Is April the kindest, or the cruelest month? The party line affirms the first: it’s the time of rebirth when saucer magnolias pop their tragic blooms, crocuses and tulips sprout, warm weather hints and Easter descends, toting tales of resurrection.
I’m not feeling it, which makes me wonder if I ever have. Chocolate bunnies excepted, I feel only the slog of a season dangling its prospects of summer as traces of winter linger. Broadway producers indulge their mad rush to the Tony Award deadline with shows that aren’t worth the price of a two-for, let alone the hundred-plus now being asked for premium theater seats. All of us have too many taxes to pay; I buckle under the weight of allergy symptoms medical specialists swear I don’t have. My introduction to the freelance world, a patchwork of jobs that range from adjunct teaching and figure modeling to voice-overs that augment a fast-expiring unemployment check, confers more exhaustion than hope. Twenty-four years ago my father died in this month; even now I’m haunted more by the tragedy of never having felt close to him than the actual ache of missing him. His was also a world ruled by work and money woes (how could it not, burdened with the care of 10 children?). He was a good man, or strived to be, but the connection eluded us; his insistence on respect above all else meant a childhood spent fearing him more than loving him, a fact that leaves me playing the what-if game, a pointless expenditure of regret.
Recent departures color this faux spring. Dick Clark, that staple of dance-party Saturdays (American Bandstand) who later grew into a producing force (the Golden Globes, etc.) and a kind of Father Time who reigned over New Year’s Eve, died. So did Jonathan Frid (as Barnabas Collins, the star of TV’s Dark Shadows—as a film remake looms, the poor guy must be rolling in his grave.) and Greg Ham, the flutist who supplied such infectious (and litigious, in the case of that pick hit, “Down Under) runs for the 80s pop group Men at Work.
No argument: Levon Helm was a rock legend, both as a member of The Band, and later on his own as a singer/songwriter and actor (that was him as Loretta Lynn’s father in the film Coal Miner’s Daughter). But radio DJ Pete Fornatale looms larger in my mind—when I moved to NYC, WNEW-FM served me my first revelation. He shook me out of my Motown/Stax rut by flooding the airwaves with the Clash, Suzanne Vega, the Pretenders and a ton of other cats who’ve made my life richer (or at least more fun). Viva Two for Tuesdays!
In a few days April will be history. Harold Arlen comes to mind:
Merry Month of May, sunny skies of blue
Clouds have rolled away and the sun peeps through,
May express happiness.
The barefoot months can’t come soon enough.