Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Seeing Mr. Watson

Today we had our weekly virtual staff meeting and the feeling was unanimous from both the teachers and the kids—everyone misses everyone. We're all starved for human connection, particularly with our friends. No surprise that. 

Our first impulse is to up the number of Zoom meetings and yes, it is good to see people and to hear their voice. But there’s another “yes and” possibility that perhaps only an old codger like me would bring up or even remember. Writing letters.

“Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.” That was the first sentence spoken on a telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. A bit ironic, because just as the invention made it unnecessary to see the person you’re talking with. Mr. Bell was already hungry to see him! At any rate, it was not a profound communication.

Some 4,000 years earlier, there was another extraordinary technological breakthrough—written symbols on a clay tablet in Sumeria that communicated a message. And the message? Was it a poetic utterance worthy of Shakespeare? A profound message to future readers? No, it was the details of a business transaction involving copper goods. Some of the documents that followed were records of the number of slaves someone had. 

And so. Deep communication and deep connection between human souls does not arise simply from technology, be it a clay tablet, a telephone or a video Zoom meeting. It doesn’t in and of itself appease our hunger for connection. Just because we can wave at someone and talk casually while slurping our breakfast cereal doesn’t mean we will now feel less alone.

Ah, but a letter. Of course, again, not automatically. But the technology of setting pen to paper both suggests and helps create an atmosphere that can send out golden threads between two human hearts. Consider:

1.    It’s unplugged. You can write anywhere. Sitting under a tree, on a bench at a train station, in your favorite chair at home with soft light and a candle burning.

2.    It’s intimate. Your handwriting reveals something of your character, becomes as much a feature of your uniqueness as your face and voice and the way you walk. Simply seeing the handwriting of a loved one can evoke their presence the way smelling the kind of cake they used to bake.

3.    It’s slow. Pen to paper slows you down and slowing you down puts you in a different time-zone than the fleeting moment, allows you to dig back into the past: “I’m remembering that trip to Mexico we took…”, tip forward into the future; “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend Christmas together some day?” and be more present in the moment; “It’s twilight and there’s a gentle rain. Your favorite lentil soup is bubbling on the stove, Bach’s Cello Suites are softly playing over the speakers and here I am writing to you. And there you will be reading this, maybe sitting on that bench in the park where we used to talk.”

Nobody writes an e-mail like that. No one begins a Facetime conversation at that level.

4.   It’s storable. So is e-mail, but no one is going to go through your old mails on the screen when you have passed on except to delete them as they close your account. But that box full of letters as you’re cleaning out the house of your departed loved one is a treasure beyond price. 

5.  It invites and evokes the imagination. To see someone in your mind's eye imaginatively instead of literally on the screen, to hear their voice in memory's ear, to feel their presence when they are not present—this is the Heart-work that allows for real connection between two souls. Setting pen to paper alone won't bring you there, but it will set the table for the imaginative feast that might follow if you do your work well.

Now of course 8-year-olds writing to each other during their sheltering-in-place will probably not achieve great heights of profundity. But they have to start somewhere to cultivate that possibility, to mark the moment more deeply than the passing flash of electronics and yes, occasionally say something worth reading again in the years to come. Something that will edge them closer to truly seeing Mr. Watson while thanking him for his generous gift of copper candlestick holders. 

Just a thought. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Kiss

In my dream, a skunk waddled up to me and climbed on my lap. I held still, it got up on its hind legs, kissed me on the cheek and then waddled off. (Two friends took a photo, but don’t think we have the technology yet to Airdrop photos from the Dreamworld.) Soon after, I was teaching a workshop in which we all held hands while I wove the group into a tight, intimate circle, the way I have thousands of times before. What does it all mean, Dr. Freud?

Hard to imagine that happening again, but of course, I hope it will. Having practiced social distancing, how long will it take before we can trust again to do such things? Even when the doctors give us the green light, I imagine some corner of the psyche will keep flashing red for quite a while. And who would dare to kiss a stranger on the cheek? Especially a skunk?

Just wondering. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Not Alone

What’s one of the hardest things about our personal sorrows? The fact that they’re personal and we think that only we suffer in this way. That to attract some empathy, we have to explain what’s going on to someone who is not experiencing what we are and so has difficulty wholly understanding (or caring about) what we’re going through.  We feel that everyone is having a Pepsi moment except us. And so in our sense of aloneness, our suffering increases. 

But not now. It’s really extraordinary how many people are having the same experience right now and though, yes, it’s different depending on how many people are in your house, what kind of people are in your house, whether or not you’re actually in a house. But mostly we are all having the same foundational experience of feeling confined, worried about sickness/ money/ job security, off of our game, uncertain when or how (or for some, if) it will end. 

And that means we’re not alone. There are thousands of ways to suffer—sickness, loss, difficult relationships, mental imbalances, diet issues, feeling the victim of social injustice, taught to hate other people, drug and alcohol problems, learning differences, money troubles—shall I go on? It takes imagination on our part, especially in our have-a-nice-day culture, to realize that we are all the walking wounded, we are all broken in some way hoping for healing, we are none of us escaping the dues of a human incarnation. Didn’t Buddha tell us that in the first noble truth—Life is suffering?

But now we don’t have to imagine quite so wide and deep to understand that we’re all in the muck and mire of this unprecedented pandemic. Accent ALL. All political persuasions, religions, sexual orientations, economic status, nations, the whole sorry lot of minor differences that divide us so needlessly and deeply, none of it matters now. Please, friends, let’s use this opportunity to learn from this. And the simple moral is…

We are not alone. 

We are not alone. 

We are not alone. 

We are not alone.

We are not alone. 


Whatever word you accent, the truth is there. Let’s remember this when the doors re-open.

Pandora's Box

It’s a cozy rainy day. The refrigerator is full, the heater is on and (miraculously), toilet paper is re-stocked. Earlier, I stood in the early morning drizzle outside Trader Joe’s remembering the photos of the breadlines during the Depression. But instead of a crust of bread and cup of soup after a long wait, I entered a store with stocked shelves (toilet paper!), friendly people and drove home in a car with a tankful of gas. It could be—and might become—so much worse, but meanwhile there are innumerable blessings still to be counted. 

Post-grandkids, we’ve been straightening and sweeping and dusting and vacuuming and doesn’t that feel good! I’m about to tackle (after this tactic of procrastinating) the front room and deal with the stacks of overflowing CD’s, music books piled helter-skelter, papers begging to be re-filed or recycled. There’s a drawer in the bathroom crammed with old medicines and toiletries that has been waiting for attention some 3-5 years (!), other drawers in other rooms with old cassette tapes and videos, file cabinets with outlines of workshops taught these past four decades—and don’t even get me started on the basement! I thought I’d ease into it all with my approaching retirement and I do think there’s wisdom in limiting right now the number of Pandora’s boxes that I dare open, but hey! might as well get started.

But first, felt like I should investigate more closely the metaphor of Pandora’s box. I imagine this as a box filled with things you eventually need to deal with—be they misfiled papers or emotions you’ve repressed—that you need to think twice about before letting them out. In short, you need to be prepared for what will emerge, have the necessary time and needed bandwidth to meet it. So sometimes it’s wiser to keep it closed—at least for the time being. 

Well, almost. The real Greek tale begins with Prometheus stealing fire from heaven. Zeus is mad, so he sends Pandora to Prometheus’s brother, who asks her to care for a jar but not open it. Of course, her curiosity got the better of her and when she opens it, out flies sickness, death, mayhem, the Republican Party (updated version) and other evils to wreak havoc in the world. She quickly covers it again before the last content of the jar (later referred to as a box) flies out—Hope. As described by the poet Theognis of Megara:

Trust, a mighty god has gone, Restraint has gone from men,
and the 
Graces, my friend, have abandoned the earth.
Men's judicial oaths are no longer to be trusted, nor does anyone
revere the immortal gods; the race of pious men has perished and
men no longer recognize the rules of conduct or acts of piety.

Hope is the only good god remaining among mankind.

The erosion of trust, restraint, grace, reverence. Judicial oaths not carried out, men purposefully not recognizing the rules of conduct. Did Theognis look ahead 1500 years to witness the Senate Impeachment Trial farce? Meanwhile, there lies Hope, still sheltering in place inside the box/jar/urn. This could be pessimistic—hope is locked away—or optimistic—hope is awaiting for the moment when we’re collectively brave enough to re-open the box. Who knows?

I’m going to think about this while I clean the front room. 

How To Live With Uncertainty





Repeat as needed.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Report from the Bunker

My wife had a long first labor and in the second day of our home birth, we couldn’t remember (and especially SHE couldn’t remember) life without contractions every 15 minutes or so. Within 24 hours, it had just become the new normal.

And so with sheltering in place, finished our second week and this has just become life. As needed, the days have taken on their own rhythm, as follows:

7:30-9:00—I feed the kids breakfast while my daughter Kerala and wife Karen jog.

9:00-12:00— Kerala and I retreat to online meetings and work obligations (me with online school lessons) and Karen takes the kids to the basement for a three-hour (!) art class. 

12:00-1:00—We all meet for lunch

1:00 -4:00—Bike rides in Golden Gate Park.  (I hear that some towns have closed city parks and I dread that day because Golden Gate Park has been a blessing, every day biking with the kids— and the 4-year old can happily bike 7 miles— for the triple boon of exercise, fresh air and the sanity of Spring.)

4:00 -6:00—Time with Aunt Tita at her house or ours while Kerala cooks dinner (she loves to do it and insists that she needs it). Sometimes I join them to do some music and/or make some music videos for the kids at school.

6:00-7:00—Dinner and clean-up.

7:00-8:00—Whole family Uno game. Stories and bedtime for Malik.

8:00-10:00—Reading with Zadie or Rummy 500 or share some classic movies with her (Singing in the Rain, Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire, Big). 

More or less within that schedule, other things like Legos, jump-rope, playing catch with balls, recorder lesson, little drama skits, helping in the kitchen and more keep us all active and engaged. The reason for our time together is anything but happy, but the time itself has mostly been delightful. 
It will be a little different now because my daughter and the grandkids just left. To avoid planes and hotels and restaurants, we left San Francisco at 7am and I drove them through the newly non-trafficked freeways to Redding 3½ hours north, they picked up a rental car to drive another 7 plus hours to Portland while I turned around and drove back to San Francisco. All food in the car, minimal contact and touching of surfaces other than the gas pump with a cloth and the rest room with vigorous hand-washing and hand sanitizer.

Now the family is reduced from 5 to 2, with daughter Talia still allowed to come over, no more wild kid energy which is always a welcome break, but also something I will miss. A short weekend break from the much, much harder online schoolwork, confirming my long-held view that technology can be efficient in some areas, but maddeningly inefficient and unsatisfying in other kinds of learning experiences. Give me a live school staff meeting over Zoom any day and a room full of kids singing and dancing instead of sending little videos for them to watch at home. I hope we will come out of this more convinced than ever that live interaction, touch, smell, real-time 3-dimensional conversation, moving together, singing together, playing instruments together, eating meals together, is an irreplaceable blessing and non-negotiable human need that we have been spending WAY too much time trying to replace with computers. Another week or two or four of this isolated life and we will be bouncing off the walls yearning for big group hugs!!! Though will probably have to ease our way back into that. 

Much more I could say without the kids trying to beat me up or steal my glasses from my front pocket, but the long-neglected piano awaits and enough is enough. Just a little snapshot from one of millions of sheltered-in-place bunkers. 

And how are your days going?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Importance of G

Amidst the many stupid first-world problems of this increasingly scary pandemic, I’m having trouble with the “g” on my computer keyboard. Either nothing comes up when I press it or I have to repeatedly press it and it’s driving me crazy. For example, I wanted to tell you about a satisfyin online homework for 8th rade and even typin this sentence, I missed three of those aforementioned letters. Like all we’re understandin now, how you don’t know what you’ve ot till it’s one. (Fill in that letter!) Here’s my short report. Can you et it?

“I  ot the idea of ettin the kids to do a report about eore ershwin and his son  I ot Rhythm. Found a ood Youtube clip of Ella Fitzerald sinin it and also a tap dance version by reory Hines that was reat!”

uess I won’t be oin to the Apple Store for quite a while to fix it. Any suestions? You can send them to Dou oodkin.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Die for Money

AOL News headline: “Trump’s allies willing to die for the economy.”

Excellent idea! But only them, please. Let them all go to church on Easter Sunday and hug other infected folks and then go to a specially designed quarantine place to valiantly die for the economy. I’m all for it. 

And as a loyal friend, shouldn’t Trump join them?

PS To these people, America is defined entirely by economic success. It wouldn't be America without the greed of Wall St. and damned if their grandchildren are going to grow up in an America without excessive capitalism. I repeat: let them go to church and hug and leave the rest of us to nurture the real America that has nothing to do with dollar bills (beyond distributing them to those in need). 

It Could Always Be Worse…

… is the name of an old Jewish folktale that speaks to our condition today. A family lives in a small house and the noise and commotion of the three children is driving the father crazy. They’re practicing squeaky violins, having pillow fights, shouting at each other and throwing tantrums. He goes to the rabbi for advice, who suggests bringing his chicken into the house. The chicken squawks and flies up on shelves knocking things over, making yet more indoor turmoil. The man returns to the rabbi, who then suggests also bringing a cat in. The cat chases the chicken, scratches the furniture and so on. Back to the rabbi. Now a dog. Of course, the dog chases the cat and sheds hair all over and barks incessantly. Once more the rabbi and now a donkey. The houses is now in utter chaos. The man finally confronts the rabbi as giving the worst advice ever, but now the rabbi gives him one more suggestion. “Take all the animals out of the house.” The man does and the house returns to normal, but suddenly, “normal” seems so peaceful and quiet compared to what it had become with the animals inside. And then the moral: 

“No matter how bad things seem, remember: It could always be worse.”

This is indeed a parable for our time. Especially mine, with two energetic grandkids in the house running and jumping and screaming (sometimes—especially the 4-year old) and no time-out spaces left in our small flat when they don’t listen to their Pop-pop! But in the larger picture, I can’t help but feel that as difficult as sheltering in place is, it could be so much worse. After all, we still have heat, running water, gas for cooking, access to food, books/music/games/ puzzles/ Netflix, Zoom calls to friends and colleagues. The virus is serious and lethally dangerous, but pretty mild compared to the bubonic plague, cholera outbreaks or cancer. 

And for now, here in San Francisco we can still walk or bike in the park. The air is not tainted with radioactive waste or smoke from raging fires, the earth is not quaking and the ocean 3 miles from my house not threatening tsunamis, there are no tanks or terrorists roaming the streets. So many more serious disasters could be coming into the house—or still could. 

None of this is to dismiss or make light of the current catastrophe, but it helps a bit to be grateful that it is not so much worse than it could be. A drop of gratitude for small blessings. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Great Time-Out

As children since time immemorial have learned, if you piss off your mother, you will be sent to your room. Sometimes without your supper. In the old days, you got it that you did something bad and you’re being punished. In more recent times, you have overstepped agreed-upon boundaries and are given a time-out to reflect on your transgression, sometimes with the power to decide when you can emerge from your room, repentant and resolved to do better.

So what if what’s going on here is Mother Nature giving her bad children a time-out in our rooms? We have treated her so badly and she’s finally fed up. “You are grounded!!!And I don’t care if you get bored or run out of toilet paper! Get your act together!”

Of course, she can be stern and unforgiving, but she is also kind. For now she’s saying, “No school, no sports, no dancing in clubs, no jazz concerts. But if you want to go out with your kids and walk in the park (6 feet away from other walkers, of course), hey, finally you have time to smell the flowers. So smell them! Savor them! Think about the bounty and beauty I’ve given you that you have ignored and trashed and desiccated just so you can drive to the mall in fast giant cars using oil that you fight wars for to buy senseless things you don’t really need made by badly-paid and poorly-treated workers. I’ve sent you SO MANY MESSAGES that you’ve continued to ignore, but it took this tiny virus to finally get your attention. And even now, some are missing the memo! Wake up, children!

“And this time, you don’t get to decide when the time-out is over. I’ll take care of it when I’m convinced that you’re ready to be the kind of people I meant for you to be.”

She’s serious, people. Take heed.


The future may be uncertain, but still the planning mind needs something to look forward to. And so I told the grandkids—“Tomorrow we’ll make pancakes” and they cheered and now tomorrow has arrived and they just ran up to me and said, “When are we going to make the pancakes?” 

We have a bike ride in the park on the day’s agenda, perhaps another four-person Uno game and maybe today’s the day to bring out a big jigsaw puzzle that gives us some continuity and sense of accomplishment. We need this.

And what do you have planned? 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Worry Timer

One of my daughter’s brilliant strategy as a mother is the intelligent use of the timer. 

Kid: “I don’t want to brush my teeth now!!!!” 

Parent: “Okay, dear, you can play with Legos for five more minutes and when the timer goes off, it’s time to brush your teeth.”

Kid: “Okay.”

Not foolproof, but works pretty well.

So I’d like to suggest the intelligent use of the Worry Timer. When you wake up or start reading the news or just get into some bad feedback loop in your head and feel like we’re all doomed and everything will just keep getting worse until it gets even worse, it’s a good time to set the Worry Timer. Give yourself permission to go way down the rabbit hole without a flashlight and seriously entertain every doomsday fantasy, listen to the worst predictions, read the news item about white supremacists commanding anyone infected to bottle their saliva to spray on non-white people as their duty to God, but promise to stop when the timer goes off. I suggest five-minutes maximum and then get on with your day. 

Picture it. Over and over, 

“We’re all gonna die!!! The world’s gonna end!! The stock market will crash and my kids can’t afford to pay for my funeral!! They’re gonna postpone November elections!!!! WE’RE ALL GONNA………… “Beep beep beep beep!

“My, isn’t it a lovely day out. Look at the buds on the wisteria! Spring is on its way.”

The Wisdom of Duke Ellington: Part II

If the assignment of choosing a quote, reflecting and writing a bit about it is good enough for my 8thgraders, well, why not you? You might have some time on your hands and why not use it getting to know one of America’s great under-sung heroes? With the added bonus of getting to listen to his music while you’re working. Or when you stop and then really pay attention and listen!

So your homework. Read these quotes. Choose one (or two), write about it or discuss with your family. Why that particular quote? What does it mean to you? Did it help you get through your day? Have fun!

“All the musicians in jazz should get together on one certain day and get down on their knees to thank Duke Ellington."      - Miles Davis

On Jazz: 
" To listen to jazz without any knowledge of its history is to miss much of its charm."

"Jazz is based on the sound of our native heritage. It is an American idiom with African roots— a trunk of soul with limbs reaching in every direction."

"When the folksy character of the blues, the fervor of the gospel songs, the rhythmic attack of the New Orleans musicians, and the more sophisticated approach of the East Coast players all came together in New York, jazz was provided with a new springboard. It was also transformed by the genius of Louis Armstrong."

" It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." 

"Although his background seemed to give the black musician the edge, because environment is intensely important as a shaping factor, jazz was so contagious that many white musicians were infected by it and grew close to the black soul. On the other hand, there were black musicians who were impressed by white standards of playing and acquired comparable techniques."

"Some musicians are dancers. Way back, at the Cotton Club, we were always tailoring orchestrations to fit the dances. Chick Webb was a dance-drummer who painted pictures of dances with his drums. The reason why Chick Webb had such command of his audiences at the Savoy Ballroom, was because he communicated with the dancers and felt it the way they did."

On the learning process:
" I was always a terrific listener. I'm taller on one side than the other from leaning over the piano, listening."

"When I wanted to study harmony, I went to Henry Grant. We moved along real quickly, until I was learning the difference between a Gb and an F sharp. The whole thing suddenly became very clear to me, just like that. I went on studying, of course, but I could also hear people whistling, and I got all the Negro music that way. You can't learn that in any school. And there were things I wanted to do that were not in the books and I had to ask a lot of questions. I was always lucky enough to run into people who had the answers."

" I originally began to compose because I wasn't able to play what other composers wrote, so I had to create something that I could play. I remain a primitive artist, extremely primitive. But paradoxically the most sophisticated music in the world is primitive music, and no one is able to penetrate it easily."

"Any time you have a problem, you have an opportunity. All these people were valuable to me, because each one's effective range or scope was limited. If you had just seven good tones, those were the tones that had to be used."

"Roaming through the jungle of 'oohs' and 'aahs,' searching for a more agreeable noise, I live a life of primitivity with the mind of a child and an unquenchable thirst for sharps and flats."

On music:
" I suspect that if Shakespeare were alive today, he might be a jazz fan—he'd appreciate the combination of team spirit and informality, of academic knowledge and humor, of all the elements that go into a great jazz performance." 

" It is becoming increasingly difficult to decide where jazz starts or where it stops, where Tin Pan alley begins and jazz ends, or even where the borderline lies between classical music and jazz. I feel there is no boundary line, and I see no place for one if my own feelings tell me a performance is good.…When it sounds good, it is good."

"Ours is the responsibility of bringing to the listener some agreeable vibration that tickles the fancy of the eardrum." 

"I don't think people have to know anything about music to appreciate it and enjoy it."

"The audience is the other side of the realm that serves the same muse I do."

" The word 'improvisation' has great limitations, because when musicians are given solo responsibility they already have a suggestion of a melody written for them, and so before they begin they already know more or less what they are going to play. Anyone who plays anything worth hearing knows what he's going to play, no matter whether he prepares a day ahead or a beat ahead. It has to be with intent."

On life:
"What would be a perfect day? Any day I wake up and look at."

"Which of all your tunes is your favorite? The next one. "

"What is the worst problem in America? Brainwashing of children and adults."

" My best self writes and plays sacred music and keeps me honest to myself. My best self also prays for the health and survival or others—and for the forgiveness of others."

" I am an optimist. From where I sit, music is mostly all right, or at least in a healthy state for the future, in spite of the face that it may sound as though it is being held hostage."

" Of all the walls, the tallest, most invisible, and most insidious… is the wall of prejudice."

New World A'Comingrefers to a future place, on earth, at sea, or in the air, where there will be no war, no greed, no categorization, and where love is unconditional, and where there is no pronoun good enough for God."

" I think the artist's true position is that of an observer. Personal emotion could spoil his piece de resistance…Art is a skill."

(" Music must never offend the ear; it must please the hearer, in other words, it must never cease to be music."  —Mozart)

The Wisdom of Duke Ellington

One of my online homework assignments for 8thgrade is to choose one Duke Ellington quote from a list I compiled. The first one I got back was this:

“Anytime you have a problem, you have an opportunity.”

The student wrote:

“I like this quote from Duke Ellington because it is very relatable. I think if everyone heard this quote, when people come across small or big problems, there would be more of an area to grow and think in different ways than before…”

Another student chose the same quote and wrote: 

“Every time you have a problem, you have a few options. You can either give up on solving the problem or let it affect you, or, you can take the opportunity to be resisilient and make the most out of the situation. Oftentimes, when you don’t give up and find some way to overcome the problem, you end up learning a valuable lesson. So in the end, every time you are faced with a problem, take the opportunity to make something great out of it. “

Perhaps I should have titled this:The Wisdom of 8thGraders. The virus is shouting at us—

“ Grow! Think in different ways than before! The same-old us-against-them is not working. Here’s your opportunity to change it! Make something great out of it!”

I don’t know about you, but I needed these timely reminders from my wise 8thgraders. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Gratitude for Legos!

I love teaching preschool and have a pretty high tolerance for the exuberance of young children. But I must say it is being put to the test as I shelter in place 24/7 with my 4-year old grandson. His idea of self-control is to take one short inhale before exploding into tantrums if something doesn’t go his way. I’m trying to teach him the “count to 10” rule before reacting and it’s working— well, not at all. 

So imagine how many blessings I sent to the Lego Company when he played by himself —and sometimes with his sister—for three hours without a whimper. No exaggeration. THREE HOURS! And then another two or so this morning. 

I have nothing but curses for the inventors of the Winchester Rifle, the assault weapon, the nuclear bomb, mixed reviews for the inventors of computers and cell phones, but nothing but deep gratitude for the creators of pianos, audio recordings and now, Legos. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Things to Do While Sheltering in Place

• Finally clean out that closet.
• See what you actually have stored in the basement/ attic/ garage.
• Read that boxful of saved handwritten letters you discovered.
• Actually write  a letter to an old friend you haven’t been in touch with. Pen and paper, envelopes, stamps, the whole deal!
• Pick five books from your shelves that were important to you at some time in your life. Read them again and see if they hold up.
• As above, with 5 CD’s/ records. Actually lie down on the floor and do nothing but listen.
• Watch all eight seasons of The Andy Griffith Show  on Netflix. 
• Learn guitar/ ukulele/ Bulgarian bagpipe (take that one to the park to enforce social distancing).
• Read all 2630 Blog posts I've written. :-) (Especially good if you're having trouble sleeping!)
• Sit in a place in your house you’ve never sat in. Draw a picture of the view.
• Memorize the entire Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
• Invent a vaccine for coronavirus. 
• Pray. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Time to Pack Up

Amidst my many doubts about retiring, here’s a sign that it’s time:

·     Google Drive
·     Dropbox
·     Seesaw
·     Zoom
·     Loom
·     Flipgrid
·     Schoology
·     Edpuzzle
·     Powerschool
·     Parent Square
·     Google Meet
·     Powerpoint
·     Keynote
·     i-Movie
·     Sibelius
·     Garageband
·     Chrome Music
·     Apple TV

To be a teacher in the old days meant familiarity with your discipline and its associated tools. In my case, that meant at least basic skills in piano, guitar, xylophones, recorder and assorted percussion. I knew how to drop a needle on the record or press play on the cassette tape or VHS video, occasionally set up the slide tray and slide projector and once in a blue moon, thread a film on the 8mm or 16mm projector. Had to know the basics of the ditto machine and later, copy machine. 

That all has changed with the “ease” of digital technologies. I was doing okay learning how to access Youtube and show things on Apple TV, send a group e-mail to the parents, check my Kerio e-mails through school. But suddenly, things have changed geometrically in the last two years and these programs above are just some of the things I’m expected to understand, manipulate and master. Each with its own access, password, storage, steps to mastery, way to pass on to others. To which I say: 

Really? I mean, really? And now, hunkered down with scores of online learning options, it’s growing exponentially yet again. Not to mention learning the maze of the cell phone, keeping up on Facebook and e-mail and the blog and so on. It’s simply exhausting. I just want to pick up the guitar and sing some songs with people.

I empathize with the late Mary Oliver, who wrote: 

The television has two instruments that control it.
I get confused.
The washer asks me, do you want regular or delicate?
Honestly, I just want clean.
Everything is like that.
I won’t even mention cell phones.

I can turn on the light of the lamp beside my chair
Where a book is waiting, but that’s about it.

Oh yes, and I can strike a match and make fire.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020


Feb. 15-16—Hong Kong Renaissance School Teacher’s Workshop 
Feb. 17-18—Renaissance School kids classes
Feb. 19 -21 – Bangkok Orff workshop
Feb. 22-23—Macao Orff Workshop 
Feb. 23—Stefon Harris at SF Jazz
Feb. 24—Play, Sing and Dance Orff Skype group 
Feb. 25—SF Orff Course Board Meeting
Feb. 26—Alliance for Arts talk 
Feb. 28—Karen’s 70th birthday retreat
March 2—Dentist
March 3—Return to school
March 7—Men’s Group Retreat
March 9—Film interview/ Dentist
March 13—Jewish Home for the Aged music session (until further notice)
March 14—Zellerbach Dance Group Performance
March 14—School Auction
March 16—Marin workshop (changed to online))
March 16—School (until April 13)
March 17—Men's group (online experiment)
March 20—1st/ 2ndgrade plays
March 21—SF Orff workshop
March 25—Tax appointment (?)
March 28—SF JAZZ / Laurel Height Senior Center
March 28—Play piano at orchestra party 
March 29-April 3—8thgrade Social Justic trip to Alabama
April 6h—NJPAC workshop in Newark, New Jersey 
April 15—Karen leaves for Italy bike trip
April 18—SF JAZZ ?
April 25—Amidons/ NCAOSA Orff Workshop
May 2—Postponed SF Orff workshop?
May 3—Postponed 8thgrade Alabama trip?
May 12-14—SF School Spring Concert?
May 23—My retirement party?
May 30—Alumni concert? 
June 4—Last day of school?
June 19—Orff-Afrique in Ghana? 


Not Cancelled
Reading, writing, piano playing, listening to music, cards, acrostics, cooking, hiking, biking, Broadchurch on Netflix, etc. 

Unexpected Bonus
Grandkids and eldest daughter living with us. Indefinitely. 

That's the new world we're in.