Beached

IMG_7614(Harbert, Michigan) With the thermometer barely hitting 60, and the wind howling down the length of Lake Michigan, it was a good day to tend to long-deferred dry dock repairs to faithful old Seahawk.  So this sailor went down to the waving, sweet-water sea and got his sea kayak seaworthy for all the calm days ahead until the storms of November come slashin’.

Seahawk was heeding the small-craft warnings Monday.

Seahawk was heeding the small-craft warnings Monday.

A sure sign that Lake Michigan was in one of her moods today.

A sure sign that Lake Michigan was in one of her moods today.

October postcard from Michigan.  Excuse me: July postcard from Michigan.  You get the picture, right?

October postcard from Michigan. Excuse me: July postcard from Michigan. You get the picture, right?

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Lights out, Campers!

The Galien River County Park in New Buffalo, Michigan is open from sunrise to sunset.  I got this shot just before closing Sunday.

The Galien River County Park in New Buffalo, Michigan is open from sunrise to sunset. I got this shot just before closing Sunday.

The Galien River was in a dusky mood Sunday at sunset.

The Galien River was in a dusky mood Sunday at sunset.

 

 

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Have Clarinet; Will Travel

My teacher ever reminds me that in order to receive the gift of music, one must forever give it away.  Hence, our rail trip yesterday to Hinsdale, Illinois to celebrate the 67th wedding anniversary of Natalie’s parents, Glen and Alice DeViney.  They asked me to bring along my clarinet, and I gladly did, and, I am happy to say, they gladly received my concert in their living room.  Gift given; gift given away.  Perfect harmony.

It doesn't get more portable  than this.

It doesn’t get more portable than this.

On the (rail)road again.

On the (rail)road again.

 

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Adventures in Music

Flabby Embouchure

Musical Adventures

By Charles McKelvy

Playing for the old folks at the old folks home.  Photo courtesy of Woodland Terrace.

Playing for the old folks at the old folks home. Photo courtesy of Woodland Terrace.

The heartbreak of flabby embouchure struck when I least wanted it: as I was playing my clarinet for the old folks at the old folks home.

Flabby embouchure, so you know, is a recognized medical condition that refers to a poor seal around the mouthpiece of the wind instrument popularly known as the licorice stick. And, I was clearly afflicted with this dreaded disease because I had not been licking my stick enough at the time of the aforementioned concert.

So, when the old folks at the old folks home wanted me to play some more songs, I was out of mouth muscle.

My upper lip fluttered right off the mouthpiece as I was playing the final verse of America the Beautiful, and I had to surrender and tell the old folks that I was done for the day.

Facial flexing on the go.

Facial flexing on the go.

What I have done since then is work to strengthen my embouchure by flexing my facial muscles with a handy-dandy little device called a Facial-Flex from Facial Concepts, Inc. of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. I kid you not: Facial-Flex from Facial Concepts, Inc. (Write them in care of: Facial Concepts, Inc., P.O. Box 99, Blue Bell, PA 19422 and flex for yourself.)

Sold as a beauty aid, the Facial-Flex is favored by discriminating clarinet players for preventing flabby embouchure. A player just needs to use it on a daily basis is all.

And that is not all I was doing for a good part of the present summer. Hey, there’s baseball and baseball and baseball, and, well, other fun stuff too to spend time whiling away the hours, and, well, the clarinet and the Facial-Flex did get short shrift.

Hence a case of the dreaded flabby embouchure before a live audience, no less.

But that’s not the end of the story, because I just played before that same live audience at the old folks home, and I sailed through more than 45 minutes of solid playing with nary a fluttering lip or hint of flabby embouchure.

What had changed?

Well, almost everything.

What changed was my attitude.

I embraced practice, and I broke out the old Facial-Flex and did repeat facial flexes until I felt my facial muscles flex into firmness. I got my mojo back, and my mouthpiece knew it.

No escape.

This guy is serious.

Well, my mouthpiece said nothing of the sort, but I was back in the groove today, and I will be every time I play for the old folks at the old folks home so long as I flex my face and lick my stick on a daily basis. To do anything less, as I so sorrowfully discovered, is to be hit and run over by flabby embouchure.

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Posted in Spiritual Progress, Travels with Charley | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boys of Summer

Sorry, girls, but summer is a season made for boys, and nothing says summer and boys better than baseball.  Well, weddings count too.  To wit:

This good ol' boy in the bleachers was hoping for a White Sox win the other day, but he didn't cry when he didn't get it, because he got to see lots of good ol' baseball in the summertime.

This good ol’ boy in the bleachers was hoping for a White Sox win the other day, but he didn’t cry when he didn’t get it, because he got to see lots of good ol’ baseball in the summertime.

Hard work, but somebody has to do it.  Might as well be these boys.

Hard work, but somebody has to do it. Might as well be these boys.

You mean I get payed to play catch?  Where do I sign up?

You mean I get paid to play catch? Where do I sign up?

Put me in, coach.  I'm ready to save the day.  (Not!!!!)

Put me in, coach. I’m ready to save the day.

This boy knew how to get everybody in the mood for a summer wedding.

This boy knew how to get everybody in the mood for a summer wedding.

Boys always keep their cool, even at July weddings in Florida.

Boys always keep their cool, even at July weddings in Florida.

Jeff Rayl is probably thinking: "Hey, how come they never play 'Here comes the Groom'?"

Jeff Rayl is probably thinking: “Hey, how come they never play ‘Here comes the Groom’?”

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Mind, Body & Spirit

That whole Mind, Body & Spirit thing was drilled into my head as a kid, probably by the influential organizations of my childhood: the YMCA, the Boy Scouts, and the Episcopal Church.  The message was:  You can’t develop one and neglect the other two.  Be fit mentally, physically, and spiritually.  Message received.  And, I am happy to say, I have been working on all three in my dotage, particularly this year.  To wit:

Studying the clarinet with Jason Gresl (right) at Andrews University has pushed my old brain to the max.  Thank you, Jason!

Studying the clarinet with Jason Gresl (right) at Andrews University has pushed my old brain to the max. Thank you, Jason!

Rip Esselstyn taught me how to live and eat plant strong at the Engine 2 Retreat in June.  You go, Rip!

Rip Esselstyn taught me how to live and eat plant strong at the Engine 2 Retreat in June. You go, Rip!

For spiritual development, I turned to Sister Simone Campbell last Saturday for some words of wisdom from her book, A Nun on the Bus.  Ride on, Sister Simone!

For spiritual development, I turned to Sister Simone Campbell last Saturday for some words of wisdom from her book, A Nun on the Bus. Ride on, Sister Simone!

 

 

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day

Let’s make every day Mother’s Day

Opinion Maker Column

By Charles McKelvy

Photo of yours truly and Mom courtesy of an usher at Orchestra Hall in Chicago after a concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Photo of yours truly and Mom courtesy of an usher at Orchestra Hall in Chicago after a concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

(Author’s note: This essay appeared originally in The Herald-Palladium Newspaper in Saint Joseph, Michigan on November 30, 2010, just a month after we moved Mom to be near us in Bridgman, Michigan. And, I must say, it did earn the praise of local mothers, including Peggy Schaffer who wrote: “Well! You’ve won your way into every Mother’s heart with this article!”)

When I was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago, editors often told me: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Well, I sure checked it out as soon as I was of sound mind and body, and I thus knew at the tender age of 4 that I was forever blessed to have a loving mother who would go to any lengths to protect, nurture, and comfort her children.

It was at that tender age, you see, when I took deathly ill and was ordered by the family doctor to have my tonsils removed. You students of medicine will be interested to know that I suffered in succession: scarlet fever and tonsillitis. My condition was so severe that the doctor quarantined us in our apartment in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. Some of the neighbors actually moved out in fear of the dreaded scarlet fever.

Well, my mother didn’t move out. Nor did my father.

They were at my side, comforting me in my fever and assuring me I would get better and return to the hyperactive little life I had just been enjoying in my small corner of the Windy City.

Dad, of course, had to go to work to support us, so it was Mom who stayed with me throughout an illness that I still remember—lo these 56 years later—as somewhere beyond dire.

I knew in my fevered brain that I was at death’s door. I was really, really sick and frightened, but my mother was there comforting me and guiding me and praying for me and just putting cool wash cloths on my forehead and never leaving my side.

And then, when the progression of my illness led me to the operating room at the Chicago hospital in which I had been born just four years before, Mom was there with me. She not only stayed in the room with me, but she walked beside me as they wheeled me toward the dreaded operating room, and the frightful “rubber mask” and the rest of it.

She had to walk beside me, because I was a definite “flight risk” who had already jumped off the gurney and tried to book his way out of that creepy, old hospital.

Mom was there when I came to after the operation, and she was there ordering the doctor to bring me the vanilla ice cream he had promised to bring me after my surgery.

The man in the white coat tried to laugh me off, but Mom told him I had been quite serious in ordering ice cream as a post-surgical treat, and so the good doctor went and got some ice cream.

What a Mom!

And what I am getting at here is that although we are now in the Big Holiday season, we might all pause and reflect warmly on that wonderful Sunday in May that we call Mother’s Day.

This is the season of giving, so let’s give thanks for our mothers and say a collective: “Thanks, Mom!”

I was certainly inspired to do so the other day when I was wheeling Mom through the inner sanctum of a Chicago area hospital to an appointment with a doctor who was preparing to perform a surgical procedure upon her. As I pushed her in her wheelchair along the brightly lighted corridor, I glanced into a bay and saw a woman tenderly holding a little boy who just had to be her son and cooing comforting thoughts to him.

That took me back immediately to 1954 when Mom was there for me in the hospital.

I smiled and patted my 89-year-old Mother on the shoulder and said: “Don’t worry, Mom, I’m right here.”

She just nodded and directed me to continue pushing her toward her appointment with the doctor.

What goes around comes around, and what would certainly make this lumpy old planet a lot rounder would be some collective gratitude for the wonders that mothers work in our hearts and in our world.

So why wait until that sunny Sunday in May to say: “Thanks, Mom!”

Every day can be Mother’s Day if we want it to be.

And I’ll cast the first vote in favor.

There, I’m done.

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