Archive for September, 2007

Blue Screen-Blue Sky (song lyrics)

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

What can be done but agree;

The sky’s still blue, but does not see

with all our eyes- a moon so strong to

reflect electric songs,

Heard far and wide but still inside.

The lights have flashed the system’s crashed.

With nothing to say, the night’s rehashed

in black it’s hidden us at last.

Along the road, the rocks collide,

Explosions in space, toss matters aside.

Riders astride each other ride,still they waste this place in haste and hate.

While horses wait, until it’s safe, instinctively knowing to go, they escape

where we lingered there

to far and wide but still inside.

Be still the hoof that honors pride.

Can’t bargain with eternity, dealt for your mortality

if rocks have won the race.

Though we still see the stream, as the numbers fly by,

within the readout, what catches our eyes,

like rivers through this land where once waters through which we paid

we did see beauty’s trail, so tenuous and frail.

Too sumptuous to fail;

Still, far and wide but still inside

the perfect puzzle simplified we died.

It’s sound intensely magnified, drones on

and on,  it’s sanctified

By white noise nightingales, by white noise nightingales.

too sumptuous to fail, by white noise nightingales;

Piano's I Have Known and Loved

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Sometime between the age of 2 and 4 years old, my parents got me a toy piano.  It was white and shaped like a baby grand, but only had two octaves (from  G below middle C—to G above middle C).  I thought this was the most wonderful thing, although thinking back to how that must have effected the family, it is my guess that I was the only one with that particular thought.  My Dad taught me how to play ” St. Louis Blues” (oddly enough in the key of F#) on that little piano, which was his specialty on the piano, having learned that one from an old black dude who hung around my dad’s family’s General Store in Appomattox, Virginia back in the 1920’s.  This-playing the piano and singing, I saw as  my destiny-a pathway in a miraculous musical direction, as I learned that song and played many other popular songs (by “ear“) over and over, as much as I could get away with.  I’m sure there were times when my parents were ready to toss me and that little piano out on our ears, but they never did.

     As my Dad was in the Air Force, we moved quite allot, and each time we moved we pared down our possessions as much as possible, as we never knew what or how big our ‘quarters’ would be.  However, much to the disapproval of the  rest of the family, that toy piano came along regardless of it’s necessity. But a tiny toy piano can take you only so far.

     When I was twelve my mother found an ad in the local paper (The Orlando Sentinel) for an old upright piano ( a Wurlitzer) for $100, being sold by an old couple who used to play piano professionally back in the days of vaudeville.  Along with this wonder came a stack of unbelievable old great sheet music, some of which I still have, but most of which time and the salt water spray and constant humidity of Cocoa Beach turned into crumbling unusable fragments of the past. We were in Florida for 5 years and to protect the piano from the elements, we were told to install a special light so it wouldn’t warp or get dank, which we did (both put in the lamp and get warped and dank ourselves, by and by.).   Then my family and the Wurlitzer were transferred to Hanscombe Field Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts, where we stayed a little over a year; and then as my Dad switched to NASA we moved to Houston ,Texas, and I finally ended up here, in Austin, to attend The University of Texas.   In a moment of madness, love, and generosity, I gave my old toy piano (that I still had in my early 20’s) to one of my best friend’s baby daughter, hoping it would inspire her as much as it did me. 

     Oddly enough, the man who was to become my Husband offered to get my upright real piano from Houston and bring it to Austin, so I could have it to play, long before we were married.  That probably clinched the deal.   When the first piano tuner we hired here looked that old Vaudevillian Wurlitzer over, he marveled at how incredibly much used and worn down was it’s inside workings, wondering how it still managed to sound as nice as it did.  Of course a piano has it’s own magic, and why he wasn’t on to that is the real question. 

     Then we and my old piano moved to Westchester County, New York, as my husband wanted to return to his job at IBM research there in Yorktown.  We all stayed there 2 and 1/2 years before moving back home, as we couldn’t take the cold and the attitude of the locals there who really had strange and amusing accents (just joking- as we were the strangers in a strange land there-hard core Austinites that we were.)  So, this time our old beloved Wurlitzer and our new edition, a two year old girl  and her new toy piano and my husband and I returned to Austin. 

     Unbeknown-st to me, my husband surprised me one year with a baby grand piano for my birthday, trading in the old Wurlitzer was part of the deal.  I named her “Jazzebelle,” as it was a family tradition to name our pianos ( and cars.) Our daughter took piano lessons from the time she was 6 years old and became quite good at it, until she became a rebellious teenager.  And I renewed by love for the piano and progressed in my playing through out those years.  

     15 years ago we moved into our current home on a hillside with a great view of the ‘Hill Country’ and beyond,  I continued to play Jazzebelle until her whole upper register zonked out, when the sound board cracked.  My piano tuner, who has so wonderfully cared for Jazzebelle for so long finally declared her no longer save-able, as only a very good friend could and would do. Her name is Mary Smith and she virtually rebuilt Jazzebelle over the years, and knows her stuff, no question; ergo : we bought a portable, affordable electric piano (we named “The  Imposter”) as when you strike the keys with your finger, what’s really happening is a recorded piano’s sound of that note is made to copy that note as the internal computer is programmed to do.   Which, we all know- given my proclivity for cyberphobia, to say nothing for a few moments of well documented computer rage (see “Camp Carnage” on this site for evidence of this tendency,)-would never really work out.  So my husband, in a moment of rational madness, offered to take me to the Steinway Gallery here in Austin to look for a possible match.  I was so over come by the experience, I was unable to play any of the pianos there (*?) even I didn’t know why then, but the sales personage took me to a room full of Grand pianos, where I went from one to the other sitting down and putting my hands on the keys and closing my eyes at each and every one.   I sensed an almost magnetic connection from one particular one, out of the whole room full of gorgeous grand pianos.    This sounds so regretfully new-aged to say nothing of nuts, I’m the first to admit that;  but I honestly felt this jolt of power, an almost magnetic connection with that one particular Steinway Grand that we bought, being unable to play a single note ( much to my husband’s suspicion, to say nothing of the sales person’s) but trying them  all out for comfort, like one would at a Lazy-boy furniture store or something. I don’t know about you, but the more I think about that, the weirder it seems, no wonder I have monthly appointment with a psychiatrist, and that’s just a blip on the screen, the tip of the iceberg in truth.  Oh well, not to worry, what with Global Warming and all.

     Any Way, this Steinway Grand which is strong, and loud, and guides my hands from time to time, definitely has it’s own soul.  All Steinway are made, each one, from one single tree, so I guess that isn’t all that strange of a thought really, that it has it’s own soul.  It is alive, as it once was as a tree;  and has quite truthfully been my salvation in times of deep depression, trouble, and strife.  Sometimes I think It wills me to keep living and trying to do the best I can do.  Since I’ve had him ( this piano’s name is Ruben,)  I have had some serious and painful surgeries just to be able to continue to walk.  I had a fall that tore some important tendons on my right foot, which had to be fished for and re-connected which was worse than it sounds. Also in that same fall, it’s probable that I broke the head of my femur badly enough that the blood stopped pumping up through the marrow, I ended up with avascular necrosis (the bone done died in der) that spread to my pelvis, so I got to have a complete hip replacement as well.   As when one side of the body’s shot, the other side usually takes over the load, so I ended up with an arthritic left knee so worn out that the cartilage moved out or something enabling the femur to cut in to to the tubular and fibula (lower bones of the leg, south of the knee), making walking agonizing.  In hopes that this would help some, my orthopedic surgeon yet again tried to drain what we thought was excess synovial fluid, as my knee was so swollen and aching and this can help, at least temporarily; however this time what came out was mostly blood (not a good sign).  So once again I got the grand prize of yet another joint replacement, which was not as much fun as it sounds, believe me.  I had to re-learn to walk at least 3 times.  (Think of me as Saint Caroline, the  patron saint of the Lame and Insane, (kidding)).  I am hardly Saint material, but one of the best parts of my life has been playing Ruben, and it is my firm belief that playing the piano is the closest thing to prayer I can think of, or maybe another form of prayer.  I thank God for my life and that little toy piano my parents got me so long ago, as learning to play the piano and playing it well, or at least pretty dang good (regardless of style) can be the most enjoyable thing a person can possibly do. 

There Is Nothing quite Like Staring into the Eyes of a Shaking Rifle.

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

     Back when I was a kid ( about 26) I had a unique experience with the County Sherrif’s officers that gave me a rather grey look into the black and white letters of the law.  I was a serious Ballet student, and had just come home from my 2 & 1/2 hour morning class.  My husband at that time (an X-husband for 30 years) and I were sitting around the round table in our living/dining/what ever room drinking coffee, when we heard what sounded like a loud speaker, spewing unintelligible talk seemingly coming from our front yard.  As I was up and pacing, hyper-active nut that I always was, I took a look out the front window  and noticed about 6 uniformed men ( in uniforms I did not recognize as lawmen of any kind,  Austin  Cops wore dark blue uniforms and these were khaki-tan (sort of like Air Force Officer Summer Uniforms) pointing high caliber rifles in the direction of our house.  This I took to be a rather unfortunate way to spend such a nice Spring morning;  however, being (as I have bragged about many times here) a Military Brat, when seeing serious looking Uniformed Men in firing stance with high powered rifles pointed your way, while giving directions such as ” come out of the house with your hands up,” it is best not to have a debate with one’s partner or even hesitate in doing what was clearly suggested.  So I opened the front door in my brown leotard and brown long skirt having my hands up in fifth position (kidding) even though I didn’t know who these guys were– and they did not inform us who they were, until after the fact–that they were county sheriff’s officers.  You got to remember that this was back in the stone ages, and not too long after Charles Whitman pulled his famous routine;  so for all I knew this could have been a whole bunch of Eagle Scouts gone terribly wrong.   My (at that time) husband followed me out, after his coffee hit him and reality sunk in.    We were told to lay on the the ground so they could cuff us ( like a couple of Spring Pigs.)…( Oh ,the disrespect of  non-removable grass stains on my off-white tights, to say nothing of the dignity lost with the neighbors, not that we held the esteem of said neighbors even with out that unfortunate display.) 

     At the time we had a serious watch dog, a German Shephard  named “Mule.”   He was infamous among the local hippies, as he would guard the house, or truck, or what ever he was in charge of– as though he were Genghis Khan with more serious teeth.  Well, of course old Mule wasn’t having any intruding Eagle Scouts in his domain, and was barking, growling, and showing those infamous teeth of his in his fiercest stance as he stood point inside of the screen door.   There was some talk among those lawmen of shooting him, until I managed to sit up and request that the let me handle the situation and “my dog” by giving a known command that I figured he would follow, regardless of the presence of these courteous, friendly visitors.  They discussed this and told me to try it, but if he went for one of them, he’d be shot.  I shouted in my loudest most serious voice: “Mule, get in the truck.” And told the cop closest to the door to get behind and open the screen door, which oddly enough he did.  Must have been the volume I could produce back then, those where the days when I sang on the street with no mike, and was young and  in good physical shape.  Lucky for me that I knew how to give and take orders, as in my child hood I remember waking up to  the familiar loudly cadanced ” attention for the orders of the day, detail for tomorrow…”  for about 17 years, when my Dad felt like getting things moving in the morning.

      Mule followed my directions as I followed him with my eyes and then said ” Good Boy”: Mule was no bodies fool ,that’s for sure;  who wouldn’t rather be guarding the truck than sprawled out and ‘hogtied’, at that time cuffed on the ground, and for what reason I had no idea—(-maybe these guys were Dance critics?)

     Actually some prisoner from the county jail escaped on these fine guy’s watch. Unfortunately for us, he had coincidentally parked his company truck in our drive way, then ran for it around the back of our house and down to the woods that lead to Lamar Boulevard, which he could cross and be in an even more dense and remote forest.  Any way, as he was found to not be hiding in our little house, and he was no where in sight, they very officially changed their mode, and un-cuffed us, after which we were told what had gone down.  They gave me Sheriff Frank’s card and told me ” if ever the sheriff could do any thing for you, don’t hesitate to call,” etc.  So they unchambered their rifles and gathered like grackels to talk about what had happened, and what to do now, etc.  I noticed two very young officers among that group were still shaking from the adrenaline rush, or what ever…one of those younger guys had me “covered”, and I’m sure I must have looked pretty ” bad-assed” with my ballet bun, and turned out stance.  I remember ‘reassuring that guy’, and saying some thing like :”Say man, every things cool now, huh?”…to which he just met my eyes and kind of muttered, ‘Yeah, I guess.’  I think they were looking forward to target practice on the weird-os, but I could be wrong.  At least they apologized and didn’t shoot the dog.

      But that was a long time ago, when Austin was a nice smallish “college town”, where you could walk around at night with out pepper spray.  I had some personal dealings with the county lawmen, and the city cops lately, and this new generation of cops are not nearly so open to suggestion, as they were in those days, to say the least.  Must be the age thing, and some where during all these rough shod years I lost the Sheriff’s card along with my nerve.