Sunday, March 27, 2005

Of all of the wacky neighbors in all of the sitcoms in all of television...

This morning as I ironed my shirt, I thought, as I always do, of Howard Borden, alone in his apartment, ironing and singing "As Time Goes By" in an episode of The Bob Newhart Show. If there were a Wacky Neighbor Hall of Fame, surely Bill Daily would be elected in his first year of eligibility. Everything about him was funny on that show -- the way he talked, the way he walked, the odd little hand movements -- everything. He wasn't bad on I Dream Of Jeannie, either, even with all of those lousy scripts.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Making snowmen at Grandpa & Grandma's house

Click photo for more.

Visions of Johanna

The Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Time Out" has been in my car's CD player for so long that Thomas calls "Blue Rondo a la Turk" his favorite song. Finally, one of our kids or one of their cousins wanted to hear something else. I happened to have Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" handy, so I popped that in. Thinking they might be amused by hearing Johanna's name in a song, I played "Visions of Johanna." Amused they were, especially Johanna herself. "'Johanna is not here!'" she said, laughing. "That's silly!"

Now, Tami may tell you a different story, but Johanna is named after that song. Before she was born, we had endless conversations about names. As we didn't know if we were having a girl or boy, these discussions were doubly long, and most of them went like this:

Tami: How about x?

Joseph: I don't like it.

Tami: Why?

Joseph: I don't know why, I just don't like it.

Tami: OK, how about y?

Joseph: I don't like it.

And so on.

But one day, she said "How about Johanna?"

My mind raced. I said to myself "We can name our daughter after a Bob Dylan song! Poker face! Poker face!"

Not just any Bob Dylan song, either. This one has it all. In 1966 Dylan was at the absolute height of his powers as a songwriter, singer, and bandleader. "Visions of Johanna" is about 7 1/2 minutes of opaque lyrics, backed by a killer band with all of that mid-1960s Dylan tasty goodness: Al Kooper's organ, Dylan's harmonica, etc. And the singing is fantastic, with seemingly bizarre choices working like magic. As usual, he follows the melody only when it suits him, and for some reason, he appears to sing the first couple of lines of each verse jumping up and down an octave. Why? I don't know, but it works.

So I suspect I didn't really manage a poker face as I replied "Uh... yeah, that's OK. I kinda like it. I guess. Yes. Good name. Put that on the short list."

We eventually settled on the name Johanna. After she was born, my friend Pat let the cat out of the bag. His emailed response to the birth announcement quoted the line "Jewels and binoculars" in the subject line. By that time, it was too late for Tami to back out. I had my living, breathing, beautiful Bob Dylan reference.

One day I'll tell you about Frank Sinatra's second wife, Ava Gardner...