Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Nailing it

This is a great anniversary for me although it might not mean much to anyone else.

I have not bitten my nails in two weeks!

Actually two weeks and three days. This is a big deal because as I work on my book on Leonard Pennario I often chew on my nails without thinking about it. Two weeks is a milestone. And so I am rewarding myself by buying nail polish. I use coupons and so I get great nail polish at deep discount. However!  A warning!

There are nail polishes that look better in the jar than on your hands.

I bought this Sally Hansen ...


.. "Green With Envy." It is a beautiful bright yellow-green. The clerk commented on how pretty it was as I checked out. I beamed.

Then I got home and put it on my hands. I don't know, green just seemed unnatural on my nails. It reminded me of alligators or something.

Look at those colors up above. Every color should work! However every color does not work.

It is like the Henry Ford rule: Paint a Model T any color as long as it's black.

Paint your nails any color as long as it's ...

...  pink!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mystery bird identified

Remember the mystery bird? I have deduced it is a sparrow.

It is funny, going through the online bird guides, how many times they ask you what the bird looks like. How am I supposed to know what it looks like? It is high up in the tree!

My eye is not on the sparrow!

The sparrow songs I hear online are not quite what I hear but they are close. My bird actually has a prettier sound.

My bird is a musician! It gravitated naturally to the Leonard Pennario desk.

Here is a sparrow song so you can check and see if you have one.

You know what that video reminds me of? When I was little and my mom would take me to Woolworth's and there would be that big cage full of birds! For some reason birds used to be considered a necessity, something that could be had in dime stores along with Rain Bonnets, nylons and Lifesavers.

I like how you can hear the mourning dove in the background. That is a bird I always know. Howard did not. When he first heard one in our yard he said, "What is that, an owl or something?"

It is fun to learn about birds and their songs but in my quest to ID the sparrow, I learned it was very time consuming. That is why it took me so long. I just cannot budget the time, you know? There are scholars bugging me for this book and here I am trying to figure out this bird I am hearing.

La la la la la la la.

Or should I say ....

Tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet!

And now we pause for a word from the Cathedral Sparrows.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Today I made chowder for a group of friends after Howard's gig at the Statler.

Chowder is fun and I do not make it nearly enough. Every time I make it it is a big production with various cookbooks open all over the kitchen. Fish cookbooks, vegetarian cookbooks, vintage cookbooks, magazines, all spread all over the counters. It is almost as complicated as the Leonard Pennario project.

That is what I should call my biography, "The Pennario Project."

Whenever you call something a project it makes it sound momentous. I just saw a disc called "The Dowland Project." John Dowland being this Elizabethan composer. There are a lot of, ahem, Projects. I will think of more.

Back to the chowder. After studying all these cookbooks what invariably happens is I wind up making up my own version. I chopped up all this summery stuff including corn, zucchini, green pepper and potatoes.

Of course you start with onions. And here is what I do that the cookbooks do not tell me to do: I throw in some smoked paprika. It gives you the bacon taste and also that peppery sweetness.

Having created that great art I got on the bus to go to work and the chowder went into the Crock Pot and Howard took it downtown. He had the job of adding the finishing touch later on, which was ... Swai!

That is a picture of the gentleman arriving with the Swai so Howard could add it to the Crock Pot.

And later I added milk.

Whole milk!

Nothing but the best for the Chowder Project!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Snail mail

I gave into temptation.

They dropped the price so low... so low ... that I had no choice but to resubscribe to Eating Well magazine.

Remember Eating Well?

I like the recipes but I wish there were more of them and less lecturing about sustainable this and eco-friendly that. I do not like lectures with my meals.

On the other hand...

I just love food magazines.

I love coming home and finding them in my mailbox. I do not care what my wise friend Melinda says: "They're just clutter." Indeed they are. And yet... and yet ...

I use them! Actually now that I think of it, I use a lot of the clutter in my home.

And anyway, it doesn't matter. Because it will be something like six weeks before I get my next issue anyway.

At least that wait will not be nearly as bad as this Leonard Pennario recital I bought and paid for and now I have to wait, wait, wait. They said four to six weeks and believe me, they will make sure you wait that time.

I am dying to hear this recital because I need to hear Pennario playing this one Schubert sonata. I am obsessed with hearing it. Every day I wake up and think: Today will be the day! And it is not.

It is like being a kid and ordering those sea horses. You would haunt the mailbox while your parents said, "What are you looking for?"

"Nothing." As you turn away, disappointed and wretched, because your sea horses ...

... are not there.

One good thing about this book I am working on.

I discover my inner 10-year-old!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Town Crier and me

 I love the video of the Town Crier announcing the British royal baby's birth.

When I was in the medieval group and would go camping at the Pennsic War in Pennsylvania -- and other medieval events where we would camp out -- we would rely on the Herald, our word for the Town Crier, for our news.

Sure, we were just fooling, but still, I have that experience now, a real-life experience of relying on a Town Crier. You would be awakening in your sleeping bag and listening to the outside noises of armies clanking past in armor and -- oh, there he was!

And he would start out, "Oyez, oyez!" Just like the Town Crier this week, Tony Appleton.

No one else knew what he was saying at the beginning there but I did! Because I was in the, ahem, Society For Creative Anachronism. I believe it is French for "Hear ye, hear ye." I never actually thought about it.

I love how Appleton ends by saying, "God save the Queen."

Our Herald, you would wake up in the morning in your tent and listen for him. There would be something you would have to find out, what time the Field Battle was, or where you were supposed to be if you were taking glass blowing class, or some other medieval matter. And you would shush your friends so you could hear the Herald. Or the Town Crier. Same thing.

That was before I was the authorized biographer of Leonard Pennario. When life was simpler.

"Oyez, Oyez!"

It brings back memories!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mystery bird

There is this beautiful bird call and I wonder if anyone knows what it is.

It is not necessarily that bird pictured above! That is a Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher and I chose the picture because I like its look, not to mention its name.

The bird I hear is three quick whistles followed by a trill followed by three more notes, two going up, then one going down.

Remember the chickadee? I was able to figure that out thanks to wise people out there in the stratosphere. Birds are just something I am not good at. I know the robin because it is the first bird you hear in the morning. I have learned the cardinal, I think.

But even now, it is something like 6:30 a.m. and there are all these birds singing at me and I do not think I know one of them!

However my quest to ID this bird has led me to these fascinating sites.

There is this one where you attempt, fruitlessly in my case, to try to identify the bird step by step.

And Bird Jam where I am sure I have listened to about every single bird. I went down City Birds and then Warblers and Forest Birds. My bird is not among them!

I am wondering if it is a kind of sparrow.

My friend Melinda suggests an Oriole. I like to capitalize Oriole so it looks like Oreo.

Now I have to go back to listening to Leonard Pennario. And so, suggestions are welcome!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Belly up to the barre

I am thinking about a second career as a dancer.

After this Pilates class I went to yesterday, I think I am qualified! 

This woman who runs this class downtown just kills you. We did hundreds of ballet kicks, toes pointed, front, back, side. That is a snapshot up above of me doing those kicks! OK, actually it is Leonard Pennario's friend Tamara Toumanova. But hey, I could do what she was doing.

It was misery after a point, I will not deny that. At the end of the class I was just lying on my mat like a dead person. Plus although my weight is, ahem, within the normal range, I am a little fat to be a dancer.

But still.

There is this move where you lie on your side and lift both your legs. This was not exactly new. We have had to do it before, to the extent that actually I have gotten good at it. But all I can think of is the cover of this memoir, "Chance and Circumstance," by Carolyn Brown, one of the lead dancers of the Merce Cunningham company. That is an excellent book, by the way. It is one of those books I go back to now and then.

There she is, doing that move!

On the cover of her book!

And I was doing that move too. As a matter of fact I think I was doing it a little better than she was! And I probably had to hold it for longer. Well, that is neither here nor there. My point is, that must be a respected dance move. I mean, if she put it on the cover of her book, she has to be pretty proud of it. And I can do it.

Now that I think about it we also had to do that move Merce Cunningham is doing over her head. Yes, I am sure we did that move.

The crazy things we do in the name of fitness!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Make mine mulberry

Remember the mystery mulberry tree?

It has led to mulberry jam!

The jam did not appear mysteriously overnight as the tree did. But it is supernatural in its deliciousness.

I have made a lot of jam, starting with marmalade. Like the mulberry tree, this marmalade did appear overnight, maybe not mysteriously but overnight all the same. It was before I was married. I kept all hours and I was up at 1 a.m., sterilizing jars, worrying about whether this stuff would gel. It did. I was born under happy jam stars!

But this mulberry jam.

I said to Howard, I think this is the best jam I ever made.

It is exquisite!

And irresistible. I find myself eating it on stale bread, even. Anything. I could eat cardboard with this stuff on it. While I am working on my book it intrudes on my thoughts. One minute it is all about Leonard Pennario and the next ... what about that mulberry jam?

I had never tried a mulberry before but they are kind of like mini blackberries. They have these tiny seeds the way raspberries and blackberries do. It is no wonder that Van Gogh and medieval artists, such as whoever painted that picture up above, immortalized the mulberry bush.

Also what I have found, while it is fun to munch on mulberries as a snack, it is better to save them for jam. They are better as jam. It is not even just the taste, this dark sweetness. It is the texture.  Just like in raspberry jam, you get this tiny touch of crunch. Ahhhh.

I did not even bother canning any of this stuff. Why bother?

We are going to eat it so fast!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Friar Alert

St. Anthony's is all atwitter because the friars are coming back. Above is a picture of one of them, heading back to Buffalo!

Remember religious bingo? I think a friar would have to count for something in that game.

I do not know if I mentioned the friars last time they were here. They make you feel as if you are back in the year 1150, or thereabouts. I took this picture from the organ loft. One friar says Mass and the others are in the pews. See them, all in a row, in their gray robes?

I see from my picture info that it was April 11. That is neat, how your picture file gives you the date and time you took the picture! It was April 11, 9:05 a.m.

The first time I saw the celebrant walking in, hood over his head ... see fuzzy picture ...

... I was enchanted. That first time there was one friar there by himself. The next time he showed up he brought his friends. Before Mass people were watching wide-eyed as the doors of this little car opened and all these friars, one after another, came piling out.

Then there was the sermon. The friar began it by saying, "In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Praise be to Jesus and Mary forever." Then he stood there for a moment and looked at us. No "I hope everyone's enjoying this beautiful day." No "Thanks for coming to Mass." This must be what is called a deep friar. Har!

With which, he went on to give this sermon all about things like lust and the Freemasons. There were quotes from 18th century books. Things like lust and the Freemasons are topics everyone wants to hear about. Everyone was glued to this sermon. Even the teenagers in the choir were glued to it and they usually never shut up for anything.

The friars are from the Binghamton area. I am envious. What makes Binghamton so great that they can luck out and get these guys? How can Buffalo steal them? We produced air-conditioning and the Barcalounger and the Pierce Arrow and Leonard Pennario. You would think we would have these friars.

Well, at least we can borrow them. The friars will be here the last two Sundays in July, I believe. I will have to find out for sure.

I am going to tell all my friends!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Maxi-dress me

I have been wanting to buy into this maxi-dress fad and last night I bought the most wonderful dresses.

Notice I said "last night." Not "yesterday." It was at night! My friend Tracy and I were going for a walk. We were walking down Allen Street and all of a sudden I saw this beautiful dress in the window.

"Look, Tracy!" I said. "Look at this beautiful dress!"

All of a sudden this guy appeared from out of the shop. We had thought the shop was closed, but no, it was not, and here was this guy beckoning us in. Tracy and I were transfixed. We were mesmerized. We entered the shop.

It was like going to heaven. I mean, all it would have needed was Leonard Pennario on piano and you would have thought you had died and this was the afterlife. There were these beautiful dresses everywhere. And as if from a great distance I heard this man saying, "Fifteen dollars ... 20 dollars..."

They were cheap!

Plus, they were prettier than any of those dresses pictured up above. Way prettier.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo, I ended up taking two dresses into the, ahem, fitting room. Which was hilarious. This great bohemian Buffalo fitting room, with an antique mirror leaning against a wall, and a door that was painted over and clearly had not been opened in a century.

I came out and said, "I'll take them."

Then the shop owner said: "I'll give you another one for $10."


I emerged from the store with three maxi-dresses. One of them I wore to a party later that night, a birthday party for my friend Gary.

There is another dress that, I said to Howard, "This is my favorite dress I have ever had in my life."

It was amazing. Red and pink roses on a filmy fabric that, oh, it's amazing. You will just have to see it.

I will post pictures!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Some enchanted evening

I went back to Fantasy Island this evening. It could not be helped!

Coming home you feel as if you have gotten a massage. You have just melted. After you have...

... been bouncing around in a wave pool for an hour

... ridden the Wild Mouse a dozen times (that is a great mouse face on the cars)

.... been flushed town the Toilet Bowl three times

.... drifted down the Lazy River five times

... you are just sitting there going, la la la la la la la.

I was thinking, my little niece and nephew love me because I am the queen of excess. Leonard Pennario loved amusement parks and so do I. I will ride the Wild Mouse, or the Crazy Mouse as it is called at Fantasy Island, 20 times in a row. I will ride the Toilet Bowl 50 times. We did that last time, honest. The attendant could not believe it. He said, "How do the two of you run up those stairs 50 times?" That was me and my niece Barbara. We would have done that today except it started to rain.

Plus all day long it is fun to hear these kids just talking.

There was a family from India on this one ride, the Rockin' Tugboat, I think it is. It is new!

This stolid little boy from this Indian family got on the ride and asked solemnly, "Where does this ride go?"

"Huh?" the attendant said.

The little boy, in his Indian accent, repeated: "Where does this ride go?"

The attendant, rolling his eyes, makes a U-shaped, swinging motion with his finger.

Then everyone gets the joke, including the little boy. We all settle in and the ride gets rolling.

Too funny, Fantasy Island.

After a day there, you have lived!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Comic Abandon

It was my birthday recently and my sister gave me as a present the book "Theories of Everything" by Roz Chast. She is a cartoonist I remember from back when I used to read the New Yorker.

It is amazing the cartoons you remember from back whenever! There was this one cartoon I had from the New Yorker, that I had saved, and Leonard Pennario had saved it too. "I thought it was funny," he said. Ha, ha! I was thinking about Pennario because today is his birthday.

The cartoon he had saved was not by Roz Chast. But a lot of hilarious cartoons are. This one cartoon in the book just has me laughing and laughing.

It is "The Party After You Left."

I was laughing and telling my friends about it and then, duh, naturally it ends up that this cartoon is famous, it was on the cover of a book, you can buy snobby art prints of it for $150, etc. Everything always has to be huge, you know? It can't be just some funny cartoon. Here I was thinking it was just another of a million cartoons in this book and I had discovered it.


Oh well.

Click on the cartoon to blow it up. It really is funny!

And probably true.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Victorian poet comes back to life

Don't you hate it when a Victorian poet from the 19th century won't stop talking at you?

When he interrupts your work?

Today my Internet went blooey so I had to jump through hoops and restore it. And afterward, while I am trying to concentrate on Leonard Pennario, not to mention Facebook, there is this man's voice talking at me.

"Who in the world is this?" I said.

It was the poet Robert Browning!

Talking to me!

The guy died in 1889, aged 77.

No matter, there he was, interrupting my work. He recited some poetry and then he suddenly stopped and he said ... I am really not making this up:

"I'm terribly sorry but I can't remember my own verses!"

Hahahahaa! I remember a little bit of Robert Browning. He wrote a poem called "My Last Duchess." Wow, look at that site. The Victorian Web. We must not be a stranger to that site. Anyway, Robert Browning was the one to whom Elizabeth Barrett Browning addressed her famous sonnet: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

Now I see why Elizabeth Barrett Browning loved him!

Who wouldn't love a guy who would stop and say: "I'm terribly sorry but I can't remember my own verses?"

The reason I was hearing Robert Browning's voice was, apparently I had clicked on this video but never listened to it, and I had forgotten about it ... until now. When I re-started my computer there he was, this 19th century poet.

At the end of the recording, he is cheering Edison and he says, "Hip, hip, hooray!" What a darling man.

I must share this. I must.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

My fabulous Fourth

Today to celebrate Independence Day I went to Kmart because Kmart is what America is all about. I bought noise-canceling headphones so I will be able to work on my Pennario book come hell or high water.

The headphones are by Sony. They were reduced to $30. And I am telling you, they are worth every penny.

My neighbors' loud party was totally blocked out!

I did not even have to play Pennario playing Liszt or anything. I put on my Sleepmaker App and played birds and crickets. Quietly! And still, they blotted out the noise.

I got work done!

Thank you, Kmart!

They had some maxi dresses too at Kmart which, I tried a couple of them on, because I like this maxidress fad, and because this is America. Alas, although they fit OK, they just were not quite right. That is the trouble with clothes from a store like Kmart. Sometimes things just do not look good and you can not put your finger on why.

However, these headphones.

Thanks to them I can now work on my book independent of what is going on in the world around me!

I will have to thank Kmart in my acknowledgments, along with Kendall Jackson and Red Zinger Tea and Shur-Fine Diet White Birch Beer.

It is Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Temperatures rising

Eighty degrees, and I have the oven on.

I am roasting chicken and cauliflower with olives and lemon. And with it I will enjoy some red wine. It is never too hot for coffee or red wine! My Facebook friends and I agreed on that today. My mother also believed that. She drank coffee up until the day she died.

If it is too hot for red wine that is why God invented white wine. But it is never too hot for red wine.

The nice thing about roasting something in the oven is that you set the oven and the kitchen gets hot as blazes, but you walk away. I walked upstairs and worked on my book about Leonard Pennario.

The cauliflower and the chicken are sizzling but I am back in 1936! Far, far away.

The only thing that reminds me of that steamy kitchen is the scent of lemon peel on my hands.

I also truly enjoy the heat. You know what they say, there are only two seasons in Buffalo, winter and the Fourth of July.

It is the Fourth of July!

We must enjoy it while we can!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I want to thank the Academy ...

... for sending me back to Supercuts once again.

I had this idea the other day to go to the, ahem, Salon Academy of Buffalo to get my hair cut. This was Saturday I am talking about. I was by there and noticed the place.

Keep in mind, I am way overdue for a haircut. My mom and I had been planning to go together to get our hair cut, this is how long it had been. So by now I am like this sheep dog.

I go into the Salon Academy on Saturday and it looked like a really cool place, bright and colorful with salon students running all over the place. This will be fun, I thought.

"How do I do this?" I asked at the desk. "Do I just walk in?"

The woman goes: "Honey, you need an appointment. Especially on Saturday."

So I make an appointment for Monday at 5:30 p.m. And I am looking forward to it. I kill myself to get there on time which, there is no easy way to get from downtown to Sheridan and Eggert, you know? But there I am, right in the nick of time.

And I wait.

And I wait.

There is a row of women there, all of them peering into their iPhones.

 It depressed me. I wanted in a way to peer into my iPhone. I have all kinds of Leonard Pennario loaded in there to listen to. But I did not want to be one other person in this row of iPhone-peerers.

So I asked how long it was going to be. The desk girl wouldn't say.

"Ten minutes?" I said, nice-like.

"Yes, about that." She was noisily chewing gum, which was really annoying. Loud rock was pounding on the sound system. Meanwhile I heard applause from the back of the Academy. Apparently all the students had gathered and were applauding someone. It went on and on.

"I'll be right back," I told the woman.

And I went next door to Supercuts. They could take me in 15 minutes. I went back to the Salon to be polite, and cancel my appointment. And they said they could take me right then!

A young woman named Kelly leads me back to this booth. She was nice. I took this picture of her.

She puts that haircutting robe on me. We chat for a few minutes. Then it dawns on me: We are waiting for a teacher.

The teacher is working her way down the students. One of them needs something and so she disappears. She is gone forever. Kelly has run out of small talk and so have I and we are just sitting there under these flourescent lights.

Smiling, polite, I finally asked: "How long is this going to take, do you think, Kelly?"

Kelly said: "Usually there is more than one teacher. Tonight there is only one."

More time passes.

Finally I said: "Um, do you think I could make an appointment another time?"

I will say this: By that time they were only too glad to see me go. I was a potential problem, the one who kept singing the How Long, How Long Blues.

 I was led to the front of the Salon, where I murmured something about making an appointment another time. Then I was out the door. I had wasted all this time, but still --


They were still waiting for me. No muss, no fuss.

The Academy will just have to wait.

'Cause I won't!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Plumbing the depths

Last night Howard and I watched the Three Stooges doing "A Plumbing We Will Go."

Remember how a while ago we talked about how to play the piano daily and stay sane? I think from now on we will watch a half hour of vaudeville comedy to stay sane. To keep things in perspective!

I keep pushing Laurel and Hardy on Howard because that was my favorite comedy team, the way it was Leonard Pennario's.

But Howard loves the Three Stooges. He said that when he was growing up they were practically family.

And I have to say, I cracked up over the episode about them posing as plumbers. The ending will resonate with anyone from my part of the country. The Stooges are wrecking this poor guy's mansion. They have posed as plumbers to get away from the cops. Not to give everything away but they get the plumbing pipes and the electrical rigging mixed up. So you get this one scene when the cook looks up and sees the light bulb filling with water.

"This house sure is messed up," he says.

Then you get this tremendous scene where this woman is demonstrating a television. It is the early days of TV and everyone is sitting around formally, awaiting this demonstration. Ha, ha! There is nothing in these comedies like the sight of people sitting around formally. You know something is about to go terribly wrong!

The TV shows pompous footage of Niagara Falls. You can tell where that is heading!

Anyway, very funny, the Three Stooges, "A Plumbing We Will Go."

We plumb the depths!