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Entry date: 1-22-2024 – Seven Fingers – Letters to My Friends


Dear Friends,


Better late than never, I suppose.

 

This one has been sitting in the “out” box all day. I don’t know why. I got my stuff all smirgled up, I suppose.

 

Rhondi says “Smirgled” was a way to talk about mixing things together. I like it a lot. At first, I didn’t so much…but now I do.

 

 

*****

 

Computers don’t know what we look like.

It’s true.

Just look for yourself.

They know how to (badly) copy pictures

They have “seen.”

 

Computers don’t know what we smell like.

It’s true.

They can define “smell”

But they can’t do it.

Replication will be tough.

 

Unless, of course, the computers

Decide to “McDonald’s” it up.

Maybe make a vat of human scent

To spray on the latest

Robot models with seven fingers

And almond eyes.

 

Almost real is just as bad.

 

*****

 

Gloria Jones had picked up on the first ring. Gloria had been Janet Ryan’s private secretary for longer than Friday had been alive, but she had never been Friday’s babysitter, confidant, or friend. Jones had, as she put it, “a healthy disdain for children and adults who act like children.” She said this a lot in Friday’s presence, over the years, and its core message had never failed to sink in.

 

Apparently, her parents were at the beach house for the day and, according to Jones, it was a good day for her to catch them. They had nothing on their calendars all day. Friday thanked Jones and before she could say goodbye, Jones hung up the phone.

 

Typical Jones, Friday thought. Everyone called Jones by her last name. She was steadfast in her loyalty to Janet, and for this, Friday was always happy to put up with any brusqueness. Deep down, Friday hoped that Jones might actually like her, too, but she was never quite sure of it.

 

It would take about 45 minutes to get to the beach house, so Friday decided to get on the road before traffic started picking up. It was almost two and the afternoon sun would be just about perfect in a couple of hours. “Nurse Dayna” did need to “glow” according to the script, so a little sun wouldn’t hurt.

 

Friday quickly got dressed. She put on a jean skirt and a Rolling Stones shirt, threw a couple of things into her favorite bag, and headed towards the door to look for her keys. She vaguely remembered just sort of tossing them on the ground when she got in earlier that morning.

 

On the floor next to her keys was another greeting card.

 

*****

 

I’ve had a soft spot for “Rhapsody In Blue” for, at very least, the last 20 years or so. George Gershwin’s greatest feat and maybe the greatest American song in history, “Rhapsody In Blue” is a musical triumph. It evokes a plethora of feelings and takes me places inside my brain I will forever appreciate.

 

I learned to really appreciate the piece after taking an overview of American music class at ASU in the mid-90s. It was a great class in a huge auditorium in the music section of campus. I could just kick myself for not taking more music classes while I was working on my Bachelors. As a humanities major, I could have probably made music my primary focus, but I thought I was going to teach high school and someday write the great American novel, be a rock star, or become a journalist.

 

At around seventeen minutes long, “Rhapsody In Blue” is a commitment. I wonder how many hours of my life have now been spent with this soundtrack in the background. The first copy I had of it was on CD. I bought a $3 CD at Walmart in one of their bins. I still have it, somewhere. It features a symphony orchestra from somewhere in Eastern Europe doing the song.

 

It’s actually a pretty good CD, but for today’s purposes, I want to discuss the version on the soundtrack to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan.” Think what you want about Woody Allen, but the guy always did a sublime job of putting music, and interesting arrangements of classic tunes, in his movies. The guy has a musical brain.

 

Gary Graffman’s work on Gershwin (two G.G.’s) is pretty spectacular and has become something of a staple. If you’ve been paying attention to popular culture at all in the last fifty years, you’ve probably heard at least a snippet of this performance. Graffman recorded a bunch of records in his career and, according to the interwebs, will turn 96 later this year. Due to an injury, he stopped playing piano in 1979. It would be really interesting to talk with him about forty plus years without being able to do something he really loves has been.

 

But I digress…

 

I picked up a copy of the “Manhattan” soundtrack for a few bucks at either Zia or the Record Room three or four years ago. The entire soundtrack is Gershwin songs, so it is lush and large. It sweeps you off your feet a bit with Gershwin’s signature sentimentality. There really was no other composer quite like him.

 

Side one is all “Rhapsody In Blue.” I don’t know about you, but the song takes me all over the place emotionally. It makes me long for times and places I would never have experienced without the imagery of a good book or great movie. Gershwin captured the manic ideation of urban struggle while also making the music pastoral and pure.

 

The rest of the performances are, like Graffman’s, top notch. “Someone to Watch Over Me” is also terrific, as is its predecessor on side two, “Land of The Gay Caballero.” If I played it for my students and told them the name, they would giggle hysterically, and I’d have to remind them for a week that using the word “Gay” in my classroom better be in a positive way.

 

One of my favorite parts of the B side is the brevity of some Gershwin classics. They are short and sweet and just as you are ready to be lulled into a blanket-like security, the next song comes along, and the pace of the record really moves. You might even find yourself charmed by the tiptoeing of the strings in “Do, Do, Do.”

 

As I think about the fantastic work of Milt Hinton (bass) on “Mine,” it occurs to me that twenty years ago, I would have been slow, probably, to proclaim the virtues of a record like this one. Manhattan is a great record, even if the movie has become a little cringe inducing based on changes in societal perception and Allen marrying his former stepdaughter.

 

Back to Hinton, though, for a second. His bass line is so freaking good on “Mine.” Nimble is an understatement. He and Eric Cohen (Drums) and Dick Hyman (stop giggling, piano) really swing on this one. Hyman used to play with Benny Goodman, too, so he’s got some skills, and Cohen did a record with Liza Minnelli once.

 

“Sweet and Low Down” is also pretty darn delightful. At the time of this writing, I’ve been watching a lot of Northern Exposure and one of the characters, “Maurice” (played by Barry Corbin), is quite fond of show tunes, so “Sweet and Low Down” is striking all the right chords.

 

Again, outside of what you might say or think about Woody Allen, this record is superbly curated, and you can probably find it for less than $5 at one of the local shops. Perfect music for a rainy (or sunny) day.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



Chris and I a few years back when his band came to town and played.

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Hey, hey! CHRIS!!! LOVE YA, BROTHER!!! 👊🏼

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