Monday, February 2, 2015

A New Yorker Reminiscense

Today's issue of The New Yorker tells us of the re-location of the magazine's offices which have occupied hallowed space in mid-town Manhattan for ninety years.  As I too am moving yet again, buried quite uncomfortably under my own version of the Collyer brothers' fabulous collection of rubble, I found some solace in the brief description of the emotions felt by the magazine staff as they took their leave of the rooms, desks, files and assorted paraphernalia required to meet the weekly deadline.  

For a time in the 1960's, I took the subway uptown from my tiny Greenwich Village basement apartment to my secretarial job in the Tishman Building at 666 Fifth Avenue.  In good or not so good weather, it was a pleasure to walk along West 44th Street past the Algonquin Hotel, fantasizing an image of myself sipping a very dry martini while seated in a chintz-covered cozy chair in the oak-paneled lobby. After work, I'd often make a deliberate pass by the 43rd Street location of The New Yorker offices. I ambled around that neighborhood hoping I might see one or two of my heroes like James Thurber or Brendan Gill or even more unlikely, a glimpse of E.B. White if he just happened to be in town on a rare visit away from his beloved rural property in Maine. I idolized these writers and others who contributed pages of elegant prose and sophisticated commentary, not to mention the brilliant cartoons of Charles Addams, Peter Arno and George Price among others.  And then there were those hilarious items appropriately called "fillers" which caught out some well-intentioned copy-writer who had got it all wrong.  Occasionally, a hapless translator fell face down coming out of the gate:

The Mysterious East
[Message on a coaster from
a bar in Tokyo]
You should relax your truss up day
And, the ennui is killing everybody
That! We will give you
Heart warming dream story,
Eating and drink
Here we go! *

In fact, I never spotted any of the writers I admired, (although I did eventually see James Thurber in one of his eighty-eight appearances as himself in a successful Broadway production of A Thurber Carnival in 1961). Even more astonishing to me is the fact that another fantasy came true in the April 6, 1987 issue. Whitney Balliett wrote about the ever-radiant, legendary cabaret singer Julie Wilson and myself in a rare Joint Profile. 

Mr. Balliett, a music scholar and jazz journalist of luminous reputation, interviewed me at a friend's Upper West Side apartment where I offered to make tea.  He asked for a cup of hot water and withdrew a single tea bag from the inside pocket of his jacket.  He dipped the same bag in two subsequent cups of hot water.

Bursting with curiosity about his method for notating his subject, I was delighted to see the yellow legal pad he withdrew from his briefcase.  At one point, on the pretext of having to fill the pot with more hot water, I took a peek over his shoulder as I made for the kitchen.  His was a tiny, cramped-together handwriting, totally illegible from my angle.  Many days after the interview of more than three hours' duration and ahead of publication, I was engaged in a telephone chat with a member of the famous Fact Checking Department who took me through the draft line by line, verifying situations, chronology, quotes, names, locations, all demanding authentication from me to prevent the slightest discrepancy of any sort appearing in the final text.

As the release date of "my" issue approached, Buck and I spent an early Spring afternoon at the Boston Museum of Science watching extraordinary footage of the earth from an orbiting space capsule.  The technology and the views were so spectacular and exciting, we felt the need of a calming libation.  In the bar of a near-by hotel, we ordered cocktails and talked about the film. Then, Buck went to the lobby news-stand to check if the April 6 issue was available. He returned with a half-dozen copies.  With a wide smile, he announced to the bartender and others seated nearby: "There's an article about my wife in here!"  He made certain everyone saw the cover to avoid any confusion: This was the prestigious New Yorker after all, and not to be confused with say Extraterrestrials Among Us.

The New Yorker is always within easy reach around here, and always will be as long as it and I exist.

* The Japanese have become very adept translators since this item appeared, more's the pity.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Take Notes ....

The first significant snow of the season has blanketed the parking lot and its occupants with about four to five inches of the fluffy type.  At least that is the depth estimate I made minutes ago when I used the new long-handle device I bought a few weeks ago just for the purpose of clearing the roof my 2005 Dodge. Official numbers will be available very soon on the local news channels, stats which will be presented with breathless incredulity.  Six inches. HAH!  Six feet were more like it when I was a kid.

I want to thank all who sent me messages of sympathy and condolence because of Buck's passing in November.  Before we were married in 1986, I had been alone for 28 years so I have some experience of the solo life.  I'm eaasing into it, and it's becoming more and more normal, I have to admit, even when the sudden lightening bolt moments strike and I realize he's gone forever.  Those are tsunamis to which I respond accordingly: I sit or stand quite still, allowing the grief to wash over me.

I am becoming very excited about the forthcoming May gig, and I will be pleased to provide all essential details when terms are finalized.  For now I can only reveal that if you want to be there, you must possess a valid passport.


Secondly, may I please assure all of you who kindly take the time to write that I have published each of your comments with a response of my own.  To read these, just click the Comments button at the bottom of the page to which you wrote.  For example, there are several nice ones at the end of the December 14, 2014 post, just below this one.  Yours is there.


THE SPRING JAZZ VOCAL WORKSHOP:  Classes will commence Feb. 28 and run for consecutive Saturdays to March 28.  Interested singers should write me at for details.  Class is limited to twelve students.


One final note: I think the accusations that Tom Brady and/or Coach Bill Belichick ever ordered the deflation of any footballs during the Pats-Colts Championship Game are spiteful.  The implication is that the Patriots are incapable of winning without resorting to unscrupulous tactics, an allegation I find highly offensive.  The sports writers have certainly been handed a juicy bit of fill during the two-week lull before the Super Bowl, and the vultures are feasting on the dying carcass.  Unfortunately, we haven't heard the last of it.

Onward to Arizona and victory for the New England Patriots!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Death In The Family

My husband of twenty-eight years died on Thursday, November 13, 2014. He was an 81-year old victim of prostate cancer and early onset dementia. Our marriage was the second for each of us, and took place in Boston, Massachusetts on Sunday, November 30, 1986.

The grief and feeling of significant loss has been at times quite overwhelming, but on this one month anniversary of the sad event, the skies are gradually beginning to brighten. Music ... particularly jazz, classical and opera have been my close companions, often generating floods of theraputic tears.

Often choose to sit and stare at the familiar faces in my favorite black and white movies of the 1930's and 1940's, a glass of any sort of alcholic beverage within easy reach, zero appetite. Hardly leaving the flat except for the most necessary trips, sleeping when weary, moving about in a perpetual daze.

It is a well-worn and easily disputed theory that drinking sufficient quantities of alcohol can inspire artistic types to explore imaginative concepts while writing or painting or cooking or planning the perfect crime. Yesterday I consumed a large amount of Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, chilled to perfection and served in a fragile-stemmed wine glass, hoping to ignite the literary engine or at the very least, perk me up a bit. I did feel quite a bit more relaxed and cheerful when the wine was accompanied by a healthy dose of some of my favorite recordings by the Count Basie Band.

The wine did the trick: the idea popped into my consciousness fully formed at approximately 6 o'clock in the evening when I wrote a friend asking if there might be a chance to sing in a favorite jazz club in her city sometime in the spring. I wrote: "To dip my toes ... to re-enter the arena ... to feel alive again". The very gratifying response from the club manager arrived in my mail box less than five hours later: "Yes and Yes ... can you do May 15 and 16, a good spring-time slot". I have accepted the invitation with some serious glee and the knowledge that I have a full five months to loosen my vocal chords and tighten my waist-line.

My husband and very dearest friend will never be forgotten. I need only remember this song written in 1922 by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn, made famous by Al Jolson, to remember his sweet smiling face and gentle blue eyes:

Nights are long since you went away
I think about you all through the day
My buddy, my buddy
Your buddy misses you

I miss your voice, the touch of your hand
And just to know that you understand
My buddy, my buddy
Your buddy misses you