Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hootenanny !

I don’t go to concerts any more – that excellent book Shouting Won’t Help used the right word – orchestras now sound like “cacophony”.  But guitar is another story, and the names Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger stood out in boldface from the list of What’s Doing Today.  Who, I wondered, would attend?  who would perform? who remembers the Depression, the Labor Movement , the Vietnam War?
Well – the church sanctuary was filled.  Those pews were just right for an audience of more than 500, average age maybe 68.  I’m used to older groups these days, but not to at least half of them being men.  Lots of grey and nicely trimmed facial hair in evidence, both audience and performers.  If you want a clue to the generation represented – every fourth musician was named Dave.  And why had I bothered to change out of dungarees (okay, blue jeans) just because I was going to a concert?  I'd say maybe 300 people were wearing them.  Some on stage.

We had it all – Union Maid, Deportees, Hobo's Lullaby – and the old men in the audience knew all the words and sang along.  We had a mandolin, an autoharp, banjo, harmonica, lots of mikes, cords, wires and speakers, and a stunning collection of guitars.  When they started Where Have All the Flowers Gone I thought – well, that was a popular hit, they could have skipped it.  And five seconds later,  surprised myself by bursting into tears -- nothing like music to bring back old emotions.

And we ended – of course – in old-fashioned hootenanny style, with all the performers on the platform (one hesitates to call it the stage in a church) and the number that’s always sure-fire for group singing – This Land is Your Land, followed by We Shall Overcome, which evidently involves grasping the hands of those next to you and swaying back and forth ( I guess I’m behind the times.)  That would, I thought, have been more effective if there’d been more than one black person in the place.  But it meant everybody's heart was in the right place, so what the hey.

The best thing that happened all day came after that, in the sunshine of the parking lot.  One of the women singers came up and asked wasn’t I the person who’d heard them sing Pete Seeger’s Get Up and Go at the Farm Market and asked for the words?  That must have been six or seven years ago – and what followed was even better:  She said she remembered my sister.  She’d been in the chorus of the early Gilbert & Sullivans in the troupe Esther founded – a thriving institution that has already survived my sister by more than 20 years.  I smiled all the way home.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Red Birds and Deer

What will they spend considerable money to say about you when you're gone? 
Whoever wrote Doris's death notice the other day took pains to let the world know that Dodie collected red birds.  This doesn't strike me as odd, for I know someone who has a bedroom devoted to hundreds of teddy bears, most of them purple.

And I know I promised not to send any more bulletins about the weather hereabouts, but this was exciting -- I just saw a deer for the first time in a couple of months.  I've been worried about them.  This one found a narrow green patch that just opened up-- just as well it doesn't know we're promised

                              more snow over the weekend.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Leisure Seeker

 While I was snowbound, I ran out of library books and took another look at the for-some-reason-I-don't-want-to-give-these-away bookcase.  I pulled out what may be the most recent book in there  (copyright 2009) -- The Leisure Seeker.  It's just as delightful a re-read as it was in the first place.  My only objection is to the picture on the cover of my paperback.  It would appear I came away with a pretty good mental picture of the 1978 motor home known as the Leisure Seeker.  For starters, it's a real motor home -- I knew that as soon as Ella mentioned the captain's chairs for driver and passenger, but the one shown here is just a trailer.  And I photographed a closeup of that illustration, to show you what struck me as completely wrong -- John's fine, but Ella was definitely not slim, and there's no way she could possibly have stood on one foot. 
I was glad to see, googling for illustrations, that the hardcover edition shows the proper vehicle, sneaking away from Detroit heading for Route 66.     I'm trying to find the right way to persuade you to get hold of this novel, because I know you'll enjoy it.  Granted, there aren't too many stories with protagonists in their 80s, but it is totally captivating.  Of all the review raves (it must have been one of those that put me on to it in the first place) the one I like best calls it "Kerouac-lite...On The Road with shorter sentences and less drugs and sex." 
 But not, I would add,
without any.

P. S.  I know I promised to stop already with the winter complaints, but this morning I finally succeeded in photographing a snowfall -- don't know if the flakes will show up on your screen, but anyhow, here's what today started out like.  For a change.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Spring!

Last time I'll post about the weather, I promise.  But it's hard to resist, waking up on this first day of spring -- here's what it looks like out there this morning, and you probably won't be surprised to hear that it is
snowing.  Heavily and sincerely.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thoreau Wouldn't Approve

But I shall use this improved means to share today's unimproved news with you  -- here's a glimpse of the birthday bulbs on my desk, and behind them -- what you can't see in this picture of the back yard is--
 that it is snowing. 
P. S.  I just  walked past the livingroom, which I don't enter from one visitor to the next, and happened to notice that in spite of all that thaw, we're still pretty well supplied with icicles.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Breaking News, Maine to Texas

Running out of library books while snowbound, I pulled Henry David Thoreau back out of the "please-take-I'm-never-going-to-read-these-again" bookcase and spent some time in Walden.  There I found the exact quote I've always remembered as "but what does Maine have to say to Texas?"
     Here's what Thoreau wrote:
     "... improved means to an unimproved end… We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."
      When I'm on Skype -- by some miracle not only talking to my son in Vancouver but seeing him at the same time -- I use that fantastic opportunity to tell him that the temperature finally got above freezing here.  Then my daughter instant-messages from New York, taking a few minutes at work to find out if my driveway is cleared yet. 
      I think of my grandparents, leaving home knowing they'd never hear their parents' voices again or see their faces.  I'm sure the rare letters that made it back and forth to Lithuania, to Bessarabia, didn't waste space talking about the weather. 
    The younger ones among you will just take today's communication opportunities for granted but these mysterious miracles are incredible to someone my age.  So now with the usual vague guilt feelings, I'll use this fantastic venue to show you something completely trivial -- after our three days of sunshine and thaw, here's the view just now outside the office window.  Yes, we had a lot of snow.
     Still do.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Can one post a video?

No, I guess one can't.  This is a lovely bit, with tremendous bubbly sound, but I suspect you're going to get only a jumpy glimpse of what's going on all around the house.  Pity.  But anyhow --

Sunday, March 8, 2015

It's still

Still below freezing, still snowing.  Just a week ago I foolishly abandoned my resolution to remain snowbound and left the house.  As this blog is supposed to be about Being Old, I'll report that I tripped at the entrance to the post office, on a mat placed there so one wouldn't trip.  My instant reaction was a triumphant I DIDN'T BREAK ANYTHING -- if you're older than 70, you know how I felt.
For eight days now I've watched this black eye, hoping it would fade before I'm to give a (sold-out!) talk on Tuesday, but not much is happening.  It's suggested I say my husband hit me, but as some of those present may know he died four years ago, that's not going to work.
But back to this unexpected receipt of bon appetit magazine.  I am bemused by a full-page photo of Hearts of Palm and Artichoke Aquachile Negro and then -- whaddye know!

 Here's a perfectly recognizable recipe.  This sandwich uses cheese with an English name, and the bread is -- as it should be -- what my son Dov calls "fluffy".  As usual, they have to do Something Different, and this time it's spreading the outside of the slices with mayonnaise before grilling on a buttered pan.  Any of you ever done it that way?  Maybe that's the secret of those fantastic ones at the drive-in in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.  I fully intend to try this, as soon as I can get someone to dig out the car -- at the moment I'm out of fluffy bread.
BTW -- can someone tell me how to change the info under my picture?  I'm 89 now and we journalists are sticklers for accuracy.  

Friday, March 6, 2015

I'm Baa..aa..K

Okay, the kids came from both ends of the continent and in-between, we celebrated my birthday (I'm even farther away from 86 now) and they've gone and it's still below freezing and it's still snowing.  Dannie took some better pictures of my icicles.

 Then today the mail brought a copy of the magazine bon appetit.  How to type the name of that magazine, when it likes lower case, and I'm too lazy to find out how to make the acute e?  At any rate, the mailing label says welcome and that I have a  subscription.  
At first glance, I thought the cover featured snakes, but almost immediately I decided those were electric cords.  Then closer inspection revealed that I'm being urged to try for black spaghetti.
    I realize there's no point in featuring Chef Boyardee on the cover of a gourmet magazine.  Of course they have to come up with Something Different.  Still -- black spaghetti?
   But if it was you who sent that as a birthday gift, thank you.
   I guess.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's Still Going But I'm Not

Well, when yet another day dawned without any prediction that  the thermometer would ever rise above freezing, I gave up.  Possibly the Karft macaroni had something to do with it.  At any rate, an obliging young man freed the yellow car.
-- I don't dare take the little electric out in this --it's cozy in the garage.

And now for  your viewing pleasure I append a view of the frig yesterday morning -- and another taken Friday afternoon, following a triumphant foray to Wegmans.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Snowbound Adventure (Continued)

Yes, it is still going on and on.  The longterm forecasts offer only new storms with more of the same.  Eight below zero promised for tomorrow morning.  It's still cozy and delightfully leisurely in here.  I’m not saying we’re running low on food –
but last night I broke into the Kraft Macaroni I stock for  grandsons.  Note the last of the carefully-rationed orange juice.  

And behold --  the Fates took notice!  Just now, as we speak, an emergency supply of orange juice is delivered  by a venturesome niece. 
       This is turning into a fine adventure.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gentleman's Agreement -- p. s.

Forgot to mention -- three things  I noticed, watching that 1947 movie:
* Women were pushing baby carriages on the sidewalk -- what ever happened to baby carriages?  or as they may have called them there in New York City, baby buggies? When's the last time you saw one?
* The exquisitely dressed Fashion Editor on the magazine was wearing huge shoulder pads.  What ever happened to them?  When's the last time you heard the words "shoulder pads"?
* And the one that moved me to write to you:  elderly mother has heart attack at home.  Doctor comes to the house  -- and that's not even the part I wanted to share with you.  Doctor steps out of her bedroom to son waiting in the hall.  Doctor says "I think with rest and..."  pause  "...quiet, that she'll pull through." 
What I wanted to tell you was what Doctor did in that pause before sharing the good news.
He lit a cigarette.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

More of the Same

What can I tell you?  I look at the five-day forecast IN THE NEWSPAPER every morning and still no sign it'll ever get above freezing.  Which means I'll never leave the house.  So there's nothing happening here.  It's redundant to show you what's going on, as most of you are probably experiencing the same thing.  But just in case, for those in California -- here's the bird bath.  And here's the tree outside my bedroom window. 
So yes, it's lots of lying in bed watching movies on TV.  The other night TCM, which is screening old Oscar winners, showed Gentlemen's Agreement.  I found I remembered exactly three things about that movie:  first, it must have been in 1947, because I was taking Creative Writing in my senior year (didn't learn a thing; fiction, it turned out, is not my metier.)  But I remember that our instructor, a grad student, took the whole class downtown to see that movie.  I knew nothing in those days, hadn't read the book, hadn't heard of the movie, hardly knew what a grad student was, had no idea why he thought we should see the film.  That's the first thing. 
Second, I remembered the plot -- Gregory Peck, WASP journalist, tells everyone he's Jewish, to gather material for a series he's writing on anti-Semitism.

And third, I remembered John Garfield, the
one-of-my-best-friends-is-a-Jew just back from The War, still crisp and beautifully pressed in his Captain's uniform. 
The other night I  realized why he was my only memory from the movie.  Short, dark, wiry, intense -- he reminded me of my father.  Who -- off-t0pic I know but it's nice to post his picture -- died only a couple of years after that.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

It Keeps On Coming

I don't understand why the falling snow doesn't show up in the picture I just took -- trust me, gang, it's snowing.  It's always snowing.  One weather prediction for tomorrow expects a high of 2 -- not one of those wind-chill thingies and not a low. A high.
Things are still cozy, orange juice is holding out, and it's relaxing not having left  the house for who knows how many days now. 
 So okay, we all know goldfinch come back up north late, maybe in June, so they can use the opening milkweed pods to build nests.  But this morning I find this misguided dingy goldfinch, and as soon as I get the camera out, darned if its relatives don't join it.  They vanished just after I took their picture, and here's why: 

Clearly, the sensible thing was to go back to bed, where surfing cable revealed a choice of  movies, including Little Women, Titanic, and The Full Monty.  Of course I'd seen all of them.  Norm and I even saw the Full Monty on stage in London, years ago.  At the live play, you are wondering, how did they treat the strippers' last scene?  Did those guys really dance their way down to the full monty?  Well -- I believe they did, but it's hard to say, because just as the music reached the "tah-dah!" the stage burst into floodlights -- right in  our eyes. 
The Monty (which was, of course, the movie I chose) had commercials, but that was okay because then I could surf back to glimpses of the others.  I came in on Titanic just in time for the sketch of the nude heroine (definitely a theme to this morning) and then I hit "Little Women" just as Beth died, and this time I did not cry. 
      I used to enjoy asking friends if they remembered how old Beth was when she died.  Average answer is "around 14."  But think about it -- Jo had already left home to seek her fortune.  Amy was in Europe, soon to marry.  People (women) are surprised to realize that Beth was in her 20s when she died. (So was the author's sister Elizabeth Alcott.)  
Second question: what did she die of?  The response was usually "I don't know, maybe tuberculosis?"  But not so.  There's not a cough in the whole book.  Far as I can figure, Beth may have had a weak heart -- remember that earlier scarlet fever?  Or maybe she just Went In to a Decline.  That happened a lot in those days.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Still Snowbound

I'm touched by the emails and comments inquiring how Snowbound is coming -- truth is it's cozy and relaxing. Here's an update on the yellow car -- I thought I'd take the picture through the icicles, but it appears the storm door is frozen shut, so this is through the glass.*
*not to worry.  The garage door opens fine and the driveway is plowed and I'm wearing one of those "help, come get me" buttons you push when you fall and the keys to the house are in a lockbox on the front door post, which is, come to think of it, behind this frozen storm door...
     Yes, friends, as this is a blog about Being Old, yes -- I do stay in bed till noon watching  movies on tv.  To answer the inquiry about titles -- mostly they're showing old favorites (or since the query comes from Canada, it's mostly old favourites.)   I hesitate to name names for fear the more academic amoung you may sneer -- the movies I like aren't all that cerebral.  This morning it was
 Doc Hollywood --


any of you ever see it?  Recent MD graduate driving to California to interview with a fancy plastic surgeon gets stuck in a small Southern town that needs a doctor.  I forget his name (cute short guy, Back to the Future, Parkinsons?)  but I've always liked the movie, good dialog and he makes the most of it.
Same with another I've always enjoyed -- Starman was on yesterday.  Do you know it?  Channel surfing brought me to it right at the line I've always remembered -- the outer space Starman, protesting that he knows how to drive, says "I watch you very carefully.  Red means stop, green means go, yellow means go very fast."