I recently remembered a magic spell I once knew. Here’s how it happened:
A few months ago, I had my metaphorical butt kicked by a twelve-year-old. Part of my lifelong musical journey is that I have been studying classical guitar for the past five years. My teacher is kind enough to hold “salons” for her students several times per year, at which we can perform solo pieces for each other — mostly adults. Many self-conscious jokes are cracked before performances (mostly by me), many excuses are made from the stage (mostly by me) and many right hands shake nervously over the strings (mine, especially), derailing passages that sounded so great just the day before in everyone’s practice rooms. [Read more →]
Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
So wrote T.S. Eliot in “East Coker,” the second of his Four Quartets. I was reminded of these lines while thinking about a conversation I had recently with a friend and former colleague. It was a couple of weeks before the recent election and had to do with Christine O’Donnell, the Republican senatorial candidate in Delaware.
I have begun writing this just after midnight on Thursday, October 14. At 8:30 this morning I will turn 69, which means that I will enter upon my 70th year, at the end of which I will arrive at the so-called Biblical age of three score and ten. [Read more →]
Kelly Conaboy, beautiful woman and writer of many popular humorous novels and television shows and movies that everyone loved, died Saturday at one of her homes in a scenic part of Europe. She was 101.
Her daughter, Kelley Conaboy, confirmed the death Sunday morning, reporting that her mother had died of her own will. Not like a suicide, really, because — let me explain. Kelly had spent her last 76 years in her 25-year-old body, except slightly taller and without the health problems, after ingesting something (?) by accident in 2012 that allowed this to happen. It was like Tuck Everlasting, except she was able to kill herself whenever she wanted. So I guess it was pretty much like a suicide. [Read more →]
In the July 14 issue of the Times Literary Supplement, David Wheatley begins his review of Letters of Louis MacNeice by noting that “the Greeks thought of the past as stretching out before them while the future waited behind their backs.”
I am not sure if I ever knew this, and had long since forgotten it, but I do know that I have often thought this way. It has long seemed to me that when we are born we get in line behind all those who are already here, and those who come after get in line behind those of us who have already arrived.
This is but one of a number of odd ways I have of looking at time. [Read more →]
A friend of mine recently referred to her life as a mountain. Apparently she started climbing it years ago without realizing, then one day looked down and discovered how high up she’d gone. She also discovered that it would be nearly impossible to get down off of this mountain and start the climb up a different mountain. By different, I think she meant the one on which she had assumed she would end up. [Read more →]
My father-in-law recently faced up to the adult equivalent of “there is no Santa Claus.” Specifically, he discovered that, if the shit ever hits the fan, nobody is going to wipe his ass for him. Well … Maybe that’s unfair. He actually realized that, in case of disaster, he can’t count on “the authorities” to charge to the rescue.
Hmmm … I phrased it better the first time. [Read more →]
Satirist Craig Brown of the Daily Mail has it for you:
A new biography of the film star Warren Beatty claims that he has been to bed with 12,775 women. The author adds, usefully, that the figure ‘does not include daytime quickies, drive-bys, casual gropings, stolen kisses and so on’
Thank goodness. Wait: “drive-bys?” How does that … never mind.
Live long enough and you will start to grow old. As someone who has crossed that threshold I can say that, so far, it isn’t exactly turning out as expected. Not that I expected much, mind you, just what I took to be the usual. I figured I’d put on a bit of weight, get a little paunchy, and have some more aches to put up with. That’s all come to pass, but what I didn’t expect is how, at some point, it all seems to come together into some sort of critical mass, and it’s no longer something that’s happening, but something that has happened. It’s a bit like when you notice that all the leaves are off the trees and realize it’s not really autumn anymore. [Read more →]
That’s it. I’ve officially come to the conclusion that I am getting old. When did this happen? It crept up on me so fast that I think I have whiplash. Now I know “old” is a relative term and, to some, thirtysomething is far from entering the nursing home. But it seems like only yesterday when I was riding my bike around the neighborhood, getting yelled at by the cantankerous old-timers who lived down the block. I blinked and that time, like a lot of the past, has become a distant memory. What brought on this bout of age-related depression, you ask? It’s been a series of recent incidents which I now realize are only things that happen if you are getting old. Let’s review. [Read more →]
Why a whisker? Why my chin? Why now?
Middle-Aged in Milwaukee
They say famous people die in threes. I do not know if that is necessarily true, but it does seem that they die in clusters. Usually three, four, or five famous people all die within a month or two of each other. Then, after all the tributes and remembrances, there are no new famous deaths for another half year or so. [Read more →]
As everyone knows and fears, our final days resemble our first, in their helplessness, in their inadvertent comedy, and in their nearness to an unknowable existence. I am reminded of these patiently waiting realities every time I visit my father, now 95 years old, at the nursing home, and slowly convey to his mouth quarter-teaspoons of pureed rye bread, carrots, ham, and vanilla pudding. [Read more →]
Would you really want to live to be 113 years old?
According to Guiness World Records, the previous record holder of the “World’s Oldest Man” title passed away in his sleep on Friday, making a British World War I veteran the new leader. Henry Allingham celebrated his 113th birthday on June 6th, and here’s hoping that he enjoys every single day of his reign.
I also hope I never even approach that number. [Read more →]
Leaving home for work in the mornings, I found I was occasionally leaving something behind. My train pass. My ID badge. My keys, sunglasses, phone, wallet. So I made a list on my phone which I check every now and then — not every day, mind you, but on those days when I have that nagging feeling I must be forgetting something. [Read more →]
So, everything is sort of falling apart slowly, right? Still sort of trying to work the marriage thing out, trying to get my own business off the ground, still not sure if we can keep the house, blah blah blah. And yet, here I am, for the first time in years, fronting a full four piece band. Here I am, for the first time ever, singing in the type of band that has enough interest to have options. [Read more →]
“And it is all so sad and yet so sweet to muse over the past.” So wrote the composer Tchaikovsky to his “beloved friend” and patron, Nadezhda von Meck.
Theirs was a peculiar relationship. They never met, but poured out their hearts and souls to each other in their correspondence. The reference to the sweetness and sadness of musing over the past occurs in a letter he sent in connection with his fourth symphony, which he wrote when he was 37 and dedicated to von Meck.
I think the age factor is significant. I was perhaps most conscious of time passing and time past when I was in my 30s, and I suspect that is not unusual. But I was aware of Tchaikovsky’s letter long before that, thanks to the liner notes on the 1958 recording of the fourth symphony by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, which was one of the first classical LPs I owned.
I first heard the symphony when I was a junior in high school, not long before the Bernstein recording was released. I knew what the critics thought of Tchaikovsky’s music. But what they complained about — bombast and emotional excess — is precisely what put it so much in harmony (as it were) with my own adolescent Sturm und Drang. [Read more →]
I was having sushi with a business associate the other day when the subject of regret came up.
My colleague, who is much younger than me, said, “I really don’t have any regrets. It’s not that I haven’t done things I wish I hadn’t done, it’s just that I made the best decisions I could at the time based on what I knew, and what I was capable of, at that moment.
“And besides, I’m in a good place now, and maybe I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the mistakes I made earlier.”
There was something oddly familiar about her comments, and then I remembered that I used to say almost precisely the same thing when I was in my twenties.
But I haven’t said it in years.
Suddenly, a wintry image, or rather a progression of images, appeared before my mind’s eye: I pictured myself speeding down a highway through a very light and whirling and intermittent snow, so light that I couldn’t be bothered to turn on my windshield wipers.
For the first few miles, the feathery flakes just blew away in front of my advancing windshield. I felt vindicated, in an odd way, in my decision not to use the wipers.
Clearly, they weren’t needed.
All along, of course, a few random flakes here and there would stick to the glass, and a few droplets of mud as well. But it didn’t make any discernible difference.
Even after 25 miles or so, though the windshield could have been cleaner, I suppose, the view remained completely unobstructed.
But somewhere around the 50-mile mark, though the snowfall wasn’t any heavier than before, I realized that some terribly important line had been passed, though I hadn’t at all noticed it, many miles back. [Read more →]
Free tequila. It’s all about the free tequila. Not really, although it is kind of nice to have random strangers find real joy in giving me alcohol. It makes them happy, though I could not tell you why. Honestly, I just want to do something creative that no one has any control over. If I could paint I would. If I could focus my energies & thoughts to write a novel, then I would. If I could dance, then I would have a lucrative night job. The fact is, I can sing pretty well, so this is what I do.
I get to go to a person’s house (shout out to Sean) and jam out in their living room (sorry Deb & Cecil the cat). I get to write something that really only takes a few minutes to sort out, and I don’t have to turn it in to anyone for approval. It is lovely and blissful. I can’t get enough of it.
This Friday we are auditioning a bass player/back up singer. Then we move on to getting a drummer in on the game. And finally, it’s time for a gig. People really do say gig. And the thing about playing out is that even in the smallest room, with the tiniest crowd, someone is going to love it. I love that.