What inspired the Moonlight Sonata? -Outlook Pasadena

At the party, the conversation soon turned—as so often does—to the degradation of the human spirit that we see so often these days.
Some blamed Congress. Some blamed Elon Musk. Some blamed the lack of quality public education.
I blamed the food.
It is so rare that we sit down to a lovingly prepared meal. There’s so much takeout these days, and while I appreciate the convenience of Door Dash and Uber Eats, I have to admit I miss buttered carrots. Or flaky buns from the oven. Or how the gravy flowed just a little bit into your mom’s mashed potatoes.
There was something divine about it all. It tasted faintly of Leviticus.
My son Smartacus recently remarked that when we pursue happiness, we are chasing after many of the joys we had as children.
As a matter of fact. An American childhood is still a ride on a magic carpet.
I also see many young adults refusing to grow up. Who can blame them—all that credit card debt…maternity bills…tuition…car insurance? Ewww, adulthood. It’s not always funny.
By the time you’re 22, you’re just a company’s data point.
True story: When I was a kid, there was a time when drivers would leave the key in the ignition when rushing into a store. There they dangled like jewelry in car after car in front of Grebe’s Hardware on the outskirts of Chicago.
Nobody stole anything back then. My mother often left her purse on the car seat while she was racing the dog to the vet.
At the end of the 60s everything changed. If you left the keys in the ignition, someone would steal your Chevy. I blame the hippies, especially my high school buddies Cliff and Jan, who smoked a lot of dirty weed and, oddly enough for the time, listened to Nina Simone way too much.
Then came ignition locks and screeching car alarms. Nowadays, thieves only take the catalytic converter from your car. Or smash a window and grab your laptop with no consequences.
strange times strange people. I still blame the food.
For your information, my reading room is a small tavern with a flickering fireplace in the corner. The bourbon is backlit and so am I.
Watch the guy in the corner loosen his tie after each sip. Admire how the woman at the end of the bar pretends not to watch the men.
Honestly, taverns are sociology classes. It’s a great place to repair a damaged ID card.
The other night, over my second beer, I thought: what inspired me to write Moonlight Sonata? Where did Monet go to relax? Were the Beatles even better than Beethoven? Will we ever hear music like this again?
Where has the art essentially gone? Or romance? Or the stuff that – like big emotional throw pillows – dampened the human psyche?
“The Boomers really knew how to write,” remarked a guy named Mike (mid-40s) at this party the other day. “No one can write anymore.”
Here’s the solution: I’m hosting a weekend retreat. I smoke a nice brisket and bring some tough cabs with me. Suzanne will toss the salad. Smartacus will conjure up the BBQ sauce.
The guest list includes: Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elton John, Jimmy Webb and (of course) Bob Dylan.
Your task: Another great song.
To write something to each other, we can sing in the shower. Writing the kind of song where you wait two minutes for it to finish when it’s not over when you pull into the driveway.
A ballad or a jingle… a love song or a march. Would it rustle like old denim? Would Joni Mitchell sing it like a long, liquid sigh?
Simon would make up for McCartney’s tenderness. Dylan’s word images would marry with Webb’s. Elton would break a glass.
Last but not least, it would be a master class in creativity. We would fix some damaged ID cards.
Look, I know modern life can be lousy sometimes. To quote Mel Brooks, “I hate all the things I don’t like.”
But why sacrifice beauty?
Last Friday we visited an art museum in LA just for fun, just to get off the couch and away from Netflix. The work at MOCA was interesting, but all sharp-edged and very unattractive.
That’s how I see pop culture these days – all edge, no beauty.
Watch the Oscars this weekend. As the show winds into its 15th hour, are you wondering how much beauty you’ve seen? Which film themes moved you? Was there ever a great kiss?
And where are the dangling little emotional moments, like jewels in the ignition, that you will remember 60 years later: A joke? A grin? A Redford wink?
As the poet Howard Nemerov notes, the world is full of mostly invisible things.
The point here is to find a few.

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First published in the March 9 print editions of Outlook canyon Sun, Pasadena Outlook and San Marino Tribune.