Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Our friend, Lou

They met in 1965.  Hubby had driven his ex-girl friend's mother's car from San Francisco to Des Moines, Iowa.  Lou had come from Monroe, Louisiana.  Hubby was 30 years old, Lou was 23.  They had come to Iowa on a government grant to bring culture for the next several years to the Iowa school systems by singing avant garde / contrapuntal music.  The troupe consisted of approximately 20 members, 10 females, 10 males, 18 of them white.  Only Lou and Hubby were Black (it was the 1960's -- and they were very, very Black).

The troupe was given housing in a small apartment complex in the heart of Des Moines, but when the owner saw Hubby and Lou, it was a "no go."  So Iowa hunted around and found the two men a house where they could live on the outskirts of town.  Lou was a "good, old country boy" who understood the ways of the South -- and consequently the prejudices of Middle America, while Hubby was the city boy who had traveled across the country trying to break into big-city opera.  Lou had just earned his BA degree while Hubby had just spent seven years with the San Francisco opera company, singing minor and chorus parts.

The troupe was thrilled because they had access to the guys' good-sized house for parties and late night shenanigans.  The men bonded.  They ate together, partied, hooked up with the girls.  Hubby lasted two years, then absconded with a mezzo-soprano from the troupe and moved her, pregnant, to the big city 200 miles away.  Lou lasted another year when funding for singing "like cats and barking like dogs" was eliminated.  Then he followed Hubby down to the city.

Hubby's wife gave birth to a son and he started a janitorial business, because singing opera in the Midwest, especially if you are Black, is not exactly profitable.  He found Lou a place to live and they worked together.  They partied together.  They played pool.  Lots and lots of pool.  Hubby's wife bore another son.  Lou's wife, Pearly, came from Monroe and she had a son.  Then Hubby's wife packed up the two boys and moved back home to her family and eventually, moved completely away, after divorcing him.  After leaving Wisconsin,  Hubby had no idea where she had vanished.

This was several years before I met Hubby in 1973 and I've had to piece together most of the stories from those days, through Lou, through Wendy's mother, and from Wendy.  Hubby really doesn't talk about those days, even now.  Eventually Lou knew he wanted to sing and Hubby had pretty well shut down when his family had departed Kansas City.  Finally, Lou and Pearlie and their son Louis, Jr. packed up and moved back to Monroe where Lou began work on his master's degree in vocal music.

Hubby sang when the offers came in.  Mostly he ran a handy-man / janitorial service.  Easter, Christmas, graduation musical gigs came through often.  He preformed at Starlight Theater -- hated singing in the warm night air when bugs flew into your mouth the moment you opened it.  He did some opera.  He directed choirs and sang in church choirs when the money was decent.  He did a lot of weddings.

Every summer, Lou would pack up and come to KC to earn money with Hubby.  He and Hubby would work on the big mansions along Ward Parkway.  The owners would come out to see who was singing on their roofs and then invite the men to their parties or their clubs.  Lou played a lot of tennis with the white country club members.   He tried to teach Hubby, but came home thoroughly disgusted, because "that dang man won't run -- he just stands in one spot and you have to hit the ball straight to him." The summers were full of hot days sweating outdoors, and long nights singing their hearts out.  And pool.  Lots and lots of pool.

When I came along, Lou would arrive for a month in June and then Pearlie would bring up her two sons for a week or so before Lou went back home.  Lou had a regular job as a voice professor at Northeast Louisiana State, Monroe but the real money was usually earned during the summers in KC.  Pearlie was a math teacher who was earning her PhD. in education. 

Lou loved cars and he was always so disgusted with the heaps that Hubby would drive.  He'd show up in his new Porche and Hubby would be driving a 1963 Toyota.  I remember riding in the back seat of that Toyota and the two guys were in the front, windows down because there was no air conditioning in Hubby's cars, singing with all their might.  Cars would pull along side of us and suddenly brake to a stop in amazement, just to listen. 

Sometimes Lou would come to sing the Messiah with Hubby at Christmas.  One year we were in a shopping mall when we found one of those "drop in and make your own recording" studios.  I begged the guys to make me a Christmas record so they trudged inside and I took a seat on the bench outside to wait.  I could see the clerks looking at these two men incredulously.

Lou was six feet seven inches tall.  He had a full head of very black, thick hair and wore big glasses.  Hubby is five feet nine, round, and bald.  By then Hubby was probably 47 and Lou was 40.  They were both in work clothes.

Mostly teenagers were using the studio, rather like a karaoke bar today. The clerks were giggling and nudging each other as the men went inside the sound booth.  Eyeballs were rolling.  I couldn't hear anything but suddenly everyone in the store came to a halt.  There was a conference of the clerks, the manager appeared running -- and then from the store came the voices of the two men simply singing "Jingle Bells."  It was being broadcast all throughout the mall.

Lou is a basso profundo -- the most glorious of huge, deep, rich basses.  Hubby is technically a baritone but with a very high, full tenor range.  Together it was like hearing "Jingle Bells" for the first time --  a simple melody that just floats along accompanied by a brilliant crescendo of rich, male voice singing in harmony. They were just having fun with it, not trying to impress or make "good" music.  Soon a crowd had gathered outside the little studio.  The song finished and the men opened the door to exit the booth but the manager hurried over.  

"Please sing another song -- we'll record it free."  The crowd outside had been applauding -- the manager knew a good thing when he saw it.  So the guys went back and did "White Christmas" and the crowd grew larger still.  I could hear people talking, "Man, if they can make you sound like that, I need to go in and record a song.  What do you think?"  We still play this little cassette tape at Christmas time, remember how we laughed and laughed as the guys exited the store and people would ask (as they almost always did), "You two sounded so good!  You have any training?"

Lou and Hubby talked on the phone a lot during the winter.  Usually Lou would call on a Sunday morning to see what jalopy Hubby was driving, how Wendy was, how were the singing gigs.  He'd tell about his family and sometimes Pearlie and I would chat with each other.  He even asked my mother because one summer when he was here he had answered the phone and had quite the conversation with her.  In 1978, Hubby mentioned he thought that we might get married.  "Wait until summer and I'll be best man," Lou told him.

Lou arrived that summer and Hubby agreed that before Lou left we'd get married.  June was long gone and suddenly it was the end of July.  Lou came to me to ask if I really wanted to marry this wayward cuss and when he found out that I did, he told me, "Leave it to me."

Lou on the left; Hubby on the right -- right before our wedding ceremony;  the old Toyota is behind them
"I have to go home sometime so you'd better go get that blood test," he told Hubby.  The next day we saw the doctor for the blood test.  "I have to go home sometime so you'd better go get that license," Lou reminded Hubby.  The next day we got the license.  "I have to go home soon so you'd better call the church and arrange to have the pastor there," he told Hubby.  The next day Hubby called Reverend Cleaver at the church around the corner and set a day and a time.  We got married on a Thursday, had an ice cream cake with Wendy (Hubby's beloved adopted sister), and then the two men left to play pool.  Wendy took me back home.  

Five years later, I gathered all the friends from that time and told Hubby, "We're going to have a five year anniversary and you will have to stay through the entire celebration."  Lou and Pearly came.  Wendy and her mom came.  Assorted friends arrived.  We served a lovely buffet and took pictures and laughed and told stories on each other and two hours in, Lou and Hubby left to play pool. 

5th anniversary, Lou & Hubby had gone to play pool with the men; Pearlie is under the mountain picture; Wendy next to her, and I'm in front of the old TV
Lou and Pearlie and the boys would often meet us in Houston when we were visiting Wendy.  We swam together in the Gulf of Mexico.  We pigged out on fresh seafood.  Lou and Hubby challenged two punks harassing them at the Gulf Service Station.  Then Lou lost his oldest son, something we were never allowed to talk about with him.  More than ten years later, Pearlie died suddenly.  

Eventually Lou remarried, a woman we met only briefly, but she seemed lovely.  On our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary we held a benefit concert and Lou flew up to sing with Hubby for the last time.  I cornered him and explained, that since a reception followed the concert I really needed Hubby to stay for the entire thing -- and Lou said, "leave it to me" -- and Hubby got through the concert, the reception, and the dinner following.  THEN they left to play pool.

Lou, me, and Hubby at the reception following the 25th anniversary concert
 Hubby's aneurysm took most of his voice and the heart problems have left him with only a few notes now.  Lou continued singing his heart out and teaching in Monroe.  He had a third child, a beautiful daughter who is now around five.  The calls on Sunday morning became less, health and age kept the two men apart, but if you asked Hubby who is best friend in the world was, the answer always came back, "Lou."

In late June, Lou called one Sunday morning to tell Hubby that he had a singing gig in Italy.  He would be gone most of July.  He was so excited.  He asked about Hubby's heart, his voice, and which car Hubby was driving.  He asked about Wendy and me.  Hubby laughed with him and the two laughed together just like old times.

Lou's wife emailed us on Sunday that Lou had suffered a brain aneurysm while in Italy, much like Hubby's of 2006, but he was on life support.

On Tuesday, life support was removed and Lou died. 

No more Sunday calls.  No more jokes about new or old cars.  No more Houston visits.  No more beautiful duets -- their favorite was the "Verily" from the Seven Last Words by Dubois -- I shall always regret that I don't have a recording of them singing this wonderful duet but you can hear how others sound singing it by clicking on the links below.

We knew Lou's faults, we knew his talents, we knew his appetite for life.  We knew that he understood what true friendship was all about and in every way he proved he was a deep and giving friend.  

Our sunshine was been dimmed and our lives are diminished. We shall never forget and our stories of our times together will always be a part of our family's history.  It will never be goodbye . . . only until we meet again. 

Links to hear Lou:

A Glimpse of IDE's Mr. Nabors

I Got Plenty of Nothing

Go Down Moses

This is not Lou and Hubby -- make the bass a lot more bass and the tenor fuller:  Verily -- duet by DuBois

Monroe News obit

Friday, July 26, 2013

So Bad

Hubby's been having a really bad 48 hours.

First, he drove the boys to the park for a little "pee and poop" before we left for an evening out.  He got out of the pink Lincoln (211,000 miles on it I noted yesterday) and put the car in neutral instead of park.  As he was standing with Luie's leash in his hand, he realized the car was rolling backward.  Because Hubby really doesn't walk anymore, he had merely exited the car and left the driver's car door open.  You can guess what happened to the door as it rolled down a slight hill -- not very far actually and the car itself wasn't damaged.  Just the car door -- so it won't open or completely close.  This means the interior lights remain on and you can't get in from the driver's side.

Second, he came home, washed up, changed clothes and we headed out in the Lincoln to have dinner with our friend, Lou, at Houlihan's on Shawnee Mission Parkway.  Lou's wife couldn't come so we decided it would be nice to treat Lou to dinner.  Hubby had meatloaf but since it was Thursday night, Lou and I opted for the petit steak which we could get with $3.00 lobster tails.  It was a yummy meal which Hubby and I finished off with strawberry shortcake and Lou had himself a new type of beer which was also on special for half price.  Then the bill came.  Hubby had forgotten to change his wallet from his dirty shorts into his clean pair.  He was penniless.  I ended up paying the bill.

Next we drove up a couple of blocks to the beautiful Old Mission Methodist Church where we were attending our first concert of the season with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra.  Because Hubby has been feeling better we opted for season tickets this year.  Hubby, forced to slide across the entire car to get out on the passenger side, let me out in front of the church.  I gave him his ticket while I went in and claimed our seats.  At the church the seating is not reserved and I knew Hubby needed an aisle seat near the back so I wanted to stake our position early.  Eventually Hubby showed up but in the meantime he had lost his ticket.  He claimed he simply pointed at me and growled, "that's my wife" and the ticket taker let him in.

Banged up car, no money, and lost ticket all within the span of six hours.

This morning, Hubby rose early and took the Lincoln over to his mechanic friends.  They hammered on the door and got it closed.  Then they decided they should have actually opened it so they could see if they could find a used door as a replacement and they hammered it back open. Once again the interior lights do not go off.

This took until 2 p.m.  but eventually Hubby came home, door still broken, to take me to the grocery for the fruit he craves with every meal.  We ran out of fresh melon on Wednesday but I made do yesterday since we were eating dinner out last night. I gathered the dogs, got them in the car, Hubby went to turn the key to start the engine and the ignition broke (now I'm not sure it was the ignition -- but it was the spot where you put the key in the hole and turn).  Now, as well as the door not opening, the car wouldn't turn off.

We were very low on gas so Hubby dropped me at the store where I loaded up on fruit and veggies and he and the boys went off to put a couple of gallons in the tank.  He took us back at the house and drove off to re-meet the mechanics at his trusty garage.  It was three more hours before I saw him again, dragging and dropping and cussing a blue streak.

"The entire steering column will have to be removed on that *&***^%% car." he moaned as he limped to the bed. "G**d** door and now the g**d*** steering column!  I hate the g**d** car!"

I brought him his salad, a couple of hunks of cantaloupe, his salad dressing, and some water.  Hubby is trying valiantly to diet but he can't eat lettuce (or any green leafy veg due to the coumadin blood thinner).  We make salads from cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, boiled eggs, a bit of cheese, some beets, and lots of onions.  Then he dives in on fresh melon.  He put his salad on the nightstand and dug in with his fork -- and turned the entire salad upside down of the floor.

One look at his face told me he had reached his physical and mental limit for the day.  "Go away.  Just leave it to me.  Get up and leave this room and go away," I told him.  And he did.

I gathered a new bowl, the soup ladle, and a heap of paper towels and rescued what I could.  The dogs licked up a lot of grated cheese and egg.  I added some new fresh veggies from the frig and brought him a new salad, a bottle of ice cold water, and found him sitting hunched over in the computer chair, looking morose.

"I'm really tired," he said softy.  Then reaching out he took his new salad and dug in.  

One can only hope that tomorrow his life will improve immeasurably. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bits and Bobs

It's pretty obvious when I'm feeling depressed; I simply have nothing to say.  I've noticed that this is true on the blog, during the water aerobics class, or around the house.  I don't write and I don't talk. My aerobics participants keep asking me if I'm feeling okay because I'm not smiling and being a cheerleader -- my normal function in the class.  I respond I feel fine and I do; I just don't have anything pertinent to say and it's takes too much energy to smile and carry on a cheery conversation.  The GP has prescribed serotonin and I've been taking it faithfully for a week and I think I'm beginning to feel a bit more upbeat.  It's not that I'm sad, really, it's that I'm just disengaged.

 Meanwhile, I'm vegging in the house.  Except for making sure Hubby gets at least one decent meal a day (EVERY day, oh my lord! I'm sick of cooking -- Hubby won't eat just a cold cut sandwich which I'd be perfectly fine doing right now in this heat), I'm sinking into my books.  The TV only goes on when Hubby's home.  The DVR is now over 50% full -- which means I've got over 100 shows taped.  I've been through five books just this week -- found a lovely series by Anne George about two crazy old Southern sisters that I have loved and was very disappointed to learn that George died in 2001 (explaining why her Kindle books were so cheap on Amazon).  Then I downloaded the new mystery by J. K. Rowling -- and I love it.  Marion Chesney (the author also known as M. C. Beaton) wrote on Facebook that she was really pissed that Rowling had written a mystery now -- like there weren't enough mysteries out there -- but then apologized when she delved into the book and discovered it was wonderful.  So of course, I had to have it, too -- and Chesney was right, the book is good.   I've been reading enough so I have to recharge both Kindles and the Samsung every day.

Gussie has been sick and really scared the pee-waddin' out of me last Friday.  He vomited all over the bed and then, when I moved him to the floor for the next bout, besides vomiting, he had runny diarrhea.  What a mess to clean up.  Even worse, though, were the sad eyes and the pitiful moans.  We had to carry him outside to pee (and vomit some more).  Then he would just lay on the floor and give these sad whimpers and pant.  I lay beside him, rubbed and cajoled and he just looked sadder and sadder.  We talked with the vet, we made an emergency appointment for the next day, and I worried all through the night.  Gus wouldn't get on the bed (after all, he'd already covered it in vomit) so I'd get up every hour or so and lay beside him and croon to him.  He looked so pathetic that I began to worry that maybe this was it for him, but by morning he was ready to go out on his own and sniff the yard, by noon he began noshing out of Luie's food bowl, and by evening he consumed his own plate of boiled rice and hamburger and was quite the chipper little lad.

Hubby has been going to see ENT (ear, nose, throat) doctors -- he now has two.  One handles his sleep problems, the other is working to get the phlegm out of his throat.  Why we need two I'm not sure.  The initial doctor didn't seem concerned about the phlegm, just worried that Hubby has severe sleep apnea.  So we got a second consult and this doctor is concerned because he believes Hubby has suffered from severe acid reflux for years and this has caused the problem with his singing voice. This doctor has increased the prescription count considerably.  I've lost track of just how many pills Hubby is now required to take each morning and each evening. Add in the two cardiologists and the nurse specialist, the orthopedist, and the GP and we see one doctor at least once every week for something or other.  Next up Hubby wants to improve his hearing and we have to meet with the eye doctor.

The AC went out on the pink Lincoln and Hubby has been suffering without it.  Six or seven years ago he had heat stroke and since then, heat has bothered him terrifically.  The AC can be fixed as soon as the old parts can be found and the wiring replaced (I'm not sure of the technical details) so the car needs to be kept by the mechanic for a couple of days.  This means we will soon be driving around in the older gray Lincoln which has enough problems that I don't feel safe with it.  Thankfully, during this current heat wave, the house has been blessedly cool and the central AC continues to run just fine (knock wood).

The old gray Lincoln seven years ago
 On Monday I toddled up to Fantastic Sam's and got a perm and hair buzz cut.  This always helps lighten and improve my disposition. 

I've been going to water aerobics but Hubby has demurred since the center decided to refurbish the men's dressing rooms and closed them off to the public.  He could use the men's bathroom but, I guess any excuse not to get wet in a pool, is acceptable.  

We've had two evenings without electricity.  Storms didn't knock us off the grid but something went haywire with KCP&L.  One night we were without power for over three hours but the Kindles had already been charged for the day, so I wasn't much concerned.   I did begin to wonder if dinner that night was going to be pints of softened ice cream but then the power was restored and the Haagen dazs was still solid, so we ate melon and tuna fish instead.

That's the news from our neck of the woods.  We keep plugging along, singing a song, side by side.  

Monday, July 08, 2013

Just a few memorable words . . .

While discussing our enjoyment of the latest movie we attended, The Lone Ranger, Hubby and I threw out some of our favorite movie quotes:

Gone with the Wind:  Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Casablanca:  Play it again, Sam

Wizard of Oz:  I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

Star Trek:  Beam me up, Scotty (which I heard on The Big Bang Theory was never actually uttered in the movie).

Sherlock Holmes:  It's elementary, my dear Watson.

Oliver Twist:  Please, sir, I want some more.

James Bond, Dr. No:  Bond.  James Bond.

Apollo 13:  Houston, we have a problem.

Dirty Dancing:  Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

Network:  I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore.

The Lone Ranger:  Hi ho Silver! Away! (and in the new movie, Tonto tells the Lone Ranger to NEVER say that again!)

So what are your favorite movie lines? 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

A Quiet but Meaningful 4th of July Celebration

Gus and Luie wish everyone a wonderful Fourth of July -- but hope the fireworks stay out of their neighborhood.