Today is Memorial Day. I hope you'll forgive my recycling last year's post, but things are pretty busy around my house just now. To see a beautiful tribute by the United States Army Field Band to those who have sacrificed their lives in service to our country, please follow this link.
Sad news. My sweet Grandma Grace--M's mom and one of the most devoted readers of my blog--died today after a brave battle with congestive heart failure. I will greatly miss her supportive comments. In fact I miss them already. One day soon I'll try to put together a suitable tribute to Grandma. But right now, words fail me.
M likes today's "Dilbert" comic strip because it puts a humorous spin on a sad aspect of the human condition, namely that people tend to be angst-ridden due to the stress of modern life, and that ignorance is bliss.
I like it because it shows a man and his dog out walking.
As my longtime blog readers may recall, M and J don't get out much together because they worry about what sorts of things I'll relocate while they're away. And when they do go somewhere without me, I'm pretty sure it's because they figure the expected rewards outweigh the risks.
Yesterday this was very much the case. They were gone a long time, and when they returned home they were raving about what a great time they'd had. M said they'd been to Daytona Beach and that this was the reason for their trip:
"You went there to get a magazine about some dude with a fiddle?" I asked.
"Not even close, Bud!" he said. "We went to a concert at the Peabody Auditorium: Joshua Bell appearing with the Orlando Philharmonic. And it was outstanding. And by the way, don't call Bell's instrument a fiddle. It's a violin."
I wasn't too convinced about the distinction. "It looks like the same thing Alison Krauss plays, but I'm pretty sure she calls hers a fiddle. What's the difference?"
"Not much," he admitted upon reflection. "I think the main thing is that a violin has strings, and a fiddle has strangs! But this isn't just any violin, either."
He went on to explain that Bell's violin is a 298-year-old instrument called "the Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius," which he plays using a late-eighteenth-century bow. M and J both said they'd never heard anything like it.
The concert opened with the overture from Rossini's opera The Barber of Seville. Then Joshua Bell brought down the house with Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major. M said that at the end of the first movement, the audience threw concert etiquette right out the window and gave Bell a long standing ovation. This was followed by an even longer one at the end of the piece. The only reason he didn't get one after the second movement was because it flows right into the third. Bell took three curtain calls, but didn't play an encore because he had to leave to get to a concert last night in New York. (Plus, M said, both Bell and the orchestra were probably worn out.) After intermission, the orchestra played Sibelius's Symphony No. 1 in E minor.
For a taste of M and J's musical feast, here's a video clip of Bell playing the concerto's finale with some unidentified orchestra. (If you'd rather view it at YouTube, go here.)
I'm glad my peeps had such a wonderful time without me. Truth be told, I needed an afternoon off. And I'm pleased to report that I helped them all I could by not moving a single thing!
Today is Mother's Day. It says so right here on my calendar. And in consideration of that fact, I'd like to wish . . . Hey, wait a minute . . . Is that a typo? Mother's Day? As in one itty-bitty 365th of a human year? Excuse me, but that seems pretty chinchy, when you consider how important moms are in the grand scheme of things. I mean, why not a Mother's Week? Or perhaps a Mother's Fortnight, or even a Mother's Month? Don't folks care about their moms more than once a year? Heck, I think about my own at least twice every single day. And believe me, if I knew where she was, I'd be so nice to her it would make your teeth itch.
Someone needs to start a petition to fix this travesty. But who do you write to get stupid holiday mistakes corrected? Well, that's above my pay-grade, I imagine. And bureaucracies being what they are, even if I knew how to go about it, it would probably take a while. For now, let me just wish all of you mothers out there a wonderful . . . uh . . . Day.
I'll close with a poem that M taught me. He says when he was a little jug-eared kid he'd sometimes vacation at a family retreat, a hunting cabin near Inglis, Florida. And one of his favorite memories of the place is that on the back of one of the bedroom doors was a plaque with these lines printed on it:
A POEM TO ME MUDDER
When me prayers were poorly said,
Who tucked me in me widdle bed,
And spanked me till me ass was red?
Who took me from me cozy cot
And put me on me ice-cold pot,
And made me pee when I could not?
And when the morning light had come,
And in me crib me dribble some,
Who wipe me tiny widdle bum?
Who would me hair so neatly part,
And hug me gently to her heart,
And sometimes squeeze me till me fart?
Who looked at me with eyebrows knit,
And nearly had a king-size fit,
When in me Sunday pants me shit?
And when at night the bed did squeak,
Me raised me head to have a peek,
Who yelled at me to go to sleep? Me Fadder.
M's latest musical opus is ready for show and tell. He calls it "The I'm Gonna Love You Forever Waltz."
"You think you used a long enough title, there, Butch?" I asked him.
"Don't get smart, puppy dog," he said. "It's a deliberate word choice, something that songwriters call a hook. Listen for it in the lyrics. When it works, it'll stick in your memory like a sandspur sticks to your foot."
There's some lovely imagery. He played the song for me again and poked his finger at me each time we came to the sandspur.
"Kewl," I said when it was finished. "There's something else different about it, too, though. It has a different--I dunno, flow, for want of a better word--from all your other songs. More of a whirly kind of rhythm. You know what I mean? It makes me feel like getting up and dancing."
He looked pleased. "Then that part must be working, too. It probably feels different to you because it's written in three-quarter time, which is also known as waltz time. That's waltz as in a particularly whirly type of dance. Hence the title."
He went on to explain that not many waltz-time songs make the pop or country music charts anymore, though when the occasional one hits, it can become very big. He mentioned "The Tennessee Waltz," which was a blockbuster for Patti Page; "Four Walls," by Jim Reeves; "He'll Have to Go," from the same artist; Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald;" and Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" as a few examples over the years. There are also some three-quarter-time gems that never made the radio playlists, yet lots of people know them, though they've probably never paid any attention to the meter. "The Star-Spangled Banner," "God Save the Queen," "Happy Birthday to You," and "I'm in Love with the Garbage Man's Daughter" fall into this category.
"Oh, yeah," M added, "and there was a little money-maker by Willie Nelson called 'Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.' Chew on that title! It has ten words in it; mine's only got seven."
While I was fact-checking all this prior to posting, I also found another waltz-time ditty by Willie Nelson called "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other," which I like even better than the one M mentioned. I still need to Google that Strauss guy whose name he suggested for today's title. I'm guessing he probably wrote waltzes, too.
But now for the good stuff. (As before, if you prefer to see the full-size version at YouTube, follow this link.)