4.088 tech, taxes, writing

Monday 02/27/2023

It was raining so I walked indoors, two miles on the treadmill.

At 10 I went down to the auditorium and set up for Gigi to rehearse her talk. This went very well. Two of the 45 pictures I had set up in a slide show were in the wrong order, but we fixed that. Her talk is a nice 45 minutes long and there were not too many pictures as I had feared. Gigi is Chinese, a couple of years older than me. She got her law degree at Yale, practiced law, served on the SEC, was president of the local Rotary, raised a couple of over-achieving kids, has several cute grandkids. Through all of that her English is still heavily accented. But her talk is, as one would expect from her background, well organized and presented clearly.

After lunch I did another couple hours filling out my tax workbook. I think I’m nearly done.

Evening I noticed emails piling up for tomorrow’s writers meeting. That’s what the writers do, they send their pieces in email to our group mailing list, so by Tuesday morning there will be 8 or 10 emails with “[CHWriters]” in the subject line. The cue this week is “music that moves you.” That called to mind a couple of moments from my past. So here’s what I have to read tomorrow.

Two times a piece of music has arrested me, pierced my mind, forced me to pay attention, made me play it over and over. I am slightly ashamed to say that in both cases the music was decidedly popular, obvious, plebeian. Others might get a transcendent taste of the divine from hearing an oratorio or symphony. My ear is decidedly lower-class.

The second time was sometime in the 1980s. I know where I was: driving alone, northbound on 101, somewhere around Gilroy. I do not know what radio station I was tuned to; but that station played Swanee River Boogie performed by Dave Alexander. I can’t find that recording online, but a reasonably similar performance is here:

I had probably heard boogie-woogie piano before but this just riveted me. All I got from the broadcast was the name of the performer, but that was enough. I stopped on the way home at Tower Records and found the album. Got home to Tasso Street and put it on. I remember I was so high on the performance that I wanted to share my delight with my next-door neighbors, the Goldeens. Come over and hear this fabulous piano piece, I said. Harriet Goldeen was a pianist and a piano teacher. I can remember her trying to control her face as the record started and she realized what style of piano it was. She worked really hard to not say anything negative, but left as soon as the track was finished.

The other time was earlier, 1970. I was living alone in a basement apartment in Daly City. Minimal furnishings, no TV or radio or — of course — no computer. (How did we survive?) I had a portable record player with crappy little speakers. Late one lonely evening I put on Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection album for the first time. Somehow Burn Down the Mission just came up out of the silence of that lonely room and for a few minutes, owned me. I played the track over and over.

If you want to remember the song, it’s here:

It moves through a lot of phases in 7 minutes and has quite complex instrumentation and shifting rhythms.

There’s really nothing more to say. These were moments when the combination of music and a phase in the evolution of my brain combined to make a permanent mark on my memory. I draw no conclusions about myself or the music.


More details: Dave Alexander, known later in life as Omar Sharriff, had a minor career as a blues pianist and recording artist. The kid in the video, Luka Sestak, is now grown up, still performs, and has played at SFJazz a couple of times. Sir Elton John recently retired from performing after a long and fruitful creative career.

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