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?

Night and the City

We are spending a few days in the city, and one of my favorite parts is the sounds of traffic outside the building at night.  Even the sirens bring back good memories of my years in Saint Louis and Boston, laying in my bed feeling the pulse of the city outside my window, the comfort of people moving about busily, anonymously nearby.  In Saint Louis there was the longing as a young teen – of wanting to be out and about in the night, and then, year by year, getting that chance when I got a job, went out with my friends, learned to drive.  It was all I had hoped even in days when we lived in Iowa and visited Chicago; I would sit on the stone planters near the hotel taxi stand, watching the people and cars go by with such purpose, and longing for my chance to be part of it.  Even farther back, I recall sitting up at night, jet lagged, watching the crazy cacophony of Italian midnight traffic on the Via Veneto.  Later in that trip my brother spirited me away one night to a tiny restaurant up a stone path where we looked at hills and city lights as we ate by candlelight.  For years I thought I must have imagined that night – it seemed so dreamily impossible – the image was so precious I held onto it for a long time before asking him about it and felt such joy to know that it was real and just as precious to him.

And so tonight I look out the window at the full moon above and the cars zipping by below, so happy for this chance to rekindle my romance with night in the city.  Charlie Haden has an album by the same name that is perfect for times like this.

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