with six you get eggroll

31 07 2006

With our temperatures hitting 100 degrees F this week, the thought of turning on the oven, standing at the stove, or even standing outside to BBQ is scary! So, we did what any American suburban family might do to survive without a cooking flame last night – call for Chinese delivery! For Pete’s evening meal, the usual – fist-fulls of Cheerios, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, and a banana. Emma won’t yet eat anything from other continents, but the idea of eating with chopsticks really fascinates her.

chopstick partsTo allow her to participate in the ‘cultural event’ of eating Chinese food, I took these six pieces of household ‘stuff’ (rubber bands, chopsticks, glue and a clothes pin) and fashioned a pair of chopsticks that even a seven-year-old could use. She used it to pick up carrot sticks and pieces of sandwich. She loved using them so much that she asked to use them again tonight – on her turkey sandwich!

eating with chopsticks


riddle me this…

30 07 2006

What’s pink, green, orange, black & white?

in dad's shirt

Emma, wearing Nemo slippers and my green t-shirt as a nightgown.
(didn’t take long for the toothpaste stains to appear!)

seven o’clock – yay!

29 07 2006

Here’s one that might leave you scratching your head when you’re done reading.

When the day starts to wind down, and our 3-year-old son Peter has put us through the parenting mill from 6 am to 7 pm, we have been known to exclaim “Seven O’Clock – YAY!”. It has become a ritual at the Mankin house. Kathy, 7-year-old Emma and I will have a contest to see who can say “Seven O’Clock – YAY!” on the exact strike of the grandfather’s clock. Peter, who does not yet speak, has even taking to imitate the “Seven O’Clock – YAY!” phrase. He doesn’t get too many consonants in place, but the vocal inflections and vowel sounds are unmistakable. We all snicker about the fact that he is proclaiming his glee for his bedtime without knowing it.

7 o'clockThis evening, we ate a later dinner than usual, and Peter, who had nibbled before the rest of us ate was in the adjacent room watching a kid’s TV show while the rest of us ate our evening meal. He turned away from the TV, looked in our direction, as if studying something, and loudly stated “eh-eh o’ahh – YAY!” Yes, it was the now familiar “Seven O’Clock – YAY!”, but just as he said it for the second time, the grandfather clock chimed 7 times.

You don’t think that he actually… he couldn’t have… is it possible?

i’ll take the 7th, thank you

27 07 2006

WSO Tour 1998
Some memories stay with you, allowing you to drift into comforting memories as the chaotic reality swirls around endlessly. Everyone waits impatiently for their guaranteed 15 minutes of fame in their lifetime. I have performed thousands of concerts for many thousands of people – in gymnasiums, school auditoriums, and Carnegie Hall. This already puts me in a category that most people will never realize. I have been lucky in this way for my entire life. I have been a professional musician since age 15.

In 1998, I was hired to play principal oboe for a concert tour of Germany & Austria with the Washington Symphony. The American musicians would travel for a month overseas, combining with musicians of the Zlin Philharmonic and the Czech Symphony Orchestra.

oboe section
Bulgarian oboist Ilian Velinov, Russian oboist Igor & your’s truly
3 amigos One particular evening’s events will stay with me forever. It was in the medieval town of Villingen – in the Black Forrest. Our modern hotel was directly across the ‘street’ (no vehicles allowed) from the concert hall. The hall was originally a 14th century cathedral. Breathtaking to enter, let alone perform there. The program included Dvorak’s 7th symphony – a work with exposed and poignant woodwind solo passages. The concert itself was memorable in its ancient surroundings, but the truly chilling memory was yet to come that evening. I prefer to eat after performing, versus before. I have better breath capacity without the weight of a meal adding to the internal mix. My two other fellow musicians whom I spent nearly every second of that month with – clarinetists Wendi Hatton & David Pohl agreed to meet in the lobby after we changed out of our concert attire & walk the streets to find a late post-concert dinner. As luck would have it, there was a restaurant next to the hotel that was still serving dinner. We walked in, and waited to be seated. As the hostess lead us through the already-seated diners toward our table, it was obvious that we were being watched – by everyone. Are we dressed inappropriately for a late-night meal in Bavaria? Is it obvious that we were ‘outsiders’? Suddenly, the restaurant burst into spontaneous applause – for us! The restaurant, situated across from the concert hall, was filled with the evening performace’s audience! They recognized us and continued their enthusiastic applause they had begun in the hall earlier in the evening.

I doubt this would ever occur on this side of the Atlantic anymore. Europeans still honor the beauty & tradition of the classical era. Every small city on their continent has a symphony orchestra and an opera company. Every seat is filled for performances – by young and old alike.

Dvorak’s 9th symphony is nicknamed “The New World Symphony”. That night, his 7th symphony was “The Old World Symphony”.

I’ll take the 7th, thank you.

[in memory of David Pohl, fellow musician, tour roommate and friend – I miss you, Dave]

it’s magic, i tell you

25 07 2006

There are those coincidences in everyone’s life that really leave you stunned. My mother once ran into a Trenton, N.J. neighbor once – on line to visit the top of the Eiffel Tower. We all have our stranger-than-truth stories. Here’s one of mine:

While growing up in Lakewood, New Jersey, I had a friend named Harry Maurer. Harry (known as Ricky back then) discovered his niche while very young – Harry wanted to be a magician. While barely a teenager, he dazzled his friends & classmates. He worked local parties and events. Any money he earned doing his magic act was returned to his craft to upgrade & move into more sophisticated and impressive illusions. Our High School marching band featured Harry’s magic out on the field. His renown was impressive for a teenage performer.

I am a few years older than Harry, so I went off to college while he remained in high school. In college, there was a flautist named Jill – Jill Maurer. Jill is an older sister of Harry’s that I had never met. Strange coincidence, huh?

After I graduated from college, I moved to Washington, D.C. to be a member of the United States Navy Band. Every now and again, the different premier bands of the various branches of service got the chance to play together. For Bill Clinton’s Inauguration, I performed with members of the U.S. Coast Guard Band who travelled from Connecticut to play the event. In that group sat Jill Maurer – sister of Harry Maurer. Strange coincidence, huh?

Years later, my mother’s health had deteriorated and she needed to live in a convalescent center. I travelled to N.J. as often as possible to spend time with her. On one visit, while pushing my mother through the hall in her wheelchair, I passed some familiar faces – they were members of the Maurer family. Harry’s father was ill, and was living in the same nursing home.

Inspired by all the chance meetings of Jill and other Maurer family members, I searched out Harry on the internet. We corresponded a few times via email, and had hoped to get see each other at an upcoming Atlantic City performance of his, but it never happened.

In 2003, I took my family on a rare vacation – we took a cruise on the Norwegian Dawn, from New York to Florida, the Bahamas and back to New York. When returning to our cabin after a visit to the on-board gym, Kathy met me at the elevator. Excitedly, she said “I have a big surprise for you… LOOK!” She handed me the ship’s daily calendar, and there, listed as the evening’s headline performer – HARRY MAURER. After 23 years, we actually met – in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Strange coincidence, huh?

We had a great reunion, getting caught up on each other’s lives, and meeting each other’s spouses and (my) kids. I even got to be an audience selectee to come up on stage during a performance to witness an illusion up close – just as I had when we were kids in his house.

Harry has “made it” , just as we all knew he would. He displayed the talent, drive & charisma at an early age. He performs around the world to critical acclaim.

Our accidental reunion was 3 years ago – Harry has his life and busy schedule, and I have mine. Last night, my computer announced the arrival of an email. It’s from Harry. He had received an email from a service he once subscribed to, describing imaginative and unique business ideas. That service was provided, unknown to Harry, by my sister-in-law, Mary Gillen of Learn One Thing. I just happened to have authored an article for her newsletter this week and Harry stumbled on it. Strange coincidence, huh?

Our next meeting may not, however, be quite so accidental. I may try to book a family vacation with the intention of seeing Harry (by design) this next time, instead of allowing chance to rule. It just couldn’t happen again… could it?

Harry, Emma and Dave

Harry Maurer, Emma and Dave
Norwegian Dawn – 2003


bye-bye bottles

24 07 2006

bye-bye bottlesToday was a big day for my son, Peter. We have have been looking forward to the day when he would give up using bottles and start drinking from a ‘sippy cup’. Oh, we have tried this before, but he let us know in a persistent and loud way that he was not yet ready. This time, it worked! He has been bottle-free for 2 days now. He did it ‘cold turkey’, too!


legendary possessions

23 07 2006

Aaron BallFor now, the man who hit more Major League career home runs than any other is Henry Aaron. I remember seeing Hank Aaron play at Shea Stadium in New York. He was the complete ball player – masterful at the plate and in the field.

Any baseball fan who attends a game hopes he/she will be lucky enough to catch a foul ball or, even better, a home-run ball. I have attended dozens of games, but have never left with a souvenir ball. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a great treasure from the National Pastime – I just haven’t caught one… YET! One day, while on a concert tour of the south-eastern states, I found a small baseball card shop in a rural Georgia town. The friendly proprietor had some autographed baseballs – one of them was a Hank Aaron ball. I purchased it for a very reasonable price, and have proudly had it on display in my various homes since that day. It represents a part of history.

ToscaniniIn the classical music world, one name is often mentioned as being the greatest conductor of all time – Arturo Toscanini. This Italian maestro held posts as conductor of the La Scala Opera House in Milan, the New York Philharmonic and the NBC Symphony Orchestra late in his life. Maestro Toscanini died before I was born, so I never saw or heard him conduct, but historic recordings and videos exist and offer a glimpse of his genius, even if they are all in monochrome & low-fidelity form.

I do, however, have a strong anecdotal link to Toscanini through my mentor, Mr. Brenner. Toscanini hired Brenner in 1930 to play oboe in the New York Philharmonic. Brenner relayed many stories of rehearsal tirades and performance triumphs. In 1932, Toscanini presented Mr. Brenner the baton which he used in that evening’s performance. I inherited this legendary piece of classical music history, and have it displayed proudly in my home too.

Toscanini's Baton - full

Baton - closeup

Two pieces of history – of an era gone by. I look at them often; proud and lucky to own them both.