Long Ago and Beyond the Blarney Stone

Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations have never come without mixed feelings or odd associations.

That was true when I was wrestling with my staunch German heritage as I grew up in the Post-Camelot sixties. Holiday celebrations involved very little that was either festive or libationary.

That was true when I questioned my maternal grandmother Dorothy about her supposed Irish ancestry. Even in grade school, I was certain that one doesn’t inherit one’s spouse’s nationality, even with Rights of Survivorship benefits.

She was born in Michigan in 1904 to a couple who was decidedly Anglican. By the fifties, however, she had taken Cavanaugh as both her maiden and married names … at least by my deduction.

That was of course true during my years spent with the anti-Christ who was indeed unabashedly Irish. One year, we spent the evening of the 17th enjoying the West End production of “Chess”. Afterwards, we embarked on a tour of good ole “Ugly American” bar-hopping.

As we later rounded the corner to our hotel, we were drawn into and argued at what turned out to be a drag bar. I should’ve never commented that extra dry Martinis didn’t seem particularly appropriate.

I best forego the seedier details that followed. Leave it with this veiled note: I was awake and stirring by 7am while the A.C. slept into noon and then dressed a little too leisurely and haphazardly.

Lastly, there was the benchmark trip to Ireland that followed five years later. George (Ooops. I broke confidentiality.) and I had bid on a two week all-inclusive holiday at a charity event. We scheduled it for mid-March not knowing that, as of the week before we’d be uncoupling.

He ended up spending the trip with an until-then neutral third party. I immersed myself in the NCAA tourney from home. I was guilt-free when I charged his credit card with a lavish dinner for six to L’Auberge Chez Francois. The night of his return, we each confessed disdain for the other.

I immediately planned my move back to Greensboro via an extended and healing vacation to Fort Lauderdale. (My employer had dissolved my division. At age 37, I was left with a severance package and a meager retirement match.)

And now we come to today. Although awake by six, the realization that it was St Patrick’s Day wasn’t fully realized until after lunch.

Since then, I have pondered: Spatzele, that oh-so green Windy City river, the anti-Christ’s damned Green Book obsession, my grandmother’s unanswered sighs, and all things “Magically Delicious!”

Erin Go Bra-less!

Yes, Sr Edward Patricia, I said it. Just please don’t tell Sr Mary Fitzpatrick.

(These are a few of my miscellaneous “green man” images from my iPod archives.)

Bowie Memories : Aurally-Speaking

The week’s unfold was certainly unexpected. The world recklessly flew by. The future, however, still has yet to play any cards. And iconic David Bowie passed away. He died. In an instant.

Most of us had no warning. We probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. On Monday, from our mental replays to internet videos, images, commentary, and his often-pioneering, often landmark music, our world became a forum for all things Bowie.

“All the Young Dudes” “A Space Oddity” “Young Americans” “Blue Jean”

My post-puberty life was sound-tracked with Bowie gems.

Henry earlier reminded me of a lighter reference he and I shared in our most respectful of master-pet whispers. Like Robert Palmer and Bryan Ferry, he also aged into a distinguished, elegant, and almost “matinée” music idol. Unlike those two, however, Bowie consistently always reinvented himself and pushed his relevance.

He transcended any mortal discourse on sexuality and predilections. David Bowie became “Every Man” to so many, many people throughout the past half-century of music-listening history.

We will all miss him. And shed a tear.

Rest in Peace and Beauty, Mr Bowie.

He left us when we weren’t looking. We’re never looking.

The Chess Boys: Everything But Yul Brynner

12289597_1069713003072716_8351927731320183124_nWho among us can forget those Twelfth Night soirées of the late ’80’s and early ’90’s? The limitless Stolichnaya vodka shooters? The dreadful, yet mandatory sing-along with the Original London Cast Album of Chess?

Those, together with a Beluga and fixings station that was not unlike a Wendy’s baked potato bar, made for the merriest of Epiphanies this side of the St Pius X School for the Parochially Enslaved.

Only two of us have survived to today tell the tales, although we dare not phone each other. Even the anti-Christ is long gone. The passage of time has softened the now campy Andersson-Ulvaeus-Rice musical and made it almost listenable.

Except for “One Night in Bangkok”. I imagine it’s in heavy rotation on Hell’s Muzak station. By “heavy” I mean alternated with only “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero”, “Endless Love”, and “Playground in My Mind”.

Speaking of the anti-Christ: He’s probably adjusting to the afterlife regrettably arguing the differences between Chess’s London and New York productions. Ad Infinitem.

(PS: Enjoy a Healthy & Happy New Year and Feel Better Soon, Cousin Eve.)

With Neither Maize Nor Wattle


I was reminiscing this afternoon and sharing with Henry my most memorable Thanksgivings. It was a broad task for sure. But I tried.

Best Food? 2001 at my sister’s. No one can best her Prime Rib and Brisket. And that year, we also had turkey and oysters and a lot of people.
I was extremely emotional because Michael died just a month earlier.

Most Fun Thanksgiving? 1989 at the house I shared with the anti-Christ. The day stands out because everybody was happy and mingled well. We had moved in two days earlier and I was up all night organizing all our new kitchen. The weather was perfect.

We danced, listened to music, hung out on the deck, and threw a frisbee with our sheepdog.
After folks started to leave, three particular friends, my sister and her husband each fixed a cocktail and secured a seat for ROUND 2.

Most Forgettable?  1974 at my mother’s. My Father insisted on coming over. They had divorced 8 months earlier and he was living in Dallas and in a relationship that he rekindled from 1951. He showed no interest in my sister’s first year in Middle School or my freshman year at UNC. As soon as our utensils were gathered on plates, Polly and I left. It was all just so wrong

Most exotic Thanksgiving? 1958 in DC, but my mother was in Minnesota where she worked for Eugene McCarthy.

Legend has it that my father invited all of his friends who were from Germany, Italy, Kenya, and other points in between. After cocktails, everyone went into the dining room to eat. I was sound asleep on the sofa in the livingroom.

I woke up at some point … and crawled and toddled all around the room. As I advanced I looked into each glass and ate the garnishes. I happily dined on mainly cherries from Manhattans and olives from Martinis. I also finished each drink.

When dinner was over, my father and guests returned to the livingroom and found me sound asleep. Okay. Okay. I had passed out on the previously mentioned sofa.

The rest of the day unfolded as one would expect. Yes, my mother was livid when my Father confessed about a month later.

Finally, my most earnest and better prioritized Thanksgiving? 2011. Jon was recovering from a life threatening illness and I had recently had yet another heart attack.

Life had quickly become fragile. Nonetheless, we celebrated our union and found that, yes, we actually could afford a leg of lamb.

It is now four years later. Jon is much better but ridden with ailments of being almost 70. I’m still waiting for a heart. Henry is almost 13. He is your typically lazy tom but would even “turn pussy tricks” if it meant an entire turkey slice might fall to the floor. Since I am “projecting” with this post, we’ll just say He hopes that the turkey slice cascade to the floor. And that Claudja and Hermione are watching some football game.

We will share Thanksgiving with: my sister and her gentleman suitor, my niece Sara and her husband, my niece Sophie and her husband, and my niece Aubrey. My sister’s ex-husband, his wife, and young son will join us.

I will not try to understand the unfortunate inclusion of the latter nor will I let it interfere with the joyous part of the day. It may very well be the last time we are all together.

I am confidant to assume that we’ve each already endured a questionable, perhaps grossly dysfunctional Thanksgiving.

“Receive” will thus be Thursday’s Groucho Marxist “Word of the Day”. (К сожалению об этом.) I intend the word “receive” to invoke that 70’s and 80’s serendipitous suggestion for welcoming a positive karma.  We’re nonetheless surely due for a Cohen-esque Perfect Day.

And if not? Groovy. Bring it on, My Friend. Bring it on.

(Image: “The Small Village Torzhok” by Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov, 1917.)

Commuting Fate & the Daydreamy Mr Tapper

Art AuctionsWhen I was 30 years old, I worked from 8am to 5pm, endured an hour’s tedious commute to/from, and generally worked every Sunday. I did all the cooking, shopping, housecleaning, and gardening. The anti-Christ and I entertained often, the detail of which were left to my discretion and execution.

YET somehow I managed to get everything done on both my work and home agendas. The anti-Christ and I went to the movies each week, attended most of the Kennedy Center events, and made time to go shopping in Pentagon City.

We also traveled frequently and impulsively: monthly to New York and three or four times a year on some indulgent holiday to Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard, Key West, or somewhere more exotic. The AC got all the airline travel points in the separation decree. I got the playbills.

Today at age 59, I am retired and have given up volunteer work. Jon does all the driving, marketing, and household missions. I spend most of my oddly-configured day on various writing projects and watching CNN. I’ve been an election junkie since 1968, but Jake Tapper somehow makes it sexier and wittier.

I no longer can cook anything substantial … and certainly not a complete dinner with courses. The oven is almost exclusively for heating DiGiorno frozen and self-rising sausage pizzas.

These factors weighed and considered, I still end my day with frustration and self-flagellation because I leave so many tasks incomplete or untouched.
Time now gets away from me and does so rather quickly.

I am never able to reach forward and just grab it.

What I can do, however, is reminisce back to a time when I could do it all. Of course, I am much, much happier with my beloved.

(“Three Studies of Lucian Freud” by Francis Bacon, 1969.)

Purity Rings, Schotz Beer, and Grass Stains


“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”

Yikes, so starts the third most obnoxious theme for a 1970’s TV sitcom. Bested only by “Three’s Company” and “The Price is Right”, “Ode to the Nocturnal LaVerne No.3” has a moment of tastefulness and gentility among the myriad slapstick, farcical, bodily functions, and Burlesque-esse moments that seem never able to bind.

If not in Hell or Purgatory, those themes surely are in heavy rotation in one of ten waiting rooms for the Apocalypse. Smoking of all types is encouraged.

I rarely think of these shows unless a CNN interview prompts a new search, rife with possibilities doomed to remain dusty and tarnished. Times were easier and arguably more wholesome back then.

Emily Litella had a field day with fresh material, as she taught us all the pitfalls and pithiness of a modern malapropism. What would she make of the Republican Party behavior behind closed doors? Boehner would stick his tongue out and just claim his corner of the Chamber’s grand entrance. Silliness.

And now, Mr Bush is making an issue out of that Promissory Parade of Party Principles and the collective vow for the losers to pledge support to the eventual nominee. Pledge! As I think of the concept more and more, it makes me chuckle.

All I can think of is a Pledge of Purity ring and all that one might represent. I imagine that there’ll be new politico buzzwords for 2016: chaste, virginal, hard, soft, moist, and countless others that are queued to become mainstreamed and sweet Merriam fodder.

Would Jeb accept a purity ring from Donald? Would Carly kick the ring trade up a notch or two? “Ankle bracelets for Purity”? Really?

Oy ve. I’ll be humming TV themes all night: “Welcome Back, Kotter” “Love Boat”, “Nanny and the Professor” and … Ya know! It’s amazing how quickly we recall so many forgettable songs.

That will provide me with an engaging Friday afternoon mission. I’ll putz and ponder the possibilities.

“And we’ll do it our way. Yes our way
Make all our dreams come true
For me and you.”

Jeb and his Purity rings. Just how big are all of these Republican fingers? Just curious.

Skipping Along Moon River’s Banks


I love women. As a gay man, I might foolishly offer generalizations seemingly due the “fairer” sex. Wiser, more compassionate, fairer, kinder, more loyal, less uptight, more nurturing … Hell, they present a more appropriate creativity with the palette that is “style”.

Of course, all of that is seeded from childhood when we first realize that the mother/son or father/daughter paradigms are correct: both primal and essential to survival.

Most menfolk are attracted to a certain type of woman. In my case, Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly is sublime and non pareil. The resulting ideal is bold, yet innocent.

Without my trademark “gilding the lily”, probably another 748 adjectives apply, as most of us have pondered this several times.

The Universe has indulged me often. As an adult, I’ve worked with Liana H, Anna K, Julie H, and Carol H just to point out a few.

Liana and I worked together in Washington, DC. One day she came in wearing a smart Chanelish suit, wig, and pillbox hat. It was the only subject of conversation for days. I think most of us would like to have such confidence in paying homage.

Sixteen- year old Julie was an employee in Chicago. She treated all of life as a genre of art. And she was its impresario-in-waiting. I was 28 and considered taking her to my 10th high school reunion. I cautiously passed on the event, not wanting to even lightly spark mention of the inappropriateness of the age difference. She was, however, quite game.

The other two are from my days in Greensboro. Anna was stunning and, oddly, exotic for a doe-eyed, pierced, and Southern “ginger-ette”. During a horrific time of my life, she was the only person I felt could handle the rawness of exposing her innocence to the sadness, grief, panic, and total uncertainty that defined my world in 2001.

My partner was rapidly deteriorating from Progressive Multi-Focal Leukoencephalopathy or PML. Please google it. It is far too difficult to verbalize and explain the disease and its rapid spiral into anguish.

Anna brought smiles and compassion to a still household paralyzed with the anticipation of death.

Lastly, Carol is the epitome of a Bohemian, intrepid, and kind grandmotherly photographer. I shall be brief.

In the late 90’s, she took a rather extensive body of artful nude pictures of me. Actually, I was “nekkid”. In one shot my jeans were bunched at my ankles while I wore a mushroom-brown fedora. It was titillating, well for me. There wasn’t the slightest reveal of genitalia. We did, though, exhaust ways of draping a duvet without adventuring into a lurid and unseemly nadir.

But I obsess.

What started as a goofy albeit private moment of “Georgy Girl” flashbacks took a shower, dressed in something sensible and Head-like, and turned on Liam, my iPod. Of course, such MP3 players all aim to mature into moderately flashy and trendy timepiece.

The playlist was a “no brainer”: gems from the Zombies, Lou Reed & the Velvet Underground, the Poppy Family, Timi Yuro, and the Ronettes. Add four or five classic Led Zeppelin and the Who tunes and select shuffle. Then pay homage to inspired M.R. covers by Katie Melua, the Honey Trees, Elton John, and the Birds & the Bees.

Such a late afternoon soundtrack would lead to Mancini mayhem of the Mid-Century ilk.

Holly would’ve loved it. With Cat soundly lap napping.

(Image: “Curved Light of the Night” by Kobayakawa Kiyoshi, 1932.)

A Night at the Opera

I have no doubt that if my beloved and I were to go to the opera, we’d be headed home in a vehicle not unlike those imagined and illustrated by Monsieur Roubille. We’d surely lean towards an amply fitted hard top, as altitudes and precipitation are known to mess with one’s navigation.

You and I can, for now, simply overlook any challenges to multi-tasking while wearing a cummerbund, even if it is my special turquoise one. It spoke to me at a Barney’s sale and I answered out of habit.

Yes, a brightly fabricated touch would punctuate the occasion. I imagine that such a festive, albeit fictional adventure would be soundtracked by some national opera company’s rousing performance of “Nixon in China”. It would’ve been a mirthful and frolicsome night like no other.

That is except for any mention of the anti-Christ and the night the two of us caught that very involved piece in its infancy. George and I had been to New Heights, a favorite Calvert Street bistro in those days. We had driven across town, parked, and were seated just as the lights flickered.

Of course that was at the Kennedy Center over twenty years ago. The memory still lingers these days as if it were some traumatic procedure. It was, however, the most symbolic sign and last of many straws that our once union had become a chasm of soured, partisan proportion.

Forgive me if my recollection cuts short. This is one of those phantom nights on which such a memory is a warble … rather removed from any “days in the sun”.

Say “goodnight”, Gracie.

(Image: “Home From the Opera in the Year 2000” by Auguste Roubille, 1912.)

Miss Muffin and the Belles of Marklewood


A while back, we had an interloper here at Marklewood. The outdoor pusses were the first to encounter her. A day later, the two of us had a determined stare-off when I first stepped onto the front stoop that dawn. As I slowly inhaled the moment’s nicotine, she guardedly peered at me from behind the giant cast iron plants that define the driveway’s foot. I stood up to fetch my coffee. She jerked, twitched, and scurried from my sight. That was when I first heard that damned bell!

Yes indeed, she is a “lost, but not yet found” cat: a diminutive marmalade with white boots, an unassuming face, and a bell secured to her neck with a pale pink ribbon. “How embarrassing!”, I thought, “to be thus branded in a juvenile and fey (if not “girlie”) manner.” As I approached her, she darted under the house, to the crawl space where those very same outdoor pusses often seek refuge, warmth, and safety.

Hmmmm. She must’ve spent the night since she knew exactly where the primary access points were! I imagined that she, Eve, and Lunesta braided each other’s fur and gossiped about the misfortune that prompted Precious to change her name and head downtown. At some point, they certainly giggled and mused of the neighborhood toms. Moreover, I assume they tried in vain to loosen the ribbon and remove the jingle.

When the air finally warmed and the sun was dancing atop the pine trees, I returned to the front stoop, this time with the cats’ breakfast. The seven regulars dashed toward and circled the food bowl, tails swaying in June Taylor synchronicity. As I again sat on the stoop (contemplating life, liberty, and the pursuit of a better credit rating), that bell stirred my concentration. She instinctively ran to the bowl, as if she had been a long-term guest, but I had to leave any detective work until that evening.

It was almost time to head across the wide span of Raleighwood to my new job. I warned Jon about this mystery puss, jokingly referring to her as”Twinkle” or “Muffin”. She was an innocent “valley puss”, unfairly tagged by those who rescued her from a shelter. And there I was making light of her situation!

That night, long after I had returned, I took an extra large scoop of kibble outside, hoping the cats would forgive my tardiness. As always is the case at sunset, two came from chairs in the garden. Three, from the nearby woods. One jumped down from atop the storage shed. The last one raced from the jasmine-covered swings, her abandoned seat still rocking “fro and to”. As the seven were soon scarfing and gobbling with barely a chew, I again heard that bell!

Had she been at Marklewood all day? Was she ever going to return to”Muffinwood” or wherever her home is? Nonetheless, I made certain she ate, quite confident that if she needed shelter that her four-legged hosts would be hospitable and offer her shelter in the inn. But wait! She was too, too small to be “with child” although I was having irreverent musings. To the contrary, she appeared prematurely spayed.

She was clean and obviously well-cared for. My cats were neither scared nor intimidated by her so she seemingly possessed decent social skills. And of course, the ribbon indicated that she was loved and likely missed. I immediately visualized a weepy and sullen young girl with pigtails, or a lonely housecat who was missing his playmate, if not little sister. Oy ve!

Essentially for the next few mornings and evenings, the routine was the same. At mealtime, the pusses came from every direction with “Pinkie”pulling up the rear. Maybe her name was “Tinker”, “Belle”, or some combination therein. Or even “Rosey”. All I knew was that she was entirely too comfortable here.

I chuckled as I imagined her warbling “Take the Ribbon from My Fur!”

A few days later, she stopped coming when I fed the others. I no longer heard that bell announcing her proximity. I assumed she finally went home. That night as I sat on the stoop extinguishing my last cigarette of the day, I wondered if Eve and Lunesta would ever again have such a slumber party.

The next morning, I was checking email when I heard a loud knock on the front door. Jon was still asleep so I literally ran downstairs, at least as quickly as I could without tripping or accidentally stepping onto the creaky steps. Through the window I could see a big burly guy with a shaved head and tattoos. (Let’s just call him “Bubba”!) I opened the door and, with certain expectations, offered a reluctant “Yes?”

“Have you seen a small orange and white cat around here? She has a pink ribbon collar and a little silver bell.”

Oh my. I never saw that one coming. I recounted her plight but assured him that she had been gone for over twenty-four hours. I could see that he was worried, tearful, and “beside his big, beefy self”. I was surprised by the irony of the situation but knew what he was feeling … all too well.

I assured him that if she ever returned, she’d at least be well fed and safe from the roving raccoons and conniving coyotes. I told him that, if she ever got lost again he was welcome to survey our yard for a glimpse of ribbon. Or walk up our driveway and listen for the jingle.

That night, as I struggled to fall asleep, I wondered if she indeed ever did make it home and hoped that the Universe would care for her.

The next morning, since I was going to enjoy a day off, I slept a little later than usual and headed outside with my coffee, cigarettes, and a big scoop of cat food. Eve, Thom, Leopold, Yorick, DeWilde, Precious, and Sylvester Sue all came running. I count them at every meal, as if “taking attendance”, since we live in the hinterlands and are surrounded by woods. That evening, all seven were accounted for and present for chow time. Then I heard a faint jingle, listening as it grew louder and closer. She confidently rounded the corner and headed for the food dish.

She looked at me with a sweetness and a gratitude as if to say: “Call me Madam. Call me Miss Tibbs. Even call me Miss Ross. Just don’t call me Muffin!” She then squeezed in between Eve and Yorick, taking her place in the ritual.

I quickly ran inside, forgetting to avoid the creaky steps. When I entered the bedroom, Jon was stirring and squinting his eyes.

“Honey, I think ‘Dr. Markle’s Finishing School for Wayward and Erstwhile Pusses’ has a new boarding student.” Perhaps, I was daydreaming again but I could’ve sworn she registered as Pinkie.

And then there were eight!

(Image: “Monkey Dog and His Mistress” by Lucy Gaylord-Lindholm, 2000.)

An Ultramarine Butterfly Sleeps in My Pocket

When I came across this terrific series by Australian artist, photographer, and activist Stephanie Valentin, fancy’s flight took me back to my years in grade school. My mother had many framed butterfly “boxes” in what I thought was a gallery, but was actually my parents’ bedroom. I was always dazzled by the ethereal nature of the tiny creatures which I had once thought were akin to fairies. The dedicated wall seemed to be almost animated with an iridescent and rich cobalt blue. Legend, urban and otherwise, had it that my maternal grandmother had brought the shadow boxes home from work in the 50’s.

Dorothy had been an Assistant Curator at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. during her Post-War years. Oddly, it was then allowable and customary that some (but not many) of the donated or discovered artifacts might be placed on permanent display in private collections. Across the Metro area, she and her savvy co-employees became, thus, curators of discarded artwork, porcelains, books, and curiosities.

Gentle Readers, you can only begin to visualize my many gazes of wonderment when, upon visiting, the two of us would explore the drawers of her weathered chiffarobe, the walls of teeming bookcases, or the unexpected and forgotten crawlspaces that only I might find. What a glisten and gleam my curiosity’s unlikely honor medal would receive in that cottage overlooking the Potomac River!

Before I ever experienced the blush of puberty’s angst, I too had bedroom walls and shelves filled precious “things”! It would seem that “yours humbly” returned to N.C. with what’d be precious booty to a child.

On these Raleighwood days and Marklewood nights, however, my earliest recollections of visiting or, for that matter, my grandmother herself are usually stirred the sight of brilliant Lapis Lepidopteran. Such memories and their prompts are unwieldily and infrequent.

I still have a few of the items, my favorites being her many 1st Editions and a few pieces of British potter Clarice Cliff’s hand-painted and etched Art Deco gems. The books are dusty. If I scrutinize intently, the other items seem to be appointing every turn in the house that my beloved and I share … with our indoor cats: Henry, Claudja, and Hermione (as in Gingold, not Granger). Those moments, though, are rare unless there’s a precious prompt, such as these fine pieces by Stephanie Valentin.

Tonight, I shall eagerly carry a butterfly in my ancient robe pocket.

(Images: “Ether Series”, Items No. 3,4, & 7″ by Stephanie Valentin, 2006.)

Callas at La Scala: Revealing the Myth’s Voice

From the countless quotation opportunities that Maria Callas (1923-1977) enjoyed, her hunger for an honest and provocative interpretation is quite evident if not “stuck” in some wallow of overly analytical and emotional deconstruction. It would seem, often, that Callas both invited and defied any exploration of either her style or intent. Her colleagues quickly agree:

John Ardoin:
“I don’t think she always understood what she did or why she did it. She usually had a tremendous affect on audiences and on people. But it was not something she could always live with gracefully or happily.
I once said to her “It must be a very enviable thing to be Maria Callas.” And she said, “No, it’s a very terrible thing to be Maria Callas, because it’s a question of trying to understand something you can never really understand.” She couldn’t really explain what she did. It was all done by instinct. It was something embedded deep within her.

Martina Arroya:
“I adored this lady, and I respected her work ethic. She always wanted to improve her understanding of a piece. ‘Casta Diva’, for instance, what interested me most was how she gave both the runs and the cadenzas words.”

Cecilia Bartoli:
“Maria Callas remains an icon with an instantly recognizable voice. But she was also the first opera singer to be equipped with the ingredients of international celebrity: charisma, glamour, wealth, she had it all, together with the touches of scandal and tragedy that made her story so compelling. Since her time, every female opera singer has been measured against this powerful role model.

“Callas modernized our metier. Her life was a tireless creative search. She was one of the first to recognize the importance of being an actress as well as a singer, and was uncompromising in her belief that, in order to achieve a complete dramatic performance, all aspects of the operatic genre require equal attention. She was a pioneer in restoring forgotten repertoire and in exploring new ways of musical interpretation. To this day, I find that many of her exemplary recordings are astounding.”

Leonard Bernstein:
“Callas? She was pure electricity.”

Carlo Berganzi:
“Callas studied the text, the meaning of the words, and as a result, she became a diva. She became the Great Callas. Because she studied the character, she entered the mind of the character, and she brought the character to life onstage.”

Leyla Gencer;
“Maria had in her blood, in her veins, in her subconscious all the tradition of the Greek Tragedy. She was born that way. In fact, she had her best time during 10 years. That was very short. But the “Myth of La Callas” will continue for ever, because she did so much! She was a magnetic force on stage, the others didn’t exist anymore. It’s a gift of Nature, a gift of God. It’s a talent, a great talent.”

Franco Zeffirelli:
“The magic of a Callas is a quality few artists have, something special, something different. There are many very good artists, but very few who have that sixth sense, the additional, the plus quality. It is something which lifts them from the ground: they become like semi-gods. She had it. Nureyev has it, [Laurence] Olivier.”

Naturally, Henry and I could volley and banter impressions of her style, intensity, and the academic follow-through of each role. But that would diminish her legacy a bit. As with a fine Montrachet, any attempt at appreciation need be a full grasp of the naturals well as the core of the music’s essence.

Henry’s words unfurl at the most thoughtful of paces. On the other hand, I tend to release any clutched response with hesitation and the steadiest of discern. And of course, I shall sit back, absorb, and then marvel at both Callas’ ease and strength. And at both her natural and effortless complexity.

Viva la Diva. Viva la Diva. It is indeed story time.

(Images: Renderings from Ms Callas’ rare and historic appearances in the mid-70’s: lavish costumes, for example.)

A Poet’s Scowl: Sunday in the Park with Pound

When I was a wee lad on the precocious side of three, I thought the world was warm and fuzzy, and confined to my family’s modest apartment on Capitol Hill. That was the Summer that I met the very man named Ezra Pound and realized that fuzzy also meant gruff and slightly dismissive.

The controversial and politically abhorrent poet joined my family for an afternoon picnic in Washington’s Rock Creek Park. Sadly, such recollections are yet fuzzy, faint, and somewhat lonely. I am the sole survivor of that turn-of-events that balmy June day.

My parents, Hal and Margy, were aged 28 and 27; while the ancient Mr. Pound was 73, if not a century. He was likely the oldest creature I had ever met up to that point. That would have been true if not for the National Zoo’s tortoises, which were surely better behaved and mannered.

The torment from his many years at St. Elizabeth’s still haunted Pound, monopolizing his conversation, and preoccupying the day. After a feast of homemade pimento cheese sandwiches, I frolicked at creek’s edge, while my seniors were lost in some transcendent and inspired deconstruction of the world’s ills. As I became bored and increasingly frustrated, my pre-school innocence gave way to my first chronicled incident of public misbehavior:

I walked up to the all too serious and cantankerous Pound and started tossing pebbles at him, disrupting the intense and profound conversation. Fortunately, no one was hurt, although the afternoon’s aura was thus broken. And fortunately, my mother had her Brownie camera and seized the photo opportunity, several if not many times.

As I grew older, I became increasingly mortified by my actions and their intent. My mother found the memory “more and more” ever-so precious. And my father included the anecdote in his private collection of Mark’s Most Embarrassing Moments. I presume Mr. Pound never gave me a second thought, at least not without an expletive and a gesture worthy of such a learned expatriate.

I am now 58. I haven’t ventured outside on a picnic since a grand family reunion in 2008. However, I still get aroused by the mere sight of homemade pimento cheese. I haven’t thrown too many stones, beyond the rhetorical, in decades. And I cherish still those yellowed and wrinkled photographs of that afternoon, now made fuzzy by both time’s scrub and life’s labors.

Lost and found, and forever seeking answers,
that pre-schooler trapped within!

Collection Horloge de Mamie: An Affinity Gone Dreadfully Awry

“When it’s three o’clock in New York, it’s still 1938 in London.” (Bette Midler)
Ever since I was a small child I have been fascinated with clocks, especially the decorative mantel variety. In a twisted manner, I always associated them with my great aunt Mamie. She was one of my grandmother’s three sisters and, like my grandmother, a blazing redhead for much longer than nature had ever intended. Mamie was beyond eccentric, having both married and divorced in 1931, and having never worked even one morning in her entire life.

Her house, near downtown DC, was filled with an extensive collection of odd clocks and timepieces. Of course, each was kept in perfect working order, obsessively cleaned and polished, and frequently rearranged at the collector’s whim. Unfortunately, the mechanisms were never set to a uniform time which, in the deep South, is often referred to as “God’s time”. Every few minutes and every hour on the hour, at least one would chime. This ever-so-definitive chorus of cacophony drowned out all attempts at conversation and made certain that our visits remained under an hour. I learned by age six to never even think of inquiring about the correct time.

I knew early on to never tell my mother about such visits. Dorothy was strictly forbidden to take me to visit Mamie which, in that constant mother/daughter power play, usually just served as a reminder. In early August and before I rejoined my parents in Chapel Hill, the two of us embarked on an arduous and complicated series of busses and a taxi ride. I learned to dread visiting Aunt Mamie although I was fascinated by her clocks and her tales of “life as a young girl” in Michigan, which often contradicted my grandmother’s own versions.

The last time I saw Mamie I was perhaps twelve years old, mind you she lived another fifteen years. I was, however, a rather orderly pubescent and could no longer tolerate the chaos. Not only was her clock collection approaching well over two hundred, but she had started rescuing stray dogs and puppies.

I was always relieved once we started out return trip. We never told my mother about the visits. And I can still see my grandmother shaking her head, with her red hair in a French twist under a cloche, and hear her stern assessment: “Mamie’d have a great deal more time if she’d only rid herself of all those clocks!”

Naturally, I find that collecting images of odd, grandly ornate, and just plain handsome clocks is not only more “budget appropriate”, but encourages a much more genteel decibel as well.

Oh yes. Londoners, please forgive me for my interjection of that awfully clever Midler quote. It was indeed hers to speak, and mine to grovel.
Forgive the title as well. The memories were so terrifying that I though French would sooth and ease the burns of such random nostalgia.

(Image: “Time Breaker” by Jacek Yurka

Hey Pimps, It’s Hard Out There For a Puss, Too!

These deprogramming seminars for feral pusses has really gotten depressing and counterproductive. They watch cultist television documentaries, leaving them desperate, having been robbed of hope, and isolated from their loving families. And without cable TV. Beamer, Tweedle, Yorick, Kitty Carlisle, and Lady Eve just finished orientation on “How to Lead Your Dinner into the next decade.”

They eat only dried food. The new militant owner is very against meat, fish, and anything killed for support like: birds, squirrels, snakes, and rodentia. The concept of looking ahead to a diet of fiber and vegetables, only creates more introspective and craving for: chicken, bacon, fish residue, leftover pork, any casseroles, and of course ice cream, if doled sparingly.

Meanwhile this group of Hookers, as in playing hockey, watchings tide find its neap and await its neap. They still hide their hopes that fresh water fish will come to them in somehow or another undisclosed escape like stowaways in a dinghy or unsecured power boat. I doubt they have yet to realize that ice cream, peas, Roquefort dressing, and hamburger remnants and bits of aging meat and fat “are not beamed” to the tonier clubs.

But they will quickly learn that whatever prompts them to slum the muckier and sleazier holes of port will only toughen their catty demeanor. Some starry-eyed toms and mollies hear and trust the reports: an urban diet of diseased minnow or elderly catfish and the “promised roam” of institutional life await some refined, urban dogs. They quickly scurried under the brush to confer.

They best pack their things and head home to those netherlands of Outer Raleighwood, which are bountiful and safe. The will realize soon enough that the Potomac River will be their first challenge.

Perhaps, the Sparrow, Peacocks, and even Yellow Finches best unionize or, at least, securely pool their resources.
The times for a pussy, they are a-changing, Mr Dylan.

“The sparrow is sorry for the peacock at the burden of his tail.” -Rabindranath Tagore