So Mimi and I had a few blighted, icy days, one where she had to wear booties and walked as though she had been gang-banged, but today the sun is out and we came home from the groomer's through Central Park. In a tunnel, the best in the park acoustically, he said, having tested them all, a piper played Irish tunes though he wasn't Irish and didn't want a dollar. He is Italian in origin and a lawyer who just enjoys music. I wished him well and told him to keep his soul. It can't be easy to do that if you're a lawyer.
We ran into another lawyer, she the mother in a young Chinese family, and I said the few words I can remember in Mandarin, which is little more than Hello and Good bye, Thank you, and Fabulous!(loose translation of Bang, which actually means delicious) when she told me she had passed the bar in English and Chinese. She must be truly brilliant, as the biggest waste of cerebral time and money in my life has been the study of Mandarin, begun when I found a flyer that said 'Cecilia Rasmussen, linguist to the Stars, as featured in 'In Style Magazine', which I thought had to be a hoot. It wasn't, though the upside is I reeled in a buddy and we have gone through it together and bonded, as nothing will bond two bright women faster and better than both of them feeling stupid at the same time. Initially I was studying it so I could speak it when I went to Shanghai, a trip I figured I would make this Spring, but I am sufficiently put off by the language to have given up all thought of going. Partly, I think, that is because I feel unsure, as do many, of what will happen in the world, but mostly it is because I have no love of the language, and that is what has bolstered me through most of my adventures, including the ones where I spoke English.
But it most definitely Spring. Flowers are not yet budding, though people are, coming out in droves as they do in Paris the first decent day. When I was in New York in December, and the weather was milder than it is now, I walked along Central Park South and at the curb outside one of the buildings someone had put out for garbage collection a big box of old 33 1/3 albums. Angled at the top, propped up and smiling at me was Rosemary Clooney, so I took it as the greeting it was, commandeered the album, subsequently made it into a CD and put it in my car CD player in LA. The best song on it is 'Spring is Here', that captures to the full Rosie's magic, a kind of honey-throated reverence for lyrics that sounds like she is on the verge of tears. It is easy to do that with that lyric by Lorenz Hart, filled with the only admirable kind of self-pity: "No desire no ambition leads me-- maybe that's because nobody needs me," belly-button staring turned to art. I loved that song when I was young, and love it still, though the fears on it are very outdated. It is not lack of romance we have to be afraid of anymore as much as these guys. I do not have to tell you who I mean, since you have all received my last poem and I have been cautioned(warned? threatened?) by a Republican that I am now available electronically so I should watch what I say.
Anyway, after a most pleasant afternoon I went with Billy Danoff, my friend who wrote 'Country Roads' and 'Afternoon Delight' to a concert at Zenkel Hall, a bamboo(it looked like) and metal-lighting fixtures on the ceiling side-adjunct to Carnegie Hall, to see some performers who play with Billy at the John Denver memorial in Aspen that takes place every year- Denver fans being true fanatics, coming from as far as Japan to remember that dorky guy, as Billy refers to him, but with affection. Bill and Taffy, his then wife and singing partner were an act called 'Fat City' when Denver walked in on them at the Cellar Door, a once boite in DC where they were loved, went home with them, laid in the first line of 'Country Roads' and the rest is pop history(Billy got $89,000 in royalties from Germany this year.) I myself found Bill and Taffy when I went to DC for the restorative debut of Tommy Smothers as a single(his initial outing at the Troubadour had been upended by a rude, drunken display by John Lennon who, after a smoke-filled(it still was then) room-ful of Tommy friends unsuccessfully tried to to quiet him down, was carried out of the club like debris on a wave atop an ocean of hands, with a tampax on his nose(self-applied.) The DC debut was a lot more friendly, Harry Nillson having flown in along with other noted well-wishers, all of whom ended up at Bill and Taffy's house on Chain Bridge Road. And twas there, just like in the movies, that everybody played guitar and sang and wined and puffed in talented circle on the floor, and Billy played a tune for which I laid in a lyric that became a song for 'Kingdom Come' my movie that never got made but the song exists and is fine, and Bill and Taffy recorded it when they were much loved, which they still are by me, and the legion of Denver fans. Billy remains one of the most eclecticly knowledgeable people I know, having studied Mandarin(he must be smarter even than I imagined) at Georgetown where he was classmates with Bill Clinton(he did the music for their 25th reunion.) By eclectic, I do mean eclectic. For years I have been walking into the park by a statue of Jose Marti, and never knew who he was until yesterday when Billy informed me Marti was a revolutionary and also the author of the lyrics of 'Guantanamero.' "Tommy Smothers sang that," I said to Bill, with some sense of wonder at the breadth of his knowledge. "Sort of," Bill replied.
Last night's concert, however, was not as memorable as that night on Chain Bridge Road, except for the playing of a phenomenally gifted guitarist named Pete Hettlinger(I think) and the greater amazement at all those who had flown in from everywhere to hear these people who are associated with Denver only from his memorial concerts. Staggering. Well, throw a little sunshine into this world, and there's no telling who you'll touch or how long you'll be remembered. I try to think of that when I read Frank Rich on Sundays. . .