Friday, July 3, 2009

Vinnie's Gone

We had a lot going on last weekend… we had a wedding to attend Saturday and then Sunday I had a table at the Akron-Canton Comic Con selling copies of Deus ex Comica alongside my friend and editor John, who was selling copies of his book (also expertly edited!), Collect All 21. So we didn't make it to Mass Sunday morning.

If you've read my book, you know the kiddo spends one week every summer at my parents' house in the same tradition that my sister and I spent a week at our dad's parents' house when we were kids. That week this year for the kiddo is this week.

So Thursday morning, the kiddo sees the story about Vinnie, our parish dog, passing away in the Akron Beacon Journal. He calls us from my parents' house crying, horribly upset over Vinnie dying. Just a heartbreaking moment as a parent. One of our two dogs had back surgery about five years ago, is getting old, moving slow, and growing blind. My wife and I have commented a lot over the last few months about how much of a downhill slide the dog seems to be on. Nothing bad enough to have to make the tough decision yet, but we know it is looming in front of us, so maybe it’s a good thing the kiddo’s going through these emotions now with Vinnie.

For a few years now, Father has been writing his pastor’s message in the weekly bulletin as a conversation between him and Vinnie. Sometimes I think the kiddo’s favorite part of Mass each week is reading the Vinnie story. Many were collected in book form a year or so ago, which I have really enjoyed revisiting. We celebrated the kiddo’s first communion this May, and he decided to spend part of his gift money on his own copy of Vinnie Here. So as he was crying into the phone, asking us to give extra hugs to our dogs from him while he's away at grandma and grandpa's and telling me he was going to be so sad because there wouldn’t be any more “Vinnie stories,” I reminded him that he had Vinnie’s book and he can read and reread all those stories as much as he wants.

A couple weeks ago, Vinnie was roaming church before nine o’clock Mass. The kiddo’s face lit up as Vinnie sided up to and poked his head into our pew. And there were lots of pets and wags and smiles. I’m glad we got to see Vinnie that morning. Those personal greetings always meant so much, and that recent one makes his passing seem a little easier for all of us to take now.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Quiet Nights, Disarming Chanteuse

Diana Krall
30 June 2009: State Theatre at Playhouse Square, Cleveland, Ohio

I feel bad for Diana Krall. Her career took off a couple decades too late. Her smooth jazz offerings would have been right at home in virtually any Nora Ephron Meg Ryan vehicle from the '90s. She is clearly the heir to Harry Connick, Jr.'s mantle in that regard. And as a part of my Father’s Day bounty, I received two tickets to see Ms. Krall on her current tour.

Krall's personality in concert is downright goofy in the most endearing way, which stands in contrast to my preconceived ideas about her going into the show. And this may be a case of a few years between the performance captured for posterity on her Live in Paris DVD and CD and the reality of marriage and motherhood, but it was welcomingly disarming. The music is still sexy and sophisticated, but her banter with the audience is adorably disheveled. As much as I enjoyed Mrs. Elvis Costello's music, I found myself looking forward to the between-song chatter about rainy-day moods, crayon-defaced hotels, her husband, her hometown, and everyday life as much (if not more so) than the songs they bookended.

Jeff and Anna are our most reliable concert-going companions, everything from A Flock of Seagulls/Men at Work/Smithereens/Violent Femmes quadruple bill to Erasure to Eddie Izzard to U2 to Sisters of Mercy and on and on. (Technically you could even say our concert history dates all the way back to 1989 when we all attended the New Order/PiL/Sugarcubes concert at Blossom Music Center... albeit, separately). So we met Jeff and Anna at the theatre before the performance and went across the street for coffee and dessert after the show. What struck me was that no one mentioned the show at all at the restaurant. No references to what we thought about the performance, her banter, nothing. That seems just odd. But maybe it's because the music Krall produces is very much about mood as much as it is about the music itself.

As I sat in the gorgeous State Theatre, where the sound was absolutely amazing, I couldn’t help but think that taking jazz out of the intimacy of the club is almost a disservice to the experience. The venue was too large to feel cozy, but Krall and her backing musicians filled every inch of the hall with their big sound, her smoky voice, and enchanting conversation.

Disclaimer: I certainly didn’t set out to have this read like a string of backhanded compliments, but reading back over what I just wrote sort of comes off that way. In reality, I sincerely enjoy Diana Krall's music and the mood she is able to create.