Saturday, March 21, 2020

Remembering Kenny Rogers, and our 'O Holy Night' fight

I am distraught to hear that Kenny Rogers has died.

Here we are wanting good news and not bad news in the middle of this Coronavirus craziness and we get that, you know?

Kenny Rogers was a gentleman. I got to know him slightly the same way I got to know a lot of musicians slightly, in my line of work for The Buffalo News. He stands out in my mind as one of the very nice ones. Working for The Buffalo News you get a good look at people's true colors. They do not have to be especially nice to you. You are not The New York Times. And a star like Kenny Rogers is going to pull in an audience no matter what.

But Kenny was nice. He would be in my top 10. He was easy to talk to on the phone and he was a hoot at the Meet and Greet after the show. I wrote about it all, just for fun. Funny thing, I was just reading back on it a few weeks ago and cracking up. I did not know, when I was reading back on it, that Kenny Rogers was in hospice. I did not know he was sick. I really did not think about anything other than how funny all that was, when our paths crossed.

Here is my blow-by-blow account of the argument I had with Kenny Rogers over "O Holy Night."

Hahaa.. I even wrote: "Let me say this right now, Kenny Rogers is a doll and were it not for my religious convictions and the fact that I am already married to Howard, I would cheerily be his sixth wife. That is how much I liked him!"

Great fun. I have been blessed, you know? Just getting to know some of these people in the off-the-wall way that I have.

And to have written down the details, all these little things I would have forgotten otherwise.

Dear Kenny Rogers.

I will treasure the memories!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus entertainment freebies

We need grand opera at a time like this! This is from the Met's "La Traviata," streaming free March 19.

The Coronavirus scare has spawned another phenomenon -- the Coronavirus freebie.

These are things of which you may partake at home.

Granted, there are already millions of things you can get free at home. YouTube is full of them -- old records, a universe of tutorials, old movies, documentaries, master classes, you name it. Master classes!! I will have to sit down at the piano and study one.

But above and beyond that...

There are free museum tours you take online. That link will take you to the British Museum, the Getty Museum, and a bunch more.

I tried touring the Van Rijk Museum and it taught me one thing: I need help going around corners!

Google Earth, I have to get with it!

The Met has a list of simulcasts which has begun with Bizet's "Carmen." Wow, just now I notice this is just the first week of streams. I wonder how long this will go on!

What if you watched all of them, one every night? Imagine how knowledgeable you would be! Perhaps I will try. "Carmen" actually aired last night but I read they will be available free for 20 hours following that original stream.

OK, quick update... My attempt to do that is a bust. There home page is just not working.

Crudele, as they say in "Don Giovanni"! It means Cruel One.

Well, you can always find tons of free operas on YouTube, many with English subtitles. I should post a link to my favorites. Meanwhile, on to other options.

Libby Maeder, who runs the famous foodie Web log The Sensibly Shod Commoner, posted on Facebook yet another option, 15 Broadway Plays and Musicals You Can Watch on Stage From Home.

However as I pointed out to her, I do not see the magic word -- "free." Sure enough, I looked into "Kiss Me Kate" which they said was available on Amazon Prime but even if you have Amazon Prime, you have to rent or buy it.

Still, this is promising. I am going on Coronavirus Freebie Alert. Eyes on the prize! I am looking for free online courses, free quality old movies that you cannot find on YouTube or Amazon Prime, free Pac-Man, free everything.

I also need a quality Latin Mass that is live-streaming now that I have been cut off. I am sure I can find that along with everything else.

I will report!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Sanitize, memorize

Coronavirus is among us and we are in lockdown. Well, there is nowhere we may go but to the park, which I did today, taking the picture up above, of my quick sketch of the Parkside Lodge.

Not only that but it is necessitating us to wash our hands for an interminable length of time. And my sister Katie came up with the idea that we should memorize poetry and use that time to practice it.

I love memorizing poetry. And it is easier than when I was a kid, far easier. A couple of years ago I memorized Yeats' "The Fiddler of Dooney" and it is still with me. I learned it because I was writing a story about the St. Patrick's Day Parade and there is a float in it that reads "And Dance Like the Waves of the Sea."

I also memorized Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem that goes, "We were very tired, we were very merry, we had gone back and forth all night on the ferry." I forget the name. Isn't that silly, I know the poem, every word of it, I can recite it beautifully at the drop of a dime, but I did not bother to memorize the name. But anyway I know it.

The memorizing of that poem dates to when I had to write a story about staying out in a bar till 4 a.m. That and the St. Patrick's Day parade story were both part of that series I wrote for The Buffalo News called "100 Things Every Western New Yorker Should Do At Least Once." It sounds dumb now but I took that series very seriously. I took the series seriously, get it? I would walk around thinking about the one I was working on. My editor gave me this long list of 100 Things and miraculously I was able to fit them all in, on a weekly basis, in something like 102 weeks. It was tricky because so many were seasonal and I had to bring a photographer. But we made it work!

These 100 Things would percolate in my mind and sometimes I would memorize a poem. That is funny, the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem, whenever I say it to myself, it brings back that time when I did indeed go out -- with my friend Ryan and my friend Lizzie -- and stay out till after 4 a.m. We were very tired, we were very merry! That is the truth.


With which, my sister suggested we memorize poems so we may utilize that time we are spending washing our hands. I have just memorized Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat."

I already knew half of it so it was not that hard. One thing that makes it easier is that every time I see someone with a ring in his or her nose -- which is often -- I think of the Piggy with the ring at the end of his nose.

Next I will move on to "The Courtship of the Onghi Bonghi Bo."

This lockdown may be long!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Through the Presbyterian looking glass

Today I stopped in my day and did a quick sketch of this massive, fortress-like edifice that used to be Central Presbyterian Church. It is in Buffalo's Parkside neighborhood.

It is funny, the things right in your own back yard that you pass a million times and never look at! This was one of them. Since I have been drawing I notice so much more. A few weeks ago I stopped for the first time in my life and noticed this place. I said out loud, "What in the world?"

It is so huge!

What I drew was just a back corner!

When I got home I looked this church up on one of our Buffalo architecture websites. I did not know what the name of it was because it is a school now. I found out the name and I learned that when it was built in 1911, it was the biggest Presbyterian church "east of the Mississippi," and that the architect was one Williams Lansing, who was very distinguished.

Lansing, it turns out, also designed Holy Family Church, where I was baptized. And a whole lot of other buildings, many of them churches, both Catholic and Protestant. He himself was Episcopalian. He was one of the founding members of Buffalo's Canoe Club. He is buried in Forest Lawn near the famous Fargo plot which I pass many times while walking. Listen to me! I am now the clearinghouse for all things Williams Lansing. I am a fan!

Looking up something like this is dangerous because you go down the rabbit hole and can waste hours if you are not careful. I was also fascinated by the history of this church;s erstwhile congregation. There is this one article by James Napora -- fascinating all the way through, but I will just mention for starters the nicknames.

Organized as the Pearl Street Presbyterian Church, they quickly erected a log meeting house on the west side of Pearl Street just north of Genesee Street. Built at a cost of $300, the building contained over 500 seats for a congregation of only thirty-five. It became known as the "ecclesiastical blacksmith shop" as it resembled a large blacksmith shop.

The congregation grew rapidly and within two years, with almost 200 members, they built a new church. Modeled after the Parthenon, it had an oval interior lit by a stained glass skylight. This feature earned it the nickname of "goose egg church."

From the Ecclesiastical Blacksmith Shop to the Goose Egg Church!

And we are not through yet.  A few paragraphs later you read that "between 1849 and 1851, the congregation now numbering 475, worshiped in the basement church referred to as 'Dr. Lord's Icehouse.' "

Dr. Lord was a person in town. He was not the Lord. Just to clear up any confusion.

What a history! How could anyone do it justice?

When I go back to this place I'd better bring my big drawing board.