What with trips to New Orleans, New York, Nashville and other places, spring went by very quickly. But spring is still here, even though it feels like summer already because of the warm weather. The start of summer is on June 20th. I was going to write a post on spring flowers but we have been home for a few days and I caught up with the news. I still would like to show our very pretty hydrangea shrub. We bought it at a The Hydrangea Festival in LaGrange, a town in mid-Georgia. It has white star-like flowers on the outside and a bunch of tiny blue buds inside. I believe it is called “Blue Bunny” a cultivar of the species involucrate or bracted hydrangea (hortensia in French.) I showed the flower in my top picture and here is the little shrub below.
This spring there was some sad news and some good news. Some of the news made me nostalgic; I’ll explain why. Growing up I was surrounded by music. There was the radio or my father playing the piano. My mother loved dancing and taught me how to dance when I was 4 years old. When she heard a tango or a Viennese waltz on the radio she would call me and we would dance. My father having been badly injured in WW2 could not dance with her anymore. I loved all the Johann Strauss, Jr. waltzes we danced.
The Viennese Waltz by Vladimir Pervuninsky, Russian, born in 1957
Later on, as a teenager I really enjoyed listening to all types of music – the dancing music, opera and classical music, and most of all jazz. I also bought many records, 45 rpm and 33 long players of French singers, like those shown below: Joe Dassin, Georges Moustaki, Demis Roussos, Hughes Aufrey, Georges Brassens, Serge Gainsbourg, Edith Piaf and many others.
One of my favorite singers was, and still is, the French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour. I had many records of his songs and now I have CDs too.
I brought all these old records with me when I moved to the US. When I met my husband in San Francisco, he introduced me to the music he liked, which was folk music like Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Collins, Richard and Mimi Fariña, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and others. He also listened to bluegrass music. So these were other genres of music I started to listen to with him. It was with sadness that I heard that one of the great musicians we listened to, and still do, just passed away. His name was Doc Watson. He was a guitarist, singer and songwriter. He won seven Grammy awards and several others. He died on May 29, 2012 – he was 89 years old. He played traditional folk, bluegrass, blues and gospel music. Below is a picture of him, courtesy Getty Images.
Doc Watson was from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and like so many people from that area he was a born storyteller. He was blind since one year old of age. Doc Watson was an authentic artist. He had a flat-picking style for playing his guitar - his fingers were so quick and the sound so smooth. We spent many hours listening to him.
“Just one of the People” 2011 Sculpture in Boone, North Carolina created by Alex Hallmark (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)In the clip below of an old video he sings “Deep River Blues.”
In 1982 I started working in an aircraft manufacturing company and for the first 14 years, until 1996, my position was to be the “liaison” between the company and foreign trainees who came to study and to learn how to maintain the aircraft their governments or companies had purchased. Three weeks after I began working there sixty trainees came from Algeria. None spoke English – just Algerian and French. I had to find housing for them, take them to driving school, doctors, show them around our town and be like their “big sister.” Here I am below in an old photo with a group leaving for an end of year vacation. I think about 50 of them left that day but I am shown here with only 14 of the trainees.
At first, and until they started to speak some English, I would go with them to movies or discos. My husband did not come because he does not like to dance, but my assistant and I would often dance. The singer who really made our crowd dance was Donna Summer. Here is a photo of her below (author unknown.)
She won the Grammy Award five times because of her innovative style and beautiful mezzo-soprano voice. In December 2009 she performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway. Donna died on May 17th, 2012 at age 63. She had a tremendous voice as well as class and style. Her funeral was held in Nashville, Tennessee. When I heard about it I still could see us dancing in Atlanta while she sang her hits like “Bad Girl” and others. Another era is gone. Below is a clip of Donna Summer singing “Hot Stuff.”
It is so hard to see such talented artists leaving us. Another one who passed away on May 8th, 2012, was the author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. He was 83 years old. His book “Where the Wild Things are” published in 1963 was a classic. Even though he said that he did not write for children, he told stories that delighted children. He wrote and illustrated dozens of books as well as operas.
Last January Maurice Sendak appeared twice on the TV comedy show “The Colbert Report.” I watched both segments then. It was brilliant. Sendak was gruff, grumpy and funny with a dark sense of humor – a unique fellow. He had great repartee to Colbert. When Colbert asked him if he liked writing children’s books he replied “I don't write for children, I write, and then someone says, 'That's for children.'" Below is Maurice Sendak with his dog Herman, named after Melville (photo courtesy of Annie Leibovitz and Vanity Fair.)
Here is another line from Sendak : "I didn't set out to make children happy or make life easier for them ... I like [children] as few and far between as I do adults. Maybe a bit more because I really don't like adults at all." He may sound mean but he was very charitable. After his 50-year longtime companion, the psychoanalyst Dr. Eugene Glynn, died Sendak donated $1 million to the clinic where Dr. Glynn treated young people. When people we like and admire leave us, a little bit of us goes away with them too. Here is a rose for their remembrance - the rose Mister Lincoln flowering in our garden this week.
But there were some good news too, such as the election of the new president of France Francois Hollande. Well, the future will tell if he can redress the mistakes that former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a good friend of George W. Bush, made with his conservative regime. The best news, of course, is that the current president of the United States, Barack Obama, has declared that he supports same-sex marriage. This is not a religious or moral issue; this is an issue of equal rights. The law does not say “equal but separate” or equal unless the Bible says…, or the Koran says… or any other religious book says… something to the contrary. Hatred based on religion is not admissible in a “free” country. When America affirms that there is liberty for all, then simply - there should be liberty for all, equal rights for all, with all citizens enjoying the same benefits. That’s it.
In North America, Canada has legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. I have not read on Canadian blogs that it has harmed heterosexual marriages in any way. Many states are trying to legalize bigotry and hatred – this should not be a state issue anyway - same-sex marriages should be legal under Federal law. When I became a US citizen I read the Declaration of Independence and remember that it says : “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.….” All US Citizens, regardless of sex, color, religion, age, national origins have the same rights to happiness – it is equal protection under the law. In a 1967 decision the Supreme Court said that no state could prohibit mixed-race marriages because “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man.’ And it is – it is a civil and human right.