Archive for September 2004


Last weekend was sort of blah.  We were going to head for the Showbox Friday night to see one of our fave local bands, maktub, who have been in the studio recoding a new cd, but…we FUCKING FELL ASLEEP!!!  I woke up at 9:30, which was still plenty of time to get downtown, get a drink in our hands and weasel our way onto the floor, but Mrs. Perils was flatlined.  I think the word “hip” when applied to us from now on no longer means “lifestyle” - it means ”replacement”.

Saturday was sacrificed to Buckeye football.  When television isn’t a factor, the games from Ohio Stadium start at 12:30 Eastern, which obliges me to wobble downstairs, pull my espresso and have my butt on the couch by 9:30 Pacific for an experience that traditionally requires chemical alteration or sedation rather than stimulants.  But Saturday, the Buckeyes vs Marshall kickoff was 3:30 Eastern, 12:30 Pacific, so I woke up at 10:00 and surfed between three games located within 200 miles of each other: Michigan at Notre Dame, UNLV at Wisconsin and Arizona State at Northwestern.  Guess teams west of Lake Michigan are just getting their lattes and dumping out the roaches from the ashtrays in the dorm at that hour.

Turned out I had to buy the OSU game from Comcast and ESPN Game Plan, as the game wasn’t carried locally.  While it seems pricey at $20, it’s a hella lot cheaper than trying to scalp a ticket into Ohio Stadium.  Still, at that price you expect to get a decent picture.  No such luck Saturday, however, as the feed from ESPN was balky and the picture kept pixellating into Impressionistic montages that were compelling as found art, but ultimately unsatisfying as a representation of RED-BLOODED AMERICAN FOOTBALL, DAMMIT!!!  A call to Comcast, explaining in measured and affected west-coast-cool locution that MY GOD-DAMN FOOTBALL GAME WAS BLEEDING AWAY INTO THEIR ELECTRON GRAVEYARD AND THEY’D BETTER FIX IT BEFORE I SENT 10,000 VOLTS BACK UP THEIR DAMN CABLE TO SINGE WHATEVER HAIRS WERE LEFT ON THEIR BIKINI-WAXED BUTTS elicited a surprisingly accommodating response, giving me full credit for the game and scheduling a technician visit for Monday.  I sat back down on the couch and continued to watch the ugly electronic trainwreck on my screen, not thinking it was much more of a bargain for free.  I was able, evenutally, to see 80 - 90 % of the plays, including the 54-yard field goal with 2 seconds left that won the game for OSU, so I was the picture of expansive good humor for the rest of the evening.

By Sunday, it was really too late to mount any major outdoor expeditions.  When Seattle people feel guilty about lazing around the house instead of being out hiking, biking or climbing, they don’t hit I-90 and head for the Cascades, they go to REI and shop for gear.  That’s what we did Sunday.   As you may remember, I had to borrow a tent from friends to take with me on my Baja kayak trip last December, friends who forgot to include the tent poles in the bag…

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…friends who will never pack a parachute for me.  So, I’ve had it in mind to buy a tent at some point, and we took this opportunity to pick out a nice little 2-person tent.  We drove home, took it out of the trunk, put it in the closet and felt for all the world that we’d had a wilderness experience.

Happy Anniversary!

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Well, before we go on with anything else here, we need to acknowledge the marriage, 56 years ago today, of Mr. and Mrs. Perils of Caffeine, Sr.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

Can you imagine walking down that aisle in 1948?  Even Eisenhower is 3 years away.  Could you envision television, Sputnik, Apollo, Johnny Carson, Top Ramen, The Honeymooners on DVD?  Could you envision your 54-year-old son looking at his Palm Pilot and suddenly remembering what day it was, and pulling together his electronic tools to make this flashy but still still tardy apology?

Congratulations, Mom & Dad, for weathering the Eisenhower 50s, the Kennedy/Johnson 60s, the Nixon/Carter 70s, the Reagan 80s, the Clinton 90s and the W Bush 2000s.  Hope you’re around for a few more regime changes.  Hope you don’t have to wait more than 7 weeks!

A Musical Interlude

As I mentioned a couple of entries ago, I’m going to Columbus to meet up with my brothers and parents, and to play with my OSU band alumni at the football game against Cincinnati Saturday. As I’ve said before, it’s hard to torch one of the last summer weekends in Seattle to do this, but since all of my family (2 younger brothers and parents) attended OSU, and my youngest brother was in the band, too, it’s become a traditional family reunion.

So, the other night I crept down to the basement, oiled my trumpet’s valves and began to methodically abuse my dental work, to the presumed consternation of neighbors and the certain reproductive disruption of our basement’s spider population. It pained me, as well, to reconcile the sounds bouncing off the walls, the clangor of distressed metallurgy, with the remembered dulcet tones of my youth.

The trumpet I’m using is the same one that I had in high school, and the case is a museum of competition medals (I wasn’t that good, but our band was), OSU basketball programs from the Bill Hosket/Dave Sorensen/Jim Cleamons era. I know this is absolute nonsense to anyone not having an unhealthy level of knowledge of Ohio State athletics, but you get the idea.

My accompanist on this night is Miss Jean Ann Soda, an effervescent, if uncautious, complement. I warm up with long tones, lip slurs, chromatics. Yes, it IS like riding a bike, but the fingers fly ahead of the flaccid lip muscle.

From my trumpet’s sarcophagus I pull my book of exercises, Rubank’s Advanced Method Vol. 1 for Trumpet or Cornet, and page through it looking for something I can play. I play some arpeggios, some short ditties, and flit back and forth between different keys to awake whatever ability I retain to sightread music. As I move from page to page, I note handwritten dates, phrases and imprecations: “Dec 20. Long tones, go for 25 seconds”; “Nov 1-62″; “Nov 29-62 - both lines, ALWAYS!”; “Dec 6-62 Do again”; on page 26, “Feb 2-63″ and, on the same page, “Feb 6 - 63 Do it Please!“; on page 31, “May 26 - 63 Re-Do Correctly…sf..pp..staccato”; and on page 50, undated “Very Good”. A log in the front of the book has entries in the same handwriting spanning from October 12, 1962 to May 31, 1963, a period during which I took private lessons from our high school band director, Frank Menichetti, which would have been my freshman year.

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We probably all have that one teacher that we look back to and say he/she made a difference, was a fulcrum in our development. At the time I started high school, Mr. Menichetti had built a powerhouse high school band juggernaut at our school, with consistent 1 ratings at state concert band competitions. You could go anywhere in Ohio, say you played in the Perrysburg band, and have instant respect. He did it with a combination of teaching solid fundamentals, criticism when warranted and, above all, constant exhortations towards excellence. Our motto, on a sign above his podium, was “Quis In Tartaro Communis Es Vult”, “Who in hell wants to be ordinary?”. Although he wasn’t Bobby-Knight abusive, you definitely knew when you weren’t measuring up. I believe this explains why the private-lesson entries in my exercise book end on 5/31/63. Progress was glacial, I was lazy and complacent and we broke for the summer and never resumed.

At the end of my sophomore year, I began to appreciate more fully our legacy of success, and to want to step up to a more significant role, perhaps even contend for first chair. Then, sometime during the summer, word came that Mr. Menichetti had resigned and, apparently dismayed either with teaching or the administration, was returning home to Illinois to work in the family meat business. There was no comparable successor on staff, and it soon became clear that the administration was not going to make much effort to find one. When school began, our director was an earnest but overmatched young guy just a year or so out of college.

I recall the sting of this revelation, that internecine jealousy and academic politics could bring down something that we and the community seemed to value so highly. I also recall a little of the kids-of-divorce syndrome, that maybe if I/we had tried harder to be better, he might have stayed. The next two years were what it might be like playing for the post-Lou Piniella Mariners, stuck in a purgatory of high expectation and, well, merely ordinary performance.

Still, not everyone gets to experience the catalyst of success, of knowing how it feels and having at least an inkling of how hard it is to achieve and maintain, and there was more value in having played in Mr. Menichetti’s band than in anything else I did in high school. I’m not saying, by any means, that it was a launchpad to unalloyed lifelong success. But without it, I wouldn’t have had the personal and musical wherewithal to try out for and get into the Ohio State band, where I was able again to experience that elixir of excellence. Those experiences have given me a standard against which to measure any activity that I engage in.

I know Mr. Menichetti eventually returned to teaching, at a town not too far from mine. Last year, out of curiosity, I Googled him just to see if I could fill in any more of the story. I was startled to come across a reference in a small-town Illinois cemetery, with a link to this:
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Whether he’s in Tartaro or Caelum, the bastards had better be filling out their practice cards.

Anyone Still Not Think That Starbuck’s Overroasts Their Coffee?

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Actually, I’m a fan of Starbucks. Howard Schultz is a Democrat, and they’ve made the world safe for espresso. Still, couldn’t resist a cheap shot

Across The Field

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Flying off to Columbus on a redeye tonight. I’ll be playing with my Ohio State Marching Band alumni on Saturday, when the Buckeyes play Cincinnati. This picture is from last year. I’m in the big “O”, on the far left side. Sure, you can pick me out - I’m the handsome one. More info when I’m less groggy.

(Ka)Yakkety Yak

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I got home last night to find that my rock-climbing wife and son had abandoned me for the cliffs of Index, so I grabbed my kayak for a paddle around Lake Union and Portage Bay. Pictured above is a drawbridge near the University of Washington, the Montlake Bridge. I think it’s one of the prettiest little bridges I’ve seen.

I noodled around some houseboats, dodged a couple of sailboat regattas, and arrived opposite Gasworks Park in time to photograph the last sunset of August.

Last Sunset of August

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The Olympic Mountains peek under the Aurora Bridge as the sun sets on August. Taken from my kayak on Lake Union. The industrial structure on the right is a part of Gasworks Park.