All-time favorite greeting card from my high school days:
“Time is long
And art is fleeting…
Happy Birthday to you
Speaking of “art is fleeting,” yesterday Maggie, my Yalie* granddaughter and I had a splendid excursion in San Francisco. More of which soon. Presently I want to talk about time. And art.
Art is even more fleeting than love.
Coming home, Maggie drove, set her iPhone to Spotify, played music that didn’t impress me.
Along about Woodside I said, “Could you ask Spotify to play Henri Salvador?” Maggie did so, and on came swoony music from the summer I was nineteen and danced evenings away on boats harbored in San Michele di Pagana.
In a bit we stopped in Los Gatos so I could take the wheel and tackle horrendous Highway 17, familiar to me, unfamiliar to her.
As I stuck a leg out of the car starting to change places, Maggie said, “Nice boots.”
“Thanks,” says I. “Joan Baez has the same boots.”**
“You’re kidding. Don’t tell me. You don’t know who Joan Baez is?”
That hit me as though my flesh and blood had never heard of The Star Spangled Banner.
The rest of the way home, graceful Maggie set Spotify to play Joan Baez, giving me enormous pleasure—her, too.
“She’s fantastic, Grandma!”
“You noticed.” I shouldn’t have been tart.
Brings to mind a daffy moment once in an elevator when my mother was a tad tippled, she looked down at a darling pair of small black children and chortled, “I’m going to have dinner with Groucho Marx!” The kids just stared up at her, mute. Parents took their children’s hands, wanting to secure them against the crazy old lady. My mother exited the elevator huffily. I smiled at the parents, said, “Good night. Sorry.”
Until he told them who they were, the bright young things who come to read to Bill had never heard of Clark Gable. Bette Davis. Fred Astaire. About killed my husband.
This morning I asked Maggie which artist she thinks is the match for Joan Baez.
I asked my son, born in 1957, whose music he loved in his twenties.
David named Elvis Costello, whom I’d heard of. “And The Clash.”
“Who?” says I.
Maggie burst out, “Grandma, you never heard of The Clash?!”
I just asked Spotify to play Phoebe Bridgers, was amazed to see she has over six million listeners every month. Listened to “Motion Sickness.” She sounds like every other pleasant young woman singer I hear on NPR.
Yes, well, when Maggie’s in her eighties and asks her granddaughter what she thinks of Phoebe Bridgers, I wish I could be around to hear the answer.
P.S. Senior Moment:
Lying in bed thinking about all this, I had a rush of memory and said the greeting to myself…the card read
“Art is long
And time is fleeting…”
Of course! The phrase is ars longa est. “Art is long.”
As a matter of fact, at this point in my life, everything is long.
And for sure time is fleeting.
My mixing up art and time is funny. But it’s also true.
*Studying at Yale for her Master’s in Environmental Management.
**Ms. Baez and I are grateful for the same Peninsula cobbler.