Friday, July 20, 2012

Peter Yarrow

When I first saw the announcement in the community bulletin I was conflicted. Should I be really happy at the opportunity to see Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, for $10 on a Tuesday night? Or should I be sad that a former folk legend was reduced to playing in a senior village community center at the Jersey shore? I felt better when I learned that Peter is good friends with one of the residents and does the program as a favor to her. I still had doubts, though, about the fan base among the community. They just didn't seem like veterans of the tumultuous protest movements from Civil Rights to Vietnam, in which Peter, Paul and Mary were prominent voices. Here, for example, is the entrance to the center:

I felt I should add an addenda to the sign: .....and Damn the Leaders who Commit Us to Unworthy Wars. Or perhaps, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

I settled into an aisle seat and surveyed the crowd filing in. The chairs were a random assortment of upholstered maroon ballroom chairs (preferred) and hard white plastic ones (avoided). I figured choosing a white chair with several others in a row would isolate me from the crowd, who nodded inquiringly at me, as if to say How did you get in here?  But, I was wrong. A lady asked if I were saving seats and then plopped down next to me. "Hi, I'm Helen. I live at 22 Boulevard--you know, the house with the controversial wheelchair ramp." I responded in kind.  "Hi, I'm Ginny-- from the Boulevard, too." I remember my mother talking years ago about "the controversy," which was a staple at the neighborhood meetings. Apparently residents were dismayed that the ramp, because of the steepness of the driveway, had to zig zag up the front lawn in an unsightly manner. My mom loved to hear the old biddies complain about it because it added a little zest to the meetings and also steered her away from the more vociferous complainers. I felt bad this woman, years later, still felt compelled to wear this as her scarlet A.

Helen was a talker and I kept turning slightly to my left to see what Peter Yarrow was doing. He was dressed in a maroon tee shirt, slacks and senior oxfords, chatting with people in the back corner. Helen barely came up for air and the saga now included more people than I could keep track of. Was Keith her husband or son or the son's friend or the mason who did the work?

At last Peter Yarrow approached the stage and sat on the stool, guitar in hand. At age 74 he knows his peers. "Do you remember your first love?" he asked the crowd of about 80 residents and then sang Lemon Tree, a sweet ballad of love found and lost. He followed up with The Wedding Song, which I was surprised many people didn't know. It was one of the songs at my own wedding, so I was happy to hear it and a little smug that I was more of a PPM fan than most that were there. This was later confirmed when someone requested he play Stewball and only three hands went up as knowing the song.

The beauty of folk music is that it's easy to sing along and most people joined in--in fact they loved that part. Peter joked that he would signal when it was the chorus, so we would know when to sing, but he also added that he knew some would sing chorus and verse because they didn't know the difference or because they just wanted to!  That was also OK with him.

Yarrow has a comfortable stage presence. I wondered if he had ever tried to calculate how many times he had sung If I Had a Hammer or Blowin in the Wind. He joked with the audience, mimicked a heavy Jewish accent at times, sang the Colonoscopy Song and had an amusing anecdote for each song. You have to love the senior crowd, because toward the end, one older woman on a walker said a bit too loudly, "He's talking again; I can't sit this long." She was shushed as she headed out the door. Another lady had stage whispered earlier to her friend: "That's John Denver's song, not his." (Turns out she was half right: John Denver wrote Leaving on a Jet Plane, but it became a signature hit for Mary Travers and PPM)

He got serious at times, talking about the civil rights movement and about performing in Veteran's hospitals, but did not mention Vietnam protests specifically. I think he knew his audience. After singing the requested antiwar anthem, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, he opened his Apple computer to share a recent recording of the song in English and Ukrainian. He marvelled how that would have been unimaginable in the height of the Cold War. He also talked about his current initiative, an antibullying program for schools in the US and around the world that uses music and song to build a foundation of acceptance for all kinds of kids.

I was not the youngest one there. Two twenty-something French girls had been visiting one of the residents. Hard to imagine what kind of exchange program that was, but the girls seemed nice and friendly and not bitter that they had been sent to live in a retirement community. Afterwards, they spoke to Yarrow, and together they sang a few lines of different songs in French. Peter speaks some French, but his daughter, he said, is fluent in both French and Spanish. Behind me in the crowd of autograph seekers, one woman remarked, "Well, you'll need Spanish the way this country is going." "Hey, what about all that singing of peace and brotherhood?" I wanted to ask her. I shook hands with Yarrow, told him I first saw them at Cornell in 1969 and had The Wedding Song when I got married in 1973 and had really enjoyed the evening. As I left, my new friend Helen called over to me, "Hope to see you again--Ginny of the Boulevard." What a great evening and it was still only 8:30.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

CSI: New Jersey

Looks like a pretty bad crime scene, doesn't it? And from my bedroom! Call in Dexter to do the blood splatter analysis on this one.

Actually I was overtired the other night, but thought I should fix up my toenails in anticipation of a visit to the beach. I must have loosened the cap on the polish, then turned to do something else. When I swooped the bottle up,  I got a nice spray on myself, the rug, the bed skirt and sheet. I hurried into the bathroom and returned with nail polish remover, half expecting to see a Dexter-like web of red strings tracing the origin and pattern of the spill. But Dexter wasn't there; only in my imagination and I vowed not to watch any more episodes.

I had started season one on Netflix and got through two and a half episodes on the recommendation of my son, who wanted me to catch up on all four seasons, so we could watch season five together. Too much blood for me and now I have a constant reminder. Here's the real crime scene mystery: anyone have a suggestion for removing dark scarlet nail polish from a light blue rug?

Monday, July 9, 2012

the 42 dollar dilemma

I spent a wonderful, hot week at the shore. We went out to a lovely, small French restaurant one night where the food was excellent and the owner made a point of visiting each table for a pleasant chat. After the meal, I sought out the restroom at the end of a narrow hall, past the kitchen. As I opened the door marked Femmes, I noticed a scrunched up wad of money on the floor. It could have fallen out of my own mini phone purse which I use constantly, since I overstuff the inside slots with cash, credit cards and driver's license. I like to travel lightly, although I know big bags are en vogue, and it's not uncommon for me to slide out my phone and spew a trail of cards and dollars with it. I was startled for a moment, as I fingered the roll of 2 twenties and 2 singles. Of course, my brain is not that addled and I realized I had just stepped into the room, with purse still securely zipped, so the bills could not possibly be mine.

Or could they? "Finders keepers," I smiled and shoved the bills into my purse. On second thought I had a vague recollection of two women at a neighboring table visiting the restroom before they started to eat and speculated that it may belong to one of them. I clutched the money in the palm of my hand and when I saw the waiter, standing by the kitchen door, I took that as a sign to turn over my prize. He said he would pass it on to the owner who would discreetly canvass the customers.

Returning to my table, I felt Girl Scout proud of myself, until I related the story to my party. Did I do the right thing or was I just stupid?  
"I hope you didn't give it to our waitress!" (She was not a favorite---reserved and slightly snooty or maybe just defensive, since my brother began the meal with a few pointed comments.)
"No, the waiter." I replied. (Four sets of eyes turned on him with laserlike intensity, as if we had collective xray vision to scan his pockets for the $42.)

The poll was inconclusive: one vote for finders keepers; one non-committal; one for doing the "right thing", accompanied by a similar story involving money found floating in the ocean years earlier. I learned in that incident, the police held the money, a considerable sum, for six months and then returned it to the finder, a young friend of my nephew. You have to wonder who goes swimming with a fistful of big bills in their pocket, but this is New Jersey.

It became the question of the weekend. What would you do if you found $42 in the restroom of a restaurant? A no-brainer for most, but I feel somehow that I'm golden now. Should I head to AC, play the 4 and the 2 on the roulette wheel and let it ride? Are these my new lucky numbers? Today I followed a van that was vehicle #42--coincidence or karma? Or was the $42 my good luck that I gave away? One request: the next time we eat out, please don't quiz me when I return from the bathroom to see how much money I found this time. It gets old quickly and besides, how do you know I didn't make this all up?