Monday, January 29, 2007

Poem of the Day

This morning I woke inside the poem
I went to my desk and read
The sky slowly brightening.
I am bathing between the words.

Quote of the Day

I knew, from having watched my father hack down the incredible amount of work he accomplished day by day year by year, how supportive a routine is, how the spirit moves around freely in it as it does in a plain New England church. Routine is not a prison, but the way into freedom from time. The apparently measured time has immeasurable space within it, and in this it resembles music.

     - May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep

Bovine Serenade

One summer twenty-five years ago I was traveling with my friend Michael's band in New Hampshire. We were staying at a farm. One day I asked to borrow his alto sax. He said sure. I stood out in a field and made long tones. Grazing cows gathered around me. They seemed to like the sounds. I kept playing and soon spotted dark shapes in the distance. I thought oh, horses, and kept playing the long tones. The dark shapes got closer and closer. They were bulls! I jumped the fence, but kept playing. The bulls started mounting the cows. I guess the sax is a bovine aphrodisiac.

Perhaps I should put an ad in the Farmer's Almanac: BOVINE APHRODISIAC SAX PLAYER FOR HIRE, to play for the cows. I'd save the farmers the artificial insemination costs. Then play at bars on the weekends!

Hip to Waist

Last summer I went to the beach for the first time in ages. I was surprised at how bright it was, unbearably bright! I felt like a piece of bacon on a cast iron skillet, so I kept my summer dress on and wore it right into the ocean. When I emerged I draped myself in towels and wore dark sunglasses. I looked like someone who had never experienced a beach.

I love to watch people. At a baseball game, for instance, I am watching the audience, not the game. At the beach I was startled by how many women were really shaped like hourglasses. Even with petite women, the hip-to-waist ratio was very pronounced. I was surprised yet realized this was Mother Nature's design for attracting a mate and then giving birth to a large-headed homunculus. I, on the other hand, am built more like a twelve year old boy (but with breasts). I have a much smaller hip-to-waist ratio. I buy jeans in the mens department. But since I would only be willing to give birth to dogs or Guinea pigs, it works out fine.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Waking Early

The big dipper was over my head
As I stood in the snow
In the backyard.
I swam at dawn watching
The sky turn shades of blue.

Art Appreciation

Early this morning I saw a contractor friend of mine in the pool whom I hadn't seen in a long time. We got to chat while staying afloat jogging neck deep in the water. He said he'd seen large beautiful sculptures recently that he loved so much he wanted to take them home and lick them! This made me want to go home and paint. Everyone needs an enthusiastic audience.

Best Friends

Sometimes I find such comfort in rereading passages of my favorite books. These books are like friends who nourish, listen, and love you all at once. One of these books is Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott.

You are going to have to give and give and give, or there's no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There's no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.

     - Anne Lamott

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I am so glad to be a healthy breather again!! I've been gigging and jamming like a maniac, and cute young men want to give me sax tips. Life just gets better! This morning I went swimming at the Y. I am trying to tone up so my horn-carrying muscles stay strong (knees and legs and shoulders and ribs). I used to be a fanatical swimmer because it was my only joy when I did kids books. Now swimming is just one of my many joys. As it should be.

While I was at the YMCA the elderly ladies were chatting while floating on brightly colored foam noodles. One by one they got out of the pool and toweled off. They were in one-piece flowered bathing suits with pinned-up hair. Beside the pool was a table with a red paper tablecloth, a carrot cake, two bottles of sparkling cider, and champagne glasses. They were having a poolside birthday party for one of the ladies. I watched for a bit and then snuck into the shower to beat the crowd.

The Bronchodilators

My fantasy is to form a band for perhaps one or two concerts for grade-school kids, and have it be a promotion for asthma awareness and non-smoking. We'd call ourselves The Bronchodilators. I'd try to get the American Lung Association involved and maybe local sponsors. Maybe we could team up with the RI Music School since they do musical outreach for underprivileged kids.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I just baked four baby Pumpernickel breads! The dictionary says pumpernickel means "Devil's Farts." The "pump" is the fart. Back in the old days rye meal was indigestible. You never know the full meaning of a word until you hunt down its ancestry!

The breads came out great. They look like black breasts! I used wheat, corn, oats, rye flour, molasses, and sourdough starter. Speaking of breasts, I am reading parts of Gray's Anatomy this morning to understand some of the muscles working inside me while I hold and play my horn. This is what I found:

The diaphragm is the principle muscle of inspiration.

     - Gray's Anatomy

Dodge Dart

When I was in fourth grade my teacher, Miss Blum, invited me to attend her Shakespeare workshop held in her New York City apartment every week, on folding chairs. I would go with her and sleep over. My mom said it was okay. I remember the after-school trip, Miss Blum driving her 1966 dark-green Dodge Dart into Manhattan with Miss Terranova and Miss Schneider, the two other fourth-grade teachers. Miss Blum lived beside a gas station in a dark apartment behind a billboard. The song that had the lyrics "Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me" was a hit, and I imagined her in that song. The song "One less bell to answer, one less egg to fry," also made me think of her. I guess she seemed lonely to me.

Miss Terranova had straight, thick, jet-black hair down to her elbows. She had a warm red-brown skin color and often wore a deep-purple suede-fringe mini-dress. She mesmerized all of us kids with her unbelievably gorgeous muscular legs.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

Well we start out in our lives as little children, full of light and the clearest vision. Then we go to school and then comes the great Army of school teachers with their critical pencils, and parents and older brothers (the greatest sneerers of all) and cantankerous friends, and finally that Great Murderer of the Imagination--a world of unceasing, unkind, dinky, prissy Criticalness.

     - Brenda Ueland

Sight and Sound

Remember those psychedelic shops during the Sixties? There was one in my hometown called Sight and Sound, on Mamaroneck Avenue. My mom took me and my sister there often when we were kids. The owner, with mocha skin and a big afro, was always seated at the counter, smiling, chatting, with a gap between his two front teeth. Later my sister told me that my mom was flirting with him. I never picked up on that. Anyway I remember the red, white, and blue "Impeach Nixon" buttons. Today I'm thinking about those buttons, and about the day-glow posters with "Make Love Not War" in gloopy pink and orange type. We need a poster for today. It should read "Make Art Not War."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Sunday's double music jam was euphoric. Six hours of slamming air through the brass tube on stage is my kinda day!!!! I got dressed up in my orange linen dress to play in the blues jam at the Waterstreet Cafe and also to celebrate that my paintings are hanging in their dining room. People I've seen at the jams every Sunday for a year wandered in and enjoyed the pictures. Very few of these people had ever seen my artwork. It was much more natural and fun for all of us than an official gallery opening.

I'm excited to say I must be pushing a bigger volume of air through the horn these days because I get hoarse after I play. The sweet tenor player, Tom from Uxbridge, said "yup, that will happen," and gave me a fancy French licorice pellet for my throat. After a good session it feels like I've been screaming, which is perfect, actually. I WOULD be screaming if I hadn't found the bari! I'm hoping to offer my low notes to my friend's band this Saturday. Trial-by-fire is the best way for me to learn. The fool in me keeps propelling me into these situations.

Making music is truly magic. Even if I were never to progress past this point it has already inspired me and healed so much heartbreak. I can't imagine being as sad, depressed, and haunted as I was during my twenties and thirties. My life really began with making music. I wish this joy for everyone in life, in whatever form they find it. Now perhaps I understand, firsthand, the phrase "Follow your bliss."

There's another asthmatic sax player who feels the same way about making music. His name is Vernard Johnson, and he has created essentially a ministry of the saxophone. "Sax Gordon" Beadle plays one of his songs on his first CD.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Let Me Hide In The Kitchen

Twenty eight years ago I found my first community in the kitchen of a health-food restaurant. It was in an 18th-century house located in the Portuguese neighborhood of Providence. I made carrot juice and smoothies to order, baked breads and apple pies, and whipped the whip cream by hand. From there I worked in many other restaurant kitchens making chili, chocolate pudding, pecan pies, spinach pies, hummus, tabbouleh, marinades, soups, sandwiches, and salads. I learned to cook by watching, sniffing, tasting, and then imitating everything the next day in my little apartment kitchen. I loved the physicality of the work, I thought the kitchen was a sexy place. I still get cravings to hide in restaurant kitchens with an apron on and get to work among the sounds and smells and dramas. Let me hide backstage with the simmering sauces and broiling meats.

When friends visit, I cook! When I visit friends, I cook!

Dough Head

Today I made Marsala wine biscotti and then pepper biscuits and then oat bread with cornmeal and molasses. Now I am dreaming of making a very garlicky olive-spinach pie like they sell at Jeanette's Bakery in Providence. I love that place. It's a hole-in-the-wall on Branch Ave, a pale turquoise triple-decker with a storefront and a brick oven on the ground floor. They sell out every day by noon, and they've been there forever. This is no fancy joint - the husband-and-wife team will call you Honey, and if you're fumbling for quarters they'll say, it's okay, just take it.

I am a dough head. I have been hooked on the magic of yeast and flour since I first made bread in 1976. The smell is divine. The taste is magnificent. I have even made my own flours from whole grains using my large hand-cranked food-mill which is bolted to the table which is bolted to the wall!

I have a feeling I will be baking well into my old age. I love everything about it, the smells, the textures. I love baking in the early morning, in the silence. If I could I'd have a simple bakery, just bread, and wine biscuits and pepper biscuits loose in cardboard boxes the way Palmieri's of Federal Hill did, and when the baking was over I'd have a jam session in the front of the bakery, where dogs and people would be invited.

In both winter and summer I gravitate to my oven where I have two baking stones and two stoneware baking pans. I never tire of the magic of the yeast, the feel of the flours, the glutenous dough and the aromas. Flour and yeast speak to me and I listen. I buy 100 pounds of flour every few months from a bakers supply nearby. Twelve dollars for fifty pounds! That could feed the whole neighborhood!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Quotes of the Day

my gift is merely the day,
and there is no room for anything else
but a human enjoying his lifework.

     - Jimmy Santiago Baca, from his poem As Life Was,
       from the collection Healing Earthquakes

This will be our response to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.

     - Leonard Bernstein


Maxfield Parrish pre-sunrise sky unfolding. What colors. Behind my house, grade-school classrooms are lit up in the three-story brick building. My neighbor's kitchen is lit. She has a gigantic glass double-door and I can see right into her dining room, which makes it feel like her house is a doll house and I could reach right inside and set the table! She's an early bird too. I drag the heavy gray plastic trash barrel down our driveway and out to the street.

I've had it with holiday butter and sugar. I need a rest from them until next Christmas. I am ready to eat endless greens and swim at the Y. It's fifty degrees out, a warm January morning. Perhaps I'll walk all over town until the sun is a few inches above the horizon.


This week I am obsessed with light. I want to take down all my curtains to see the dawn sky, to take in the moon and sunshine, but at the same time I require privacy. What a metaphor for the human psyche. I took a few curtains down and washed them, realizing it was two or possibly three years of dust holding them up! Wouldn't it be cool to have curtains that adapt to the available light like those eyeglasses?

I guess it's our job to continually adjust to how much light comes in, like the pupils in our eyes. How much of the outside world do we let in and how much of our inner world do we want to protect and amplify? I pull the curtain, shutting out most popular culture, then I can cultivate sourdough, eat pickles, and listen to saxophone music.