Saturday, April 30, 2022

Farewell to April

Tonight is the last night of what has been a most extraordinary month. Certainly the most varied of the last two years and equally, most groundbreaking on many levels, most of which is documented in this blog. Before turning to May, a quick look back.


• Taught kids at the Children’s Day School

• Played piano at the Jewish Home of the Aged and Mercy Housing.

• Read excerpts from my new book to the kids at the SF School.

• Watched the rough cut of a film about my work that has been 2 ½ years in the making.

• Watched the above with my wife, daughters, son-in-law and grandkids.

• Had my 2-years-deferred retirement party with music, slides and my farewell speech. 

• Went from i-Phone 6 to 13 and closed out our faithful landline.

• Went to a movie theater (to see CODA)

• Went to a David Whyte poetry retreat.

• Flew across the ocean and got my passport stamped for the first time in two years. 

• Spent three delightful days in Lecce, Italy with my wife and a friend.

• Rode six days through Puglia, each day like a small lifetime in itself. 


Why should anyone —you, the reader, for example— care about this? It’s simple— you shouldn’t. But if any universal thought can be plucked from these details, it’s simply these two truths:


1) The brain thrives on repetition. My sheltered life of routines ranging from piano practice to writing to cooking to walking in the park to jigsaw puzzles had its own pleasure in the rhythm and the routine.


2) The brain thrives on novelty. This month of varied activity in different places with different people has created a different sense of time and offered multiple delights, new notes in familiar songs.

I love both the routine and the novelty. 


Let us see what May will bring. Hares and rabbit. 

Biking in Puglia: Day 6

“Back in the saddle again, back where a friend is a friend…” 


I began singing this old cowboy song as we once again mounted our bikes after a two-day rest. Farewell to Matera and out again into the countryside. Some of it a bit too trafficked for our taste, but then a long section with stone walls on both sides and only occasional cars. We passed a herd of cows, each with the large melodious bells hung from their necks as they do in Spain, so that when they wander to graze, a John Cage-style composition emerges. Adding to my list of minor regrets that I didn’t stop to record it.


Stopped to lunch in the town of Gioia del Colle, but the main square had no benches and no trees and we found some church steps instead. While I wax rhapsodic about the wonders of Italy and/or the pleasure of Europe, good to remind myself that not every place is extraordinary and not every town memorable. Just as life and music has its peaks and valleys, so does geography have its memorable convocation of elements that we perceive as beauty— and the rest is filler.


From Gioia del Colle another 12 miles to the more attractive town of Noci, with our main objective to find a gelateria. We did and I am proud to report that I resisted. Giving in to pleasure has its place, but so is resisting it occasional, especially in deference to the bulging belly. While the others enjoyed their cones, I notice a public bulletin board with funeral notices, much as they do in Ghana. Of course, we have our newspaper obituaries, but I wonder what it would be like for neighborhoods to have such public announcements of fellow citizens who passed on. 


Now there was some 9 more miles to go to our destination of Alberobello— and yes, they use kilometers here, but I’m saving you the trouble of conversion. Today was our longest day, some 70 kilometers (42 miles), but it was a bit longer for me. I got out ahead of the others and while zooming down a long hill, thought I should stop and wait for them. Five minutes later, none appeared and so I doubled back to meet them. A half mile back, no sign of them, a mile back, no sign, now probably two miles back and they were nowhere in sight. 

Now I began to worry, wondering if one of them had had an accident. I re-read all the directions to make sure I didn’t miss a turn-off, but didn’t see anything I did wrong. The one vague possibility was an Abbey that the directions suggested we stop at, but when I entered what might have been it (it was not well-marked), again, no sign of them and a passing car told me it was a farm. 


Trying to keep calm and collected, I decided to follow the directions to our next hotel and hope for the best. Now my battery started to give out and my handlebars kept slipping and my mind was not wholly unchained with worst-case-scenarios, but definitely wondering how I could have missed them and where the heck they could be. I turned at the correct sign, struggled uphill with my faltering battery and at some point, came around the bend and there they were riding ahead!


I caught up with them and came up next to the last person, she said, “Oh, there you are.” Quite casually. It seems they assumed I went on ahead and none of them seemed particularly worried about me! So much for the big drama of it all from my side of the matter. And what happened? Apparently, they had gone to that Abbey and had left long before I finally turned off there. 


So here we arrived in the town of Alberobello and it is somewhat astounding how each of the places we’ve spent the night is memorable, but in a different way. Bari, Lecce, Trani, the farmhouse in la Bagniola, Gravina, Matera and now this town made distinct by its Trulli buildings used for hotels (we’re staying in one!), restaurants, cafes, houses and such. I feel like I’ve arrived in Hobbitown or some other fantasy place! Now at 5:30 pm, about to go out and explore and I promise I’ll come back with the photos. Stick around.


Cruised the town amidst a few hundred other tourists with my camera out and so, photos below. A pleasant dinner, but Italy, like Spain, begins late, starting around 8:00 pm. So keeping our normal 10:30 bedtimes means there’s not much post-dinner evening— and going to sleep with a full stomach. When in Rome…

And so ends the last day in April, with two more biking days awaiting…

Friday, April 29, 2022

Biking in Puglia: Day 5

A rare early morning awakening and four of us out on a trail by 8:00 am. Down the ravine, across the swinging bridge and up the slope on the dusty, rocky path. Chilled air, a San Francisco spring breeze and no other hikers on the path. Up to the plateau, peaking into caves with frescoes from ancient monks carving makeshift churches in the caves. Looking across the ravine back at the city. Looking down the ravine past the city at far distant fields. On the return trip, a brief walk along the stream and the sound (and then sight) of frogs.

Back to meet the others and a simple lunch on our hotel terrace, the wind still unrelenting and not much sun in sight. While some were off to nap, I returned to the Piazza where yesterday’s singer was playing and brought my recorder in hopes of a little jam session. Alas, he had left! So instead wandered around the remarkable mix of rock and building we had been looking at from all different angles. Now up close through its nooks and crannies, taking dozens of photos, playing recorder in a little carved out area and thinking about the marvel of this architecture, how it follows the natural curves and rises and fall of the original structure created by that master architect, Nature and then the human counterparts decided to work with it, around it, inside of it instead of bringing out the bulldozers and flattening it all for a Costco. 

I imagine a future blogpost relating the above to education. The children come to us in their extraordinary selves, full of their unique twists and turns and rises and falls and recesses and outcroppings and what do we do? Try to flatten them out with a one-size-fits-all education, make them conform to our adult fantasy of a blueprint someone else handed to us that we received without question. Why can’t we build on what they bring to us? To be continued.


Back to the hotel and out to the Castle on the edge of town. It was closed, but a good excuse for more walking, followed by a trip to an outdoor market and a delightful purchase from a man selling almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, figs and salted roasted fava beans. By now, we had walked some 8 miles, keeping up our biking daily exercise quota, so why not finally take a shower, finish the last of the laundry, listen to the end of my Audible book and catch up on journal writing. 

Tomorrow we’re on the move again, three more days and then the next phase of a four-week trip. Happy to see tidbits of news from e-mails and such that I don’t care to follow, to ignore a few business requests, to work really hard to remember what day it is and simply to be more wholly present in this adventure than the world, with all its grabbing and yelling and pulling and shouting for attention, usually allows. Or rather, new voices have spoken up that don’t demand anything from me but genuine attention and extra-credit praise for what they’re offering. The feasts of the eyes and the tongue, the music of the language and evening swallows, the feel of the bikes on bumpy roads and the wind on smooth ones. Dinner awaits at “Soul Kitchen,” and probably post-dinner packing to prepare for the next leg.


Viva Italia!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Biking in Puglia: Day 4

Today the bikes stayed in their racks, like the horses in the stables getting a rest. We set out on foot, happy for another locomotor movement, different pace and freedom to walk hither and thither on and off the beaten track. 


Leaving our hotel, a family passed by and greeted us. The man was contagiously affable and when I found out they were from the Netherlands, I sang  Fietsie Foetsie, a Dutch song about a stolen bicycle I learned some 30 years ago. My repertoire of songs from around the world is proving to be useful as an instant and delightful connecting device. No sooner had we walked for 10 minutes when we ran into a street musician singing songs with his guitar. I requested a song I had heard some 45 years ago called Il Partigiano and he knew it and I sang along on parts of it. Fun!


On we went to the cathedral and were treated to paintings and sculptures from the Medieval to the Baroque and the highlight was a bagpipe player. (For those who know me, they’re nodding their head thinking “Of course it was.”) Lunch with our “stolen” breakfast snacks on the church steps and on we went, threading through the winding, twisty streets, treated to view after view of this extraordinary town made of stone. Stopped at a museum that gave a film history of it and learned that all the charm had once been dire poverty and squalor with people living in the caves without any bathrooms, much food or even much air. Much as Dorothy Lange and Walker Evans made public the poverty of the Dust Bowl folks and people in Appalachia, an author named Carlos Levi shone the light on the situation with a book he published and in the 1960’s, people were moved into public housing. Two films, the Mel Gibson “Passion of Christ” and the James Bond “Live or Let Die” were filmed here, the city was declared a Unesco Heritage Sight and in 2019, won an Italian prize as a place of note and the tourist industry grew, though at the moment, less invasive than in other places. 

Working our way to the town square, I wrote a poem describing our experience (though in actuality, we did go left and didn’t take a bus):

Three roads diverged

In a Medieval town.

Eight tourists deciding,

Which one to go down.


“I want the left!”

“I want the right!”

“Let’s just decide or

We’ll be here all night!”


“This one is good.”

“But this one is great!”

“I think the best 

Is the one that goes straight!


Who gets to choose?

Who will decide?

“Here comes the bus!

Let’s get a ride!”


A stop for coffee and there I recognized the couple who shared my pleasure in the singer we had met. I started talking to them and the women sang in a folk song group and gave me fascinating background on the Il Partigiano song (to be saved for a later post).  A delightful conversation and surprised at how easily and happily I can talk with strangers, me who never starts conversations on airplanes. Soon after, I hear two couples speaking Spanish and starved to talk in another language I knew, I began chatting with them, ten minutes of sheer pleasure. A few minutes later, a car came by and the driver honked and waved and it was Vincente, the man from yesterday who recognized me because he thought I looked like “the Fonz” from the TV show Happy Days. My second day here and I feel  as if I know people!


In the square, there was a public piano and I rushed to it and played The Maple Leaf Rag and when kids came around, variations on Twinkle Little Star. Ah, music. Such a wonderful traveling companion and takes up no space or weight in the luggage I bring with me.


Back to the hotel late afternoon to do some handwashed laundry. Laundry is always an issue in European travel, not many laundramats and the people who will take your laundry charge by the piece. So into the sink it goes and hung on the heated towel rack or patio. A bit on the labor-intensive side, but satisfying.


The day ended at a lovely restauarant with no background music and the pleasure of actually being able to talk to each other at the table. My wife tried a new dish with an unappetizing name— crapiatta (I kid you not!)— but a delicious stew with barley, beans and vegetables. Midway through the meal, two musicians come into the restaurant and it was almost delightful except that they carried a boombox playing most of the music while they accompanied on washboard and a friction drum. And not very rhythmically precise at that. Still better than the recorded pounding disco beat!


And so we finished Day 4 without ever mounting our bikes. There are rides to do from here and back, but tomorrow I believe most of us will be out walking again. Simply too much to see and do in this wonderful town. 


Biking in Puglia: Day 3

 May I praise these bike tour companies? Perhaps in my youth, I would have packed some saddlebags with everything I needed and biked through the country camping my way on routes that I figured out ahead of time. But I never did and can’t quite imagine it now.


But these bike tours are the perfect solution. They choose the route and give you detailed directions to follow (interesting that it’s still on paper and no GPS), arrange the hotels, provide the bikes and helmet and tool kit and water bottle, take the bags you leave at one hotel and bring them to the other. All you have to do is the actual riding. Perfect! 


So we breakfasted in Gravina, did our customary hoarding of the breakfast spread— some bread, cheese, hard-boiled egg, a banana or apple, etc. wrapped in napkins and put into a precious plastic bag and set off  for another romp out on open roads with occasional cars whipping by, increasingly larger fennel plants on the side of the road, past fields of just-beginning wheat growing and surprisingly, still that morning sense of newness, a child’s sense of time and a young adult’s sense of the world spread out before us. Our actual 70+ year-old body-minds cast off behind us as we rode. 


We arrived at the town of Altamura for lunch, found a little park with benches and as we cracked open our hard-boiled eggs, a group of five high school boys and one girl came over and started practicing their English with us. “Where are you from?” “Ah, California! Golden State Warriors!” And so conversation proceeded from basketball to music to “Do you like Altamura?” and beyond. So sweet and I would just hope that someday a group of American high schoolers would start a conversation with Italian tourists to practice their Italian with that level of warmth, courage and sweetness. 

The riding in the countryside is heaven, long stretches without having to stop to look at directions, but things get much more complicated as we come into towns. The directions to the hotel in Matera were complicated and for the first time, the inevitable impatience and slight bickering with each other came to the forefront as each of us in turn was convinced we knew the way and each of us in turn turned out to be wrong. But we persevered and finally found the Hotel Belvedere. Still complaining having to take our heavy bikes down some 30 stairs, we instantly stopped in amazement at the view outside the back of the hotel.  

I had certainly known of iconic sights like the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Yosemite, Venice, Santerini and such before I eventually arrived at them, but never in my life—including preparing for this trip— had I ever heard of this town of Matera. And yet it looks to be one of the most extraordinary places on the planet. How could this be?


After a welcome afternoon rest, each tucked away in their rooms with some needed solitude, we set off for dinner and started walking along the edge of the town. The awe was still fresh as we feasted on both the far and near marvels. Looking for a particular restaurant, we chatted with a man watering his plants and it soon grew to an outdoor class about the history of human civilization from a spirited and enthusiastic teacher. Topics ranged from the shift from hunting to agriculture, the rise of private property, the way neighbors are tied together and need to help each other, the water transport system (including showing us how it worked in his house) and more. This morning, we met out bike tour organizer and described the man and he said, “A chatterbox? That’s Vincente.”


On to dinner and here in this town where people lived in caves up through the 1950’s, the waitress came over to give us our menu— a tiny square of paper with a QR code. Aargh! Of course, our phones were not hooked into wi-fi and when with her help, we got one to work, we had to pass it around one at a time to read the tiny 10-page menu. Horrible! They claimed it came from Covid, but we’ve known for a long time that touching paper someone else has touched has nothing to do with the disease transmission. Hopefully, they will return to the paper menu.


This day would have been my Mom’s 101stbirthday (though she passed on eight years ago) and I vowed to live this day on her behalf. I think she would have been happy with it.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Biking in Puglia: Day 2

Day 1 ended with dinner at the A. Pilieri di Bagnoli farmhouse where we stayed. Out came the antipasti — burrata, bruschetta, bufalo mozzarella, zucchini fritter, grilled peppers/ zucchini/ eggplant. Each one exquisite and by the end of that course, I was full.


But we were just warming up. Primera plati was orchiette pasta with rape, the ubiquitous chicory-like green, segunda plati, gnocchi in tomato sauce. Much too much food, but all of it delicious. 


But we were just warming up. Then came a third plate of sausage and potatoes and when they found out that I was vegetarian, a salad appeared along with mushrooms in cream sauce. 


Now it was getting serious. How to stop eating without insulting the hosts? How to eat way beyond our capacity both to be polite and because the food was delicious beyond reason? We found out that she had cooked more than usual because she knew we had bicycled a long distance that day. But laughed when we clarified, “Yes, but they were electric bicycles!" And then brought out the dessert of fruit and sponge cake and glasses of limoncello. I kept trying to convince myself that eating slowly with love and appreciation would magically diminish the calories, but my body knew better!


The next morning a buffet breakfast that could have been excessive, but I showed some discipline and was content with muesli and banana, squirreling away some cheeses and breads for our lunchtime stop. And I couldn’t help but think, as I often do in Europe, about the Ramada Inns breakfasts of stale muffins on Styrofoam plates and feel deeply the lack of attention to beauty, to food, to family, to history in my strip-malled-suburbed-fast-food-industrial-parked-flouresecnt-lit culture. Though being surrounded by history, beauty, good food, strong family relations, time to savor and enjoy, those gifts of so many European cultures, doesn’t guarantee superb human beings, it sure helps. As we feel every day in the warmth of people offering to help us, enjoying the 15 words of shared vocabulary in English and Italian from both sides, the generosity, the smiles. All of which magically disappears when seated in an automobile— then the honks and gestures come flying if you dare to wait 1 second at a green light or drive the speed limit in the left lane. Many times I just happened to look in my rear-view mirror and see a car 10-feet behind me—at 70 miles an hour! In daily life, the pace is slow and relaxed, but something happens once in cars!


As for relaxed pace, we thoroughly enjoyed our second day of biking. The weather has been perfect, hovering between 65 and 70 (Fahrenheit), sunny, sometimes a bit of wind, but not much. Today, we had many stretches of some 5 to 10 miles without having to read directions, winding happily through fields colored with yellow mustard, red poppies, white Queen Anne’s lace and the feathered green of fennel. Some chose to stop often and look closer at the plants and flowers and soon formed the “dilly-dally club.” Others enjoyed the rhythm of the riding and simply waiting at crossroads for the dilly-dallyers without impatience. And some just dillied without the dallied. With just eight of us, it’s all manageable and I enjoy all the different configurations— leading in the front, hovering in the back, chatting away in the middle. 


We arrived at our next town of Gravina at 2:30 and our hotel was closed, so we decided to wait patiently until 3:00 when the Italian day begins anew. But it turns out it was closed for good! So again, with the kindness of strangers, we figured out an alternative hotel where our luggage was actually waiting and now have the afternoon to explore. More in a bit.


   *     *     *      *       *    * 


And quite an afternoon it was. A walk out to and over the Roman aqueduct, the gaze outwards at layers of ruins and caves and cathedrals, upwards to a dramatic cloud-filled sky, downwards to an interesting procession of ants and fascinating watching them pass each other in two directions. Then stumbled into a guide willing to show us—for a modest sum— some subterranean caves where people used to live. The catch? He spoke no English and our best on-the-trip Italian speaker is definitely at a beginning level. So it was the dance of pantomime and clutching at words that sounded familiar in either English, Spanish or Italian while descending a few levels down to where people used to live somehow and make wine. 


Then on to dinner and while I praise the beauty of Italian architecture and its aesthetic attention to food— and of course, its long legacy of famous artists and sculptors and filmmakers and fashion designers— I’m finding myself cursing every restaurant we enter with its non-stop disco beat music, cranked to intolerable decibels and often turned down when I plead with them, but still always audible. We requested some Verdi or Puccini or even Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra at our restaurant tonight, but to no avail.  I guess every culture has its shadow and the propensity for the worst music my own culture has exported is certainly, from my point of view, the Achilles heel in Italy’s boot. 


Tomorrow awaits. Andiamo!

Monday, April 25, 2022

Biking in Puglia: Day 1

“Farewell sorrow, praise God the open door,

I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.”  - The Incredible String Band


“An enticing beginning” my motto in music and life and it certainly was. Eight of us mounted our electric and acoustic bicycles  and though two blocks from the start, my water cage had already fallen off and broke, once we got out of the town of Trani and started riding through the flowering  fields of the Puglia countryside, my heart was already opening. I started spontaneously singing the song above from my college years and all the moments when I felt the unfettered, unbridled freedom of walking (or riding) on the open road converged. So many past selves united in the remembrance of moments when the clock stops and the self drops away. 


The 9-year old walking the dappled path around Lake Minnewaska in the Catskills. The 18-year old skipping class at Antioch College to wander through the Glen and out into the southern Ohio farmland. The 22-year old walking a dusty lane past Queen Anne’s lace in southern France, on the way to hitchhiking to Spain. The 36-year old walking the morning dirt paths in Bali on my birthday, past the barking dogs with the gamelan ringing in the distance. The 45-year old returned to the path around the fire circle at Mt. Baldy  Zen Center, circumambulating with other black-robed beings beating time with the sound of our flip-flops. The 52-year old walking or riding my bike every day for six weeks from Anif to the Orff Institut through the Hellbrun Castle Park, living precisely the life I was made for. The 60-year old taking seventeen San Francisco School students on his favorite Salzburg bike ride, past Anif, past von Karajan’s house, alongside the stream to the Sound of Music house and beyond. And finally, the 70-year old, grateful and amazed that he cannot only ride some 25 to 40 miles a day, but that his heart can still be broken wide open in the most glorious of ways, that he can happily shed all his carefully-crafted identities without a moment of regret. 


Well aware that such grace comes seldomly, no expectations for eight days of unbroken nirvana, but again, grateful that such a day as this can be. Some 25 miles from the city of Trani to an upscale farmhouse (Piele da Bagnoli), where a hearty dinner and more comraderie awaits. 


Tomorrow Day 2.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

And So It Begins

Yesterday we left our lovely Air B&B in Lecce and took the train to Trani. (That last phrase a good beginning to a tongue-twister). Walking from the train station, it was a typical Italian Sunday— just about everything closed and very few people out and about. But when we reached our hotel on the water to meet up with other our five fellow bikers, this lovely town on the sea turned out to be a lively town by the sea. By late afternoon, literally thousands of young people gathered (close together and without masks—outside, but still a sight I wondered if I’d ever see again), cruising the streets, dancing to disco, filling the air with their animated chatter. 


The eight of us grey-haired elders found a restaurant with an animated cook who insisted on being in charge of the five antipasti and presented each with pride and enthusiasm. Well earned, too— the now common mashed fava bean and chicory, langostina shrimp, grilled zucchini and eggplant, croquette potatoes and meatballs. We met the host of our bike tour and we met our bikes, most of them electric and needing more explanation. I went with the majority and decided to try one out, after all my years of being faithful to “acoustic bikes” (the title of a blog I wrote years back in Salzburg when I tried my first electric bike). We shall see how that goes. 


Meanwhile, breakfast and an 8-day adventure, part two of this five-part trip, awaits.



 Back when I was just starting out giving workshops around the country, I received a surprise and attractive invitation in the mail that was really exciting. I shared it with my family, noticed my 8-year-old daughter smiling and soon discovered that she had sent the letter (expertly, I might add) as an April Fool’s joke! I eventually forgave her.


But truth be told, some part of me has always been awaiting a surprise invitation through the mail slot or later, the e-mail or even text message. In my fantasies, things like Wynton Marsalis inviting me to give a workshop at Lincoln Center or Terry Gross asking me for an interview or some prestigious University informing me that I have been granted an Honorary Doctorate. Naturally, none of it ever happens and the closest things to such welcome surprises have been the San Francisco Conservatory of Music asking me to teach in their program in 1998 and then in 2000, receiving the notification that I was awarded the Orff Foundation Pro Merito Award to be given to me by Frau Orff at the Orff Symposium in Salzburg. In my memory, those were the only two such surprises that came my way.


So imagine my delight when today I received this notification from someone I didn’t know:


“Hi Doug,


I came across a new job listing that I thought might interest you. The full details and application process can be found in this job listing below.…”


Intriguing, yes? I scrolled down and this was the job.


Dyslexia Center Assessment Proctor/ UCSF San Francisco, CA. 


Huh? Is this a message from World that I’ve chosen the wrong path or a new one awaits me?  


While I’m thinking about it… Wynton? Terry? Harvard?

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Keeper of the Keys

Though I don’t do it often, I’m a sucker for the Hop Off-Hop on buses, the guided tours, even the occasional Disneyland ride. I love the feeling of someone else being in charge and me just sitting back and letting them take me away.


But I’m a teacher. Which means that mostly I like to be in charge. I like to be the keeper of the keys and the driver of the car. And so, in the 5th day of traveling with my wife and a friend, we indeed have settled comfortably into a natural division of labor. I’m driving the stick-shift Fiat, my wife is reading the maps, the friend is in charge of the parking machines. It’s working well. 


Yet being in charge does not mean dominating, but leading us all to the edge of discovery. Driving, as we did yesterday, to Finnes-terra, the end of the land and opening the door to the blustery winds and pounding waves and the invitation of the far horizon and letting them speak to each of us in our own way. Indeed, “leading to the edge of discovery” is a phrase I came up with early in my teaching to define my role as a teacher. Creating the structures, setting the tone, guiding the students to come to their own edge of discovery and then letting them go to see what happens. 


My job as “keeper of the keys” is to determine which doors seem locked and find out which keys fit, both in myself and in my students. And then open the doors and discover which ones to step through. 


Today we return the rental car and its keys, tomorrow leave our Air B&B keys in the rental box and leave ourselves in the hands of our group bike tour guide. That will be a different kind of pleasure. For now, the keys sit comfortably in my pocket and the day awaits to see which doors it will open. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Let's Get Lost

Yes, Chet Baker sang that song and no, he didn’t write it (Jimmy McHugh and Frank Loesser did) and yes, I played it with a singer at his Saturday night concert at the poetry retreat and yes, I found myself singing it while wandering about Lecce’s Old Town. Even though the song is more about “getting lost in each other’s arms,” it works as the  anthem of my preferred style of travel. 

My whole life I have felt the presence of unseen hands, the mystery of serendipity, the kindness of strangers and it has been in my travels that they have come forth most boldly. From my early hitchhiking days to last night’s post-dinner stroll in Old Town wandering and wondering how to get out back to our place. 

By refusing the GPS or even the paper map, several things happen:


1) That delicious sense of being slightly lost, but with low stakes— no place we have to be at a certain time, no danger, no sense that we are so hopelessly lost, we will never find our way out.


2) A reason to talk to people and ask directions and go through the pantomime of rudimentary Italian (us) and rudimentary English (them). The pleasure of connecting, their pleasure in being helpful, our pleasure in being helped.

3) The possibility of finding things that you never would have intended to find, but had something memorable to offer. That sense of things finding you.


4) The affirmation that though the world can kill us just as soon as guide us, it often lends its hand when we open ourselves to our vulnerability, our heightened sense of paying attention, our willingness to abandon all the planning and plotting and insisting that we know every step we’re about to take and just relax, enjoy, let go— and see what happens. 


And in my experience, it’s usually something delightful. Like stumbling into the perfect lunch-place yesterday in Old Town with local vegetables stuffed in pita bread. Then the perfect lunch place today in a village we got to through detour, the woman bringing the hand-written menu and pointing to plates and steering us toward the mashed fava beans and wild chickory vegetables, all of us feeling the love and pride for what she had to offer. We arrived there simply by driving without Siri and following signs, taking wrong turns and sometimes continuing and sometimes turning back, because like jazz, there are no “wrong notes” or “wrong turns.”


Last night, my wife uncharacteristically looked up a restaurant choice online and tried to steer with her phone to the place and it felt like another form of travel altogether and one I was not enjoying. Sometimes, of course, it’s fine, but as for me, I agree with Chet Baker:


“Let’s get lost.” 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

A Year in the Life

In 2016, I traveled to five continents giving Orff workshops.  In 2021, I mostly traveled between five rooms in my house. That life I once led had changed dramatically.


2016 was no exception, my calendar similar in the 25 years before and the 4 years after. But on that particular year, I worked in some 18 cities in 11 countries on 5 continents. All of this while teaching some 7 classes a day to kids from 3 years old to 8th grade for six of those months at The San Francisco School. 


While I freely confess that I have felt some pride in my growing resume, I’m firmly in the stage of life when it’s clear that no one cares and I needn’t try to impress anyone. At the same time, having stumbled into this calendar looking for the year that I took a trip to Sicily, I found myself somewhat astounded that I lived this life. By all means, feel free to stop reading here, but for those curious, here is my itinerary for that particular year. All of which was captured, incidentally, in one form or another by the blogposts from that year. And that indeed is more important to me, not so much what I did, but how I did it and why I did it and how much I enjoyed it and what it meant to me and what it might have meant for the people I taught. 


For better or for worse, here’s the outline.




Jan. 9 —SF Orff Workshop

Jan. 14/19—SF BATTI Orff Workshop



Feb. 4—Australia:Univ. of Queensland/ Griffith Univeristy Workshops & Lectures

Feb. 5-7—Brisbane Orff Course 

Feb. 8—Sunnybank Hills State School Guest Teacher

Feb. 9—Jindalee State School Guest Teacher

Feb. 10—Oxley State School Guest Teacher

Feb. 12-13-14—Sydney Orff Course  

Feb. 15- Sydney: Santa Sabina School Guest Teacher

Feb. 16—Sydney: Newington College Guest Teacher 

Feb. 18: Cranbrook School Guest Teacher 

Feb. 19—Sydney: PLC School Guest Teacher 

Feb. 26—SF NAIS Conference



March 5—SFS Workshop

March 12—SF Jazz Workshop

March 17—Japan:Tokyo. Nishimashi Guest Teacher

March 18-19—Tokyo Orff Workshop

March 21-24—Singapore: UWCSEA Orff Course

March 28-30—Bangkok Jazz Course

March 31-Apr. 2—EARCOS Conference: Manila, Philippines- workshop/ Keynote Speaker



April 14-18—SF School Social Justice Alabama trip

April 23—Salida, Ca Orff Workshop




May 11-12—SFS Spring Concerts

May 21 —SFS Auction Jazz Concert

May 21—SF JAZZ



June 4—SFS Graduation

June 19—July 3—Ghana Orff-Afrique Course



July 4-8—Madrid Orff Course

July 11—Salzburg Orff summer course evening workshop

July 12-22—Sicily with Karen

July 25-29—SF Jazz Course



Aug. 1-12—SF International Orff Course Level Training: Hidden Valley, CA

Aug. 22-26—Toronto, Canada Orff Course



Sept. 10—SF: My Orff workshop

Sept. 17—Chicago Orff Workshop

Sept. 24—SF Jazz



October 15—Hayward Cal State Orff Workshop

October 22—SF Jazz



Nov. 2-5—AOSA Conference: Atlantic City

Nov. 7—NJPAC New Jersey Orff-Jazz Workshop

Nov. 12—SF School Kofi workshop and Nunya Academy Benefit Concert



Dec. 15—SF School Holiday Shows

Dec. 17—SF Jazz