Pretty Ballerina

And when I see the sign that points one way

I didn’t know there was a real Renee.

I’ve been trying to finish this book, it’s a real chore. It’s called “Bel Canto” and don’t e-mail me your review, because I know it will contain the ending and spoil it for me. Then again, you know these people who always have to blurt out the ending, as if it’s a badge of honor, that they read the damn book or saw the movie… Everybody’s insecure, everybody’s trying to climb the ladder, everybody’s trying to show you they’re better than you are until they aren’t. Then again, some of the most successful people on the planet have no airs and never reveal their accomplishments. Happens all the time, you’re in the room with a famous rock star, and they introduce themselves with their complete name, both first and last, what are you supposed to say, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE?!! And when you reach a certain age, you stop boasting. There’s nothing worse than a baby boomer telling you how much he has, where he’s been, what he’s done, didn’t he get the memo, didn’t he ever grow up, everybody’s on their own trip, and none of us are better than any other and it all doesn’t matter. I know, I know, you don’t want to believe this, but hopefully you’ll realize this someday, if you ever grow up.

And “Bel Canto” is what broke Ann Patchett, made her career. I read one of the follow-up books, “Commonwealth,” and it didn’t really go anywhere, it didn’t have an arc, now I’m wondering if it’s just not that book, but the writer herself, who is venerated because she opened a bookshop.

I don’t know if you saw that article in the NYT the other day how they’re running out of printing inventory, how they can’t print enough books for the holidays. I have contempt for the book business, because those who run it are holier-than-thou, think they’re better than us. But they haven’t been disrupted because there’s just not enough money in it. But it’s gonna happen, because disruption never sleeps. Through the luck of the court system the publishing industry got pricing power over e-books, that’s what killed ’em, when they were the same price as the hardcover. It’s like saying Uber costs as much as driving a car, that’s why most people haven’t switched, haven’t given up their automobiles, but when it becomes cheaper… But these are the same people saying on demand, self-driving vehicles will never arrive. These are the same people who can’t see the humor in Teslas farting. That’s right, Elon Musk sent the software overnight and announced it on Twitter, your car can now fart. Funny for a car that makes no noise.

But older people abhor the future. America hates change. Businesses must last forever. But they don’t.

So my eyes are glazing over as I’m reading “Bel Canto.” And that’s when I pick up my phone.

That’s what every entertainment option is competing against, the mobile handset, right there on a slab is info tailored just for me, and today there was a link to:

“These People Are The Inspirations Behind Some of the Most Beautiful Songs Ever Written”


That’s when you know a site is low rent, when at the bottom of the page it includes garbage links hosted by other sites. A real publication will have links to its own site, a page that is only in it for the money will carry this dreck that they just hope you click on, so they can get paid.

And it’s always some story with a picture and…

Frequently, that picture never shows up as you click through fifteen slides or so.

But it’s worse, you’ve got to figure out where to click, so you don’t end up at some other site whose ad was embedded in this garbage site to begin with.

And a tsunami of cookies descends as you click through the slides. You’re giving away your identity, your privacy, as you click through. So, if you’ve got to hit the link above, copy and paste it into a private web page. Then again, does anybody know how to do this? Kids do, parents don’t. The internet is a self-learning curve, your entry fee is your device and your access fee, after that, the potholes are everywhere, it is not safe, it’s like walking alone in the Tenderloin…

Well, the Tenderloin is improving, but you get the point.

But the reason I clicked through is because the lead picture was of Axl Rose and…it didn’t look like Erin Everly to me, who did he write “Sweet Child O’ Mine” for?

And for some reason I’m less worried about the cookie influx on my iPhone, figuring I can wipe out all the cookies at once, or maybe I’ve just given up, throwing my privacy to the wind.

So I’m clicking through, and stunningly it is Erin Everly and I already knew that, it’s like a test, you know this stuff but it’s deep in your memory banks and then, on slide 19, I was avoiding “Bel Canto,” I tell you, appeared the headline:

“Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke

Some songs are bigger in the afterlife than they were as hits. When “Walk Away Renee” climbed the chart, never to the top, it was just a piece of what once was, just another hit song when we were all addicted and so many cuts were great.

And then came the covers. By everyone from the Four Tops to Rickie Lee Jones.

It turns out “Walk Away Renee” is part of the national fabric, embedded in boomers’ minds, Gen-X’ers too, but I don’t think those of millennials. So many songs are gonna be lost.

Proven by the point that the drone creating this page doesn’t even know that the pic is not of Renee, but Rickie Lee Jones. And, if you’re on a desktop computer, you can scroll down to #19, you don’t have to click through, and you will find that “Walk Away Renee” was written about Renne Fladen-Kamm.

Hmm… I immediately went to Google. Renne has a Wikipedia page, but I had to click on Images to see a picture.

Turns out she was a band member’s girlfriend, and Michael Brown, nee Michael Lookofsky, had a crush on her.

Are all great songs based on real people?

I guess that’s why we rockers avoided Nashville. We wanted songs channeled straight from the hearts of the writers/performers. We wanted honesty, we wanted truth. Back before the days of artifice, with corporate rock and blockbuster films like “Jaws,” when music was personal and intimate and if it resonated, it lit up your whole life.

But “Walk Away Renee” was not the Left Banke’s only hit.

There were two more, but one sounded very similar, “Pretty Ballerina.”

It was released just about now back in ’66. And it turns out Brown wrote this too about Renne Fladen-Kamm, talk about a fixation!

Then again, this is typical of guys. Girls talk about romance, guys keep it inside, but if you can open them up, they always talk about the one who got away, oftentimes one who they never had a thing with, like Renne.

I had a date with a pretty ballerina

They tell me kids don’t date anymore, that they go out in groups, hook up, but it used to be you had to get up your gumption, keep that inner mounting flame of hope lit, and while praying that you wouldn’t get rejected, ask.

And it was always days before, you went out on Saturday night, so if she said yes you had days to ponder your luck, your good feeling.

And sometimes the date wasn’t as good as expected, once you two were alone, you found out you didn’t like her, you didn’t click, then other times…

You were in love. Even if she wasn’t.

I called her yesterday, it should have been tomorrow
I could not keep this joy that was inside

She’s all you can think about, you’re thinking she feels the same way as you. But that’s not always true.

I beg for her to tell me if she really loved me
Somewhere a mountain is moving
Afraid it’s moving without me

You lie on your bed, too devastated to play a record, infused with the hurt, you want to die.

And when I wake on that dreary Sunday morning
I open up my eyes to find there’s rain
And something strange within says go ahead and find her
Just close your eyes, yeah, just close your eyes
And she’ll be there
She’ll be there
She’ll be there

Even though you were rejected, you cannot get over her.

Sometimes you never even talked to her and you cannot get over her.

So it’s after dark on Christmas, a meaningless day for Jews, and I go to Spotify and play “Pretty Ballerina” on Spotify.

I didn’t even bother with headphones. The music came out of the tiny iPhone speakers and I suddenly felt warm, alone but happy, knowing this is the essence, why music is the hottest medium, why it means so much to me, when it clicks, it makes me feel like I belong when I don’t.

Pretty Ballerina

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