My 3 Things - May 2016

1. LISTENING: Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson "Alexandra Leaving"
I have a category in my head for songs like this one: Mystical. Such songs are extremely hard to pull off without sounding cheesy or over-reaching. They transport us to a strange time and place. When I first heard "Alexandra Leaving" it literally floored me. Some part of me is still down there, trying to get up. 

(Want to hear other examples of this type of song? Check out: James Shelton's Lilac Wine (Jeff Buckley's versionNina Simone's version), Kathleen Edwards's The Lone Wolf, Suzanne Vega's The Queen and the Soldier, Van Morrison's Rave On John Donne, Rickie Lee Jones's Ghost Train, and, of course, much of Tom Waits's music. You're welcome.)  

 

2. SEEING: Jeremy Denk, piano recital at Carnegie Hall
I did not know who Jeremy Denk was until very recently and for that I am sad. His sharply articulate, often hilarious writing about his life as a musician has been an inspiration to me ever since a close friend turned me on to him. (He has a review in this week's NYT Book Review section.) In mid-April, I was lucky enough to catch his recital at Carnegie Hall. I went on a whim, in a rush, snagging a third-row seat, in full view of his hands on the keyboard. 

Though Denk began and ended the afternoon concert with the familiar (Bach's English Suite No. 3 in G minor and Schubert's Piano Sonata in B-flat Major), the show was really about the in-between: a quirky, winding tour of his mind cogitating on the word "ragtime." Denk started with Scott Joplin, of course (Sunflower Slow Drag). Wondrously, he then careened backward in time to William Byrd's 1591 piece The Passinge Mesures: The Nynthe Pavian, then forward in time to a technically staggering canon by Conlon Nancarrow. He played a number of other "rags" (Stravinsky, Hindemith) but my favorite by far was his haunting rendition of William Bolcom's Graceful Ghost Rag. Forgive me for not including a link; I cannot find a version of Denk playing it. All renditions I did find were too straight, decidedly un-beguiling. Denk's was a study of the dynamic marking ppp with a whisper of swing. He took the word "ghost" in the title literally: it was ethereal, otherworldly, breathtaking.

3. CONNECTING: with my 101-year-old friend Gladys
Gladys writes the best letters. She's my second most faithful correspondent, sending scarily prompt replies, written in a wonderful cursive, on the classiest letterhead. She grew up in an era when everything was accomplished by post so she knows not to linger over a response.

I took a 36-hour detour to Miami a few weeks ago to spend time with Gladys. What a remarkable person! So lively, so fun, so interested and interesting. She reads three newspapers a day, speaks at least four languages (that I know of), and can absolutely school me on current events. In fact, I bought and read the Sunday New York Times cover-to-cover in preparation for my visit with her.

How wonderful to hear her lilting voice pronounce Alabama Al-ah-bah-ma (Gladys is Cuban). She remembers everyone -- recounting, for instance, a hilarious car ride from one part of Cuba to another with my great uncle when she was in her 20s. She delights in everything -- the sharp tang of the Maine air when she visited my grandmother forty years ago. Looking around her living room, I see letters from and pictures of three generations of my family. On the threshold, saying my goodbyes, I notice my grandmother's wedding photo.

A week later, Gladys called. She said my visit was a "tonic." I'd been struggling to articulate to friends and family Gladys's effect on me. A tonic. Ah yes. That's it.

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Want to share what your 3 Things are? Let me know in the comments below! I read and respond to every one. I love the back and forth with you!  Stop lurking! Just do it. 

Question of the Month (QOTM): Who did you go visit recently just for the fun and connection of it? Tell me about it in the comments below! 

Say hi to me on Snapchat. I'm on there doing my thing: playing guitar, writing songs, lifting heavy objects, and connecting with you! 

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