Sunday, September 30, 2012

Musical Fundraiser in Warminster, PA

7-minute version of The Bad Plus's new CD "Made Possible."

Ethan Iverson gave a magical piano performance with commentary this afternoon for our first New Directions' Home Fundraiser at the home of Harriet and Steve Rellis of Warminster, PA.

I'm listening to the entire album right now which is super-energizing and toe-tapping. The Bad Plus played tunes from Possible at Chris's Jazz Cafe in Philly over the weekend.

In our intimate living room gathering, Ethan played w/o sheet music and started us out on a musical history of jazz. Here he is warming up at the keyboards.

First, tho, at my request he played two preludes and fugues by the master J S Bach. The counterpoint sounded remarkably jazzy. You can hear it here. Ethan said the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor is very difficult to play.

We heard the famous ragtime pieces of Scott Joplin, a precursor for the "strider" form of piano playing by James P Johnson.

You can listen to Ethan play Johnson's famous "Charleston" piece here.  He was part of a cadre of pianists raising money for Johnson's unmarked grave in Queens that was finally erected in 2009.

Black artists, said Ethan, have tremendous financial difficulties. Johnson had perfect pitch and total recall of music he heard, starting as a kid living within access of NYC, according to Wiki.

Ethan would give a little history about each tune and how it fit in with jazz history.

Before the show I asked him why he wears a suit for his shows. He does so b/c then he always knows what to wear and also b/c his favorite pianists from yesteryear dressed in suits.

Ada mentioned that Obama, he- whom- must- be re-elected, only wears gray suits for the same reason.

Then we heard Bud Powell and Monk (the melancholy Round Midnight), both of whom had mental problems. On a previous visit to Willow Grove, Ethan and I drove to another point in Willow Grove to find where Bud Powell had grown up. Here's my post about it.

Ethan concluded with a song he wrote about Bill Hickman, stunt driver. Bill was a pretty tough guy on the movie set and Ethan wondered what it was like for the guy when he went home. He envisioned him sitting in the kitchen eating TV dinners and I suppose drinking beer.

Anyway, it was a surprising and delightful finale to a diverse, thoughtful and exciting program. Bravo!

Sarah's sitting on the soft champagne-colored carpet. Helen Kirschner sat on the floor behind her, barefoot, with great earrings on.

Every seat in the room was taken and the plants gave him a standing ovation.

Before the concert, we had Sarah's buffet lunch.

Here's Ron Abrams talking to hostess Harriet. As an RN, Harriet and her husband volunteered to administer flu shots yesterday to any Bucks Co resident who wanted one. She gave hundreds and hundreds of shots. (PS: It only hurts for a second)

Here's Steve Rellis, who gave us a tour of their great house. Their newly redone kitchen offers granite countertops on which you can put HOT FOOD directly onto the counter.

And what a spread it was!

Two main courses: poached salmon with cucumber sauce (yogurt, sour cream, fresh-garden mint) AND curried chicken salad with almonds and red grapes. The green salad featured fresh chopped beets and both peccorino and roquefort cheese.

Offscreen was the most marvelous h'ors d'oevre imaginable: bacon wrapped around a date filled with cheese and an almond.

I bot delicious gourmet olives from the Giant, as well as shrimp for shrimp cocktails. There was also broiled cauliflower and ginger carrots.

Sarah made up the menu so it would be easy to prepare in advance. She emailed me the ingredients and I hied over to the Giant where I spent so much money I got 40-cents per gallon off on gas.

We (she) made everything yesterday at my house with the help of my sister Donna. We also got two cartons of Starbucks coffee for free b/c ND is a nonprofit.

Rich Fleisher, DO, runs every day. Rich says he has trouble explaining what a DO is - donut-shop operator? - drugstore owner? - or possibly doctor of osteopathy?

Anyway, now he has trouble explaining about a new center at Lower Bucks Hospital, where he works, that does transgender operations. Its founder, Dr. Christine McGinn, was on Oprah.

Sarah was a researcher in the newly published NY Times best-seller Eat and Run by ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, so she got Rich Fleisher an autographed copy of the book. Jurek is a vegetarian and was once criticized for his diet, but proved he could be a world champion w/o consuming meat.

Scott is running with a native American, member of a particular tribe known for super running abilities.

I read the first chapter where Jurek is running thru Death Valley. Jurek only runs in races 100 miles or more. He made it thru the first 70 miles in Death Valley but was only halfway thru when he collapsed. It was a learning experience for him that changed the way he thought about life and running. Read about this exciting trip here.

Jurek's mom was diagnosed later in life with painful MS. She told her son, "Don't worry about me. I'm tough." 

Although they train, they punish their bodies and a few ultras perish during their runs. But, ultimately, it's not about the body, says Scott. It's about the mind.

Kitchen smiles. Oh, c'mon, Jane, did the sparkling cranberry juice make you pucker up?

I bought Stewart's Root Beer for Scott. He let me finish the last two sips. (Gotta watch me sugar level.)

"Tree" and Jerry Forstater devour the shrimp. They fell in love at first sight. Tree was impressed b/c Jerry was a vegetarian. They remained vegetarian for 13 years, but the lure of the flesh runs deep in our DNA.

Here kitty kitty. Sure enuf, Samantha came right over to Helen, glad to be free. Samantha spent the concert enclosed in the Sun Room, quietly dancing to Johnson's The Charleston.

Unfortunately I didn't get photos of everyone. How could I miss Arleen and Stephen Weinstein? We all gobbled up her moist banana chocolate nut bread.

Here's Sarah's chocolate-covered strawberries. I made seven trips to the Giant yesterday to get the right ingredients. I couldn't seem to get the correct chocolate but finally did.

My mom also made Lemon Squares for the third dessert. I called her up after the party to thank her. I was on my exercise bike lowering my blood glucose to a most respectable 84.

Here's Tracey who arrived with her friends Holly and Ellen Rosenberg. I was so happy to see them! Tracey got a job as a "peer specialist" and loves it.

Here's me and Harriet, the host, who is also a master bridge player. I love the sconce over the piano.

Sarah and Ethan relax after all their hard work.

Ethan said he'd never performed before a small audience but really enjoyed it. These salon-type performances were common back in the days when keyboards were called claviers as in The Well-Tempered Clavier by J S Bach.

The intimacy is thrilling.

One of Ethan's fans is a young man from Philly named Josh. His bipolar sister does very well in her home on LI, married with kids.

Josh read about our fundraiser on Ethan's blog and that's how we all got to meet him. Ethan said he's an internal medicine doctor.

Fans come in all forms.

The newest fan is Grace Catherine Deming. We stopped by for dessert - OMG - Nicole made these unfrigging believable pumpkin spice bars with choc chips and CREME CHEESE FROSTING. I only had three pieces.

We sat and watched TOY STORY THREE, an amazingly fantastic movie made by Steve Jobs' Pixar films.

And then they left - Sarah and Ethan - back to NY on the AMTRAK.

Fast and furious as the "Made Possible" CD I'm listening to. I highly recommend it. Here, lemme find a review for ya.

The Times review is a little - how shall we put it? - opaque?  I'll see if I can think of a better word while I'm falling asleep. Then, as usual, I'll run downstairs and change it.

Oh! Almost forgot. After we got home, my new tiger, Willow Growl, was so happy to see Ethan.

C'mon over and meet my very first pet. He's already housebroken and has been declawed.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Preparing for the ND Musical Fundraiser

Am listening to the Rolling Stones documentary "Gimme Shelter" (1970) which is on Documentary Heaven to keep me energized while I write this post. At the Altamonte Free Concert in CA there were four births and four deaths. A Hell's Angel is being interviewed now.

Last nite Ada and Rich Fleisher and I drove to Chris's Jazz Cafe for the first set of the Bad Plus. Lotsa great music from their new CD "Made Possible."

The only violence that erupted when TBP played was me diving with gusto into my French Onion Soup.

Dave King and Reid Anderson were schoolmates in Minnesota. Ethan lived in neighboring Wisconsin. Must ask him how they hooked up.

The only instruments they bring to nightclubs are: Dave King's cymbals. They took the Amtrak from NY to Philly. Before the first set, Ethan sat at our dark table.

Unmistakable Ethan, always in a suit. Will he wear one tomro at our Musical Fundraiser?

Sarah got to my house at about 3:30 pm today. We had no time to spare. She'd emailed me a list of ingredients to buy at the Giant. I ended up making about 6 trips there, but it's only 5 minutes away. Lucky we're not on an island in Alaska.

On my fifth and sixth trips there whom should I see but my former psychiatrist Larry.

I was picking up my rx for magnesium oxide from the pharmacy, telling Bob the pharmacist that Kidney Clinic wants me to up my mag ox.

And then I saw Larry. In the past, I avoided him, feeling he was responsible for my kidney failure. Long story, but I no longer feel that way.

This is not Larry, but is a physician at their family practice unit. I just needed a foto. Larry is pushing 80 yrs old.

"Hi Larry," I said. "You're looking good. Anything new with you?" He was pushing a shopping cart and heading toward the aisle with the eggs and cheese and peanut butter.

"Ruth," he said, "nice to see you."

He used to get flustered when he'd run into me in public places b/c he didn't tell me my kidneys were getting worse until a year after the fact.

Guess he knows I never sued him. I told him about my kidney transplant from taking lithium, forgot to mention that my BP had gone away, but it was good to see the guy.

Then I went off to buy some salad material. Ed, the produce man, always helps me get cartons. We'll cart the food over to the Warminster house in the Dole salad cartons, which are my favorite.

I need a foto of me for two newspaper articles I'm working on. Scott took this one in his empty white bedroom. It's probly the best recent foto on record.

We had lotsa help getting the food ready.

Sister Donna from Hatboro helped a lot. Sarah was very proud of Donna as she just began jogging - she's up to 11 minutes, which is great. Sarah ran in the Broad St Half-Marathon with Donna's daughter Nikki.

Here's Sarah pouring out the chocolate batter for Chocolate-Covered Strawberries.

Main course is Cold Poached Salmon topped with Cucumber Sauce and Curried Chicken Salad, where Sarah pan-roasted the curry powder. When I told Judy, my friend who just moved to Colorado, she said, You know, curry powder is really a blend of many spices.

She and her ex-husband Andy had lived in Pakistan where they both learned to cook Indian/Pakistani foods.

Her husband had manic-depression and there were no drugs at the time to help him.

Sarah chops up the cukes. She looks a lot like Donna. I used to look like the girls but now I look like this

My men's tank top I bought at the shore. Love it!

Sarah's bag - sorry about the blur, folks - says Official US Olympic bag, from when she covered the boxing matches in London for NBC. She was a researcher. She also was a researcher for Scott Jurek's running memoirs "Eat and Run."

I asked her to get an autographed copy for Ada and Rich, since Rich is a daily runner. Is it five miles?

This is what my fridge looks like. The roasted carmelized carrots are incredible.

Choc-covered strawberries drizzled with white chocolate. Gorgeous!

Now, when I checked my blood sugar earlier it was 60, pretty low but not dangerous. To raise it, I imbibed many delicious normally forbidden foods.

I had four sips of wine the girls were drinking, a whole pitted date (used for an or-derve item) and my usual whole wheat pretzel.

But I really enjoyed that wine.

Drove Sarah to the J'town train station so she could go downtown and hear the second set of The Bad Plus. They'll both be here bright and early tomro morning for the fun day.

Motto: Be Prepared.

This is the great Keith Jarrett. Ethan went out to his house and interviewed him.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cranaleith, so this is who thou art!

Cranaleith Spiritual Center, 13475 Proctor Road,  Philadelphia, PA 19116. Photo from their website.

Today from 4 to 6 pm was their Open House Wine n Cheese party. Carly and I set out from the Willow Grove Giant Supermarket, our meeting spot, an hour early. Knowing me, I knew we would get lost. Where was this Procter Road supposed to come in off  Byberry Road.

Yep, a Philadelphia police officer - not this dude from Wiki - was on a side street we pulled off.

He was coming home from work, still in his uniform, and looked up the info on his phone.

"Don't believe what you read about us in the Daily News," he said. Apparently, they're well-informed about their public image. Reminds me that I haven't been stopped by a cop in ages. I'm a minor speeder but I always stop at stop signs due to a $125 fine 15 yrs ago.

Which one is a Sister of Mercy? Which one is Carly Brown, my friend from our Writing Workshop who drove down with me.

Sister Maria DiBello stood outside to greet the guests on this open house for nonprofit orgs. Carly is chapter prez of TOPS, take off pounds sensibly. The woman is irrepressibly cheerful, loads of fun, and always joking.

This is where Sister Maria lives with another sister. It's up the hill from the wine n cheese party. The house has an amazing history. Ready?
In 1891, Rachel Foster Avery, a suffragette and close friend of Susan B. Anthony, purchased the property and built a large three-story stone house on the hill with windows facing out on every side and five fireplaces warming the interior.  Besides being a home for the Avery family, the house was designed to serve as a gathering place for suffragettes to plan together with Anthony when she came to Philadelphia (from their website).
So, on this sacred ground, we have the beginnings of doing important work for the larger community.

Susan B. Anthony slept here. What could be better than that?

Now, here's where it gets interesting. This is Sister Mary Trainer, whose family bought the property. In their will, they left this sacred beautiful space with beautiful trees and gardens to Cranaleith Spiritual Center, a nonprofit foundation, created by the family to sponsor a ministry in partnership with the Sisters of Mercy.

Mary and Frank's daughter, Sister Mary Trainer, has served as its director since its inception. And Carly and I had the pleasure of meeting her.

The Sisters of Mercy work with the downtrodden. This particular place hosts groups of homeless individuals and the mentally ill who come down a couple times a week to enjoy the dignity of work such as gardening. They become transformed, finding a purpose.

Let's throw a tennis ball for Harley to fetch.

Hello Sister Anne. You really wouldn't know these women are nuns in their attractive attire.

Dolly, the director of development, is often taken for a nun but she is one of the Trainers by marriage. The Trainers, remember, once owned the property, so she's the sister/law of director Sister Mary Trainer.

Jeannine Lisitski does extraordinary work at her nonprofit Women Against Abuse.Their services include emergency shelter, transitional housing, legal services, counseling so you're not gonna meet another abuser, education and advocacy.

Right on!

This center was built from the ground up and is still being finished. They were hosting a group from the Philadelphia Chamber, but the plumbing wasn't finished, so they put them in the big house, which has conference rooms.

I estimated this blog post would take me two hours. Am gonna stand up and stretch my legs like you're supposed to, and have half-glass of soy milk, and some organic cherry tomatoes, which are sweet as sugar.

 The moment Renetta Holloway entered the room, I liked her and wanted to talk to her. She's the director of advancement at Pendle Hill, a Quaker foundation.

The center, in Wallingford, Delaware County, is very similar to Cranaleith. I'll read about it on their website after I'm done bloggin and checking the latest bad news in the Times.

View of the backyard. In the center is a sparkling fountain arising from the lake.

When I saw this stonework, I knew I had to go out in the backyard. Carly and I stepped outside and sat talking on the stone bench on the left.

I learned more about her than I ever knew. She gets the Bowen technique for her scoliosis at $10 a session. She's also working on an essay for our Writer's Group about "tapping."

These steps are one of the ways to get up to the big house.

We had a good view of the facility from out back. They plan to build a chapel for the projected cost of $700,000.

They do get the funds, tho I'm sure it isn't easy.

Sister Honora. What a name! Silent H. I asked her if she wondered what it would be like to be a layperson. Yes, she said, only today she did. We didn't finish our discussion cuz more people were coming in.

She asked me if I ever wondered what it would be like to be a nun. Yes, I said. Even tho I'm Jewish, I thought of becoming a nun when I was a teenager. My dad and I would watch Bishop Fulton J Sheen together. I was hooked!

Here is Cindy, who does amazing work. Can't find her biz card tho. I actually had the presence of mind to bring New Directions' brochures.

Cranaleith loves that I work with the mentally ill - tho I don't consider us mentally ill - since one of their missions is serving the homeless mentally ill, who are housed at Project HOME, Sister Mary Scullion its famous director.

Dolly Trainer showed me this painting of one of the buildings done by her mother/law when she was 91. The artist, who lived with Dolly and her husband, recently died at 101.

I do love the reflections that show up in my photo, giving it an air of the surreal, like life itself.

They all said they could not believe when the building we were in was actually going up and growing into a finished edifice. Exactly like a growing baby, like my 7-week old gestational grandson Max.

View from the big house where Maria and Mary live. Let's get closer and enter.

Okay, we'll stride along and enter thru the front door. Thanks, Mark Viggiano, marketing director, for holding it open. Wonder if Susan B Anthony let men open doors for her.

Once inside, there were a few old-fashioned doors.

Dig this baby!

The living room.

I could live in a house like this. Could you?

Hardwood floors and Oriental carpets.

Intricately carved piano, intricably blurred by moi.

A staircase is a thing of beauty. Reminded me of the staircase at the late Liddon Pennock's house, Meadowbrook Farm.

Nother old door. So many people used this old house. So many people came and went. The doorknob is filled with the handprints of everyone who came and went since 1891. Can you hear the voices of the Suffragettes as they gave talks around Philadelphia, many of them booed at the outrageous idea of women voting and having equal rights as men, including working?

Anthony (1820 – 1906), from Adams, MA, came from a Quaker activist family.

Imagine the discussions that occurred in the dining room. Nothing like a white dining cloth. Oops, sorry, Sister, I didn't mean to spill my pinot noir.

Plants add to the serenity of the room.

Mark was our patient guide, gratifying our every wish to view the house and grounds. Thanks, Mark!

This huge old tree grows in front of the house.

On this ground, dwelled the Lenape tribe. When construction began on the house, one of the Trainer women insisted that their symbolic stone arrangement be preserved. Its perfect setting is down from the house.

Every home should have its own labyrinth.

Farewell Cranaleith, named by the Irish Trainers which in Gaelic means "sanctuary of trees."

The road home.