the game of counting the Crock Pot cookbooks!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Un-Zen life

Another thing I did last weekend was, to get over my Thanksgiving, my broken wine glasses, etc., I went with three friends to get a massage. I never do this on my own. Someone always has to get me to go.

It was nice although I still do not quite get this massage thing. From everything everyone has told me, you are supposed to feel wonderful after you get a massage. You are supposed to be relaxed and peaceful and the feeling is supposed to carry with you all day.

But I don't know, it does not quite work with me. For one thing the New Age piano music makes me giggle. I would rather be listening to this.

For another thing I always have to get up and go somewhere right afterwards. And I have to say, there is no feeling that stays with me all day.  It is the truth! Both times I have tried this, it has not changed the way I feel one bit, not for 30 seconds. I am still myself! Which is fine because I feel fine ordinarily. But as we say here in Buffalo, I am just saying.

Speaking of which, I took the picture up above after the massage person left and I got up. Now looking at it I laugh.

I had taken this Zen massage room and messed it all up! The sheets are all rumpled and I even have my purse sitting there, stuff all over the place.

And you do not even see the other side of the room where I had strewn my coat and shoes and mittens and stuff. Right under this framed New-Age-y quote from the Buddha.

I am afraid I lead a life that is very un-Zen!

Monday, November 26, 2012

And then there was one

Weird thing about this last week, we keep breaking these wine glasses I have. Or rather, that I had.

I do not have them any more!

These are these wine glasses I got on sale at T.J. Maxx several years ago. I have had them, I want to say seven years. They were on sale but I like them. They are big wine glasses painted with these delicate flowers. The flowers are different colors so you can tell which glass is yours.


For years -- seven years, I am reckoning -- I had all four glasses. Then a few weeks ago I broke one. I was putting it away and the globe just snapped off the stem. Darn! I hated to throw the pieces out but I had to.

Then on Thanksgiving my niece Rosie came up and reported ashamedly that one of these glasses had broken. No big deal, I said. I mean, I was already down one. And it is not as if these glasses had been valuable. It is not as if someone had broken one of my Leonard Pennario records or something.

So. So far, so bad.

Last night I am washing dishes, still digging out from Thanksgiving I am afraid to say. I am washing one of the last two flowered wine glasses. And it broke in the dishwater!

All of a sudden, these glasses I liked, I went from four to one, practically overnight.

How does that happen?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Up to your neck in turkey

Thinking about my turkey travails I got the yen to watch the turkey clip from "Bean."

Hahahaa! I had not seen it since the movie first came out, which was God knows when. I think 1999 or something. All I remember was that I was laughing so hard all through the movie I could not drink my pop. I was afraid even to take a sip for fear I would choke on it.

It is as funny as I remembered. I love those neurotic-looking guests -- Peter MacNicol, and that woman with the hilarious hair. I think in the movie this was Christmas, not Thanksgiving. They do not have our Thanksgiving in Britain and Mr. Bean is a British comic.

What is it with these British comics? They are so funny. I think it is that they are not as vain as Americans are. Americans always have to look good. The British go for broke. I remember discussing that with Pennario once when we should have been discussing Ravel.

Back to this scene, Howard should see it because he cannot look at a turkey without telling me about how once he remembered seeing his mother one Thanksgiving with her arm all the way up inside a turkey.

"She was doing something with it," he said, just yesterday.

Another reason he should see it, there is an alley behind Big Blue that is called Bean Alley. So there are two reasons Howard should watch this clip.

Anyhow, Bean and the turkey. Too funny!

And, sometimes, too close to real life.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The accidental turkey

Yikes, I have not been heard from in four days or something! It is as if I dropped off the face of the earth. Thanksgiving will do that to you. Earlier today I was thinking: I have not recovered. However...

Amidst the toil, triumph!

The turkey I roasted this Thanksgiving was my best one yet.

I think what happened was, I was in a hurry. My Thanksgiving this year was totally mismanaged. First I went out every night for the week before the big day. Every night. And in the mornings before work, I worked on the book.

Ergo, recipe for disaster. I went to the Sportsmen's on Wednesday to hear Tom Russell because it was my brother George's birthday. And later, at midnight, there I am, making pie crusts. Then I soared like an eagle -- well, like an owl is more like it -- and threw together this, ahem, Pear Cranberry Pie With Oatmeal Streusel.

After that I was excited about what I had accomplished so it took me forever to get to sleep. So next day, Thanksgiving morning, I continued taking on water. I rolled out of bed and barely made it to church, almost running over a couple of Turkey Trotters. At church I breathed a prayer of thanks for mantillas. They cover the bedhead.

Now here is where things really went off the rails. After Mass I just hang around the church gossiping and joking around. As if I did not have to cook dinner for 15 people! La la la la la la la.

I got home and could not believe how late it was.

It was noon and I had not even made the stuffing. I had not even removed the turkey's plastic Tops packaging. Never have I been in this bad shape by noon on Thanksgiving Day. Never.

So, end result as we say here in Buffalo, that turkey, a 22-pound big boy, went in the oven for four hours at 425 degrees. That is the secret! I found it on this chart and hoped for the best.

And it came out great! I am thinking, the hotter temp is the way to go. It was so browned and yummy. Next year I want to do it the same way.

But without the panic, you know?

I do not need another panicked Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Utter clutter

There is nothing like spending half the afternoon -- heck, three quarters of the afternoon -- cleaning your house, and then wondering if the progress you made is visible to the naked eye.

That happened to me yesterday!

I am having the family Thanksgiving so I must needs clean and child-proof the house. And there is just so much to do.

The problem is not dirt. The problem is clutter. I got that picture up above on the Internet but it is pretty close to the truth. All it needs is some Leonard Pennario albums and file cards to make the picture complete.

Then as I clean up I keep finding things I want to listen to and look at. Well, I am good at fighting that.

I found part of a Choceur chocolate bar from Albrecht Discount and ate it.

I found a Beethoven sonata book and so I stopped and played the piano for a little while.

Two steps forward, one step back! That is how the house is cleaned. At least I think it is cleaned. Well, I think I have started at least anyway.

Can anybody tell?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

On account of you never know

Yesterday I went with my mom to this estate sale in Amherst and there was a Last Rites box.

Note to non-Catholic Leonard Pennario fans, the Last Rites is the sacrament the Catholic Church gives you when you are dying. Now they call it the Anointing of the Sick. But once upon a time it was the Last Rites. Or, even better, Extreme Unction. That is a marvelous name! Unction refers to the oil you are anointed with.

But back to the estate sale Last Rites box. They said it was old. As you can see in the picture it is a box with doors that open. And inside ...

... is a crucifix and two candles and two small silver platters. There is also a kind of silver ladle and a brush. That must be for the holy oil. In a pocket in the door you can see a holy water bottle.

I have to say, I was kind of put off by the Last Rites box. (Not to mention the $45 price.)

All I could picture was a priest taking it around to the homes of dying people. These people, this would have been one of the last things they saw. The crucifix and the candles. I mean, when this box shows up next to your bed, things are bad.

So I passed it up. But I hesitated enough so the purveyor, who was my friend Jim Lion, gave me his card. And at our next stop -- my mom and I were continuing to shop -- I began to have pangs of remorse and worry. What if this thing wound up in the wrong hands? What if some satanist got his hands on it? What if it turned up in a restaurant, holding silverware or something? It was like St. Joseph a few weeks ago. 

Then I remembered the card. And I found a more-or-less quiet corner in the store and I called. What was $45, anyway? I spend that just walking into Tops and I do not think about it.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo, today I became the proud owner of this Last Rites kit. And now I know more about it. Because I went to that great religious authority, eBay.

It turns out that this would probably not have been the kind of kit a priest would have taken around with him. Back in the day, I learned, it was common for you to have a Last Rites kit in your home. You were supposed to be ready in case someone was dying and you had to call a priest. Also back then more people died at home, as opposed to in hospitals. My kit appears to date from the late 1800s.

That made it less forbidding. Judging from the beat-up candles and the splashes of candle wax on the top of the case, this kit seems to have seen some action. But still, it was not taken around to dying people on a constant basis.

While I was researching my kit I made another discovery. I saw a few pictures on eBay of more ornate Last Rites kits, shadow boxes designed to hang on your wall, like this one. This type dates from the 1930s.

And I remembered, back in my college Parkside apartment, we had one of those! It seemed to me it looked just like the one in the picture. I remembered the little cabinet it had, with a few mysterious bottles. It belonged to one of my roommates. But she did not know what it was and neither did I. I was this sporadic Mass-goer at that point and my roommate was some kind of Christian, but her background was Jewish and, well, my point is, although we were respectful of this thing and displayed it prominently in the apartment, I have these memories of us both drinking beers and looking at it and kind of scratching our heads.

Now I knew what it was!

After all these years!

It was amazing that I had not known any of this before now. I mean, here I am, I love my religion, I go to the Latin Tridentine Mass and still, dum de dum dum, I know next to nothing.

As I sat there, brooding, I wondered what had happened to that Last Rites kit. I wished I had it.

Then suddenly this thought struck me:

Maybe I do have it!

What do you want to bet? That roommate had wound up taking off on me. She had left in a hurry and probably would not have taken it with her. And I would never have thrown it out. I never throw anything out.

It had to be in my house somewhere!

There is this one room where there is all kinds of stuff piled, the room I do not go into. I went up into that room. "I'll bet it's in the closet," I thought. There is this closet I never open.

I opened the door. There it was!

So now I have two!

That makes sense for me because if I am dying and need a Last Rites kit fast, having two doubles the odds that we will be able to find one of them in my chaotic house. With that in mind, I am going to clean them up and stock them with holy water.

When I die I want to be ready!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The family dinner

When I wrote about the Pumpkin Pilau I did not say what was the funniest thing about it.

That is that I took it over to my mom's. We have this situation going at my mom's that is kind of fun. My brothers come over and my brother George's kids are with us too. They are kind of little and unmanageable and we are trying to calm them down.

I tried making pumpkin pie with them last week and it was close to a disaster.

However, now things are better! I always have a plan, which helps. Last night I took over my pumpkin pilau, aka pumpkin risotto, and I was going to make pork chops to go with them.

I tie my little niece Barbara into a big Roy Rogers apron, which she gets a kick out of. And she sets to work chopping up apples to go into the pan with the pork chops.

This calms her. One apple, another apple, and then another. They are big apples and they take a long time to chop.

Then she sets the table!

Then suddenly we are all in the kitchen, my mom, my brothers, and the kids, all gathered around this tippy table my mom insists on keeping in the kitchen. It's crowded but we're there. There is a salad. The apple slices Barbara cut are beautiful. The pork chops are yummy. The pumpkin risotto is a crowd pleaser. Although my mom does not think she likes pumpkin so we tell her it is butternut squash.

Everyone eats everything. And while they are eating this silence descends. Silence! Calm! It was unbelievable.

I spoke.

"So," I said. "How was everyone's day?"

It was just too funny a moment.

"I went to work," I said. "And in the morning I worked on my book about Leonard Pennario. What did everyone else do?"

The return of the family dinner!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The pumpkin pilau

I made that pilau I mentioned. It came out like risotto so that is what I am calling it now: Risotto.

Amazing, considering I used brown rice and not Arborio rice. It cooked down beautifully and the pumpkin lent it a note of sweetness. That jack o'lantern was darned good! I know it goes against all the pumpkin wisdom out there. They say not to eat the big pumpkins, that they are too watery and bland. But this was sweet and hearty.

That is the jack pictured above. I wanted it memorialized because before I cut it up it was so big and dignified. A noble vegetable! The pear is sitting next to it to give you an idea of its size.

A lot must depend on what strain of pumpkin it is, is all I can think.

It roasted while I was able to turn my attention to Leonard Pennario.

Here it is chopped up and being mashed.

I will draw the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene because, as I have said before, leave the food photography to the pros.

Let us just say this: It was yummy.

I took the jack o'lantern risotto to my mother's and all were charmed.

Today I garbage-picked six pie pumpkins the group home on my block was throwing out.

Onward and upward!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The pumpkin that ate my evening

It has been too long since we played the satisfaction game. You know, how much satisfaction you get from completing various tasks.

Cleaned off dining room table: 10 satisfaction points.

Lost 2 pounds: 20 satisfaction points.

Tracked down little-known Pennario video: 30 satisfaction points.

Roasted huge jack o'lantern pumpkin my little niece and nephew garbage-picked: 20,000 satisfaction points!

Why is it that roasting this big darn pumpkin can make you feel so good?

Is it the smell of it in the house, as if you are making a rich dessert? Is it that you feel you are getting away with something because it tastes so good and most people do not think you can eat these big jack pumpkins? Is it just the feeling of not wasting anything?

In any case, triumph.

In between working on the book last night I chopped up this pumpkin and roasted it. And it tasted good! While I was mashing it I kept snacking on it. What is it with people who think they are too good to eat these, ahem, field pumpkins? This one was bright orange inside and out and so rich.

I am rich too. Good gourd almighty, I got 14 pounds of roasted pumpkin! I froze 10 pounds of it and the rest I put aside in the fridge to make Pumpkin Pilau.

Why say pilaf when you can say pilau?

And after that I have in mind some kind of preparation where you would mash the pumpkin and add brown sugar and bourbon. It is just something seasonal that I am dreaming up.

Party at my house!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trip to the Schvitz brings media blitz

I am famous! My Web log had been linked to by Slipped Disc, the Web log by the British critic and author Norman Lebrecht.

OK, so I had to take my clothes off to do it. So what?

What happened was, Norman linked to this post I wrote about the Schvitz, the bathhouse on Kenmore Avenue here in Buffalo.

Haahahaa! Not only that but he kept it going on Facebook a few days later, linking to it again and asking if any other music critics would be willing to send in pictures of themselves in the buff.

Needless to say the music world does not know where to begin to ask questions. One gentleman on Norman's Web site commented, understandably, "What the heck? I looked up Leonard Pennario and he died four years ago. What does this have to do with him?"

I felt as if I should explain, that this Web log is a kind of therapy as I struggle to get this book out while dealing with the demands life hands me seeing that I am not a ward of the state with a free iPhone. The kind of ongoing joke is that a lot of the time it has very little to do with Leonard. But he was still around when the Web log got started and he got a kick out of it, so, no harm done.

And most importantly: There is someone looking up something about Pennario!

That is good news.

Next thing you know he will be listening to him!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kitchen garden

Today I went outside with a new mixing bowl I scored at Goodwill and I gathered up what I could from my wreck of a garden. The tomato plants were wilting. Spinach had bolted. Everything was in general disorder. Not that it was in any order to begin with, I have to be honest.

That is what happens when you are working on a book about an, ahem, great pianist. Other things kind of have to fall by the wayside! The greater the pianist the more chaotic your life. Pennario being a great pianist my life is extremely chaotic.

However, beneath the blanket of dried leaves I gathered up a lot of arugula. It is funny how expensive arugula is to buy. Because it grows so easily, almost like a weed.

The herb plants are hale and hearty.

I picked some dill because it will not last forever.

In the bowl it all looks kind of impressive, you know? However, a question. What do you do with green tomatoes? I know, fried green tomatoes, but I do not want to fry them. I have enough fried food in my life.

As we ponder this question please notice, in the background, a few of my favorite things.

Labatt's Blue, left at my house by mistake by my friend Gary.

Millville Oats from Albrecht Discount. That is a wonderful brand name, Millville.

And Dollar Tree dish soap.

Even with the garden in disarray, I am rich!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

That tough phone call

If Mitt Romney thought he had it bad last night, having to make his concession speech, he should have heard my concession speech to my mom.

I had to call my mom and break it to her that Mitt had lost!

My mom and I had been watching the results together and thinking he was doing well. I mean, he had a good long list of states, they hadn't gotten yet to the battleground states but we figured that thinking people would vote for him and he would take those states, he would be elected. Alas when I got home I realized it was not so.

Even so, it took me a good 10 minutes to make The Call.

I just did not want to do it!

It must have been just like Mitt Romney getting ready to call Barack Obama. He did not want to make that call and neither did I.

Finally we both did it. I think I made my call first.

"Oh, no!" she said. "Oh, no!"

"Mom, we'll get through it," I said. "Meanwhile we'll do the pumpkin pie party tomorrow night whatever happens."

The pumpkin pie party was that I was supposed to roast these two pumpkins my little niece and nephew Barbara and George Andrew garbage-picked, and we were going to gather and make pumpkin pie. Which we did! But that is a whole other story.

Anyway, last night I got my mom laughing and both of us agreed we were going to go to bed and not monitor the rest of this mess. I did not exactly keep my part of the deal. Howard told me Romney had won North Carolina and I found myself turning over the pages of the Wall Street Journal again until I found the charts, and then poring over them all over again. If we took Virginia too, then all would not be lost, if then we took Ohio, but Pennsylvania had gone the other way, and...

That was what I had been doing that morning before Howard got up. He teased me that I was like Karl Rove, studying these charts in the pre-dawn darkness.

I wished my dad were around to talk to about all this. I wished Leonard were around. I could only imagine what Pennario would have said about this situation.

Oh well. All over. One good thing about this situation:

I will be able to get more work done!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Maxxed out

My mom and I went to T.J. Maxx over the weekend and I bought about 35 pairs of tights.

We have a saying in the newspaper business: "If I had had more time I would have written less." It comes from Mark Twain who was once the editor of the Buffalo Courier and knew what he was talking about.

The same saying could apply to shopping.

If I had had more time I would have bought less!

As it was I was there with my mom and when I am shopping with anyone else I usually feel rushed. I shouldn't, I know. I guess I am always concerned with what the other person is looking at and if she has to leave. It is always a she. I do not shop with guys. I just refuse.

Anyway, so I grabbed all these tights while my mom was shopping for socks and nightgowns and stuff. I am never going to have to buy tights again in my life, is all I can say.

After that we went to the kitchen clearance aisle.

That is the greatest!

Wine glasses, colanders, clips that hold plastic bags shut! (That last one was pointed out to me by my mother, couldn't you guess? I wound up with one.)

I took a picture of my mom in the clearance aisle but I am having trouble getting it out of my phone.

So here is a picture of Pennario instead.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Last night, I observed Hallowe'en as someone might have in the Middle Ages. There was a Tridentine Mass at Our Lady Help of Christians -- the Batt church, remember? -- so I went.

I wrote about it beforehand on Facebook. I wrote that I should be out partying but that going to a Tridentine Mass at a 150-year-old chapel and wearing a black lace veil was just too cool.

And it was funny, the responses I got! Everyone was really enthusiastic. But though I wrote that I had extra estate sale mantillas, anyone could come along with me, nobody did. Well, it was Hallowe'en night. That was the whole thrill of it but also a lot of people had party plans.

Some of my Facebook friends wrote regrets. The one that really gave me pause was: "I would go, but I am already going to the Witches Ball."

Hahahaaa! Is that opposite or what?

It is funny, until a few years ago when I started going to the Latin Mass, I routinely forgot that All Saints Day was a holy day, that you were supposed to go to Mass. It was Halloween when, five years ago -- yikes --  I flew to California, on Hallowe'en, to see Leonard Pennario. It did not occur to me to go to church. I just did not think.

Anyway. I enjoyed my Hallowe'en Mass last night. This chapel gives me such a wonderful feeling. The candles. The sweet statues of the saints, looking down at you. Here is a picture I took last week of St. Isaac Jogues, looking down at me.

And how is this for a Hallowe'en experience: One very cool friend -- he's not even Catholic, go figure -- did join me for Mass, and when it was over we were talking inside the church for a little while, and most of the other people left, and so we were leaving too. And the moment that we were genuflecting after leaving the pews, the church was plunged into complete darkness!

Someone must have hit the light switch!

Let me tell you, when this 1850s chapel is dark, it is dark.

After a few moments the light went on again.

But it was thrilling while it lasted!