Daughter’s birthday was last week, and she reports that it was the best birthday ever. She finished her last graduate school class and she was given an award at her agency for her good work. Both our children become unusually disorganized around the times of their birthdays. Too much anticipation, I guess, although we never made their birthdays into productions. I was glad daughter kept it together and had a great day.
Today is William Shakespeare’s purported birthday. April 23rd is also the same day he died 52 years later. It is certainly not the way I should choose to spend my birthday.
What is your favorite Shakespeare play or scene. Which is your least favorite? What was your best birthday? What was your worst?
Husband and I had no real shopping agenda going to Santa Fe except, perhaps, to find some nice, everyday place mats. We thought that Santa Fe would be a good place for interesting textiles.
Husband went to the Santa Fe farmers market and found these place mats you can see in the header photo. We have plain white plates, and the place mats went with them nicely. They came from Guatemala, and are made from rags. They are thick and soft, and are kitty approved for napping comfort if we leave them on the table between meals. They also reminded me of my childhood.
My best friend’s mother had rag rugs that she had made from worn out clothing. She sent bags of rags to a woman in Magnolia (Cedric Adams home town), who somehow wove them into throw rugs for the entryways into their farmhouse. I thought they were so pretty and colorful. What a wonderful way to recycle! Nothing went to waste in that household.
Do you know of anyone who makes rag rugs these days? How do you recycle? Does anyone remember Cedric Adams? Where do your pets like to nap?
Our grandson took his first steps this week. A couple of weeks ago, tim sent a video of his very adorable, curly haired, red headed grandson who had just started taking his first steps. The child was absolutely prancing! I couldn’t upload tim’s video due to WordPress rules. Here is what tim wrote:
my grand kid (ari)
took his first step april 1. he’s got it in his soul if not in his dance step yet
When I was six my parents arranged for the kids to meet a piano teacher. My sister was deemed to have talent, so she entered a program of piano lessons. The meeting must not have gone well for me. Afterward my father explained that I was musically impaired. His exact words were, “You couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” I had no reason to doubt him.
We were obliged to sing in my grade school, especially just before the holidays, when we performed a concert of Christmas carols. I dutifully performed, only I decided there was no reason to spoil the good singing of others, so I lip-synced the carols. Like Milli Vanilli, I got caught. That led to an epic showdown with my teacher, Miss Steele, the low point of my educational career.
While I couldn’t sing or play an instrument, I had ears. I thrilled to the popular music of my youth. I amassed a sizable record collection. In college I discovered classical music. Guys in my dorm introduced me to folk music. Occasionally I fantasized about making music, but mostly I accepted my fate as someone for whom that was impossible. Sometimes, to tell the truth, that seemed a blessing. I often woke up early in the morning to the sound of my sister plonking away on the piano when she would rather have been in bed, but piano practice was mandatory for her for years.
In the first week of graduate school I walked to the Scholar coffeehouse on the West Bank. The first act I caught—Koerner, Ray and Glover—amazed me. A day later I went back. The performer was a kid from Saint Cloud State who played 12-string guitar. The torrent of music coming from Leo Kottke’s guitar almost blew me off my stool. I’d never heard music remotely like that before, and it was one of the most thrilling events of my young life. I began hanging out at the Scholar, walking through blizzards if necessary in order to attend every gig Leo played.
It was inevitable: one day I bought a guitar, a classical model with nylon strings. At first I was delighted to be able to make any kind of music; just strumming a C chord made me giddy. I moved on to finger-picking, emulating my coffeehouse heroes. I grabbed every spare moment to practice. I took guitar lessons, starting with Carter family tunes and moving toward John Fahey compositions. Slowly, very slowly, I got better. I bought a steel-stringed folk guitar. Then—you knew this was coming—I got a 12-string. (I’d love to get back all the time I wasted trying to get that danged thing in tune.) And I practiced, practiced, practiced.
Alas, all those years when I did not sing or play an instrument had set limits on what I could accomplish as a musician. My brain and fingers could never coordinate well enough to enable me to master difficult material. I could do cheesy imitations of some Kotte or Fahey pieces, and that felt like a miracle. But I slurred many notes and muffed others. I had to cheat by simplifying the arrangements because my technique was so sloppy. After getting better month by month, I hit a wall I could not get past it. And I remained stuck there for years.
I finally realized the most graceful thing would be to accept my fate and simply enjoy the limited music I could make. While I was never going to play well, I was delighted to play at all. Then arthritis arrived, and I could no longer even play badly.
My performance career with the guitar now feels like some doomed romances from my past, romances that were fabulous in some ways but which failed. Sometimes things don’t work out, even if you passionately hope otherwise. I’m lucky to have those memories now and I’m sure I am a better listener than I could be before playing the guitar.
Do you sing or play an instrument? What has that meant to you?
We always seem to meet interesting people when we travel, and this trip is no exception. We arrived late in the evening into the Albuquerque airport and had to wait for our prearranged shuttle to take us to Santa Fe. We waited with a fellow shuttle rider named Abdul. He was an Egyptian man, about 65 years old, who had just arrived in Albuquerque from Alexandria via Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles. He was very tall, well over 6 feet, and a professional chef who had worked for years in Santa Fe and was coming back to spend time in a cooperative community of scientists and artists outside of the town. He gave us some sage advice on good restaurants to try, and which hyped ones to avoid. He described preparing food as being just like composing and conducting music. We talked about how he manages his diabetes and how he loved teaching classes in Mediterranean cooking. I regret not being able to eat dishes he prepared.
Our second interesting meeting was with a man named Steven, a white man who owned a dusty shop chock full of indigenous art prints and native ledger art. He was in his late 60’s and was whittling bear root, an expectorant, to make into tea to help clear his chest from an attack of Spring allergies. He and I had a serious talk on why the Kachina figure I have in our living room gives me nightmares (he said I had to change my way of living). His art prints were in huge stacks that would take hours to go through. Husband plans to go back for more conversation and to look at more prints before we leave.
Tell about interesting people you have met on your travels.
One of my children is very adept at pranking me on April 1, usually with plausible texts about rash decisions or changes in career that I fall for every time. This year I turned the tables and it was satisfying, albeit subtle.
On Monday morning I sent the following text :
“In honor of today I thought of sending you a text asking you to please not play an April Fools trick since my newly diagnosed heart condition couldn’t handle it, but I thought that would be a mean thing to do, so I didn’t.”
I got the following response:
Then, after a few seconds I got the following text:
“So, no heart condition I’m assuming?”
I assured the recipient (someone who is always concerned about my health) that no, there was no heart condition, but thought to myself “Yes!! I got them!!!!”
Tell about neat tricks you played on someone or tricks someone played on you.
Anyone who looks at my desk at work or at home would be correct in thinking that I don’t like to file and organize my papers. I only do so under duress, or when I want to make a good impression on a new client or house guest. I am proud to say that no matter how messy my desks look, I know where everything is. I lose things when I tidy up. Husband tries to keep his things filed and organized, and invariably can’t find things when he looks for them.
The other day I looked at the pile of papers on my home office desk and realized that it resembled the piles of papers I saw on the desk of one of my favorite graduate school professors. Seymour was a prodigious pack rat, and threw piles of papers on his desk until he couldn’t see over them. (He was an incredibly short man, so the pile didn’t have to be too high to obscure his vision.) I was always amazed when I went to his office and asked for a paper I had written for one of his classes the previous semester, and how he knew exactly what layer the paper was at, and that he could retrieve it from the pile without knocking all the other papers over.
Seymour was a wonderful psychologist and a very funny man. He spoke in a thick Bronx accent and a slight lisp. Once he got flustered in court and referred to a Canadian judge of Queen’s Bench as “Your Majesty” when giving expert testimony. I believe he is still alive, in his late 80’s or 90’s. I wonder how high the paper pile on his is desk now?