December 31, 2012


Looking forward to giving 2013 a big howdy and seeing what we can do together.

New Year's eve was surprisingly cozy. Previewed some newly-found music (Django Django, Catarina Castelli and Equipe 84) with friends on The east coasters went until after 1am their time, and we've now petered out on west coast time.

Tomorrow, a luscious morning of Rose Parade gawking, followed by some cleaning and preparing for the new year of work. Then two work days, a visit with the Forklift King's aunt, and off to Bonn to wrap up the show there.

Farewell 2012. You were mostly good except for more skin cancer and, well, this whole last week.

Let's keep on pushin' in 2013 :)

December 30, 2012

Much Better

All in all it's been a depressing holiday, what with tiny mammoo in the hospital and all. I feel so sad for her and uncertain about her ability to make a comeback from her injuries and many chronic conditions. There's so much going on in her body.

Yesterday we drove down to see her, went to her apt. and gathered some clothes for her release to rehab. Soon she'll be moving from here:

to a facility nearby where they'll work with her to rebuild the muscles that were broken down after the fall. This is common problem in falls by the elderly, and leads to something called rhabdomyolysis. Fascinating. Scary. She hasn't been strong recently, but now she can't lift her head by herself. Recovery will be slow, but we're glad that it's necessary and will require a residential program so that she can't escape and must stick to an exercise routine. And counseling will be a necessary part of the healing process. She's clinically depressed.

While running errands and visiting tiny mammoo, we made sure to take care of ourselves as well. A pit stop at a local taqueria was comforting:

The visit with tiny mammoo was productive. We happened to be there when the orthopedic surgeon came to consult, and learned many things. Does she really have diabetes? That's new information. And she's a candidate for back surgery? That'd be cool.

After the hospital mrguy cleaned the apartment for a while, I gathered laundry and looked at family photos. We hooked up with sweet cousins later for dinner and listened to their wise counsel. They've walked some of this path before.

Thank goodness for family :)

December 26, 2012

Code Red And Green

What is it about the holidays that sends people into a tailspin?

It's people, mostly, and their baggage. If Christmas-celebrating people just stayed away from their families, loved ones, the telephone and all other forms of communication for just the week between Christmas and the New Year, I think the world would be a better place.

Of course if that were the rule, my mother-in-law might have died yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon we headed down to mrguy's mom's place to hang out for Christmas. We'd called to let her know that we were on our way. She hadn't answered the phone, twice, and I was a little worried about that. When we got there, we knocked, heard cries for help and mrguy, the badass, kicked the door in. She'd fallen the day before and couldn't move from the position where she'd landed, face down. So horrible. Distress from a failed romance was a contributing factor to the fall.

The doctor said it's a miracle that she didn't break something. Regardless, the necessity of the hospital visit revealed other conditions that need to be dealt with and she'll be in for the better part of a week.

Now my mother-in-law, the lucky lady, has participated in the holiday tradition of the Christmas emergency room visit. I'm a veteran, and this was my 4th holiday in the hospital. The first three were a result of the obligatory Christmas eve phone call from a mean, drunk aunt to my father. He'd always be shaken after the phone call, and then he'd have some sort of a spell that required treatment. I think that the last of those three visits happened after the aunt died. Did she reach for him from the crypt? And what happened to all of the other people who were there at the ER last night, like the guy who had started drinking at 8am? We'll never know, but I bet it had something to do with family.

So people, for the next week speak with kindness or not at all. Drop your bullshit. Be good to each other, or you might end up in emergency on New Year's.

Ho ho ho

December 23, 2012

O Tannenbaum

It's almost Christmas, and I might be ahead of the curve this year. I'm going down to Mom's early and you know what? It's December 23rd and I think I'm going to fill the stockings tonight. 

Such a radical thought! So humane! I'm not sure why, but I get really hung up on the task after a night of hanging with my peeps, overeating, doing the dishes and then avoiding going to church. By 11:30 when the grand mammoo and big sis go to church I really don't feel like stuffing the stockings. However I'm going to love doing it tonight.

After trimming the tree last week, I really find myself craving a tree. But cats are bad and our house is so small that I don't know where we would put one...

An article in the paper today reminded me of my tree trimming traditions before I met mrguy. My bro would always bring us trees. Here I was living in a $200 a month studio apartment and I had a twelve foot Christmas tree. One year he left it for me in the foyer of my apartment building. I don't think I had a tree stand, but I didn't want the tree to dry out before I got one, so I stood it up in my walk-in closet in a champagne bucket that had ended up in my apartment the night I had to take one of the busboys to the ER (guess I iced his hand in it).

I remember not having any ornaments the first year I had a tree, so I took all the jewelry out of my jewelry box and draped the tree with it. The earrings worked especially well. And I had a thing for realistic looking plastic vegetables and children's play food, so that went on it as well. The first necklace tree was decorated by miss wartz and I, I recall, while drinking some perfectly awful cola flavored wine coolers from the Canned Food Warehouse. So nasty!

One year in that time frame, my old boss bought her next-door-neighbor's house. This was in an old part of town near the shipyards, where the Great Migration ended during the war. People were encouraged to rent out rooms to men and women working in the war effort. The woman who had owned the house had built a two room structure in her back yard and rented out the rooms during the war. Afterward she just used the structure as storage for many things including a lifetime of Christmas decorations. My boss invited me over to look at them, and I went home with a back seat full of 1950s lights, glass ornaments and glass bead garlands. That year I had an amazing tree. The decorations I didn't want I put in the dumpster. Two hours later, my discards were making my venerable neighbor, Lydia, very happy.

I still have many of the ornaments from the back yard shack. It's a shame not to have them out.

I'm listening to one of my traditional tree-trimming records, though. 

This year that's gonna be good enough :)

December 18, 2012


I had a strange revelation last night while listening to Fresh Air on the way home from the factory: I no longer despise Barbra Streisand. I find myself somehow able to separate an appreciation for her tremendous instrument and a strong dislike for a lot of her material. Blew me away, gosh darn it.

In an era in which auto-tune is used routinely as a pitch adjuster *and* a sound effect on its own, it was astonishing to listen to Streisand's great pitch and control over her voice. There was a time when you had to actually be able to sing in order to have credibility as a singer. In my lifetime this has changed.

The whole Babs revelation made me think of a few stories...

When we lived in the city, our upstairs neighbors were a handful. First there was the AIDS caregiver who fell in love with a patient, took him in, and didn't give him as much supervision as he needed. The patient would get locked outside the building on the street naked and start buzzing all the buzzers. Or he'd sell all the stuff in the apartment he could get his hands on during the day while his roommate was at work. The resulting fights were amazing, always at 4 in the morning, usually with large items smashing on the floor above us. We thought things were going to get better when they broke up, but the neighbor took a roommate who listened to the cable guide channel at full-volume all day. He would occasionally switch off the tv and listen to Barbra at full blast instead. Even worse, in my estimation.

We moved to the refinery town soon after. City life was too expensive for us to save any money, so we moved to the far suburbs where, and I may have spoken of this earlier, there was a St. Vincent De Paul thrift store that occasionally served up small miracles. One such miracle was a picture disc of Barbra Streisand, from the film Yentl. I saw the potential of this object speculated fifty cents upon it. "I'm going to sell this and make some money," I told mrguy. "I don't think so," he'd say.

The over the next year or so he'd sell records the Rock-N-Swap and I would beg him to take my picture disc of Barbra Streisand in Yentl and sell it for me. His manly pride would not allow him to, so he refused. However I knew that there were rabid Barbra lovers out there and the fact that it was in its original vinyl sleeve with a gold sticker extolling the virtues of the song still on it would count for something. Eventually it did.

In the early days of ebay, I asked mrguy to list it for me, and he did. Rarely had fifty cents delivered so much pleasure than when, on the last day of the auction, there was a bidding war for the disc. It sold for fifty BUCKS to Total satisfaction.

Thank you barbralover! Almost 15 years later, I think of Barbra and her fans with gratitude because I could do a lot with fifty clams back then. Still can.

And now I have rid myself of another piece of dislike in my life. I can like Barbra Streisand on certain levels and appreciate her true gifts. I find myself even considering buying her latest cd so I can learn from it.

This is truly a Christmas miracle.

December 15, 2012

Voice Of The Voiceless

Why blog so much today?

This is my voice.

One month ago I came down with laryngitis. 31 days later, I still have no voice. I have about four extremely bad sounding notes in my head voice. My chest voice is there, but very wobbly. My speaking voice still cracks like Lindsay Lohan's.

It's distressing and I want my singing teacher, who the grand mammoo dearly refers to as my "other mommy". I think of her every day anyway, but especially so when I'm worried about my voice. I am consciously trying to channel her.

Because of my voice had to cancel a "gig", as well, but that was a blessing.

I should draw a veil of charity over this whole gig thing, but let's say that we were invited to a party and over a series of almost 20 emails that party invitation turned incrementally into a gig with a set list and call time. With underhanded and hilarious insults along the way. Meanwhile the "band" dwindled to mrguy and I, or as he is calling me "my frog wife". mrguy eventually said that he was going to cancel, and it made him so happy to do so. 

I love the ladies in the halau, but he was worried about having to carry the whole gig himself, and was annoyed by the way in which a casual "you might want to bring your ukes" turned into "you should arrive by 2 so you can set up your equipment".

In the meantime, I'm happy to have the day at home.

Along The Same Lines

Back in the old place, we had a tight-knit little community. One of our friends from the old place is Count Peckula, who lived over my sister's painting studio across the street from our little house. From the second storey of her place she had a water view and could see the tankers and ferries pass by. Occasionally, when visiting, you'd hear a "crack!" -- people shooting pool at the saloon across the street. By the way, we lived in that town for 7 1/2 years and I never set foot in that saloon.

But I digress. We traded cat-sitting duties with Count Peckula from time to time, and this is how I came to know one of my desert island discs -- Ashwan Batish's Sitar Power. I was over at her place visiting the cat babies and saw it in her cassette deck. I hit play and fell in love. Or laughed. I can't remember, and either is possible.

This record uses sitar as if Germans were playing it. Super structured, with tinny electronic instruments to back it up. I find it completely goofy and hilarious and catchy. I borrowed the cassette, and brought it home to mrguy. He told me that he knew Ashwan Batish from his college days.

Here's a sample to enjoy:

Ravi Shankar

Yes, it's true that I first listened to him because of the Beatles, but once I did, I really loved it. I found an old box set of his recordings at the record store, and would listen to the whole thing, laying on the floor of my dorm room. 

It doesn't say a lot about the music of Ravi Shankar that in my room his music was in regular rotation with Gregorian chant and Sparks and Donovan and Al Stewart (yup) and Ahmad Jamal. Ravi Shankar was definitely doors-closed music, because outside my door was the land of my sweet roommate's Michael Jackson's Off The Wall and Christian comedy albums.

Ravi Shankar primed me to love other Indian music and culture that came my way later -- whether it was the Indian video program that I'd actually wake up early for on Sunday mornings, or the priceless "Indian 78s" tape that mrguy and I bought at the Indian grocery and nearly wore out, or Ravi Shankar's gorgeous soundtrack to Pather Pachali.

We finally saw him a few years ago with tiny but mighty and her tall man. I was going through stuff at work and was in the depths. That concert had healing properties.

He had a good run, that man. 

I look forward to enjoying his music for as long as I have ears.

Not Ravi related, but a little tidbit from the Indian 78s tape:

December 1, 2012

Robert Wildhack

While thumbing through all of the Bs in Kabletown's on-demand menu to see if they have the movie Butter, I found a cluster of Broadway Melody movies. Ahhhh.

Today's feature was Broadway Melody of 1936. Somehow in my mind I have the Broadway Melody movies, the Golddiggers movies and Footlight Parade all jumbled up into one sweet sticky mess. After a little research I can now tell them apart.

One fun element of BM36 is that it includes several long segments featuring Robert Wildhack, who appears as an expert on snores. He goes on to numb a wary Jack Benny with all of the various types of snores he's cataloged, and performs examples of each. I fell in love with this guy because he was obviously a former vaudevillian like my Uncle Joe. Great Uncle Joe was reputed to have a vaudeville act. It consisted of emitting a seemingly endless stream of water from his mouth onto the stage.

According to Pop, Uncle Joe would go on the stage with a partner, and he would slowly drink an ungodly amount of water. Wordlessly. When he was finished, his partner would pump Joe's arm like an old-fashioned water pump handle. Water would slowly stream out of Joe's mouth. People would laugh. Then they'd stop laughing. As the partner continued to pump, and this steady stream of water would dribble out of Joe, the audience would start laughing again. As it slowly continued for what seemed like *ever*, they'd lose it. 

There you have it. The sum total of Uncle Joe's alleged vaudeville act. Lately I've been trying to find mention of him in old digitized issues of the Dramatic Mirror. I think I might have found someone who sounds like him. Anyhoo...

Because of Uncle Joe, I immediately had a soft spot for this old vaudevillian who appears in the waiting room of the producer in Broadway Melody of 1936. After the credits rolled and I found his name, I did a little searching.

It turns out that Robert Wildhack's bit in the movie about the snores was verbatim from his vaudeville act. You can hear it in its entirety, as well as some other wacky stuff, on the Library of Congress Jukebox site.

In addition, he was an illustrator for various magazines in the 1920s and 30s. For more on Robert Wildhack, visit this lovely biography.

Bucket List

Now that I'm vastly old, it seems only appropriate to have a bucket list.

The purpose? To always have goals to move toward, odd though they might be. It's in the forward motion that comes the satisfaction, I think. Some of the list items will be easy. Some will not. Half of the fun is in thinking them up and memorializing them here.

In no particular order:

1. Take an exercise class with Richard Simmons
2. Ride a camel (not a location-specific goal)
3. Sit in the booth with Doreen Simmons while she comments on a sumo basho for NHK
4. Write a book
5. Meet distant family in Ireland
6. Play Carnegie Hall or Royal Albert Hall
7. Be a balloon wrangler in the Thanksgiving Day Parade
8. Volunteer in the Bishop Museum archives
9. Have our Hawaiian band sponsor a match in a sumo tournament in Japan
10. Play music at a retirement home (as added and commented here
11. Learn to tie knots (as added in 2015)

I wanted to accomplish #1 last week, but ran out of time. Imminently doable. #2 is inspired by miss wartz, who went on camelback in Morocco and slept in the desert in a tent with camels and complained about how loud their tummies were. Now that's an amazing adventure. Unlikely for me. I just want to ride the camel.

#7 goes way back to the time when I was a volunteer at a museum of advertising characters. One afternoon I took a nap and dreamed that I was a giant Mr. Salty:

and I was on my way to the Empire State Building for a date with Dolly Madison:

I was walking up 5th Avenue on my way for this date. I began to levitate and became a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I've written this down before, right?

Best dream ever, if you ask me. Except for the dream where Maya Angelou taught me how to drive an 18-wheeler.

They're all dreams, really.

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