In my humble opinion

Thanks for the memories

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 1/19/22

Indeed. While Jonathan Charles Fox is away, enjoy this column from five years ago this month, reminding us about events past and reassuring us that someday soon, when the snow melts and the pandemic …

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In my humble opinion

Thanks for the memories

Posted

Indeed. While Jonathan Charles Fox is away, enjoy this column from five years ago this month, reminding us about events past and reassuring us that someday soon, when the snow melts and the pandemic retreats a bit, we’ll listen to live music again.

Memories are funny. With time, they can shape-shift and fade, but often they are instantly brought back to life by seeing an object I haven’t thought about in years, by a whiff in the air of a once-familiar scent, or in hearing the strains of a long-forgotten tune. Such was the case over the last few days, and as I sit at my desk typing away, some of what I observed over the last week still haunts me as I stare out the window, awaiting the iceman (aka the impending storm) who has yet to cometh.

When the invitation to attend singer Kathy Geary’s “Cloud Cover” tribute to ‘70s icon Joni Mitchell arrived, I hesitated. “Joni Mitchell?” I thought, as distant memories flooded my feeble brain. “Not my cup of tea.” Geary, on the other hand, is—and I recalled our first meeting years ago. The classically trained opera singer (www.kathygeary.com) is quite well known both here and internationally for her contributions to the music world.

We met following a performance in the Event Gallery at Bethel Woods. Naturally, she was smitten with the dog, and we struck up a friendship based on her keen interest in Dharma, who adores opera—I kid you not. “Are you bringing the dog?” Kathy asked when I told her I would attend. “Of course,” I responded, “but I’d like a seat, too.”

Joni Mitchell (born Roberta Joan Anderson) has had a long, storied career and soared to fame in the late 1960s with songs like “Chelsea Morning” and “Both Sides Now.” My sister was a big fan in the ‘70s, and as a result I heard a lot of Joni in the house, albeit by default. Even though many of Mitchell’s tunes (“Big Yellow Taxi,” “Woodstock”) were enormous hits, I wasn’t a huge fan, but found myself wondering whether the intervening years had clouded my judgment. Beginning the evening with a fantastic meal in the beautiful new supper club (https://www.westerncallicoon.com) was keen, and I did my best to keep an open mind as I joined the others upstairs in the ballroom, admiring the architecture and proprietor Irene Nikolai’s attention to detail as she continues to bring the Western back to life, resplendent in all its glory.

Geary is well known in the region for her WJFF radio show “Now & Then,” dedicated to “the music of legendary singer-songwriters,” so it was no surprise to find her sharing interesting anecdotes about Mitchell’s life, her influences and partners. “This song [“Sunny Sunday”] is about depression” Geary shared. “I think you’ll like it,” she said looking (I swear!) directly at me. Covering some of Joni’s songs that I had once tuned out, her performance gave me more insight into the artist’s range and Geary’s ability to convey the lyrics that had hitherto escaped me were welcome. Although she is well known for her social commentary as well as her atonal vocals, I found myself still confused about Mitchell’s immense popularity since many of the “open-tuned” guitar and piano compositions still escape me. Never quite sure if the “melody” is flat or sharp, I was reminded that it’s on purpose (and still not my cup of tea), but my high opinion of Geary’s talents remains intact. That said, I might have to stick to catching her performing Verdi at the Tusten which is (believe it or not) easier for me to comprehend.

I found myself strolling down Memory Lane the very next day when, back in Callicoon, I popped in to say farewell to “Trash Queen” Kathy Reiser, who is bidding a fond farewell to Sullivan County after almost 40 years. “It’s been one hell of a run,” Kathy said when I stepped over the threshold of her Main Street store for the last time, “and I want to thank the community at large for supporting my varied endeavors over all of these years.”

Kathy, who has long been the “go-to” gal for cleaning out properties that no one else would touch, is also widely known for her 15-year run (“Out Loud and Queer”) on WJFF radio. Her shop filled with vintage collectibles reflects her unique ability to separate trash from treasure, which she will continue to do in Florida. “Oh, I’m going back to work after the move” she said. “But I’ll be warmer. And good luck finding someone else to do the dirty work. It ain’t easy.”

“No question about that,” I concurred “But you will be missed for so much more, Kathy. You’re one of a kind,” I said, giving her a hug. “Thanks for the memories.”

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