Sunday, December 30, 2012

Louis Jordan, "Saturday Night Fish Fry"


Louis Jordan - Saturday Night Fish Fry by soulpatrol
Something to get you into the party spirit.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Oh, no! Cat photos.

My wife funded my purchase of a new camera for Christmas, and I bought it today. It's a Canon PowerShot  SX 260 HS (no, I haven't a clue what "SX" and "HS" mean), a handy point-and-shoot that will be easy to carry and use on my morning walks. By the time I'd set it up and the lithium ion battery was charged, it was dark and sleeting outside. So my first practice shots were of two handy subjects in our apartment. In the photo above, Hepzibah is snug in her kitty bed. I bent down to try to get a better shot, and, of course, she got up and left.

Here's Attila ("Tilly") curled up on our bed.

Is that a bug on the ceiling?

The weather should be better tomorrow, so I'll try to get some outdoor shots. Anything good I'll post here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Remembering Peter Demmerle, and anticipating Alabama vs. Notre Dame.

I used to hate Notre Dame. This came to a climax with the 1992 Sugar Bowl, in which the third ranked Florida Gators, my favorites, led by Heisman candidate QB Shane Matthews, played the eighteenth ranked Fighting Irish. Florida was a heavy favorite, and I saw this as their big opportunity to crash into college football's elite by beating a team that epitomized the game's establishment. Over time, I had become sick and tired of the panjandrums of pigskin punditry going on, as I once put it, like a minyan of Reb Tevyes chanting Knut Rockne, tra-DI-shon!; Four Horsemen, tra-DI-shon!; Golden Dome, tra-DI-shon!; subway alumni, tra-DI-shon!; ad nauseam. 

Much to my dismay as I sat at the Lion's Head bar that New Year's Day afternoon, tra-DI-shon was to prevail, as usual. The game started well for me, with the Gators holding a 16-7 lead at halftime. In the third quarter the Irish got a quick TD and field goal to go ahead 17-16, but Florida responded with another FG to regain the lead, 19-17. The final quarter proved really ugly. Florida's Arden Czyzewski notched his fifth three pointer to build the lead to 22-17. Then the ND offense went to work, propelled by the running of Jerome Bettis, later to  become one of the NFL's leading rushers and gain the nickname "The Bus." His two quick TDs, one followed by a two point conversion, put the Irish ahead 32-22. Florida scored again on a Matthews to Harrison Houston pass; a failed conversion made it 32-28. But Bettis went back to work, breaking loose for a 39 yard scoring run that iced the game at 39-28 with less than two minutes left. I chugged what was left of the last of a series of beers I'd had during the game, paid my tab, and left before the post-game commentators could break into their Tevye dance.* Some time after that I offered Peter Demmerle (photo) my grudging congratulations.

I had known Pete, a rising star at LeBoeuf, Lamb, my law firm alma mater, for several years. I knew he had played football at Notre Dame, and would occasionally make friendly wagers with him on games in which I thought the Irish might be upset. He always won. In 1989 undefeated Notre Dame and West Virginia teams were slated to play for the national championship at the Fiesta Bowl. I offered to bet on the Mountaineers; Pete's response was, "You really want those guys to win? How about if they do I beat you up?" I was saved by a 34-21 Irish victory.

Our conversations weren't always about football. We both worked in the same area of law: insurance transactional and regulatory matters. Pete was instrumental in planning the restructuring of the Lloyd's of London insurance market in the 1990s.

One day in 1999 or 2000 I ran into Pete on a Midtown street around noontime, and stopped to chat. I noticed that his speech seemed slurred. From another friend I learned that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, "ALS" or "Lou Gherig's disease." He died in 2007, leaving a wife and four daughters. During his final years, he supported and advocated ALS research.

While I knew Pete had played at Notre Dame, I knew nothing about his career there, since I never followed the team except when they were playing someone I hoped might beat them. I once asked him what position he played; he said he was a pass receiver. Since nothing was said about an NFL career, which would have to had been quite brief considering his having spent three years in law school, then gone through the lengthy apprenticeship of being a law firm associate before being made a partner, I guessed he was a second stringer who spent much of his college career warming the bench. I was wrong.

On December 9 The New York Times sports section included an article by Bill Pennington, "Culture Clash,", about the meeting between the Notre Dame and Alabama football teams, in the 1973 Sugar Bowl that decided what was then sometimes called the "mythical" national college football championship. Both the Irish and the Crimson Tide were undefeated in regular season play, but 'Bama had the number one ranking going into the bowls. The Tide, as was customary for the Southeastern Conference champion, accepted a bid to play in the Sugar Bowl, in New Orleans. Paul "Bear" Bryant, 'Bama's by then legendary coach, said he wanted Notre Dame to be their opponent. As Pennington puts it:
Thirty-nine years ago, there was a  college football national championship game arranged not by computer rankings or a rubric of poll results like this season's Alabama-Notre Dame matchup for the Bowl Championship Series title, but by the kind of primitive challenge heard in a sandlot.
The game had historic dimensions. It was the first meeting of two of college football's dominant teams, and it had the north versus south angle. Despite this, I have no memory of it. I may or may not have watched. I didn't have any rooting interest, as I disliked both teams, Notre Dame for the reasons given above, and Alabama because they were a frequent nemesis of the Florida Gators. Nor was I a fan of the stern, authoritarian Bear Bryant, although I did get a chuckle from one of the several motivational signs he was said to have posted in the training room: "A moral victory is like kissing your sister." Having no sister, I could only use my imagination.


If I did miss the game, I missed a good one. Indeed, it's hard to fathom how I could have forgotten it if I did see it. If you watch the clip above, you'll see what an important part Pete Demmerle played in Notre Dame's victory, with his pass receptions setting up the first TD and his catch for a two point conversion that later tied the game.

Doing research for this post, I learned why Pete didn't have a successful NFL career, despite having been a college All-American. The championship Sugar Bowl game was during his junior year. The following year, Alabama and Notre Dame met again, though not with a national championship at stake, in the Gator Bowl. During that game, Pete suffered a knee injury that, while not severe enough to preclude his playing again, was sufficient to drop him to being a thirteenth round draft choice. He chose law school instead.

So, on the night of Monday, January 7, I will be watching the BCS championship game, once again pitting Alabama against Notre Dame. This time, with apologies to my friends from the Heart of Dixie, I'll be backing the guys in the gold helmets, thinking (maybe even yelling) "Win one for Pete!" Maybe I'll even discover my inner Tevye.
__________
*This brings to mind Super Bowl III, which I watched in the room of my law school classmate, the late Michael Francis Vincent Peter Vaccaro, owner of the only TV on my dorm floor. The moment the game ended, Mike jumped up and turned off the TV. Asked why, he said, "I couldn't stand to hear Howard Cosell say, 'Broadway Joe Namath, the New York Jets, and the American Football League all came of age today.'"

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Good King Wenceslas" by York Minster Choir

My last post pointed to the tragic side of Christmas: Herod's massacre of the innocents. This is a carol that by contrast commemorates the kind deeds of a good king, actually a  Bohemian nobleman posthumously raised to kingship by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto and canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Although Wenceslas lived in what is now part of the Czech Republic, the lyrics of the carol were written in mid nineteenth century England and set to a Finnish tune.

"Coventry Carol" by the Westminster Cathedral Choir

The "little tiny child" in this carol isn't the infant Jesus, instead he is one of the many innocents slaughtered under orders of Herod (Matthew 2:16). The song originated in the sixteenth century; its lyrics have been passed down through various transcriptions over the years. Wikipedia gives this modern attempt at a reconstruction of the original:

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.
That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
The city of Coventry, in the English Midlands, suffered its own massacre of the innocents on November 14, 1940, when a Luftwaffe firebomb raid killed over 800 people, injured thousands, destroyed 4,000 houses, and reduced historic Coventry Cathedral to a shell.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Sixpence the Stars" by Honor Molloy

Honor Molloy, playwright, novelist, and superb reader, is the daughter of an American who went to Ireland to do graduate study and the Irishman she fell in love with and married. I saw her first at a Bloomsday event, and again tonight at the twice monthly salon of the Irish American Writers & Artists, where she read her "Sixpence the Stars" (video above, courtesy of bennettcerffan), a delightful rendition of the Christmas story as told by a Moore Street, Dublin "shawlie," or fruit vendor.

Ms, Molloy is the author, most recently, of Smarty Girl, a novel "loosely based" on her girlhood in Dublin. Here she is reading from the novel:



Thanks to Larry Kirwan of Black 47, and formerly of Turner & Kirwan and the Bells of Hell, for inviting me to the salon.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Newtown massacre.

News.Yahoo.com
Around noon yesterday I took a short break from work to get something to drink with the sandwich I'd brought to eat at my desk. I also checked my smartphone for new e-mails, and saw a breaking news item about a shooting at a school in Connecticut. One dead, one wounded was the initial report. I mentioned this to a fellow worker, who said he'd seen a report that the principal had been killed and one student wounded, and that it was believed the shooter was a parent of a student at the school. As time went by and we kept getting updates, it became evident that we were in a "fog of war." The shooter was 20. No, he was 24. His name was Ryan Lanza. He drove to Connecticut after killing his father in New Jersey. No, he was Ryan Lanza's younger brother, Adam. He lived in Connecticut. He went to the school to kill his mother, a kindergarten teacher, then started shooting children. There were eighteen dead. No, twenty.

As the extent of the horror was revealed, I became more distracted and depressed. I imagined as yet unwrapped presents hidden in a closet and the anticipation of a delighted smile on a young face. I imagined myself, at age five, cornered in a room and frozen in terror as a gun is pointed at me.

"What can be done?" is the natural, the inevitable reaction. Adam Lanza was not a deranged person who was able to buy guns; the weapons he used belonged to his mother, who became a victim of the firepower of her own arsenal. Is it understandable that someone in suburban Connecticut would want a weapon for self-defense? Well, yes. Did she need two 9mm pistols and a carbine? Probably not. Have similar mass murders occurred in countries with stricter gun controls than ours? Yes, although the Dumblane massacre led to the enactment of even more stringent legislation in Britain. Could school security have been better?  It's reported in today's New York Times that the principal, who was one of the victims, buzzed Adam Lanza in because she recognized him as the son of a colleague.

I didn't write the paragraph above as an argument against gun control or any other measures that may be proposed in response to this tragedy, but just to observe that, if you'll forgive a perhaps inevitable expression, there is no magic bullet.

Update: This story continues to develop. It's now reported that Lanza was not buzzed in by the principal, but instead forced his way in. According to the same Gothamist story his mother, Nancy Lanza, was not a teacher at the school, was a "gun enthusiast" who owned a large collection of firearms in addition to those used in the massacre, and taught her sons how to shoot.  The story also reports that on Tuesday before the massacre Adam Lanza tried to buy a rifle "but was turned down because he didn't want to undergo a background check or abide by the state's waiting period for gun sales."

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Dee Dee Sharp, "Hard Candy Christmas"

Dee Dee Sharp is a veteran of the 1960s Philadelphia R&B scene, part of the stable of artists who recorded for Cameo-Parkway (another of those artists, who provided the label with its first chart-topping hit, "Butterfly", was Charlie Gracie). Dee Dee's biggest hit, which I remember fondly from high school dances, was "Mashed Potato Time." 

In the video above, thanks to Paul Piccari, that I found through Mike Miller on Facebook, Dee Dee sings "Hard Candy Christmas," a lovely bittersweet song from the play and movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

It's Chanukah, and Chanukah it is.

 In the song accompanying the video above, the LeeVees address the burning question: how do you spell the name of the minor Jewish holiday--but which has become major in the American context; see Hilary Leila Krieger's piece on the Op-Ed page of today's New York Times--that started today, and will last for another seven days? Ms. Krieger chose "Hanukkah." Four years ago I chose the alternative "Chanukah," mostly because it gave a visual as well as sonic alliteration to my post's title, "Chanukah on the Chisholm Trail." Last year I avoided the issue by not mentioning the name in the title or body of my post, although the caption of the embedded Matisyahu video spells it "Hanukkah." The LeeVees don't give us an answer.

Of course, there is one absolutely correct way to spell the name of the holiday:  חֲנֻכָּה What we're considering here is how to spell it in a transliterated fashion, in the Roman alphabet. I've made my choice: I'm going with Chanukah. My reason is that the initial "Ch" denotes the slight guttural sound, as distinguished from the soft English "H," that properly begins the word. So says this latke loving (salmon roe and sour cream, please) goy, who eagerly awaits our neighbor's Chanukah celebration.

Holiday Lionel Train layout at NYC Transit Museum Annex, Grand Central

Here's this year's version (see last year's here) of the Lionel Train display at the New York City Transit Museum's annex and gift shop in Grand Central Terminal. The basic layout is the same as last year's, with the addition of a model of Grand Central's underground platforms, which you see at the beginning of the video, and of a model New York City subway train consisting of vintage "redbird" cars. Other trains include a New York Central passenger hotshot pulled by a first generation General Motors E-type diesel, the seasonal favorite "Polar Express" with a steam loco, and a two car New York Central freight powered by what looks like an Alco RS-3.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012


Dave Brubeck, who took jazz in new directions, died Wednesday, one day before his 92nd birthday. I first heard Brubeck during my freshman year of college. I was walking past an open dorm room door and heard some music that wasn't quite like anything I'd heard before. It was jazz, but it didn't follow any jazz pattern I knew--not that I was knowledgeable about jazz--nevertheless it swung. One of my floormates, a transfer from MIT, was walking toward me. His eyes lit up, and he said "Blue Rondo à la Turk!" (Video above.) What made the piece unusual was that it was in 9/8 time instead of the customary 4/4 of jazz and most popular music. I later learned that it came from Time Out, an album that featured the use of unusual time signatures (the cover art is by S. Neil Fujita).  It became one of the best selling jazz albums ever, and included what became Brubeck's most popular piece, "Take Five," (video below) which is in 5/4 time.



The Quartet that recorded Time Out (there were earlier lineups, though Paul Desmond was a constant) consisted of Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on sax, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums. The same players are in the videos above.

Some years after my first acquaintance with Brubeck, I heard a friend's copy of the Dave Brubeck Octet album. Brubeck formed the Octet in 1946, the year I was born. He had served in Patton's army in Europe, where he met Desmond, returned to his native California, studied composition under Darius Milhaud at Mills College, and briefly attended classes with Arnold Schoenberg at UCLA.  He couldn't agree with Schoenberg's insistence on giving each note equal account, and returned to San Francisco to start his own jazz group. The group that made the album  included Desmond, Cal Tjader, Dave Van Kriedt, Dick Collins, William O. Smith, Jack Weeks, and Bob Collins. I was delighted by the inventiveness and energy of the music, and got my own copy of the album. You can hear the Octet's rendition of the George Gershwin standard "Love Walked In" at Last FM.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

As It Is On Earth, by Peter M. Wheelwright

Taylor Thatcher, protagonist and point-of-view character of Peter M. Wheelwright's first novel, set at the end of the last millennium, tries to make sense of how the world works, and so seeks unifying concepts. His brother, Bingham, or "Bin," delights in particulars. They are epistemological yin and yang and, like the taijitu symbol of two nestled fishes, they complement each other. As Taylor says, "My brother and I know the stars by different names." They also share the same birthday, born two years apart.

They are in fact half-brothers, and also cousins. Taylor's mother, Lily, drowned in a canoe accident when he was a toddler. His father then married Lily's identical twin, Roseanne. She gave birth to Bin, and immediately after succumbed to diabetic complications of pregnancy. Rose was quickly supplanted as a caretaker by Esther, a Cajun who came north to Maine seeking the origin of her ancestor, a French Acadian forced by the British to move to Louisiana.

Taylor's memories of his mother and stepmother are "Vague, diaphanous."
It seemed to me I had been born into a pretty fast-paced but solemn world...with a lot of black and white and the sense that I'd better start paying attention.
Taylor's and Bin's father is a physician, but he is always called "the Deacon," his ecclesiastical title as a senior layman in the Congregational Church of Mount Vernon, Maine. The pulpit of that church is manned by The Reverend Samson Littlefield, whose homilies partake more of the hellfire of Jonathan Edwards than of  the latitudinarianism of today's United Church of Christ, unlikely ecclesiastical successor to the severe Calvinists of Edwards' time. The minister's wife, Felicity, teaches Sunday school and tries to make her husband's sermons palatable and comprehensible to the children. She is relieved when Esther suggests that Taylor, who seems disengaged from the proceedings, be excused from the class along with Bin, who asks "difficult questions about miracles." The Rev. Littlefield eventually mimics his Biblical namesake by bringing the church building down around him and his wife, who proves, in a moment traumatic for Taylor, to have more in common with Delilah that we are at first led to believe.

The Deacon holds Truth in high regard, and on the front porch severely punishes Taylor for deviations from it. So Taylor pays attention to Truth. This leads him, with a few side trips behind the big schoolyard oak tree to examine girls' pudenda or behind a barn to smoke weed with his neighbor Galen McMoody, into academe. As a college student, he masters the game and crafts a double major in "Sociology of Engineering Science" and "Science of Social Engineering," and does it "right under the nose of the faculty." (Here the author seems to be having some fun, as when he gives two interdisciplinary study centers names that yield the acronyms SASS and ARSE; we're in David Lodge territory, which is not a bad place to be.)

As a graduate student in the College of the Sciences, Taylor recalls:
I had my own ideas about the space-time continuum; a different theory of relativity. I wondered if the heavens were only being reshuffled in order to fit the circumstances here at home, in the moment, on the ground.
This reminded me of an assertion made by NYU physics professor Alan Sokal in 1996, about the time when Taylor would have been in grad school: "the pi of Euclid and the G of Newton, formerly thought to be constant and universal, are now perceived in their ineluctable historicity." This was part of an article Sokal submitted to the cultural studies journal Social Text, which had published articles suggesting that knowledge gained through science was "socially constructed" and not objectively universal. After Social Text published Sokal's article, he announced that it was a hoax.

So perhaps Taylor fell for what Sokal and his later collaborator, the French mathematician Jean Bricmont, called Fashionable Nonsense. Perhaps this was a reaction to the Deacon's reverence for a transcendent Truth. Later, as a junior professor, he would have these musings:
Tomorrow, I am supposed to, lecture on the Holy Trinity of Science to a bunch of first year engineering students...It has to be Science Lite for these guys -- they've just started tinkering with the universe, still trying to connect the dots -- so I usually try to avoid the seamy social history of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology and keep the focus on the contributions they have made to the lives of my students. But...I have decided to let the kids know what I really think. ...
It's all religious history.
Has the Deacon prevailed, after all? It's not that simple. Despite whatever doubts Taylor has about the Deacon's philosophy, doubts that could only be exacerbated by the Deacon's behavior shortly before his death and by the manner of his death, Taylor keeps on seeking Truth. It may prove to be the inverse of the Deacon's Truth, just as the novel's title is an inversion of the Lord's Prayer. Taylor's seeking leads him to Mexico, to the Mayan ruins of Yucatan and Chiapas, where he meets Nicole, who will for a time be his wife.    The marriage is stifled under the burden of Taylor's seeking, and Nicole returns to Rafael, the Mexican lover from whom Taylor won her.
I have to hand it to Rafael. He leans eagerly into the future with both feet on the ground, a reformed hidalgo intent on things-in-the-making. I keep drifting backwards in storm clouds, unredeemed, trying to unravel things past. 
The word "burden" seems to appear frequently in Taylor's narrative. He bears the burden of losing two mothers, of his father's alcoholism, and of the Thatcher history: exile to Maine on account of an ancestor's apostasy from the religious orthodoxy of Massachusetts Bay. The greatest burden, though, concerns Bin. Taylor frequently refers to something cryptically: "the Fall" and "the Stigmata." Its nature isn't completely revealed until near the book's conclusion.

Lest you think this novel is entirely Dostoyevskian spelunking through the caverns of the human soul, it has more than a few brighter moments. Early on, they include Taylor's socializing with his faculty colleagues, a predictably eccentric lot who could easily migrate to the pages of works by David Lodge or Kingsley Amis. An ultimately leavening influence on Taylor's state of mind is the arrival, late in the Deacon's life, of a third, and female, Thatcher half sibling. Christened Evangeline, she is called "Angie" until she's old enough to announce her own preference, which is to be "Evie." (Now there's a fresh beginning for the Thatcher clan.) Most importantly, encouragement comes to Taylor in the form of Miryam, a graduate art student whose photographs of bridges and Nefertiti-like profile catch his eye.

Much of the first part of  the novel is taken up by flashbacks in which Taylor tells his history, but it concludes with a rush of action as Taylor and his SASS colleagues converge with their rivals from ARSE for a conference in which Taylor plays an unexpected role. This takes place in the southern Connecticut realm dominated by the casinos of the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans, once battlefield enemies and today rivals for gamblers' dollars. Rafael attends with now pregnant Nicole, and cements a Mayan alliance with his distant northern cousins. Taylor and Miryam visit the nearby home of Taylor's widowed grandmother, where Miryam bonds with Evie. And Bin, accompanied by Jemma McMoody, Galen's daughter, makes an announcement that brings to mind the legend of the Fisher King. At its conclusion, As It Is On Earth made me think of the final sentence of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut Jr. novel, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: "Be fruitful and multiply."

As It Is On Earth is published by Fomite, Burlington, Vermont.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

RIP: Earl "Speedo" Carroll

Talk about getting a lemon and making lemonade: Earl Carroll, lead singer of the Cadillacs, put his car into valet parking. When he reclaimed it the parking attendant said, "OK, Speedo, here's your torpedo." Carroll's response to this obviously racially motivated taunt was, "My name isn't Speedo; it's Mister Earl." This, with slight modification, became the lyrics for "Speedo" (see video above), which became a number 17 hit in 1955. There's a recent interview with Earl Campbell here.

Mr. Earl died today. Speed on, Speedo.

Divine Dvořák; scintillating Shostakovich

Friday evening my wife and I went to a New York Philharmonic concert featuring guest conductor Andrey Boreyko. On the program were Felix Mendlessohn's Overture to Die Heimkehr aus der Fremde ("Son and Stranger"), a sprightly piece that got things going nicely, followed by Dmitri Shostakovitch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 99, with soloist Frank Peter Zimmerman. The concert concluded with Antonin Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor,  Op. 95, From the New World. I'll discuss the last piece first, as it's an old favorite of mine, as well as of many.

When I was nine years old, my parents bought the LP album Classical Music for People Who Hate Classical Music, an anthology of performances by the Boston Pops Orchestra, under Arthur Fiedler, of mostly familiar, mostly (in that early edition) nineteenth century romantic pieces that were accessible (or, as a rock critic might put it, having hooks) to people unfamiliar with, and perhaps inclined to dislike, the classical canon. (The collection, greatly expanded to include more kinds of music performed by many orchestras and artists, is still available as a four CD set.) One of the cuts on the LP was the second movement, Largo, from Dvořák's New World symphony. You can hear it, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra directed by Carlo Maria Giulini, by playing the clip above.

As I recall, the notes to the mid 1950s vintage LP said Dvořák got the principal theme for the Largo movement from a "Negro spiritual" with the title "Goin' Home." As I've discussed before here, classical composers frequently borrow tunes from other sources, including folk music and the work of other composers ("Variations on..." is a title frequently seen in classical music) just as pop tunesmiths sometimes mine the classical canon. This is mostly, but as George Harrison could have told you not always, considered Kosher. In any event, notes by James M. Keller in the Playbill for the concert correct the mistaken notion that Dvořák used a folk tune here. The tune was original to Dvořák, and acquired the title "Goin' Home" some thirty years after the symphony was written, when Dvořák's pupil and later teaching assistant William Arms Fisher wrote "dialect" lyrics for it that begin, "Goin' home, goin' home/ I'm a-goin' home."

Keller also observes that the composer's notes accompanying the original score for the symphony, which were used when it was given its world premiere by the New York Philharmonic in 1893, had been kept in the Philharmonic's archives. After the premiere, performances relied on a score published by the Berlin music house Simrock that lacked these notes and may have differed from the original score in other respects, although the Simrock score had the composer's blessing. In 1989, at the request of another music publisher, Breitkopf & Härtel, the Philharmonic's librarians produced the notes, along with the original score, and these became the basis for the Breitkopf & Härtel edition that the Philharmonic performed last night.

I don't know if it was in part because I'd never heard this version of New World before, and it was certainly in large part because of the skill of the instrumentalists and conductor, but this was easily the best performance of New World I'd heard, live or recorded. This is the kind of familiar work that can become formulaic and languid, but the Philharmonic's rendition was crisp and energetic. Even the Largo, while keeping all its melancholy plaintiveness, seemed fresh. One thing that struck me was how "American" this music by an emigre from Central Europe seems; not only the Largo but, for example, the principal theme of the first movement, Adagio--allegro molto, in which I thought I could hear hints, though I doubt it was a conscious appropriation on Dvořák's part, of Stephen Foster's "Oh, Susannah!" In the tumultuous final movement, Allegro con fuoco, I sensed an influx of Slavic soul; on the way out I said to my wife that it seemed to me like John Philip Souza filtered through Modest Mussorgsky. I then had to explain that I didn't mean it in a bad way.

Dmitri Shostakovich, considered by some to be the greatest composer of the past century, wrote his first violin concerto in 1947-48 and dedicated it to David Oistrakh, considered by some to be the greatest violinist of that century. It  may be one of the most challenging works ever written for the solo violinist.  According to Keller's notes, Oistrakh "asked Shostakovich to show mercy."

Dmitri Dmitriyevich, please consider letting the orchestra take over the first eight bars in the finale so as to give me a break, then at least I can wipe the sweat off my brow.
Shostakovich readily assented to Oistrakh's plea. However, the concerto wasn't performed until 1955, two years after Stalin's death. Keller notes that the great cellist Mstislav Rostrapovich blamed the delay of its release on Oistrakh, implying that he was daunted by the work's difficulty. But Keller argues that the delay was occasioned by Soviet politics.  Like many other artists, Shostakovich fell in and out of favor during the Stalin years, depending on the dictator's whims. In 1945, following the defeat of the Nazis, Stalin wanted nothing but art that expressed unreserved triumphalism.  Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony, published that year, was judged lacking in patriotic fervor, and therefore considered "decadent." As a consequence, Shostakovich lost his teaching position at the Leningrad Conservatory and became, in Keller's words, "indelibly traumatized and paranoid." This may have caused his reluctance to release a work that might, like his Ninth, be characterized as containing "formalist perversions and antidemocratic tendencies...alien to the Soviet people and its artistic tastes."

The video above is the best I could find of the concerto's spectacular final movement. The soloist is the Russian violinist Vadim Repin, with the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Paavo Järvi. There's also a black-and-white, somewhat grainy video of Oistrakh, who died in 1974, doing the cadenza here. These are both magnificent performances; Zimmerman's on Friday evening was similarly awesome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cranberry Apple Pie

You don't love pumpkin pie? You're like me. Looking for something different for Thanksgiving? Try this delicious cranberry apple pie, which my wife  and her fellow members of the Grace Church cooking crew served at our Harvest Dinner, and which was a great success.

What you need (per pie):

1 refrigerated pie pastry (or make your own, if, like my wife,  you're really hard core)

2 cups apples, peeled, cored, and quartered

2 cups fresh cranberries

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

For the crumb topping:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a nine inch standard pie pan with the pastry; flute the edges.

Slice the apples thinly and mix them in a bowl with the cranberries. Add and mix sugar, lemon juice, and flour. Put the filling in the pastry, smoothing the top. Put in oven and bake for thirty minutes.

While the pie is baking, mix the flour, sugar, and cinnamon for the topping in a bowl. Add the butter and combine it with the other ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

When thirty minutes are up, take the pie from the oven, reduce the temperature to 375 degrees, spread the topping on the pie, and bake for another thirty minutes, or until the top is a golden brown. Let it cool for two hours before serving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Image and recipe thanks to spoonful.com.

Addendum: In today's Times, Ian Fisher seconds Calvin Trillin in recommending spaghetti carbonara as a substitute for turkey. Zelda will be thankful.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

R.A. Dickey makes my day.

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

As the regular baseball season ended, I posted about two good things I thought could be said about the Mets' otherwise miserable run this year. One of these was R.A. Dickey's twenty wins, the first for the team since Frank Viola's 22 years ago. Now Dickey has capped that achievement by winning the National League Cy Young award. He is only the third Met--the others are Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden--to have that honor.

Dickey is my kind of guy. His pitch--the knuckleball--relies on finesse rather than brute strength. He came to the Mets not as a heralded superstar but as a journeyman who might find a place in the rotation. In rare fashion, he improved after donning the blue and orange. He's also an intellectual. Yogi Berra was once asked if there were any intellectuals among his Yankee teammates. He offered one name, saying he once saw this player "reading a book that didn't have any pictures."  Dickey was an English literature major at the University of Tennessee, reads avidly, and was inspired by Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro to climb that mountain in order to raise funds for an organization that serves victims of human trafficking in India.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Catskill weekend.

Last weekend, thanks to the kindness of a neighbor, my wife, daughter, and I were able to spend a relaxing weekend at a house (photo above) in the Beaverkill Valley, between Mongaup and Touch-Me-Not mountains, in New York's Catskill region.

The falls of the Beaverkill.

A small marsh in a meadow.


A stone fence.

Whitetail deer in the meadow behind the house.

Fungi and moss on a log.

A stone fence, end-on.


Streamside flora.

A view from the hillside.

The kitchen Buddha.

The front porch.

Postscript: Although there was some evidence of the recent transit of Hurricane Sandy through the region, in the form of freshly downed tree limbs and broken trunks, there was also much remaining from last year's Hurricane Irene, which hit the Catskills much harder, as witness the fallen logs below.


Monday, November 12, 2012

A Catskill watercourse

Following part of the course of a small stream that flows down a steep hillside into a small pond, which in turn drains into a continuation of the stream that flows into the Beaverkill River, a renowned trout fishing destination in the Catskill region of New York State. I regret the small spot on my camera lens, which I hope is not too distracting.

I'll be posting still photos and text about our weekend in the Catskills in a day or so.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Snow!

Remnants of the nor'easter that arrived yesterday at about noon and continued through the night. It's pretty here in Brooklyn Heights, although there are reports of more trees down (the photo in the linked post was taken just a block away). It's a disaster for those who lost power during Sandy, had it restored, and have now lost it again.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Yes!

'Nuff said, for now.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Vote!

This video is four years old, which is why the wall poster says "November 4." I remember Tuesday, November 4, 2008 very well. I had voted early in Brooklyn, and spent Saturday through Tuesday in the suburbs of Buffalo, ringing doorbells, handing out literature, and giving my spiel about voting for the candidates I favored. I spent election evening in a campaign headquarters in East Aurora, New York (which is roughly 130 miles west of Aurora, New York; go figure) and had a mouthful of pizza and a delightful endorphin rush when the projection for Ohio was announced, as I hope I will tomorrow night. But, and I do mean this, whoever you're supporting, please vote. Join my daughter, who just turned 19 and is voting for the first time. If you don't vote, well, you just might feel like you got hit by a linebacker.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The boat ride to work; the long walk back.

My subway link to Manhattan, where I work, was cut all last week because of flooded tunnels. On Thursday and Friday I decided to take the East River Ferry. Here's the Fiorello LaGuardia approaching Pier 1 at Brooklyn Bridge Park Friday morning.
On our way to the 34th Street ferry terminal in Manhattan, we passed the Con Edison 14th Street power plant, site of the transformer explosion that blacked out lower Manhattan.

Arriving at 34th Street, I boarded a free shuttle bus that makes a loop through Midtown, and dropped me off two blocks from where I work. Elapsed time door to door was about an hour and a half, because I just missed a ferry and had to wait twenty minutes for the next one. Also, the shuttle bus had to negotiate heavy traffic.

On Thursday, I left work at 4:15 to avoid the rush, and was able to get on one of the free shuttle buses the MTA was running from Midtown to Brooklyn during the subway blockage. There was a small group waiting for the bus at Lexington Avenue between 54th and 55th streets, so I was able to get on and find a seat. The bus became very crowded when we stopped near Grand Central Station, It took us about an hour to get to Jay Street in Brooklyn, about a ten minute walk from where I live.

On Friday I left work at about the same time, but found the sidewalks near the bus pickup so crowded that I decided to walk down to the ferry terminal. A few blocks below 42nd Street, I noticed there were no more traffic lights, or lights of any kind. I had entered the blacked out zone. When I got to the 34th Street terminal, I found a line of people waiting to get on the ferry that extended as far as I could see. Since ferry service was to stop at 6:00, I decided that it was likely not all of these people were going to get on. My only realistic option was to walk home, something I did before during the December 2005 transit strike.

I walked south on First Avenue, past the blacked out New York University and Bellvue hospitals, both of which had been evacuated.  As I passed shuttered restaurants and bodegas, I noticed the pungency of decaying food. After I crossed 14th Street, I passed a little cafe that was lit up and crowded with people. "Does that place have its own generator?" I wondered. Then I noticed that the pedestrian crossing signal ahead of me was working. After four days of blackout, power had been restored to the East Village.


A resident celebrated by playing his electric guitar on the fire escape.
The sun set as I walked through Chinatown toward the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge walkway, and I crossed the bridge after nightfall. I arrived home at about 7:30, just over three hours after leaving work. Detours to the bus stop and ferry terminal added to the time; otherwise I could have made it in about two and a half hours.

Subway service has now been restored between Brooklyn and Manhattan, so my commuting will no longer be so adventurous.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Live blogging Hurricane Sandy from Brooklyn Heights

An encouraging omen? Brooklyn Heights Blog reader Jay took this video from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade of a rainbow appearing to extend from the Statue of Liberty to lower Manhattan.

9:30 a.m., Tuesday, October 30: There's still a brisk wind but, at the moment, no rain. Lots of people are out, and the flimsy tape barrier across the Promenade entrance is being ignored with impunity. Our building crew are out clearing leaves from the sidewalk.

Damage to the Brooklyn Heights area has been limited to downed trees and limbs and some minor structural damage. Nearby low-lying areas have been flooded--the storm surge was a whopping thirteen feet above normal--and, in a flooding related incident, there was a fire, evidently caused by electrical problems, in the basement of a large co-op apartment building just below the Heights. Fortunately, no one was hurt. 

Other areas of the City were not so fortunate. Probably the worst disaster was a fire that destroyed about eighty houses in the Breezy Point section of Queens. There is extensive damage to shorefront properties throughout the region. As has been widely reported, an explosion destroyed an electrical substation in lower Manhattan, and much of that part of the City, which includes the financial district, will be without power for an indefinite period. A concern for Brooklyn residents like me is that the subway tunnels connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan have been flooded with salt water, which could damage switches and signals and keep trains from running for several days.

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie....
Gerard Manley Hopkins, Spring and Fall (1918). 

It's dark outside, and there's a steady rain falling, The wind seems to have abated, but as I type this, there's a strong gust. I'll be back in the morning.

4:40 p.m.: Despite the police barrier, and a cruiser occasionally coming by with a loudspeaker imploring people to get off the Promenade, they keep coming. This is confirmed by the video made by my BHB colleague Karl Junkersfeld today, featuring an appearance by our publisher, Homer Fink.

Update: The Daily Beast has this snarky view of what's going on in the neighborhood.

2:30 p.m.: The wind is stronger and steadier, but there are still people on the sidewalks, some walking dogs.

11:30 a.m.: The wind is picking up again. Tape has been stretched across the entrance to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which is part of the New York City Parks system, and therefore subject to an order closing all NYC parks for the remaining duration of the storm. A civilian leaving the Promenade helpfully lifts the tape for an NYPD car to enter.

10:30 a.m.: I decide to take a walk to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, just across the street from where I live. The wind is minimal, a few desultory drops of rain come down, and lots of people are out. Afterward, I walk back a block and find our local supermarket, Key Food, is open, so I'm able to score two things I forgot yesterday: half-and-half for my coffee and kitty treats.

Fellow Brooklyn Heights Blog contributor Chuck Taylor went out with his camera earlier and got these photos.

8:15 a.m. Monday, October 29. There's a strong, steady wind, and some rain has fallen during the night. A neighbor is walking his French bulldog.

10:30 p.m.: the Jersey lights are still bright, the wind has settled, and The Weather Channel's storm tracker shows the center of the storm still a little south and east of Cape Hatteras. The North Carolina Outer Banks must be taking quite a pounding now. TWC's projected path has it somewhere well east of the Virginia capes tomorrow evening (gad, this thing moves slowly), though we should be feeling its effects pretty strongly by then. Projected landfall is somewhere around the mouth of Delaware Bay Tuesday morning. I hope Cape May's Victorians emerge unscathed. 

It's 8:55 p.m. and I can still see New Jersey from my window. The wind seems to have calmed down a bit.

At 6:30 p.m. I realize I've forgotten to put Idaho potatoes in the oven prior to my wife's safe arrival from Boston, so I go on an emergency run for Tater Tots. I find the wind picking up, but still no wet stuff.

At 5:21 p.m., dusk is approaching. The sky is a solid gray overcast. The playground is empty. There is a steady, soft breeze. Sandy, it seems, will arrive after nightfall.

For the duration, I'll be posting updates, including photos when possible, on the storm's progress as seen from my window overlooking Pierrepont Place in Brooklyn Heights. If things get exciting enough, I may include some video snippets. This was the scene at 10:20 this (Sunday) morning: some sunshine, a gentle breeze, and kids in the playground. New York City is taking storm preparation very seriously: evacuation orders have been issued for low lying areas as a storm surge that could be as much as eight feet above normal is possible; and the subway system is shutting down starting at 7:00 this evening. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Linda Laurie, "Ambrose (Part 5)"

This was a spooky novelty hit for Brooklynite Linda Laurie in 1959. (There were no parts one through four.)

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 22, 2012

George McGovern, 1922-2012

I cast my second presidential ballot for him; my first was for his fellow upper Midwesterner Hubert Humphrey. So, I began my voting career with two swings and misses, before I connected for a hit with Jimmy Carter in 1976. When the Watergate scandal broke in '73, I would occasionally see cars with bumper stickers that said "Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts" (the only state McGovern carried). I couldn't claim that; I voted for him by absentee ballot from Florida while stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The South was solid for the Trickster.

Later, I could claim an indirect connection (besides the voting one) to him: I had some brief but pleasant conversation with his sister, who was married to the minister of my parents' church.

He served in World War Two as an Army Air Corps bomber pilot, flying the B-24 Liberator, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a safe emergency landing which he and his crew survived, despite the B-24's vulnerability in such situations because of its high-mounted wing.

He was brought up in the traditions of prairie populism and, through his Methodist minister father, the Social Gospel, both of which, along with McGovern, are eulogized in today's New York Times by Josh Garrett-Davis. Goodbye to a very good man.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Stanley Fish on Gertrude Stein on Cézanne

Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses, c. 1895 (oil on canvas).
I have a passion about connections between different kinds of art. On this blog, it's mostly been between music and painting (see here and here). Now, thanks to Stanley Fish's How to Write a Good Sentence (the link is to a review in the Financial Times by my fellow Grace Church parishioner, Adam Haslett), I know that Gertrude Stein's writing was inspired by Paul Cézanne's painting:
Usually a sentence does not deliver its meaning until the end, and only at the end do its components acquire their significance and weight. But what Stein wants is meaning to be present at every instant, to be always the same in weight and yet different as each word is different. Before Flaubert and Cézanne, she explains, "composition had consisted of a central idea to which everything else was an accompaniment and separate but was not an end in itself." But then "Cézanne conceived the idea that in composition one thing was as important as another thing. Each part is as important as the whole, and it impressed me enormously," and as a consequence, she continues, "I tried to convey the idea of each part of a composition being as important as the whole" ("A Transatlantic Interview," 1946).
Is Stein right about Cézanne? In the image of the painting shown above, is the surface of the table as "important" (not in a structural but in a compositional sense) as the fruit, or the white cloth? Is the pot as important as the flowers, or the leaves? Cézanne's painting doesn't have the compositional drama of, say, Goya's The Shootings of May 3, 1808, in which the eye is drawn irresistibly to the man in the white shirt with outstretched arms. Still, one does notice things like the pot, the table, and even the walls, which have a mottled texture, more than one might in the work of many other painters.

What about Stein's writing? Fish gives us this sample:
When I first began writing I felt that writing should go on I still do feel that it should go on but when I first began writing I was completely possessed by the necessity that writing should go on and if writing should go on what had colons and semi-colons to do with it, what had commas to do with it what had periods to do with it what had small letters and capitals to do with it to do with writing going on which was at the time the most profound need I had in connection with writing.
--Lectures in America, 1935
Does every part of this long sentence have equal weight? The frequent repetition of the phrase "writing should go on" seems to give it particular importance. The words "completely possessed" and "most profound need" draw attention to what immediately follows them. There's a cute irony in her use of a comma just before "what had commas to do with it [?]" Nevertheless, this sentence is more flowing stream than marble monument. To say that every element of a sentence should "be the same in weight" (Fish's words, not Stein's) brings to mind Stein's contemporary Dorothy Parker's quip about Lillian Hellman: "Every word she says is a lie, including 'and' and  'the.' "*  But that, as Fish (and, I suppose, Stein) would agree, is a reductio ad absurdum.

Stein, and perhaps Cézanne, adumbrated the aversion to "privilege" that came to characterize "postmodernism" or "theory" in late twentieth century academic discourse. In painting, this was carried a step further by Pierre Bonnard, whose compositions are, as a whole, much busier than Cézanne's, and who frequently marginalized elements that would have been afforded pride of place in the works of other artists.

Fish continues his commentary on Stein with this observation:
The insight is theological, although Stein probably doesn't intend it that way. In a world created and presided over by an omnipotent God who fills all the available spaces, the distinctions between things, persons, and events are illusory, a function of a partial, divided, and dividing consciousness....If we would only...stop laboring to put discrete significances together in an effort to combine them into a larger whole, we would see, theologians tell us, that the larger whole we seek is already everywhere and that our very efforts to apprehend it themselves signify it.
Later in his book, Fish again ventures into theology, this time to deal with the vexed question of what it means to read the Bible literally. I'll discuss that in a later post.

Image thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.
__________
*I've seen this attributed to Parker about Hellman, whom she disliked intensely (and Hellman returned the favor) many times, but a quick web search found instances in which it was attributed to Parker about Mary McCarthy, and to McCarthy about Hellman, I'm sticking to Parker on Hellman. There was a famous exchange between the two when Hellman held a door open for Parker with the words, "Age before beauty." Parker, passing by, replied, "Pearls before swine." Update: I've since been told that the recipient of the "Pearls before swine" quip was not Hellman, with whom Parker enjoyed a generally good relationship, but Clare Boothe Luce.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Camapanella, by Neil Lanctot

Homered, flied out, fouled? Our "stylish stout"
so nimble Campanella will have him out.
A-squat in double-headers four hundred times a day,
he says that in a measure the pleasure is the pay:
catcher to pitcher, a nice easy throw
almost as if he'd just told it to go.


-- Marianne Moore, "Hometown Piece for Messrs Alston and Reese"
Roy Campanella was my first baseball hero. I was nine years old, living at Eglin Air Force Base, where my father was stationed, in the northwest panhandle of Florida. Neither of my parents was a sports fan, so I knew little of baseball at the age of five, when we went for a three year stay in England. My formal education began at a county council (what we would call "public") school there, and my first training in sports was in cricket, football (soccer), and rounders, a game that I later found had some similarity to baseball. We returned to the States in 1954, when I was eight, and I had to start re-learning how to be an American kid. I have vague memories of the '54 New York Giants vs. Cleveland Indians Series, the first I ever watched, and in which I had no rooting interest. By '55, though, I had absorbed enough baseball lore to know that the Yankees were the big, bad bullies (and the popular favorite, at least among my schoolmates), while the Dodgers were the scrappy underdogs. This, and the fact that Brooklyn was where I first stepped on U.S. concrete after our return from England, was enough to make me decide to back the Dodgers.

I focused on Campy early in the Series. Being a catcher meant that he was on camera most of the time when the Yanks were at bat. His name made me think he must be Spanish or Italian (I was half right regarding the latter) and the shade of his skin, as it appeared on black-and-white TV, did nothing to contradict that. I soon learned, though, thanks to the TV commentator or one of my schoolmates (the games were all played in the afternoon then, and we were let out of class to watch them in the "cafetorium"), that he was a Negro (the polite word in 1955). That also played to my underdog sympathy. What made me a Campy fan, though, was his effusiveness and enthusiasm, the obvious joy that he took in the game, which was evident even on a grainy TV screen; that, and the big hits he got that helped power the Dodgers to their first World Series victory.

Neil Lanctot's Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Camapanella confirms the image of Campanella as a player who loved the game, both for the sheer pleasure of doing it well and for giving him, a mixed-race kid from a scrappy part of Philadelphia called Nicetown, a route to fame and a degree of financial security (player salaries, even for established stars like Campanella, were comparatively modest in the time before free agency, but he earned enough to start the Harlem liquor store that provided a comfortable income in his later years). Yet the portrait that Lanctot draws is of a complex and in many ways troubled man, even before the car crash that ended his playing career and made him quadriplegic (the "Two Lives" of the subtitle refers to the times before and after the accident). For baseball fans, there's plenty of action in this book, but it's more a personal and social history than a sports story.

The social history is that of the struggle for civil rights and racial equality, which was gathering momentum in the years when Campanella's career was taking off, and in which, as the second player of African heritage to make the Majors--the first having been his Dodger teammate, Jackie Robinson--he was perforce a part. "Perforce" because, as was known at the time and as Lanctot emphasizes, Campanella was not comfortable with the role of a racial advocate. In part, this was because of his focus on his career as a ballplayer, which engendered a don't-rock-the-boat attitude summed up in a statement Campanella may never have made--indeed, Jackie Robinson, to whom he supposedly made it, denied that he did--"It's nice up here. Don't spoil it." Lanctot thinks this probably was a broad paraphrase by the sportswriter Dick Young based on his understanding of a conversation between Campanella and Robinson after Jackie was ejected from a game for arguing with an umpire over a called third strike.

Campanella was no stranger to discrimination and racial hostility, having encountered the full panoply of Jim Crow traveling through the South when he played in the Negro Leagues, and later in Dodger training camp in Florida, as well as hostility from opposing fans and players--including many pitches aimed at his head--and from some teammates. It seems, though, that he believed his only effective response was with his bat and his throwing arm (thanks to early mentoring he learned to be very effective at throwing out runners trying to steal). He did lose control once during a game, when pitcher Lew Burdette of the Milwaukee Braves threw hard at his head twice during an at-bat that ended with Campy striking out swinging. When Campy scowled and headed for the dugout, Burdette shouted "Black nigger bastard!" Campy pivoted and headed toward the mound, bat in hand. He was caught by teammates and disarmed before he could reach Burdette, as the benches cleared. He later claimed he wouldn't have used the bat on Burdette, he just hadn't had time to get rid of it.

Lanctot notes one instance in which Campanella spoke out directly against discrimination. This was in the late 1950s, after the auto accident, when he and his family were staying at the Sheraton West on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, as guests of the Dodger organization. When Campy learned that blacks weren't allowed to use the swimming pool, and after complaints to the management proved futile, he went to Dodger owner Walter O'Malley, who withdrew the Dodgers' business from the hotel. This contrasts with an earlier incident, when Campanella was still a player, involving the Chase Hotel in St. Louis. The Chase had been a whites only hotel until the mid 1950s, when the owners of now-integrated baseball teams, including the Dodgers, convinced its owners to allow black players to stay there when their teams were in town to play the Cardinals. This was allowed under the stipulation that the black players could not use the hotel's public facilities, and would have to take their meals in their rooms. Robinson agreed to accept this arrangement. "Half a loaf, he reasoned," according to Lanctot, "was better than none." Campanella and other black Dodgers, however, chose to stay at the Adams, a black-owned hotel, whose owner courted the players by sending a stretch limousine ("usually with a blonde or two in the back seat", Lanctot quotes Dodger General Manager Buzzy Bavasi as saying) to pick them up, serving them "fat, juicy steaks", and, perhaps most importantly, by putting them in a different venue from the team's white manager and GM, giving them the opportunity to violate pre-game night curfew. This infuriated Robinson, and was a marker in his deteriorating relationship with Campanella.

That relationship, never especially cordial from the start, took a very bad turn when Campanella and some other black major leaguers went on an off-season barnstorming tour organized by Robinson in conjunction with the promoter Lester Dworman. Campanella signed on for a flat $5,000 but felt cheated when the tour drew big crowds and he learned that Robinson was getting a percentage of the gate. He asked to renegotiate his contract, but Robinson and Dworman both refused. After that, the two players barely spoke to each other. Lanctot suggests other reasons for the tension between them. Although Robinson grew up in poverty, he attended a junior college and then UCLA, where he was an athlete in several sports, prominently football and least prominently baseball. After service in the Army, in which he achieved officer rank, and a short time with the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs, he got into the Dodgers' minor league system, speeding his way to become the first African American in the majors. The fact that he had been to college and an Army officer may have made him, in the eyes of Dodger GM Branch Rickey, a better prospect to break the color barrier than someone like Campanella who came from a tough urban neighborhood, never went beyond high school, and had spent years toiling in the Negro Leagues and in Latin American baseball. It's likely that, in Campy's view, Robinson hadn't paid the dues he had, but got the glory of being first. Years after both had retired from baseball, during the height of the 1960s civil rights struggle, Campanella and Robinson publicly reconciled.

Another troubled aspect of Campanella's life was his relationships with women. He was married three times. The first, to his teenage sweetheart, Bernice Ray, was occasioned by her becoming pregnant, and was probably doomed from the start because of his grueling year-round schedule of playing in the Negro Leagues in the summer and in Caribbean or Latin American ball in winter. After six years and two daughters, they separated for good in 1944. Campy met his second wife, Ruthe Willis, while still married to Bernice, After the separation, he and Ruthe, who had a son, David, by a previous marriage, became inseparable. They didn't marry until several years later, but, as Lanctot notes, Campanella presented Ruthe as his wife and David as his natural son before they were married, and after he became a Dodger, sportswriters relying on his account wrote that he and Ruthe had married in 1939, omitting any mention of Bernice and Campy's two daughters, Joyce and Beverly. This exemplifies something Lanctot makes a minor theme: Campanella's occasional stretching or airbrushing of the truth. It's easy to speculate that he believed his unwanted role as a racial standard bearer made this necessary.

His marriage to Ruthe lasted the duration of his Major League career, and produced three children: two sons, Roy Jr. and Tony, and a daughter, named Ruthe like her mother and called "Princess." The marriage lasted some time after the January, 1958 car accident that made Campanella a quadriplegic. Ruthe found out that the accident was occasioned by a wee hours tryst with another woman, which left a tired Campy to drive home on icy roads.  Despite this, they stayed married until 1963, although by Ruthe's and her friends' accounts much of the time after the accident he treated her atrociously. By the time of their divorce, Campy had a new woman in his life, Roxie Doles, who would become his third wife and remain with him until his death in 1993.

In the years after the accident, Campy managed to keep a positive public image. He got a daily five minute sports interview program, Campy's Corner, on WINS radio. His largely ghostwritten autobiography, It's Good to be Alive!, was published in September, 1959, received glowing reviews from the Herald Tribune critic Harold Kupferberg and from poet and Dodger fanatic Marianne Moore. He maintained good relations with the Dodger organization, although a hoped for job as a manager never materialized. Most gratifyingly for him, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

For me, for the most part, Roy Campanella will always be what's engraved on my childhood memory: the "stylish stout" catcher with the accurate arm, powerful bat, and ready smile. From Lanctot's book, I know that behind that smile there was a deep sense of insecurity, exemplified by his need to dissemble about aspects of his life he considered embarrassing or inconvenient, and his reticence about speaking out on civil rights. Much of this might be ascribed to being born to a poor family, to being part of a minority subject to pervasive and humiliating discrimination, and to having his teenage years fall during the Great Depression. These were also the parameters of Jackie Robinson's early life, and he became a very different sort of person. Perhaps Campy's mixed racial heritage added to his difficulties. No doubt other factors, including Robinson's having been the beneficiary of some lucky breaks, contributed to  the difference. Ironically, a later generation of activists would have applauded Campy's choice of a black-owned hotel and condemned Robinson as an "Uncle Tom" for being willing to accept "half a loaf" from a white-owned one.

Like all childhood heroes, Campy proved to be human. For that, I guess, I'm glad.

Addendum: Oh, yes. Almost forgot to mention. One of Campy's last services to the Dodger organization was to help train a promising young catcher named Mike Piazza.