Michael Lang and Small-Town Fame

So far in my employment history I have had four salaried jobs. Three were the best-paying ones, and at least one of these is the reason my current income, monthly SSD, is as not-horrifyingly tiny as it could be.

My first high-salaried job was in 1997-’98 with a publisher based in Woodstock, NY. Now, for someone like me, a high salary at the time meant more than $30,000 a year. (Sad to say, this amount would still be a high salary for me.) Thus, when I received my first paycheck at this publisher, I “felt wealthy” for perhaps the first and only time in my life.

I lived nowhere near Woodstock, though, so it seemed to me that I needed to open a bank account near where I thought most of my weekday life would be spent. Off I marched at lunchtime to a local bank with a paycheck that felt like it made my wallet bulge. At this point in my life, I think my one previous experience with a new bank account was in elementary school, and in that “bank,” quarters were the largest denomination accepted for deposits.

I explained my plight to a teller and I was directed to a seat, which was another novelty: I’d never sat in bank before. Please understand, in 1997 I was 29, so my naïveté was bizarre and somewhat hard-won.

I was one customer behind someone else who needed to open a bank account that day, so we were seated very close to one another at the desk of the accounts manager who could help us. That someone else was Michael Lang.
Read More

A Year Concludes

When HBO’s John Oliver “blew up” 2020 for viewers of his comedy commentary show Last Week Tonight last year, I actually grew teary-eyed, which is perhaps not the reaction he and his staff might have wanted from the average viewer, but it is understandable, I think: 2020 was difficult for each one of us in ways unique to each one of us.

That endless year had featured several deaths of family, friends, acquaintances, and my father’s death of COVID in the first wave of the pandemic, as well as the first of many responses to the pandemic: lockdowns, local businesses shuttered, friends and family on video calls, recovery meetings on video, funerals on video, the first tentative steps out of lockdown (a cosmetologist friend came here to cut my hair a few times), experimentation with mask styles, and the wait for a conclusion that we would all know was a conclusion and/or new start whenever we might see it. Oh! and there was an national election campaign followed by a constitutional nightmare.

The year before this one also saw the start of a creative collaboration that continues to this day (new video up this evening!), which is probably only just beginning even after almost two years.

So when Mr. Oliver blew up 2020, I grew teary-eyed. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I get choked-up quite easily, and the signs of an imminent cry are obvious: my voice cracks, sniffles start, my eyes darken. And then nothing happens. The emotional explosion never comes, unlike the John Oliver’s farewell to 2020 (Last Week Tonight had run the same joke before, but 2020’s goodbye was a bit bigger):
Read More

Sinatra & ‘I Like the Sunrise’

Today is Frank Sinatra’s birthday. He was born on this date in 1915.

Fifty-four years ago today, December 12, 1967, Sinatra celebrated his fifty-second birthday at work in his Reprise Records studio with Duke Ellington and his orchestra. The two-day session yielded the only collaboration between the two giants, an eight-song album titled Francis A. and Edward K.; no television special followed to capture the two on stage together or sell copies of the album, and only a couple photos show them together (one of them is seen at top).

Ellington was sixty-eight and his collaborator/arranger of the previous quarter-century, Billy Strayhorn, had died just six months earlier. With no Strayhorn, Sinatra brought in his arranger, Billy May (“Come Fly with Me”), who discovered that many of Ellington’s musicians were not sight-readers. Rehearsals would be needed. Legend has it that Sinatra had a cold, a condition that possibly contributed to the several moments on the record in which he begins to sound like the late-1970’s “Theme from New York, New York”-era Sinatra, with pauses between the pentameters.
Read More