Sunday, April 30, 2017

FUN IN TEXAS

 Twin Buttes
near San Angelo

On my previous post, on my replies in the comment section, I mentioned the fact that I've often used the herb valerian to calm my nerves. That suddenly reminded me of something that happened when I lived in Texas.

I lived in three different towns in West Texas. San Angelo was definitely the most challenging of the three (I'm being very polite with my choice of words).
I'll cut to the chase and get to the valerian story:

Directly behind my house was another house filled with illegal aliens (or immigrants - - "aliens" sounds too outer spacey).

Their back yard was filled with dogs in cages. I don't know whether they bred them or just sold them for taco meat, but it was slightly unnerving. They always kept one particular dog running loose (as a guard...or perhaps a mascot). 
Anyway the loose dog was a non-stop barker. It barked 24/7 and annoyed the holy spirit out of me (among other things). The worst thing was that I couldn't sleep from the incessant nighttime barking.

An aside:
there was no chance of calling the police or Animal Control, because laws don't exist in San Angelo. Trust me on this.

Finally - completely unhinged from lack of sleep - I decided to take matters into my own trembling hands. 
Should I kill the dog? Shoot him?  Smother him?
Naw. I might be a bitch. But I'm usually a sweet bitch.
I decided to sedate him.

This is where the dog lovers are gasping in shock.
This is also why I love cats. They don't bark.

I'd never sedated a pooch before and wondered what I could use. I certainly didn't want to lethally harm him. Well, not much anyway.....

Suddenly-
it dawned on me that I could use valerian root. I've taken that herb very often to sedate myself (God knows, in Texas I needed it). It sure as hell wouldn't hurt to try it on a dog.

I grabbed a leftover hot dog, split it open, and stuffed it with some valerian.
Fed it to the dog (who gobbled it greedily). And waited.
Voila!
Within twenty minutes Rover calmed down, stopped barking........and I got some much-needed sleep.

It sure as hell didn't solve all my Texas problems, but it was a pleasant interlude.

While I have your attention, I'll mention a few more things about my San Angelo neighbors.

The neighbor to my right was a woman who ran a "daycare" center with about thirty screaming kids (I kid you not!).
Here's the kicker: 
She drank and (I strongly suspected) dabbled in drugs. Her son was arrested for giving alcohol and drugs to minors.
AND
let's insert a drum roll here for effect
The woman rented her upstairs rooms to prostitutes.
I swear to Gawd I couldn't make this stuff up.

Are you ready for more? Take a deep breath and hold onto your garters before reading this one. 

The neighbors to my left were drug dealers and at least twenty people lived in the house.
One of the many residents was a huge - and I mean horrendously alarmingly huge - woman who got angry at me 
(I won't divulge details on a public blog)
 and shot at my house numerous times!

And I won't mention the fact that her drug-dealing cronies despised me and used to follow, threaten, and intimidate me......it's a pathetically long story.

  Big Mama was eventually wanted for murder....and she was featured on the TV show America's Most Wanted.
By this time she fled Texas and went to Louisiana - - where she was murdered by some of her drug-dealing "friends".
They cut off her fingers, stuffed her ample body into a car, and set it on fire!

I'm tempted to mention her name - - but I won't.

These are just a few of my Texas adventures. There were many more, far worse ones - - but I'll spare you. 




The photos were taken at Twin Buttes, near San Angelo, where I used to go hiking. I encountered lots of rattlesnakes.

Friday, April 28, 2017

FREAKY FRIDAY




 Bosco and Scruffy
waving bye-bye as I embark for town


Many thanks to the kind people who left  such nice comments about my piano tape on my previous post. I deserved it. I'm damn good. And I'm very often far too modest.

You're also completely full of yourself, Jon.

Hell, if you have it - - flaunt it. 

Actually I'm full of other things: I had two beers, several lethal doses of Daytime NyQuil, and two aspirins that are outdated by a year and a half.

I tried to buy aspirin in the Walmart pharmacy today...but couldn't find any!!
I did a search worthy of Hercule Poirot and came up empty. Where the hell do they hide them? I found rainbow-colored condoms and an alarming array of feminine hygiene products that were beyond my comprehension. But no aspirin.

Yes, I made the perilous and infinitely long journey into town today. The sole reason being that I was completely out of cat food. Again.

Why don't you stockpile cat food, Jon, so you have an extra supply at home?

That would be a great idea if I was a millionaire. Unfortunately, after spending a small fortune on cat food, litter, and other feline supplies - I hardly have enough left for human food.

Yea, I'm human. Some of you will find that debatable , but tough noogies.
Those damn cats eat better than I do.

Speaking of cats, Scruffy has been having bad asthma attacks lately. I can't imagine why but I've been monitoring her carefully.

As most of my regular readers know, I always go into a severe panic mode when I have to drive to town. The narrow, winding, dangerous mountain roads completely unnerve me. 

How unnerved do you get, Jon?

Let's put it this way:
I'd rather be hung upside down, with bamboo shoots wedged under my fingernails, and a group of male orangutans peeing on me.
Maybe.

I don't think I had an hour of sleep last night. I kept getting back spasms so severe that my screams were heard in Kentucky. I sounded like Kirsten Flagstad on a bad day.

Driving to town is bad enough. Doing it in the company of agonizing spasms is worse.

I have no doubt that I'm being punished for past sins. God is probably laughing so hard that he blew a fart and fell off his throne.

It was a very warm, muggy day. 
82 degrees outside......and 175 degrees in the car (that's Fahrenheit, for those of you in Krakatoa).
By the time I got home all the frozen food was thawed, the icing melted off the donuts, and the cottage cheese curdled.
And then I remembered several things that I forgot to buy.

Everything where I live is on a mountainous slant. I have to literally PUSH the door of the car open with both feet (try that with mega back spasms). Then I have to tote all the groceries up a hill to the back door - while trekking through ten-foot-high weeds and being mercilessly attacked by wasps and carpenter bees.

This is getting monotonously long, but I wanted you to get an idea of my dire predicament. Rural life is less than enchanting.

BTW - I got a tick bite on my ankle yesterday. I always have bad reactions from tick bites. Last summer it took me over a month to recover from one. This one is swollen and itching like hell.

Have I said enough? 
Heck, I haven't even warmed up.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A RARE DISCOVERY





Last night I happened to find some more of my old piano recordings and this particular one shocked me, because I had completely forgotten about it. It's one of the many transcriptions that I wrote when I lived in Hollywood - and (to be brash for a rare change) it's definitely one of my best.

This is my piano arrangement of the theme from the 1960 film  The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. The music score was originally written by Adolph Deutsch.

Strangely enough, I've never seen this movie - but I always loved the music from it. And I always wondered why such a beautiful film score is so seldom heard. I wrote this solo piano transcription to use in my repertoire when I performed.

Unfortunately, my original piano manuscript was one of the many things that the movers lost when I came from Texas to Tennessee. All I have left is this unedited recording.

Listening to it puts me in a romantic Hollywoodized mood: intoxicating moonlight, dangerous cocktails, soft candlelight.....
....and - of course - an accommodating pianist.
(*smile* inserted here) 

 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

THOUGHTS ON A RAINY SATURDAY

 
Hi - my name is Jon....and I'm a jelly bean addict.

It's true. It happens every Easter. I don't know what I'll do when I run out of my stash. 

Did I ever mention that Tennessee is the rainiest place on earth? The rain never ever stops. It's like Vietnam in the monsoon season. It's like Venice, but with hills and dangerous curves and no canals.  

This place is called The Volunteer State. Hell, they should re-name it the H20 State.
Don't ponder that for too long. You might strain yourself.

Volunteer?
Heck, I never volunteered for anything in my entire life. Except for sex. 
But that's beside the point. 

It's pouring rain, as usual, and it's a cool day. The trees are lush and green, the grass grows taller by the hour. And the mega weeds have reached H.G.Wells proportions.

 I just snapped this pic a few minutes ago from the back porch. Green is in vogue.
 

Rainy days are cozy days. I remember rainy days when I was a kid. Eating Lipton soup with oyster crackers and watching monster movies on TV.

Do they still make oyster crackers? I haven't seen them in 20 years. 
Do they still make Lipton soup?
I'm hopelessly archaic. I'm from an era when June Cleaver was preparing dinner in high heels, faux pearls, and a crisp Betty Crocker apron.

All the letters on my computer keyboard have worn off, so consequently I keep making grievous errors.

Speaking of computers
notice my smooth transition of thought....

My old desktop computer went completely insane yesterday. Last night I spent nearly four hours with Windows "support" getting things repaired. So far it's working again. It's probably the only computer left on earth that's still running on Vista.

Today Firefox went insane on my laptop and it took me an hour to get that straightened out. I'm exhausted.

I was going to post more piano music today but - happily for you - I'm too lazy. And I'm sure you're still recovering from Lohengrin (see side bar).

After careful consideration, I've decided to write a book about the 1906 New Jersey murder (see previous post). I certainly have enough information.
I doubt if the book will be a home run, but heck - - I could just imagine a Broadway musical.....

And I should really think about finishing my memoirs. I've had one helluva interesting life. The only thing that's impeding my enthusiasm is the possible prospect of multitudinous lawsuits.

It's still pouring rain.
I sure hope my cats know how to swim.

That was a dumb ending to a boring post, but it was all I could come up with. 

 

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

MURDER IN THE FAMILY

It's become an annual habit with me to remember my great aunt Katalin (Kate) Gordon, who was murdered at the age of eighteen on April 20, 1906.

I've told this story on several previous occasions but decided to briefly rehash it solely for those who haven't heard it.

Ironically, I'm related to the murder victim and the murderer.

Katalin Gordon was the eldest sister of my maternal grandmother Anna Gordon Knoll. She was murdered by her uncle Frederick Lang, who was twenty-one years old at the time.

Lang was passionately in love with Kate. He lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and came to New Jersey to spend Easter week with the Gordon family. His main intention was to propose to Kate. When she rejected his proposal, he became enraged and shot her through the neck - severing the carotid artery. She bled to death immediately.

Lang escaped into the woods and wasn't arrested until over two months later. The trial took place in July, 1906 and he was found guilty. After numerous appeals and a sanity hearing, he was finally executed in March, 1909. Lang was twenty-four years old, and was the last man in New Jersey to be executed by hanging.

I wrote an article about this, which appeared in The New Jersey Monthly in 1996. That was before I had a computer or access to the Internet. It took several years of research to compile sufficient information and to locate the trial transcripts and attorney briefs.

I now have enough information to write a book - which would be a rather interesting project to pursue. 

 Katalin Gordon
(1887-1906)
 This photo was taken only about a week before she was murdered. The white Easter dress that she's wearing is also the dress that she was buried in.
Kate was the eldest of twelve children. She and one other sibling were born in Hungary. The rest of the children were born in the U.S. 
My grandmother Anna, who was ten at the time of the murder, was born in Pennsylvania.

 Frederick Lang
(1884-1909)
Frederick Lang was the illegitimate brother of my great-grandmother Justinia Schmidt Gordon (Kate's mother). He was the black sheep of the family - wild, tempestuous, with a quick Hungarian temper. He was described as being short and slight, with reddish (auburn) hair.
Lang maintained that if he couldn't have Kate, nobody else would, either. He later expressed remorse for killing her and said that he deserved to die. He attempted suicide on two occasions: by setting fire to his jail cell, and by trying to hang himself.

After Lang was executed, he was quickly buried - at midnight during a storm - in an unmarked grave.
Our family had refused to claim his body. 


 John Gordon (Janos Gurdon), who was Kate's father and my maternal great-grandfather.
Gordon was of royal blood but was disinherited when he married a peasant girl (Justinia Schmidt, the sister of Frederick Lang).

Monday, April 17, 2017

EASTER LIZARD AND OPERATIC MOONWALK WITH SWASTIKAS

I kept hearing scurrying noises in the eaves of the house. At first I thought I was on the brink of insanity - but I crossed that brink years ago (I have no clue what that means - - use your own discernment).

Weird, unexplained noises aren't uncommon around here. After all, I have mice in the walls, 'possums under the house, and there are strange hoof-sounds on the roof late at night, which I'm positive have nothing to do with Santa Claus.

So on Easter morning I step out the back door and suddenly see a lizard emerge from the eaves and climb down the wooden post where the utility box is.

I photographically documented the event for posterity.
Then I emitted a Big Sigh of relief.
Lizards are definitely the lesser of many other evil possibilities.
I'd rather have lizards than rats...

 

Change of subject
 
One of the pleasures that I always indulge in during the Easter season is listening to a performance of the opera Parsifal by Richard Wagner (Wagner preferred to call his creation "a festival play for the consecration of the stage" - but that's beside the point).

Nothing stirs my senses and nourishes my soul more than this masterpiece of suffering, compassion, and salvation.
Speaking of suffering, the opera is nearly five hours long. It isn't merely a performance - it's an event.

Before we go any farther (further?) let me explain that Parsifal is an Arthurian knight, who is on a quest for the Holy Grail. The story traditionally takes place in the thirteenth century.

 Parsifal

Since I'm not in the mood to excavate my old VHS tape of Parsifal, I decide to watch it on YouTube.

I select a performance recorded in Salzburg in 2013. Imagine my complete shock, when I discover that the traditional 13th century theme has been abandoned in favor of a "modern, updated" version. 

Instead of knights and maidens, the cast is arrayed in some sort of bizarre outer space costumes. They look like rejects from an Apollo moon mission casting call.

  the 2013 Salzburg production of Parsifal

Looks like the Space Cadets have seized some fat guy in drag

This updated production is beyond my realms of tolerance. I quickly turn it off in disgust  and search for another version.

My next discovery is a 2012 version of Parsifal recorded at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus - which is the holy grail of Wagnerian opera. The Festspielhaus is a theater built by Wagner solely for his own operas. The premiere of Parsifal took place there in 1882.

What could possibly go wrong?

I was nearly blown to the moon when I discovered that this production was also a new "modernized" version - - which apparently takes place in Nazi Germany! The singers were clad in SS uniforms and the stage was adorned with swastikas!

After I regained consciousness and found my tongue  I screamed What the freaking hell does an 1882 opera by Wagner have to do with Nazi Germany?!!??

 Here it is, folks: the 2012 Bayreuth production of Parsifal

I am a staunch traditionalist. I don't want operatic masterpieces to be "updated" so they "appeal" to modern audiences. I don't want true art to be usurped with carnival tactics and pseudo-intellectual psycho-babble garbage.

I am thoroughly disgusted with these pompous, "innovative" producers, directors, and set designers - who get a degree from Walmart University and think they can trample the course of tradition with their own demented versions of progress in the arts.

These gang-rapes of Parsifal must have Wagner revolving in his grave.

Have I said enough? 

Dammit, Jon, you're cute when you are angry. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

EASTER

I had written a long blog post for Easter and scrapped it after careful consideration. Nobody wants to read a long blog post on Easter.

Come to think of it - nobody wants to read a long blog post when it's not Easter, either, but that's beside the point.

Instead, I've decided to post some inane photos that nobody wants to see.
Some were taken recently. Others are Easter leftovers from when I lived in Texas. 

 A few days ago I went outside just before sunset and saw the rising moon caught in a tree.

As it grew darker, the moon broke free from the tree and sailed into the sky.

 The back yard at dusk and a tiny dot of moon

 All of the beautiful purple and white blossoms have completely perished due to the frost we had last week - but it's finally warm again and the trees are quickly turning green. So are the weeds.

 I found an old box with a springtime tea set that has been packed away for many years. It's an appropriate display for Easter, but I'll probably never use it - so I'll pack it away again.


I also found these two items that I got in a Springfield, Missouri antique store. The chick on the egg (right) is old, but the chick emerging from the shell isn't an antique. I think it's cute, anyway.

As if this wasn't enough, here are a few old Easter pics that I took when I lived in Texas.

 These flowers are orange stars, which were popular for Easter in West Tx.




 My cat Scratch eating the Easter tulips

 Scratch encountering the Easter Bunny




Scratch eating the Easter chicks


The End

Have a wonderful Easter!


my other blog:

Cabinet of Curious Treasures

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

AN ENCOUNTER WITH LOHENGRIN









I'm trying a new format with my piano music tapes, which is SoundCloud rather than YouTube. Since I've never done this before - and have no idea exactly what I'm doing - I can only hope that it works.

One problem: I don't know where the hell to adjust the volume... 
make sure your computer volume is turned down

This is my piano transcription of the Prelude to Act III and Bridal Chorus from the opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner.

When I was a pianist in California I spent a great amount of time as an accompanist (for singers and instrumentalists) and also occasionally as a rehearsal pianist for ballet and opera productions.

This particular tape was made during an operatic rehearsal of Lohengrin at USC.
At the time of this recording, I didn't have a piano score of the opera. I played this at sight from the original orchestral score - - which is an extremely (and I mean extremely) difficult thing to do.

My right hand was nearly ravaged from playing those endless repeated notes (which are originally written for the strings). If you listen very carefully, you might be able to hear me turning the pages of the score as I played.

It's nearly six minutes long - which hopefully won't be too boring (or excruciating).

 Lohengrin
the Knight of the Swan

 The orchestral score from Act III of Lohengrin




a link to my other blog:
http://cabinetofcurioustreasures.blogspot.com  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

FOUL




I'm not talking foul ball. Or fowl bird. I'm talking foul mood. I've been in a dangerously foul mood for a long time. And I have the urge to rant.

I had a few beers today - along with a lethal dose of NyQuil. No need for you Goody-Two-Shoes to worry. I wasn't driving.
I used to be a hardcore lush.
Ever since I moved to Tennessee I'm nearly a teetotaler. Not because I got righteous. Solely because this is a "dry" (or semi-dry) county. In layman's terms it means that the Baptists don't want anyone to drink liquor. Someone ought to tell them that Jesus turned water into wine.  He'd do one helluva business here in Hillbillyland.

Anyway, there's one tiny store snuggled on the edge of town that sells beer only for outrageous prices.

You've told us that already, Jon.

Well, I'm telling you again just in case you forgot.

The joy of life in the wilderness is wearing thin. There are times when I'm almost tempted to rejoin civilization. 
I said almost. But not quite.

My ravaged back is keeping me from doing things around here. I can hardly walk most of the time.

Run to a doctor, Jon.

I presently don't have any health insurance. And past experience has assured me that most doctors are only good for two things: prescribing pain pills and sending outrageous bills.

A serious aside:
I realize that several of my fellow bloggers (including Geo. and David) have literally had their lives saved by doctors, and I truly appreciate the fact.

As for me: I no longer give a shit about my own life. I have nothing to lose but the ability to walk (if there's any grim humor in that, I can't find it). 

Doctors are not all Ben Casey. I could tell you about a frighteningly loopy doctor that I had a personal relationship with (long ago).
But I won't. 

This blog post is getting too long but I'm on a roll. Sort of.

All of the purple blossoms around here (in my previous post photos) have died from the recent frost. Only a few scant white ones are left (see header photo).
I always assumed Tennessee was a mild southern state. If I ever knew the winters were ten months long here I would have never came. I should have gotten a clue when I discovered that the state bird is the Penguin.

I thought that was funny but nobody's laughing. 

The wasps and bees are vicious this season. I get attacked every time I go outside. And there are a lot of them.

My cat Scruffy caught two lizards lately (in the house). I quickly rescued both of them. Fortunately they were both unharmed. I like lizards.

One more thing before I go:
I've decided to keep the comments on this blog in the "moderation" mode for a little while longer.
I personally hate comment moderation - and I'm sure some people also find it annoying.

I've discovered, however, (thanks to live traffic feed) that a few people who despise me still regularly visit my blog. I can't understand why - except for the fact that I'm irresistible (*smile*).

I think they are just waiting for me to say something that they don't like - so they can gleefully pounce on me again.

It's a good thing I keep most of my thoughts to myself.