Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Message from Matt Burke

I have a Facebook friend named Matt Burke. He lives in Manchester, England. He once telephoned me; we chatted for a while. He's a professional musician: a trumpet player and teacher. He's a fan of jazz and classical music, especially Mahler and Bruckner. Here's a recent message I got from Matt:

Hi Gary,

I loved reading about your trip [to Atlantic City], it made me smile! Sounds like you had a lovely time and spent just the right amount of time away too? I enjoyed how music was a nice feature of your trip and I'm impressed that you work out everyday - a leaf I need to take from your book!

I've had a great summer, playing music, making a short film with some friends and I'm just getting down to arranging some music for the kids' ensembles ready for this term, which starts next week.

My girlfriend Michelle got into City College, London to do a masters in communication disorders/speech therapy, so she's flying to England on Thursday, which is very exciting! She's very emotional at the moment though, dealing with such a big move. I'll be doing everything in my power to help her when she's over here.

Also, over the summer, I got a new trumpet (pitched in C). It's a beautfiul instrument that will open up repertoire and sounds that just weren't available to me before. All the guys in the American orchestras play C trumpets, but the tradition over here has always been Bb trumpets for standard use.

By the way, have you ever heard Celibidache's recordings of Bruckner? I find them inspired.

Glad your well and happy,

Speak soon


Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Ice-Cream Man Cometh: My Vacation in Atlantic City

Monday August 3, 2009: I left my house at 9:00 AM for Union Station in Washington, DC, and took the 10:20 AM train to Philadelphia. I arrived at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia at 12:20 PM and asked the information station where I could catch the train to Atlantic City. The information desk said there was no train to Atlantic City; the track was being repaired and I had to take the bus at the 29th Street entrance. I took the 1:30 bus. The bus only went as far as Hammonton, where I got off and took the train to Atlantic City. I arrived in Atlantic City at 3:30 PM. Beautiful weather. It would have been a perfect beach day, but I was suffering from “jet lag.” I got a hoagie for dinner and bought a six pack of nonalcoholic beer. I took a walk uptown on the boardwalk and stopped off at Bally’s. I went into the casino at Bally’s. The people at the slot machines looked like pod people. Man, they were hard-core. One woman was puffing away on her cigarette and intently dropping her coins in the machine. These people are nuts!

Tuesday August 4, 2009: Worked out for 1 hour on stairclimber. Beautiful beach day. I stayed at the beach from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Stayed at the pool from 5:00 PM to 5:30 PM. Laid in sun for half hour on each side. No sunburn. The sunscreen really worked!

Wednesday August 5, 2009: Sunny, warm. Worked out for an hour and ten minutes. Stayed at beach from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Stayed at pool from 5:00 PM to 5:30 PM. Sky becomes overcast in late afternoon. The sand on the beach was blowing. It looks like a scene from Lawrence of Arabia. While I was in the ocean, I could hear a lifeguard blowing her whistle. I thought, “that can’t be for me. The water is only waist deep.” She blows the whistle again. I thought, “that can’t be for me. The water is only waist deep.” She blows the whistle again. Finally, I got up out of the water, turned around, and the lifeguard was standing behind me! She said, “You need to be swimming in front of a lifeguard station.” She pointed at the lifeguard stations: “There’s a lifeguard station and there’s a[nother] lifeguard station.” I said to the lifeguard: “Thank you.” Ask not for whom the whistle blows, it blows for thee! I had a hoagie for dinner.

Thursday August 6, 2009: Worked out for an hour and twenty minutes on stairclimber. Drizzle off and on all day. Cloudy all day. No beach. Only about 72 degrees. Walked to Tennessee Avenue on boardwalk (Central Pier). I’m glad I brought an umbrella. The walk took about an hour and a half. Picked up two containers of oatmeal at grocery store on Atlantic Avenue. Got two rolls of quarters at Wachovia Bank for laundry. “Can I have two rolls of quarters, please?” The teller said, “Here you go, sir. Thanks for banking at Wachovia.” Well, I wasn’t exactly banking at Wachovia. Today is the sixth anniversary of the death of Lawrence C. Sack, MD, my former psychiatrist. He died while on vacation. Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. An auspicious date. It was on this date that Wagner penned in the final bars of Tristan und Isolde, in the company of a young musician.

Friday August 7, 2009: Gorgeous day. Clear blue sky. Worked out for an hour and twenty minutes on stairclimber. Cool in the morning. I stayed at the beach from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Later in the day very warm: puffy cumulus clouds. Late in the afternoon there was a problem with biting flies on the beach. Man, they are so annoying! Went to Burger King for dinner (Iowa Avenue on the boardwalk). Listened to the Mahler 8th Symphony on the beach after a swim. Fantastisch! The Mahler 8th never sounded so magnificent! Perfect beach music. I hear a man on the beach say to a boy, probably his son: “The spider webs that spiders build today – are they the same as the webs that spiders built two million years ago?” Yeah, I never thought of that. Have spiders evolved any in two million years? Big night out. Went to market at Ventor and Bartram Avenues. Bought bananas!!! Watched the movie “Burn After Reading” on HBO. Coen Brothers. Excellent movie about CIA sleuths!

August 7th fell on a Friday this year. It occured to me that August 7th also fell on a Friday in the year 1987, 22 years ago. I began to reminisce about Friday August 7, 1987. At that time I worked at Chief Justice Roberts' old law firm, Hogan and Hartson, in Washington, DC. I worked in the Computer Applications Department.

Craig W. Dye, a coworker and fair-weather friend, left for a Miami vacation on Friday afternoon August 7, 1987. That morning I gave Craig a copy of a book of essays by Freud titled "Character and Culture." Craig later said he read the book on his flight to Florida. I also gave a copy of "The Making of a Psychiatrist" (by the late David M. Viscott, MD) to Tom Veatch, a summer employee who was going into his second year at the University of Virginia that fall. Tom said he wanted to become a doctor, perhaps a psychiatrist. His mother was a medical doctor. I wonder if Tom Veatch ever realized his ambition. He was an avid rower. Tom had also worked at the firm during the summer of 1986. He left the firm on Friday August 15, 1986 to start his first year of college. Coworkers gave him a transistor radio as a going away gift in August 1986. I remember when he was hired by Sheryl Ferguson earlier that summer. Sheryl Ferguson had said that Tom had a chance of making the U.S. Olympic rowing team.

I remember Miriam Chilton, our supervisor, saying to Craig at lunch on August 7, 1987: “Use lots of sunscreen.” Brett Rome, a Princeton student who worked in the department for the summer, was leaving to go back to school. I sat between Craig and Tom MacIsaac at Brett Rome’s farewell lunch. Craig and Tom were joking about the manhood of members of Princeton's football team. Tom MacIsaac said to me: “You’re right handed, aren’t you?” I said: “How do you know?” He said: “Because you wear your watch on your left hand. I said to Tom: “Sleuth! You’re a sleuth.” Yeah, Craig and Tom were real men -- they wouldn't be caught dead playing football for Princeton. By the way, Tom MacIsaac went to Vasser. Didn't that used to be a girl's school? Be that as it may.

Saturday August 8, 2009: “Wochenend und Sonnenschein.” “Weekend and Sunshine.“ – The lyrics to the German-language version of “Happy Days Are Here Again!” I worked out for an hour and 15 minutes on the stairclimber. Mostly sunny. Went to beach at 12:00 PM. By 4:00 PM it was cloudy, overcast and chilly on the beach. People started to head home from the beach in droves. I left the beach at 4:00 PM. I went to the pool at 4:15 PM. Lounge at the pool till 5:15 PM. I listened to the conversation of about 6 old Jewish ladies. They were talking about taking vitamins and fish oil and eating fruit. Did you ever stop to think that the little old Jewish ladies you see in Atlantic City today are not the same little old Jewish ladies you saw in Atlantic City thirty years ago? Well, I stop to think thoughts like that. Had a hoagie for dinner. Half my beach days are gone. I need to buy more beer. I can only drink nonalcoholic beer because of the medications I take. This is a Mormon vacation. I’m not getting laid. I’m not hiring a hooker. I’m not gambling. And I’m drinking non-alcoholic beer. Senator Orrin Hatch would be so proud!

Sunday August 9, 2009: I worked out for an hour and 15 minutes this morning. It’s totally overcast with drizzle. I’m waiting for the coming heat wave. Sun appears at 11:20 AM. I hope it lasts. At 12:20 I start to see a broad-based clearing. There’s no one on the beach. The condo I’m staying at has a view of the beach. The lifeguards are on duty. I ended up going to the beach at 1:00 PM. The sky is torn between storm and sunshine all afternoon. At 3:15 PM light raindrops start to fall; this continues for about an hour. Nobody leaves the beach. I suspect that anybody on the beach at all today is a hardcore beachgoer. Water is warm: 72 degrees. I left the beach at 4:30 PM and went to the pool where I stayed until 5:30 PM. I took a walk on the boardwalk to Iowa Avenue to have it my way at Burger King. The air is stifling. It’s cloudy, hot and very humid. I got home at 7:00 PM. There were claps of thunder at about 9:00 PM. I had a couple of beers and watched TV. I reminisce about the wonderful life I’ve lived. Fifty-five fantastic years!

Monday August 10, 2009: I got up at 6:00 AM and went to the fitness room at 7:00 AM. I worked out for an hour and 15 minutes. Gorgeous, ultra-clear day. It’s warm and not too humid. I watched a group of old women doing pool aerobics to an exercise tape. They actually think they’re exercising! I went to Rite-Aid to get my prescription filled. Walked on Atlantic Avenue to Indiana Avenue, across the street from the Claridge Hotel. It’s very hot (88 degrees)—It’s supposed to go up to 91 this afternoon. A Christian tried to convert me on the boardwalk. He asked me: “Did you ever hear of Jesus?” I said: “Yeah, I heard of him.” “Would you like to accept Jesus as your Savior?” I said: “No.” He said: “Is it because you’re Jewish?” I said “yes.” He said: “We have an organization called ‘Jews for Jesus’.” Right—like that’s an inducement! I got to the beach at about 1:00 PM. It was unbearably hot. I headed straight for the ocean. The water was warm and calm. Once I got out of the water and got on dry sand, I felt the super-heated air hitting me. It was unbearable. Without sunscreen I think I’d get serious burns. Had to leave the beach at 3:30 PM. I couldn’t stand the atrocious heat any longer. In my entire life I can’t recall ever having to leave the beach because of the heat. This heat is one for the books. I hope it’s cooler tomorrow. I’m looking forward to having a cheesesteak for dinner. – The cheesesteak ended up being a dud: it was very greasy and it left a strange aftertaste in my mouth. It tasted like the oil had been sitting on the grill all day. About a half hour after I ate it, my stomach felt like it had a lead weight in it. Don’t eat at “Pizza Party” at 4309 Ventnor Avenue unless you have good medical insurance! The stuff they serve at that place is toxic. I just learned that the heat index today was 102 degrees! WOW!! Quiet evening: too hot to go out for a walk on the boardwalk. I fulfilled a lifelong dream. I watched a DVD of the Bruckner 7th Symphony. It had been my life’s dream to watch the Brucker 7th in Atlantic City. I remember falling in live with that work when I was 16 years old, in May 1970.

Tuesday August 11, 2009: I worked out for an hour and ten minutes this morning on the stairclimber. It’s supposed to be about 8 degrees cooler today than yesterday. I was up at 6:00 AM this morning. It looks beautiful this morning. I went to the fitness room at 7:00 AM. I’m undecided about going to the beach today. Maybe I’ll stay at the condo, sit in the shade at the pool and watch a DVD of Gotterdammerung: that’s about 4.5 hours. Later in the morning I sat on the balcony while I waited for my laundry to get done. It’s actually cool today! What a relief from yesterday’s inferno. I went to the beach from 12:45 PM to 2:45 PM. It was cooler than yesterday, but it was still uncomfortably hot. It’s just not an “all day” beach day. The water is still delightful, though. I’m headed for the pool. I hope I can find a shady spot. – I found my shady spot at the pool; stayed at pool till 3:30. At 4:30 PM while watching TV I notice that it’s 89 degrees in Philadelphia, but 92 degrees on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. I should be vacationing in Philadelphia! The heat index is 96 degrees at the Atlantic City Airport.

Wednesday August 11, 2009: I worked out for an hour and 20 minutes this morning on the stairclimber. Well, I’m down to my last two beach days. I hope they’re good days. It’s supposed to be a little cooler the rest of the week. I got up at 6:00 AM and exercised from 7:00 AM to 8:20 AM. At noon it is overcast. That’s good. It’ll be cooler today. I went to the beach from 12:00 PM to 3:30 PM. It was overcast all day. There were rumblings of thunder throughout the afternoon. Nice reprieve from the heat of the last few days. At 4:30 PM it started to rain. I went out for a turkey hoagie in the rain. I stopped off at the liquor store for a six-pack of beer. The store owner asked me to leave my umbrella outside next time. Buddy, there isn’t going to be a “next time.” I’m leaving Atlantic City on Friday morning and if I come back next year I won’t remember to leave my umbrella outside. (Or will I?) I’m starting to feel like Bob Strauss in Russia. Toward the end of his ambassadorship he said he couldn’t wait to get back to Washington to get his life in order, as he put it. I’m looking forward to getting back to Washington to get my life in order—my life, such as it is!

Thursday August 12, 2009: I got up at 6:00 AM and worked out for an hour and ten minutes, beginning at 7:00 AM. It’s rainy with dark clouds. At 9:15 AM it’s deeply overcast, but the rain has stopped and the streets are dry. At 12:00 PM the lifeguard is on duty but no one is on the beach. It’s very overcast. I feel some raindrops. I hope I don’t have to stay in all afternoon. I watched all of the first act of Gotterdammerung this morning—all two hours of it! I went to the beach from 12:30 to 3:30 PM. It was solidly overcast and cool: about 72 degrees. But it was not uncomfortably chilly. There are only a handful of people on the beach. There’s a group of people playing volleyball in their street clothes. I laid on the beach, and maybe fell asleep. There are a few people in the water. I didn’t go in the ocean; the air temperature was too cool. I would never have warmed up. I went to the pool from about 3:35 to 4:10 PM. Something strange happened while I was at the pool. I looked up at the upper floors of The Plaza, the condo where I’m staying, and a guy in a unit on the 12th floor stepped out on his balcony with binoculars—and started to look into the units in the building across the street, The Berkley. I couldn’t believe it! In broad daylight, a flagrant peeping Tom. Isn’t that illegal in Atlantic City? I went home, took a shower, washed my clothes, and had a couple of beers. My last night in Atlantic City! I’ve been sleeping really well here. Maybe it’s the Futon. But one thing: I remember distinctly that last year I used to wake up at 8:00 AM every morning. During this stay I’ve been waking up at 6:00 AM. I like getting up early and exercising early. At 5:00 PM the skies are clearing.

Friday August 14, 2009: I worked out for an hour and ten minutes beginning at 7:00 AM. I left The Plaza at 9:30 and took the 10:20 train out of Atlantic City. I arrived home in Washington, DC at about 3:30 in the afternoon. Thus ends my summer vacation.