I’m still upright, but it’s been a difficult week with some health challenges and lots of family obligations, as we get Mom settled and take care of some of her business affairs. But I’m still holding on, as Chris Rea sings in this track from his 1998 album The Blue Café. (And things are not nearly so dire for me and mine as the world sounds for Rea in “I’m Still Holding On.”)
I should be here tomorrow with a Saturday Single, trying to bend the world back to what passes for normal around here. Take care!
About two weeks ago, the folks who run Ridgeview Place, the assisted living center where Mom has lived since the spring of 2006, got in touch with me and my sister: It was time, they said, to talk about Mom’s care. When we met a few days later, my sister and I learned that the staff thought that Mom’s ability to be focused and present had been waning noticeably for a month or so.
That matched what my sister and I had been noticing, and we agreed that Mom would be safer – and, we hope, happier – down the hall at the memory care facility called Prairie Ridge, a secure facility on one floor with rooms that are in effect efficiency apartments. When my sister talked to our mom, Mom agreed that it was time. And we began to plan:
We rented a storage unit for the furniture and other things for which she would no longer have room. We hired a moving company. We filed changes of address for the post office, the newspapers, the telephone company and the cable company (with more, of course, to follow as mail comes in with its yellow forwarding labels). We collected boxes, large and small. We got measurements of the new apartment and began to decide what would fit where. And we began sorting.
Mom had some concerns. What would happen to her grandfather’s small table? As it turned out, my nephew took it, which pleased her. And then, would she be able to keep the writing desk? It had been her father’s, and after my aunt’s death in 1990, the desk had been brought from Lamberton in southwest Minnesota to St. Cloud. Yes, my sister and I determined, there was room for the writing desk and its attendant chair.
But there was no room for the buffet, a massive dining room chest that had been a storage place for china, a silver service, and an odd mix of necessities ever since 1957, when it had been left behind by the previous owners of the house on Kilian Boulevard. We sorted the buffet’s miscellaneous contents, and this week, the movers packed for storage all of its china, as they did the fragile pieces in the glass-fronted china closet.
A few days before the movers came, my sister and my mom were looking at the pieces in the china closet, some of which dated back to before Mom was born in 1921. (The china closet itself is likely that old, but we’re not exactly sure; Mom and Dad got the piece sometime in the 1970s, if I recall things clearly.) And my sister told Mom that if there were a few things she wanted to have with her in her new place, she needed to decide before the movers came. My sister later told me that she tried gently to make it clear to Mom that once the movers packed those things away, Mom would likely never see them again. She said Mom seemed to understand.
I brought a few things home (but just a few, having been reminded by the Texas Gal that our long-term goal is to diminish the amount of stuff in the house, not to augment it): Some household goods that we’ll use, some items that my Dad saved that we’ll likely offer to the St. Cloud State archives, and three pieces that I’ve long known would come to me – a metal candelabra I bought for my parents in Moscow, a pewter plate I bought for Mom in Flensburg, Germany, and a reindeer antler letter opener that I bought for Dad in Kiruna, Sweden.
My sister took boxes of things home to the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove to pass on to a local charity; I hauled boxes of books to the St. Cloud Public Library for the Friends of the Library to sell at its bookstore; more books and a deluxe Scrabble set went to the library at the assisted living center; my nephew took a set of dishes, an antique dresser, the aforementioned antique table and the buffet (which pleased and relieved Mom); and bit by bit, drawer by drawer, shelf by shelf, a lifetime’s worth of possessions was trimmed down for a third time.
We first down-sized Mom’s belongings in 2004, when she moved from Kilian Boulevard to the patio home in Waite Park, just west of St. Cloud. We did so again when she moved from the patio home into Ridgeview Place. This week came the third time. I imagine there might be a fourth, if the time ever comes for full nursing home care.
But we’ll think about that later. For now, she’s safe, and my sister said that yesterday, everything was pretty well in place and that Mom reconnected during snack time with a few other women who have previously moved from the assisted living portion of the center to the memory care unit. She was tired and a little confused, my sister said. We’ll see how she does, but she’s safe, and she’s in an environment where folks know how to take care of her.
When I told my sister two weeks ago that the staff at Ridgeview Place wanted to discuss Mom’s care, my sister was in Chicago, visiting her grandson, who will turn two this summer. The contrast, my sister said, is striking: Every couple of months, she spends time with a little boy whose world is expanding in great chunks day by day, and every three weeks or so, she visits my mother, whose world is diminishing day by day. And my sister and I stand in the middle, connecting generations heading in opposite directions.
Here’s Michael Johnson’s cover of “Old Folks,” a song written by Jacques Brel, Gérard Jouannest and Jean Corti. Mort Shuman wrote English lyrics. Mom’s lived through the first portions of the song, and she’s alone now – as she has been since 2004 – with the clock keeping her company. Johnson’s version was on his 1973 album There Is A Breeze.
Two days ago, my sister and I learned that Mom would have to be moved to a smaller apartment, almost an efficiency, in a facility adjacent to her assisted living center where she can get a greater level of care.
That means packing, moving, downsizing, renting another storage unit and all the stuff that goes with that. I’ve spent most of the past two days running errands and making phone calls as well as trying to keep things running smoothly here at home. Sorting and packing starts tomorrow, and the move is set for a week from today, April 12.
Add some sleep issues, and I’m already weary. I’ve got most of today to refresh – although there are some lingering domestic duties – so I’m going to go do that.
In the meantime, here are Jim and Jean Glover, the musicians who recorded during the 1960s as Jim & Jean, with their version of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” from their 1966 album Changes. (Dylan’s version of the song, recorded in 1963 for his album The Times They Are a-Changin’, was eventually released in 1985 as part of the Biograph box set.)
A while back – four years ago – I wrote about the Civic Music concerts my sister and I attended with my mom for maybe five years during the mid-1960s: About five times during each school year, we’d put on our Sunday clothes – nice dresses for Mom and my sister and dress shirt and pants with a sport coat and (clip-on) tie for me – and head over to St. Cloud Tech High School for a classical performance.
Those performances were almost always concerts, though once or twice the Civic Music organization offered a performance by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to end the season. Several times the last concert of the season was by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (now the Minnesota Orchestra). And as I wrote four years ago, I recall the piano duo of Stecher & Horowitz and the Robert Shaw Chorale, and there are a few other performers whose names do not come immediately to mind but whose programs are tucked into my old scrapbook.
(In that piece four years ago, however, I ascribed performances by pianist Van Cliburn and by the Vienna Boys Choir to Civic Music; after some thought and some digging, I’ve decided those two concerts likely took place at St. Cloud State.)
I’ve noted several times in various posts here that among the performers who came through St. Cloud was Mantovani, who brought his orchestra to Tech High sometime during the 1965-1966 season, when I was twelve. I don’t have the program from that concert, but I do have an autographed postcard, one that I found a while back as I dug through that scrapbook. As was customary after the concert, Mantovani spent some time onstage while a cluster of urchins and some older folks gathered to talk and to get autographs. As you can see, the maestro was not at all concerned with legibility. That was okay, though. I have a very clear memory of the man – his full name was Annunzio Paolo Mantovani – standing in his tuxedo near the piano, sweat beading his face as he smiled, chatted and scrawled his name on card after card.
I doubt if Mantovani said anything to me as I got to the front of the cluster of folks at the piano. From what I remember, he was smiling as he chatted with others in that cluster. (Performers weren’t always genial during meet ’n’ greet sessions after Civic Music concerts; I recall a few who seemed downright surly as they dealt with after-concert duties.) But I do not remember that I got any particular attention from Mantovani other than a smile as he handed me the signed postcard.
Even though I’ve always been a fan of easy listening music from the 1960s and 1970s, Mantovani and his cascading strings have never been among my favorites. Ray Conniff and Paul Mauriat were my easy listening guys, more or less, when I was buying vinyl. (I’m not certain if Al Hirt and Herb Alpert fall into easy listening or not, but there was a lot of their stuff on the shelves, too.) Since the advent of digital music, I’ve added Percy Faith, Enoch Light, Larry Page, Franck Pourcel and a lot of others to the list of folks whose music I seek out and whose music I listen to when I need to remember how the Sixties often sounded on Kilian Boulevard.
I have collected a little bit of Mantovani’s stuff, too, but just a bit: fifty-five tracks out of the 91,000 that now clutter the RealPlayer. It’s not that hard to find, and I imagine I’ll get some CDs from the public library and see if I want to add any more. But as I noted above, the cascading strings – Mantovani’s signature sound – isn’t my favorite.
Every once in a while, thought, it’s a nice change of pace. One of the pieces I like most among the Mantovani tracks I have in the collection is one that we very likely might have heard that evening more than fifty years ago. The concert was, if I recall correctly, mostly classical pieces as filtered through Mantovani’s arrangements, and his take on Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dance No. 2” would have fit right in. It was first released, I think, on the 1963 album Classical Encores.
Today is International Women’s Day, and I struggled to think of a way to mark it here without seeming frivolous or clueless. Then I thought about something I saw last weekend as I caught up with Rhiannon Giddens’ performance on Austin City Limits.
During that performance, recorded last April, Giddens introduced “At The Purchaser’s Option” like this:
I came across this advertisement for a newspaper . . . for a human being, a woman for sale, from 1828. It just listed her attributes like it would list anything’s attributes. So you’re reading this thing and it gets down to the end of the ad, and as an afterthought, it mentions that she has with her a nine-month old baby who is at the purchaser’s option. And it just kinda made me think a lot about what that woman’s life was like and, you know, what I get to – how I get to live my life, and so, this is a song that came out of that.
“At The Purchaser’s Option” is the first track on Giddens’ new album, Freedom Highway.
I spent a bunch of time yesterday messing around with a file folder full of mp3s. The folder is labeled “Temp,” and it’s where I dump albums of stuff when they first land here and I haven’t got time at the moment to check titles and tag before I filter them into the RealPlayer.
Of course, stuff settles to the bottom of the folder and sits there, and every once in a while, I look at one or another of the folders at the bottom of the Temp folder and wonder, “When the heck did I get that?” Windows 10 helpfully sorts the stuff in the Temp folder into categories that range from “Today” to “A Long Time Ago.” And there’s lots of stuff in that last category.
Well, there’s less now than there used to be. I checked titles and tags in a lot of folders yesterday including a U.K. collection of soul hits (about thirty of which I did not already have); the first volume of The Complete Goldwax Singles; and albums by Ferrante & Teicher, Redwing, Andrea Marr, Slim Harpo, the Motels, and the Sutherland Brothers, with and without Quiver.
I also spent some time mining some out-of-print easy listening albums from the nifty blog In-Flight Entertainment, including stuff by Sounds Orchestral, Bert Kaempfert, Hugo Montenegro, Henry Mancini, Billy Strange, and the Button Down Brass.
But the best find of the past two days was likely the two CDs I grabbed for $1 each at the local library’s bookstore Thursday: Daniel Lanois’ 1993 release, For the Beauty of Wynona, and John Marytn’ 1998 album, The Church With One Bell.
I’ve liked Lanois’ production work with U2 (The Joshua Tree) and Bob Dylan (Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind), and I love his own albums, Acadie, Belladonna and Shine. I heard Wynona long ago but – amid the many, many albums I said I’d get to later – I’ve never heard it since.
As for the later British singer/songwriter Martyn, I don’t know as much about him. I have one album on the digital shelves, Stormbringer, a 1970 release that he recorded with his wife, Beverly, and I’m looking forward to digging into The Church With One Bell.
I’d already heard one track, however. The Bobby Charles tune “Small Town Talk” is one of those songs I love enough to gather into my digital shelves any version of it I can find. A while back, I came upon Martyn’s version from The Church With One Bell and liked it a lot. And when I found the CD at the library Wednesday and was reminded of Martyn’s version of the song, well, there you go!
There’s a house. If it’s real, it’s in an older neighborhood, one that was home to factory workers about a hundred years ago. When I stand on the wooden back steps and look at the sidewalk at the end of the plain dirt driveway, I sense the footprints of tired men walking home.
The house is tan, the window frames dark brown, and the paint is flaking badly. I turn to the back door and enter the kitchen. The old linoleum crackles under my tread. I know this place, can sense the faint aromas of hundreds of meals: chicken, maybe chops, and almost certainly some favorites from an old country left behind.
A plain table with two chairs is on my left as I enter, next to the window that overlooks the driveway, and I turn toward it. The kitchen appliances are somewhere to my right. They’re indistinct, but I know that like the paint outside and the linoleum underfoot, they are old.
There is a doorway beyond the table, and there is light in the room beyond the doorway. I hear the murmur of voices, perhaps conversation or maybe a radio. Through the doorway, I see the shape of a chair, perhaps a sofa, and just beyond, there is a flicker of movement and maybe the sound of footsteps.
And I see no more. The dream, one I’ve had dozens of times over the years, ends there as I stand by the table in the kitchen, looking into the next room with its yellowish light and its murmurs and its shadows. If that house exists, I do not know where it is, and yet, I’ve been there time and again.
Here’s “Theme From A Dream” by the Larry Page Orchestra. It’s a tune written and first recorded by Chet Atkins. Page’s version was first released on his orchestra’s 1970 album, Bridge Over Troubled Water.
In one of those things that occasionally bedevil all of us in this digital world, I found myself for about two weeks unable to access my Yahoo! email account, the one that’s used for this blog and for offers to meet incredibly scrumptious women. When whatever gunked up the Intertubes cleared up – and I imagine it was a combination of digital Yahooligans and my own errors – I found a gift from regular reader and friend Yah Shure:
He sent along scans of the WJON/WJJO Starship Sampler from February 9, 1976, detailing thirty-eight top singles on each of the two St. Cloud stations – WJON was Top 40 (or near enough) and WWJO was (and still is) country – along with a list of 30 featured pop/rock albums on the back cover of the sampler. (Yah Shure had intended me to have the sampler in time to write about it on February 9, but whatever went wrong with my email put a dent in that idea, so we’re a little more than a week late, which seems like no big deal after forty-one years.)
The two stations, of course, were right around the corner and across the railroad tracks from my folks’ place on Kilian Boulevard (and they’re still there in a newer building, just down Lincoln Avenue from our current place). For many years, WJON was one of the stations that gave me my evening Top 40 fix. Oddly enough, at the time of this particular sampler, that wasn’t the case: I was living in the Twin Cities, finishing an internship in television sports and getting my Top 40 from KDWB.
Still, it’s fun to know what the folks I left behind me in the Cloud were listening to, even though not much of it is surprising. Here is WJON’s Top Ten from that long-ago week:
“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra
“Squeeze Box” by the Who
“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen
“Fox On The Run” by Sweet
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Winners & Losers” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
(I’m going to leave the country side of the sampler alone today except to note that “Convoy” was also No. 1 there.)
The only one of the pop Top Ten I did not recall was “Winners & Losers,” and a trip to YouTube did not impress me. The record, which went to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, was HJF&R’s follow-up to the group’s No. 1 hit, “Fallin’ In Love,” which I also thought was a little flabby. (I’m not alone there. Yah Shure noted in a later email that both “Fallin’” and “Winners” were releases on the Playboy label, the group’s new home, and he noted that “their Playboy output was like listening to their Dunhill singles, minus any air in the tires.”)
The only surprise that Yah Shure pointed out on the Top 40 side of the sampler was the presence of Michael Murphey’s “Renegade” at No. 34, a decent enough record but one that I don’t recall at all. We both expressed amused bafflement that “The White Knight” by Cledus Maggard & The Citizens Band – a sort of rough-edged “Convoy” wannabee – sat at No. 26 on WJON. And he noted – half kidding, I think – that he was surprised that station owner Andy Hilger hadn’t “put the kibosh” on the station’s airing the Who’s naughty joke, “Squeezebox.”
Beyond that, the sampler was pretty much what you’d expect from early February 1976. There were a good number of records I recall fondly, some I love, some I don’t care about, and some I dislike. Beyond “Renegade,” there was only one I did not recall: David Ruffin’s “Walk Away From Love,” which sat at No. 19. A trip to YouTube refreshed my memory, and it fell into the “don’t care” category.
The interior pages from the February 9, 1976, Starship Sampler are here.
We’ll take a look at the list of “St. Cloud’s Top Albums” from February 9, 1976, early next week. And we’ll close today with a record that sat at No. 31 in the Starship Sampler that long-ago week, one that I like a great deal, and one that’s not been mentioned here since April 2007, Helen Reddy’s “Somewhere In The Night.”
I’m still regrouping here, doing the minimum necessary to keep the household running, drinking lots of fluids, taking lots of decongestant and other meds and just holding on. But I thought I’d toss out another preview to the feature I hope to start in earnest in the next week or so: Journalism 101.
Last Thursday, I offered a preview of the first of the five W’s: “Who.” Today, we’ll find a tune with “What” in its title, sorting among 1,375 tracks the RealPlayer found. Among the tracks we’ll have to reject are two pretty good albums, the Doobie Brothers’ What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits and the Dramatics’ Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get. (There are more that we must pass by, but – in keeping with the tenor of this post – that’s a preview.)
From the perspective of nearly sixty years, the Coasters’ 1959 track “What About Us” sounds, certainly in the first verse and perhaps in some of the later verses, like a plaint about economic inequality:
He’s got a house made of glass Got his own swimming pool . . . what a gas We’ve got a one-room shack Five by six by the railroad track, well
What about us What about us Don’t want to cause no fuss But what about us
He’s with a beautiful chick Every night of the week, pretty slick We’re two poor hung up souls Girls won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, well
What about us What about us Don’t want to cause no fuss But what about us
He goes to eat at the Ritz Big steaks, that’s the breaks We eat hominy grits From a bag, what a drag
He’s got a car made of suede With a black leather top, got it made If we go out on dates We go in a box on roller skates, well
What about us What about us Don’t want to cause no fuss But what about us
By the second verse, songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are placing the tale clearly in the teen-age milieu, but I wonder if the first verse and some of the later verses had a wider target.
“What About Us” was released in late 1959, and Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles shows it going to No. 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 as the B-side to “Run Red Run,” which went to No. 36. Oddly, perhaps, Whitburn’s R&B book shows “What About Us” as the A-side; it went to No. 17 on the Billboard R&B chart (with “Run Red Run” going to No. 29 on the B-side).
Whether pointed statement or teenage playlet, whether A-side or B-side, the record has the classic Coasters sound: A catchy rhythm, humor-laden lyrics, the low-voice interjections and a sax solo that I assume comes from King Curtis. Enjoy!
The Texas Gal headed off to work a few moments ago, sniffling and wheezing from a mid-winter cold that’s been plaguing her for a few days, and I have a feeling I’m not far behind her. (As I typed that sentence, I barked out two or three dry coughs similar to those she began with early this week.)
So I’m going to go take it easy on the couch for a good portion of the day and get back in here tomorrow. But first, I thought I’d mention an idea for a series of posts that I hope to get to very soon. As readers know, I’ve found a number of ways to sort track titles over the years. Two that seemed to work were March of the Integers, looking for numbers in song titles, and Floyd’s Prism, seeking colors. Follow the Directions ignored Horace Greeley’s advice and failed to go west, but that may happen yet.
And I realized as I was pondering the news the other day that my long-ago training in journalism offers me a list of words that should be good sorting material. I think we’ll call it Journalism 101, and we’ll sort for:
As I noted above, I’m going to take the rest of the day off (thought processes are already beginning to get a little gummy), but first, I’m going to offer a preview of the eventual post that will be titled “Who.”
When we sort the 90,000-odd mp3s in the RealPlayer for “who,” we get 714 tracks. (Babe Ruth!) And of course, lots of them aren’t going to work. Everything in the player by the Guess Who goes by the wayside, as do twenty-some tracks by a group called 100% Whole Wheat. And so on. (A more detailed list of what’s lost will be included in the full track, which will run sometime next week, I hope.)
But, as I’d expected, there will be plenty of tracks left with the word “who” in their titles. And we’ll preview the new feature with one of those tracks, a single from a New Jersey group called the Glass Bottle. I don’t recall hearing the single when it came out in late 1971; not a lot of people did, as the record got only as high as No. 87 in the Billboard Hot 100, but I know that if I had heard it, I would have loved it.
Here’s the Glass Bottle with “The Girl Who Loved Me When.”