Total Pageviews

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Visions of Desi

June 15, 2011: I've often tried to gauge how successful a recording artist Desi Arnaz (a.k.a. Ricky Ricardo) was in his heyday. Given the wealth of material he presented on "I Love Lucy" alone, I have to guess and hope he was a tremendous musical force throughout the first half of the 1950s.

To begin with, no one could question the magic of "Babaloo," which was presented in several versions and, of course, recurred as Ricky's theme song. (In the last season, the Tropicana even became "Club Babaloo" after all.) But what are some of the other, lesser-known-but-no-less-magical songs Arnaz brought to life, as least in the guise of Ricardo?

My first favorite would have to be "The Lady in Red," which actually appeared in three separate episodes, including the famous second season show in which Lucy finally gives birth. (I think it's that one ... It may be the one where she tells Ricky she's "enciente," (whatever that means) but now I'm getting confused ... I should check, but we both know I won't!) My favorite version ends with Ricky's playful, "You'd better write her number down, you fool," but each version has its unique offerings (including the one with that sexy dancer). (Also note, the "We're Having a Baby" number is splendid, made all the more joyous by Lucille Ball's authentic hormonal tears throughout the scene.)

Another favorite of mine -- what Ricky himself calls "De mos' beautiful In'ian number ever wri'en," is "The Waters of the Minnetonga," (or something close to that). It's the one where the beautiful Indian girl -- (she may be a Native American girl, but I can't be sure one way or another, although I actually think she's just non-ethnic altogether) -- stands in front of the moon, and it's got that great flute line -- the song I mean, not the moon. That one's pretty hard to beat. Interestingly, it's got a similar timbre and flow to Ricky famous "Sie Mi Low," which we all love, but with much more heart, more emotion.

Others worth noting include "Acapulco," which offers that jaunty tropical happiness you might find with the Andrew Sisters singing tropical songs in a 1940's Abbott & Costello movie -- unforgettably awesome, comfortingly kitsch and innocent ... And of course I have to mention the saucy "Breakin' My Back Putting Up a Front for You," which is a delight ... And how could I ever leave out "Cuban Pete," which may be the consummate Lucy/Desi number, and served as the test balloon for the whole show.

I could expound for many sentences about the band as well (or "orchestra," as they liked to be known, led by the invisible Wilbur Hatch when Desi was out in the spotlight). Two great instrumentals we're treated to on the show are the fabulous "Stompin' at the Savoy" and, of course, "Twelfth Street Rag." Doubling as extras, the members were also always fine in their performances, excepting of course Marco, the piano player, who never stopped grinning and blew the one line he had in the entire run of the show, delivering to Ricky like a fool as they part ways, "Okay Dez." But how can you hold it against that grinning monkey?! He was, after all, "Marco."

Of course, there are some weak numbers in Ricky's repertoire, including a muddled version of "Guadelahara," and an annoying "Big Straw Hat," which is mostly annoying because of that old cleaning woman who does the dancing with him. But you forgive a bountiful songmaker such things, the way we forgive Ringo for "Octopus's Garden."

As is my curse, I'm sure I'm omitting much worth mentioning, but my back is killing me and I can only type lying on the floor for so long, as I do. At the end of the day, it's all perhaps best summarized in the lyrics to the theme itself -- "I love Lucy and she loves me ..." And we, of course, love Desi, despite his philandering and sometimes domineering means as an executive. And long will we love the lovable music of Ricky Ricardo.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

On Avocados

June 9, 2011: I really like avocados. It's not something I talk a lot about, but it's true. I mean, I really love them, actually.

To begin, you may or may not know that my favorite color is green. (You may or may not care, but it's important I establish that, given how green avocados really are.) Avocados offer a range of greens to them also, not just one, like some produce -- (oranges, for instance, in my estimation, don't try hard enough; it's like they just live on their reputation, while avocados are always giving it their all). That's one of the things I love about avocados -- their greenness. There's the initial skin, which is often brown actually, and I have nothing against brown, per se, but it doesn't satisfy me at the level that green does. Anyway, they're also green inside, and it's such a lovely green (and I know greens, believe me!).

More interesting, they also kind of roll in color inside from that deep, gritty green into soft yellow, and I just love that. It reminds me of a pistachio nut, which I really love for their color range, which will have that green to yellow transition (and a nice red shell in many cases), and pistachio nuts remind me of autumn leaves in the earlier part of the season, in particular the maples. Or perhaps more accurately the maples, especially the sugar maples, remind me of pistachio nuts, which in turn remind me of avocados, but not quite as much, but you see how it all comes full circle, and I haven't even gotten to the fourth paragraph yet.

I also really love the consistency of avocados -- that firm yet mushy quality that holds its form so well, and yet can be mashed at those times when a mashing is in order. It might be worth noting here (and why not here, for who knows for how long I can keep going on about a vegetable, after all) that I have a very great way of peeling avocados simply and quickly and cleanly ... but I won't tell it to you here and you'll have to write me directly if you want to know it.

I like how avocados taste, too. It's a nutty taste, though not quite pistachio-ian in nature. I love guacamole too, but an avocado alone still lights up my train whistle. I hate it when they start turning, however, and some crappy restaurants will try and serve you avocado with those awful grey-black patches of disgust. Shame on them, the dirty, mealy bastards! Avocados are often put on hamburgers in California, which was one of the things that really attracted me to the idea of moving there years ago. (Now you can get avocado on burgers in Connecticut, so why leave the state?!)

Another great thing about the avocado is that enormous seed. I mean, how can you not love that seed. It's not even a seed, or at least to call it a seed seems insubstantial. It should be called a pod, or a goiter or something. And I have an especial fondness for those seeds because, for some strange reason, my mother used to always try growing them when I was a kid. Yes, she had some weird book -- I remember it was green -- not avocado green, but more of a lime green -- and just such a 1969 artifact (back when they made books of irregular size and length, and on unique topics like growing avocados). And so my mom would stick toothpicks in these seeds and put them in a glass of water and hide them in a dark cabinet ... and there they'd start growing roots, like those pods in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and the water would turn brown and when they got big enough, I guess, she'd plant them and they never grew. But it was always a nice kind of thing, really, these nice avocado goiters sprouting in our dark cabinets, like alien symbiotes.

I haven't touched on many other aspects of the avocado, but perhaps I can revisit the topic later in the summer. I'm remembering fondly the one and only time I ever actually saw an avocado tree, which was a few years ago when I was living in Santa Monica, and I just randomly happened to walk by one in front of someone's lawn -- this little leafy plant with a whole mess of these things hanging off of it. It was awesome. "Hey!" I said outloud, even though I was alone (and you see, it was okay, because this was California), and I said, "That's an avocado tree!"

And it was!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

More on Hitler, Roosevelt, Pearl Harbor, the Big Lies & Such

June 5, 2011: Having enjoyed my own insights on Hitler so much in my last entry -- my god, someone has to pour praise on me if you won't -- I'm excited to be following up with more Nazi-related ramblings. Actually, I don't know if I have anything to say about Nazis right now, but it was by absolute chance that I found myself reading a book on World War II this week, and there were a few things I found interesting enough to include here in this Blah-ugh! (where things are generally never that interesting after all).

To begin, I hadn't known that only one member of Congress voted against going to war with Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. According to this book, which may or may not have any idea what it's talking about -- (I'm old and wise enough now that I don't defend anyone or anything with any vehemence) -- she was not only a "pacifist," but she didn't believe that the harbor had actually even been bombed. (Women! Sheesh!)

But this opens a fascinating can of worms, because now that I think of it, how do we know what happens and what doesn't, or more exactingly, how something might be happening, or under whose authority. It's pretty clear to many people at this point that 9/11 did not unfold the way the government claims it did (and we've seen the same thing with other events, like the Kennedy assasination, which we're simply prone to take on face value). I've long heard that Roosevelt knew in advance that Japan was going to bomb Pearl Harbor, so think about it -- it could have been anything that let him succomb to it, or perhaps even motivate it!

Why do we assume Roosevelt was so sound? Just because he smiled a lot, and used a cigarette holder? He might have owed money to some Hawaiian he wanted out of the way, or maybe he had a bet with one of those Japanese diplomats he was spending so much time at the end of November, 1941. (What does a human life mean to these power brokers anway, so removed from the pulse and the dirt and filth that makes up us little people ... especially the filth!) Or, as is a more likely Japan-related scenario, Roosevelt had an "ohn" on him, or under him, or above him -- somewhere -- probably relating to some affair he'd had, because we all know that Mrs. Roosevelt looked like a poached tree frog.)

This doesn't mean I'm claiming that it didn't happen, or that the Japanese -- a crafty bunch, as I'm sure anyone who's tried to make sushi at home will tell you -- weren't somehow involved. (Apparently they were doing something to the Chinese beforehand, but I'm not sure what it was, because I've been reading the book (which has a lot of pictures) backwards for some reason.)

My point is really, Who the hell knows what happened (or happens) or what goes on -- certainly not Fox News!

This brings me to the story of Lieutenant Audie Murphy, a tiny Texan who looked like the love child of Michael J. Fox & Conan O'Brien. He got more medals than God for his dramatic antics on the battlefield, and it's odd, but even reading his story last night, I was disappointed, for I'd assumed he'd done something a little better than he did to earn all that decoration, and frankly I almost found it hard to believe it really happened anyway. This, of course, led me to think that it might not have happened, and probably didn't. He ended up giving up all his medals to children of relatives in later years (which pissed people off), and led a subsequently dissatisfying life carrying the yoke of fame (or so I garnered from the paragraph about him). Wouldn't it be logical to surmise that he was guilt-ridden, like the astronauts who never really did anything and yet still get goaded to appear at comicbook conventions? ... Yes. (I'm glad you agree.)

This has me thinking about the close connection between Hollywood and Washington, and not just because of Reagan and Schwarzneggar and Oprah, but because of the magical smoke screen involved with each pursuit, and how similar they are in what they offer (or try to offer) the public -- comforting fantasy in one form or another.

And while I'm thinking about it, it all comes full-circle, and I realize I'm thinking way too much for a Sunday afternoon. Whether it happened or not, there isn't a damn thing I can do about it after all. The reality is that I'm merely trying to get through my ever-precarious days with a vague sinus headache and cramps from the Indian food I ate last night at one in the morning.

That's my reality, and there's little I could ever do to convince you how terrifying and confusing it really is ...