Wolfgang & Rémy

24 01 2010

This week, the 254th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart occurs. I recently played on an all-Mozart concert.  We performed some choral works, the well-known Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and a piano concerto.  Not required to be on stage for the Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, I was able to sit, watch and listen from the wings.  Although this piece is extremely familiar, I found myself listening intently to the work, analyzing the harmonic progressions, and revisiting the occasional (and brilliant) asymmetry.  What a remarkable piece.  What a remarkable composer.

Grapes grow on vines.  Some of the best grapes are nurtured and grown for wine production.  There are bad wines, there are good wines, and there are excellent wines.  They change and age with time.  A nice table wine can be found on any table in Italy to accompany any dinner.  It is simply “right” for its purpose.  A fine wine… refined further becomes cognac.  It becomes more intense, multidimensional and therefore takes on a different “purpose”.  There are bad cognacs, good cognacs, and the precious few that are extraordinary.

Sound is everywhere.  Organized sound can be categorized as music.  There is bad music, there is good music, and there is great music.  Then there is the music of Mozart… refined further.  It does not change or improve with age.  It was born of brilliance, and remains so for the ages.  We change in the way we hear, analyze, ponder and enjoy Mozart’s music.

No one can define your favorite wine but you.  No one can establish a best cognac for you to enjoy but you.  This week, I hope to enjoy Mozart and Rémy Martin.

Happy Birthday, Herr Mozart.

it’s all about you (or so i was told)

24 11 2009

Peter is doing well in first grade.  He is beginning to read now.  Before school this morning, he read some words in a very familiar book.  I was suspect that he was simply reciting the words by rote, so I grabbed a piece of junk mail – from our local outlet mall, Potomac Mills.   I pointed to the phrase on the bottom of the pamphlet.  Peter, without hesitation read “It’s all about you!”

Yep – he’s reading, all right!

pepsi, ketchup & swapping flags

5 11 2009

Mel_MankinMy father passed away when I was just two years old.  Melvin Mankin was only 29 when he died.  Mom & her two sons carried on without him.  Mom remarried years later, and my brother Phil came along after that.  We had occasional contact with the Mankin side of the family, but they were all in Brooklyn, New York, and we were at the New Jersey shore town of Lakewood.  I knew of my cousin Barbara, and that I had some aunts and an Uncle on the Mankin side, but I rarely saw them, and never really knew who was who on my father’s side.

At one point in my youth, I asked my mother the Mankin’s country of origin.  I no-polandknew my mother’s family came to Ellis Island from Lithuania.  She told me that the Mankins were Polish.  Honestly, it was so long ago, I’m not sure if she professed to know for sure, or that she merely assumed their Polish heritage, but she definitely told me that I was half Polish.

A few months ago, I received a voice message from Meryl Turco.  Merly is my cousin –a 1st cousin on my father’s side!  She is my Aunt Marion’s daughter.  I called her back and we spoke for over an hour.  I had made the presumption that there was no one on the planet who knew my father and could tell me about him.  I have so many unanswered questions regarding my dad.  Suddenly, I had a resource!  She is more than a dozen years older than me, and remembers my father vividly.  He much preferred Pepsi over Coke – me too.  He was a ketchup fiend – me too.  He loved to tinker with things – me too.

RomaniaFlagA few months had passed, and I received a phone call from my cousin Barbara – my Aunt Ruth’s daughter.   She was putting together a Mankin cousins reunion.  This reunion was held this past weekend, and my family and I drove to New Jersey to meet and spend time with newly rediscovered family.  I know so much more about the Mankins now.  Here’s one – we are NOT Polish.  We are Romanian!  My great-grandmother, Rebecca Goldstein, came to the US from Bucharest in 1888.

My kids have the last name of Mankin.  We now have some stories to share with them about their heritage.  Romania – I think I’ll go listen to some Enesco.  I just may hear something I’ve never heard before.

a mountain climbed in but a year

19 08 2009

nurse-holding-hypodermic-needle-postersWe took both kids to the doctor’s office today.  It was time for their annual well visit.  We have had the same pediatrician for all of Peter’s years, and most of Emma’s,  She is terrific, and we count ourselves as fortunate to be under her expert care.  Her keen senses lead to identifying & addressing Peter’s PDD-NOS issues extremely early.  She sees Peter once a year, unless he is sick.  We have been very healthy for a few years now, so she rarely sees Emma and Peter.

Emma’s visit was routine – zero issues.  Maturely handled by our 10 year old.

In previous years, Peter either screamed endlessly, or sat unwillingly and mute.  Weighing Peter has been a physician’s assistant’s nightmare.  Measuring his height had to be an estimated value, since he would not hold still for an instant. Taking his temperature traditionally took one parent to apply a full-body lock on him while the other tried to calm him verbally.  The doctor had to work quickly & stealthily as to not let Peter know he was actually being examined.

Today’s appointment (6 year old Peter) went like this:

  • Checked in and sat in the waiting room – quietly.
  • We were led to an examination room, where body temperature was measured with an ear thermometer.  Peter sat still and did not flinch.
  • Blood pressure was read with a traditional squeeze-bulb sphygmomanometer and stethoscope. Peter sat still and did not flinch.
  • Peter stood perfectly still on the scale so an accurate weight measurement was possible.
  • Peter stood still against the measuring stick, allowing for (likely) his 1st accurate height measurement ever.
  • Peter replied appropriately when his hearing test was performed.
  • For his vision test, Peter stood still and read the letters back to the Physician’s Assistant.  He covered the appropriate eye when asked.
  • The doctor asked Peter questions.  He answered in clear, plain English.  When instructed to take a big breath, he did so.

Our doctor was (I believe) a bit taken back at how dramatically he has progressed in the past 12 months.  She was clearly impressed.  We were as well.

After the doctor finished, she indicated to Kathy & me that both kids would need one shot each.  Uh-oh – this could be the end of what was (so far) an amazing well visit.  Emma is a pro by now, and knows that the worst part of any injection is worrying & bracing for it.  They are over in one second.  Bang – done.  How to handle Peter…

Dad: “Peter, you were great at the doctor’s office today.  We’re so proud of you.  There’s one more fast thing, though.  You need to get a quick pinch on your arm before we go.  It’s really fast.  Do you want the slow one or the really fast one?”

Peter: “Fast one, dad.”

The nurse entered the room with the pre-loaded hypodermic.

Dad: “Peter, tell the nurse which you want – the slow one or the really fast one.”

Peter: “The fast one.”

Dad: “OK then – If you’re a big boy for your arm pinch – no crying – we’ll go to Starbucks for a scone.  OK?”

Peter: “OK”

sconeBang – Done


highway phonics

10 08 2009

All kids learn to read at their own pace.  There’s probably no way to speed or slow down the process.  Like potty training, they do it when they’re ready.  Period.

gti_logoI remember the day that we realized Emma could read.  We were stopped at a red light.  Emma said over & over, “Ge-Tie”.  It took a few minutes, but we realized we were right behind a Volkswagen GTI.

Today, we were pulling out of our parking space at the grocery store.  Peter pointed ahead and told us to JeepLogolook at the Jeep.  Jeep, huh?  We don’t know anyone who owns a Jeep.  We have no Jeep toys. There are no Jeep advertisements on TV that he may have seen.  There was, however, a huge Jeep logo on the rear-mounted spare tire.  JEEP.  I asked him who we know with a Jeep.  He said. “No one”.  I asked him how he knew it was a Jeep.  He told me,  “It said Jeep, Dad”.

I’m looking out for a Maserati now!


espresso – probably not what you thought

5 08 2009

I had an ill-conceived notion for years that ‘espresso beans’ were dark & oily (and nasty), and that espresso was a black, sludgy loose  puddle of nastiness that one drank because it made them appear more ‘Continental‘.

Wrong, wrong & wrong!

Espresso is a coffee grind (extremely fine, but not as fine as a Turkish grind) and a method of production which requires precise heat & pressure.  One can make great espresso with a light, medium, dark, oily or non-oily batch of roasted coffee, but your beans better be SUPER fresh if you want it to be good.  Fresh means roasted less than 2 weeks ago.  Period.  Don’t think that bag of expensive coffee beans you buy at Starbucks is fresh… it likely is not, but you sure paid a lot for it!  Find a local coffee house that roasts.  The difference truly fresh coffee makes in the cup is astounding.  Try it once – you’ll never go back.

Here is an excellent double shot of espresso that I made this morning.  The coffee was roasted 5 days ago, and was roasted dark, but not at all oily.  The texture is not thin… not even close.  It is rather like warm honey as it pours.  Intense, but not bitter.  A truly delightful way to start my day.

pulling ‘spro

23 07 2009

Here’s a time-lapse of a sweet 30 second espresso shot pulled on my Bunn ES-1A.  3 days post roasting – Burundi coffee. Delightful!