Jesus and the Postman

So-oh-so patiently.
So-oh-so patiently.

I went to Palm Springs a couple of weeks ago to check on the antique empire. I stayed with Robert. It was the first time I’d seen his apartment and apparently I said it was “like being in a store.”

He took offense thinking I meant impersonal and not homey. On the contrary. I meant like a candy store. I wanted to buy everything I saw.

His best story this time was about an affair he had with a man in his 80’s when he was only 20. The guy was a well connected Swede who took him to lunches at Greta Garbo’s Manhattan apartment. She was fun loving with a wicked sense of humor. The topic of “I vant to be alone” never came up.

The Swede’s connections were partially due to his work as one of the last bodyguards for Czar Nicholas II. At the time, everyone in St. Petersburg knew the Revolution was coming but expected it to be no big deal: a year or so of inconvenient exile, the new regime fails, the Czar returns to reclaim his throne.

Lesser royals led the evacuation then the palace staff followed. Nicky told the Swede to go on without him. He said they would rendezvous in Switzerland in a few weeks.

It didn’t play out quite the way they thought.

Robert: The Prive Collection

I’ve mentioned before these long drives are the only time my CDs get any use. On the way down it was a boxed set of Motown’s greatest. I couldn’t get over the beats to Money and It Takes Two. It was like hearing them for the first time.

Actually, I couldn’t get over the musicianship in general. It was stellar. When I was a kid I listened mainly to the lyrics in search of meaning, symbolism, profundity. Now I know it was the backing track that made those songs so great.

Where the profundity was in Please Mr. Postman back then, I’m not sureI loved it then and love it even more today. It just clicks. The rifle shot “Wait!” opening. The clever lyrics that are so silly but sung so seriously. “Deliver the letter, the sooner the better.” The shuffling beat. And, an added bonus, annoyance to grown-ups of the era: “How can you listen to that?”

Ellie Greenwich said every hit song had to have at least one stupid element. When she first heard Going to the Chapel on the radio and how they sang “gonna get ma-aa-aa-reed,” she knew it would be huge. It was Top 40’s one-two punch: dumb words, brilliant musicians.

On my drive back I played the Kathleen Battle and Samuel Ramey recording of The Messiah. It sounded so airy and clear. It made me wonder whether highly trained operatic voices are recorded with auto-tune these days the way Cher is. She needs it, they don’t. Still a little extra boost couldn’t hurt.

Why isn't he in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
With its inevitable riff that gets pounded home, a three minute Bolero-like build, and some of the most nonsensical lyrics ever, The Hallelujah was the world’s first great pop song. Why isn’t GFH in the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame?

I listened to it straight through until I got to the money shot, The Hallelujah. The repeat button was activated and for the next half hour I zipped up the 5 as it looped over and over. When I finally came to my senses I was going over 100 and the dashboard was flashing “out of fuel.”

It’s hard not to feel something emotional, religious or otherwise when listening to the Chorus. I choose otherwise. To me it’s about the triumph of man. All glory goes to George Frideric and to the women and men who can sing or play what he wrote.

The best part comes towards the end after the sopranos climb the scale with a call and response of “king of kings,” “lord of lords,” and “forever and evers.” The lyrics then become so repetitve it turns into a cacophony of propoganda. Hallelujah, whats-it-to-ya. Words are rendered meaningless. How they’re sung is not.

It took Handel about three weeks to compose The Messiah. When asked how he could accomplish something so astonishing in such a short time he replied, “I was moved.”

I hope he pronounced it “move-ed.”


From the Evans and Brown Tiburon Ray Collection: Beluga.
From the Evans and Brown Tiburon Ray Collection: Beluga.

I learned to dance by watching my cousins groove out to the Everly Brothers in their basement rec room. I was 9, they were about 5 years older. I was not savy enough to tell if they were full blown bad girls but they were definitely flirting with the wild side. And they were so cool.

The most valuable lesson they taught me was the upper body, especially arm movement, had little place in top 40 dance. Their wrists remained relaxed by their waists at all times. As if they didn’t give a shit.

If you looked at their intricate footwork, however, they did give a shit. That’s where the action was. There, and in the hips.

Years later after I’d moved to California, I would sometimes find myself in a new age-y, rural commune type bar. Like in Bolinas. Or Guerneville. I would look in dismay at the dancers as they violated every tenet I’d learned in that basement rec room.

I was especially peeved by the crusty looking hippie chicks who would sidewind their way solo across the dance floor. Their blonde hair so damaged it was immobile. A sharp contrast to the suede fringe on their cowgirl jackets which flew.

Their moves were more athletic than dancer as they traversed the floor diagonally at rapid speeds. When they reached the edge they’d do a break-neck reverse course, arms flailing constantly.  Through the entire song they never broke their gallop.

The rest of the crowd would step back and watch.  Not so much in appreciation but in resentment that this floor hog was taking up most of the real estate.

I’ve decided to go with the faux shagreen Evans and Brown wallpaper for the bedroom. I know there are those who chagrin the shagreen (certainly not Peru, Indiana’s Cole Porter). But PETA be damned. I’m going with the fake stuff anyway.

Working with the fish scales made me think of the Wilson sisters. Their Ponderosa beat was the perfect foil for those hippie chick bolters who wanted to break free.

Oooooo! Barracuda!!



Nose Job

"A nose for news. A heart for art." Jim Jordan, 1975
“A nose for news. A heart for art.” Jim Jordan, 1975

You’ve got to start somewhere, as Michael Jackson might say.

You’ve got to end somewhere too, as Joan Rivers would probably add.

I had my first plastic surgery today. Medically necessitated and paid for with Trumpacare Dollars.

Dr. Winnie removed a carbuncle from the base of my nose. It existed as a tiny bump for almost two decades but took on a teenage growth spurt recently.

Patient and lesion are both doing benign.

What hath God wraught?
What hath God wraught?

With Cockle Shells

Take the picture! Take the picture!
Take the picture! Take the picture!

One of my favorite television series was Audrey Hepburn on PBS hosting tours of the world’s great gardens. I think it only aired once, I’ve never seen it again. I’ve searched on Netflix, Amazon, and Youtube to no avail.

She was never that strong as an actress but was absolutely beguiling in every frame of film she was ever in.  Her image demanded rapt attention and always held mine.

What made her such a great hostess for the gardens series was her voice. Her Belgian/Dutch/British take on American English was unique. Anyone else doing it would probably sound pretentious. She came across as genuine and convincing. And could do controlled exuberance like no other.

Awaiting the wisping waft of Charlotte"s chiffon.
Awaiting the wisping waft of Charlotte”s chiffon.

We need Audrey now to conduct the tour of the gardens at 55 Laguna. Work has begun in earnest over the last few weeks. First on the courtyard promenade in the back and last week on the rooftop outside my windows on the street side.

Of course the plants are young and the design is raw but one can almost see George and Charlotte Schultz strolling through the geometrically laid out courtyard.  At one of their important functions. Those grueling five-minute photo ops do SO much for charity.

I’ve enjoyed watching the project take shape. Cranes lifting bag after bag of soil on to the roofs. The white plastic enveloped roots of the plants being organized in formation. The exotic grasses. The workmen.

One in particular has captured my imagination. His work with a hoe is a sight to behold. And what he can do with a succulent, well…

Building Management has said they aren’t cleaning our windows until all the construction is finished. So my photography must be seen through the filter of grimy glass. Still, the beauty shines through, and some say is enhanced by, a layer of filth.

With that I give you,

The Gardener