Saturday, August 31, 2013

Party around the piano

We observe the Octave of Howard's Birthday. 

In the Catholic Church you observe the Octave of important feast days. There are only a handful such as Christmas and Pentecost and Easter. The Octave is eight days from Sunday to Sunday. You are just supposed to sit and contemplate.

And so it is with Howard's birthday only it is more about excess than contemplation. That is Mari McNeil singing up above and Guy Boleri, great cabaret pianist and Leonard Pennario fan, at the piano. Guy Boleri said that Pennario's recording of Gershwin's Concerto in F changed his life. 

In the background are Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame member Doris Jones in a red dress and Jackie Jocko in a tux.

With Guy Boleri in the saddle we went through all the songs from "Oklahoma!" That is when you know you have achieved momentum, when the piano is surrounded by people with drinks in their hands bellowing Rodgers and Hammerstein songs. And Guy prompts us with the lyrics.

"And the waving wheat!"

"But a little brown maverick!"

"Don't start collecting things!"

He is amazing. He is like someone who would be at a Hollywood party! There was another night when he led another bawling crowd through "The Music Man." So much fun.

I wish I could stay up but I have a lot of work to do tomorrow.

I will go to sleep with Rodgers and Hammerstein running through my head!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Turn on the Victrola!

It was fun this week because we got to listen to my friend Gary's Victrola.

I kept laughing about it because Leonard Pennario used to always tell that story about how when he was really little his first word was "Victrola." Only he pronounced it "Bittrola." He told that story to a Courier-Express reporter in the 1980s and he told it to me too, later on.

Gary inherited the Victrola from Guy who had fixed it up really well. I got to re-load the thing, putting new records on. You had to get the knack of it.

While we were grooving to the Victrola we thought of the slang that must have come from it.

You get in the groove. That comes from records. But even earlier...

"Crank it." It means turn up the volume. You have to crank the Victrola. I did that several times.

And also ...

There is a kind of muffling device that you can put into the big flower-shaped speaker thing. Guy had made one himself, kind of a soft stuffed form made out of fabric that you could stick in there. Hence...

... the phrase! Do you have it?

Give up?

"Put a sock in it."

Come on, it's got to come from the Victrola.

Where else would it come from.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My dream about Barack Obama

Obama in town has me remembering my dream about him.

Remember my dream about Barack Obama? It was on Mozart's birthday, 2009. That is how I think of the year, Catholic holy days and great musicians' birthdays. This year on July 9 I thought of Leonard Pennario.

Anyway, my dream of Barack. I just read back on it for old times' sake. Hahahahahaaa!

What if he showed up in the office or something?

I would not be able to keep a straight face!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dick Van Dyke, porpoises and Peru

When you are trying to get something done, i.e. a book about a great pianist, the last thing you should do is peek at the Internet. Normally I do not make that mistake but this morning I did.

Was that ever a mistake.

The news was irresistible!

And of course one thing leads to another.

There is Dick van Dyke escaping unhurt when his Jaguar caught fire. The great Dick van Dyke! We love him here. He is 87 now and a couple of years ago he almost died but was rescued by a pod of porpoises.

That is Dick van Dyke up above with a porpoise. Dick van Dyke is amazing. He not only starred in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," he lives it!

So that was one story. Another was: John Cleese launches attack against British media. I had been wondering what John Cleese was up to and now I know.

The greatest is this story about a tribe in Peru that is threatening to cross a river.

They are demanding bananas!

It is the Mashco-Piro tribe.

The story says: "The Mashco-Piro live by their own social code which includes kidnapping other tribes' women and children."

This beats reading about the impending demolition  of beautiful St. Ann's or the unspeakable goings-on in Egypt, you know?

I have hit "Escape"!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The new Dorothy

There is this woman named Dorothy whom I pick up a lot of the time and take to church. This woman who used to take her to church died and because I do not live far from Dorothy, I have inherited her.

Dorothy is in her 90s and was born in the Italian Alps. She is a very elegant lady! I will have to take pictures and post them.

She came to America in 1937. She is from the Province of Trentino which she says makes her a Tridentina. Andiamo! Let us explore Trentino. You will want to turn off your sound because the music on this video is cruddy. But the country is beautiful!

Dorothy is amazing in many ways. She is very limber and when we sing in the choir loft she clambers up the steep stairs twice, once at the beginning and again after Communion. She has this chic little cane she folds up. She is constantly going out of town and to weddings and parties and retreats and reunions.

Dorothy was at my mom's funeral and it is funny but since then she has stepped into the shoes of my mother who was also named Dorothy. Oh, and another funny thing, her last name is almost the same too. There are just one or two letters' difference.

My mother used to get on my nerves by reminding me of Holy Days of Obligation and now Dorothy from Northern Italy does that. I was in the office Thursday night, working late, when I get this phone call. And it is Dorothy with her accent. She is wondering if I am going to pick her up for Mass. "It's the holy day," she reminds me. "The holy day of the Assumption."

And just as I did when my mother used to call me about that, I went, "Darn!"

I had completely forgotten!

If I had not been reminded, as was so often the case with my mom, I could have innocently worked through the holy day, and I would have been sinless because I would have forgotten, right?

Long story short, no Zumba class, an hour later there I am at Mass.

Then this morning in the car Dorothy is in the middle of telling me a story and then she says: "I'm not going to talk to you while you're driving." Which my mother used to say, all the time. Then of course they go on talking to you anyhow.

Just like my mom, Dorothy the Tridentina has to hear from me about Leonard Pennario, and neither Dorothy is very interested. But they hear me out anyway.

Anyway, it cracks me up, the Lord giveth Dorothys, the Lord taketh them away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stuff it

It is mysterious, the satisfaction you get from stuffing something.

Above is a squash I got at the downtown market. I stuffed it with corn and squash and carrots. It was almost like a cream and corn chowder. But the fun was just having it inside the squash. I do not like taking too much time away from my Pennario book to create elaborate dinners so I was grateful to this one for being easy.

And amusing!

I said to Howard, it looked like something out of Maurice Sendak.

With a little imagination dinners do not have to be boring and neither do books on great concert pianists.

That is what I think anyway.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bats invade Big Blue

Bats love Big Blue and last night a bat flew into the house and began orbiting wildly, sometimes swooping inches from our faces. Sometimes you could feel the beat of its wings!

We have learned from experience not to be afraid of bats. And besides as my musicological research has disclosed, the presence of bats vastly increases the odds that your house may be hidin' a Haydn manuscript. And so we sat there laughing.

Howard was calling the visitor "Batty."

"It's OK, Batty," he was saying, soothingly. He was opening doors so the bat could find its way out into the night. But the bat had no interest in finding its way out into the night. It wanted to stay inside.

Good thing we were used to it, too! Because here is what happened. The bat eventually stopped orbiting and glued itself to the brick wall over the fireplace. It chose a spot high up over our heads and it was strange, how the bat blended in with the brick. You could hardly see it except you could just make out its little ears, like the ears that Batman has.

Then suddenly there was another bat!

It came zooming into the house and began orbiting the way the first one had. Meanwhile the first bat stayed fastened to the wall, hunkered down, almost invisible. This drama continued for some time and eventually it occurred to us: Perhaps the bat on the brick was hiding from the other bat.

Perhaps they were a couple that was fighting!

Maybe the brick bat was a bat-tered spouse!

We could not stay to see the end of the drama. We had to go home because I had to be up at a decent hour to work on the Pennario project. But surely the bat soap opera continues, because as far as we know the bats are still in the house.

Speaking of bat opera, next time we go I will bring a record of "Die Fledermaus" to play in the deejay booth. It means "The Bat."

 And we will be ready for anything.

We will bat-ten down the hatches!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A pig's life

I went to the Erie County Fair yesterday and one thing I did was take pictures of pigs.

Such sweet, innocent animals! The way they smile is something I can never get over.

And the way they sleep, take a load off.

Unfortunately although I love pigs I cannot live like one. I spent so much time today house cleaning!

I did laundry. I washed clothes and also kitchen stuff like towels, mitts and napkins. I washed the bath towels. I washed the kitchen floor and the floor of the back hall.

At the same time I was running the dishwasher and then I had to empty the dishwasher. Then the laundry came out and I had to hang everything up and put everything away.

Then of course it was garbage night!

Son of a pork-chomping sea cook! All I wanted to do was concentrate a little on Pennario and it got so I felt like Cinderella realizing she would not be able to go to the ball because she had too much work to do.

Oh well.

Got to clean the house once a year whether it needs it or not!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

French and Forever Stamps

Yesterday I had an international letter to mail so I went to the Post Office. I was writing to the Josef Krips Association! It is in Switzerland.

I am sending in my membership forms. As a Buffalonian I wish to be part of the organization that celebrates our former Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra music director. Plus Leonard Pennario played with Krips on several occasions. They admired each other.

Joining the Josef Krips Association is thrilling because all correspondence is conducted in French and I am beginning to regret that at Sacred Heart, I talked and gossiped with my neighbor all through my French classes. I remember Sister Pat saying, "This is French class. This is not Country Club!" But alas. Or zut alors, as I should say. That is all water under the Pont. (Pont is bridge. I remember that.)

A trip to the Post Office is always thrilling too. It is an adventure because you never know what you will find.

Remember that other time I was mailing overseas letters? What mess that was!

This visit was less dramatic. The clerks were casual and kicked back as if they had not a worry in the world. One of them took a package to be mailed and lobbed it across the room into a basket quite a distance away. Did he make the basket? He did! "Nice shot," I said.

Luckily the clerk I got did a nice job of stamping my correspondence to the Association. It was not like that other time.

She used a round stamp! That is it up above. "Stamp," by the way, is "timbre" in French. I had to use the word in an email to the Krips Association the other day. It is funny, just a tiny bit of correspondence and you start learning all these words. My French is 300% better than it was just a couple of weeks ago!

I was shocked at the Post Office to learn that now all stamps are Forever Stamps. As I walked back to the office I puzzled that out.

On the one hand it is convenient because you can keep using the stamps and they do not get outdated.

On the other, what if you have extra ounces in the envelope or something, and you need extra postage? How do you figure out what your various Forever stamps were worth? Would you have to use just a number of Forever stamps, foregoing the savings of a few pennies per extra ounce you used to get? I am not sure I like the timbre of this.

There is one other ominous overtone. All I can think is that this means the Post Office is failing.

They want your money up front!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The colors of Crayolas

Enjoying he mulberry jam yesterday got me remembering the Crayola crayon called Mulberry.

I had never seen or eaten a mulberry, let alone made mulberry jam, but I knew the color, because of that Mulberry crayon.

Now I see to my disgust and distaste that the Mulberry crayon has been eliminated!

There is available a fascinating list of Crayola crayon colors, and the years of their service. Mulberry was discontinued in 2003.

I used to like the Crayola crayons with the square old names. Mulberry, I mean, who had seen a mulberry. But you knew the color. There was the subtle distinction between Green Blue and Blue Green. They retired Green Blue in 1990. Maize also was retired. You cannot expect kids to know what maize is. They would not even be able to spell it.

However. Yellow Green, and Green Yellow both hang on. That is good news! Orange Red survives, too. But though Yellow Orange survives, Orange Yellow does not. Red Orange, too, bit the big one.

Are you writing this down? I hope so.

I remember Thistle. Thistle, a pale lavender, was retired. It dated from 1949. That seems to have been an important year for Crayola crayons. A lot of them dated from 1949.

Now there are new colors like Outrageous Orange, Piggy Pink and Mango Tango. There is a drink Pennario liked called Mango Tango. I will always think of him. There is a color called Fuzzy Wuzzy that debuted in in 1998. Macaroni and Cheese, Magic Mint or Mauvelous. Shadow, Shamrock, Razzmatazz ....

I think Crayolas have been a little dumbed down, you know?

I will always love Crayola crayons though. I do confess loyalty to the brand. I have a big box of new Crayolas in front of me right now. They inspire me in my book. I use them in outlines and such, as I go over Leonard Pennario's life.

Perhaps some day they will bring back Mulberry!

And Thistle. And Maize.

I dream in color!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Grooving at the Pine Grill Reunion

Last night I was at Martin Luther King Park for the Pine Grill Reunion. It is a gutbucket jazz and blues festival, in case you are from out of town I went with my brother George and we brought the little ones, Barbara, who is 8, and Georgie, 5.

The great thing about the Pine Grill Reunion is that the kids play and we enjoy the music. As long as you kind of keep an eye on them things are fine.

And these kids have over-the-top social skills. They have way more social skills than I had at that age, I will tell you that right now. They have more social skills than I have now!

Right away all they want to do is meet all the other little kids. There was this little boy nearby in the crowd, sitting with his dad, and he has some red balloons on the grass next to him. Both our kids, individually and independently, gently kicked his balloons as they went past, and looked hopefully at him, hoping he would engage. He did not. He was busy eating a burger. But they tried!

Next thing that happened was, Georgie saw a group of boys who were about 10 playing football. He asked if he could join in!

They said no, but still, he tried. He is 5, and he tried!

And later a group said yes to him, and he played! Eventually he had to bow out -- "We got to get this little kid outta here," one of the kids was overheard saying. But it was fun while it lasted!

Meanwhile Barbara goes into a tent and starts playing video games. We were not so happy about that.

There was this hilarious bluesman I wrote about on the Buzz Blog. This is not the kind of entertainment I would have admitted to Leonard Pennario that I like, although he could have that groove. But I do!

Now I just wish it were not Monday.

"Party Saturday, church on Sunday, then you go back to work on Monday .... I'm here to tell you, ain't that the blues!

Ain't that the truth!