This is going to be a one helluva year, both good and bad. On the good side, I have a new grandson on the way, a new novel to be published in September, and Trump & Co. are going to get the ass-kicking they deserve.
On the bad side? Almost everything else. The road to impeachment is going to be very, very rocky. Just look at this ridiculous, unnecessary, destructive government shutdown. Trump has no shame, nor any sense of responsibility: the ugly possibilities are endless, and he has a whole party of enablers. This whole charade further proves what I’ve been saying for years: Rush Limbaugh is the real head of the Republican Party.
For me, it’s going to some careful living to avoid being depressed in 2019. I know that I will spend too much of 2019 glued to the TV (and various websites) for news of the Mueller probe, the congressional investigations that will emerge from the Democratically controlled House, and the unraveling of the Trump administration. And I will have to periodically unglue myself from the TV to retain some sense of joy and calm. But then it will be back to MSNBC/CNN and FOX (for their alternative universe) to see what’s happening right now that I didn’t know an hour ago.
But I’m trying to protect myself and my happiness. Here are some of the ways I’m going to make my micro-life happier in 2019:
One constant in my life is going to see great concerts. (The TG and I give each other concert tickets for Christmas.) We started off 2019 already with a real winner: an all-Brahms concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, with the LA Philharmonic, conducted by 82 year-old Zubin Mehta. Pinchas Zuckerman played the iconic violin concerto beautifully. Mehta looked very frail, conducting while seated. He needed help, even getting up the ramp to the podium. But he led a fine, plain performance of the Third Symphony. (The LA Philharmonic recently won a Grammy for its Brahms playing.) It was a night of deep, life-affirming artistry, just when we needed it.
Itzhak Perlman plays Brahms Violin Concerto in D major (with video)
Leonard Bernstein conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in Brahms Symphony No.3
Pinchas Zuckerman plays Brahms Violin Concerto in D major (audio only)
Pinchas Zuckerman plays the Adagio from Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 – with Mehta conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra – Great playing from a wonderful musician: glad I got him off my Bucket List.
I’ll see my favorite old musician --- 73 year-old Van Morrison – for maybe the fortieth(?) time at the Wiltern in February. Van has been super-active, releasing five albums, mostly of genres, with a few nice originals. I’m not crazy about his recent setlists, but there will be at least a few moments of genius: he’ll stretch some long song into something magical. It’ll be a concert of his jazzy-bluesy covers, but maybe I’ll hear a few of my favorite songs. (And our seats are great! And they just fell into my lap.)
Some favorite Van links:
The Frames’/ONCE’s Glen Hansard meets Van Morrison – the classic Van story – a must for fans
Van sings “Caravan” with the Caledonia Soul Orchestra
Van and The Band sing “Caravan” from THE LAST WALTZ – very famous
Van sings “Ballerina” – from the Hollywood Bowl “Astral Weeks” shows of 2008 – his second-to-last song at the Shrine
Van sings “Into the Mystic” – from German TV – his last song at the Shrine
Van Morrison sings “Celtic New Year” on Jools Holland’s BBC show – just lovely
-- -- and from the last show we saw at the Wiltern –
“In the Garden” + “Into the Mystic” – the last 22 minutes
I’ll also see my favorite new musician – 31 year-old Yuja Wang – for the first time. The piano phenom from China cancelled her last recital appearance in LA – twice – so I’m sure she’s eager to make amends. I know the LA audience will be ravenously eager to see her; I am. She’s playing the world premiere of a piano concerto by John Adams (NIXON IN CHINA, THE DEATH OF KLINGHOFFER, DOCTOR ATOMIC) commissioned by the LA Philharmonic entitled MUST THE DEVIL HAVE ALL THE GOOD TUNES? Dudamel is conducting. I hope Ms. Wang plays an encore or five, but she probably won’t, not wanting to upstage the new piece that she’s just played. In any case, the Dude will close the show with Mahler’s Symphony No.1, so it’s going to be a great night at the Disney Hall, guaranteed. Dudamel is a brilliant conductor of Mahler.
The remarkable Ms. Wang’s website
Yuja Wang -- Encores
Yuja Wang plays Encore Pieces
Seven dynamic Yuja Wang endings
“Tea for Two” – Yuja out-tatums Art Tatum. (Her fifth encore of the night!)
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1 – This’ll knock your ears off.
Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Piano Sonata No.29 in B-flat
Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”
I’m going to see a play by my “favorite” writer Samuel Beckett – HAPPY DAYS, starring Diane Wiest. (I love other writers, but Beckett is the one I studied most in college, the one whose birthplace I visited, the one whose autograph is on the wall right next to my desk, and the one whose book title – HOW IT IS – was the model for the title of my first novel.)
HAPPY DAYS is Mount Everest for an actress. It’s basically a one-actress show with the character Winnie, buried in sand up to her waist in the first act and up to her neck in the second. Sounds like a metaphor. I saw Jessica Tandy perform it at Lincoln Center in the 1970s and have watched a couple of others. (See below.) It’s one of Beckett’s masterpieces for a single actor (there is a small, but vital role for another actor), akin to KRAPP’S LAST TAPE. Both are prime examples of the genius of Beckett: the fusion of comedy and tragedy, life stripped down to the essentials. The intense Single Voice. No one does what Beckett does.
I’m betting that Diane Wiest is a great Winnie.
The trailer for the Yale Repetory Theatre production with Diane Wiest from 2017, coming to the Mark Taper in LA in May
HAPPY DAYS – with Irene Worth and George Voskovec (the Joseph Papp production, directed by Andrei Serban)
HAPPY DAYS – with the Irish actress Rosaleen Linehan and Richard Johnson – from the 2000 project Beckett On Film
The great Fiona Shaw on playing Winnie
I’m going to see an opera by my favorite composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He’s certainly my most-listened-to composer: more than Verdi, more than Van Morrison, more than Keith Jarrett. I’ve spent more time listening to/writing to the three Mozart/da Ponte operas than anything else over the past twenty years.
The opera is LA CLEMENZA DI TITO which I know only through one, very nice recording conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt with Lucia Popp, and a few famous arias like “S’altro che lagrime.” The conductor will be James Conlon, the LA Opera’s most-esteemed Musical Director, and the cast is quite good: Elizabeth DeShong, Russell Thomas, Guanqun Yu, and Janai Brugger. It’s Mozart’s last opera, a late commission even after THE MAGIC FLUTE. An opera seria; not my favorite for drama, but it should make for some beautiful music. Maybe not from Mozart’s top shelf -- he was more involved with THE MAGIC FLUTE at the time – but I’ll be very happy to hear this rarity, live.
LA CLEMENZA DI TITO – Act I finale
Lucia Popp sings “S’altro che lagrime” – As beautiful as singing gets.
DEAR EVAN HANSEN
We’re going to see DEAR EVAN HANSEN, the six-time Tony-winning musical from 2016 that is just reaching the West Coast. I never saw it on one of our trips to New York, and I missed out on tickets when the show came to Los Angeles. It was an extremely hot ducat, and the after-market prices were extra-outrageous. So the TG and I will have to venture to Orange County to see the tour’s stop in Costa Mesa. (They have quite a grand cultural center there, and we’ve gone down there several times for ballet.)
Almost everyone loves this show, and I’m eager to see it.
We have tickets to see an artist I cherish – ROBBIE FULKS – at a venue I love: McCabe’s in Santa Monica. McCabe’s is a guitar store with a room in the back where great music is made. It’s an LA legend for acoustic music, and I’ve seen some wonderful shows there. The folding chairs aren’t very comfortable, but the sounds will make up for it.
Robbie Fulks is not just funny. He’s an artful songwriter, engaging perfomer, and a helluva picker. His show should be a lot of fun.
Robbie sings the song that got him first noticed -- “She Took A Lot of Pills and Died” – about Dorothy Dandridge(!) -- from McCabe’s in 2012
Robbie sings “I Push Right Over”
Robbie sings “The Buck Starts Here”
Robbie covers ABBA in Sweden – “Dancing Queen” – starts at 2:48
Robbie covers Michael Jackson brilliantly – “Billie Jean”
YOGA, FOUR TIMES A WEEK
I don’t blog much about my love of yoga, but I believe in yoga. Yoga works. About twenty years ago, the TG and I started practicing yoga once a week. Now we’re up to four times a week.
I could evangelize for yoga for pages and pages, saluting its positive effects on mind and body, but everyone knows that, right?
Yoga works. Do it if you can. (And everyone can: there is chair yoga.) Learn to breathe. Be silent for an hour. It’s good for you.
For pointless diversion, it’s hard to top sports.
I’ll suffer though/enjoy another season of the Dodgers – but without Yasiel Puig!! Can we get to the World Series for a third year in a row, and maybe win it this time? It’s always a longshot in a league with thirty teams.
Dodger highlights from 2018
The LeBron-geles Lakers are struggling, but at least we’ll make the playoffs this year. First time in five years. Laker fans are spoiled. No matter: it looks like nobody is going to beat the Golden State Warriors for the NBA title, their fourth in the span of five years. That sounds like a dynasty to me.
And there will be Wimbledon and the US Open. There are always Federer, Nadal, and/or Djokovic matches to look forward to.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST
On Setember 10 of this year, WHEN I GOT OUT will be published by The Story Plant, so all year I’ll be working on the book in its last phases of writing and production, and then all the promotion.
I’ve never worked as hard on anything in my life as I’ve worked on WHEN I GOT OUT, so I don’t mind promoting it. I’m proud of it, and if you don’t believe in your own work, who will?
And I’ll say it right now and not for the last time in 2019 –
SHERROD BROWN FOR PRESIDENT
KAMALA HARRIS FOR VP