Tuesday, January 20, 2015

HAPPY 94th BIRTHDAY, DAD!

Many of us have "the best dad ever!"
My siblings and I had our best-dad-ever
Only until his forty-seventh year.

A man of many talents and, like most of us,
Many flaws, Dad loved us and guided us;
Could still recite poetry assigned in high school;

Fished and hunted with conviction, even
Taking me deer hunting once, with an unloaded
Rifle, offering black coffee, which I still hate.

Dad only saw his eldest graduate from high school,
Didn't see any of us leave home for college or 
See our homes, didn't meet his two grandchildren.

Yet I see our dad in his siblings, my siblings,
And our cousins; many remember Uncle Eddie.
His grandson, Ryan, has Dad's quick,dry wit.

Dad died of a congenital heart defect, which, today,
Would probably have been surgically mended.
Marvels of medical progress came too late.

Instead, we greet you today, where you are, Dad,
In our hearts, in our memories, in Ryan's humor.
Happy 94th Birthday, Dad, from your grateful kids.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) January 20, 2015

IF IT'S JANUARY, IT'S PETER WHITE AT JAZZ ALLEY!

Several years ago, my friend Margaret graciously invited me to attend (and continue attending) an annual Peter White concert at Seattle's Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, just north of Downtown Seattle, accessed from the alley between 5th and 6th Avenues (2033 6th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121, (206) 441-9729). A loyal fan, Margaret, sometimes attends all 3 days of the gig--completely worth the investment of both time and money, dividends compounding.

The deeply-talented quintet is headed by guitarist-sublime, Peter White. In this year's  mid-January concert, the band adeptly played a blend of smooth jazz and rockin' oldies, narrated by Peter's serious/zany Brit banter. The tight quintet (formed for the Seattle gig--some players for many years, some new this year) played each song lengthily, often incorporating easily-recognized tunes, at least easily recognized by those of a certain age. During familiar oldies, Peter encouraged the audience to sing along. For their encore, the band played Pharrell Williams' "Happy," inviting the audience to "Get up and dance!"

Peter's breadth of experience and depth of musical knowledge glowed brightly as he played his nylon-stringed instrument, lovingly cradled and raucously swung. In his many albums, Peter adeptly spreads his wings to soar across soulfully beautiful melodies, often written about specific places and personal experiences. Since the early 1990s, Peter (then brown-haired and shaggy) has recorded 14 solo albums. Whimsical and warm, Peter's fans feel welcome to chat, get signatures on just about anything (although he declined my tongue-in-cheek request to sign my food take-out box), and pose for photo ops (got one!).

Michael Paulo, a sensual version of the Energizer Bunny, on saxophones, wailed while dance-walking his way though the concert, gaining every aerobic advantage. Michael flirts as well as he plays his horn, intensely in the moment, then strolling away with a secret, sweet, dual-dimpled smile. Michael plays a small (soprano?) sax as well as a larger (tenor?) sax, playing both with joyful abandon and excellent finesse, widely grinning the entire concert.

On keys, Gregg Karukas, ensconced and almost dwarfed behind a bank of two large keyboards, provided fluidity and harmony par excellence--also grinning though all tunes. This year, Gregg finally played a new solo--"finally," because last year, just for the irony of it all, I bet (and lost) that Gregg would play a new solo. Had I waited only one year, I would have had 6 more bucks in my pocket. The previous tried and true solo, "Girl in the Red Dress," was, of course, fabulous. This year, Gregg came front with his hand-held keyboard, proving that he too could dance while swinging a tune.

Dwayne "Smitty" Smith on bass was appropriately garbed in Seahawks hat and jersey (that afternoon, the Seattle Seahawks had won the NFC Championship Game: Seattle Seahawks 28, Green Bay Packers 22). Smitty seemed humble and hesitant as Peter introduced him and, later, as Peter encouraged a long and longer solo. Smith's list of musicians with whom he has played is long and illustrious, including the Isley Brothers. One of the best advantages from the bass is the low cadence that vibrates through my body, as any dependable heart beat should. 

Last, but certainly not least, Eric Valentine, who played with Peter White for the past several years, made a blur of his drum sticks. Long dreads swing and sway as Eric wailed on his kit. Eric's innovative and purposeful flailing produced a three-dimensional foundation for the other four band members. Late in the set, during his solo, Eric pulled his headband over his eyes as he beat out complex rhythms, as well as tossing and catching his sticks.

As their last set of the weekend, band members generously played long and hard. All members brought joy and energy to their work, which, although certainly vigorous, effortful, and sublime, looks a lot like the height of play.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) January 20, 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015

NOT EVEN A FAN, BUT. . .GO HAWKS!!

What a game on a wintry bi-polar Seattle day,
Now gusts and gales, then sunshine and calm,
And vice versa and vice versa again and again!

Although I don't follow professional football,
I love almost anything done exceptionally well;
Quality is the standard for my enjoyment.

At half time, zero to 16 in Green Bays's favor;
Watched passively until last several moments,
When, against all odds of staying in the game,

The Hawks pulled the rabbit out of the hat;
Unfortunately, Green Bay tied the score, 22/22,
Going into weirdly-complicated over time.

Even with injuries on both sides, Green Bay's player
Limping, Hawks' Sherman hugging left arm to body,
Hawks ran the ball to touchdown in first several minutes.

Game over: Seattle Seahawks, 28, Green Bay Packers, 22.
Yay for the home team, the home ground, the 12th fans!
And, me, out on the highways before all beaks loose.

As I entered Starbucks to chronicle this sports moment,
Ultimate favorite song playing, Rhapsody in Blue,
At perfect loud-ish volume, ending a marvelous day.

GO HAWKS!

Ann Beth Blake
(c) January 18, 2015

HARD RAIN GONNA FALL*

Rain and wind so severe, the road has a surf:
Gusts of wind pushing accumulated pools of 
Water down the street, making actual waves.

Wind audible, jostling evergreen boughs, swaying trees;
Rain gushing from down spouts, bouncing off roofs.
Just another blustery, wintry day in Western Washington.

And, then, calming weather pattern, rain abated,
Patches of blue sky, slight breeze, sunshine on shoulders.**
Just another bi-polar day in Western Washington.

*Dylan, B. (1985). Fear no evil (album).
**Denver, J. (1971). Poems, prayers, and promises (album).

Ann Beth Blake
(c) January 18, 2014

SCARLET TRUMPETS

Facing four cardinal directions, 
Amaryllis blossoms silently sound
Exuberant celebratory joyfullness.

Elegant, flamboyant, bursting with color,
Blossoms signal both endings and beginnings,
Amidst dark winter days and nights.

Vibrant and vivacious hue offers remembrances
Of Spring past and hopefulness for Spring future;
Hope for resurgence and renewal of life force;

Hope for return of longer days;
Hope for new buds and new births;
Hope for another opportunity, for regeneration.

Ah, Amaryllis, your blossoms prompt
Optimistic yearnings, fun-filled fantasies,
And portents of positive possibilities.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) January 18, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

TANNENBAUM UP, TANNENBAUM DOWN; ONGOING HOLIDAY REMEMBRANCES

Each year, with utmost pleasure and satisfaction,
I purchase my holiday tree, then, ten days later, 
Recycle the tree to city compost, happy with the cycle.

All through the year, despite sweeping, 
Mopping, and vacuuming, tree needles turn up 
In common and unusual places, reminding me 

Of holiday joy that continues the year long;
Of things permanent and impermanent;
Of the ever-present stability of instability;

Of the ubiquitous and essential messiness of life;
Of my gifts and imperfections; of the Yin/yang symbol, 
Balancing light and dark: light dot in dark, dark dot in light;

Of the first day of Winter, heralding extension of daylight;
and, overall, of holding two sides of all continua, such as:
joy and sadness, love and hate, gain and loss, birth and death.

The toils of fall-quarter teaching preclude holiday letters.
A fortnight into the first month of the new year, my continued
Holiday glow prompts me to think fondly of my important people.

So I reach out, even as the Ides of January approaches,
To clearly and loudly express that I love and value you.
Without family and friends, I would be adrift and alone.

Because of family and friends, I thrive; I tell my truth;
I easily express the love for you burbling inside me;
I joyfully and gratefully receive your returned love.

As I enter my eighth decade to participate in the last
Chapters of my life, I am glad you are here with me.
I am glad to be companions on this wondrous journey.

As always, Peace, Joy, Equality, and Hope!
From my heart and soul to you and all of yours.

Much love,
Ann

Ann Beth Blake
(c) January 13, 2015

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 WENT OUT WITH A BANG!

A brief, flaming love affair, erupting like fireworks, 
Then bursting like over-inflated ballon;
Offered many gifts, like many Christmas seasons.

Experimented with flirting, new behavior--fun;
Still have juice and proclivity to respond in kind;
Showed up, told the truth, even though rampantly 
Ungrounded in the madness stage of new romance.

Got overwhelmed, was over my head, felt scared.
Set limits, which guided me back into my skin and head.
Both of us bounced back out of the intensity;
No recriminations, but regrets about dashed hopes.

Ann B. Blake
(c) January 4, 2015 

CREATING A NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION TO LEAD A MEANINGFUL LIFE

In his Seattle Times article, Wes Moore described his decision and subsequent actions to change jobs to create a more meaningful life. Mr. Moore ended the Seattle Times article with the following: "That was years ago, and it changed how I approach my New Year's resolutions. I no longer make resolutions. Instead, I ask: What is the thing that makes me come alive, and what am I willing to do, to do just that?" I finally feel comfortable using New Year's as a way to examine my path. I can say to myself, "We've all made it this far, but how do we make "making it" matter?"

Wes Moore, youth advocate, Army combat veteran, social entrepreneur, and host of "Beyond Belief" on the Oprah Winfrey Network. His first book, "The Other Wes Moore," was a New York Times best seller.

Moore, W. (2014, December 31). Creating a New Year's resolution to lead a meaningful life. The Seattle Times, p. A11.