The original singer-songwriter, Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967) would have been 100 years old today. From the moment my dad first heard Woody on the radio he has been a devoted fan. Heading up north today to visit him and hoping to pull out the Guthrie CDs so we can listen to him together. 🙂
Saturday we took a day trip to New York to visit Larisa & Dima, to see their new digs in Manhattan, an apartment on the top floor of a six-story walk-up. We huffed and we puffed and we made it all the way to the top with just a few pauses to catch our breath! After some refreshments and a tour of their sunlight-filled rooms – a marked advantage to being so far up – we went back down the stairs and then it was a hop, skip and a jump to the subway station, where we purchased our passes and spent the rest of the day zipping around the city.
Our night-owl daughter Larisa has wanted to live in ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ for as long as any of us can remember. As we followed her and Dima here, there, and everywhere, we got the wonderful feeling that she was born to live in New York and is thrilled to be living her dream at last. She certainly worked hard to get there and is making a difference in the lives of others as a social worker.
We spent a good chunk of time in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Since my ancestry is half Ukrainian we visited The Ukrainian Museum. We saw the current exhibition, Borys Kosarev: Modernist Kharkiv, 1915-1931. Kosarev (1897-1994) was a Modernist artist who managed somehow to survive Stalin’s intellectual purges in the 1930s in Ukraine. Outside we found a street named after Taras Shevchenko, a famous Ukrainian poet, artist, illustrator and humanist. I posted one of his poems on my blog several months ago: “My Friendly Epistle”
In the neighborhood we also found the sublime St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church…
The church is across the street from McSorley’s Old Ale House, New York City’s oldest continuously operated saloon, where the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Woody Guthrie and John Lennon have found refreshment and inspiration. The floor is covered with sawdust and the beer was good, Tim reports. (Being gluten-free I could not partake…) Established in 1854, women were not allowed to enter McSorley’s until 1970!
On a side note, several months ago I updated my iPod and suddenly was no longer able to shuffle individual songs on my playlists. Even Tim couldn’t figure out how to do it, and so he suggested that perhaps one of the younger folks could solve the mystery. I handed the iPod to Dima and in a few seconds he handed it back with the problem resolved! Thanks, Dima!! Our trip home was very merry as we sang along with a more varied selection of tunes. It was a great way to end a great day!
Tomorrow is the 100th Anniversary of Fathers Day, a day set aside to honor and remember our fathers and forefathers. This year music is on my mind.
My father discovered his passion for music when he heard Woody Guthrie on the radio for the first time. He learned how to play the guitar as a young man and when I was little, apparently I loved to dance when he was singing and playing. Dad also taught himself how to play the piano, and many nights I fell asleep to the soothing sounds of his simple tunes. We had Peter, Paul & Mary records in the house, and his favorite piece of classical music is Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.
I look at the picture of me next to my father playing his guitar, and even though I don’t remember that far back, I somehow think that this is where it all began. My love of troubadours playing their guitars and singing their own songs… My dad’s gift to me.
My paternal grandfather was twenty-eight years old on the first Fathers Day, and in this country only a year. He was a Ukrainian immigrant who bitterly regretted coming to America. He lived with us until he died, when I was in third grade. I have no memory of Pop ever showing us any affection. He spent his days cutting and clearing the brush in the woods around our house. My sister and I were afraid of him because if we bothered his neat piles of wood he would furiously wave his axe at us and shout at us menacingly in Ukrainian. I suspect it was a good thing that we had no idea what he was saying.
So… I was very surprised several years ago, when my father happened to mention one day that when his father was a young man in the Ukraine he crafted his own fiddle and played it at the weekly dances in his village. (I wonder if this was what attracted my grandmother?) It gave me a new dimension of his personality to consider…
The difference between a fiddle and a violin? There’s really no difference, but the old saying is that the violin sings and the fiddle dances.
My adored maternal grandfather was five years old on the first Fathers Day. I wonder how his family celebrated the new holiday? Oh the questions we never think of asking until it is too late! He played the trombone and his favorite musician was John Philip Sousa. When Grandfather was a young man living in New Canaan, Connecticut, he played the trombone in a marching band and he often spoke of those days as some of the happiest ones in his life. It was always a treat when he pulled out his trombone to play a few notes for us. When he hummed he even sounded like a trombone!
As Dad slips further into dementia I am happy for the days we spent listening to Woody together. I gave him The Asch Recordings, a box set of 105 Guthrie songs. We also watched at least four different Guthrie DVDs over the past few years. Good memories for both of us…
I’m looking forward to seeing my dad tomorrow. I hope he will be having a good day, but even if he isn’t we will make the best of it. Play some music… Talk about the things he can remember…