It doesn’t matter much to me

Let me take you down

It doesn't matter much to meNearly four decades after his death, there’s an inordinate interest of What If? when it comes to John Lennon. Quite often it comes from people who were born after the Beatles broke up, or even after John died.

If he had lived, would he have left Yoko? One can find theorists suggesting that he would, that their marriage was a sham. The thought was that once he started writing music again, he was regaining his inner strength. Eventually, after Double Fantasy, or maybe the followup, he’d leave her.

Of course, the Beatles reunion is always at the heart of this sort of speculation. John was fond of some songs on McCartney II in 1980, Paul’s first album sans Wings in a decade.

George had a modicum of commercial success. His first album after the murder, Somewhere in England, contained a tribute to John. His album after that, 1982’s Gone Troppo, was not a big hit. Ringo had had all three on his various albums, although not simultaneously. So I suppose a reunion might have been possible.

Now you know I remain a massive Beatles fan. When my sisters and I lipsynched to the songs of Beatles VI in 1965 for the neighbor kids, I was always John. Lennon was always my favorite Beatle. I was devastated by his death.

Let me take you down

Yet I find all the speculation is not at all interesting. As he wrote, “It doesn’t matter much to me.” So I don’t have much of an opinion on which songs would be on a 1981 Beatles album if there had been such a thing.

For one thing, the interaction among them would have been far different than it was in 1969. Would they even get along in the studio again? Does George get more songs? Who knows? NOBODY and no one ever will.

Enough grumpiness. Some songs:

BEATLES
Ticket to Ride
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
Norwegian Wood
Rain
Tomorrow Never Knows
Strawberry Fields Forever; “It doesn’t matter much to me”
I Am the Walrus, from LOVE
Come Together

SOLO
I’m Losing You
Nobody Told Me

Robert Freeman, the longtime photographer for the Beatles, died. He had an exhibit at the Albany Institute of History and Art. “The complementary exhibition, THE BEATLES: Community Stories, from December 21, 2002 through March 2, 2003, is an… exhibition that celebrates the Fab Four with a selection of memorabilia on loan from Capital Region residents.

“From toys to tea towels, from posters to photographs, from autographs to collectibles…you’ll see it all at the Albany Institute.” I had but one magazine, but I also brought in some bootleg LPs and The Beatles in Italy.

Garry Shandling would have been 70

Zen Diaries

Garry Shandling
per UCLA
In the 2016 article, Why Garry Shandling Was One of the Greatest Jewish Comedians Ever, Jason Diamond noted, “His persona was an anxiety-ridden, grimacing, guarded, confused man on the verge of losing control.” I think I related to that.

Though his two signature shows were initially on premium cable, I managed to see many episodes of each of them. It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, which he co-created with Alan Zweibel, ran from 1985 to 1990 on Showtime. The edited reruns started playing on FOX, which I watched regularly, starting in 1988.

Like The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show decades earlier, the series frequently broke the “fourth wall” and spoke directly to the audience There were 72 episodes, and it began with the intentionally silly theme.

No flipping

His experience as the frequent guest host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson led to his next series. “In 1992, Shandling launched another critical and commercial success by creating the mock behind-the-scenes talk show sitcom The Larry Sanders Show… It ran for 89 episodes… on HBO.”

It featured Jeffrey Tambor as sidekick Hank Kingsley, Wallace Langham as Phil, and the late Rip Torn, who died in July 2019, as Artie, “the foul-mouthed, dyspeptic talk show producer.”

I don’t think I subscribed to Home Box Office regularly, yet somehow I managed to view several episodes. The finale was titled “Flip,” a reference to Sanders saying to TV audience, “no flipping.” I watched it in a Boston hotel either the day I taped my JEOPARDY! episodes or the night before, in September 1998.

He even co-wrote with David Rensin Confessions of a Late Night Talk Show Host: The Autobiography of Larry Sanders in the voice of his alter-ego, published in 1999. Ken Levine wants you to meet comedian/writer Jeff Cesario– He was also a writer/producer on THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW.

Back when I used to watch those things, “Shandling hosted the Grammy Awards in 1990, 1991, 1993, and 1994. He hosted the Emmy Awards in 2000 and 2004 and co-hosted (giving the opening monologue) in 2003.

Dead at age 66

“Shandling suffered from hyperparathyroidism, a condition that can be fatal. On March 24, 2016, Shandling died at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California at age 66… The autopsy showed that he died from a pulmonary embolism… On February 4, 2019, Shandling’s estate bestowed $15.2 million to benefit medical research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.”

In The New Yorker, Naomi Fry describes Judd Apatow’s four-hour documentary for HBO, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. Janis Hirsch briefly worked on the first series, where she had a less-than-positive experience. Nevertheless, she recommended the study.

Both Naomi Fry and Jason Diamond noted “the scene in the ‘Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers’ episode of ‘Freaks and Geeks.’ Specifically, the part where Martin Starr’s Bill comes home to an empty house, fixes himself a snack and watches one of Shandling’s sets…

“It’s the connection, those few moments removed from the real world that Bill gets, that makes that scene so easy to relate to. The lonely kid doesn’t feel so alone for a few minutes.” That was a gift of Garry Shandling for many, including his peers.

Garry Shandling would have been 70 on November 29.

Mourning has broken, somewhat

Henri Nouwen

mourning doveAs regular readers of this blog may have noticed, I’ve gone to a number of funerals this calendar year. Two members of my current church in January, two former fellow choir members from my previous church in February.

It’s not just my own mourning, of course. From those four funerals, there are three widows who I’ve known at least 18 years each, plus various other relatives. My wife and I went to the service of a mom of a friend, also in the first half of the year.

Somehow, I inserted myself as a source of information about the memorial arrangements for Charles G. Hill, e.g., Dustbury. BTW, his daughter had no idea about his favorite charity. She found nothing in his record-keeping. She suggested the Oklahoma City Performing Arts or maybe a mental health organization.

I should reiterate that donations for Arthur’s husband Nigel King can be made to Anxiety New Zealand. I would recommend you read Arthur’s blog, starting with the first of October, regarding his uneven adjustment.

A decade and a half ago

Certainly, there were lots of funerals/memorial services this year, expected as one gets older. My wife and I recall, though, the last third of 2004, when we attended at least five funerals. Two were for the husbands of friends of mine; the women were both named Mary.

I was particularly fond of Tom. We had similar sensibilities about politics and much else. I helped make sure he got to vote in that Presidential year, thus assuring the election of President John Kerry. Even this year, Mary and I have pondered what he would have thought of the 240 candidates running for President. Goodness, that was 15 years ago.

I came across this quote from one of my favorite theologians, the late Henri Nouwen. It’s what I TRY to do in these moments of mourning:

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.”

When do we lose our parents?

Parental loss varies by race and socio-economic status.

when do we lose our parentsAs a Census geek and as someone has lost both parents, I was intrigued by a new report about “When do we lose our parents?” It’s called “Parental Mortality is Linked to a Variety of Socio-economic and Demographic Factors.” Here’s the underlying study, Exploring the Link between Socioeconomic Factors and Parental Mortality.

“People lose their fathers earlier in life than their mothers, and the timing of parental loss is linked to factors such as race, educational attainment and poverty status.

“For the first time, the 2014 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) included a series of questions asking respondents whether their parents were still alive.” As you may know, my father died in 2000, my mother in 2011, so my experience is more common.

“For example, among those ages 45 to 49, 26% have lost their mother, while 45% have lost their father. Along these same lines, 7 in 10 of those ages 60 to 64 have a deceased mother, while about 87% have lost their father.” I was 47 when my dad died, 58 when mom passed.

“Among adults ages 25 to 34, about 15% of the white population and Asian population have lost one or both parents. By contrast, about 17% of the Hispanic population and 24% of the black population have experienced the death of a parent.” Fortunately, I am not in this group, but I know many folks who are.

“Among those ages 35 to 44, 43% of those living below the Federal Poverty Level have lost one or both parents, compared to 28% for those living in households with an income-to-poverty ratio of at least 400% of the FPL.

“Parental loss, which varies by race and socio-economic status, is often accompanied by psychological and material consequences. These statistics demonstrate the way these new SIPP data can help assess how socio-economic and demographic characteristics are associated with parental mortality in the United States.”

I suppose this is a bummer of a Mother’s Day post. But my mom always tried to do the right thing by others. My father spent his life addressing inequities. Somehow I don’t think they’d mind.

Bernie Massar, Barnyard (1953-2019)

The Professional Firefighter’s Cancer Fund is a non-profit 501(C)3 organization committed to raising funds for cancer research programs.

Bernard Massar.Jan KostyunKaren, Carol, Lois, Diane, Irene, Bill, Bernie and I all started kindergarten together at Daniel S. Dickinson, where we did K-9, and graduated from Binghamton (NY) Central High School together.

Because Bernie Massar lived in the opposite direction from most of us, down Clinton Street rather than up Mygatt Street, I spent less time with him outside of school than I did with most of the others. I’m not sure if I had even been to his house.

But he’d been to mine at least once. I had a birthday party when I was eight or nine. I don’t know if it was poor communication or something else, but only two people showed up, my Cub Scout buddy and classmate Ray, and Bernie.

He could be the life of the party, betraying his clean-cut look. I hadn’t seen him in a long time when he – and Karen, Carol, Lois, and Bill – attended a high school reunion c. 2006. I see this jocular fellow nicknamed Barnyard with a walrus mustache, who had been fighting fires for a living for 27 years.

Obviously, I have no current history with him. Yet however unconnected we had become, he’d show up unexpectedly in the back of my mind. Now, Bernie Massar, this guy I’d met when we were not quite five – his birthday is a couple weeks before mine, I still recall – has died at the age of 66 and I have this sense of wistfulness.

And from pancreatic cancer, making him the THIRD person I’ve known IRL who died from that dreadful disease in 2019, and the year’s not even half over.

It makes me want to donate to his designated charity, the Retired Professional Firefighter’s Cancer Fund, 4 Loretta Drive, Binghamton, NY 13905. It is a non-profit 501(C)3 organization committed to raising funds for cancer research programs, which has been doing great work, it appears.