Living for the Weekend.


The stock market can’t go down, and nobody releases any unemployment figures, and not a single company declares bankruptcy.

I love weekends.


Apple Pie and Cheese.

My wife is a devotee of the work of American poet Eugene Field (1850-1895). One of the nation’s first newspaper columnists (for the Chicago Daily News), he is often referred to as “The Poet of Children,” because he wrote the hardy perennial “Wynken, Blynken and Nod.” But he deserves to be known for more than that, and in fact, he railed against the sobriquet in his own time.

Back in July of last year, I quoted one of my favorite poems by the humorist Roy Blount, Jr., “Song to Pie.” On this Independence Day 2008, nothing could be more appropriate than to reproduce Eugene Field’s ode to that defiantly American culinary classic, “Apple-Pie and Cheese”:

Full many a sinful notion
Conceived of foreign powers
Has come across the ocean
To harm this land of ours;
And heresies called fashions
Have modesty effaced,
And baleful, morbid passions
Corrupt our native taste.
O tempora! O mores!
What profanations these
That seek to dim the glories
Of apple-pie and cheese!

I’m glad my education
Enables me to stand
Against the vile temptation
Held out on every hand;
Eschewing all the tittles
With vanity replete,
I’m loyal to the victuals
Our grandsires used to eat!
I’m glad I’ve got three willing boys
To hang around and tease
Their mother for the filling joys
Of apple-pie and cheese!

Your flavored creams and ices
And your dainty angel-food
Are mighty fine devices
To regale the dainty dude;
Your terrapin and oysters,
With wine to wash ’em down,
Are just the thing for roisters
When painting of the town;
No flippant, sugared notion
Shall my appetite appease,
Or bate my soul’s devotion
To apple-pie and cheese!

The pie my Julia makes me
(God bless her Yankee ways!)
On memory’s pinions takes me
To dear Green Mountain days;
And seems like I see Mother
Lean on the window-sill,
A-handin’ me and brother
What she knows ‘ll keep us still;
And these feelings are so grateful,
Says I, “Julia, if you please,
I’ll take another plateful
Of that apple-pie and cheese!”

And cheese! No alien it, sir,
That’s brought across the sea,–
No Dutch antique, nor Switzer,
Nor glutinous de Brie;
There’s nothing I abhor so
As mawmets of this ilk–
Give me the harmless morceau
That’s made of true-blue milk!
No matter what conditions
Dyspeptic come to feaze,
The best of all physicians
Is apple-pie and cheese!

Though ribalds may decry ’em,
For these twin boons we stand,
Partaking thrice per diem
Of their fulness out of hand;
No enervating fashion
Shall cheat us of our right
To gratify our passion
With a mouthful at a bite!
We’ll cut it square or bias,
Or any way we please,
And faith shall justify us
When we carve our pie and cheese!

De gustibus, ‘t is stated,
Non disputandum est.
Which meaneth, when translated,
That all is for the best.
So let the foolish choose ’em
The vapid sweets of sin,
I will not disabuse ’em
Of the heresy they’re in;
But I, when I undress me
Each night, upon my knees
Will ask the Lord to bless me
With apple-pie and cheese!

The Betty Crocker of Britain Is—Jane Asher!

Remember Jane Asher? Paul McCartney’s bird in the sixties? Well, besides continuing a career as an actress, Jane is in the cake business. In a cute little enclave of small shops on Cale Street, a couple of blocks from Kings Road in Chelsea, you’ll find Jane Asher’s cake shop. As we did.

She even has a packaged cake mix.

The Beatles “In My Life” walking tour offered by London Walks (highly recommended) takes you by the house on Wimpole Street that Jane lived in with her family in the sixties. (It’s on the very same block as Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s house.) Paul lived there with Jane and the Ashers, and had the dream one night that resulted in “Yesterday.” (When he woke up, he drove everyone in the household crazy for days, asking them if the tune he was humming was already familiar to them from somewhere else. He couldn’t quite believe that this tune that came to him in a dream was not one that already existed. When everyone confirmed for him that it was, in fact, original, he set lyrics to it, and it became (it’s been speculated) the most covered song of all time.

Here’s a video which shows Jane is still a bit of all right. (At the end, she talks about her cakes.)

Murder by Death.

Mostly, when walking down the street, I tend unthinkingly to say, “There’s a young woman…there’s a child…there’s an old lady…there’s a teen…there’s a fortysomething guy,” etc. But lately—and I don’t know why this is—I’m sometimes seeing differently. Now I’m realizing that no one is fixed in time, that every person I see on the street is aging before my eyes. It happens slowly, so that we can’t see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not so. The four-year old toddler is 30 seconds closer to death than he was when I first saw him. That twenty-three year old girl is 10 seconds closer to being an old lady than when she started crossing the street. Every part of that traffic cop’s body is rotting right now. Death doesn’t happen only at the end; aging is continuous, and the fact that we’d need time-lapse photography for our eyes to see the aging process that happens in every second is no reason to deny it. The three-year old tyke, the seventh grader, the recently retired business dude, the ninety-year old crone—we are all in this together.

I am older than when I started writing this blog post. You are older than when you started reading it.

Let’s make the most of whatever time we’ve got left.

It’s Sinatra’s World Wide Web. We’re Just Blogging In It.

The new 42¢ Frank Sinatra postage stamp comes out next Tuesday, May 13. The following day is the tenth anniversary of his death.

I’m undecided. Should I buy 1000 of these stamps? Or 10,000?

While deciding, I think I’ll listen to Frank’s recording of “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” with the Count Basie Band, from the 1962 desert-island disc Sinatra-Basie.

Here’s a li’l taste of it right here. If you can listen to that and not want to buy the record, you ain’t breathin’, Jack.

Daryl Sherman.

If you are in the New York area, get yourself to the Waldorf-Astoria tonight or tomorrow night, because those are your last two nights to catch Daryl Sherman in the cocktail lounge that overlooks the lobby before her 14-year reign ends there.

Daryl sings, and accompanies herself on the Steinway that once belonged to Cole Porter, who was a resident of the hotel.

Stephen Holden has a wonderful appreciation of Daryl in today’s New York Times. Rather than go on and on myself about her, I’ll refer you to that piece.

I’ll only add that I was lucky to catch Daryl at the Waldorf again two Sundays ago. Actually, lucky isn’t the word—blessed would be more like it, but that sounds too much like going overboard (even though it isn’t).

Just one highlight that evening was Daryl’s performance of a song with music by Bill Evans, words added by Roger Schore, called “In April.” Heartbreakingly gorgeous. It was Evans’ tune “For Nanette,” retitled when Schore supplied the lyric. I had never heard it before. I don’t think Daryl has recorded it.

Another highlight was Daryl’s acceding to my request to do Vernon Duke-Ira Gershwin’s “Island in the West Indies,” a number I first heard her perform at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington during the Great Songbirds Convergence of 2001. This is a combination of song and performer that is as good as music gets, and if you think that is overstatement, well, then, you haven’t heard her do it.

In the event you don’t catch Daryl’s act at the Waldorf these last two nights, you owe it to yourself to check her out on CD. There are several available from Amazon, as well as eMusic and iTunes.

Dwight Hemion, Television Artist.

Adam Bernstein writes a good obituary of TV producer and director Dwight Hemion in today’s Washington Post.

In the 60s and 70s, it seemed that if a TV musical special displayed intelligence, respect for the viewer, superb musical values, and beautiful visual values, it was almost guaranteed to have the names of Hemion and his partner Gary Smith attached to it. Sometimes he achieved his results through a deceptive simplicity. His Sinatra: A Man and His Music special and its sequel, Sinatra: A Man and His Music Part II, dared to present Sinatra against a white sweep, singing with the band on camera behind him, conducted by Nelson Riddle or Gordon Jenkins. You could hear Hemion saying to you, “Nothing could be better than this.”

dwight-hemion.jpgHere’s a complete list of Hemion’s credits. He was nominated for 47 Emmys–more than any person in television history, in any category.

A clip from Color Me Barbra (the second Streisand special) at YouTube gives you a taste of his work. If you have the patience to sit through Barbra’s two minute introduction (not directed by Hemion)—and I can understand if you don’t—she gives you a glimpse into Hemion’s process. If you’d prefer to skip that, just advance to around 2:16. The clip is non-embeddable, which means I can’t present it to you within this post, but if you click here, you can see it.

Be someplace where you won’t mind if goosebumps start sprouting and tears start falling…