Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leader of the Pack

While the nation mourns the loss of Ted Kennedy, I hope the passing of another notable gets, well, noted.

It was an "awww" moment for me this morning when I learned of the passing of Ellie Greenwich. You probably know her name, you unquestionably know her work. If you've spent any time at all listening to the great hits in the years leading up to the British Invasion, probably 80% of the songs you've enjoyed were the work of about four or so songwriting teams. Ellie Greenwich and her husband Jeff Barry were one of them. It's not practical, and probably not even necessary, to list her hits here. Our lives touched once, sorta-kinda, in the most indirect way possible, and it was a small, strange experience I've always found oddly heartwarming.

Years ago, my wife and I belonged to a group of sign language students who, in the spare time we seemed to have in those days, used to get together at our house to work out signed renditions of various popular songs. (I'll put our "Chipmunk's Christmas Song" next to anyone's.) At one point we were working on "Leader of the Pack'" and, as often happened before Al Gore invented the Internet, had a disagreement over one part of the lyrics we were listening to. (Ok, we all agreed on the lyrics except for one of us who had an absurd interpretation of one line that I would even now be embarrassed to say.) I knew that Ellie Greenwich worked out of New York, and thought if I could look up her office address, we could drop her a "note" (a primal form of written communication that existed before e-mails that younger readers can ask their grandparents about) and settle the lyric question. What I found in the NY telephone book was a phone number with no address listed, which I took to mean Ms. Greenwich worked out of a home office. (One of the advantages of working in a profession that doesn't involve large industrial machines, I suppose.) I'll say a lot of things to a lot of different people, but even in those days there was no way I was going to call a famous songwriter at home and ask her about a lyric she'd written 30 years before. Another much bolder member of our group made the call and got to speak to her. Explaining our dilemma, my friend asked what the line after "One day my dad said 'Find someone new' " was. Pausing a moment to think, singing through the lyrics and, most of all, exhibiting enormous kindness, she responded that it was, "I had to tell my Jimmy we're through." My friend thanked her profusely and reported back to us.

I've sometimes wondered what Ms. Greenwich thought of that strange phone call, in the unlikely event she thought of it at all; when you've got her list of accomplishments, things like that probably don't stand out. For those of us on the other end of the phone, however - older now certainly, and perhaps a little wiser - it was a memory, and a happy one at that.


A good bit of the early part of this week was spent in some pain due to an earache. It's a recurring thing I've more or less adjusted to but, unlike the ones before, this one didn't go away after a day. After three days of acetamitaphin (I don't think there are any extra "ita's" in there, but I could be wrong) and some homeopathic (Latin for "expensive and doesn't work very well") stuff I got at the drugstore, I was getting desperate.

Enter the Internet. According to, well, I don't know who but it was on the Internet so it must be true, a good treatment for some of the more common forms of earaches is to apply the liquid from a garlic clove to the inner ear. (My wife had suggested warm olive oil and, after reading the garlic suggestion, I though about just pouring some Italian dressing down my ear canal, but couldn't find any in the house.) Not experienced in this type of remedy but desperate for some relief, I got out the garlic press and gave it a try. I made two discoveries:

  1. If you're ever given a choice between putting either garlic in your ear, or the fires of hell, go with the fires. It will burn less.
  2. I woke up the next morning, and every morning since, free of ear pain. (I hate it when stuff that hurts so much works.)
Just thought I'd share...

Here Comes Treble

An entry or two ago I wrote about the tattoo my son James got. Now my son Jacob has joined the club. His is a g-clef, about 4 inches or so in height, on his right shoulder blade. I don't have a picture yet, but will post one when it's available.

I mentioned this to a (non-tattooed) friend today, and she told me of an interesting question she'd once been asked: if a law were passed saying you HAD to get a tattoo, what would you get and where? I'm still considering the question, and would welcome anyone who cares to sharing their answer. Could be wonderfully revealing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Dash of Catch-Up

A warm welcome to new reader MrsSchlereth, who raised the question of whether my son's tattoo was his own design. It's not. In fact, it's currently a popular tattoo design with some minor variations here and there. (Not that I knew this when he first talked to us about getting it. I thought it was the name of a band I never heard of, which would be true of any music group formed after about 1964, the year my musical tastes went into suspended animation.)

It's been a bad couple of weeks for electronics here. First, the hard drive on my desktop computer blew out. Ok, says I wistfully, I've got a laptop and fairly recent backups of everything except the 500 songs on my ipod, and since the songs are already loaded on the ipod, no big deal. A couple of days later, I turned on my ipod and found the screen was cracked from the inside which, if you are familiar with ipods, you know means they're pretty much destroyed. (It is with no small irony that I remembered feeling terribly smug and smart about not spending $15 to buy a protective plastic case that, while probably worth about fifty cents, would have saved me from having to spend $150 on another damn ipod.)

Ok, says I, a bit less wistfully, I still have the music cd's I got the songs from the first time, and that nice set of backups of my other files, so it's just a question of loading them onto the laptop. And by laptop, I mean the computer that, a couple of days after the ipod debacle, happened to be near where some idiot (ok, it was me, but don't tell anyone) set down a cup of coffee. The coffee did what coffee always does when placed in the general proximity of electronic equipment, creating what computer service people genteelly call a "liquid spill." Twenty four hours, one can of compressed air, and a whole lot of guilt-ridden prayer later, the laptop was able to function completely again. Well, almost completely; the letter that comes after "y" doesn't work. This wouldn't be a big deal, except my normal isp is veri[letter after y]on.


And Now For Something Completely Different

Canoodling (I love that word) around You-Tube a few days ago, I came across a Monty Python clip in which they performed Eric Idle's brilliant song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." I've heard it countless times, but for some reason a portion of the lyrics really jumped out at me this time and have continued to rebound in my head. Not quite haunting me, but something close. I won't think about why.

"For life can be absurd, and death's the final word.
Always face the curtain with a bow.

"Forget about your sin, give the audience a grin.
Enjoy it. It's your last chance anyhow."

Let Me Say This About That

I watched the Frost-Nixon movie dvd a couple of days ago. What a great pleasure to watch a well-made movie that relies on cerebral, grown-up concepts instead of visceral reactions to loud noises and visual stimulation. Frank Langella as Nixon was astonishing. And the irony of putting a dvd into a player to watch a movie about Nixon and having it start off with an FBI warning: priceless.

Living the Dream

Having reluctantly abandoned my life-long ambition of having someone walk up to me on the street in NYC and ask how to get to Carnegie Hall, before it's too late I wanted to set down in writing a couple of things I still want to accomplish before they're singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" at a memorial service for me:

  • Every day in NYC I see those double-decker sight-seeing buses filled with camera-carrying tourists. And every time I do, it's impossible not to think about how much fun it would be to moon them. ("Hey, I got your sights, right here!")
  • Have you ever watched those morning shows where grown men and women get up at heaven-only-knows what time so they can stand behind Matt or Meredith or whomever and wave a "Hi Mom" sign on television for three seconds? (Heaven help me, I once saw the Today Show's Ann Curry do a remote from Antarctica and there were people behind her doing this. IN FRIGGING ANTARCTICA!) How cool would it be to hold up a sign like that and, when the camera's on, let a flap fall open that says something deeply crude and grossly obscene? Just wondering...
Wanted to Mention

I don't care whether that camping picture with the squirrel is real or not. It's the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.