Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't call me Shirley

I'm taking mortality much more personally these days.

I don't think it really has much to do with being over 50. On the whole, I like being my present age way more than I've liked any other age, especially considering the alternative. Maybe part of it is that I already know the way I'll shuffle off this mortal coil—broken neck, tripped on stairs by cats—I just don't know when. For whatever reason, it hits harder when someone else runs up the curtain.

I spent much of Thanksgiving thinking about the departed. My dad has been gone for 10 years now, and I miss him badly. But I was more in mind of a couple of more recent passages.

When looking for a wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner I came across a 2005 Burgundy we'd purchased through the  collector's club at West Seattle Wine Cellars. I looked up the notes on the wine from long-time owner Bear Silverstein, which said to keep our mitts off of it for a few years. Always obedient, we stashed it in our own cellar. Bear was right, as usual. It was great this weekend. Bear had been ill for several years, and died in January. But he still brings joy to all of us West Seattle Winos and even sober people who were touched by his generosity and gentle, kind spirit. Thanks, Bear!

George Shangrow. Photo: OSSCS.
My Sweetie, the official scorer, put a bunch of classical music on our Sonos shuffle for the day. One of the tunes that came up at random was the "Amen" from Handel's Messiah, a recording by Orchestra Seattle and Seattle Chamber Singers, led by George Shangrow. I think the Amen, as envisioned by Shangrow, is one of the most beautiful recordings ever made. Most conductors zip through it, but Shangrow reasoned that Handel wouldn't have written this three+ hour masterpiece and then rushed through the end. Shangrow's version as done by the group is meticulous and joyous and soaring, a fitting exclamation point to a marvelous composition.

Shangrow was killed in a car crash this summer near Winthrop, but continues to bring joy to many who knew his music. Thanks, George!

Long-time Mariners' announcer Dave Niehaus died a couple of weeks ago. We managed to get his narration of Peter and the Wolf to come up on the system this weekend. I expect my Sweetie rigged it so that would happen. It's funny, when we first heard that recording, in the car on the radio, we couldn't place the voice. He wasn't doing baseball! Thanks, Dave, for making Mariners baseball seem interesting when it usually just sucks.

Now today comes the news that the great actor Leslie Nielsen passed away at age 84. The Police Squad movies were a scream; you had to love Nielsen's umpire dance, and appreciate that he prevented Reggie Jackson from killing the Queen. But I especially loved him in Airplane!, which included two of my all-time favorite jokes. I love the bit where Nielsen's Dr. Rumack explains that people need to go to the hospital. Flight attendant Elaine asks, "The hospital? What is it?" Rumack responds, "It's a big building with patients, but that's not important now." The other is the great "Surely, you can't be serious." "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley" routine. I spend most of my waking hours looking for a way to slip one of those in during the day's discourse. I wish I knew more people named Shirley. I love the Shirley joke so much that my Sweetie and I made it, along with the Marx Brothers' rendition of "Everyone Says I Love You", part of a video we made for a wedding shower back in the olden days. We used to get all of our video on VHS back then, and we LIKED it that way! Gotta get those converted.

Anyway, thanks, Leslie! I'll be doing your jokes and thinking of you right up until the time some cat sends me on a fatal tumble down the stairs.

1 comment:

Becky said...

I find myself from time to time thinking of those I've lost over the years. For being under 30 the number always seems so much higher than it should, but I suppose that's the norm in this awful world we live in now. One of the most memorable and hard-to-remember passings is that of a childhood schoolmate who accompanied me at school throughout the elementary years, into middle school, and for the entirety of junior high, after which we graduated from high school together. We weren't close, but how can you not feel a special connection with someone you've known for so long? He chose to attend a different university than I, but came to an event at the one I attended one winter...and on the way home he died in a crash. It was my first up-close-and-personal experience with the death of someone so young, and I will never forget that day. No matter who they are, everyone leaves a mark on the world, and when they're gone, they are often remembered with fondness and sadly missed.