Thursday, May 28, 2015

Disaster at the dance

Remember the mourning doves yesterday? Last night they led to a drama.

It was so sweet because three doves -- I want to say three, though it might have been four -- were dancing on the top of the closed grill on the back porch. I mean they were actually dancing. They were changing partners and stepping this way and that and they would pause and kind of kiss each other. It was like watching a courtly dance like a minuet.

Or a Laendler.

And I was enchanted, watching these birds. I was standing at the screen door gazing at them.

I was so enchanted that I totally forgot that at my feet, Jeoffry was watching too. But with antipathy. Like the Baroness when she walks out on the porch and sees the Captain and Maria dancing.


Suddenly there was this huge, jarring CRASH!

The cat had flung himself onto the screen and clung there with all four paws. Like a squirrel!

He had been watching and watching and his outrage was growing and all of a sudden he just could not stand it any more. He didn't get out, but the noise was this tremendous shock. The birds screeched and scattered. I have to say I have not seen them since.

I had to help Jeoffry down off the screen and then he went stalking away, his life's equilibrium restored, his dominion over the house assured.

I hope the doves come back!

But I will not be surprised if they don't.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dove love

There is this white plastic hanging planter on the back porch that I had big plans for once upon a time. But those plans went to seed and for the last couple of years the planter has just sat there filled with weeds, I don't know.
Until now!

Now it has beauty and dignity. Mourning doves have moved in.

They are using it as a nest.

Yesterday, going over my book at the dining room table, I heard the mourning dove cooing and it was really close to the house. It is such a low, sweet, primitive sound. I looked out and sure enough, there was this big primitive bird.

Since then I have seen one or two doves in that planter at all times. I read that usually the father bird sits on the eggs during the day and the mama bird takes the night shift. She takes over at about 4:30 p.m. As usual the female gets the tougher shift, you know? That is the way of the world.

The female bird builds the nest but her mate provides the materials, twigs and leaves and such. Sure enough I had seen a bird flying in carrying such things to the planter.

It is hard to get close enough to take a picture of our mourning doves. I have read that they are not bothered by the nearness of you but I do not want to risk upsetting this apple cart. I love mourning doves. My mother always loved their song and I do too. I read that the cooing of a mourning dove is kind of like the hoot of a screech owl in that it is often in the air but people do not hear it.

Here is a video someone posted on YouTube of a mourning dove. Just to complete the picture, the person wrote that the church bells are from a mass being held at a church next door.

As if you could not tell, I am becoming an expert on mourning doves! Questions on this beautiful bird may be submitted to this Web log at this time. Mourning doves and they are the most common urban bird in America, I believe. There are millions of them. Although in hunting season they are hunted for sport or for food. 

That does not sound right to me, I am sorry. Even Jeoffry does not seem aggressive toward the mourning doves. He sits on a chair by the screen and looks at them. Perhaps he thinks the way I do. I eat pretty much everything. But I do not think I want to eat mourning dove.

Now a Dove bar...

... that is different.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Adventure on Squaw Island

It is our first picnic of the summer. For this historic occasion we chose Squaw Island.

I do not think I have been to Squaw Island since I went there with Airborne Eddy and his Forgotten Buffalo tour! What a night that was, ah, what a night.

The picnic was thrown together in half an hour. I made, ahem, Roman Chicken. It is from an Italian cookbook I have. Roman Chicken is suggested for picnics. It is kind of strange because you do not grill it or roast it but you cook it in a pot, along with a sauce made of onions and bacon. I thought, trust the Romans. And I am glad I did because the little ones loved it.

Anyway, we reclined like Romans on the blanket and ate the Roman chicken, as well as the mac salad and cheese that my brother George had brought.

A surprise highlight was when a freight train went rumbling thrillingly over the 150-year-old railroad bridge.

After that excitement the kids went and joined an impromptu ball game set up by a big Burmese family the next blanket down. These Burmese were a kick. They were also holding races. They would count down and then all the girls would jump on the backs of the boys and they would lumber forward like a herd of antelope. All of us, and all of them, were laughing and laughing over how silly it was. So much fun.

It was sweet to see people just lolling on blankets by the riverside. Surely an entertainment that has been going on since Biblical days.

Anyway, a spontaneous picnic but a delicious one. It was like Pennario being able just to walk out on stage and play. I took this picture to show how unprepossessing it was, although, note the Saveritz crackers from Albrecht Discount.

As the summer unfolds our picnics will become more prepossessing!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What we did for love

 I knew the most magical man and his name was Andy Jones. We lost him yesterday, suddenly, of a heart attack. Andy was 88 and we thought he would go on forever. Up above is a video our friend George Thomas Apfel made of Andy, made from just a few of the occasions we were lucky enough to share with him.

That is me with my wine glass, leading the chorus of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." That is me at the end, too. This is a terrible loss for us. I was confessing to a good friend today, I have been grieving like a Victorian. I actually took to my bed.

This is a funny thing, I find Andy mentioned, in passing, only once on this Web log. Even though I normally saw him at least twice a week. Look at me, writing "normally." As if anything is normal in my life. I did write about our adventures in The Buffalo News' Buzz column. We had a lot of adventures.

Andy Jones is the father of the superhuman jazz pianist Mike Jones who plays with the Penn and Teller show. I used to see him through the years when I went to Mike's shows here in Buffalo. Sometimes I had the honor of introducing Mike from the stage. And I interviewed Mike a few times.

And Mike's parents would be there and I would say hi to them. I did not know Andy well back then but he always had this kind of spark. My friend Diane used to nudge me and point to him. "Andy Jones. Handsome!" she would whisper. "Handsome!" she would repeat. And we would both kind of giggle. I told Andy that story a number of times by the way. Do not worry that I did not!

Anyway, cut to two years ago or something like that. I was at my desk at The Buffalo News and my phone rang. It was Nick, the security guard, telling me that an Andy Jones was here asking for me. I said, "Oh, I'll be right down."

Andy was there, white haired, still handsome. He had these delicate beautiful looks like an 18th century figurine. He was so cool. He was widowed by this time. That was very sad because his wife was the love of his life. He had buried her and also a son he had loved deeply -- but here he was, still smiling. Still handsome. Andy Jones. Handsome!

He had Mike Jones' new CD with him. That was why he was there. He had asked first for his friend Jeff Simon, our recordings editor, but Jeff Simon was not there, and so he had asked for me. We got talking. I had never said much more than hi to him before that day. I wound up inviting him to come by happy hour at the Statler on Fridays to hear Howard play piano.

Which he did. And one thing led to another. And Andy Jones -- handsome! -- became very close friends not only with me but with a whole group of us. And he introduced us to other close friends of his and in turn we all became friends. We all loved Andy deeply and each one of us had his or her own particular personal relationship with him. For instance our friend Ryan, grieving as I am, wrote on Facebook: "Whenever I see a teal '90s Corvette, or buy a jar of Smucker's peanut butter, or cut into a rotisserie chicken from Tops, or listen to the '40s on 4 radio station, I will think of Andy."

Every Friday Andy would sing with Howard at Big Blue. Howard would play the piano and Andy would sing in his beautiful Bing Crosby croon. "Ready, Andy?" Howard would say beginning the night. Andy told me he loved that moment.

Oh, God, there are so many memories and to have him gone boom, just like that, that is tough. I think of a prayer I love, the "Hail, Holy Queen." Hail holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears...

This is a valley of tears, you know?

Something like this happens and you go, "Crap!!"

But still, about Andy, all of us, the walking wounded here in Buffalo, are thinking, what a gift, to have known him. I have been thinking: What if I had not been at my desk that day, that moment? What if I had missed Andy Jones? Thank God things worked out the way they did. I don't care if I cry for a year, I am darned glad that happened.

It is like "What I Did For Love," in "A Chorus Line." The gift was ours to borrow.

And as more than one friend has stated, we will see him again one day. We will. And because Christ has reassured us that we will be resurrected body and soul, that means that the angels will be nudging each other and giggling.

Andy Jones, they will whisper.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pork project

This week was another theme food week. Like hippie week. Only it was pork chop week.

It started when I found a pork loin at Albrecht Discount that looked good for $2.19 a pound. I was going to go somewhere else to buy chicken but then I thought, why not go for this pork, and save myself that errand. And so.

I planned on roasting the pork but instead I chopped it into chops and ate it bit by bit. It is not a bad idea, you know? Four pounds of pork, no waste, and we had it all week for lunches and dinners. You do not get tired of it either. It is like chicken in that it will be what you want it to be.

I did Bourbon-Glazed Pork Chops with Hoppin' John. Yes, I made the hoppin' john! The important thing is to have a plan.

And Pork Chops Oreganata. These are Greek flavored pork chops I have made before. I did a Greek potato and bean salad to go with this one.

And ... what was the other thing? Ah. These fennel-crusted pork chops out of Bon Appetit. For a while we had a mysterious subscription at Big Blue to Bon Appetit. Finally it ran out but it was fun while it lasted. I had used up my potatoes so I made a rice salad with mint and lemon balm and bishop's weed.

The fennel crusted pork chops have smoked paprika and they come out looking fantastic.

We are living high on the hog! By the way I read up once on where that comes from. The chops come from the upper part of the pig while the pork belly, which is cheaper, comes from the nether regions.

Ahem. Anyway, a good week book-wise because of getting up early and having this roast.

The living is easy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

'The Wicked Lady'

Every once in a while I have a gym epiphany, a turn of fate that makes going to the gym easier.

Here is a new one.

Other people no doubt knew this but I had not given it a try. You can watch movies on YouTube while on the treadmill! Or the elliptical machine, as was the case for me.

All kinds of old movies are on YouTube. And old movies are better than new movies in most cases. I just saw that a movie I love, "I Know Where I'm Going," is on YouTube, complete. Pennario loved that movie too. We discussed it. I think of Pennario in relation to a lot of movies, I have to say, because he loved movies so much.

"I Know Where I'm Going" is a bit too good for the gym so for my first gym movie, I am watching "The Wicked Lady," an outrageous 1940s black-and-white yarn starring Margaret Lockwood and James Mason.

I guess you could call it a melodrama. YouTube suggested it to me based on I don't know what, but you know YouTube, it knows you better than you know yourself. At first I doubted that, and I was ready to give the movie the hook. But it would have been too difficult on the elliptical to find something else, and I thought, this might get better.

And it did! You had to catch on to it. It is an 18th century drama and the first thing that happens is, this lady  Caroline is ready to marry this gentleman named Ralph, but her friend Barbara sweeps in and steals him. That was where I thought, oh, come on. But then everything just got weirder until you could not take your eyes away. Highwaymen got involved. There is Lord Jackson prowling the woods.

You get some pirate-speak. "Arr, this is not a matter to be decided with clear heads and dry throats."

The relationship between the ladies and the highwayman is worthy of comment. This one lady says of Jackson: "It would be an honor to be held up by someone as bold and handsome as he." They all seem to know that if you kiss the highwayman he will probably be merciful to you. And sure enough! You see him robbing these ladies and one says, "I will give you a kiss."

He kisses her and says: "Arr, I'll take no more from you."

It sounds hilarious to write about. Actually it is a good drama. Anyway there went 400 calories, before I knew it. I am waiting to see how this all shakes out. If anybody knows, do not spoil it for me. I have not even looked at the comments on the video.

I am counting on this to get me through one more workout!

Friday, May 15, 2015

B.B. King, ain't that the blues?

I was sad to see that B.B. King has died.  I found out on Facebook. This is why you never check Facebook after, say, 7 p.m. There is tons of bad news on Facebook! Delivered in a very impersonal way. And you do not want to get it in the evening.

Even in the morning, you do not want to hear on Facebook about B.B. King's death. You would rather a friend called you. Just the other day I was thinking about B.B. King, too. I was thinking one of these days we would be hearing that he died. Of course as I wrote to a friend on Facebook, what day goes by that we do not think of B.B. King?

You have to admit, though, old B. had a good run considering.

Considering that the night life, it ain't no good life, but it was his life.

Wow, he looks old as God there, you know, and that was in 2003.

Blues has been on my mind recently. I do not mean I have the blues. I do not! This is a happy time in my life. And one thing that feeds into that happiness is that The Buffalo News' cafeteria has turned into a restaurant called Roux, where the music is Bloux. I mean they play jazz and blues.

Not only that but the coolest old jazz and blues. Stuff I have in my personal collection and know inside out but that I have not gotten around to listening to for years. I am not making this up: The other day I was up there with a colleague and she was trying to talk to me about something and I could not concentrate because the sound system was playing Muddy Waters' "Louisiana Blues."

And after that it went into "Sugar Sweet."

I was dying. That beat. That harmonica bubbling along. That was Little Walter. Please, no one in heaven tell Leonard Pennario I love blues harmonica. He hated harmonica. I was up at 5:30 this morning and put in two hours on his book so he would probably forgive me. But you never know.

Anyway. I could not listen to a word anyone was saying. I have no idea what is going on in the office these days, ain't that the blues? Because every time I am privy to anything in the cafeteria all I can hear is this Muddy Waters they keep playing. They played his "Honey Bee" too. And "Hoochie Coochie Man." The old version, the one I love. I have no use for these British rockers, I am sorry, at least not in this context. Roux also plays  a lot of Thelonious Monk, a pianist I love. They have played "I Mean You" and "Well You Needn't."

So I sit there in this cloud.

These old-school blues, there is nothing like it. These old guys have no successors. They are the end of a line. I don't care about their sons or whatever.

Not the same thing!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Big Threat This Week

Dot com that is!

The site kills me. It is always so alarmist. So much so that I find myself just laughing sometimes.

Say, today. (I am a poet and I know it! Watch for my book on Pennario.)

"Breaking now! 7.3 magnitude earthquake kills 19." You have to click on that to see where the earthquake is. It could be your back yard!

"Watch Black Bears Chasing Tourists in Yellowstone." That one is a video.

"Lake Disappearing Into Hole ... And No One Can Stop It!"

"He Didn't See the Plane Until It Was Too Late."

"Strange Things Spotted 'Hovering' Over Lake Michigan."

And the best, my favorite, simply shows a map of the United States and reads:

"ALERT! Big Threat This Week."

No mention of where or when or what.

No need!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Magnolias in bloom

It is so beautiful all of a sudden!

Yesterday walking around with my friend Michelle, we walked through a beautiful bohemian Buffalo neighborhood. We counted two (2) men on porches, playing stringed instruments. One was playing guitar, with his dog sitting next to him. Another, a couple of blocks away, was playing banjo. It sounded something like Stephen Foster's "O Susannah," but Michelle assured me it was a rock song.

There were magnolia trees in bloom, as pictured above.

What fun. This has been a week for great walks. I also took a walk with my friend Melinda and I snapped this picture which captures the joy of spring.

And this masterful shot.

(I like trains.)

In between tying up my book on Pennario I do plan on enjoying this summer.

It is just getting started!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eating this invasive

I was honored the other day to hear from the wise gourmand behind "Urban Plants," the Web log devoted to weeds.

The "Urban Plants" authority commented personally on my eating o' the bishop's weed, known in German as Giersch, pictured below.

It is wonderful to be able to eat your weeds especially when working on a book about America's greatest concert pianist keeps you too busy to pull them up and discard them. And hearing from the "Urban Plants" mastermind inspired me.

This week is all about bishop's weed! We had hippie week, remember? So this week is weed week.

Last night we started out small. Bishop's weed stood in for cilantro in Puerto Rican Cabbage Salad. I have seen bishop's weed described as a kind of cross between parsley and cilantro. That recipe, by the way, is one of my favorite cole slaws. It has practically zero calories. And it is really easy and good. Looking it up online just now I am not surprised to see other people have rated it five stars.

I grew more ambitious, weed-wise, with a Turkish red lentil soup. In this soup the bishop's weed stood in for spinach! That is a funny recipe, by the way. It starts out calling for, ahem, organic spinach. But nowhere in the directions does it mention the spinach. So I just tossed it in there. I mean, I tossed the bishop's weed in there.

This morning I enjoyed my red lentil and bishop's weed soup for breakfast. Meanwhile I am trying to think what to make next. Perhaps a bishop's weed frittata. Thank you, Urban Plants, for the inspiration!

If you have time it is fun to check out the Urban Plants web log. The post I read on Giersch was part of an apparent series on Urban Plants of Berlin. Other posts I love include "Aggressive Orchids in Kaua'i, Hawai'i" and  "The Giant Thistle of Neuruppin, Germany."

Urban Plants wrote to me: "Hope you enjoy eating this invasive!"

I do indeed!