A Night of Stories

On Thursday Cadillac and I went out to the Old Globe Theatre.  We hadn’t been back there since returning to the Mainland (which is what Hawaiians call the continental US, which I didn’t know before I lived in Hawaii and therefore am assuming that at least some don’t know).  When such events are planned in advance, I spend a fair amount of time worrying that somebody will get sick and we’ll have to cancel, because that seems to happen a fair amount of time; but this time I didn’t worry because we planned it that morning.  Cadillac arranged it all.  We also got to go out to eat, to the Farm House Cafe.  Now, these days we rarely eat out, because it’s hella expensive to take three kids and two adults out.*  Anyway, Farm House Cafe was delicious (I had the burger and Cadillac had the steak), though somewhat cramped (the tables are so close you can touch the stranger next to you by extending an arm, which is too close for American personal space; there were certain tables that lacked that problem, or the bar would be a good option).

The other interesting thing about the meal was that on either of us, in these cramped quarters, the people were sick. Not flu-sick, but sick with cancer. Each table was talking about medical procedures, medications, and side effects. I was happy that they felt well enough to go out and eat, but thought that was a rather strange coincidence.

Then we headed over to The Old Globe.  Along the way we saw this: music at the Organ Pavilion, picnicking families, and adorable dancing elderly folk!

I decided Cadillac and I really need to get on taking ballroom dance lessons so we can be elderly dancing folk, too.

Then we went to see GERSHWIN ALONE, with Hershey Felder.  Felder is a playwright, actor, composer, singer, and concert pianist; he has also written these one-man plays for Beethoven, Chopin, and Bernstein, calling the series THE COMPOSER SONATA.  He’s performed this play more than 3,000 times.  He speaks as Gershwin, talking about various aspects of his life, including his parents and how many of these songs came to be, particularly PORGY AND BESS and RHAPSODY IN BLUE.  He also quoted a letter from Henry Ford in which he blames the Jews for bringing their slick Jazz music to America and ruining it for everyone else and particularly Gershwin for RHAPSODY IN BLUE.  It seems like Gershwin produced a huge amount of work in the short time he had (he died at 38 from a brain tumor); but he didn’t consider himself a genius.  He says, “You only need a little bit of talent and a lot of chutzpah.”  (I hope I’m getting it exactly right.)  In other words, Gershwin didn’t wait around for a muse to show up; he just worked.  Which is a valuable lesson for other artists, too.  At the end, Felder played the entire RHAPSODY IN BLUE.  Oh, I didn’t tell you but I am a big Gershwin geek.  When I studied piano, my biggest thing was learning RHAPSODY IN BLUE; I wasn’t ever that great at it but I did love it.  I also had a Gershwin songbook so I know all the lyrics to his songs.

Afterwards, Felder did an encore which was a singalong with the audience.  First we sang SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME and he picked a lady named Hazel to sing it solo.  Then we sang I GOT RHYTHM and SUMMERTIME, and he also did a funny song written by Irving Berlin that he and Gershwin used to play at parties; he said some might think it was offensive.

Then he told us a story.  He’d been at the Library of Congress, researching for the Gershwin play, when he found a letter that happened to be in a similar archive (he was searching around Lincoln’s B-day, the premiere date of Rhapsody) and he found a letter written by an Army surgeon.  He’d joined the Union Army and was a theater buff and happened to be at the Ford Theater when Lincoln was shot; Mary Todd asked for a surgeon, so it was he, at age 23, who treated Lincoln. The man wrote about how he held Lincoln’s hand for the eight hours he lived, because he couldn’t see but could understand; and I thought WHAT A GREAT STORY, that should be a book! Then Felder said he thought, “What a moving story! It should be a musical!” Because that’s the thing about writers, you behold something amazing and moving and you recognize it as such, but another part of your brain is whirring away, filing information to use later. Anyway, Felder did write the musical, NINE HOURS ON 10TH, and recorded it with, I believe, the Chicago Symphony; he was selling advance copies to benefit the Old Globe.

Today I looked up Kay Swift, who was Gershwin’s best friend/lover and a preeminent female composer (and who lived until age 95); and found that her granddaughter, Katharine Weber, has a memoir coming out about her family: THE MEMORY OF ALL THAT: GEORGE GERSHWIN, KAY SWIFT, AND MY FAMILY’S HISTORY OF INFIDELITIES which comes out on July 19. What timing! I will definitely be reading that.

*Actually the real reason we don’t eat out much is because California has forced its chain restaurants to put their calorie counts RIGHT ON THE MENU.  There’s nothing more depressing than going to Cheesecake Factory and learning a salad has a million calories.  I’ve noticed that some restaurants now have “healthy” versions of their dishes (usually designated with a little heart or the like) but often those taste terrible.  Apparently, the added salt and fat are what make the meal palatable.  So if I’m going to go out, I’m going to do it less often, and it’s only going to be me and Cadillac going to a slightly pricier restaurant like Farm House which isn’t a chain (no calorie counts on the menu) and that uses all natural ingredients anyhow.  Unless there’s a kids eat free night someplace. Plus, if you only go out every once in a while, instead of every other night, eating huge amounts of calories matters less.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

One thought on “A Night of Stories

  1. Did not know you were a Gershwin fan, I love that about you! “The Memory of All That” popped in my weekly emailed list of books I might be interested in. I read a lot of biographies and memoirs and I have several versions of “Someone to Watch Over Me” (I do love the Sting and Linda Ronstadt versions the most) downloaded on my iPod, so I was excited to see it come up. Thank you for sharing about your night out.

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