Monday, August 3, 2015

First Monday with Characters

Edited by
Morris Dean

James Knudsen, from the 4th row
Among my many, hidden treasures – some hidden so well that I can’t find them, is a collection of old concert T-shirts from the 1980’s. As a teen-ager I made several trips to Fresno’s Selland Arena to see the headliners of the day; Cheap Trick, Van Halen, and The Scorpions were some of the acts I was lucky enough to see. And if my budget allowed, I would purchase a T-shirt that I would proudly wear to school the next day, and it would declare, “Yeah, I was there!”
    A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for one of those shirts. I didn’t find it. I had to wear something else to The SAP Center in San Jose to see Rush. I’m fairly certain that – San Jose’s being in the heart of Silicon Valley, Mecca to IT geeks everywhere, where seeing Rush, the hard-rock gods of IT geeks since long before the invention of the term IT, was the thing for IT geeks to do – I was the only male in the crowd to have failed high school algebra and the only one who didn’t know what SAP stands for. I looked at their website and I still don’t know. Out of place once again.
    And out of place for other reasons as well. Rock ’n roll is a young person’s game. I still enjoy the genre. I still play it at unhealthy decibel levels when I’m alone in my car (I didn’t add a sub-woofer for nothing), but the evening of July 23, 2015 made it clear that I won’t be attending anymore arena-sized rock concerts. And, if the rumors swirling around Rush prove true neither will they.
    As the resident Neanderthal on the Moristotle& Co. editorial staff, I should explain who Rush is...are. Rush is a Canadian rock trio that first came to notice in the United States around 1974. Just prior to embarking on their first major tour of the U.S., they replaced their original drummer, John Rutsey, with Neil Peart, and the line-up, with Alex Lifeson on guitar and Geddy Lee handling bass, bass pedals, keyboards, and vocals has remained the same ever since.
    They have traditionally been lumped in the progressive or “prog-rock” category for much of their career. This allowed the critics to trash them at every turn and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to keep them out for what seemed like an eternity until the howls of protest finally grew too loud. I never thought of them as progressive rock, just really smart hard rock. Commercially they enjoyed their greatest success from the late ’70’s to the mid-’80’s, and it was during this period that I first saw them perform.
    Standing on the floor of Selland Arena, in the area we called “cram row,” I saw them on their “Moving Pictures” tour. I was near the stage on Alex’s side of the stage. He was young, I was younger. And while he was only feet away, the world he lived in was unimaginable to my young mind. Rush was embarking on massive tours each year in support of their latest album. That year, 1981, they played 85 shows from February to July.
    This year’s tour is R40. Forty years they’ve been playing together. It began on May 8 and wound up on Saturday, August 1. Thirty-five shows in all this time. I’m older, but they’re older still, and between Alex’s arthritis and Neil’s tendonitis, big tours are no longer possible. And I must confess that I don’t enjoy the concussive force of Neil Peart’s kick-drum hitting me in the throat, as I stand in the fourth row of the SAP Arena, nearly as much as I used to. Does anyone know what SAP means?

The view is pretty good from the fourth row
The Midyetts,
in Fremantle

After twelve or so years, we have moved back to the 'big smoke' of Fremantle, which is the port for Perth. For many years now, the area has developed so much that when you drive from one to the other now you can't tell one from the other.
    Our new place is affectionately known in Australia as a granny flat. They are usually built at the side or rear of the main home, depending on the lot shape. The idea is for the family's parents to live in it in order to be close to and supported by their family, yet independent. Our biological family does not live in the main house, but we have, over many years, become surrogate grandparents to the two kids of the family that owns it.
Driveway and the main house
    The main house has a solar hot water heater on the tile roof – mainly clay tiles are used in Australia, and solar energy is used by 3 out of 4 homes.

    The granny flat is separated by fence from the main house. This is our new, wee "city" car that runs on the smell of an oily rag and is easy to park in the carport in front of our entrance to the granny flat.
Our French door entrance
    This granny flat is one big room about 600 square feet (20' x 40'), with bed, dining area, and kitchen. Only the bathroom is separate, with a door. It has about 3-4 times the floor space of the van (20' x 8'), with a nice wooden deck going three quarters of the way around the building. On the fourth side there's a flower garden, which has been neglected but it has a lemon tree that is now laden with lemons that we'll need to juice and freeze when we get time.

    The rear has a clothes line. Yes, Aussies still prefer to dry their cloths using nature rather than use a dryer. The round tank is the gas hot water heater. Someone has made a cement splatter mess on the bricks, unfortunately. Laden lemon tree in distance.
Even the bird bath is tilting
    The small garden area has been badly neglected. I'll resurrect and improve it in time.
    Living here requires an adjustment from living in the caravan, for sure. An advantage is that when it rains we don't have to turn the volume up on the TV, because the rain isn't beating down on the metal roof of the van. But a disadvantage is that we feel less in touch with nature.
    It has astonished me how much we transferred from the van into into this larger space. How in tarnation did we store it all in there? Whew!
    Several years ago I took some pictures of the fishing boat harbor. In the first one below, near the docks where the fishing boats are tied up, is an Italian family's restaurant. The catch does not go more then 50 ft from the boat to the kitchen! The public can also buy the fresh daily catch from a very large display– filleted or whole. Some fish are even still alive and swimming in a large salt water tank, probably wondering how the ocean got so much smaller. The family's little empire is called Kailis Brothers.

    In the next one, that's Shirley standing at a bronze statue of a fisherman with his basket.
The Rogers, back home, Del-lighted!
We returned from our visit to Mississippi on July 3rd and it seems like I have been running ever since we got back.
    Our dog Del was happy to have us home, as were our lovely neighbors. The people who house-sat for us did a wonderful job and we miss having them around. They are a married couple, Pauline and Nick, from the UK. They built our garden while we were gone.

Here's a photo of me and Janie with Nick.
    Coming back, I thought that with the wet season I would be able to get back to writing, but it has not been much of a wet season so far – two good rains are all we have had in July. With the new garden, our water bill has doubled and we are not sure how much of it we will be able to keep during the dry season.
    I bought Janie a smart phone and a tablet for her birthday and have been going crazy setting them up here in Costa Rica.
Chuck Smythe,
at Trinity Alps

I recently got back from the Trinity Alps of northern California. Astonishingly, I’d never heard of them despite growing up in the Valley. It was wonderful to see BIG trees, fern forests, Tiger Lilies, and all the other furnishings of my childhood again.
Christa Saeger & Geoffrey Dean,
back from Europe

For us the beginning of July was also the end of a European adventure that had taken us first to Bulgaria, then variously to Russia, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Musical highlights included leading a course in Bulgarian music and dance, seeing Richard Strauss’s Salome at the Vienna State Opera and Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Prague at the Estates Theater, the same opera house where this work had its first performances back in 1787.
    After touching down in Chicago, we headed to Bloomington-Normal, home of the Illinois Chamber Music Festival, where we taught and performed for the next three weeks. Our chamber music collaborations among festival faculty were very rewarding, and ranged from duos to trios, quartets, and sextets (from 2 to 6 players).
    Geoffrey did the Rachmaninoff cello sonata with the Russian-American pianist Irina Katz, and Christa did the Kodaly duo with Bulgarian-American violinist Angel Valchinov.
    Together we had the pleasure of putting together Brahms’s gorgeous G Major string sextet with Angel and Michelle Elliott Lee (violins) and Lisa Nelson and Maya Abboud (violas). Lisa is also the festival’s executive director. She and artistic director Nina Gordon have created a wonderfully nurturing environment for aspiring chamber players of high school and college age.
    The festival schedule was very intense, with daily coachings and studio classes for the student chamber groups, and the facilities at Illinois Wesleyan University’s School of Music are excellent.
    Students also attended the faculty concert series, where they heard (in addition to the works and performers mentioned above) the stellar performances of other festival faculty, such as pianists Kent Cook and Geoffrey Duce (both Geoffreys were amused by the similarity of their names), flutist William West, clarinets Roger Garret and David Gresham, violinist Mihai Craioveanu, and cellist Nina Gordon.
André Duvall,
to east & west

I travelled to Greensboro, North Carolina in the middle of July to teach at the 33rd annual University of North Carolina at Greensboro Summer Music Camp. The program consists of two separate one-week camps, and I worked during Week 2. One of the largest one-week summer music camps in America, it consists of a band camp division and a piano division. The piano division accepts approximately 100 students each week, and between the two weeks, the overall attendance is more than 1,700 students. This year, we broke records with 1,856 students.
    As part of the piano faculty division, my duties included leading morning group classes on music theory and piano literature (which involved a mixture of games, lecture/presentations, and interactive discussion), teaching private lessons in the afternoon, and coordinating/coaching ensemble piano groups (duets and quintets). It is a rewarding week, and while I am quite exhausted by the end, I come away looking forward to the next semester of teaching my own students back home. It's a great chance to rekindle previous connections with other teachers, see old friends, and make new ones, all while exchanging ideas.
    In Memphis, I participated in collaborative performances as part of a summer music series in which the musicians perform four or five pieces within the context of worship services over the course of several weeks. I joined violinist Daniel Gilbert on music for violin and piano by Beethoven and Lily Boulanger, and a violin sonata by Handel. The following week, I played music by modern composers for piano, flute, and oboe trio with Shannon Clardy and Jennifer Amox from the Little Rock area. Following that, I played Celtic folk music with Jeanne Simmons on penny-whistle.
    The end of the month finds me in the Pacific Northwest for the first time. More info and photos on this trip will appear in next month’s character update.
Dawn Burke,
to California and back

Hi everyone ! My daughter and I made a big ole trip to California. I drove a total of 3,569 miles (my daughter doesn't yet have a driver's license). I've certainly never driven so many miles on a trip before - one night going, one night coming back. It was hard but I really liked doing it. The end result was getting to Oxnard, California to see my sweet Aunt Patsy (aka Antipasto) and dear cousins. We had a great time together.
    Now school is looming in the horizon so got to get ready for it soon. Hope everyone has a great rest of the summer and don't melt, the heat has been relentless here the last few days!

Daughter Dulcie attended Sonora Middle School
Sharon Stoner,
to Tulare and back

Flew to Tulare, California last month looking forward to California Mexican food and seeing good friends. Friends were terrific, but I was so disappointed in the two Mexican restaurants (in Tulare and Visalia) where I had dinner! Guacamole is NOT put in a blender with mayo. Couldn't believe a California Mexican restaurant would do that.
    Actually, I have better Mexican food in my little "hole in the wall" Mexican restaurant here in Jacksonville. Guess it's like our childhood memories. Everything seemed better and bigger as a child, then we go back to visit and everything is smaller and not quite as good as we remembered. Such is life.
With Kenzie
Kyle Garza, at house of horrors
Married life is certainly a whole lot better than engaged life. We're both enjoying taking online summer courses at home. Our house becomes a house of horrors at night though when we have to clear base boards, walls, and the ceiling of invading spiders. Our area in particular is the kind of habitat for black widows and brown recluses. We're doing what we can to keep them outside. We also recently found out that we have a skunk that lives in our backyard, and we decided to name him Pierre. He has gorgeous sheen coloring on him, and while I was at first terrified by the sight of him, I later realized that he really serves as a great home defense system. We recently bought indoor fans to combat the heat of the area in which we live (82 degrees, which to a Californian is a Texan's 101). Soon enough we'll be beginning the school year and returning to the rigors of vocationally involved married life. We're still having great fun with what little summer we have left, and we're looking forward to whatever opportunities we have in this next year to grow together as one.
Bettina Sperry, out of touch with everything except...
I told a friend last week that I'd lost touch with everything "except excavating," which phrase he said he found most intriguing. Well, that is exactly what last week was like. This past winter I was knee deep in mud along the side of the house, not meaning to forget the mud around the barn, which itself was nearly a foot thick. Vowing that I’d never go through that again, my contractor and I agreed that some landscaping around the house would be a good thing. The farm has had a not-so-useful parking lot – not so useful to a horse-owning farm girl. Having a compact tractor, a flatbed, a horse trailer, and several cars, it was difficult to navigate a small piece of property that isn’t landscaped properly for multiple vehicles and farm equipment. And I don’t even have a “real” tractor yet – you know, the big kind. So, I’d have been in trouble if “the right tractor” came along.
    In late summer of 2014, six extremely tall pine trees located near the house were taken down as a safety precaution. This past week the remaining stumps were removed and the surrounding soil was landscaped for ease of care, planting, and mowing. Three fruit trees are now planted there: an apple and two plum trees. Over time, more flowering bushes and plants will be added.
    In front of the house, we designed an area to accommodate a stone walkway that will ultimately lead out to the driveway. Franklin Hill Farm has an abundance of vari-colored flagstone, much of which is still buried underground. But I’ve used large pieces of flagstone and some other rather rough rock to create this beautiful and natural looking walkway leading up to my farmhouse porch and front door. There’s an abundance of moss on the farm, so I added that, too.

    Finally, when all else was accomplished, we established some rocks along the bank of the stream to add a good degree of protection from erosion in an area that was clearly getting hit by hard rains and a swollen stream. Awaiting a long, hard rain to clean the rocks is all there is left to do on this long week of everything "except excavation!"
Paul Clark, aka motomynd,
way too busy

All is way too busy here. I hope all is well with you.
    Caelen just hit 18 months and is doing great...but he commands about 60 hours/week of my time. For the past several months we have been spending Sunday afternoon through Wednesday evening in Virginia working on a house renovation there, then we are back to North Carolina from Thursday evening through Sunday morning. My writing and online time is mostly non-existent, unless researching remodeling info, and my next day off, I guess, is when Caelen goes to college....
    Again, I hope all is well with you and my apologies for being so far out of touch.
Morris Dean,
heartened by chicory

    Grateful for some correspondence I received about the chicory flower*, I began noticing its local abundance. These lovely flowers grow all along the country road that almost encircles the housing development I live in.
    The chicory flowers' glad silence provides some solace in the sadness I've felt at the death of Cecil the lion. Human encroachment on the planet seems destined in a relatively few more years to kill off most big animal species – except for the ones that are specifically fattened for human feeding.

* I love this article. Chicory is my favorite wild flower around here where it grows along the roadside in abundance. "Chicory Is the Cheshire Cat of Herbs." [NY Times]

Siegfried also
I am too, Brother Pig.
    Papa tells me the rumor over the weekend that Cecil's brother, Jericho, had also been killed is not true: "Confirmed: Jericho the lion is alive." [Michael Martinez & Deborah Bloom, CNN Breaking News]
Jericho the lion is alive and roaming his park habitat in Zimbabwe, the Oxford University researcher tracking the lion confirmed on Sunday.
    Brent Stapelkamp dismissed reports that the lion had been killed, saying a GPS device on Jericho didn't suggest anything out of the ordinary. Furthermore, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, which told CNN and other media that poachers killed Jericho, retracted its statements on Sunday.
    The head of the conservation task force, Johnny Rodrigues, said in a new statement that the erroneous information was the result of mistaken identity. Rodrigues said that another lion had been killed, something that CNN cannot immediately verify.
    But, oh, another lion....
Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean


  1. Thanks to all our characters who reported this month! Rush from the 4th row, a spacious granny flat in Fremantle, Del-lighted in Costa Rica, who knew northern California had Alps?, back from several European cities to chamber music in Illinois, music in Greensboro & Memphis, 3,569 miles to California and back, Mexican food in Tulare & Visalia second to Jacksonville, invasion of the spiders, very much in touch with excavation, way too busy in Virginia & North Carolina, chickory in abundance, lament for Cecil....

  2. Kyle, try mint and lavender as natural spider deterrents.

    1. You're not the first to tell us those two exact things! There's got to be something to it.