Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back in the Day...

...when I was just a 10 or 11 year old kid, West Side Story BURST into my life...and I knew racism. At its finest.

(BTW, 50 years, a half century, have past, in case you didn't notice?)

Among people who were the same...of related families.

Stephen Sondheim made us notice it, in his lyrics. And Maestro Leonard Bernstein made the message even more important, through the music.

A sample:

All people, of whatever color, are called 'racist' these days. It's an EASY word to say...and then feel good about, isn't it? Until the time comes that YOU are called 'racist', for what you think is no apparent those of your own particular color.

That is when people tend to become non-citizens, especially when someone who thinks they have 'power' is the name-caller.

To that person (you know precisely who you are) I say:

You are nothing to me, and perhaps not much in the mind of the you have chosen darkness over light.

May you someday soon fall on your knees, and ask forgiveness for the awful things you have done.

Remember when, way back when...

...gang members and thugs were 'choreographed' to the music of Leonard Bernstein?

I had a five-or-so-minute conversation with the Maestro, when he was accompanied by my local Maestro, Lukas Foss, who was then conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Maestro Bernstein was resplendent: European blazer, white silk scarf, glass of Scotch and cigarette--in the main studio of the Milwaukee Ballet Company, at S. 5th and National Avenue, where they still reside.

I was not speechless.

I told him I had known his works from a point when I was quite young...and here I was, almost forty. Thankfully, he took my conversation as a compliment.

He went on to finance and produce an 'unproducable work', as it was then known, by calling a few friends (and perhaps Oliver Smith?) in New York.

In my estimation, Leonard Bernstein, for all his shortfalls, was the 20th century equivalent to the 15th's Leonardo.

I thank you, Maestro Bernstein, for all you contributed to the United States of America--of which the Obamas have not a scintilla of an idea!

Oh, don't you wish the Obamas would just break into some sort of 'song and dance'--for REAL?