Posts Tagged ‘Bessie Smith’

Just another Monocle Monday: Ms. Carolyn Wells edition

March 22, 2010

“A cynic is a man who looks at the world with a monocle in his mind’s eye.” — Carolyn Wells (1862-1942): librarian, mystery writer, poet, absurdist, Jersey girl, baseball aficionado; heroine.


Via timbravo on the tumblr. Hell and goddang if that is not just about the g’est picture of a little kid I have ever seen.

Ms. Well’s famous limerick abount canny canners:

A canner exceedingly canny
One morning remarked to his granny:
“A canner can can
Any thing that he can
But a canner can’t can a can, can he?”


Illustration from Such Nonsense.

The awesome Ms. Wells, who began her literary career as a librarian in Rahway, NJ, had a binary-brained love of both words and wordplay, resulting in the kind of mind that invents riddles and complex, skillful patterns out of what appears to be nonsense. She compiled and published an anthology of clever verses by herself, some friends, and great absurd poets of the past who she admired called Such nonsense! an Anthology through George H. Doran Company, New York, in 1918. Some of the authors included in the anthology are G. K. Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling, William Makepeace Thackeray, Carroll, and W. S. Gilbert. You can read the entirety of the volume on the googlebooks, one of the seemingly last bastions that values lit without lumping it alongside lattes and shitty cd samplers of some Juilliard sophomore covering Bessie Smith. You know the kind of horrible CD sampler I am talking about:


Via officineottiche on the tumblr.

All black and white picture of the skinny blonde singer playing piano on the cover with her eyes closed, all you push the button on the screen to hear a sample and it sounds immediately like she has grown up on at least a quarter acre with probably a pony that she rode in jodphurs until she decided she wanted to be a ballerina instead but she was never so vulgar or interesting as to imagine combining the two interests and she is presently dating a trust fund guy with dreads who was obsessively checking his iTouchPhonesALot thingy the entire time she was in the studio making what we are broadly defining as a “record,” the record apparently being a record of the time some flat chick from upstate New York saw a homeless guy pawing through the trash in front of the Dean and Deluca and decided that because she had Feelings about it, she now had the right to perform herself some blues and has now come at the undertaking metaphorically wearing goggles and carrying a graduated cyllinder. (“Blues, this is going to hurt you a lot more than it hurts me.”)

Like so many times with me, that got way out of hand. I’m not sorry, but I am a little disappointed in myself. Seriously, though, dudes. Fuck the megabookstores: save the libraries.


Seen in several places. I choose not to credit until I can find an original source.

That last shot reminds me — PSA: I have pretty eyes. In fact, I have the prettiest brown eyes. Did You Know? Established fact, suckas. [citation needed]

Music Moment: The Song Remains the Same — Nina Simone, “I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl”

March 3, 2010

Nina covers Bessie Smith.

Nina Simone – I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl


I want a little sugar
in my bowl
I want a little sweetness
down in my soul
I could stand some lovin’
Oh so bad
I feel so funny and I feel so sad


I want a little steam
on my clothes
Maybe I can fix things up
so they’ll go
What’s the matter, Daddy,
Come on, save my soul
I need some sugar in my bowl
I ain’t foolin’
I want some sugar in my bowl


You been acting different
I’ve been told
Soothe me
I want some sugar in my bowl


I want some steam
on my clothes
Maybe I can fix things up so they’ll go
What’s the matter, Daddy,
Come on save my soul
I want some sugar in my bowl
I ain’t foolin’
I want some sugar – yeah – in my bowl.

A few weeks ago, the o.g. babydaddy treated me and the kidlet to lunch at the Soosh Gardino. He and his wife are mysteriously on the outs this month, I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’ve been trying to be neutral and supportive. They’re not living together any more, though, so I’m not sure what to make of it all.

I drafted her a friendly and supportive Valentine’s card and left it at a place where I knew she had a gig that night; a few days later she wrote me thanking me but then added some surprising stuff about “needing time as newlyweds.”

This was confusing to me because I had just talked to kidlet’s father the day prior and he said in no uncertain terms that he would only take her back to avoid living with his mother … then the next day he phoned and I asked if they had patched things up and he said sort of, but not really, then the following week he said they had certainly not, and were still living apart, so like I said, I am just staying out of it. Because I truly don’t know what’s going on.

I wish there was a way for me to wave a magic wand or wish on some special star and make things perfect for both of us, but I don’t have those kinds of means at my disposal, and I have never been much of a great shakes at relationship stuff.

Apparently neither has the o.g.b.d., for which I can vouch at least during our time together lo five years ago, and also because he asked me abruptly on our way to the Gardino, “Can I ask you something? It’s bad.” He is in the habit of blurting things out so I wasn’t as surprised as I would’ve been with someone normal. I said okay and he asked me, “What happened? With your marriage?”

My stomach lurched but as my kidlet’s father and knowing he wants to support her and be able to be a sounding board for her anxieties and dreams just the same as I do, so why would I not arm him with all information possible in order for him to succeed?, I felt like he deserved a specific reply and not my usual shrug or head shake. I answered as best I could without going in to too many details, but as directly as possible because the o.g.b.d. has a lot of tics and one of them is a strong dislike of roundabout bush-beating. I’ve always thought that was a fair bugaboo and done my best to respect it. I wound down my short explanation as we pulled in to the lot of the Soosh Gardino by saying:


Woman as banquet.

“You know how it is.” (he does) “Growing up, people like us don’t plan on someone loving us, because that means letting them know us. I thought I could let someone in and it didn’t work out. For right now, I’m just not interested even at all in trusting another person, not like that. The jury is out for me on the human race.” He made a tsking sound and started to shake his head, and I held up my hand and said, “Just for now. We’ll see. But maybe I was right, all those years; maybe I am supposed to just be alone.”


Still from Pierre le fou.

I had just parked and killed the engine so I was able to look him in the eye when he suddenly grabbed my hand. He said urgently, “No. Beth — don’t say that.” This is not a story about how I got back together with the o.g.b.d., or how there is still some unwritten chapter about us. I just realized that might be inferred.

That’s not at all the way of it. You don’t know him — everything he does is spontaneous, overemotional, and urgent. He can’t even brush his teeth without doing it slightly “off” like he is coming down off of heroin or flashing his eyes around like Rudolph Valentino. He’s an intense guy, that o.g.b.d. It was one of the things that attracted me so strongly to him when we were together: he is not like other people. He’s more vibrant. Like other people are watercolor and he is painted in oils.


Rudolph Valentino smoking a cigarette with probably much greater restraint than the o.g.b.d. might — less wild gesticulation and hair pulling — but the eyes are the same.

What this story is about is this: You are pretty low when your recently-split, moving-back-in-with-his-mother, hated-you-for-years ex feels sorry for you. I thought, “Wow. Maybe we are moving in to a new phase of our lives where he will be a good friend and confidante to me. That would be pretty unexpected and neat!”

After lunch, we went to a park and it turned out he’d been drinking sub rosa from a fifth of whiskey all day. I was kind of bummed that I’d thought we’d been doing so well and it might have not really been heartfelt on his half. Quelle surprise, I guess. I will never learn, it seems. I don’t want to sound pathetic, I just felt pretty stupid for thinking someone gave a crap about me.

I found this out when he took a hit out of the bottle in his pocket. In front of a bunch of kids. I said, “Um, no thanks, dude.” He said, “Oh, I know. I wasn’t offering. You’re driving.” He had me there: I was indeed driving. And it was a visit we were both in charge of. And he’d literally split from his wife the day before. And the day before happened to be Valentine’s. So I’m not going to judge or flip out unless it happens again. “Everybody gets one,” right, Spider-man on Family Guy?

The point is: Yep. Probably meant to be alone. At least for a good long while.

It’s lonely to want some sugar in the bowl, sure, but the trouble is it’s tough to tell the sugar from the rat poison. Better safe than sorry.