Saturday, January 23, 2010

A perfectly good question

I posted a question to Facebook yesterday: something along the lines of "Have you ever met a genius? Have you ever met a saint? Have you ever met anyone who had a special aura about them that set them apart in this sort of way?" In the interest of brevity, I did not seed it with some of my own answers, and *no one* answered. One person pressed the button to say he "liked" it.

Which forces me to write about it here, of course.

I might have mentioned it recently, here or elsewhere, but at Penguin I got to shake hands with Paul Ruesesabagina, the Hotel Rwanda guy. He just exuded goodness, everything but the halo.

Two musical geniuses, I think, though of course I've seen more. With artists. you can often tell from their art. But the ones I met who really got to me were Larry Johnson and Luther Allison. I first heard blues at one of my summer camps -- one of the folk music counselors used to play a handful of songs on an acoustic guitar, elaborate ragtime fingerpicking and great lyrics... and I later learned he was basically playing Johnson's album "Fast and Funky" note for note. (No mean feat, that.) I got to spend some time with Larry in the 80s when he lived downtown and there were times when we'd sit and talk and then he'd just play for an hour or two. Best, most faithful of all the Rev. Gary Davis students.

Now Luther, I think, though also a great, great musician, also had a great aura of calm and caring. Almost immediately when I met him, I felt like I'd always known him and would know him for a million years. Unfortunately, we only met two or three times, and spoke once on the phone, before he died prematurely of brain cancer.

Some geniuses are not famous geniuses and some not-famous geniuses are so brilliant that somehow they tend to have problems dealing with others. Those were the ones I usually ended up dating.

There was one -- you can find stuff about him on line, I think. He became somewhat well-known many years after we dated. And what he was famous for ties in directly with his being gay. Yes, my well-known, gay, genius boyfriend. (If it makes me look any less stupid, I kind of figured out that he was gay during the time we knew each other. which was the very early 80s.) So I met this guy, Casper Schmidt, through Susan Hein and Lloyd deMause, who were friends of my mother. Susan and I were also very fond of each other, and she would often invite me to parties along with my mother (and my stepfather, if he was willing to step in enemy territory, among the shrinks).

Anyway, I met Casper at a New Year's eve party at Lloyd and Susan's, and he was kind of perky and prematurely grey and had this really interesting accent (turned out to be South African), and we kind of took a shine to each other. Casper was involved in Lloyd's Psychohistory group (real fast: an interpretation of history through Freudian psychology), and I was really impressed with his intelligence. He was really, really, smart. He was a child *psychiatrist*, which meant he was an MD as well as an analyst, rare in those analytic circles (where the analysts tended to be MSWs or Psych Ph.D.s). And had published poetry in South Africa, and made prints, and I can't even remember what-all else. But I'm dating him, and he seems perfectly happy to be seeing me while he's eying guys. I double-dated with my friend Leslie and she remembers "that guy who was so nasty to you."

So here's the end of the story of the brilliant Dr. Casper Schmidt, which would be funny were it not so sad: somewhere in the eighties when I was maybe a couple of years shed of him (and I didn't learn this until relatively recently), Casper, who has come out with a loud bang, publishes a controversial paper claiming that AIDS does not exist except as a psychosomatic projection of the self-loathing of gay men, something like that.

Then he dies of AIDS. So, maybe not so brilliant.

The famous brilliant person I met and spent some time with is David Lynch. I love a man with a great big brain, and I also love his taste and individuality. He is very special.

You don't see people with great spirits that often, and it surprises me that I didn't encounter more while working at a mind/body/spirit imprint. Piero Ferucci may well be one; we had one phone call and a bunch of e-mails. He wrote a book called The Power of Kindness that is just amazing. And I don't recommend woo-woo books very often.

I had a college professor who was like a shining light, so many ideas and so much information and such a lovely way of sharing a story, a room of 150 students would sigh as one. I'm talking a lot on Facebook with grade and high school friends about the teachers we had there, and I'm only remembering snips and dribbles of what I was taught. But I studied with this professor in the early 90s, when I was finishing up my B.A., and he was magical. That would be James P. Carse, retired but still writing.

Once I let go of my tendency to be hynotized by extremes, I was able to have a happy marriage to a bright, regular guy, who has strengths and weaknesses. But scarily smart guys can still sometimes make me dizzy, so it's best I'm mostly at home.

OK, I'm gonna write the memoir-thing, my recollections of summers and school over a period of about ten years This blog should have some entries of that sort, about camp or school, so I'll just write about other things here for now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Singing to the Dentist

I think officially no one is reading this blog. I got a SiteMeter account and it came up all zeroes yesterday. I used to do a very sexually explicit blog on Xanga (it was also anonymous), and that sure got read.

I'm a lot distracted these days schmoozing with old school buds and never-were-buds on Facebook. Maybe I should spend more time writing. And I've definitely got to get those old school buddies to check this out.

Something is getting weird at the magazine for which I write, Blues Revue. Apparently the editor quit and some people haven't been paid in 2 years and there's going to be a committee instead of one editor and it may or may not include the former editor from whom I parted badly in the 90s. But hey, this go-round, I've had a nice live review in print (Chuck Berry at B.B. King's), plus a bunch of CD reviews, and got my name on the masthead, since the editor was actually a fan of mine from the 90s. Gee! Apparently I reviewed an album favorably and the musician became his absolute favorite. I will never be a top-notch music critic because I simply missed out on too much listening; this owed to many years without a stereo, many years listening to nothing but old-time stringband music and Jelly Roll Morton, etc. But I'm a fine reviewer because I can organize information and write it pretty well. I can write a CD review in about two hours flat, including listening to the CD. Anyway, I will not be happy if I have to leave the magazine, but I don't want to work with this guy again, mainly because he lied to me a lot, and lying somehow pushes buttons extra-hard for me.

Jeffrey Frederick did a song called "Singing to the Dentist" which Jill Gross sang. (What a voice on that woman!) The pertinent lyric is: "I was singing to the dentist for the bill, said all I really wanted was some of those little pills, that you gave my momma for her root canal." A couple of weeks ago, my Bad Tooth acted up and started to hurt. This has been my Bad Tooth for about 20 years. The tooth itself has already been root-canaled, but there's been a low-grade abcess underneath the sucker for a long, long time. Without being too gross, if I pressed a little spot with my tongue or a fingertip, a tiny bit of pus oozed out, and that kept the thing sufficiently drained. It did get clogged up about 15 years ago, and I went to NYU Dental Clinic, where the student who worked on me seemed majorly grossed out that the abcess was draining into my "oral cavity," as the professor called it. They reopened it and gave me antibiotics and a rinse. No problem. In fact, every time I got antibiotics for a little bronchitis or whatever, the tooth improved.

My dentist x-rayed it and made a lot of tsk-tsk noises, which is a good way, by the way, to identify old Jewish men. They all make that noise. My darling late father-in-law actually used to say, "Phew!", like a comic strip. Back to my tooth -- there was a big, obvious pocket around the root. Dr. Kadaa said that I should see an oral surgeon, to see if he could (sorry) cut a gum flap and clear the infection (I almost have to be anaesthetized to think about it!). If not, he, Dr. Kadaa, can pull the tooth, and then make a bridge for that one (which is the lower left front) and the lower left molar I'm already missing. (I'm only missing one tooth now, soon two, not too bad.) Then Dr. Kadaa wrote me a course of Zithromax (antibiotic) and 20 Tylenol with codeine. (The pain meds are sort of the lollypop for adults.)

I have to be careful around drugs-of-abuse, but painkillers have never been a problem for me. I would never seek them out, but I'll be darned happy to take them when they are prescribed for me. And I basically take them as prescribed, though I will occasionally take the next dose sooner than I'm supposed to. So I saw the oral surgeon today, he said the tooth's not worth saving, and he wrote me a course of Zithromax and 24 Tylenol with codeine with one refill. Plus both Dr. Kadaa and the oral surgeon were very kind to us concerning the price of consultation and an x-ray -- I think each one charged only $40. Kadaa is always low-priced. I once listened with amazement during an appointment as he hondled with a disposables (gloves, masks, etc) salesperson to get the price he wanted. (Today's Yiddish lesson: hondle is to haggle with great skill). It was all that "Can you do a little better for me on the tray covers?" And that's why you pay $650 for a root canal there, because he pinches pennies. Don't know what the work I need will cost but I hope it's equally reasonable.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

more greatness

I saw Bob Marley around '77, and I saw Frank Sinatra and James Brown in the same week in 1984 (Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin opened for James Brown). Eddie Kendricks was very handsome. Nelson Riddle covered the notes Frankie could no longer hit.

My husband is seven years older than I am, so he got to see some things that I didn't. The one that of course stands out is The Beatles at Shea Stadium.

I saw and met a lot of extraordinary blues musicians when I was doing a lot of work for Blues Revue in the mid-90s. The all around best person I met, best performer, best human being, was Luther Allison. Luther had that greatness and even though we only saw each other a few times and spoke on the phone once, I felt deeply attached to him. I think a lot of people felt that way about him.

My cat Maya

I got Maya as a three-month kitten about 13 months ago. I did it all by myself.

When we got Lolly, some years back, I felt a really strong bond with her, but so did my husband, and since he was out of work and had never had a tiny kitten before, I let him have her. Which doesn't mean that she and I don't cuddle a lot; it just means she's Daddy's girl.

(Are people with children like this, I wonder, trying to win over this or that kid?)

Some time later, we adopted a pair of sister cats about 11 years old, Jaime and Samantha. This temporarily brought our cat population up to its highest level, five. Jaime was an exquisite calico (I said she looked like Ida Lupino, and when Barry saw her in an old movie, he absolutely agreed), and loved the humans, but hated and hissed at all other cats, including her sister. It was clear that Jaime needed to be an only cat, and we posted her gorgeous puss on Petfinder, and found her a nice home in New Jersey.

Samantha was a very skittish, slightly long-haired torbie, and did a lot of hiding. When she stopped hiding, she started taking to me. I had renamed her Tiggy because she was one, and it turned into a great love affair. She used to give me these melting looks and walk across Barry's lap to get to me. After a few years, she got sick and died. We cried so hard that the vet cried, too.

So a few months after that, I was walking past a vet's window, and there were two little black kittens in a cage, and I went in. The woman behind the desk said that they were a boy and a girl, but they all liked the girl better. So I held the girl and took her home and named her Maya.

Barry held back a lot to let me be with Maya, and it was enough to get her pretty solidly on the way to being Mommy's Girl, but after a while, he couldn't resist, and started to play with her. We have very different styles with cats: he's a player and I'm a petter.

Lolly is not liking Maya who is bigger than she is and who is so obviously adored by Mommy. But Lolly will always make out OK because we both love her so much. And Xena mostly sits it out. She requires very little fuss.

But Maya seems to have turned a corner: she's sleeping right next to me. She had been sleeping at my feet for months, occasionally over the covers and between my legs or feet. But Barry recently saw her sleeping next to me, and I saw it when I woke up this morning. It makes me very happy. I know I sound like a crazy cat lady, but Maya is a special friend to me. she sits in my lap when I watch TV and sits outside the door when I'm in the bathroom and races me to the kitchen so I'll pick her up. She is velvety soft and has a bit of a pot belly, looking much like a slightly smaller version of Kit-Kat, the cat Barry had when we met. I think that's why he suddenly started liking her: as she got older, she looked more and more like Kitty.

Maybe it's because I didn't have children that I like having a community of cats in the house, though three is a little much in a one-bedroom apartment. (We each had one to start out with.) They're loving and have interesting interactions and sometimes are just so funny.

Maya has two favorite toys. One is a tiny stuffed bear we call "Little Bear," who sometimes shows up in our bed at bedtime. Maya also loves ice cubes, and runs to the kitchen every time Barry fixes himself a soda. She likes to bat it around, and sometimes picks it up in her mouth and carries it from the kitchen to the living room, which is really cute. So one night, Barry calls me into the bedroom, where I see a wet spot on the comforter. I sniff it, and start laughing. I said, "It's her ice cube," and we both realized that Maya had figured if she could bring one toy to bed, why not the other? We now close the bedroom door when she has an ice cube. I don't think I could have gotten through the past year without her. She is such a darling cat.

Friday, January 8, 2010

places I'll never go

One of my favorite types of book or movie or TV show is the type set in a locale where I am highly unlikely to ever set foot. I adore just about anything involving Mount Everest or the South Pole or space. I have a good amateur knowledge of the Mercury program. The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts are like mythological figures to me, and I even share a birthday with one (Alan Shepard, first American in space). Just that visual of a rocket going up, seen on a small black-and-white set in my childhood, makes my heart ache.

But I'm actually watching a Mount Everest show of late, on Netflix (on my computer): the second season of Everest: Beyond the Limit. I'm starting to know my way around Everest a little, a bunch of the landmarks, where you have to start using bottled oxygen and the like. The big heroes here, although anyone who successfully summits Everest and comes back alive is a hero, but the big big heroes are the Sherpas. The Sherpas are just breathtaking in their abilities, spirituality, and extreme good humor. Because they have lived for generations at higher altitudes, their hearts and lungs are bigger and their frames are smaller, perfect for dealing with a low-oxygen altitude. These guys have strength and stamina that makes even a triathlete look like a wuss.

I guess I'm also pretty impressed by elite athletes...I always watch at least parts of both Olympics and used to have a pretty severe baseball habit (I mean reading box scores and stuff). I actually like seeing anyone who is the best or among the best at what they do. I made sure to see Pavarotti when he was still singing, maybe a little past his peak, from the nosebleed seats at the Met. I don't much like opera (though ironically, I ended up working at the Met for a short time some years later), but I knew I had to see the guy. If it had been 1905 or whenever, I would have had to see Caruso.

It's good to see greatness or to be in its presence. At my last job, I got to shake hands with Paul Rusesabagina (I hope I spelled that right or nearly right), the Hotel Rwanda guy. This man had goodness that just spilled off him. Sometimes I see an aura or get to a kind of trance-like place when I know I'm seeing greatness, generally at a live performance. (This is why I saw Bill Irwin three times in Fool Moon on Broadway). It happens a lot when I see Elvis Costello, though I can't afford to see him as often as I used to.

I really hope I can get out and hear some live music soon. It involves a lot of variables, like can I leave the house, how far away is it, can we afford it, is it something we both want to see?

I've been posting a lot with people from my old grade/high school on Facebook, and it's strange how much we're all bonding, especially with people we never knew before. And maybe we never knew them for the plain and simple reason that they were one grade below. Crazy.