I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

May 10, 2018 - 12:04 p.m.

Matters of Music and Death

Sorry I didn't write yesterday; I went out early. Now I have two days to write about, two very different days. I am going to forget things; I vaguely remember an incident with a hippopotamus on the subway but not well enough to write about it.

Tuesday was the second Tuesday of the month. Let's see if you have been paying attention: My Gentle Readers, what does that mean? Very good; you are much better than my math classes; it means that I went to John Platt's On Your Radar. John's guests were Upstate Rubdown, Bethlehem & Sad Patrick, and Jeremy Aaron.

As I usually do I got there early to see how things are going and to schmooze. Sound check was behind schedule and doors opened a bit late but that's not a big deal. It did make things a bit rushed as the show was a sellout! I had friends that had trouble getting in. John warned people, but they did not head the warning. I suspect some OYR regulars were shut out. I take no credit for foresight as I'm on the guest list; otherwise I'd have been shut out too. Luckily all the people that were shut out were able to finagle their way in. I haven't done this in a while, let's see if I can remember all my friends that were there. It’s a bit tough as it was so crowded it was difficult to move around.

  1. Fred
  2. Ellen
  3. Beth
  4. Mark
  5. Perry
  6. Beth not Beth
  7. Gail
  8. Maggi
  9. Dan
  10. Richard
  11. Viki
  12. Jamie
  13. Arpie
  14. Gen
  15. John (a given)
  16. Sheila
That's about a quarter of the audience. On Your Radar is not just a concert; it's a gathering of the tribe of Music Lovers. That is not secondary to the music, it is one with the music.

Jeremy was up first. He is the act that I know by far the best, and yet he surprised me. I've seen him countless times with Spuyten Duyvil, backing up other people on fiddle, and doing the singer/songwriter thing on guitar. Tuesday night he was accompanied by Jaden Gladstone on banjo. I took a liking to Jaden during sound check. He told the sound guy, "I play banjo, I'm sorry." That led to us swapping banjo jokes. I decided that Steve Martin should do a set of banjo jokes. I'd buy that album and would love it live.

The reason that Jeremy had a banjo player is that he showed off a side of him that I hadn't seen, old time fiddler. I only found out when promoting the show that he was taught by the great Jay Ungar. Even if you think you never heard of him you have as he wrote and performed Ashokan Farewell the them music from Ken Burns' Civil War.This is Jeremy's first love and I didn't know it. Half of his set was fiddle tunes. He wrote one of them. The other half were songs he did solo on guitar. Jeremy is growing by leaps and bounds.

Next up was Bethlehem and Sad Patrick. Patrick is not sad, just his songs are. I saw them at NERFA. I have never seen anyone do what they do. Patrick writes the sad songs and plays ambient guitar. Bethlehem sings in a soulful style while doing body and foot percussion on what looks like a stomp box the size of a riser. She gave its name and forgot it. It is in my backup memory, i.e. the internet, specifically their website. It's called a tarima. I will go with Beth's (from Mark & Beth not Perry & Beth) description of her singing; a cross between Sade and Meshell Ndegeocello. This is not like any folk music you've heard but it's fits in the folk world. It is moving, beautiful, and thought provoking. I was not totally sold on them at NERFA but felt that there was more there than I was experiencing. I was right. I don't know what's different, but now I love them.

I saw Upstate Rubdown at Falcon Ridge where they won over many fans. They are a string band centered around a female harmony trio. It isn't every folk band that gets compared to the Andrews Sisters. They are not related but they have that sibling sound. The band they remind me most of us the Quebe Sisters. They had many fans in the audience, most of the people I didn't know, and they won over the rest. As Beth of Perry and Beth said, "They are lots of fun." The entire band went to New Paltz, I wonder if any of them know my sister, Alison; she taught in the psych department.

After the show a bunch of us. Mark, Beth, Beth not Beth, Perry, Arpie, and Gen went out for gelato at foo-foo gelato across the street from Katz's deli. I had a scoop of peanut butter and a scoop of mocha. Then we went to Rosario's. I wish I hadn't eaten before the show, Rosario's is my favorite pizza place. We broke up the party at around 10:30.

I unfortunately just missed the bus back to City Island and had to wait a half an hour till the next. I got home at 12:30 which is usually not an issue, but I had to get up early yesterday. Remember that was why I didn't blog.

Yesterday I went to a funeral, beloved Bri's grandmother died. The funeral was in New Jersey but fortunately for me, the mass started at 10:30. There was a train that let me off not far away at 10:18. It came a bit late, but Katie picked me up and we got to the church right on time. I did not expect it to start promptly. I was wrong it did. We just made it.

The occasion was sad, but it was good to see Katie. She's Bri's best friend and was a Budgiedome regular till she went to teach in Panama. Then she was in Maryland. Now she's back in New York and will be back at the Budgiedome. This was my first time seeing her in three years.

Good thing we weren't late as Bri was the first speaker. Her eulogy was beautiful, filled with love and honesty. None of it was generic it was all intensely personal.

The priest knew her well and he too was personal. This was not the kind of words a clergyman says about a stranger. It was all about Bri's grandmother, Pat.

I think this was just the second catholic mass that I've been to. I'm glad I went years ago when Carey was a cantor, so I knew a bit of what was going on. Most importantly I knew I didn't have to kneel That would have felt awkward. I knew on my own that I'm not supposed to take communion. It might seem obvious as I'm not in communion with the Catholic Church, but I had a friend that went to a funeral mass and didn't know what he got on line for and didn't know he was not supposed to.

A Catholic funeral is quite different than a Jewish one. The priest talked quite a bit about the afterlife. Jews don’t do that. It's all about life, the life of the departed and the lives of the survivors. There's one thing the priest said that I did agree with. When someone dies they do live on through their effect on others. Everyone that knew and loved the deceased has been changed and they have their memories. We are all like ships that leave a wake behind, one that doesn't fade but spreads. It reflects of other ships and the shore till it becomes a part of the sea.

After the mass I expected us to get in cars and follow a hearse. We didn't. We followed the pall bearers on foot. The cemetery was adjacent to the church. We hardly had to walk through the cemetery, Pat's plot was one of the closest. They even provided a canopy for us to stand under, so we were out of the sun. That's an excellent practice. The graveside ceremony was short.

After that we did get in our cars to meet at a restaurant. I sat with half the people I knew, Bri and Katie. The other two were Bri's parents. I haven't seen Bri in a long time and despite the circumstances it felt good to be with her, not just to comfort her but to give me the pleasure of her company.

I discovered the best thing about an Italian funeral, they served pizza. I'm a good Jewish boy, the food is important. The deli spread I'm used to is great too. I don't plan on dying but if it happens serve both pizza and pastrami. I'll leave it up to you to figure out something scrumptious for the vegans.

Katie drove me back to the train station; the wait wasn't bad. When I got to Penn Station I treated myself to a Shake Shack shake. I can't remember the last time I had one. In most ways I'm dismissive of Shake Shack but their shakes are great. The ride home was a breeze. I made clean connections, and everything ran express. Sorry I was too tired to write when I got home.

Now to make breakfast. Oh, I forgot that part. I didn't have time to cook yesterday morning and I didn't want to chance missing my train, so I planned things out. I ordered breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts by the subway station on my phone the night before. The Dunkin' Donuts app is very useful. I just hit "I'm ready to pick up" as my bus got close. When you order on your phone you jump ahead of all the people in the store. I also bought my train ticket on the NJ Transit app the night before. I love modern technology. I even remembered to take my Zyrtec before I left. The last thing I wanted was an uncontrollable sneezing fit during the funeral.

Tomorrow I might discuss the horrors of NJ Transit as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the LIRR and MetroNorth.


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