Saturday, July 21, 2007

Helmet Heads, Streetcars and Anita O'Day

Of myriad thoughts and experiences of this day, I’ll share three:

• When you are bald and ride a motor scooter, after removing your helmet, you have no worries about displaying flattened hair, a condition known as “helmet head.” For this I am grateful.

• The Oregonian this morning informs us that City Commissioner Sam Adams wants to expand streetcar service throughout the city. If the streetcar system he has in mind treats its passengers as captive audiences for piped-in commercials announcing city intersections as being “sponsored” by this or that advertiser, I do not wish him well.

• On my two-mile, eight-lap walk around Wilson High School’s track, my iPod in my ear, I am listening to jazz singer Anita O’Day, who died last November in Los Angeles at age 87. I have never paid much attention to “My Ship,” the song she is singing, but because she is singing it, I cling to its words. Anita O’Day is, as they say, “making it her own.” The piano accompanist is spare and rich and sealing the deal. A weakness of digital music is that the names of accompanists vanish, but I suspect the pianist behind O'Day is Oscar Peterson. As you read the lyrics below, imagine Peterson’s lilting, textured piano and O’Day’s dusky alto meting out the words in crafted phrasing. Imagine the music lightening a pace around a track.

My ship has sails that are made of silk
The decks are trimmed with gold
And of jam and spice
There's a paradise in the hold

My ship's aglow with a million pearls
And rubies fill each bin
The sun sits high in a sapphire sky
When my ship comes in

I can wait the years till it appears
One fine day one spring
But the pearls and such
They don't mean much
If there's missing just one thing

I do not care if that day arrives
That dream need never be
If the ship I sing
Doesn't also bring
My own true love to me

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