Showing posts with label Birthdays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birthdays. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Ringing in the New Year with the Past

Five years ago we celebrated my 70th birthday on a ship. Needless to say, seems like yesterday.  I was not even thinking that we could do it again.  But the past became the future. Although, looking at the pictures, I see the change, in us, in our “kids.” 

So, for my 75th birthday we managed to enjoy another Caribbean cruise, this time on the Celebrity Silhouette (now considered a mid-sized ship, but, still, about the largest we’d go on – meticulously maintained though, and the meals were surprisingly good with excellent service). This was a destination onto itself, the ports, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Kitts being ones we visited before and, now, the first two still bearing the devastation of Hurricane Maria.  But the point was to be together, our little family, which very happily now includes our daughter-in-law to be, Tracie.

It was an opportunity to get to know her.  Jonathan is a lucky man to be marrying such a lovely woman, intelligent and loving.  She is a pediatric gastroenterologist, with harrowing stories about kids doing what kids will do, like swallowing nails.  Thankfully, there are caring specialized physicians such as Tracie to cope with those events.  I’ve always regretted not having a daughter in addition to our two sons.  It is a dream soon to be realized.

My actual birthday itself was celebrated a couple of days before we left with friends pictured left to right, Harry, Susan, my wife Ann, Lois, John, and the birthday “boy” himself now working on his last quarter century, grateful for whatever of that time the fates allow.

Unfortunately, when we left for the cruise I had a sinus infection which morphed into a chest cold, loading up on a Z pack while on the ship and all the over the counter medications necessary to control my cough.  Never had a fever though so didn’t consider myself contagious and washed my hands scrupulously to spare fellow passengers.  Not exactly the way I envisioned an active cruise.  So it became a relaxed one, leaving the ship only once in St. Kitts.    But as I said, the point was for our family to be together.  Their work schedules had to be arranged almost a year in advance, so we were lucky to coordinate a birthday celebration redux.

We didn’t “do” shows or games or other activities on the ship but instead hung out at the spa where there are not teeming crowds. They served light lunches there, and it was a place where Ann, Jon, and Tracie could play Scrabble (in addition to playing on our Verandah).  Chris and I read mostly. 

Ann and I retired after dinner to our stateroom to read.  Or to view a late sunset.

My main read turned out to be my own “book” a PDF retrospective of my Dramaworks blog commentary over the years, which I published with a preface in my prior entry

But I also managed to fit in several one act plays by the late Sam Shepard, one of our most important and enigmatic playwrights and engaging actors.  I had bought this collection for my iPad for the trip only months before his recent death.  Many of these plays were written in his early years, some appearing first at Café La Mama where I occasionally went in the 1960s.  It’s possible I could have seen some of them there.  Who remembers?  Theatre of the Absurd was on the rise and the European influence on Shepard is clear.  But he was one of a kind, bringing in his Western sensibilities too.

The first play in the collection, though, is one of his more recent ones, “Ages of the Moon.”  It is about two old “friends” who at long last see each other on the porch of one of their homes in some unnamed countryside, two displaced characters who have the past to chew on and to view the eclipse of the moon.  Dark and funny, it captures the passage of time, the regrets, the hurts, and what time really means: decline.  Best of all is the cadence of Shepard’s dialogue. 

I’m not finished with the collection, about half way through, but that gives you an idea of what one might find in Fifteen One-Act Plays by Sam Shepard (2012)

The first stop on the cruise was the Port of San Juan and approaching the Port, one passes the massive Castillo San Cristóbal and from this prospective one would hardly be aware of Maria’s devastation.  This brief video may not play on all devices.

Chris took a bike tour of part of the island and said that the destruction was much evident, trash and remnants of homes, utility lines still down.  Heartbreaking.

The last stop on the cruise was St. Kitts, the island most spared by Hurricane Maria. While Ann enjoyed a hot stone massage at the ship’s Canyon Range Spa, Chris and I took a walk, past the touristy shops and then into Basseterre, the capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a place I’ve been before, and always an opportunity for some idiosyncratic photos.  Their Independence Square has a beautiful Italian-inspired fountain.

Unfortunately, two cruise ships in port put a damper on things, depriving us of the opportunity to really mingle with the Island’s people.  They were outnumbered. 

Finally, back to Ft. Lauderdale and the sunrise.

So, 2018 begins, after blowing out the candles of 2017.  Tempus Fugit.  A Happy and Healthy New Year to All. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ann’s Birthday Weekend

This is a shameless Facebook sort of entry.  But as I don’t “do” Facebook and as this is a personal journal of sorts, this is about Ann, my wife, who recently turned 75.  For her 40th birthday I had orchestrated a surprise party at a friend’s house and on her 50th birthday pulled off another surprise party at a restaurant. For her 70th birthday, I celebrated her life here in this blog.

So, what to do for her 75th?  It’s a big one and I decided to just ask her, no surprises this time around.  Easy she said, fly the “kids” down, Chris and Jonathan, celebrate with them at The Breakers on Palm Beach for brunch, and the following day have a dinner at Seasons 52 with them and some close friends.  Done I said (after checking our sons’ schedules).

On Sunday, it was off to the Breakers  It was a lovely day in an historic building which retains its classic beauty. The brunch itself is held in “The Circle” room, with 30 foot high frescoed ceilings and murals of Renaissance landscapes. It is a special place and experience, having their extraordinary multicourse brunch, looking out over the ocean.

The next night was her dinner.  We brought wine for the restaurant to serve and picked the chef’s table, overlooking the water, set apart from the restaurant itself where we could leisurely dine, and toast our birthday girl.  I had prepared a one page speech, some funny parts, some touching, it being a truncated variation on a speech I delivered at her 50th surprise party with an entirely different cast of relatives and friends when we lived in Connecticut.  

Our sons were the only attendees at her 75th birthday dinner who were there for her 50th as well.

But our retirement home in Florida has brought new wonderful friends, pictured here.  At the bottom, head of the table to the right is Ed, and then going clockwise is his wife, Gail, John, his wife, Lois, Susan, her husband, Harry, our wonderful neighbor, Nina, me, our sons, Chris and Jonathan, our birthday girl, Ann, Art and his wife Sydelle.

It was a small, but fun loving group, as evidenced by a little poem Gail, Lois, and Susan composed,

Happy Birthday Ann

Happy, happy birthday, now reached Seventy-five
We guess it must be wondrous just to be alive.

With ballet and opera you are always so busy
And of course Jane Austen keeps you in a tizzy.

There is mahjongg and chiro and nails and hair
It is amazing you can remember to get anywhere.

There is a day at the Spa we want to celebrate
We will play maj and eat and luxuriate.
It will be our treat, so pick a good time

We want to make your birthday sublime.
Happy Birthday

Gail, Lois, and Susan

Sydelle then took center stage, first by singing lyrics she wrote to Perry Como’s hit, “It’s Impossible” and then by reading a poem she composed “’A’ IS FOR ANNIE”

"A" IS FOR ANNIE (and other parts of the ABC's)

A is for ANNIE, there are so many good words to try.
Some ANGLES, an ANGEL, and a beautiful big APPLE pie.

We could stop in an ABBEY and drink some ABSINTHE on the run.
Or go to ALASKA or say AHOY on a boat in the sun.

We could AIRILY sing with APTITUDE and lots of AFFECTION.
We could ALWAYS turn ABOUT and go in an ALTERNATE direction.

Let's meet with ALADDIN and have an exciting ADVENTURE.
Do something AQUATIC or have an ARRESTING venture.

Don't be staying ALONE or ANGRY or feeling ALOOF.
Say ADIOS to some ADIPOSE and shout your ATTITUDE from the roof.

Go fish with an ABBOT and bring a big ABALONE back.

Let's go split an ATOM or measure the degree of an ANGLE
Get an APPLIANCE or any ANTIQUE you can wangle.

We could plant an ACORN and see it grow into a tree.
We could cruise to the AZORS on the beautiful ATLANTIC sea.

Let's install an AWNING for cooling the hot, steamy AIR.
We can nibble on ALMONDS as we rest in a cozy ARM CHAIR.

The years are ADVANCING but she's never a tiny bit older
Just more ALLURING, ADVENTUROUS and a whole lot bolder.

When it comes to our ANNIE, there's an ABSENCE of all signs of AGING.
With ALARMING beauty, she's ALWAYS ALERT and engaging.

So remember     .
Roses are red and violets are blue.
We love you, Annie, and we love Bobby too.
                                                                               Sydelle Charney 5/16

It was a tough crowd, though, as when Sydelle said “Australia” rather than “the Azores” they picked up on that immediately as this brief video shows!

So the sun set over the Intracoastal Waterway and on yet another milestone.  May there be many more to come. Concluding this entry though, a sunset photo on Block Island thirty years ago, our favorite boating destination of years gone by.....

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


I gave a belated 100th birthday piano concert in honor of Frank Sinatra – only a few days late, my regular Brookdale Senior Living home monthly performance, ironically on my own birthday.  I listened to Sinatra all day on Dec. 12, his 100th and I wondered how different my life would have been if there had not been a Frank Sinatra.  He permeated our culture.  

The Great American Songbook would not exist in its present form if there was no Sinatra.  I remember in high school I was just getting over my fascination with Elvis Presley, and abandoning my guitar lessons, when a new kid moved into my neighborhood. Ed was unlike any of my other friends. When we hung out in his room he had two albums he played over and over again, Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me, and Ahmad Jamal’s At the Pershing: But Not for Me, both released in 1958 on the eve of my senior HS year.  My parents never listened to such music. Those albums brought me back to the piano. 

So, thanks to that accidental connection, and Frank and Ahmad, I’ve had a musical life of joy playing the songs of the Great American Songbook during my entire adult life.  And I’ve had all those decades of enjoying Sinatra but it wasn’t until he was in his mid-70’s, the age I’m now approaching myself, that I had an opportunity to see him in person.  It was June of 1991 and we had ventured to Las Vegas for a long weekend to see our dear friend, Peter and his wife Marge, who lived there. 

Peter had been diagnosed with cancer but he was still mobile and relatively pain free and our mutual wish was to see Sinatra who was then appearing at the Riviera Hotel.  We had practically front row seats, slightly off to the left, and he sang many of his signature pieces, some of the same ones I played at my concert such as The Lady Is a Tramp, I’ve Got you Under My Skin, New York, New York and the piece I concluded my own piano tribute to him, My Way. That June 1991 appearance turned out to be among his last concerts in Vegas.  His orchestra was enthusiastically conducted by his son, Frank Sinatra Jr. 

Although one could tell that age had taken its toll on Sinatra’s voice by then, his phrasing, which made him so distinctive, as well as his personality, came through.  He had the ability to convince the audience members that he was singing directly to and for you.

I had one tangential connection with The Chairman of the Board.  In 1998 my publishing company published Ol’ Blue Eyes; A Frank Sinatra Encyclopedia, chronicling every song he ever sang, every movie he ever appeared in.  I gave a copy to a transient boater who was docked next to me at our marina as he was Sinatra’s drummer for many of his concerts over a twenty year period (forgot his name).  So I was regaled about several personal incidents and it was enjoyable to hear from someone who worked closely with him.  Bottom line, Sinatra was a perfectionist when it came to music and how he sang a song.

He was also an outspoken person all his life.  I found his 1963 Playboy interview fascinating.  Then, of course, the threat was communism and the cold war.  I’m pretty sure if he were around today, he’d have a thing or two to say about the present world tumult and the breakdown of our political process.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Little Anesthetic Drip

I'm turning 70 soon. It seems like only yesterday I was reconciling myself to my 65th birthday, fortunate of course to make it to both milestones, but knowing that time is steadily running out of the hourglass.  It's not as if I come from hearty stock where everyone lives healthily into their nineties and then has the good fortune of just not waking up one day.  And I've had my issues, most recently open heart surgery just last year.

The older I get the more I seem to "work" for Doctors who take charge of my body with tests, medications, procedures, just about any time they want. And I'm not in it alone: friends, some from childhood or college days, are going through the same thing, that is the ones who have made it thus far.

Speaking of college, for some reason, unknown to me now, as a student (that's my college yearbook photo to the right) I had memorized John Masefield's graceful poetic masterpiece, On Growing Old.  Masefield wrote the poem when he was only 41, as if some sudden, unexpected  poetic insight into his own future materialized.  I still know the words today.  One of our first boats was named 'Spindrift' because of a line from the first verse:

Be with me, Beauty, for the fire is dying;
My dog and I are old, too old for roving.
Man, whose young passion sets the spindrift flying,
Is soon too lame to march, too cold for loving.
I take the book and gather to the fire,
Turning old yellow leaves; minute by minute
The clock ticks to my heart. A withered wire,
Moves a thin ghost of music in the spinet.
I cannot sail your seas, I cannot wander
Your cornland, nor your hill-land, nor your valleys
Ever again, nor share the battle yonder
Where the young knight the broken squadron rallies.
Only stay quiet while my mind remembers
The beauty of fire from the beauty of embers.

Whatever compelled me to commit that to memory more than fifty years ago?  Was it a perverse acknowledgement that I too would one day be the subject of the poem although at the time I would have thought 70 an eternity away?  But the day is arriving and ironically I don't feel like that at all -- I'm not nearly ready to "gather by the fire." If anything, my mind tells me I'm a kid, defying the image in the mirror, belying the health issues.

But my literary hero, John Updike, most perceptively describes the process of aging and the collateral inevitability of one's demise in one of his last short stories, "The Full Glass." The main character is thinking about his grandfather and Updike writes: “As a child I would look at him and wonder how he could stay sane, being so close to his death.  But, actually, it turns out, Nature drips a little anesthetic into your veins each day that makes you think another day is as good as a year, and another year as long as a lifetime.  The routines of living – the tooth-brushing and pill-taking, the flossing and the water glass, the matching socks and the sorting of the laundry into the proper bureau drawers—wear you down.” 

No truer words were ever written.  So, onward into my 70's!

And Happy Holidays as celebrated in Florida.........