My October Symphony

Welcome to autumn. The leaves have changed and the weather is getting cooler. It has been lovely to take boring walks in this brisk weather. As the temperature drops I will miss reading outside and feeling the sunshine on my face.

It is boots and long jacket weather. I would enjoy the autumn much more however, if I didn’t know that winter was, literally, coming. This would not normally bother me, however, with now so many more allergies, bugs and icky maladies going around one doesn’t want to go out very much.

Everyone with half a brain is on edge, a little worried and kind of frustrated. This could all lead to a really annoying and tough winter. My fear is that the cold weather, fear of a flu outbreak and the continuation of Covid will not be enough to keep the ignorant from wanting to tear down all the precautions and get back to the world that was.

In summary: I am really fed up with these halfwits who don’t understand that the old way of doing things is not coming back anytime soon, if at all. Why are people so reckless and apathetic?

I voted.

I got my flu shot.

I got my pneumonia shot.

I am staying hydrated.

I am not fighting with the stupid.

I went to the DMV on my birthday. It was scary it was Hell. You might as well just pull out a kidney and plop down on the clerk’s desk at this point. DMV offices are some of the drabbest places on Earth.

Tom Yum soup is the best.

It is great for a cold day and for cleaning out congested sinuses. I like mine form Thai 202 in the Central West End.

As a way to not get throttled by the madness of today I have been listening to more jazz and classical music. Lately it has been a lot of Shostakovich, particularly his Symphony No 2 ‘To October’ in B major op 14. The strings in it are exquisite. I also like how it is big and grandiose.

Listening to this made to a bit of thinking about the work and how it fits within the context of the current mood of the world in relation to the October Revolution that Shostakovich’s textured work celebrates.

With that in mind, I decided to dig back into Sheila Fitzpatrick’s seminal The Russian Revolution. Diving back in seemed appropriate. Particularly at a time when the separation of haves and have nots widens and the public discourse over issues of the day is filled with more and more shouting.

Fitzpatrick’s quick and concise narrative takes no sides and presents the complicated story of how those nasty Bolsheviks led Russia down a path to totalitarianism.

Now, as the clock slowly ticks off till the end of the month, the historian in me pauses with an anxious breath. Like the madness of 1917, we are seeing angry masses of people who are fed up and looking for change. Then, the old world was going away and a new one was coming. It wasn’t pleasant or fair or even remotely peaceful. This has not changed much.

As you may have guessed I read books that are dull to most folks. However, recently I have been reading more fiction, mainly the new books by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby with intentions of getting to Steinbeck again.

Over the last few weeks, before I got all brooding and serious, I plunged back into some graphic novels. I got caught up with the most recent batch of Moon Knight comics and a return to the Infinity Gauntlet series. I also am revisiting Warren Ellis’ excellent Transmetropolitan series, which also is incredibly timely right now.

With Halloween nearly here, I also returned to Batman: The Long Halloween, a 13 part epic that I like a lot.

In addition to restoring some noir oomph to the series, the story manages to collect all the usual suspects in Batman’s pantheon of baddies into a compelling arc.

There is a lot of bullying and emotional abuse in It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Just sayin.’

Despite the fact that it has retained its charm, humor and melancholy, when you peel back the layers there’s a lot wrong with those kids. Charlie Brown is depressed, Lucy is a psychopath, Sally needs to become more liberated and Linus has a whole mess of tings going on with him. Plus, Snoopy is a classic narcissist. I also love how it celebrates bucking the system and finding your own path on your own terms. Linus may be nuts he’s his own man and sticks to his guns.

But maybe the most overlooked aspect of the special is Vince Guaraldi’s score. People tend to think that his work in A Charlie Brown Christmas is his best but I will argue that the music in this special does much more for setting the tone of the piece. It also creates more ambiance that breathes life into the characters.

Covering the five boroughs, art galleries, bars, parks and restaurants it’s a book that explores every facet of the city, from its founding until now.

Knowing all the ins and outs of the city is hard work and this book serves as a nice guide to stuff you don’t get in tourbooks. New York is best when you avoid the beaten path and explore on your own.

The Big Apple has so many things about to learn and now that it is daunting. it is nice t have a concise thing that breaks it down. My other NYC encyclopedia is his mammoth thing that weighs a ton.

The sections on the city’s musical history are particular tight and there’s some neat stuff on the birth of the fountain pen and stuff like that too. There’s a lot to chew on.

I have started Dylan Jones mammoth book on the New Romantic movement. Covering 1975-1985, Sweet Dreams documents the New Romantic movement with a broad palate that includes ska, goth and electronic music.

Jones argues that the movement helped spawn electronic music and I am not sure I agree since there was also house music and Kraftwerk. Ditto for goth which could be argued as a bi-product of punk happening. Again, Jones offers an interesting premise that I had not thought of.

Jones is bold in navigating this time in British pop history. there was a lot happening. Growing out of post-punk (which is still happening concurrently) Jones chronicles the movement’s history from sleazy and glammy clubs o the shores of North America where many artists of this period found success on MTV, leading the so-called “New British Invasion.”

Fortunately, he’s got some big personalities in here, Bowie, Visage, Sade, Ultravox, Adam Ant, Culture Club, Duran Duran and loads more. It is well researched and there’s some great stuff in it. My only problem is that I think he’s overreaching in places.

As we get nearer to the election I have found Lou Reed’s New York to be very prescient.

Released in 1989 and recently reissued in an expanded edition, Reed’s 15th album is full of references to Oliver North, the NRA, Rudy Giuliani, Jesse Jackson and more.

Political but still entrenched in rock n’ roll, Reed’s album is filmic as it sprawls out for nearly a full hour. There’s some harsh criticism of corporate greed, poverty, corrupt politicians and poverty, all things that still resonate today.

Halloween Parade remains one of the most important songs about the AIDS crisis ever recorded. Sick of You name checks the great villains of the city during that period, many of which are still kicking around today.

Taken as a rock album, it fires on every cylinder. It’s a basic rock record with some nice nods ot should and blues in the mix. Even as a concept project it retains the grit that makes Reed’s records so intriguing.

Why are they playing sports? I get it, there’s a lot of scholarships and boredom to appease and TV money to make, but really, to me, it seems insane to even try to put people at risk.

I know that many other cities have a Greekfest and that writing about the one in St. Louis isn’t necessarily a big deal, but I wold be remiss if I did not. I went to the one held in St. Louis County at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church.

Lasting full weekend, it normally is filled with dancing, crafts and music. However, this year’s feta fête, was in the same boat as almost everything else as it pivoted to no entertainment programming but plenty of curbside food.

In the past I have loved to hear the different musicians playing as I wandered the stalls with stuff was being sold. But as good as all of that was, the food was the thing everyone wants.

Pandemic be damned this years festival didn’t disappoint. I could literally eat the dolmades for months. The grape leaves are tightly wrapped nothing inside gets out. The rice was not bland and they didn’t go cheap on giving put taziki sauce. I had a beef and lamb gyro and it was not overcooked. The pita bread was not too try or doughy. The Baklava was also pretty damn good.

As I wind this down I want to send a final note out to support your local indie bookshops. I did a story on this last month and it was really interesting to see everything they are going through right now. Literally every dollar matters. So even if you buy a gift certificate you are helping.

I am trying to keep this shorter than last time. hope that is okay.