Friday, February 02, 2007

Another Sad Day in the Family

Last week I lost my father-in-law, a great but very humble, conservative, thoughtful man. He was 90 years old, and he left us with his four children at his side. Hard to ask for more graceful an exit than that. He was considerate to the end, a family man but also possessed a great mind and was at one time the world expert on the medical consequences of exposure to benzine.

I rushed back to the States to join my husband and children, who were all here on the east coast.

The funeral was well done, quiet, and on a day of bitter cold but beautiful clear sunny skies. The colonel and former liberator of Dachau (he was a medical doctor and lieutenant during WW2) received proper military burial with taps, flag, everything but the ten gun salute.

It is not easy for any of us, but we're doing what we can to move along. Huge flakes of snow fell from a pure white sky this morning, as if to show that there are seasons for everything. It is possible to find beauty even when things look bad.

Strangely appropriate to all this mourning was Laurie Anderson's performance last night as part of a quadruple bill at the BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), where she presented four new songs, all world premieres, backed by a small orchestra from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, as well as a violist and keyboardist.

Laurie, you looked so sad, and your songs were like lamentations. In one, she sang of "this transitory life" and mentioned her favorite Buddhist metaphor of life being a burning house. She's used the image with humorous joy in times past, but now she sang it in a kind of apathetic acceptance. She sang another song that mentioned Lou -and that would be Lou Reed, her companion- (now, I don't mean to be comic, but if I heard her right, she sang, "Lou is in me like a bear," which is lewd in a way. But the line was followed by something like "I saw the sky tear open" which could be, again, sexual / orgasmic, but came off so sadly, an expression of an ending. I think she's trying to express something... the great storyteller seemed so tired and worn last night, singing through clenched jaws. It made this admirer very sad indeed. Another song seemed to have other disturbing, forlorn lyrics. That tense mouth, Laurie, it interfered with our understanding of your poetry! Did you sing to us about how "we rush to it, we push to it", the imagery of a river that goes to an overwhelming, vast sea. Jeez, Laurie, this was a kind of death set. It was ever so sad. Can you cheer me up?

The always-graceful Suzanne Vega also did a set, including Tom's Cafe, which is about Monk's on Broadway and 112th, not Tom's in Brooklyn. Loved that little news. Anyway, she gave us a remarkable song, also world premiere, written by Philip Glass (played nicely by the phil). Sexy lyrics included "I kiss you, I hold you /hump you (I gotta look this up... I do have a hearing issue), "I come to you," and, if I'm not mistaken, something like "I miss you" or leave you... drat, should have taken notes but it was sad and sexy at the same time. Of course, Suzanne has this lovely voice with about a single octave range. A tight and pretty single octave, so she sure knows how to use it to its best advantage.

The revelation of the evening was Nellie McKay, who gave us a lively, witty set with the orchestra and her own excellent piano playing. She can tickle em like a cathouse boogie woogie man or with the polish of your favorite cabaret artist. Really fun, racy, sassy, rough lyrics, and a wild voice that wraps itself around a nonconformist scale with aplomb. I'm going out and getting her new CD, and I will NOT buy the pirated version!!

Sorry, Joan Osborne, but your rendition of a classic Earth Wind and Fire love song just didn't rock my world. Kiddo, you're a fine singer, but I already heard the same version of that stuff in '72 or '73 and you didn't illuminate it any, now that a few decades have passed.

Okay, so I am back in the States and will move my stuff that was parked here at the inlaws, all the way to Californy. Road trip time again. Stay tuned. Hope it gets better. Not the same as a rainbow's promise, but the snow is awful pretty out there. We'll go through the south.

Rest in peace, Doc. Thank you for giving the world your wonderful son, who takes such good care of me. I love him and adore him and tell him so, every day.


Don said...

My condolences to you, your husband and his family; and congratulations to the Doc, who lived his life well and left it with grace. Drive safe.

Professor said...

Thank you for this. It was beautiful, all of it.