Steve Martin: Pied Piper with a Banjo

I work out to Steve Martin‘s banjo music.  I imagine he would be appalled to know that, but then again maybe it’s a marketing idea.  I sort of admire people who can go the gym and work out regularly but I am not one of them.  The idea of getting in my car and driving somewhere to exercise just seems wrong, not to mention embarrassing for someone who refuses to wear sweatpants anywhere, ever.  If it’s too cold to walk outside, looking out the basement window and listening to The Crow gives my mind something wonderful to do while my body is busy being miserable. It’s perfect.  Forget Katy Perry, Michael Jackson and the rest of the thumping-base workout music – it all only reminds me of how young I am not.  But banjo music brings out the young in everyone.  It is inherently happy, endlessly sunny and an invitation to love life. The winter melts to spring, the rural roads stretch before me, and when I am finished I can go and write.

Speaking of which, a while back my daughter and I went to hear Steve Martin himself talk about his life and play a little banjo.  At the end of the interview by insipid entertainment reporter Joyce Kulhawik (I am loathe to even give her a link), Mr. Martin took questions.   One person whined to him about writer’s block and asked him how he kept himself creative and he was blissfully bemused.  In effect, he told her that, having worked so hard to get to this point in his life that he can now pursue his ideas whenever the mood strikes him.  No pep talks, no tricks of the trade, just a very candid glimpse of someone who has earned the right to do nothing and thus pursues everything.  Think about it – writer, comedian, actor, director, playwright, poet, collector, musician.  Even if you did have writer’s block how could you think someone like Steve Martin could provide you with any more wisdom than he already has?

Frank Lloyd Wright, as I always hoped he would be

I have always loved the graphic design, ideas and lines of Wright’s architecture but when I see his acutal work I am often disappointed by the poor workmanship, the dark corners or the clunky oakiness the detail work and furnishings.  But I just found a posting of a Cincinnatti house that has the interiors and light as I always hoped they would be – it’s an old posting on another blog but the Boswell House photographs are stunning.  The Hooked on Houses blog is actually a lot of fun.  And the novel Loving Frank (cloying title, great novel based on real-life events) is a worthwhile read.

Care packages

What is it that gives people the gift of presentation? The dainty little packages of sweets that arrive from family – the way the cookies are wrapped and arranged in paper cups and tissue, full of fruit and crumbling butter and sugar, the way the bread and muffins hold together just right, topped with sugar that does not melt or become sticky and berries that hold together, saving their juice for the bite rather than leaking it out into the dough. It is more than flouring and sugaring, it is as though the ingredients know who is forming them and understands their responsibility to perform just so.

The birthday card constructed out of leftover mailbox letters and a paper bag, with a tiny line drawing that makes it suddenly, unexpectedly art. It is another kind of composition where mind and hand have instructed the materials perfectly.

Some of us can learn and copy the tricks, but imitation as flattery can only take us so far. Eventually we will be found out. When do we learn what we have inside ourselves that is organic, when do we know what we can do that is truly ours to give?

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