Monday, June 28, 2010


For some reason, music has stopped being very important to me—at least in the way it has been for most of my life. I almost never listen to my CDs and records these days, and when I do they're background music; I used to dance around, and not so very long ago. Now I look at the covers and think, eh, I've heard that so many times. I rarely buy music on iTunes. I have a nice iPod Nano D. gave me for my birthday last year (supplanting the minuscule Shuffle I bought myself a few years ago), and my project to transfer my favorite records to it never got very far; it always seems so time-consuming, daunting, and, frankly, boring to complete it.

The last new CD I bought was this, sometime last year, I think. It's a nice-enough record.

I still listen to the radio in the car, but I find I don't sing along much anymore. The only decent music station in Washington is WAMU's Bluegrass Country, which is way down the dial from the main 88.5 station and comes in spottily but at least is original and energetic and varied (it's more than just bluegrass).

I can still get excited by a live performance—such as Judy Collins at the Birchmere in January, or, memorably, Joan Baez in Philadelphia the year before last, or just about any YouTube clip of Peter, Paul, and Mary in their heyday.

I feel lucky to have seen Mary Travers perform solo in the late '70s, a reunited PP&M a few years later, and Peter and Paul without Mary—sadly showing the lack—a month before she died; her death was a great, underestimated loss.

I adore this other, more unexpected trio featuring Mary, doing one of the great songs of our time. I have it bookmarked and sometimes watch it over and over:

It's nice not only that D. loves '60s folk music but that he's reawakened my love of it.

So clearly, I can get excited about music and musicians. But it's not what excited me two or three years ago. What seems to get to me now, whether I remember it from the time or not, is music dating from my childhood. What's that about?

Well, this I would have found very sexy (in an inchoate way), were I to have seen this episode of Johnny Cash's show, which I well might have at age eight or so:

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

"Good Night, Prosecutor": Ten Good Things

As I slowly resurface . . . ten good things since late March, the point at which my life reached overload:

1. Riding the Vamoose bus back from NYC on a Sunday night in April, D. and I eating still-warm H&H bagels with vegan cream cheese and scallions from, of all places, Zabar's (who knew?) and doing the Times crossword. As D. said, speaking for me, "It doesn't get better than that."

2. Please Give.

3. Finding four perfect-condition Stangl "Fruit and Flowers" teacups and saucers with a creamer and sugar bowl for only $26 at the Bethesda Op Shop, my first pieces in that pattern. The fact that I found them not in an antiques shop but in a mostly junky thrift store—and on a day when I was actually thinking I probably shouldn't even bother going in because this place only has junk—was a sign that I should get them. So now I seem to be collecting two patterns—I already had a Bachelor Button coffee service. D. has an almost complete set of Thistle. Though he introduced me to the line, I was the first to buy, last summer in Provincetown. I said to him, "It's the only thing we're competitive about."

4. Great Sage.

5. Taking Dad to a real barbershop for a haircut (instead of waiting for the next time someone comes around to cut hair at his assisted-living facility), putting an extra cushion we brought with us on the seat, telling the barber how to cut his hair . . . and remembering that about 45 years ago he he did much the same thing for me. And seeing what a pleasure it could be, amid his daily existence of mostly tedium and dozing, for him to be out in the world surrounded by male voices and be matter-of-factly yet expertly groomed.

6. The trip to New York itself.

7. During a mostly agonizingly dull eight weeks of grand jury duty, volunteering one day to read the role of the prosecutor when we were hearing the transcript of previous testimony in a case we were considering (the actual prosecutor read the role of the witness), and not only enjoying the heck out of it but receiving numerous compliments from fellow jurors. "Good night, prosecutor," one said to me at the end of the day. It reminded me that several years ago I thought about volunteering for an organization that records books and articles for the blind. Maybe I'll revisit that when things calm down more.

8. Slice some onion, sauté it in olive oil till it's soft, add some chopped green cabbage, cook it some more till the cabbage is softened to your liking but still a little crisp (in other words, nowhere near sauerkraut soft), season with salt and pepper, and stir in a little Dijon mustard and a sprinkling of fennel seed. Improvisation transformed into inspiration.
9. For the first time, on one of my days off from grand jury duty (to which I was committed three days a week), coming into work on an intense deadline day when I was just barely keeping up and saying to a colleague, "It's good to be here"—and meaning it.

10. One thing that never changed: that hour or two between Patsy's early-morning walk (usually between 5 and 6 am) and the time I have to get up for work, when the two of us get back in bed and breathe together—even better when D. is there, breathing along—knowing we have just a finite time in that peaceful state, but not yet willing to start the day.

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