Tag Archives: Autumn

“It ain’t over til it’s over”

“In baseball, you don’t know nothing.” Yogi Berra

Hey gang. You wouldn’t think I’d let something like the passing of baseball great Yogi Berra happen without a little check in from the lighthouse HQ, would you?

And on the first day of autumn, no less. Or is it fall? Nobody knows. The season of mystery, or “of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, if you believe that Keats fellow. No one really knows when Autumn begins, either. Some people think that it is today, the autumnal equinox. Autumnal. What a great word to say out loud. Why not say it with me? Autumnal. Followed by equinox, another nice one to say out loud. Band name! (Called it.) AND YET SOME CULTURES consider this the “Mid-autumn” point. Those cultures would be wrong.

Others see Labour day as the psychological end of summer/beginning of Autumn, while others still think that as soon as we turn the calendar to September 1st IT’S ALL OVER. I’m not even going to mention those sons of bitches “down below” who seem to think Autumn starts in March. I mean, really. What’s next? Telling me that January is beach weather for them?

Autumn also signifies the end of the baseball season, the beginning of the “post season”. So it’s rather appropriate that baseball legend Yogi Berra would pass away on the last day of summer, when the days shorten and the shadows lengthen. September 22. It also happened to be the exactly anniversary of Berra’s first major league appearance, back in 1946. He was 90 years old.

What can I say about Yogi Berra that hasn’t been said better elsewhere? Like for example in today’s NYT obituary? Not much. I mean, the guy had a cartoon bear named after him, for goodness sakes! It wasn’t until I was an adult that I made the connection between Yogi Bear and Yogi Berra. He was also a WWII veteran, serving in the navy and participating in D-Day!

We could talk a little bit about his on field accomplishments: his 10 World Series championships, including catching Don Larsen’s perfect world series game in 1956. Being an All Star for 15 years? Leading the Yankees to two more World Series championships in the late 1970’s? We could go on and on.

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I forgot he managed the Yankees in the midst of the tumultuous Billy Martin years in the 1980’s, and that even though Steinbrenner made a promise to Berra that wouldn’t fire him that season, guess what? He did. And what was worse was that Steinbrenner didn’t even fire Berra personally, he sent a stooge to do the job for him. This was so hurtful to Berra that he swore to never set foot in Yankee stadium again. He kept his word for 14 years until Steinbrenner went to Berra’s home and apologized in person.

This is all baseball stuff, and that alone would be enough to make Yogi great, but the wider culture may remember him more for his “Yogi”isms. Despite the fact that he only made it to grade 8, Yogi Berra became known for his little sayings and bits of wisdom dispensed over the years. Some of which pertain to baseball and some of which apply to everyday life. Here’s the kicker though: many of these sayings MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN SAID BY HIM. Well, as you well know, one of the tenets of “Mountains Beyond Mountains” is to never let the truth get in the way of a good story, so we are ALL OVER these sayings, whether the great man actually said them or not. In fact, Berra has been quoted as saying, “I never said most of the things I’ve said.” I’m not even sure he said THAT. We’re into lexiconical inception here, people!

Let’s just finish off which some of these gems, as we remember a man who impacted pop culture in such a pervasive and yet unintended way. Like the man said himself, “A lot of guys go, ‘Hey Yog, say a Yosi-ism.’ I tell them, ‘I don’t know any.’ They want me to make one up. I don’t make ’em up. I don’t even know when I say it. They’re the truth. And it is the truth. I don’t know”.

  • When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
  • You can observe a lot by just watching.
  • It’s likeย deja vu all over again.
  • No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.
  • Baseball is nine percent mental and the other half is physical.
  • The future ain’t what it used to be.
  • All pitchers are liars or crybabies.
  • A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.
  • You better cut the pizza into four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.
  • You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.

 

Yogi and the Jeets!

Yogi and the Jeets!

 

 

 

 

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Freedom within Discipline, or Time Flies

David Brubeck always had an odd sense of timing. He died today, just one day shy of his 92nd birthday. He was reportedly on his way to visit his cardiologist when he had a heart attack.

Bad timing, Dave.

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His most famous album, 1959’s Time Out, was all about tunes that used unconventional time signatures. The opening number, “Blue Rondo ala Turk” was in 9/8 time, and the most famous song off the album, “Take Five” was in 5/4 throughout. Even if you aren’t a jazz fan, you must have heard this song before. It’s been everywhere, even car commercials. Here’s the Dave Brubeck Quartet playing it in 1966 in Germany.

Another bit of bad timing: “Take Five” was Brubeck’s most popular song, but it was NOT ACTUALLY written by him. It was Paul Desmond on Saxophone that can get credit for this one. “Take Five” was only song on the album not written by Brubeck, as it turned out. Also, the song “Kathy’s Waltz” is named after Brubeck’s daughter. Only problem is that Brubeck’s daughter spells her name with a “C”. You see what I mean?

The album was so popular that they did a “sequel” a few years later called “Time Further Out”.

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There was one thing that you couldn’t say about Brubeck’s timing: you couldn’t say he was born at the wrong time. Born in 1920, he came of age at a time when jazz was crossing over into the mainstream, (“Time Out” charted on the Pop music charts, for God’s sake). He was at the forefront of what jazz historians like to call “West Coast Cool”. I guess that’s because he’s from the West Coast, and he was so frickin’ cool, in my book. “Jazz is about freedom within discipline,” he said one time. Being classically trained, he knew all the rules before he decided to go in and break a few. He didn’t really think he was doing anything all that revolutionary. He believed the classical greats, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, were all great improvisers in their own way, in their own time.

Everybody COUNT!

Everybody COUNT!

If I were to show you my jazz collection on iTunes, it would heavily lean towards jazz pianists. Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Vijay Iyer, and of course Dave Brubeck. I can’t explain this, except that when I listen to jazz, I prefer listening to jazz piano, or at least a jazz trio or quartet that feature a piano. It’s just my personal taste. But out of all of these guys, Dave Brubeck was my first love, and the one I still listen to the most today.

My Dad had a copy of “Time Out” on vinyl, and although he mostly played classical stuff on the ol’ hi-fi, every once in a while he would put on Dave Brubeck, so his sound was a part of my childhood.

In high school, our choir sang this amazing piece called “Autumn in our Town” written by Dave Brubeck. I didn’t realize he did some choral work on the side, but this song is so hauntingly beautiful that I begged our choir director to let us sing it again in Grade 12 (we had done it previously in Grade 11). It captures the smokey melancholy of the season so well, that I linked to an instrumental version of it in a blog post back in October. It was a post where I talked about the difficulty I have most years transitioning from summer to autumn.

If anyone in the fanbase can find me a copy of this song WITH WORDS, I would be in your debt. I’ve looked for it over the years, (not real hard, but STILL) and couldn’t turn it up, but SOMEBODY has to have recorded it, yes?

I only got a chance to see Dave Brubeck play live once, but I’m grateful for that one chance. He was headlining the local jazz festival in town about 15 years ago and I was determined to go see him. None of my friends were at all interested, and telling them that it was the composer of that really sad, slow song about autumn we sang in high school didn’t really win any of them over. So I did what any secret jazz lover would do: I took my Mom.

I had to remind her who he was. “Remember Dad had one of his records? Remember “Take Five”?” Well she remembered “Take Five” alright (how could you not once you heard it?) and I think she felt kind of bad for me, so she agreed to go.

It was a wonderful evening, although I had my doubts when the quartet took to the stage for the first time. There was no opener, and the house lights were up when these four ELDERLY guys shuffled onto the stage. They looked like they were walking out on a sheet of ice, Leslie Knope campaign style, and I thought maybe one of them was going to slip off the edge, but they all made it to their places. As soon as Dave Brubeck sat down at the piano and touched the keys, it was like he was 20 again. The quartet played for over 2 and a half hours before the encores began! And the crowd was so demanding, I lost count of the number of ย encores they actually played, but it was super impressive, especially for a group of guys in their late 70s. Finally, after the umpteenth time, Dave Brubeck came out by himself, sat down at the piano and played the sweetest version of the “lullaby” song you’ve ever heard. The crowd erupted into laughter and an ovation at the same time and Brubeck smiled back at us, relishing in his little musical joke. He gave us a little wave and was gone for the last time that night.

About four years ago, we bought a MacBook and there was this deal that you got an iPod with it for free. This is how dumb I was: I asked the guy at the computer store where do you put the batteries. He just looked at me and said, “you don’t change the batteries, dude. You just plug it in.” I’m a late adopter, obviously. I didn’t think I’d use it all that much at first, but I thought I should put a few “essential” albums on there to try it out. The first two albums I put on my iPod were U2’s “Achtung Baby!” and “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

I’ve never taken it off since. I guess I’m still looking for the right time.

I’d say “Rest in Peace”, but I have a feeling you only ever felt peace when you were restless, so let me just say “Thanks” for writing and playing the kind of music that has resonated with me my whole life, and what gets me through September every year. Time flies. What a gift.

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