Monday, September 12, 2011

What Decadence!--An Hour of Bliss

Yesterday, Joe drove us downtown and gave me one of the best gifts I've been given in a while.  One that I've been hankering after for a long time. An hour of sweet bliss.

Lots of women have their own idea of an hour's worth of bliss. Some would love to have lavender-scented oil rubbed into their tired muscles. (So would I.) Some would prefer having their nails done with a girlfriend, or a glass of good wine and some sushi with that friend, or an hour with whoever the Hunk-O'-the-Month is over a candlelight dinner.

My bliss was simply a trip to my personal hallowed ground, the Central Library. One hour alone amongst those who would study on their day of rest, those who would sleep in the air-conditioning. Or in my case, those men who would geek out on the computers up in the Henry Failing music and arts library. In case you get the wrong idea, I wasn't up there to trawl for men-- already have my own sexy I.T. guy at home, thanks-- but to fondle and ogle the cds.

By myself. No sounds of "Mama, I want to go see the dinosaur books!" or "Honey, are you done?" Just lonesome me with a big tote bag.

One of the best (I was almost going to write "bestest", because there is not a "best" superlative enough to encompass the awesomeness of this) things about the library is that you don't have to spend a dime to have Whatever You Want. With the exception, of course, of reference materials and rare books, I could get just about any and all the cds I wanted within the limits, which are generous indeed. Check it out:

"You may borrow up to a total of 150 items at one time. However, you may check out 15 DVDs at one time. You may also check out 15 music CDs and 15 other CDs at one time."
--Multnomah County Library

Need I say more?

What richness there was to be had! I left with a stack of sweet discoveries to spin in the cd player, some rock, some jazz. Some ladies came home with me: Ella Fitzgerald, Ruth Brown, and the Andrews Sisters (with Glenn Miller). Some fellas came along as well: some contemporaries like Martin Sexton, Paul Weller, and David Byrne with Brian Eno; some older gentlemen too, like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis ("Birth of the Cool" --how can you go wrong?) and the Modern Jazz Ensemble. Treasures like Rufus Wainwright were collected up as well. Anyone who knows me well knows that I can be brought to my knees with really spot-on vocal harmonies. When I used to sing in a choir, those moments of group harmony were something beyond spiritual, it was like being in the midst of something so incredibly other, something pure and powerful and the pinnacle of what humanity could achieve together, all voices singing their parts as though they were creating a single being, a single moment of perfection. There are few moments in my life that have knocked my heart over in sheer joy, and seeing Rufus Wainwright in concert over ten years ago is still one of those 'glued-to-the-spot/I will explode with the enormity of this swirling vocal wonderfulness' moments I'll remember all my life, along with the groove and flow of seeing Medeski, Martin and Wood, when the whole house seemed to be all part of one incredible communion.

Music is something I don't get enough variety of, just because the more I listen and learn, the hungrier I am for it. Sunday, for me, was dining in style at an exquisite "all you can hear" banquet of bliss. I also found a three-disk rare gospel set, which I am very excited to listen to. I'm not a card-carrying member of any religion, but there is something so amazing about gospel to me. There are plenty of great songs celebrating the love of people for each other; there's something so indescribable to me about man's search and passion for God and the interplay of relationship between human and creator/deity. This, to me, rivals the power of any opera as the gospel singer seeks beyond the human realm and the self to reach out toward something beyond this world, the origin; the spark.

Of course, I picked up a few books, too. But it was the Henry Failing Music Library that really captured me yesterday. I've only just begun to explore these delights. Ruth Brown sung to me in the way of classic 50's rhythm and blues as I did the dishes today.  "Rockin' in Rhythm: The Best of Ruth Brown" (many of her hits were produced by Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegun, by the way, and three cheers to you if you know who he is) features some great liner notes too, for those like me who want to learn a bit more about this amazing singer. Tomorrow I'll be kept company by Ella Fitzgerald, singing the songs of Harold Arlen, a famous songwriter from the 30s and 40s who brought us treats like "Stormy Weather", "That Old Black Magic", "Come Rain Come Shine" and "Over the Rainbow". And who better, really, than to sing it but Ella?

Next time, I'll be looking for some Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter, some Ron Sexsmith and a bit more from the underestimated musical genius of our time, Mr. Frank Zappa. (If you've only heard "Valley Girl", you are really missing out.) I don't know how long it will be until I get another hour up in the music library, but I'll be satisfied for now. Bliss, cranked up through the house and continuing to keep me happy. Thank you, Messrs Edison and Blumlein, inventors of the phonograph and stereo records respectively. Thank you for the rest of my life.

And thanks especially to Joe, for making yesterday happen.

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