Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The long winter

Durham, NC, 2013-14, ain't got nothing on De Smet, Dakota Territory, 1880-81, but we've had a long winter by local standards. In the fourteen years since we moved to Durham, we've had noteworthy snow or ice maybe once or twice each winter. This year, we've had multiple accumulations of snow, sleet, ice, and "wintry mix"--all occasions of which, in these here parts, enjoy the honorific of "weather event." Whether anything actually accumulates, it's pretty much guaranteed that drivers will freak out, cars will slide into ditches, schools will close, and children will rejoice.

Nothing this year has rivaled the Great Ice Storm of '02, but the yo-yo-ing weather did bless us with about 8 inches of snow back in mid-February. Just as WRAL's Greg Fishel predicted, we went from zero precip to heavy snowfall in a matter of a few minutes, starting, as predicted, at about 1:00pm; despite the advance warning, half of the working adults in the Triangle didn't shift into Snowpocalypse mentality until after it started to snow, leading, predictably, to traffic chaos.


E's school dismissed students early, at 12:15, even though the principal, freshly imported from Vermont this past fall, didn't understand what all the fuss was about. Welcome to North Carolina, Mr. N.

E and I went straight to Costco after school to buy a marine battery, in case the power went out. By the time we got home, we already had an inch of snow on the ground.

The next night, we walked downtown through deserted icy streets to see a movie at the Carolina, where we had the theater pretty much to ourselves.

We've experienced multiple weather events since then, with lovely, warm, wannabe spring days (non-events--good weather doesn't get "event" status) alternating with sleet, ice, and snow. I forgot to take photos during the previous ice storm, but this morning I did take some shots of the melting remnants of last night's freezing rain.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thanks, Durham Arts Council

I'm delighted and grateful to have been named one of this year's sixteen Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artists by the Durham Arts Council. The grant will enable me to purchase equipment and materials to safely mix and store glazes and colored slips in my home studio. Personal glaze palette, here I come!


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The cello case explained

In my earlier post today, I mentioned my grandfather Mitch's cello case, painted by my grandmother Woozy. My mother kindly took a photograph, tracked down the music, and provided the key below. What a treasure (both my mom and the cello case)!

From bottom to top:

Piano history and moving pix

The quest for a local mover ended when a friend who tunes and repairs organs recommended J.E. Ladd & Son Transfer. They did a fabulous and efficient job, and we continue to be amused by their tag line: "We moved your antiques when they were new." They said the dolly they used dates back to the 1920s, so it's almost as old as the piano.

Here's what my mom wrote recently about the piano's history:
The year I was twelve, 1953, we moved to Chicago. Mitch and Wooz found a third floor walk-up apartment in Hyde Park. Jules and Zunia Henry lived on the first floor. Jules was an anthropologist based at Washington University in St. Louis, taking a sabbatical year at the University of Chicago--I knew that as a kid. Zunia was, as far as I knew, a nice lady who played the piano and gave lessons. Here's an interview from 1988--I had no idea! Their daughter, Joan, was my age and we became good friends for that year.

Mitch was always a spendthrift (made Woozy constantly crazy) and perpetually delusional about his kids being musical geniuses--remember poor Bob and the violin. He decided that all that was needed to bring out my natural gifts as a musical prodigy was a piano, and enlisted the help of Zunia to find a "suitable instrument." It was she who found the Mason & Hamlin at an estate sale in the fancy part of town. It cost Mitch $500 ($4,364 in 2014 dollars), a pretty good deal as I understand it now, but an outrageous expense (IMO) for a man with very limited income on behalf a child with no demonstrated aptitude or interest. I took piano lessons from Zunia, learned a bit about reading music, and enjoyed the experience. But the Henrys went back to St. Louis at the end of the academic year, and that was the end of the experiment.

I have an indelible memory of [the piano being moved into the apartment]. The movers brought it via the alley at the rear of the apartment building, rigged pulleys to the roof and side of the building and the piano, and lifted it from the ground up to the third floor. Outside. Nobody but the movers were allowed in the yard while this was going on. High drama for the whole neighborhood! It came in through the back porch. Yikes indeed.

The piano eventually moved to Urbana a generation later only because you were the singular grandchild who exhibited a passion for things musical. Excellent good luck, I'd say! Yay, Mitch!
Excellent luck indeed! Incidentally, my grandfather Mitch decided at some point that if his kids weren't going to be musicians, he still could be. He started taking cello lessons late in life from Leonore Glazer, a cellist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Once, when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra swung through Urbana, I asked her why orchestra musicians always wear black. As I remember it, she agreed with me that light blue would be a better color.) I still have some of Mitch's cello music, and my mom still has his cello case, which Woozy had painted with images representing inside family jokes.

But back to the piano:

On the dolly, getting ready to roll off the truck;


...through the front door

...and into the remarkably clean study.

It turns out 6'2" is way bigger in 3D-piano units than in a flat narrow strip of tape measure units.

Second leg took some extra nudging;

S told me, ca. 1992, that "a man needs a rubber mallet." Here's proof.

Awaiting leg #3...

Not pictured: rubber mallet.

Standing on its own three feet. Look at that pristine interior!

Adding the lid...

Lid pins in place.

Ta da! A thing of beauty.
A friend living afar wanted to hear what it sounds like, so I pulled out a piece we had played together 25 years ago (!). The recording is missing French Horn and violin, and the sound range on the flip cam isn't great, and the piano hasn't been tuned yet. Nonetheless, if you listen to the end, you'll hear the audience's enthusiastic response.