And Hawaii

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 29, 2014 8:57 PM

This morning, the husband unit and I were lounging in bed, having a cup of coffee, discussing the seven continents because what else would a happily married couple be doing at 7 am on a Wednesday morning?

The conversation had started rather innocently when I mentioned that this weekend was the time change. Many parts of the country fall behind. Arizona doesn’t participate because why would they. So I mentioned that we needed to remember that when California clients said they’d like to have a 2 pm meeting, that actually means 3 pm our time for the next several months unless we’re in California and then we don’t have to think about it. Kevin took a sip of his coffee and said his head hurt already. Then he said that maybe we needed to get some of those clocks, and I smiled and I said so we’d know what time it was in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, maybe Singapore.

That led to a segue of me asking what the biggest city in China is, and we both decided that it must be Beijing. This prompted me to say that I was pretty sure I could name most of the major cities in most countries but that Africa always eluded me. I knew Johannesburg in South Africa. I knew much of Africa was horribly poor, and that there is always strife there; always has been.

He said South Hampton. I don’t know if there’s a South Hampton in Africa. I know there’s one on Long Island and England. I asked if there were any other big cities in Africa which naturally led to a discussion about Egypt and Cairo because what else do you discuss at 7:05 in the morning. He said he didn’t think Egypt was in Africa and I asked well, then, where would it be? Luckily, I had my handy dandy communication device right next to the bed because dog forbid I not have my cell phone within reach at all times. I pulled up the internets and Wikipedia, wondering how I ever got by without Wikipedia, and looked up Egypt. There it was, a nice big splotch on the northern tip of Africa. Hmmm, said the husband unit, sipping his coffee.

What are the seven continents, I asked and together we quickly rattled off north and south America, Africa, Asia. Kevin offered Antarctica. Then we sat, perplexed. Australia? Yes. And Hawaii. I started to laugh. I’ve always loved Hawaii. It’s truly a tropical paradise. It has an otherworldiness about it, especially on the smaller islands, that makes you feel as if you’ve left the chaos behind. Time slows down a bit. You go from living life at mach II with your hair on fire to existing in slow motion. It can take a few days to acclimate, but once you do, it’s difficult to go back to the mainland. I think it might very well be the living and actual embodiment of Shangri-La, a fictional place from the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton that was described as a mystical and harmonious valley, according to Wikipedia. It has since become somewhat synonymous with any earthly paradise.

Eventually, the husband unit and I came up with the correct seven continents. We got out of bed and took Cooper for a walk. The morning here was cool, low 50s. The light was almost blue, even as we approached 8 am. Fall weather. Cooper trotted along, his ears bouncing as they always do. We were quiet, lost in thoughts of Shangri-La. And the lost continent of Hawaii.

Stayin' alive

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, January 29, 2014 12:21 AM

Before:
When I think of the Bee Gees, which I don’t do very often, I tend to think of their iconic song from the opening credits of the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever. If you remember, John Travolta’s Vinnie Barbarino I mean Tony Manero’s feet are walking down a street in Brooklyn. All shiny reddish leather and polyester pants topped off with a red shirt and a black leather jacket. Hair perfect. The feet may be walking but the character is strutting, and it’s to the tune of the Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive.

The Bee Gees, a band of three brothers Gibb (twins Maurice and Robin along with Barry), was formed in 1958 in Australia where the Gibb family lived. They achieved moderate success but by the 1970s, had pretty much bottomed out. Their 1973 R & B album, Main Course, which I actually owned, was pretty good and started them on a new sound, something that was heard by Saturday Night Fever’s producer Robert Stigwood who asked the lads, now living in Miami, to pen a few tunes for his new movie.

John Travolta has said there was actually no Bee Gees music until after the film had wrapped shooting. During filming he was dancing to Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs. The Gibb’s wrote all of the songs over the course of a single weekend and invited Stigwood to listen. History was made that weekend as the Bee Gees and Saturday Night Fever succeeded in prolonging the disco craze, which by 1977 was on its way out. The soundtrack ended up selling more than 40 million copies and is the fifth best-selling album of all time behind Thriller, Dark Side of the Moon, The Eagles Greatest Hits and AC/DC’s Back in Black.

I never owned the soundtrack. In fact, the only Bee Gees album I ever had remains Main Course. Somewhere along the way, I lost it. That’s OK. I don’t really miss it.

And tonight, I’ll have an opportunity to relive it all anyway as we’re going to a performance of The Australian Bee Gees. It’s a tribute show. We won free tickets. Even though we’re not really fans, it’ll be fun. I imagine we’ll know many if not all of the songs. We’ll be singing along.

I’ll report more in the After part of this post.

After:
One of the things I always appreciated, and loved, about the Bee Gees was the harmony. Some of the older songs especially, like I Gotta Get A Message To You and Words, have long been favorites. The Australian Bee Gees are obviously not the real guys but it was pretty difficult to tell. They looked like Barry, Robin and Maurice. They talked like them. Most importantly they sounded like them. “Robin” had a simply astounding voice. Clear and strong. He gave his signature thumbs up multiple times; put his left hand to cover his ear. During the Saturday Night Fever covers he stood in the back and repeatedly did the signature Tony Manero move, legs bent, right arm and finger pointing to the sky. “Barry” had that great falsetto. He played guitar, he strutted his mane of dark hair, he rocked the beard. He did an acoustic version of the song Guilty, the duet Barry Gibb originally did with Barbra Streisand. “Maurice” played the piano, tried (unsuccessfully in my eyes) to play the imp, the clown. He added great drama to Nights on Broadway, and sung the lead on Grease.

I think what surprised me most were the songs that the brothers Gibb wrote that others recorded. Songs like Islands In the Stream (sung by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers) and Heartbreaker by Dionne Warwick. And the aforementioned Grease, which Barry Gibb wrote and Frankie Valli sang for the film.

It was kitchy, retro, fun. It made me want to get some Bee Gees CDs. It was all about keeping the music alive in the 21st century even after losing two of the brothers (Maurice in January 2003 at the age of 53 and Robin in May 2012). Barry Gibb, now 67, performed his first solo tour in October of last year. Stayin’ Alive and celebrating a virtual lifetime of music. You can tell. By the way he walks. 

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