“We’ll have an old fashioned wedding”

"We'll have an old fashioned wedding"

“We’ll have an old fashioned wedding”


Somewhere in my apartment is a CD box set of Fred Astaire movies. Most are with Ginger Rogers, of course, but I’m pretty sure You Were Never Lovelier with Rita Hayworth is part of the set. I don’t remember which songs are in which of those movies—and I have no head for remembering lyrics wherever they are from. However, I remember “I’m old fashioned, I love the moonlight” from You Were Never Lovelier because the lead-in dialogue includes Fred saying to Rita, “I’m a plain, ordinary guy from Omaha, Nebraska.” He says “Nebraska” with an accent he didn’t learn in the first six years of his life (in Omaha). His odd pronunciation is beside the point, except it’s one reason I remember the song.

I think that set of CDs is here somewhere, but a couple of weeks ago I got the urge to watch You Were Never Lovelier and couldn’t find it. That was for the better because I hate watching movies on my old TV set –and I steadfastly refuse to watch movies on my laptop. The TV is enormous—a 29-incher—and old fashioned, not flat-screen or digital or plasma.  Its worst attribute is that it is not “shoebox” shape, and it cuts images off on both sides of the screen.

My late partner and I bought the TV about 15 years ago when old fashioned TVs were dirt cheap, and a flat-screen anywhere near that size would have cost too much not to seem obscenely self-indulgent.  Now the flat-screens are as cheap as the old fashioned ones were then. We intended to replace the monster when the prices of flat-screen came down. But he died 10 years ago, and I’ve never had any thought of spending that kind of money on myself.

For most of the time since he died, I have not cared. Shoebox shape didn’t matter for watching “Antiques Roadshow” or reruns of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” or “Criminal Minds.” And once in a while “Masterpiece Theater.”  Any show with a continuing story line that needed watching regularly was frankly impossible. For years I would not have remembered what night a show was on even if I had decided to keep up with it. I have basic dish network, provided as part of my rent, and can’t see spending money on TV. (Remember the old Tom Lehrer song with the line, “Now there’s a charge for what she used to give for free in my home town?”)

My urge to watch You Were Never Lovelier originated with my reading about New Jersey’s fight over same-sex marriage (two weeks ago Governor Christie was still planning to sue to keep them from happening). For some reason I had a vision of the governor standing in court singing, “We’ll have an old fashioned wedding” from Annie Get Your Gun. You know, “We’ll have an old fashioned wedding Blessed in the good old fashioned way.”  Old fashioned weddings are definitely two-sex affairs.

An ordinary boy from Omaha Nee-braska

An ordinary boy from Omaha Nee-braska

From “old fashioned wedding” to “I’m old fashioned, I love the moonlight” was a simple mental step and then to You Were Never Lovelier (I did have to look up the name of the movie even though I remembered the song).  I like Ella Fitzgerald’s singing “I’m old fashioned” better than Hayworth’s version. I don’t suppose Ella ever danced while she sang.

That I remember a song simply because in the dialogue leading to it someone says he’s from Omaha, Nee-braska, seems at this moment absurd.

I’m old fashioned.

That has nothing to do with loving the moonlight or wanting a wedding. I had an old fashioned wedding once—yes, in a church with bridesmaids and everything. I even have pictures, but they’d be harder find here than You Were Never Lovelier. I think there are fewer and fewer old fashioned weddings.

Or perhaps gays and lesbian weddings are bringing old fashioned back. I don’t know. I’ve been to only one, and it wasn’t very old fashioned.

But there’s a whole lot of me that, were I to marry, would want an old fashioned wedding. It wouldn’t matter that I’d be marrying a man. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to get or be married. But old fashioned sounds good to me.

I’m not going to make a list of the old fashioned things I’d like to see, but can you imagine John Boehner inviting President Obama to come to his Congressional district and help him plant a tree?

The fact is I never saw Astaire and Hayworth or Rogers movies until I was older than 50, except for the odd late-night TV showing here and there. I had never really paid attention to them. I first took Ella Fitzgerald seriously when a fellow graduate student was writing his dissertation on her in the 70s. Even then I didn’t pay close attention to her music until 1990 (I was 45) when Red, Hot and Blue, an album of Cole Porter songs by various performers, was released to raise money for AIDS research. That led to my buying one of Ella’s Cole Porter albums.

Cole Porter never sounded so wonderful

Cole Porter never sounded so wonderful

I have to remind myself of the convoluted details of my discovery of music (and much else) that I love. One’s understanding of “culture” doesn’t simply happen. It takes effort. I never thought, “Now I’m going to set out to understand something I didn’t understand before.” Or did I? A great part of my being old-fashioned is not simply longing for the way things used to be. More importantly, it’s longing to understand some of what has made me who I am. Before it’s too late.

And that’s not Katy Perry or The Hunger Games.

The old man and his organ.

If anyone breathes a word of this to anyone, I will deny it until the day I die. But I love my organ. Sometimes in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, I get up and play with my organ. I’ve even been known to play with my organ naked. My organ isn’t very big as organs go. But it’s big enough for my pleasure. I can do many different things with my organ. I do kinky things with it—things it was never intended to do. My cats love my organ, too. They like to jump up and sit on it. And two of them crowd around me when I’m playing with my organ. They like to watch, and sometimes they even get between my hands and my organ. When I am alone, I almost always play with my organ barefooted. I hardly ever let anyone see my organ. My inamorato gets to see it every time he comes to my house.

My organ.

My organ.

If you’re still reading, you must know I’m talking about the pipe organ in my living room. And yes, I do kinky things on it. I play whatever I want. I’m old enough not to give a fig what anyone thinks—even my dear friend Steuart Goodwin who built it over forty years ago. He doesn’t like my choice of music some times.  It’s been in my living room for only about seven years. That’s a long story I’ll tell someday.

The organ is a mechanical action instrument—the clacking noise you hear is the sound of the wooden “trackers” (thin slats of wood attached to the keys that pull down the valves under the pipes to open them). Nothing electric or electronic here except the wind blower. It certainly is not designed to play Cole Porter.

But, as I said, I play whatever I damned well please, and I don’t particularly care how it sounds or who thinks ill of me. It’s my organ, and I’ll play what I want to, so to speak.

So now I’ve made all the junior high school moronic jokes there are to be made about my organ. I got started writing this because I just played one of my favorite songs and realized that nearly every serious musician I know would be offended by it. Well, go ahead and be offended. Or not. I am one of the luckiest people I know. I have this lovely instrument at my disposal day and night. If I want to play Bach, I can. But usually what I want to play is some old song that warms my heart—or at least touches it in some corner of nostalgia that nothing else can reach. I play for myself and don’t care about such niceties as perfection or “authentic performance practice!” So if you want to listen, I’d be delighted, but remember, it’s my party and I’ll play how I want to.