Never too old to rock out to country music!

Keith Urban

Keith Urban

Friday night I took a nasty spill at Hunter Mountain, and I wasn’t even skiing. No, I was obeying the command of a sepulchral voice booming over the loudspeakers: “Everybody off the mountain immediately. Severe thunderstorm approaching with dangerous lightning. Get to your vehicles and take cover.”

Along with thousands of others, I was at Taste of Country, a three-day country music festival, awaiting the performance of the opening night’s headliner, Keith Urban. More precisely, I was on my way back from the portapotties, where I’d been photographing the trucks with their enormous tanks and hoses sucking out the shit while festival goers used the facilities.

At first I was too far away to understand what the voice was saying. People were

The calm before the storm. Note the man on the left with the giant hose. Shitty job!

The calm before the storm. Note the man on the left with the giant hose. Shitty job!

streaming down the hillside in droves, and when I saw the warnings on the giant video screens, I understood why. I didn’t want to abandon my folding chair and backpack, so I forged my way up the slope and packed up my gear. As I headed back down, lightning was flashing in the western sky.

The descent was orderly. No one was panicking, much less stampeding, probably in part because they’d been guzzling beer all day. But suddenly I slipped, falling hard on my left hip and thigh. I’m abundantly padded in that area, and I didn’t feel any damage, so I scrambled to my feet, with the help of a solicitous and shirtless young man who made sure I was alright.

When I reached the area of the base lodge, staff were urging people to head for their vehicles, since there was no way for the multitudes to take shelter in the buildings. But I went against the current, confronted a security guy at the entrance and played the age card: “I’m 73 years old and it’s impossible for me to get to my car in time.” He took pity on me, took hold of my arm and escorted me to a corner, where he ordered a young woman to yield her Adirondack-style chair with a back made from old fiberglass skis.

There I reclined in comfort for the next hour, reading a Joyce Carol Oates novel and sipping beer while the storm descended as threatened. The rain came down in torrents, and I could see flashes of lightening, but the thunder was drowned out by the uproar in the base lodge, coming chiefly from the drunken young men shouting and throwing beach balls, punctuated by the shrill screechy voices of young women. I was safely ensconced behind a few baby boomers who had set up their folding chairs, so I didn’t worry. Nor did anyone else; the mood was remarkably cheerful and upbeat. All in all, the event inspired confidence and hope for humanity, since most people were considerate and cooperative in a situation that could have become chaotic and dangerous. There were a few belligerent young drunks who got confrontational with each other, but the happier drunks quickly got them under control.

Keith Urban at the CMA Festival las night in Nashville.

Keith Urban at the CMA Festival las night in Nashville.

At long last the worst of the storm blew off to the east, and we were given the all-clear to go back out to the mountain. The crowd was much smaller now, and I set up camp much closer to the stage. Light rain was still falling as another half hour passed while the crew swept water off the stage and set up the equipment. The giant digital signs thanked us for our patience, and finally, at about 10:30pm, Keith Urban and his band took the stage. I feared for his safety, with all that water and electrical equipment, but he seemed unperturbed. “What’s a little rain?” he shouted as he launched into a blazingly brilliant set. A gorgeous guitar god in in his tight jeans, in a bygone era he would have been a rock star, but times change and music evolves.

I last saw Keith Urban at the Times Union Center in Albany ten years ago. His romance with Nicole Kidman was new then, and I later learned that she was there in the audience incognito, hidden beneath a hat. I’m glad their marriage has endured and that they’ve been blessed with two daughters. His music has thrived since then, and he’s a better performer, though less angsty than in his dissolute single days.

Nicole Kidman singing along to Keith's music at the CMA Festival last night.

Nicole Kidman singing along to Keith’s music at the CMA Festival last night.

But I digress. I meant to write about whether it’s age-appropriate for me to attend events like this. There were lots of people with lined faces and gray hair, but most probably younger than me. It took physical endurance and stamina to traipse on and off the mountain and hang in there for the duration, but it was a hell of a lot easier than downhill skiing. I skied many times at Hunter, but in recent years I’ve skied mostly at Jiminy Peak. Last year, because of the bitter cold, I didn’t ski at all, and I’m not sure I ever will again. Not that I’m too old, but I know my legs aren’t in the condition they used to be, so I don’t want to press my luck. On the other hand, I didn’t break my hip at Hunter, though I fell on hard rocky ground instead of cushiony snow. So who knows – I’m not giving away my skis just yet.

I’ve got lots more to say about my Taste of Country experience vis a vis aging, but I’ll save it for the next post. Please subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss it. And please leave me a comment so I’ll know you’re out there!

Here at last – Hope Dawns Eternal!

A Hope Cover 4mbAt long last the formatting and cover art are done for Hope Dawns Eternal. Now comes the daunting part – pulling it all together and publishing it! I’ve already hit my first roadblock – Kim Killion sent me five versions of the cover illustration in various jpeg sizes, but I can’t seem to copy them to display the whole thing on Facebook or here on this blog. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually, but meanwhile, I can’t resist sharing!

For the cover, I found the photos I wanted on Shutterstock, and she put them together as per my suggestions. Strangely enough, the images I chose all came from Russia or Romania. Those Slavic folks really know how to create dark, passionate art – think Rachmaninoff, Dostoyevsky and all those cats. I like this male model I found – he makes a great vampire, don’t you think? And he looks like a soap star, but not any specific one, which is a good thing.

By the way, the tag line, which is cut off at the top, is:

In a world of TV soaps, the deadliest dramas are unscripted.

I’m writing this at the Denny’s in Latham – scene of Sunday night NaNoWriMo sessions, but at 5 pm on a Wednesday, the room we usually use is totally deserted. I came here a couple of hours ago after seeing my shrink, who keeps my biochemistry on an even keel. He told me he’s phasing out his private practice, concentrating increasingly on nursing homes, and suggested it might be time for me to start shopping around for another drug dealer, aka psychopharmacologist, though he did give me an appointment for July. The fact that I took it in stride shows just how leveled out I am!

More later – I need to finish my Caesar salad, then head over to choir practice at FUUSA. I’d hoped to get in a couple of hours on Sunlight and Shadow, the sequel to Hope Dawns Eternal, and then hit the mall, but I’m running out of time. Time enough to tackle S&S when Camp NaNoWriMo starts in April.

Subscribe to this blog, and you’ll be the first to know when Hope is published – probably within the week.

 

A Happy New Year, Safe at Home

New Year's Ball Times SquarePhooey! Only a couple of hours left till midnight, and it’s highly doubtful that I’ll finish my novel, Hope Dawns Eternal, this year. I’ve got one more climactic scene to write, but I’m sorely tempted to switch on the TV and watch the ball drop. If past years are any indication, ABC will cut away from the actual ball with its thousands of Svarowski crystals and focus on Ryan Seacrest or a crowd shot instead. I’ll end up swearing at the stupid editing and wishing Dick Clark were still alive to ring in the New Year.

I’ve been watching that damn ball drop for practically fifty years. Living in Manhattan in the 1960’s, I was too hip to own a TV, much less make the trek to Times Square to be squashed in a crowd of thousands, but I usually ended up at the apartment of some unattached friend who was throwing a party to welcome in the New Year. Invariably I drank too much and welcomed in New Year’s Day with a vicious hangover.

In the nearly forty years I’ve been married, I recall venturing out on New Year’s Eve on only a handful of occasions. New Year's clock midnightBack in the 1990’s, Albany had a First Night celebration with music, dancing and other entertainment in multiple venues, and we went a couple of times. More than anything, I recall the biting wind chill, which felt well below zero, and weeping over a beloved hat I left at the Palace Theater. (I was in a major depression at the time, and I cried at the drop of a hat – literally, on that occasion.)

A decade later, my husband and I read from our novels as part of Saratoga’s First Night. My friend Marilyn Rothstein, aka M.E. Kemp, booked our mystery writers’ group into an art gallery for the night, and as participants, we got free passes. It was a festive night, and the fireworks at midnight were spectacular, but we’re leery of sharing the Northway with a bunch of drunks, so we’ve stayed home ever since.

Anyway, nothing could ever equal the annual New Year’s parties my parents threw in Milwaukee in the 1950’s, beginning sometime in the McCarthy era. My father was Managing Editor of The Milwaukee Journal, and the invitees were a fascinating mix of the city’s intellectual and artistic elite, including lots of journalists. There was singing around the piano, and the liquor flowed copiously practically till dawn of New Year’s Day. In those days, no one had heard of DWI, and yet somehow they all survived.

New Year's Eve Times Square overviewIn the ensuing decades, we’ve grown increasingly austere when it comes to alcohol, or at least my friends and acquaintances have. On the other hand, when I stopped at the local liquor store around five o’clock this evening, the place was more mobbed than I’ve ever seen it, with cars overflowing the available spaces and creating a minor traffic jam. It’s good to know there are still those among us who plan to toast the coming of the New Year.

As I write, I’m sipping some Pinot Noir out of a Corbett Canyon box. I bought it primarily to flavor the beef stew that’s simmering in my Crock Pot. The aroma that’s wafting up through the floor boards is making me ravenously hungry, but it won’t be ready till around 11:00pm, when I’ll be ready to tune in to the festivities on TV. No need to tune in sooner, because the entertainers featured this year are too damn young and over-exposed. I’ve already heard and seen more than enough of Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, not to mention Meghan Traynor singing about her big butt and how it’s all about the bass. Elton John is the only star advertised who’s from my generation, but hey, time moves on.

On Christmas after dinner at my daughter’s house, I danced with her, my granddaughters and their friends to a program called “Just Dance,” where the person holding the Wii remote gets scored on how closely they can mimic the moves of the computer-generated dancers on screen. There are dozens of songs to choose from, most of them by new groups I’ve never heard of, but they did have some oldies, like Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and everyone loved that one too. The dance style is that jerky, angular stuff I’ve seen on TV but never attempted before, but it’s great exercise, and I’m tempted to get the program.

The thought of exercise conjures up notions of New Year’s resolutions, but hey, I’m not going there – not tonight. Instead I’m going downstairs for some wine and cheese followed by that stew. And I’ll probably be ready for bed soon after the ball drops.

Have a wonderful New Year’s, everyone, and thanks for reading my blog. See you in 2015.

New Year's cat in basket

November: The Most Depressing Month?

November road fallen leavesNovember’s probably my least favorite month. This year I’m feeling great, in part because I’ve begun work on the sequel to my vampire soap opera thriller Hope Dawns Eternal. But in November of 2010, I was mired in a deep depression. I wrote this poem in Julie Gutman’s class at the Arts Center of the Capital Region. The assignment was to write a poem modeled after Wallace Stevens’ Twelve Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

I write my strongest poetry when I’m depressed. It’s a wonderful form of therapy. Lots of the imagery I used still applies, but the way I’m looking at it now is much sunnier. Still, I dedicate this poem to those readers who are prone to doom and gloom at this time of year. Trust in the sunny days to come!

Eleven Ways of Looking at November

I.

Rusty crimson leavesNovember smoke tree

Cling to my smoke tree

Breathing in pale November sunlight.

 

II

The dead oak’s gray-brown branches

Hollowed by woodpeckers

Past Halloween

Sway outside my window

Waiting for November’s winds

To tear them down at last.

 

III

My mother died in late November.

I crafted a comforting casserole

From the dregs of Thanksgiving dinner.

 

IV

I savor the cold November breezeNovember crooked tree

Wafting across my body from the open window.

Swaddled in Polar Fleece to save on oil,

I’ve learned to welcome the encroaching cold.

 

V

Election Day’s finally over. News is bad

This chill November morning.

A hard freeze frosts the fallen autumn leaves

Ushering in years of deadlock and decline.

 

VI

The slanting sun casts shadows on the siding

Of the house across the way, silhouetting

A scrawny maple shedding yellow leaves.

Its roots snake unseen beneath our basement.

November’s high time to take it down but even so

We’ll probably let it be.

 

VII

A friend my age is failing. A housebound invalid,

She measures out these cold November days

In solitude, refuses visitors.

She longs for death, having a valid reason

To succumb.

 

VIII

Weeds have repossessedNovember dead thistles

My withering November garden.

Only stonecrop thrives

Among the shriveled thistles, chicory

And Queen Anne’s Lace. In my depression,

I let them go to seed.

 

IX

Daylight savings’s over in November.

Fall back and gain an extra hour

To while away in bed

Dreading another day

Of uninspired ordinary options.

 

X

November rain falls hard and cold

Grave of my golden retriever Lucky

Grave of my golden retriever Lucky

On my neglected garden

Nourishing buried bulbs of daffodil and crocus.

In spring they’ll bloom again around the graves

Of late beloved pets.

 

XI

People are prone to seasonal affective sadness

In this the eleventh month, so says my shrink.

But still I hold firm to nearly barren branches,

Stubborn as rusty crimson smoke tree leaves

In the November rain.

 

©Julie Lomoe

November 4, 2010

 

 

Russian Ballet and the Mysteries of the Dance Belt

Bolshoi Ballet's Don Quixote

Bolshoi Ballet’s Don Quixote

On my birthday last Thursday, I treated myself to a matinee performance of Don Quixote by the Bolshoi Ballet at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. I’m not a huge fan of classical ballet, but I figured this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Besides, I viewed it as an homage to my mother, who enrolled me in ballet classes and took me to performances at the Pabst Theater whenever a major touring company made a stop in Milwaukee.

Most often, that company was the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, featuring the great principal dancers Frederick Franklin and Alexandra Danilova. To refresh my memory, I Googled them and discovered a fascinating tale my mother never told me. They were founded in 1938 when their founders Leonide Massine and René Blum split off from the original Ballet Russes. Blum was arrested by the Nazis and died at Auschwitz. During and after World War II, they toured the United States extensively, bringing classical Russian ballet to many cities where it had never been seen before. As its dancers – including George Balanchine – spun off and founded their own troupes, they taught Russian ballet to generations of Americans.

I recall seeing many of the classics, like Swan Lake and Les Sylphides, and I enjoyed them, but as a naïve preteen girl growing up in the postwar Midwest, I was most fascinated by the mysterious bulges under the men’s tights. The principle male dancers of the Bolshoi sported similar bulges, and I decided to Google those as well.

WARNING: The following paragraph contains sexually explicit descriptions of the male anatomy, and prudish readers may wish to skip over it.

Baryshnikov

Baryshnikov

Male dancers, especially when in tights, wear a garment called a dance belt, a specialized athletic supporter that supports and protects the genitals. It most resembles a thong, and is designed so that no telltale seams appear under those form-fitting tights. It’s made in varied flesh colors, nowadays with Spandex, and the front panel is reinforced so as not to provide too much information to fellow dancers and the audience. Unlike other athletic supporters, it is designed to hold the dancer’s package upwards, so that dangling genitalia don’t get squeezed or injured during vigorous dance moves.

That’s probably more than you needed to know, right? But if this whets your appetite for more information, just Google “dance tights,” and I guarantee you’ll find more graphic details than you could ever imagine. Anyway, it explains the rationale behind those bulging crotches that so fascinated me as a child and filled in the gaps in my sexual education. It was well over a decade before I gained a more accurate knowledge of the male anatomy.

I got off on a bit of a tangent here, didn’t I? I’d planned to write about more elevated topics like the

Nureyev

Nureyev

contrasts between classic and modern dance, the questionable value of making klutzy young girls study ballet, and how dance can actually be fun, for example in my Nia class. But I’ll save all that for another post. For now, I’ll search out some delectable images of male dancers to share with you. Enjoy!

Nijinsky in Afternoon of a Faun. Costumes weren't quite so revealing back then, before they invented Spandex.

Nijinsky in Afternoon of a Faun. Costumes weren’t quite so revealing back then, before they invented Spandex.

New Year’s Resolutions – to do or not to do?

New Year's clock midnightWishing all my friends and readers a joyous New Year! I wrote this poem yesterday afternoon, in the nick of time to read it last night at the Albany Poets’ POETS SPEAK LOUD open mic at McGeary’s Irish Pub. Nothing like a deadline and the prospect of a friendly, enthusiastic audience to get the creative juices flowing. Once I publish this post, I’ll make a run to the store for egg nog and other sundries, then kick back at home with my hubby for New Year’s Eve.

Cat New-Years-Resolution-Memes- 

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE NEW YEAR’S

 

Twas the night before New Year’s and all through my mind

Skittered thoughts of tasks undone and goals left behind.

 

Those fifteen new pounds I acquired this yearNew Year's apple and tape measure

Mean a new resolution to diet, I fear.

Those favorite noshes I thought wouldn’t matter

Have gone to my hips and I’m looking much fatter.

But giving them up? No, that’s out of the question,

So don’t give me all those nutritious suggestions.

No fasting, no juicing, no broccoli or tofu,

No counting of calories – to that I say screw you!

So bring on the pizza, the cheddar and brie,

The yummy dark chocolates to build more of me!

And bring on the box wines, the reds and the whites,

To lessen the chill of these cold winter nights.

 

Still, I can lose weight if I work out a lot,

Hit the Y every morning, get rid of my pot.

But it’s so much more pleasant to languish in bed

My cat Lunesta on my snowflake flannel sheets

My cat Lunesta on my snowflake flannel sheets

With my cat on my lap and my tummy well fed.

 

And my house is still messy, it only gets worse,

And probably will till they come with the hearse.

With cobwebs and closets with clothes overflowing,

And huge piles of books that I can’t resist stowing.

And everywhere paper is stacked up in hills,

Unread magazines, catalogs, unopened bills.

I solemnly vow that I’ll throw stuff away,

But what if I need it some bleak rainy day? 

 

I could banish the clutter if I hired a maid,

But sadly I guess she’d expect to get paid.

Still, I could afford it if I sold more books,

But marketing’s harder by far than it looks.

And I still haven’t finished my brilliant new story,

Remember Port Charles?

Remember Port Charles?

The first of a trilogy destined for glory.

 

So many distractions, they tempt me away

From the tasks I’m determined to tackle each day,

From the far better person I know I could be

If I didn’t procrastinate, weren’t so damn lazy.

So this New Year’s, once more I resolve to do better,

Rise early each morning and be a go-getter.

Lose more weight, sell more books, become famous and rich,

So by this time next year there’ll be no need to bitch.

New Year's Eve Times Square cleanup

 

         

Lou Reed’s Graceful Exit

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Lou Reed’s wife Laurie Anderson describes his death on October 27th:

Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed 2002He didn’t give up until the last half-hour of his life, when he suddenly accepted it – all at once and completely. We were at home – I’d gotten him out of the hospital a few days before – and even though he was extremely weak, he insisted on going out into the bright morning light.

As meditators, we had prepared for this – how to move the energy up from the belly and into the heart and out through the head. I have never seen an expression as full of wonder as Lou’s as he died. His hands were doing the water-flowing 21-form of tai chi. His eyes were wide open. I was holding in my arms the person I loved the most in the world, and talking to him as he died. His heart stopped. He wasn’t afraid. I had gotten to walk with him to the end of the world. Life – so beautiful, painful and dazzling – does not get better than that. And death? I believe that the purpose of death is the release of love.

You can read the full interview by clicking on the following link:

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/laurie-andersons-farewell-to-lou-reed-a-rolling-stone-exclusive-20131106#ixzz2kYzUEW8k

Lou Reed

What a beautiful description of an ideal way of dying, and what a contrast to people’s expectations at the height of Lou Reed’s fame in the early 1970’s, when he and Keith Richards were at the top of the lists of rock stars most likely to die next. As they grew older, both reportedly cleaned up their acts, abandoning the outrageously drug-addled ways of their youth. Against all odds, Lou made it to 71, and Keith will turn 70 this December. (May he rock on for many years to come!) 

Keith Richards

Keith Richards

No doubt it was their passion for music, along with the long-term love of good women, that sustained them into old age. Since Lou Reed’s passing, I’ve read many tributes to his music and his seminal influence on rock musicians from punk to grunge and beyond. I’ve got nothing to add in that regard – truth be told, I wasn’t a huge fan – but all the eulogies call up vivid memories of the place and time we shared – lower Manhattan in the late 60’s and early 70’s. 

Though I never met Lou Reed, I did meet his early manager, Andy Warhol, one night on the corner of St. Marks Place and the Bowery. We’d paused for a red light, and somehow we struck up a conversation. Looking inscrutable behind his dark glasses, Andy asked where I was from, gave me what amounted to a mini-interview, but evidently decided I didn’t pass muster as a potential Chelsea girl, because we went our separate ways. 

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

This was the late 60’s, and no doubt I was on my way to or from the Fillmore East to hear Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead or some other band I found more musically exciting than the Velvet Underground, who were still very much under the radar of FM rock radio. Reading about Lou Reed in Rolling Stone, I realize I may have heard him in an early incarnation of the Velvets, because they used to play live accompaniment for experimental films in the small grubby theaters I frequented. If I did hear him, he didn’t make much of an impression. 

But he did impress me in the late 90’s at a concert in Bethel, New York, site of the original Woodstock Festival. On a makeshift temporary stage, he shared a bill with Joni Mitchell and Donovan – all artists I admired but had never heard live, and all marvellous. Typically, he dressed entirely in black and kept his dark glasses on throughout the performance – a cool hipster, not unlike Miles Davis with his shades in nightclubs in the 50’s. (Now I’m really dating myself, but hey, I’m only a year older than Lou Reed.) 

After the concert, I wandered around in pitch blackness searching for my car in the abandoned fields, an experience far removed from the festival I lived through and showed my paintings at three decades before. The Bethel Woods arts center now occupies the site, but I haven’t yet been back.  

In my Nia class this morning, near the end of the routine, our teacher guided us in moving our energy up through the chakras, through the belly and heart to the head. Afterwards, I told her about how Lou Reed died doing tai chi, and recommended she look up the article, but she was only vaguely aware of who he was. (She was born in 1964, the year I finished college.) 

Nonetheless, whenever I’m absorbed in a practice that involves moving my energy up through my body, I’ll remember Lou Reed and the way he died in a state of grace.

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