Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dinner, a pile of records and my new jazz idol

It wasn't on YouTube or through google, but in my disorganized shelf of Lp's that I discovered my new Jazz piano mentor.

Hubby said, "Let's have some music for dinner."

What do you want to hear?

Simon & Garfunkel? Gershwin?

"No, something different"

Then I spied it: Oscar Peterson Trio plus One. Hmm, that must have been one of my thrift store finds.
So after Tim blessed the food,  I dropped the needle on and we were treated to the best jazz I'd heard in  a long time. It was clean and sophisticated. And the pianist was incredible!

While listening and eating, we talked about a children's book idea that I was collaborating with an local artist on. We argued about stupid stuff.

But mostly over our bean soup and salad we talked about the great music playing  on the turntable!
Wow, I didn't know we had this. The 1964 album gave us an amazing menu of pieces and my new jazz mentor. Later I remember being introduced to him at Dick Grove Music school in Van Nuys, CA years ago. I still have the charts we studied by him.
Our feet could hold back no more. We flipped the vinyl to side two and my husband did something very uncharacteristic of himself and out of the ordinary. He grabbed my hand and led me to the family room to dance.

And I followed. I mean, I actually let him lead.

Not like our first dance lesson debacle.

It was a little bit 70's random arm jerking, 50's swing and fox trox. Spinning me forward and backward then back to front, we sidled and swirled and giggled our way through that bass improv, the piano licks and flugelhorn riffs. We'll be ready for Cody Johns' wedding next week. We'll be tearing up the dance floor!!

Then we lay on the floor exhausted in the pile of records.

What a great night!


A new/old  jazz mentor - Thank you Oscar Peterson.

Dancing, and it was only a Thursday night.

And a pile of records.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

3 Weddings - None of Them in June - Number 2

The 1940's were Hollywood's golden era.

After a few stabs at college, a WWII tour in the Middle East and a trip to London, my father, Walter was ready to go west, young man, with an itch to act. It wasn't gold that attracted him to California, but silver - the silver screen.

So, Walter traded the Middle East heat and desert sands for California palms and rolling hills; he exchanged the four seasons of Massachusetts and a disappointed father, for two seasons in the Golden State and a chance at Hollywood.

1943. What a head shot!

He had studied acting at Clark University and was ready to give it a go, despite his professor father's urgings to finish college.

Yes, these were the golden days of Hollywood. And he had that 24 karat look.

His quest for stardom only led him to a day job as a taxi driver.

I don't know how many scripts he read, auditions he had or interviews he made, but the closest he ever got to becoming a movie star was driving Lucille Ball and John Wayne in his cab.

While in Hollywood, though, other things were brewing that would soon change his life. A mutual friend introduced him to a young woman named Isabel who lived, ironically, back in Massachusetts, not far from Walter's hometown.

Isabel MacDuffie - visiting her dad, E. 57th, NYC - 1940

So they wrote letters cross-country. For 2 years they wrote letters. Love letters that stoked their chemistry enough for a meet-up to be planned.

If it was 2014, they would have connected online and then decided to meet their mystery friend. Here it was a pen-pal connection. My father booked a flight to New England.

The first woman he saw debarking the plane was fat and he got scared for a minute. But then he laid eyes on a young woman with dark wavy hair, crystal blue eyes, thin and poised. He was pleased and very much relieved.

When he met her family, not so much.

All they did was talk about money, he said. I don't think Isabel's family was too taken by Walter either. He was what? A taxi driver? For a girl brought up in homes with names like 'Marimonte' and 'Lordvale,'  the disparity of pedigree was as glaring as a Timex next to a Tag. (Sorry, dad).

Whether it was Walter's dashing looks or the need to escape her family, or the fact that she was 28 and unmarried, she followed Walter out to California.

But wait, I forgot the proposal.

Their first visit was nearing an end. Walter was headed to the airport and he realized he was 34 and missing the chance of a lifetime. Strange family or not, this was a good woman and he needed to act fast.

So he headed for the nearest phone booth. He waited in line and called her and right then and there, asked her to marry him - over the phone.

Unbeknownst to him, two little old ladies were in line behind him, watching  and listening to his conversation. He hung up and turned to catch his plane. They stopped him abruptly.

"Excuse me, sir, did you just propose to that young lady over the phone?"

"Why, yes I did!"

"Well, I hope she refused you, " they said indignantly.


How gauche it was, in their minds, to offer marriage any other way than in person. Today, it would be the equivalent of proposing by text.

Yet it didn't bother Isabel. As you know, she accepted and Walter flew back to LA to plan his wedding at the Wee Kirk of the Heather chapel in Forest Lawn.

They were married October 17th, 1949.

"We were forty-niners," my mother would tell me with a twinkly smile, when I was a little girl.

Yeah. Forty-niners who struck it rich!!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Dangling Conversation

Some song lyrics bear remembering. This is one of them written by Simon & Garfunkel released first in "The Big Bright Pressure Machine" and later in the "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" project of 1966.

It’s a still-life watercolor 
Of a now late afternoon 
As the sun shines through the curtain lace 
And shadows wash the room 

And we sit and drink our coffee 

Couched in our indifference 

Like shells upon the shore 
You can hear the ocean roar 
In the dangling conversation 
And the superficial sighs 
The borders of our lives 

Art Credit - Kaito x Gakupo by LikeaBoss78

And you read your Emily Dickinson 

And I my Robert Frost 

And we note our places with bookmarkers 
That measure what we’ve lost 
Like a poem poorly written 
We are verses out of rhythm 
Couplets out of rhyme 
In syncopated time 
And the dangling conversation 
And the superficial sighs 
Are the borders of our lives 

Yes,we speak of things that matter 
With words that must be said 
“Can analysis be worthwhile?” 
“Is the theatre really dead?” 
And how the room is softly faded 

And I only kiss your shadow 

I cannot feel your hand 
You’re a stranger now unto me 
Lost in the dangling conversation 
And the superficial sighs 
In the borders of our lives

It never was a hit, probably due to its heaviness, surmised the author. But the lyrics and the topic are universal and lasting.

It's a hit in my book.

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