Monday, July 11, 2011

Family Heirloom

In 1924, my grandfather, being a proud Italian citizen, begins
his military service. It is between the wars, and so his duties
keep him out of harm's way. The commander of his regiment is Lt.
Victor Emmanuel II, son of the reigning King of Italy. On a routine
day of tank manoeuvres, the Lt. is sitting atop the steel beast
directing the helmsman which way to steer.

Unfortunately, the driver, being ill-equipped to handle this
behemoth machine, takes a sudden right turn and the Prince tumbles
to the ground in the path of the tank's continuous tracks. Grandfather's
instincts overtook his cerebral, and in fear for the Prince's life
of being crushed, bolts in to rescue him. After thrusting him out
of the tank's trajectory with such intensely, he now feared having
injured the heir.

As they slowly stand and dust themselves off, the Prince turns and
embraces my grandfather, while whispering out of any bystander's range,


He is taken away to the infirmary and not seen for some time.

Several days pass and my grandfather receives an emissary from
King Victor Emmanuel I. He hands my grandfather a box with a note
which carried the royal crest emblazoned on it. The king was thanking
my grandfather for having saved his son's life, and to accept this
little token of his gratitude. My grandfather opens the box and
it's a Patek Philippe watch.

Since 1844, Antoine Norbert de Patek and Jean-Adrien Philippe
created the first timepieces with stem winding and hands setting
mechanism. In the mid-1920s' it creates its first wristwatch with
split-seconds chronographs and perpetual calendar. A first among
Swiss manufacturers and the watch is a thing of beauty, which has
ever since, been associated with the rich, newly minted
industrialists and of course European royalty.

On my 18th birthday, he tells me this story and hands me this
watch and says, "Today you're on the cusp of manhood. Here is the
beacon which will guide you on your journey."

He says as he hands it to me, still the original box, and continues. . .

"Keep it safe, which is why I wanted you to know the history it
carries with it."

I opened the box, and there was this classic piece of exceptional
craftsmanship, a silver Patek Philippe.

"It's a beautiful piece?"

It had a black ostrich leather strap, very large numbers, with an
old world style fonts. The second hand moved with perfect synchronicity.
It was sleek, classic and when you had it on, you felt like royalty.

"It's absolutely beautiful Grandpa. I shall cherish it forever."

After the passing of my grandfather, the watch has been kept in the
safety-box at the bank. I don’t know its worth - should probably get
it appraised.

One day, in the distant future, on my brother's son's twenty fifth
birthday or when he graduates from university, I will sit him down and
after telling him the story of the man he never met, pass on the watch.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Diana Krall Cast a Spell. . . . .‏

Diana Krall invited her audience into the living room of her
childhood home in Nanaimo, B.C. and, alone at the grand piano
with only her dad's gramophone as a prop for company, played
the music she loved as a girl.

It was an intimate show Sunday night at Théâtre Maisonneuve,
as Krall put a sold-out hall at ease with standards and surprised
with some not-so-standards of the Great American Songbook.

Opening with Peel Me a Grape, she soon launched into a medley
of Fats Waller tunes, stamping her black stiletto heels as she
pounded away at the keyboard, boogie-woogie style, tossing her
blond curls to the rhythm.

Form-fitting, sleeveless black dress aside, it was a far cry
from that old Chrysler ad and The Look of Love, more a return to
the roots of Krall's 1995 fest debut when she proved her love for
Nat King Cole.

In between songs, she talked fondly of learning her chops from
Jimmy Rowles and jamming in Oscar Peterson's basement, recalled
how she was a disaster on third clarinet in her high-school band,
and reminisced about listening to jazz on her father's reel-to-reel
tape player and 78-rpm records.
If the audience didn't always get her jazz references, Krall
forgave them. "Thanks for listening to songs you might not have
heard before", she said after introducing something by Bix
Beiderbecke and getting no response.

No matter. Whether it was a familiar tune like Don't Fence Me
In or an unfamiliar one like the vintage ode to dope, Reefer Song
(loved that one), Krall's performance – her first full-length
solo concert ever – pulled the crowd into her world.

She closed her 15-song, 80-minute uninterrupted set with a
lovely but obscure 1938 movie tune called As Long As I Love and
came back for a three-song encore playing a ukulele. Why? Because
her childhood hero, Groucho Marx, played one.
She and her husband, Elvis Costello play the instrument in
bed, she explained, before softly strumming All I Do Is Dream
of You and encouraging her fans to sing along. Few knew the

Then it was back to the piano for Krall's own Departure Bay
and, as an adieu, a Prairie Lullaby for her twin boys, Dexter
and Frank. Sweet dreams, all.

* From Where I Sit! *
June 26, 2011