Someone’s Birthday Today

Today was Laura Nyro‘s birthday.

Although I hadn’t heard Nyro’s singular voice in years and years and years, there was a time when I listened to her records obsessively. (As there were other times when I listened to other singers obsessively. For me as for so many others of A Certain Age, there was a Bob Dylan Era, a Jackson Browne Era, a Blood Sweat & Tears Era, a Barbra Streisand Era. More recently:  Annie Lennox.

So many supposedly Indispensible Musicians who, when my copies of their LPs wore out, I neglected to preserve in my life by systematically re-purchasing my increasingly-scratched up albums with their incarnations on compact discs.

For several years now I’ve been wondering whether to embark on The Potentially Hugely Expensive Music Re-purchasing Campaign.  I’ve often wondered, when contemplating such a decision, which albums of the many long squirreled away in my attic (and probably thoroughly melted by now) that I would deem the most crucial to replace first.

Now I know.

The e-newsletter Gay Wisdom for Daily Living alerted me to the fact that today is Nyro’s birthday. Then my Nyro-loving friend Franklin posted to Facebook this vintage video of one of Nyro’s (rare) television performances:

What a voice! And what an unusual one. The songs on the video aren’t among my favorites, but the way she sings them vividly called to mind her many other songs that are etched in my hindbrain.

Nyro died in 1997 at the heartbreakingly young age of 49, of ovarian cancer.

There’s more on Nyro (including a list of all her albums) at Wikipedia, and there’s a Laura Nyro webpage that includes photos, music, and comments posted by fans who clearly appreciated this irreplacable, irrepressible performer for a lot of the same reasons I did, and do.

Much of the world’s creative output – the writings written, the poetry spoken, the plays performed, the paintings painted – is unavailable to us for alll sorts of reasons. Lucky for me, lucky for you, Nyro’s recordings are still available for listening to, again and again.

Other People’s Houses

I blogged earlier this week about trying to be more grateful, and most days I am particularly grateful for the small but comfortable home I inhabit. Ironic, then, that I should find myself feeling pangs of House Envy this afternoon.

This year, Atlanta’s Ansley Park Home Tour was exclusively devoted to houses designed by famed early-20th-century Atlanta architect Neil Reid. Because the library I now manage is located on the edge of the neighborhood – and because I’ve long deemed Ansley Park as the neighborhood containing the city’s most beautiful houses, I decided to do this year’s tour.

I expected to be impressed, and I certainly was.  True, there were way too many heavily-draped windows and there was more silver and more cut crystal than I would personally care to have around, but, hey, I could imagine actually living in these relatively modest-sized places – unlike some of the downright elephantine homes in other neighborhoods around town that I’ve toured. 

Not only could I imagine living in most of these homes, I found myself in a few cases yearning to possess and inhabit them.   Certainly more than once, I found myself helplessly flashing on the title of a book published earlier this year entitled Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House.

(On the proverbial other hand, tucked away in a corner of a gorgeous bedroom of one of these houses was a framed version of the Serenity Prayer. Was the house’s owner a veteran of Alcoholics Anonymous, I immediately wondered? And if so, perhaps the lives of at least some of the people inhabiting these lavishly-appointed homes are not as charming and perfect as their houses appear? Such are the mean-spirited fantasies of the envious, I suppose.)

Under the mesmerizing spell these half-dozen drool-worthy dens, kitchens, and sun porches, I couldn’t stop myself from obsessing about what kinds of people live in these places, and places like them all over town, and in virtually every town.  As the afternoon wore on and I trotted into ever-more-spectacular – and spectacularly comfortable and pleasing – rooms, I began feeling more and more…morose. Who knew that anyone could be wealthy enough to own so many paintings? So many sculptures? So many Persian carpets? So many chandeliers? So many sets of china? So many books? Wandering sheepishly and bedazzled through the staggering wealth on display, I felt like I was visiting from another planet, not from another (and far humbler) neighborhood across town.

Still, it was pleasant to learn that great wealth can be channeled by gifted architects and designers into truly beautiful domestic spaces – instead of into something garish or unwelcoming.  Somebody should be living in houses like Reid’s, so even if it ain’t me, I’m glad somebody is.

Meanwhile, I feel lucky to be able to gaze upon these houses every day as I scooter to and from work , and lucky to be able to have peeked inside a half-dozen houses whose exteriors I’ve admired from afar for decades now. After all, these magnificent non-grandiose houses might have been torn down years ago and replaced by another half-dozen uninspired McMansions, but Reid’s houses are still there, being enjoyed, and for that we should all be glad.