Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down

Do you know the old Kris Kristofferson song, “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”?  The lyrics are really poetic in a country kind of way.  He paints a sharp picture of what it’s like to wake up in a “sleeping city” (probably Nashville) with a terrible hangover and yet sharply observe the Sunday morning.

Part of that description is the “Sunday smell of someone frying chicken,” which takes the singer back to “something left behind.”  Smell is powerful at evoking memories, perhaps more powerful than any other sense.

I spent this Sunday morning baking cookies, not an activity I often pursue, and the scent of the cookies took me back to Mother baking at Christmastime.  The recipe was from my sister Juanita–I will share it if she permits, but not today–and called for nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon, as well as chopped dates, raisins and walnuts.  Something about the spices and the scent of dried fruit baking reminded me of Mother making a blackberry jam cake which used the same spices.

That was a three-layer cake iced with boiled icing.  Some people think a jam cake is just another fruitcake, but it doesn’t have those nasty candied fruits.  And when it is baking, the house smells of those Christmas spices and baking blackberries.

Thinking of Mother reminds me of another scent.  When I was young she always used perfumed dusting powder on her thighs and arms and chest.  She said it kept her from chafing.  I can’t remember what kind it was, although I faintly remember a pink round box with gold trim and a flat white pad instead of a powder puff.  I do remember a strong flowery scent with a bit of baby powder smell as well.  She was fond of Estee Lauder when she got older, but I don’t think we could afford that back in the day.  I wish I could smell it again.

So another Sunday is winding down.  Here’s to a good week, to all of us on sleeping city sidewalks, bustling suburban highways, and quiet villages.  Peace out.

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Dick Clark: Thinking Back About Pop Music

Lovin Spoonful, 1965
Like so many people, I was sad when Dick Clark passed last week.  I saw many pop groups for the first time on “American Bandstand,” only to see them appear later on “The Ed Sullivan Show” or “Hootenany” (anybody remember that one?).  In the ’70s, I’ll admit I switched my allegiance to “Soul Train” (rest in peace, Don Cornelius!) but I still watched Bandstand fairly often.

Thinking about the wide variety of groups and solo artists who performed on American Bandstand led me to remember the first records I ever bought.  Do you remember your first purchases?  Mine were 45’s, argh!  (At least they weren’t 78’s.)  And they were:  “Do You Believe in Magic,” by the Lovin Spoonful; “The In Crowd,” Ramsey Lewis Trio; and “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown,” the Rolling Stones.  I don’t remember what the B sides were.

Now, that’s an eclectic selection, is it not?  Pop/soft rock, jazz and serious rock ‘n roll.  If you looked at my iPod today you’d find pretty much the same mix, but with a large playlist of roots and old country music, another of indie rock, and a nice selection of Brazilian sambas and Carnival music, a liking inspired by a trip to Rio in the early ’90s.

Times and tastes change, but what these all have in common is melody and a beat.  I’ve always liked singer-songwriters, too.  Ah, the moody albums of college days!  But for every Joanie Mitchell I listened to, I also played the Allman Brothers’ “Eat a Peach.”  (OK, I confess, my first album was “The Monkees,” from my brother as a Christmas present.  I wanted it badly.)

Now I listen to WFUV, Roots and Rock Radio (Fordham University public station) as I drive to work, and get my dose of Lyle Lovett and the Alabama Shakes early in the morning.  And a couple of weeks ago I got to see Nora Jones at the Music Hall in Tarrytown.  I am far from the cutting edge in musical taste.  But a good song still gives a lot of pleasure.  And a good pop song still bores into my brain.  “Moves Like Jagger,” anyone?

Something a Bit Different: A Villanelle

I was a bit stumped for a subject today.  Then I started feeling a bit melancholy about how quickly spring was passing–I can feel melancholy about almost anything, which is one of my great failings.  Anyway, I remembered this poem I wrote a few years ago because I wanted to try a villanelle.   Here is the Wikipedia definition:  A villanelle has only two rhyme sounds. The first and third lines of the first stanza are rhyming refrains that alternate as the third line in each successive stanza and form a couplet at the close. A villanelle is nineteen lines long, consisting of five tercets and one concluding quatrain.

I wrote it just to see if I could.  Villanelles are not supposed to tell a story–they are more of a verbal dance.  So here it is.

Spring Song

You are gone, but spring has come at last

As it does every year, without remorse,

Smiling harbinger of everything that’s passed.

 

Fields of yellow flowers, the fierce green of grass,

The sullen river swelling in its course—

You are gone, but spring has come at last.

 

The black hole in my chest was once so vast

A cavity, it sucked in all light with its force.

Smiling harbinger—of everything that’s passed

 

Spring sings, in the mockingbird’s pastiche.  Fast

And faster, notes pour from the source.

You are gone.  But spring has come at last,

 

Though I would stop it, break the iron cast

Of seasons always changing.  There’s no recourse,

Smiling harbinger.  Of everything that’s passed

 

I cannot be forgiving.  Life’s too fast

Or, then again, too slow to stay, of course.

You are gone, but spring has come at last,

Searing me with everything that’s passed.

Easter Baskets and Orchids

Ours were not this pretty!
I wonder how many kitchen counters are smudged with Paas Easter egg dye today.  My great-niece and I used to dye them in my sister’s kitchen, covering every surface we could find with newspapers, and we still wound up with dye on our hands, our clothes and most counters.  The kits got fancier as the years went by.  No more cheesy transfers of rabbits and ducks!  The last time Courtney and I dyed them, we had glitter and a sort of tie-dye effect.

When I was small Mother was really into Easter.  I always got an Easter basket with a hollow chocolate rabbit, some jelly beans, and a stuffed animal.  I was a great collector of stuffed animals and was thrilled to get a really lifelike brown rabbit one year.  I petted him as if he were real.

We always went to church.  This involved a new Easter dress, shiny patent leather Mary Janes, and a hat and gloves.  Mother was encased in a dress and hat (and of course her girdle), stockings and heels, and gloves.  Daddy bought us each a corsage to wear.  In good years the corsage was an orchid.  I endured church by concentrating on Easter dinner, which awaited us at home.

Mother usually baked a ham and made candied sweet potatoes and green beans.  These had to be heated when we returned home.  Sometimes we had rolls from the grocery store, which I considered a great treat.

Usually dessert was coconut pie, although one year when we were on the farm Mother made a special, multi-layer coconut cake with little nests of green-dyed coconut holding jelly beans.  The layers were graduated like a traditional wedding cake.  Unfortunately they crumbled at the edges–maybe the recipe was a little too moist?  At any rate, the cake turned into a coconut mountain with nests perilously clinging to its sides.

Maybe it was the return of spring which made Easter so special to her.  Mother tried recipes out of Good Housekeeping which involved cutting cake layers into rabbit body parts.  And we both religiously dyed eggs, even when I came home from college.  We ended up throwing them away because they weren’t safe to eat after sitting out for a couple of days.  But it was worth it to have a bowl full of jewel-toned works of “art” on the table to celebrate resurrection and spring.