Tales of 14-Songs-in-14-Days: The Amazing Technicolor Picnic

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by Jan Seides
Friday 25th May, 2012, 10:36am

I’m about to get on another plane, this time to Michigan, so I thought I’d tell one more story from the first 14-days challenge.

It was my last day in New York City, and also, the last day of the challenge. I had planned to come up with something (anything) this evening, as my last entry into my collection, hoping that I would have an idea by that time.  When I awoke that morning, my daughter, Raina, informed me that we were going to have a picnic in Prospect Park  in Brooklyn with some of her friends.


I had never been to Prospect Park. To be honest, when I lived in New York City, I only left Manhattan once after I moved there.  I didn’t even go to other boroughs. Afraid I’d miss something, I guess. I can’t take naps either, for the same reason.  Someone convinced me one time to take a trip to Upstate New York.  I thought it was very beautiful with its rolling hills and trees, and all the quaint little towns.  But I never did it again.  The first time I really saw the countryside around New York City was when I was leaving it.


I was, however, a frequent visitor to Central Park, since I lived a block from it on West 68thStreet. About a third of my time was spent in Sheep Meadow, sitting in a circle with my friends, for no particular reason.

Sheep Meadow

Prospect Park turned out to be really beautiful, even larger than Central Park, and with some features that Central Park didn’t have, including an Olympic-size-or-maybe-beyond swimming pool. After a short ride on the subway train (much cleaner now than when I lived there) Raina and I walked up the road into the park to meet her friends.  The road was wide and lined with trees. All around us was greenery, bird song, the rumble of stroller wheels on the pavement and the shouts of children racing through the walkers. I wondered how she was going to find her friends in this melee. Finding a dozen people on a blanket in all this?

Then Raina took my arm and directed me up on to a wide lawn.  Before us were about 60 or so people, on about a dozen blankets, brightly-colored quilts, and beach towels.  Small children ran around them, along with about 5 small dogs, looking like 5 animated mops, some white, some brindle.  Someone had set up her iPod with speakers, so there was music playing. I recognized a few of them as being people I’d met with Raina, either in her apartment, or out at the various restaurants she’d taken me to.  Some had come to my shows, and greeted me enthusiastically.

Prospect Park

We visited for awhile, here and there amongst the blankets  and found some food to nibble on, and then I sat down. Listening to the conversation, I began to notice something remarkable about the group of people. Despite the fact that there were so many of them, they were asking after each other’s children and dogs, by name, and were clearly up-to-date on each other’s doings. Questions about those who were missing (?!) from this group of friends were immediately answered with statements like: “She had a dentist appointment today.” Or “Her family is in town.”, or “He woke up with the flu this morning.” All the information was up-to-the-minute.  “How do they know all this?”, I wondered.

The answer came to me while I was writing the last song. It’s Facebook! Long ago, when I lived here, I had two large-ish groups of friends. One group was the people I spent all those hours on Sheep Meadow with. The other was the musicians I knew from working at the Gaslight Coffee House in Greenwich Village. I longed to get those two groups of people together, because I knew they would enjoy one another, but somehow, it just never happened.

Raina’s friends, however, had expanded their circle to include each other’s friends from other places, and so they all knew each other, each other’s life stories, current goings-on, children’s escapades. They had followed each other’s romances and even each other’s pregnancies. I know there are problems with Facebook, but this realization astonished and delighted me.

I listened to several people trade guacamole recipes. They all sounded delicious. The first time I made guacamole, it was in New York, and I had no idea what to put in it other than avocados and tomatoes.  Somewhere I’d read that to keep the avocadoes from turning brown, you had to add lemon juice, so I threw in a teaspoon of lemon juice.  The result was that one of my friends, who was from Texas, told me that he usually didn’t like guacamole (How is that even possible?), but he liked mine. I was so proud!

Then one of the women told the people around her that she was a character in her cousin’s new book.  The book, oddly, was about being part of a prince’s harem in Saudi Arabia. Apparently, it’s a job you can apply for, with qualifications similar to those of a super-model. The cousin qualified, became part of the harem, and then wrote about her experiences, which seemed rather tame, compared to my imagination.  She just had to hang on the prince’s arm at social functions. He had plenty of women in his vicinity for other activities, so members of the harem were never likely to be asked to share his bed.

We stayed in Prospect Park visiting until dusk, and then walked back to the subway, and rode back home. Five of the picnic-goers came back with us and we all made dinner. I said something about having to excuse myself to think of an idea for the last song, and one woman, I think her name was Christine, said “Why don’t you write about the picnic?”

So I did. But I changed the harem thing. That was a little too weird

Circle Of Friends








Category: Music, This ‘n’ That, Uncategorized

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May 2012

Sunday 27th, 9:17pm

by Jan Seides

Got this on my email today/js

Good Morning Jan,
I woke up to an email from you concerning your 4th song of the 14/14 challenge and was quite taken back. First by the easy link to your web site, second by your communication skills in explaining the story behind "Circle of Friends" and third by the song itself. It was interesting as a fellow songwriter that you gave us a melody with enough repetition to sound familiar but not really the kind of melody one would sing along with. That made me focus on the story even more than the mucic. But, where I found "gold" in your melodic treatment was the fact that it left me hungry for the complete story. How you came up with all that psyco-audio interplay, plus the story in one day is amazing. But then, I already knew you were amazing so I can't be too surprised.

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