Friday, February 28, 2014

A bento bent

The other day I stopped by Marshall's because my friend Samantha at work did this column about how everything is on sale. I bought shoes and smoked paprika and a bento box.

A bento box! I could not stop talking about it. At work I talked about it so much that my friend Susan Martin wrote a column about me, in today's paper. The column is about packing lunches. I am the friend with the bento box!

A bento box is a fancy kind of lunch box so you can partition your foods prettily. Mine is nothing really fancy but it is pretty and it was $5. When I peeled off the sticker I saw that before that it had been marked down to $7.50. I would not have paid $7.50 for it. But $5, I could do.

Yesterday I packed it for lunch. I made this salad out of Food and Wine that involved roasting this asparagus and carrots in the early morning while I was working on my Pennario project. I put them in two partitions and in another I put a couple of hard-boiled eggs, as Food and Wine prescribed. And in the fourth section I put a slice of bread I had made. In the middle where there is this dip container I put this yogurt dip I whipped up.

It looked pretty but when I got to work I looked at it askance.

This was a lot of food!

Bento boxes are supposed to be good for portion control. But what if they are bigger portions than you usually eat? What if you actually wind up eating more?

Well, I added up the calories and it really only about 450. You have to eat something, you know? Plus if you eat too little that is a mistake, because when someone comes around passing out cupcakes you are powerless.

Anyway. Today was easier because I began planning last night, roasting more asparagus, which was on sale at Price Rite, and making baba ganoush (eggplant was also cheap at Price Rite). I made pita breads too. That was an adventure! And fun. And this morning I threw together a chickpea and cauliflower curry.

So voila, the work of art you see up above. You call it leftovers, I call it a Mediterranean bento! Let us open the lid and take a closer look.


Bon appetit!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The darkness before dawn

Lately I am used to getting up early for Pennario-related reasons. But today I had to get up extra early, for office-related reasons.

I have to be somewhere at 6:15! And it is a big long drive. So what am I doing, doodling around on the Web log? Well, I just had to observe that the world looks kind of different when you get up at, ahem, 4:30. On purpose.

I turned on the radio and they were still doing that overnight George Nori talk show where people call in and talk about UFOs. One guy was the author of book called "Ghost Rockets."

That was a weird feeling, listening to that!

There was a commercial for mattresses. They must figure no one is up at quarter to 5 on purpose.

And there is one more thing. At least when I get into the car in a few minutes to get where I am going I will not have to worry about traffic.

No one else is up.

It is only me!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bird of mystery

With the spring comes a whole new installment of bird mysteries!

There is one I heard this morning that intruded gently on my thoughts about Leonard Pennario's records. It was a really simple birdsong. A rising chirp. Mid-pitched. A strong but musical tone, not buzzing or harsh.

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

About a second and a half, two seconds apart.

Ah, I thought. That will be a really easy bird to identify. And it was getting about time to knock off work anyway. And so I tried.

But this Wildlife Research Site got me nowhere.

And Cornell's list of common birds, useless.

Look, I know this is a common bird. It is a common-sounding call. I live in the city. Clearly this is not some rare bird that has flown here from Africa or Australia or wherever, like the one up above painted by Gauguin. Why is it on no list?

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. A gentle, quizzical tone.

The mystery continues!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Predawn Biographer

The sunlight this morning feels good! I was up too early ...

working on my Pennario discography which is just about done, except for I am checking all kinds of things, footnoting all kinds of things, dotting my t's and crossing my i's.

Crossing my eyes, haha.

Can you tell it was an early morning for me?

Today was all about the Debussy Preludes. After a couple of hours of work verifying this and that and exploring this and that possibility (and the music world wonders why this book is taking me so long)  I allowed myself to get on Google and ask: How do you get through a day without much sleep?

It is amazing the questions you can ask Google and I get a kick out of that. All kinds of other people have invariably asked that question before you and the question pops up before you are even done typing it.

When it comes to answering this particular question, there is not much I have not heard of. They always tell you to drink plenty of water, which annoys me, I don't know why. There is just something about that "Drink plenty of water," that makes you just want to go, shut up.

And here is what else kills me. Almost every list of suggestions you find tells you to nap for 20 minutes.

To nap!? How? Where?

We have a ladies' cloakroom at work with a couple of couches. Sometimes you walk in and someone is asleep on one of them. But I could never do that. I would be way too self-conscious and would never be able to drop off. Plus I do not like walking in and finding someone asleep there. Here you are just trying to hang up your coat and change out of your boots, and you are tiptoeing around feeling like this intruder.

And the cloakroom is a better option than is enjoyed by most people who work in offices.

I guess you could fall asleep at your desk  ...

... but why not just wear a sandwich board announcing that the wheels have come off your life, you know?

End result, as we say here in Buffalo: No nap and will these people please quit suggesting it to us.

Wow, I have suddenly realized something! I have a suggestion of my own to add something that actually works.


I have been sitting here complaining and I realize that all of a sudden I feel awake and alive.

That is the secret!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Two gentlemen of Buffalo

I am always getting excited about stuff that I write but over the last couple of weeks I was really taken up with this story I got to do about walking in the footsteps of Buffalo's two dead presidents, Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland. Above is a painting of me working on the story and neglecting the rest of my life.

Remember my picture of the Cleveland statue? It is surely the best picture ever taken of a statue of a president. Cleveland at Buffalo City Hall in the middle of a snowy night, taken while I was slip-sliding around on that icy marble. Whoa. Whoa!!!

Cleveland's last words are on the back of that statue. He said: "I have tried to hard to do right."

I also like the first words he said when told he had the nomination for President.

"By Jove, that's something, isn't it?" Cleveland said.

It is a treat to have a president who drank beer in the very bars you and your friends drink beer in, you know? And so honest, and such a hard worker.

I also got to admire Millard Fillmore too although it was my friend Michelle's job, not mine, to write about him. I admire how Fillmore came up from dirt. All these years I had assumed he was blue-blooded and wealthy, with that name and those patrician good looks. Queen Victoria is said to have admired Fillmore's manners and to have pronounced him the handsomest man she had ever seen.

I was shocked to find he came from this miserable poverty, that he had to steal books just to learn to read. To go from that to impressing the Queen of England with your looks and your manners! It is amazing.

Apparently it used to bother Fillmore, and you can see why, when everyone was saying Lincoln was the first president born in a log cabin.

"What about me?" Fillmore would say.

Anyway, good man, and although he is criticized harshly in some quarters for passing the Compromise of 1850, which included the Fugitive Slave Act, he declared personally that slavery was abhorrent to him, but it was something everyone had to endure until the Constitution could be amended. Historians give him credit for keeping the Union together at a crucial juncture. I could go on! My point is, it is not as simple as seen on the History Channel.

As I said to the History Museum the other day, I am available as a speaker on the subjects of Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland.

In addition to, of course, Leonard Pennario.

Monday, February 17, 2014

It might as well be spring

I was just looking again at that weird sun yesterday. It looked like an eclipse!

Helped along by the smoke from that smokestack at the fire station.

With all that excitement I forgot this news flash: Not to disappoint people but I finally took down my Christmas tree. Sunday was, ahem, Septuagesima Sunday, which heralds the dawn of Lent. In the Traditional Calendar it is as if we start Lent early. Thanks a heap, Traditional Calendar! Although last year it began a lot earlier than this year. Last year Septuagesima Sunday fell on Mozart's birthday.

The way it works is Septuagesima means 70 days, then Sexagesima, 60 days, then Quinquegesima, 50 days. Then  you hit Ash Wednesday at the 40-day mark and bang, you are into Lent.

These are approximate numbers of course. But you get the idea. Thinking of all this brings back my time in California with Leonard. I was new to the Latin traditional Mass and Pennario and I used to discuss it and he used to explain things to me sometimes. And yes, we giggled about Sexagesima Sunday. How can you not?

"Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa," Pennario used to say, with that smile of his.

If you are new to Latin that means, "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." It is part of the Public Confession you make of all your sins. See all the drama you miss not going to the traditional Mass. It is far more poetic and thrilling.

Anyway there is your trip down the Latin memory lane! Now the tree is packed away -- carelessly, I might have to go and re-pack it, but still. The space is cleared, and the sunlight is pouring in. I love winter and I hate to see it go. But from now on, as far as I am concerned, it is spring. It is early spring.

It is time to start checking for the daffodils!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The prodigal sun

I took this picture this morning on the way to Mass. Isn't it neat? It is Buffalo's City Hall with the sun to the left of it.

Dorothy was with me in the car and we were heading along Seventh Street, the street where Leonard Pennario lived when he was a very little boy. All of a sudden I pulled over.

"I have to take pictures," I said.

Dorothy, and I love this about her, started laughing like a teenager. She loves taking pictures and she started telling me when I should click the camera to catch the sun when it came out. The sun kept going behind a cloud and then it would come out again.

Ha, ha! Finally we decided we had to stop taking pictures and get to church before Mass started.

At the coffee hour later Dorothy said to me sheepishly that during Mass when we were supposed to have been thinking about what was going on she was thinking about these pictures instead.

And with good reason.

They are magnificent!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Out of the tree of life ...

... I just picked me a grapefruit!

My dreams at night are always all over the place and usually not worth remembering, let alone sorting out. However there is an image from last night's dreams that I love remembering.

What I dreamed was, Howard and a bunch of our friends and I were walking among all these grapefruit trees. There were all these big beautiful yellow grapefruits on them, just hanging there, ripe for the picking. So I picked one of these grapefruits.

I began peeling it because that is how I love to eat grapefruits, as opposed to cutting them in half and digging out the sections. And the grapefruit was a deep crimson inside. Such a gorgeous pink grapefruit! And it was so sweet.

I said, "Wow, this is the most delicious grapefruit I have ever had! And it was just right here waiting for me!"

So. I have to look up grapefruit in a dream dictionary. There is this really entertaining list I found of different foods you dream of.  Who among us does not dream about food? So this is a useful list and I am going to keep it around. Meanwhile I will cut and paste what it says about grapefruit:

To see or eat a grapefruit in your dream represents a sense of well-being and a refreshed state of mind. Your are experiencing an uplift in your spirits and rejuvenation of your body.

To see a grapefruit tree in your dream, is symbolic of your talents, belief system and good deeds. It may also represent the fruits of your labor.

I loved this! What is funny is, this last week I have been working on my health. I just thought if I ate better and slept better and lessened the chaos of my life I might be in better shape to get work done on the Pennario project. Which I have. So that could be the reason for the grapefruit in my dream.

Then again it could simply be that I was eyeing up grapefruit yesterday at Albrecht Discount. They are 59 cents and I decided that was too much.

Maybe I just had to have one!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

L.A. Fitness, a good fit

Leonard Pennario moved from Buffalo to Los Angeles and so have I.

I have moved from the Buffalo Athletic Club to L.A. Fitness!

L.A. Fitness bought the BAC a few weeks ago and you had to make up your mind between the BAC For Women and L.A. Fitness. I love some of my BAC teachers but L.A. Fitness made more geographical sense. There is one downtown near where I work and there is another one near where I live.

The other day I drove past the one where I live and I could not believe it. It looked like the Taj Mahal! It was huge. I went in. There was a big swimming pool with nobody swimming in it, a lifeguard sitting there bored. I am going to have to start bringing my swimsuit.

There is also a hot tub. There was an assortment of people of various ages and shapes and ethnicities lounging around together in it.

I said to Howard when I got home: "I can't wait to get in that hot tub. That will feel good after a workout!"

There was a silence and then Howard said, "Somehow a hot tub with strangers doesn't quite appeal to me."

"Well, it appeals to me," I said. "I am going to bring my bathing suit."

Let us not say "swimsuit" when we could say "bathing suit." I must remember that.

A bathing cap might be a good idea too.

Anyway. I have done Zumba every day this week and I will continue to do so. It puts you in good mental shape so you sleep well and can get up early and work on important projects such as a certain book about a certain great pianist. Plus it is just fun.

And it is fun to go to this spanking new gym.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hashing over Grover

About yesterday's post about Presidents in the Snow ...

I should have mentioned, it was part of my, ahem, research for this story I got to write at work about President Grover Cleveland, who was for all intents and purposes from Buffalo. Meaning he was not born here but Buffalo made him who he was. He was our sheriff and mayor before becoming governor and then president. All this happened in the space of a few years.

I find old Grover a fascinating story to tell you the truth. As I wrote to someone on Facebook I really came to admire the big guy.

But it was not as if I were writing about Beethoven or Leonard Pennario or someone I knew well. I did all this scrambling trying to get to the truth about Cleveland. There is so much untruth flying around out there. And it is only getting worse with the Internet. You never know what to believe! Above is a photograph of me trying to sort it all out. Alfred Eisenstadt snapped me when I was not looking!

Yesterday on The News' site I see some jerk claiming that Cleveland killed two men "with his bare hands." Um, excuse me? When he was sheriff he had to hang two criminals personally because no one else could or would do it. It was a task he dreaded.

Anyway so there I am speaking for Grover Cleveland the way I am used to speaking for Leonard Pennario.

It is funny when you are researching someone intently for a couple of days, you get a feel for the person.

Here is one thing that happened: This speech was floating around the Internet that people were saying was the voice of Grover Cleveland. I was excited about that because I wanted to hear what Cleveland sounded like

But when I started listening to it something did not sound right.

"That is not what Cleveland would have sounded like," I thought to myself. The voice was too stentorian, too regal, even taking into account that we are talking about a century ago when people spoke more pompously. I kept trying to get my mind around that this was Grover Cleveland but I could not.

Sure enough, it ends up being a mistake! It was William Jennings Bryan giving his Cross of Gold speech.

You cannot fool me when it comes to these dead people.

I have had too much practice!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Presidents in the snow

I love a snowy night because everything is so bright and so quiet. And so the other night after work on my way to see Howard playing at the Hyatt I took a stroll around downtown. All day I had been sitting at my desk. It felt good to stretch my legs and move.

Above is our great President Grover Cleveland in front of City Hall.

Easily the coolest picture I have ever taken!

But what is President Cleveland holding, anyway?

It cannot be a coat because he is already wearing this greatcoat. Perhaps he is holding someone else's coat. At the White House dear Mr. Cleveland used to answer the phone and the door himself so that is something you could imagine him doing, holding someone else's coat.

When I was taking the picture I did not think to ponder that because all of a sudden I was on ice. The marble beneath my feet was coated with ice and I did not realize it until I completely lost my balance. For a minute there it was the craziest feeling, the world going this way and that. I felt like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk! But somehow I regained my equilibrium. Luckily! It would not have been nice to fall on that hard marble and my phone would have been shattered.

As long as I was at City Hall I visited Millard Fillmore too.

He has such presence with his stentorian, old-fashioned outfit. He is holding a rolled-up document instead of someone else's coat.

La la la la la la la.

One day we will have a statue of Leonard Pennario. Not in front of City Hall. I would not want to try to steal the thunder of our fine presidents.

But somewhere.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Candlemas blowout

Yikes, our Candlemas crashed and burned!

I missed the procession because I was picking up Dorothy and everything moved really slowly, including me because I had worked the night before. But you know what, it did not matter because later I realized there had been no procession. And candles from home were not blessed.

Apparently some candles were blessed but they were just for church use. They are probably the little votive candles that I light for Pennario. Anyway I missed that, too.

Not only that but as one of the servers was telling me at the coffee hour after Mass, they were doing the incense during Mass and one of the chains holding the incense burner snapped. Just like that! Luckily they could catch it before it went tumbling.

Zut alors! How did I miss that? I was laughing so hard I could not drink my coffee.

We did not have our Candlemas act together, that is for sure!

We put the "ass" in Candlemas!

My supermarket St. Anthony candle remains unblessed. I don't know exactly what happened but at the after-church coffee hour one guy was upset about it. "Oh, Al," I said, "We will plan earlier next year."

Had we had our act together it might have looked something like this:

As it is we will have to face reality and next year we will plan ahead.

Hope springs eternal!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Candles for Candlemas

It is Candlemas Day tomorrow and we are invited to bring candles to Mass to get them blessed. Get it? Candle + Mass = Candlemas.

It is amazing how many descriptions of Candlemas you find on the 'Net claiming it as an ancient pagan holiday. They call it Candlemas, Candle Mass, and tell you with a straight face it is pagan. Fie!

Oh well. Their ignorance is of no moment. That is a phrase I loved as a kid from "The Three Musketeers." "It is of no moment."

My only worry is that I will run out the door tomorrow preoccupied with picking up Dorothy and forget the candles I have to get blessed. I was thinking of bringing my supermarket St. Anthony candle that a friend gave me when the braces came off my teeth. One thing that has struck me, St. Anthony's was kind vague when it said what kind of candles we could bring.

Could I bring some of my Candle-Lite ...

... Cinnamon Pecan Swirl candles? One of them sits in front of my Our Lady of Victory statue. I wanted to give Our Lady the best candle I had and that was Cinnamon Pecan Swirl.

Could I bring the Pumpkin Pie candles I got the other day at Kmart?

Can I bring a 20-pack of tea lights?

Could my friend Ryan bring the Glade scented oil candles that are his favorite and are, alas, being discontinued?

What about the citronella candles for my back porch?

Or would that all that be disrespectful? Do we need to bring pious regulation white tapers? But I am not allowed to burn tapers. Howard will not let me. I can only burn candles in jars. Or tea lights set in jars. I have tried that and gotten away with it.

As long as I burn candles in glass jars Howard is all right with it.

"Mary is Catholic," he has said. "She lights candles."

True.  I light candles in church for Leonard. And I light candles at home for the heck of it.

At last, a feast day made for me. Candlemas! I love hearing it in conversation. It is like Back to the 14th Century. Last week I was on the phone with our monsignor coordinating Candlemas plans and I loved how he said, "Last year I was out of town on Candlemas day." I am going to have to drop Candlemas into conversation like that.

Candlemas is part of the Christmas cycle which is relevant to me.

Needless to say, my tree is still up!