Thursday, March 23, 2017

LALENA




We're going back in time, to the quasi-halcyonic regions of my youth.

It's after midnight on a warm, balmy summer night in Southern California - where a gentle breath of moisture has drifted in from the ocean and apathetic palm trees glisten in moon-glided droplets of dew.

The little piano bar on Fairfax in West Hollywood is a yawning haven for restless night owls, who languish over drinks in a smokey room drenched in soft amber light and the anonymous shadows of dreams and possibilities...

....and I - accompanied by occasional cigarettes and a generous glass of Sangria - sit at the piano and let my fingers wander through melancholy melodies and unintended improvisations.


One of my favorite songs of my youthful piano bar repertoire was Lalena (pronounced la-lane-ya).

It was written and originally performed by Donovan (Donovan Philips Leitch) in 1968. There were numerous subsequent versions, including popular ones by Deep Purple and Jane Olivor. In my opinion, Olivor's version is superb - by far the best - no one can surpass it.

I had always wondered about the origin of Lalena and what Donovan's intention was in writing it. I only recently found out.

 Lotte Lenya

The song was initially inspired by the German actress/singer Lotte Lenya  (1898-1981). Donovan was especially intrigued when he saw the 1931 film The Threepenny Opera - in which Lotte Lenya plays the role of a prostitute named Jenny Diver.

The name Lalena is derived from Lotte Lenya's name , and is (in Donovan's words) "a composite character of women who are outcasts on the edge of society: Bohemia".

I'm including a recording of my piano arrangement of Lalena, just as I used to play it long ago.


Also, here's a "video" of Jane Olivor singing Lalena (this isn't my video - I got it from YouTube).


 

Monday, March 20, 2017

SPRING SONG



It has long been my tradition to attack the first day of spring with appropriate music and an interpretive dance alla Isadora Duncan.

Since I don't feel like dancing (I can hear your sighs of relief), I'll subject you to music.

Rustle of Spring by Christian Sinding seems an apt way to welcome the springtime season.  Sinding (1856 -1941) was a Norwegian composer. 
I would imagine that this composition depicts breezes rustling through treetops in restless breaths.
Who knows.....

This particular video is a shoddy rehearsal tape that I made in Texas when I was out of practice and way past my prime. 
Most of you have already seen this, but just be polite and pretend you haven't.

I should at least get kudos for successfully turning the pages....

If you don't like my music (which is a complete impossibility), you can marvel at the photos I took recently.


I took these pics from the back porch last Thursday, just after the sun came up. It was a frigid 14 degrees (Fahrenheit), very breezy, with a deep blue sky.



Actually, it's still too damn cold to be the first day of spring - - and I should probably be dancing simply to ward off a frostbite.

Warmer weather is predicted soon, but I won't hold my breath.

Keep cozy and enjoy the spring equinox.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

JON GOES TO TOWN



 St. Paddy's Day:
somber, gray, wet, damp, windy

On St. Patrick's Day I summoned the courage to drive into town. Actually, I was compelled to go because I wanted to personally get an erroneous bill straightened out (from my Internet provider/phone company).

They were extremely nice about the error, and now I'm straight.
So to speak.

After getting gas, going to the bank, and hauling my trash to the dump, I was ready to call it a day - but I had to go grocery shopping.

There are three shopping choices in this minuscule town: Walmart, the supermarket, and the Dollar Store. If you really want to  spice up your mundane existence and live dangerously you can always visit the Tractor Supply Company. 

Walmart is inevitably my first stop. That's the only place that has decent cat food and tolerable bread.

Bread?
Let me explain something: I've always enjoyed a wide variety of breads - rye, pumpernickel, sourdough, cheese bread, black bread, herbal bread, etc.

Rural Tennessee has white bread. That's it. Rye isn't in their vocabulary.  Either is hard Italian salami. Or wine. Or fine cheese or pastries. Or all the other things I crave and would actually kill for.

The local Walmart at least has some mediocre Italian bread and smoked ham - so that's what I always buy.

I'm also able to get Viennese coffee and Earl Grey tea - thank God. One of the very few pleasures I have left.

So, I'm in the coffee aisle at Walmart. The Viennese coffee that I always buy is on the very lowest shelf. In fact, it's actually level with the ground. I have to crawl to get it.

There's an extremely attractive young Amish woman looking at the coffee. Hey, Amish women turn me on. It has something to do with the way they dress.
Anyway, this chick is carefully reading every coffee label on the shelf - - and she's standing directly in front of the Viennese coffee that I desperately want.
She won't move. She just keeps reading.

I linger near her, trying not to look suspicious or perverted, trying to pretend I'm looking at other things. And I'm thinking:
How the hell am I going to get the damn Viennese coffee? I don't want to crawl around the hem of her dress.

She finally moves just enough for me to quickly dive and snatch the coffee - - -and believe me, diving and snatching is not an easy feat with my notoriously bad back.

Did I ever mention how much I hate store employees who are constantly in the way so you can't look at things?
Walmart wins First Prize for annoying employees....
...but....
it also happens here at the local supermarket.  

I'm trying to look at donuts and an extremely annoying but cutsie-looking male employee is blocking the entire area with a large cart while he carefully puts out loaves of bread. White bread.

I make a few strategic maneuvers around him to get to the donuts. While trying to grab one damn box of donuts, I inadvertently start an avalanche. At least half a dozen boxes tumble to the floor.

Holy shit!! (I think I said that out loud).
I quickly scramble to retrieve the errant donut boxes while hoping my ravaged spine won't snap in the process. I'm trying to look cool and nimble in the wake of profound embarrassment.

My life is like a Woody Allen movie. 

Did I mention the two employees blocking the frozen food aisle? They have a gigantic food cart in the middle of the aisle while they slowly and carefully stock the shelves. 

I stall around, hoping they'll eventually leave but they don't. Can't these Bozos stock shelves after hours??

I eventually have to force my way around them to get the damn frozen things that I desperately need.
I drove a hundred freaking miles (slight exaggeration) on perilous mountain roads to get to this raunchy supermarket and I'm not about to leave without my French fries and fish sticks.

As I was driving home on the narrow, winding, dangerous, slick - not to mention perilous - mountain roads, loose rocks started falling from the cliffs above. One of them bounced off my car but fortunately didn't do damage.

Five minutes after I got home it started pouring rain. I got drenched as I hauled the heavy stash of groceries up the muddy, slippery, annoyingly steep bank to my back door. 

As if on cue, my cat Scratch showed up out of nowhere and dropped a dead mouse directly in front of the back door.
I kid you not. A gift from a grateful feline.