Ruth Ann Dailey: Ring in the spring with a thing called love

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The crossing guard opened the coffee shop door so two young students could enter. Clearly in a hurry, she called to the barista, "Italian sodas for both these girls -- I'll pay when I'm done out here!"

And she jogged the few steps back to her post at the busy intersection of Federal Street and North Avenue.

It was Friday afternoon. I was early -- spring miracle! -- for a meeting with the organizers of the Deutschtown Music Festival. Our North Side community group had just gotten the go-ahead to launch a "Second Saturdays" artists market in the Allegheny Commons to build on the music festival's success. We had planning to do, decisions to make.

Every table was full, schoolkids were streaming by outside, and across the street a worker in a hard hat was trying to hammer something on a small front-loader back into alignment. Not even the quickening rain could dampen the warm buzz of community that rose in the room.

And the next day, Earth Day, many of the same people would be -- were -- out in the sunshine, picking up trash, cutting back perennials and pruning shrubs. Spring brings spring cleaning, a fresh start and hope. Why not clean up column leftovers, too?

I confessed recently that I don't mind paying my Carnegie Library property tax since I more than get my money's worth out of our great local system. I always forget how many grateful librarians and activists I'm going to hear from -- who also tend to be people who want to add to my reading list.

First, my mini-reviews: After Richard Ford's "Canada," which was bewilderingly unsatisfying, Michelle Huneven's "Blame" was a home run -- one of the best novels I've read in the past decade -- and "The Dinner," by Herman Koch, will probably wind up in that same select group.

"The Irresistible Henry House" by Lisa Grunwald is not quite so fine as those, but still curiously insightful and a very good read. Thanks for the suggestions -- they'll last through 2015.

Many readers are as fed up with local taxi service and as open to free-market alternatives as I am.

So you were probably disheartened but not surprised to read that Pennsylvania's politburo-worthy government has just cracked down on Lyft and Uber, the city's two new ride-share alternatives.

Since both companies have applications pending with the Public Utility Commission, this was just opportunistic money-making by the PUC -- urged on by the crappy taxi companies we've had for years.

This is what happens when Big Business teams up with Big Government to keep out competition.

A recent column on Joshua Bell's violin-in-the-subway experiment brought some great exchanges, none more satisfying than an ongoing conversation with a 60-year-old man who has never listened to classical music before. He asked for listening recommendations for the novice.

What a gift his question was. It was so delightful to remember spectacular moments of music while compiling a list of favorites and a plan:

Start with our accessible Americans -- anything by Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland and George Gershwin. Sprinkle generously with solo piano music, especially Chopin and Debussy. Move on to the great Romantic concertos -- any and all of them -- then immerse yourself in the matchless symphonies of Beethoven and Mahler.

There was more, but this gentleman -- a slam-dunk for Reader of the Year -- actually took my advice and went to his local library to borrow some recordings!

That's awesome, but a point I missed the first time around is this: Once we start looking and listening for it, we find transcendence all around us. It's not just in museums and concert halls.

One of the greatest moments of living art I've ever witnessed was the Super Bowl halftime show right after 9/11. U2 played as the names of America's dead scrolled up a screen into the night sky. Bono paced and chanted part of a psalm before launching into "Where the Streets Have No Name."

When the band reached the lyric "Love, love, love," he shouted "America!" and opened his jacket to reveal a Stars-and-Stripes lining.

It was electrifying. It was the finale of the Mahler "Resurrection Symphony" with Manfred Honeck at the helm. It was singing the Beethoven Ninth in Carnegie Hall my freshman year for Antal Dorati's 75th birthday.

It was listening last week to my daughter's college chorus perform Bach's "St. John Passion." It will be Siberian irises in May and more Mahler in June. It is joy. Happy spring.


Ruth Ann Dailey: ruthanndailey@hotmail.com

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