Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September Song

Oh, it's a long, long while
From May to December ...
But the days grow short
When you reach September ...

I once sang an a cappella version of "September Song" at the request of a then recently widowed wife of a robust NC State Psychology Professor who had suddenly collapsed on the tennis court while playing mixed doubles with his wife and another couple. On this penultimate day of the month, the memory of that time and place and the huge crowd of friends and admirers assembled to honor the man fills my mind. I enjoyed a wonderful life in North Carolina where I found love and lasting friendships cherished to this day.

Many of my friends still reside in and around the Research Triangle area which comprises the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. There is a large academic community with N.C. State University (Raleigh), Duke University (Durham) and The University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), otherwise known respectively as The Wolf Pack, The Blue Devils and The Tar Heels. I had little interest in college sports at the time which meant I listened to opera broadcasts from the Met on Saturdays while others zestily rooty-tooted for their home team. I was equally blissfully unaware of the magnificent athleticism of the major players and certainly knew nothing of their fame.

While performing one evening at an elegant supper club in Chapel Hill*, I was annoyed when interrupted in the middle of a ballad (!) by what seemed a bit of a dust up at the entrance. "What was that all about and who ARE those people?", the outraged diva demanded to know. "Oh, Michael Jordan and James Worthy just came in". I feigned excitement that the two had chosen to grace us with their presence, but I had not a clue who they were. People found this very amusing and some even felt sorry for me. I later learned to admire Mr. Jordan enormously, even when he seemed almost single-handedly to defeat my beloved Boston Celtics.

Speaking of great sports figures, you might enjoy reading today's article in The Boston Globe about Ted Williams written by Dan Shaughnessy. I did see Ted Williams play because my parents were deeply loyal Red Sox fans all their lives, and they took me to Fenway Park for a Sox/NY Yankees game. How my father ever managed to get the tickets remains a mystery, but we were all so excited about the trip on the train from Providence to our seats in Section 15, high up but along the first base line. What a day. Good time to insert the story about my mother: She once had bleacher tickets for a Sox double-header. Probably went with a group of friends, all because she was the biggest Ted Williams fan. When she returned home, I remember how thilled she was to tell my grandfather all about it, while I sat close by, feeling certain her badly fried face must certainly feel tender to the touch. She seemed not to notice. I just remember her eyes were shining as she related the details of the glorious moments she had witnessed.

The Red Sox are out of contention for the season. Too many injuries and fierce competion from the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees (a/k/a The Dirty Rats). My husband and I nonetheless watch the games because that's what we do during the regular season, and because I remember how I long for all this during the winter months. Patriots, Celtics, some golf, certainly watched ALL the major tennis matches starting with the Australian (in awe of Rafael Nadal's talent). We should change our address to Sports Central.

* It was called Stephen's, After All

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Early Autumn

Fall cometh at last ... in fact, it will officially arrive at 11:09 PM this evening, when the sun appears to cross the celestial equator, from north to south; this marks the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere (which happens to be my home town), and I intend to wallow in the glories of the season: apple pies, pumpkin pies, roast turkey (with its varied, edible accoutrements), cool nights and frosty mornings, hot chocolate, football games and less and less daylight. This latter phenomenon tends to enervate some people, my husband included. For myself, there is no difficulty adjusting to conditions. I just spend more time in the kitchen and/or reading a good book.*


On August 14, 2010, my most esteemed colleague Abbey Lincoln died in New York City after a lengthy illness. She and I were acquaintances but not close friends. I very much admired the songs she composed, and found her somewhat gritty-textured voice most appealing. The first time I saw her was at The Village Vanguard with Max Roach, during the "black power" period. She wore her hair close-cropped which, like Carmen McRae's in the late years, never obscured either ladies' dazzling facial beauty. She raised her fist defiantly more than once during the set which intimidated me to the extent that I couldn't muster the courage to approach her between sets to express my admiration. I told her of this story when we shared a dressing room at Carnegie Hall some years ago. She gave me a wide grin and put her arm around my shoulder but said nothing. Whenever I hear Abbey sing "Throw It Away" with the lines " ... so keep your hand wide open and let the sunshine through" I always think of her ..... and always with great fondness.
I was also quite gratified when she told me she knew and enjoyed my work, and I will forever regret that she will no longer beguile us in person or on recordings. R.I.P. dear Abbey.


* Last fine book I read: "Solar" by Ian McEwan, and just recently, a typically quirky short story by Alan Bennett which appears in the September 9, 2010, issue of London Review Of Books. Titled "The Greening Of Mrs. Donaldson", she is a widow who takes in a young college-age couple as boarders. When they have trouble paying the rent, they invite Mrs. D to sit close by the bed to observe them making love, as if this were some sort of equivalent compensation. Go London Review of Books and search the archives under Alan Bennett. I think you can read the piece even if you are not a subscriber. Let me know if I'm wrong.

I'm into the kitchen to bake the first of the season's apple pies.