Sunday, April 24, 2011

No Jellybeans On Easter.

I couldn't find our Easter baskets. They're either in the garage, buried under a pile of boxes and probably all dusty and spidery, or they're up in the attic, all dusty and spidery. So I put the candy in the plastic tubs I had made into bongos last year for our "Camp Kerouac" tent at Old Settler's, and hid those. One daughter is still looking for her basket. It's not that hard to find, but there is a certain cabinet that lifts up, that I bet she never notices, and it hasn't occurred to her yet to look there. It was genius for me to hide the basket there. The first place you'd look is a cabinet or a door, unless it's a cabinet or door that is below your radar.

Going to attempt to make mashed potatoes. I haven't done this much in my life, so I'm trying to keep expectations low. I am going to use the Pioneer Woman recipe that uses cream cheese and half and half. Lordy! 

Am also making a turkey breast. And gravy. Again with the gravy, I'm going to shoot for amazing, but am hoping for adequate.

We dyed eggs last night. The Paas tablets were much tinier than usual. What's up with that? Do they have the technology now to squeeze just as much dye power into a smaller tablet? Or is this another case of product shrinkage?

Update: Daughter has found the basket. And she tells me that she did see the cabinet, and that was one of the first places she looked, but she couldn't figure out how to open it. (It just lifts up.) So I guess I'm not such a genius after all.

This daughter is asking, "Where are the jelly beans? There are no jelly beans!"

 Okay, I debated while I was in Walgreen's. Did they really even like the jelly beans? Didn't they just swim around at the bottom of their baskets last year,  ignored and forgotten? So this time I passed on the jelly beans. Big mistake.

 "I love the jelly beans," Lilah said. "I ate all my jelly beans last year. "  Oh. Maybe it was Annabelle who ignored all her jelly beans.

"Here's a tip for next year," Lilah said. "Don't get these." It's the Cadbury eggs she's talking about. The cream-filled ones.

"I thought you loved those! I thought you'd be upset if you didn't get any!"

"No," she said. "They're nasty."      

Friday, April 22, 2011

More Bass Sax

Sunday night at the Record Bar. That dark little gem in Westport, with the sign above the door that says-- Eat. Hear. A comfy spot with a stage full of unusual music on Sunday nights. This particular Sunday it was Crosscurrent, a band devoted to exploring the work of Lennie Tristano, to writing original pieces that evoke Lenny Tristano, and to creating new Tristano-ized arrangements of old classics, such as Skylark.

Matt Otto brought his big mother of a saxophone, a recently acquired bass saxophone, that is so big he has to sit down to play it, not holding it but sitting behind it. It's an industrial-sized hunk of heating duct, it's a great Seussian bellower, and he is like a cartoon figure playing it. He ought to be rolling it across the stage on some wild contraption with mismatched wheels.

If that wasn't fantastical enough I had a memory flash of my green 1979 Mercury Monarch, may it rest in peace. My first car ever, that Dad bought for me when I moved to Miami after college. I would kill to have that car again. It was green inside and out. It could seat about twenty. I didn't know what I had when I had it. I let it die and replaced it with a weaselly Honda Civic Hatchback. Anyway, this flash burst inside my skull when Roger leaned over and pointed out that it was his Fender Rhodes up on stage, the very one that my car had transported through Miami's streets and alleys in the late 80's. When Roger bought it more than 20 years ago, Fender Rhodes were going out of fashion, and he wondered how long it would be useful, but it turns out that the canned sound of digital keyboards soon wore thin, and musicians began pining for the old school cool of mechanically-generated sound. Now Roger's old Fender Rhodes is much in demand and is frequently borrowed by cats around town.

The following photos capture a back alley moment with the Fender Rhodes, the day after a gig at a club called "Tropics" on Miami Beach.

My awesome green Mercury Monarch.

Yes, that is Poky (of Gumby and Poky clay-mation fame), who had come along for the ride and was suffering from a bout of vertigo. I like the way my car still has a Kansas tag in this picture, even though this was August of 1988 and I had moved to Florida in January of 1987. (And what's going on with my gas cap?). I got pulled over on more than one occasion, and was ticketed each time. Once for driving with an expired tag, and once for driving with a Kansas driver's license. Silly motor vehicle laws.

 Back to the Record Bar. My reverie over the streets of Miami was abruptly broken when Roger yelled out to the stage from where we were sitting, "More bass sax!" After he had shouted this several times, the jazz writer for the Kansas City Star, who was seated nearby, turned back to look at Roger and cracked, "Who keeps calling for morbid sex?"  

I managed a grin at this, but I was very tired. I had agreed to go out to the Record Bar because I knew it would be dark and not heavily populated and I could just zone out while listening to the music.

My mom and sister had been visiting from out of town, and I was suffering the natural effects of staying up late, crashing on my local sister's couch, eating heavy foodstuffs, like brats and Smokehouse Hickory Pit beans, and walking for an hour up and down the hills of a suburban enclave known as Creek Brook Ridge, or Wood River Glen, or  Oak Pine Crest, or some such. Anyway, I was so bushed I didn't even want any alcohol. I passed on the Magic Hat ale I usually like to order, and asked for pomegranate juice instead. But the waiter came back to the table, lowering his head and whispering that they were afraid that the pomegranate juice might be going bad. So I got a Republic of Tea Raspberry Quince instead. (Raspberry-flavored tea.)

I had ordered this drink from a menu that had been made out of the old album cover for the Bread's Greatest Hits LP. The last time we were here, the menu was an old Neil Diamond album. Roger had once owned that Bread album, and loved it. When he was ten.

What about those of us who never outgrew the pop music of our childhoods?

We come here, hoping to be rehabilitated. Hoping some irregular jazz chords will blow the dust off our neurons and re-wire us for a new musical fluency. Dreaming in the old music we've known but processing some new stuff too. Finding a way to straddle both.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bright Objects Hypnotize the Mind

I did not know that April the 14th was National Poem in Your Pocket Day.

I did know that April was National Poetry Month. I have a big poster in my work cubicle that reminds me. It came in the mail with one of our journals, or a publisher's catalog. It says, "Bright objects hypnotize the mind" in white letters that glow on a dark, woodsy background. The line is from a poem by Elizabeth Bishop.

It's the first thing I see when I come to my cubicle in the morning.  I look at it when I am despairing over the piles of paper on my desk, that I keep vowing to go through. I look at it when I spill hot chocolate powder on my desk and have to scrape it into a trash can, like right now.

Since National Poem in Your Pocket Day was only a week ago, the public library still had a basket of leftover poems to give away at their poetry reading last night. These pocket poems were printed on thin cardstock, about 2" x 3" and were offered along with brownies and coffee. I grabbed six of them. The  idea is to carry them around and share them with other people. So far I've shared one of them with one person.

There were two poets at the reading, and my cousin's wife, Maril, was one of them. It was a grey damp day outside, and very breezy and chilly. The wind that had assaulted me on my walk to the library building from the parking lot seemed intent on turning me back to my car. But I was glad I had persevered. The meeting room was warm with the fresh-brewed coffee, and with the free-flow of words. Maril's words and her soft voice reading them, relaxed me and filled my mind with pictures, and got me to thinking. I belong in these spaces where words and language are celebrated. I like the reverence of it. The agreement among strangers that reading and writing matters. I have to do more of this, I thought. I've been an isolated writer, but whether I'm writing myself or not, I need to go where the written word is welcomed and embraced.               

The 2nd poet at the reading  had a collection of haikus, and they were sparse and elegant. But they left me craving Jack Kerouac's haikus.

Here are some of his haikus I like:

50 miles from NY
All alone in nature
The squirrel eating

Well here I am
2 pm. -
What day is it?

The tree
looks like a dog
barking at heaven

In my medicine cabinet
the winter fly
has died of old age

Holding up my purring cat
to the moon
I sighed

All day long
wearing a hat
that wasn't on my head

too dark to read the page
too cold

Drunk as a hoot owl,
writing letters
by thunderstorm.

And a few of my absolute favorites, which I've posted before:

Missing a kick
at the icebox door
it closed anyway

The little worm
lowers itself to the roof
by a self shat thread

Quietly pouring coffee
in the afternoon,
how pleasant!

When the moon sinks
down to the power line
I'll go in

Glow worm
sleeping on this flower
your light's on

Jack didn't follow the strict Japanese form. He was a writer of American Haiku. He said,

The Japanese Haiku is strictly disciplined to seventeen syllables but since the language structure is different I don't think American Haikus should worry about syllables because American speech is something again...bursting to pop. Above all, a Haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture and yet be as airy and graceful as a Vivaldi Pastorella."

Friday, April 15, 2011

This Is All I Want To Know

There once was a screenwriter in Hollywood named Vincent Lawrence who worked on lots of movies with big names stars such as Clark Gable, Betty Grable, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy and Kathryn Hepburn. It is said his own everyday way of talking was as interesting as the lines he wrote for his movie characters.

If you were in a bar and you offered him a drink he'd say, "Tell me this, pal, why isn't everybody sitting on a fence in the moonlight playing a banjo? That's all I want to know." *

Yes, exactly. There you have it. The The sum of all my existenstial questions.

*As reported in the March 28th issue of the New Yorker.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wunnerful, Wunnerful

Oh god, this made me laugh until I almost cried. Here "Gail and Dale", the perky, steam-cleaned duo on Lawrence Welk are singing "One toke over the line." The song was a hit by Brewer and Shipley in 1971, but some radio stations banned it BECAUSE IT WAS ABOUT SMOKING WEED! Did anybody at the Lawrence Welk show have a clue what the song was about? Nooo. Why ol' Lawrence thought it was a "modern spiritual." Too funny! Just throw out the name "Jesus" a few times and folks think you're walkin' that gospel road.

Tom Shipley has been quoted as saying,"When we wrote 'One Toke Over the Line,' I think we were one toke over the line. I considered marijuana a sort of a sacrament."

Brewer says of the song's origin: "We wrote that one night in the dressing room of a coffee house. We were literally just entertaining ourselves. The next day we got together to do some picking and said, 'What was that we were messing with last night?' We remembered it, and in about an hour, we'd written 'One Toke Over the Line.' Just making ourselves laugh, really. We had no idea that it would ever even be considered as a single, because it was just another song to us. Actually Tom and I always thought that our ballads were our forte."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Magic Potion Hair Dye

You know, I've colored my hair before, people! There was another time when it turned out very very dark, and no one said much then. What is going on? This time people act like they're under some kind of spell.

See I dyed my hair Saturday. It was supposed to be medium ash brown, but turned out black. Okay, whatever. A few shampoos, and it will fade quickly. I didn't think it was anything remarkable. Well, check out the reaction I'm getting. All day long at work, all sorts of people, people I don't really talk to, people I don't really know, see me in the hall, or walk by the desk and their head jerks like it's on a spring and they say "You dyed your hair! I like it!"  "Your hair is darker! It looks good!"  "Is that new? When did you do it? It's nice!"  Everyone says it fast, without hesitation, as if they are being poked. As if their voo-doo doll self somewhere is being poked. And they sound enthusiastic. I think they really are enthusiastic. So I've begun to conclude that the bottle of Nice and Easy Foam Hair Color I used was infused with a magic potion that makes people dig my hair so intensely they are overcome with a need to say so. They can't help themselves.

I'm telling you, it's spooky, the reaction I've gotten. Perhaps it's more than the hair. Perhaps it's the way that spring has warmed up my blood and brought me out of my cave. The hunch has receded from my back, the shadows have fallen from my face. I am feeling human again. Perhaps this is what people are seeing.

The one person immune to the power of the spell has been, of course, my daughter Lilah, whose immediate reaction was to ask me how long before it washed out. She said I looked goth. But the next day, she conceded that it didn't really look bad. She just wasn't used to it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bulky. Trashy.

Cheri and I were out for our evening walk and began to get the sense that something was up in the neighborhood. I saw more than one vehicle creeping down the street, driving slowly. They were all largish --a pickup here, a van here...a pickup carrying something odd-shaped in its I passed by a mound of debris piled up on the curb, the light finally went off. Tomorrow was bulk trash day!

Yes, tomorrow is Bulk Trash Day. It's kind of like a holiday. Suburbanites clean out their garages and dump all the stuff they don't want on the edge of their lawn, and other folks from all around come by in the dark of night and pick it up. It's rather a festive atmosphere that sets in --the exhilaration of plundering other people's stuff, and the giddy thrill of driving off with it--all perfectly legal --and the euphoria of getting other people to haul off your junk. And whatever they don't take --the trash men will. 

Several years ago, when I still lived by myself with the girls in Prairie Village, I put out my big pile of crap, that stretched the entire length of my yard, and added to the pile the double stroller that I used to push the girls around in. That double stroller had gone everywhere. Starting in New York, it had traveled up and down our street, Ellis Place, in Ossining. I had pushed it down the hill to the pharmacy, further downhill to the Farmer's Market, and then pushed it back up the torturous climb, with bags of produce hanging off it. I had pushed it to the public library, and then grunted and heaved to get it back up the steep hill to our house.

I had pushed it around New York City, that time that another woman named Carrie and I were brave enough and maybe foolish enough to take a trip to NYC with our small children. With my two girls, almost 1 and 3, and her two boys, about 2 and 4, we took the train into the city, and made our way down to the South Street Seaport. By the time we were ready to leave there, we were so exhausted from lugging our kids around, we took a cab back to Grand Central Station, instead of getting back on the subway.

I pushed the double stroller through countless malls, since going to the mall is a primary way to get out of the house and kill time when you're stuck with the kids on cold winter days. And we pushed that stroller through the dirt and mud at the Renaissance Festival.

We had really gotten our money's worth out of it, especially considering we got it used in the first place. I felt a little pang to see it go, but mostly I was also eager to be rid of the monstrosity. Even folded up, it took up valuable space in my garage. But the thrift stores wouldn't take it, because it was too old and not up to code. So I put it out the night before Bulk Trash Day, just praying that someone who needed it would pass by. I didn't live on a very busy street, so it was sort of a long shot. I hated the thought of it just being thrown out by the trash guys in the morning. I opened the stroller up and made it as visible as possible.

I was still hauling stuff out of my garage to add to my pile, when I saw a van slow down and stop next to my curb. A woman got out and looked over the stroller. She folded it up and proceeded to take it. I walked up and told her I got a lot of use out of it, and was glad to see someone take it. She said she had twin grand-daughters. Hooray!

Walking around tonight, I saw some of the oddest things. Really, you should take a  stroll around  your neighborhood before Bulk Trash Day. You might learn something about your neighbors. Most of the stuff is unknowable. You can't tell what the heck it is or used to be. Chunks of wood, shards of metal, pipe, rubber hosing, pieces that look like they once were furniture...Tonight, in addition to all that, I saw sitting out on the curb, an entire toilet. It looked perfectly fine. It was shiny and everything. Wouldn't you know, Cheri took it as a cue, because it was right then that she got in that peculiar squatting position of hers and went number 2 in the grass. I'm not making that up. A few houses up the street from ours, I saw a Christmas tree. Not an artificial Christmas tree. A real one, that was all dried up and sorry to be seeing April. They sure hung on to that a long time!

Since we hadn't put out anything, I worried that Roger had forgotten. We had both gotten excited a couple of weeks ago, when we saw Bulk Trash Day on some calendar. I started dreaming out loud about the things we might throw out. Well, now Roger was in Topeka doing a gig, and wouldn't be back until late. Darn. I think I know what we'll be doing early in the morning.