The Sunday Service of the Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society at the “Onion” June 21, 2015, was marvelous. Billy Mitchell, a Black jazz pianist born in Buffalo, N.Y., spoke on his perceptions having grown up as the only Black in all his schools until his father, a Baptist minister, sent him to Atlanta, Ga. at 16 to grow up and find out first-hand about the "other" America out there. Billy refused to agree that it is all about race when people discriminated against him or others. His first experiences he would ask to be served a meal, or a drink at an all-white establishment. They would ignore him. He kept asking for a meal. He tried to make personal contact but noticed they would not look at him. Eventually, after he persisted asking for a meal the waitress served him one that was full of salt inside! Despite such experiences and his active civil rights life working with Stokely Carmichael, the horrendous shooting to death of 9 Blacks at the Charleston Church and years of other outrages directed at the Black community, he has a very positive attitude. He maintains it is all about perception and explained his optimism by first playing "Wonderful World" so beautifully to a standing ovation. He said that he is a student of history and that knowledge shows to him we have more people in our world now than ever who are trying to make a positive change for the better. "Oh yeah, there are so many bad incidents, it is awful, but is getting better. When you remember where we were in history not long ago. Slavery, The Civil War, World War I and II, and segregation. So much more hatred and killing have preceded where we are today. So don't let anyone get you down." He lamented the lack of music for our children in kindergarten, middle, elementary, and high schools where in the past our governments had music programs. He said that is a dismal development that he is addressing by funding scholarships. His website is www.billy-mitchell.com. He sponsors a Preparatory Academy at www.soppa.net. He will hold a concert in Pasadena July 5 and hopes many will come for an enjoyable afternoon.
Peace, Love, and Joy,
Daniel C. Lavery
We all Swam in the Lavery sparkling pool
Grandsons 5 and 9 dove off the diving board
And caught countless balls that was very cool
Oldest played many a harmonic piano chord
They hit a whiffle ball into one of many trees
Caught a football in the sand with their hands
Slid on Sean and Christina’s grass on their knees
Saw Freese hit a homerun into the stands
Smashed tiny whiffle ball onto the roof
Threw tennis balls to Ginger and Barkley
Baby granddaughter learned a dog bark woof woof
Balls fell from the roof into our pool sparkly
Boys wore Angel Jersey’s we bought
Had fun bowling for two hours after lunch
They listened, played, swam and never fought
Gibbons swung on branches and hooted a bunch
Saw three movies and Dodger and Angel Baseball
“Planes”, “Tarzan”, and “We Bought a Zoo”
Two on Blue Ray and one at the Mall
Sean marinated and made a tasty barbeque
Bed Time stories from Bill Peet and others
Nine year-old played a Beethoven piece on the piano
Good story choices approved by all mothers
Aleksey and Dan’s guitar added to the flow
Lex and Des’s friends joined them for a lunch
They, their friends, and kids joined the throng
Sean’s BBQ’d gourmet sausages’ tasty crunch
Added zest to the delightful Saturday marathon
“All’s Well That Ends Well” by Shakespeare
Will Geer’s Topanga Canyon venue never a bore
Brought from the friendly crowd a loud cheer
Dan read “Mount Fuji” at Pasadena book store
Daughter and friend enjoyed swimming at Zuma Beach
Found the surf a challenge and Nature so sweet
Saw “Much Ado About Nothing” with many a fine speech
We hope everyone will join us again soon at our retreat
Media electronics are not welcomed at some idyllic locations where artists gather to perform while working on a large farm in a pristine forest in northern California. They live in Nature at a cell phone free and non-computer-TV-radio alcohol or drug zone in a world filled with bad news, commercialism, false promises, and violence. Does this sound melodramatic? Escaping the hum drum of American cities still holds an attraction for many who long for the quiet of small town relationships, farm lands, vegetable gardens, fresh organic produce, and mutual respect and kindness.
It is in keeping with an early twentieth century German scientist’s philosophy and performing eurhythmy, a kind of dance movement that is an expression of spiritual and artistic values to the best classical music, Shakespeare-or other literary giant, poetry, humor, on stages in robes of silk wearing tight fitting slippers that permit swift and graceful movement on hardwood floors.
We joined in bio dynamic fertilizing their vegetable and flower gardens, removing dirt and excess leaves from a barrel full of onions, to make them ready for sale to their community at low prices, and picked fresh bio-dynamically grown carrots, parsnips, onions, cabbage, beets for meals that were tasty, nutritious, and cheap.
The last evening we heard an amazing piano concert from a Croatian pianist in a loose fitting black tuxedo who played Brahms’ first two Cantatas that lasted about one-half hour each with a loud applause after each performance. He demonstrated his astounding command of the piano in a relaxed way for a 6'4", 250 pound pianist, who swayed as a dancer while feeling the beauty and harmony of the notes Brahms wrote. He was the music.
After much applause he played Brahms variations on Paganini that featured a series of hand movements and sounds I have never seen before. At the same time he moved both hands about a third of the way from the left and right sides of the keyboard to near the center while moving his fingers rapidly in what is called a tremolo. That reminded me in a strange analogy of how a lawn mower cuts blades of grass but all his fingers were rotating up and down over keys that his hands sent three times from the left to right and back together harmonically in tune with the magnificent music!
Finally, after the audience greeted him with five minutes of loud hand-clapping, he returned for a finale. He sat gently down, extended his arms outward with fingers extended and then with knuckles parallel to the keys, rested his left hand fingers immediately over the keys on the extreme left. Again using a tremolo, but this time more like a buzz saw (maybe a terrible analogy for art) cutting blades of wheat, as they hovered over the keys that magically created a stunning deep bass sound telling us something the composer who hadn't been identified and the pianist wanted to fasten in our memory forever.
When he finished the audience burst into a chaotic frenzy of applause with astonishment on their faces, smiling with joy, for the longest period of the concert. He stood and bowed smiling and nodding his appreciation for the spontaneous reaction. After a few more bows he left behind a curtain.
During a ten minute period where no one knew whether he was finished or would return for another piece, it was clear he had finished the concert as the Russian pianist who brought him to the concert announced and the crowd slowly moved out of the auditorium beaming from the musical experience.
After most of the audience had departed, the pianist appeared at the end of the hall leading to the exit with the Russian piano teacher who asked him to perform for the group. A curious student asked the pianist about his finale. Standing next to her, I was with my wife and daughter. He said the work was from Liszt who wrote of his extreme sadness upon Wagner's death, and entitled his short work, "The Sad Gondola." Since his pronunciation was difficult the Russian made it clear to all. The pianist now in civilian clothes was relaxed and smiled generously to his admirers as he left gracefully.
While the piece remains in my memory, I will describe the feeling as a unique awareness of the fantastic ability of an artist to make the piano send out an extraordinary and haunting sound. The effect remains an artistic expression difficult to imagine without an effort of explanation, but easy to say was unforgettable, energetic, and blazing with intensity.
Today I discovered a letter I had sent my son, who like me and most people I know, could use some advice on how to manage hostility. Escaping the Hostility Trap by Milton Layden, M.D. provides a strategy to deal with hostility that creeps unwittingly into our lives and makes them often filled with health issues that can be serious if unheeded. My letter was lodged in the book below my own memoir, All the Difference, just published June 26, 2013 in paperback on Amazon.Com.
Here is a book I needed as an attorney battling in court with difficult personalities. Often I found myself tired and drained of energy, and full of hostility. This book helped me realize how that behavior hurt me and my relationship with others I came in contact with only in the legal arena or away from home. Creating my own hell at communicating with difficult personalities made me appear to strangers similar, I’m sure, at times! You are in the most stressful job in the world and I couldn’t be prouder. Hope this gives you some insight. Enjoy your wonderful family in Hawaii. Two of my favorite poems are attached! Love Dad
A Psalm of Life
Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way; But to act, that each to-morrow Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle, In the bivouac of Life, Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant! Let the dead Past bury its dead! Act,— act in the living Present! Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o’er life’s solemn main, A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow