Thursday, February 28, 2013

Van the man

Losing Van Cliburn has made me nostalgic. A few more pictures have turned up and so I must needs post them. And then we shall return to our former obsessions.

I posted exclusive pictures of Cliburn and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director JoAnn Falletta on our Buffalo News Gusto Blog, where I also posted this tribute yesterday.

And now for the new pictures.

I love the shot up above of Howard talking with Mr. Cliburn. You cannot really see me but trust me, I am grinning.

Here I am again, all smiles.

That was in my pre-braces days! I did not get braces on my teeth until the following spring.

Hahaa.. that dress I am wearing, I just realized it was the same dress I wore about a month later when I met Leonard Pennario. That dress is one of the gems of my collection, a handmade sundress I picked up I forget where. Well, I do remember, but I do not want to say. Anyway, I guess that was my autumn of the great pianists and luckily I was ready.

In this shot the handsome gent on the right is Michael Ludwig, the concertmaster of the BPO.

Here are Michael Ludwig and Van Cliburn entertaining us at the Rue Franklin.

It is sweet how JoAnn Falletta, the music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, is turning pages. She looks beautiful! We all wore our best dresses so that we could look pretty for Van Cliburn.

Bravi, bravi, tutti, tutti!

What fun!

Dear Van Cliburn. Eventually I will come down to earth and it will sink in that he is gone and I will not be very happy.

But for now, I will remember the good times!

Friday, February 22, 2013

The pope name game

In case the Vatican approaches me, I have been gathering my thoughts as to the next Pope.

A priest whose Web log I follow invites you to vote on what name you think he will take.

It is sort of like voting on the Oscars. There is a difference between what name you would like the next pope to take and predicting what name you think he will in fact take. The pope name game is fascinating because the nerds who are into it take all kinds of medieval and historical and theological things into account.

I am not an expert on any of this but I cannot help thinking of names I would like the pope to take.

1. Clement XV. Because the last Pope Clement, Clement XIV, pictured above, knighted Mozart. And it would be fun to hear people saying "Pope Clement" again after all these years, as Mozart himself must have.

2. Sixtus, because of Sixtus Beckmesser in "The Master Singers of Nuremberg" ...

... one of my favorite characters in all of opera. I am going to start identifying "Die Meistersinger" as they used to decades ago, in English.

Plus the last Pops Sixtus, in the 1500s, was Sixtus V, so our new pope could have the fun of being Sixtus VI. Sixtus the Sixth!

3. Urban IX.  So his assistant could be Sub-Urban.

4. Pius XIII. Because Leonard Pennario met Pius XII and thought the world of him.

Those would all be wonderful names.

I will have to bring my Web log to the new pope's attention!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I leave them open-mouthed

I had to give a talk tonight after this dinner and it was fun other than that these two people at this front table right under my nose began yawning when I had said only three words.

My first three words!

Was I that boring??

I had never dealt with that before, amazing considering the situations I wind up in. And I regret to say this but it threw me off horribly. I get up and give talks without too many notes and normally it never makes me nervous. But this time I was invited to talk about something I do not usually talk about, I was talking about the Buzz column I write for The Buffalo News -- and let us not forget the Buzz Blog -- and I found myself going in circles, seeing these same two people at that front table yawning and looking around the room.

Ay yi yi! I made myself look away from them and at everyone else. Everyone else was great. This was a smart crowd. They loved classical music so I talked about that in addition to the Buzz.

I did work in a few mentions of Leonard Pennario. I do not think any of them had heard of him. Well, now they have! Which will be good when I get this book done.

It is fun to look up "yawn" on Google images.

Wow, I am getting sleepy just looking at all these yawns.

Next time I can't sleep, I know what to do!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Step in time!

We had Movie Night again at my mom's and watched "Mary Poppins."

It was fun only the kids in our family do not know how to watch movies. Pictures like the one up above, of kids watching movies, they are bogus!

In real life, these kids cannot concentrate. They shove each other on the couch and complain about they want more butter on the popcorn and even when they are in a good mood, they feel free just to start a conversation in the middle of one scene or other. They find their own conversation preferable to what is going on on the screen.

I am afraid this is the iPhone generation. They cannot focus.

So I am stuck being this square and having to lecture: "Hey, guys, watch the movie. This is a famous dance."

It is "Step in Time"!

It is not Leonard Pennario, I know, but still, great art!

Funny things strike you as a grown-up watching "Mary Poppins." One thing that we noticed was how Burt has no permanent occupation. One day he is a sidewalk artist. The next, he is a chimney sweep. Then at the end of the movie he is selling kites.

We all know people like this! People who carry no weight.

"Mary Poppins" was the longest movie we have attempted so far for Movie Night.

Next time we might do better with something shorter.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Whose feast was it, anyway?

One thing bugs me about St. Valentine's Day and that is how you turn on Catholic Radio, which I sometimes do in my car, and they tell you it is the feast day of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

That happened to me yesterday on the way to work. Here it was, Valentine's Day, and they did not even mention St. Valentine!

I did, ahem, research (meaning, I got on Google) into the situation, and my fears were confirmed, that Valentine was one of the victims of this move the Catholic Church made in 1969, I think it was, to remove certain saints from the calendar because not a lot is known about them.

That downsizing hit St. Christopher too. That is why now you have all that talk about, "I thought St. Christopher was un-sainted."

Nothing against Sts. Cyril and Methodius. They are certainly photogenic.

And I understand Pope John Paul II named them co-patron saints of Europe. Europe needs help these days! So we must treat these two with respect.

But sometimes you just want to bean the Catholic Church. It is not as if we know nothing about St. Valentine, for heaven's sake. We know plenty about him. My friend Brendan is in Rome and just yesterday he posted a picture on Facebook of himself visiting St. Valentine's relics. There was St. Valentine's skull! I saw it.

And his feast day has such tremendous brand recognition, going back centuries. Shakespeare mentioned St. Valentine's Day in "Hamlet." Chaucer mentioned it.

But oh -- that is a Pennario expression, but oh -- he was a big problem, Valentine, this great Roman saint. Have to get rid of him, you know? Have to create all this confusion.

It would be really nice to turn on old Catholic Radio and hear, "Today is the feast of St. Valentine."

Oh well.

Whoever's feast day it was yesterday, Howard and I feasted. We got the Sweetheart Special from the Sloan Supermarket and I added a few touches of my own. One was this Cranberry-Pumpkin Cake. It sounds Thanksgiving-ish but I love the flavor of cranberry and orange, plus the red of the cranberries is perfect for St. Cyril and Methodius Day. I used fresh cranberries, not dried. I got away with it.

It did not rise like a cake but it is like really good, tangy bar cookies.

Delicious with today's coffee!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pardon my dust

Today is St. Valentine's Day but this year, to get to it, you have to go through Ash Wednesday which was yesterday.

What an experience that was.

Not only did I go to Confession, I went to someone else's Confession!

I worked all day and after that I was going to my mom's to make her linguine with clam sauce. Because I was running late I could not make it to the Mass at St. Michael's to get my ashes. Then I remembered that St. Benedict's has constant ashes! They start at 6 a.m. and go until 9 p.m., ashes and confession. God forbid I forget, you know, that I am dust, and unto dust shall I return. So I went.

When I walked in, about 6:30 p.m., there were groups of people all over the church, sitting around chit-chatting. The lights were up. People were laughing and conversing. There was a grand piano in a corner and a girl was sitting at the piano and that made me nervous. You do not think of piano music when you are getting your ashes. There was also this kind of New Age-y harp music playing "Amazing Grace."

This was not what I am used to. I would have preferred that because this was Ash Wednesday there would be a solemn, preferably a medieval, atmosphere.

Well, ashes were ashes. Plus I could get to confession. Since that priest was mean to me I had not been back so now it has been a month.

There were a couple of confessionals open. I saw lights on over the doors. No one was in line. You never know the situation at a new church so I knelt in a pew, watching and waiting. Five, 10, 15 minutes passed. No one entered or exited.

Finally I thought: The lights must mean the box is empty.  So I pushed the curtain aside.

There was this girl was kneeling there!

She looked up at me in alarm. I was so embarrassed! I signaled my apology and turned way mortified. This had never happened to me in my life!

By the way I never did see anyone emerge from that confessional. God knows what this situation was, who was taking so darned long, you know?

I ended up at the other confessional. The good news was, the priest was really nice. Insightful, wise and even quoted Latin. I bet he knew who Leonard Pennario was. But I could not contrive a way to bring it up.

After that I went to get ashes. There did not see to be any priests giving them out. They all looked like, ahem, laymen. At first I could not figure the situation out. I kept looking around for a priest. And I thought all those people in the front of the church were just hanging out and talking. But it turned out you got your ashes from these people. I approached one of them, this Buffalo guy in a sweatshirt, and he talked me through it.

I have never received ashes in this fashion. They hand you a piece of paper with a psalm and you have to read the psalm with them and then they give you the ashes. Kind of weird, along with the chit-chat and the New Age music, but so what. God love them for keeping this going all day, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Plus I had that warm feeling you get when you get out of confession and it went well and you are just smiling at everyone. So I smiled at this guy and said "Thanks be to God" when I was supposed to, and then I went out with my ashes into the night.

A thousand stories in the Catholic Church, you know?

A thousand stories.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sea shanty

Howard and I were reading with fascination and revulsion about the Carnival Triumph, that stranded cruise ship pictured above.

I used to hear from Leonard Pennario how it used to be when ships hit a storm and the pianos on board would go rolling all over the place. But this sounds worse.

This cruise ship is now said to look like a shanty town!

And I thought I had it bad, it being Ash Wednesday and me having already eaten through almost all the food I am allowed for the whole day.

"Can't they do anything about this ship?" I wondered. "Can't they sail out to that cruise ship and do something about it?"

"I don't know," Howard said.

"I'm just glad I'm home."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Blue skies

I just emptied the pictures from my cell phone and I love that beautiful shot up above. I snapped it out the window of my car on the way to church on Sunday.

Blue skies!

Smiling at me!

That was a song Leonard Pennario remembered hearing at Crystal Beach when he was a kid.

Blue skies!

Smiling at me!

Today it is gray.

I am glad I took those pictures when I could!

Monday, February 11, 2013


I was distressed this morning to read that Pope Benedict will be stepping down. I love Pope Benedict. Interesting, the word is that he is the first pontiff since the Middle Ages to step down.

Surely now there will be some discussion about the last pope to step down, and who he was, and why he did it. That will be fun anyway.

I love when the Middle Ages suddenly become relevant!

For instance the story about Richard III, I cannot step away from that. How they found his bones after all these years. And all the arguments about where he is to be buried now, and what kind of memorial is he to have, Church of England because that is what English royalty are now, or Roman Catholic because that was technically what he was.

The best debate I found on the Internet was about, if Richard III had a Catholic funeral, shouldn't it be the ancient Latin rite, because that is what the king would recognize.

Surely it should be! I know what side I am on in that argument. Plus it is great to be debating what Richard III would want.

Oh well. I could go on about this forever. I have already listened to the show on Richard III by NPR's On Point.  Do click on that link. They have a Richard III Gallery! I have watched parts of Shakespeare's "Richard III" as portrayed by Sirs Laurence Olivier and Ian McKellen. And read the beautifully written assessment of Richard III by the great G.K. Chesterton.


Back to the Pope.

I love him because, among other things, he loves the Traditional Latin Mass as I do and also he plays classical piano and is darned good, if reports are to be believed. You have to figure he is familiar with Leonard Pennario because Pennario played a lot in Germany. He loved German audiences and they loved him there.

But now that I am thinking over this resignation I am seeing a bright side.

I think the Pope wants to make sure that the right guy gets his job. He is wise and these are challenging times for the Church and I bet he wants a hand in the decision as to who his successor will be. Then he wants to be here to make sure the transition goes smoothly and his reforms move forward.

So that makes me feel better! What I am dreading though is all the ignorant, hate-filled commentary we are going to be seeing on the situation on Facebook, on Twitter, in anonymous comments, in newspapers, on the radio, everywhere. It will be going on for weeks.

I made the mistake of glancing at the comments on the Yahoo News story. It was like opening the door to hell! So this is going to be a long next few weeks. And, you know, I do not get this, this hatred. You've got doubts, you're a different religion, you're an agnostic, you're an atheist, you're searching, I get it, I understand. What I do not understand is all the hate and mockery. It's just evil. All I can picture is a bunch of demons like out of Hieronymous Bosch!

Hahahaaa... That felt good, letting that out!

Plus, any day you can mention Hieronymous Bosch could never be a completely bad day. It counts double if you can mention Hieronymous Bosch before you have had your second cup of coffee. Which I was just able to do.

Surely that is a good sign!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

See and ski

The snow continues pretty!

My brother George and I went skiing in Delaware Park. This has been a lucky winter for me with skiing. I have been out about a half a dozen times anyway.

For a long time we skied and talked and I took no pictures. But then it could not be helped. I had to stop and take off my mittens and capture the day.

Above is the bison encampment at the Buffalo Zoological Gardens. I love that picture because I imagine the zoo looks in it as it did long before I, or Pennario for that matter, was born. I would like to make that photograph into a card.

Naturally the bison ...

.... waited until I was through taking pictures, had my mittens back on and was back skiing again before he decided to amble into view.

Other photos..

(That is George up ahead on the path...)

I am just now noticing the pink tint to the sky.

A beautiful afternoon skiing!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Still life with snow

Winter is fun to photograph!

Above is a shot I took tonight in beautiful downtown Buffalo in front of Big Blue. That is a corner of Big Blue you see in the upper right-hand corner.

Night pictures like this are always more impressive when you are looking at them in your little phone camera, I have to say that. They get blurry once you actually take them out and look at them. But still.

I have something with which to remember February 8, 2013!

The un-photographed life is not worth living! Luckily I have a lot of photographs for the book I am pulling together. Leonard Pennario led a photographed life. People photographed him a lot.

Another night shot. This one looks like Mars!

A vertical shot.

One more, as we used to shout to Shakin Smith when he blew his harmonica at the Central Park Grill.

One more!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dawn of the dead

This year, 2013, is going to be my year! With which, I am on a new regimen of getting up very early.

The only problem with that is: Boy am I sleepy!

It is around 7 a.m. as I write this and you should see what an achievement it is for me just to type a sentence! But I believe in a few more days I will be comfortable in my new routine. I have no choice, you know? If I am going to get this Pennario project wrapped up I have to make time for it somehow.

Plus great people have gotten up early and that is how they get things done. I always think of that famous letter Mozart wrote, describing his routine. "My hair is always done by six o'clock, and by seven I am fully dressed." Hahahaa! I have some time to go before I can say that.

Meanwhile, because the first days are the hardest days, I have this little morning routine.

No. 1, get the coffee going.

While the coffee maker is doing its thing, I do a half hour of Pilates.It is a good way to wake up. Before the coffee is done you do not get a lot of work accomplished anyway, you know? May as well do a few roll-ups.

Also these Pilates videos on YouTube crack me up.

They get these British ladies and the way they talk is so funny. "My name is Angela and this is Nina. ... So let's get going. Slide your feet a couple of inches from your butt." The word "butt" sounds funny in those aristocratic tones.

This was the video I did this morning.


I liked the sunlight in the video and the bird calls. It is worth it just for that!

Also I watch the video on my little mini iPhone screen so that is another amusing thing. You are in your pajamas doing these crunches and whatever and you are holding this little phone over you looking up at it.

Hilarious times we live in!

Monday, February 4, 2013


I am lucky to have hip friends and they have been alerting me to the new bells at Notre Dame in Paris.

My friend Prof. G posted the above picture to my Facebook page. My friend Daryle posted this pic:

And the best picture, from Notre Dame's Facebook page.... the bells coming down the boulevard!

If this were in Buffalo they would be going past my house.

We must live on a heavy equipment route because all kinds of big things that looks as if they came from some Soviet factory are always being hauled down our street, with escorts with flashing lights. I could completely picture those bells passing my house.

People writing about the bells get a kick out of that the biggest one is named Mary. It's funny, I remember when I didn't realize either that it is perfectly normal for bells to have names. Once I wrote a story in The Buffalo News about the bells at St. Ann's. The biggest is St. Ann and the second biggest is St. Joachim. The littlest bell, I remember, is the Angel of God. I thought that was wild!

Our bells at St. Anthony's in downtown Buffalo are St. Emmerich and St. Stephen. There should be a St. Leonard, in honor of Pennario! I will have to get to that.

There is a sad footnote in the story of the bells of Notre Dame. The cathedral lost its original bells in the French Revolution. They were all hauled down and broken.  It is chilling to think about that French Revolution. Awful, unspeakable. Well, do not get me started on that.

What about Bells Supermarket?

From Forgotten Buffalo's Web site...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sexagesima Sunday

Today at church it was two great things rolled into one. It was the Feast of St. Blase, when you get your throat blessed. Hmmm, I have always written Blaise, but my missal says Blase.

And also it was the greatest Sunday of the year ...

Sexagesima Sunday!

As I know I have written I even laughed with Leonard Pennario about that. That was when I was discovering the old Church calendar and Leonard loved a joke and so we laughed about, ahem, Sexagesima Sunday.

It means 60 days until Easter. Which is not technically accurate but we are in the countdown until Lent, is what it amounts to.

St. Blase's feast is actually Feb. 3 so it was right on the money, to do the Blessing of the Throat on Sunday. One thing, though, I have to tell about. It was just too funny, coming in the wake of that disastrous Confession experience I had.

There were two lines after Mass for the throat blessing. This was at Our Lady Help of Christians. I could not get up early enough to get to St. Anthony's. The priest at Our Lady Help of Christians is a good priest -- he did a marvelous job, I thought, of reading the Epistle. But he himself admits he is old and has had a lot of health problems and gets tired easily now.

Anyway, I inadvertently ended up in his line. I regretted it because there was this other priest helping him out and the other priest looked really cool. He was an older guy too and really austere and you could tell he was passionate about this St. Blase blessing. He would recite it in Latin with his hand on the person's shoulder, and then he would end it by placing his hand on your head. I have never seen anyone do it that way. I kept gazing, fascinated.

But I was in the other line. I really wanted to switch but I was afraid of causing offense. I was almost the last person in line so it would have been conspicuous. Plus as soon as I had the thought the woman behind me in line had it too, and she switched. I hate when that happens!

So I stayed. And here is what happened: I got to the front, and the priest paused before giving me the blessing, as if he were exhausted.

He actually took a breath and goes, "Okay."

As if I were this big pain!

It all made me wonder if this is a purpose I have in life. Perhaps I am here for the mortification of these old priests!

Here they are, all they want is a nap but instead there is me.

Me, standing there smiling in my chapel veil.

"But Father! But Father!"

Ay yi yi.

The good news is, I did get my throat blessing. In Latin. With the i's dotted and the t's crossed.

No sore throats for me in 2013!