Sunday, January 29, 2012

Broadway Lullaby

'Come on along and listen to 
The lullaby of Broadway.
The hip hooray and bally hoo, 
The lullaby of Broadway.
The rumble of the subway train,
The rattle of the taxis.
The daffy-dills who entertain
At Angelo's and Maxie's.

When a Broadway baby says "Good night,"
It's early in the morning.
Manhattan babies don't sleep tight until the dawn:
Good night, baby,
Good night, milkman's on his way.
Sleep tight, baby,
Sleep tight, let's call it a day,
Listen to the lullaby of old Broadway.'

Just warming up here, you know....dialing up 'The Lullaby of Broadway' yields up Jerry Orbach in younger days belting it out in 42nd Street.  'Listen to the Lullaby of Old Broadway!'  If you can't hear it right now, open up a new tab on the computer and do it.

So, all right, we aren't going to hear 42nd Street, even though its high on my life list, but we are going to fulfill an ongoing daydream, hop a flight to New York, and take in a show on Broadway.  This week.  And not just any music:  the music of GERSHWIN' s Porgy and Bess.
We're going to be in the theater with  Summertime, I Got Plenty of Nuthin', It Ain't Necessarily So, and finally, 'I'm on My Way'. The soaring choruses, the electrifying melodies, and, in this case, the marvelous instrument that is Audra McDonald's voice.

I may be overselling this event, or over anticipating? Is that possible? You be the judge.

 Here's the Carlyle Hotel, a block from Central Park on Madison Avenue.  Art Deco jewel, ready to be photographed in shameless tourist fashion.  Back in the day, a tourist required a better wardrobe than the Griswolds sport.  As an audience member  at the Richard Rodgers theater and patron of the Carlyle, I've been doing some window shopping for something appropriate to the Gershwin era.  See what you think of these vintage gowns.

Velvet 40s opera coat
Nice huh?  The blue velvet is so elegant, but we are attending a matinee, so perhaps the midlength brown lace would be more appropriate?  Either way, it is still winter in New York so I'd better add this:  

Mysterious w/ veil?

It would cover a bad hair day

I rather like the velvet over one ear

But wait....silly me.  I can't possibly don these vintage 1930s or 1940s duds without a HAT!  Do you have any idea how many vintage hats there are on the web? How does anyone choose?  I'm not a big risk taker...not attempting to mimic Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, so I'll be fairly modest and make sure my topper doesn't catch a concrete canyon gust.

We are people meeting ourselves coming and going.  The road is a job; a mobile phone on wheels. Point to point, we know the minutes involved with every mile marker. Each day is a dot on Google.  Nothing romantic, no mystery, no guessing what's 'round the bend. 

 But what travel can be is an escape, an adventure, an experience proceeding from and leading to 'Memory'.

Memory, all alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again.)
(CATS..on the calendar for February!
Omaha, not New York...:)
What's the harm if its 'Only Make Believe'?  

 "All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,".........

Its the magic;its the company; its the music; its the memories.  Its our turn to take the stage as bit players.  After all, Sportin' Life says,

There's a boat that's leavin' soon for New York
Come with me, that's where we belong sister
You an' me Kin live that high life in New York
Come with me, there we can't go wrong sister
I'll buy you the swellest mansion
Up on upper Fifth Avenue
An' thru Harlem we'll go struttin'
We'll go a struttin'
An' there'll be nuttin'
Too good for you
I'll dress up in silks and satins
In the latest Paris styles
And de blues you'll be forgettin'
You'll be forgettin'
There'll be no frettin'
Just nothin' but smiles'

Come along with me.........

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In the Bleak Midwinter or...Gathered 'round the Boob Tube

I hate to admit this, because I sound like the quintessential baby boomer, but what I most remember about the month of January is.....television.  Saturday afternoon television to be precise. Per A.A. Milne, 'When I was Very Young', Saturday mornings were for labor: home repair and improvement, the trips to the lumberyard and hardware store that these entailed, and the household chores small children are responsible for.....dusting furniture and around knick knacks, scrubbing the tub and, lastly, cleaning their own rooms. I can clearly remember dusting; my olfactory recalls the scents of weed killer and turpentine associated with the hardware store much more than my mind's eye can bring up the arrangement of its aisles.  The railyard was across the street and Sherwin-williams covered the globe with color on the exterior sign.  Then as now, there was always a project underway: I remember the divider my father built with 2x4s and maple veneer to create a dining room from the open kitchen/dining floor plan of our tract house.  The book shelves on the dining side held novels by Mary Renault, Ernest Gann, art folios, and other titles I can picture but not remember.  I know my father's set of Will and Ariel Durant lived in the dining room but I feel it resided between the two large teak stereo speakers that bracketed our meals with the FM classical stations of Chicago.  I know for a fact that the two volume set of A. Conan Doyle sat on that homemade shelf, as did the complete Mark Twain.  Those volumes are somewhere in my folks' collection still, I am certain, but they would never pass muster with a collector.  Despite sturdy cloth binding and stitching, the rustling pages are indelibly stained with......popcorn butter.  Winter afternoons in my mind are associated with a heaping green Tupperware bowl of buttered popcorn, paper napkins and a vinyl tablecloth, and the Texaco Opera quiz, erudite and as foreign to me as Hindu expounding from the teak speakers.

On those short and dark winter afternoons, we caught a respite from outdoor activity consigning cold and snow to the Saturday editions of Wide World of Sports.  ABC was a recent network addition in the '70s, joining NBC from Columbia and CBS in Jefferson City.  From the sandstone house deep in the country, we could practically do line of sight from the butterfly antenna on the black and white to its transmitter. As the wood stove in the kitchen snap, crackled and popped, we'd partake of such exotic offerings as ski jumping (the Norwegians had it), downhill skiing (the Austrians won and the Americans wiped out gloriously) .  Everyone was a critic, especially when the subject was figure skating.  Costumes, music, axels, death spirals, general artistry: we had our favorites and our superheroes.  We were deep in the Cold War and knew without saying that the Communist judges would never play fair.  Peggy Fleming created her own gold standard in skating.  It was not the first time in my life I recognized that the old saw "you can be anything you want to be" was a blatant lie, but it may have been the most obvious example.  No matter how much I FELT I could be a figure skater in a sequined costume and sleek color coded skates, I was always going to be lacing my skates over two layers of socks so tight I cut off the circulation.  I would always be that close to tripping over the teeth and winding up with a mouthful of frost.  And no glory.

Those early winter evenings left plenty of time for type of old fashioned picture show.  My folks would pull out the flat grey metal suitcase of translucent slide images.  The old projector fed the slides in one by one with a satisfying mechanical clatter of metal.  The blindingly white screen yielded to the larger than life, crystal clear, jewel bright hues of a  fall walk in the woods, or Buckingham fountain, Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield, light playing on the waters of the Lake of the Ozarks, laughing family gatherings, or the wildflowers of Mt. Rainier.  We would exhale audibly, ahhhh, like folks do at a fireworks display.  It is difficult now to remember how marvelous color slides appeared to eyes accustomed to black and white CRTs, photography, newsprint, even the color photography of the National Geographic

Laura and I were permitted to watch the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday evenings.  The staple tale often involved an anthropomorphized critter, usually a mildly cute furry one, and the trials and effort of its daily life and interaction with other more threatening critters, two legged or not.  The closeup photography was fine, but dogs, otters, and even horses, paled in comparison with animation.  Second best would be a remake of some classic tale like Pollyanna. I still remember watching Haley Mills play multiple parts in various permutations of the Parent Trap.  An accent seemed to make for a much more interesting life!!

Speaking of accents, I fondly remember my introduction to Masterpiece Theater.  Sir Kenneth Clarke brought his well considered examples of the very best Western architecture, music, art and philosophy appeared in our living room each Sunday during prime time.  His exposition of the great flows of ideas across the Continent and the English channel combined with filming intricate ornament and detail to bring the genius of the famous and the anonymous alike to this 20th century girl.  Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, Rococo:  I was entranced with the lexicon of style and amazed at the artistry that existed pre Industrial age.

Quite the other side of British television was the weekly angst of the Forsyte Saga.  Set in the transition between the Victorians and the Great War, it was a guilty pleasure to eavesdrop on this unhappy family, peek through the lacy curtains of their well to do home, and dream wistfully of the elegant hats and delicate fabrics of the ladies' costumes.    The subject matter could be quite adult and I always felt I was almost getting away with something as I hung on every nuance laden conversation.

This all sounds more educational and less fun than it actually was.  Even in the Chicago area, there was very little television by today's standards, but that made everything we watched memorable.  My kids watched the Smurfs; we watched Huckleberry Hound, also blue.  Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, Fred and Wilma, Quick Draw McGraw: all paled in comparison to the cast of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.  The animation may have been simple and two dimensional, but the humor was not......or at least I thought there must be more to it when I watched my father snicker and laugh a dozen times each show.  Does anyone still play these shows?  Surely there is room on the hundreds of channels for Natasha and Boris, Fearless Leader, Dudley DoRight , Snidely Whiplash and Nell.

"Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!"!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fast Away the Old Year Passes

Happy New Year!!

Each year the extended Hurst family gathers just before Christmas to pray and eat...or eat and pray, depending on the ability of the youngest family members to withstand hunger pains in relative silence. It has been tradition for Millie and Charlie’s grandchildren to read the story of Jesus’ birth from a family Bible. This reading used to end at the verse ‘and Mary pondered all these things in her heart’, but now extends beyond the initial verses in Luke to include all of Matthew 2.  When the youngest great grandchildren learn to read, we may have to begin with verse 1 of Matthew 1: ‘The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham’!  The moms and dads beam as the grade school kids navigate King James; the grandmas and grandpas close their eyes and remember these same young parents reading the same lovely words.
After Scripture we hold hands and offer prayer.  We thank our Lord for watching over us all during harvest, travel, exams; we are grateful for our health, children, homes.  It is a time of reflection and, to quote the liturgy, ‘altogether meet and right so to do’.
But some years are just better than others.  Fortunately, Bella prayed early on and spoke the words we were all thinking:

‘Thank you, God, that the Cardinals won the World Series’.

We wish all of you the very best in 2012.