Here and there

December 16, 2010

Marie and RBI vowed to never apologize for not posting regularly but today I will. This, my fourth year as Chair of the UCLA Music Department, has been the busiest, and the next six months promise to be even busier.

And then, July 1st, I have a one year leave from UCLA to compose ANGELA PERALTA, my new opera with a libretto by Mitchell Morris. We have finished two numbers so far: an aria, “Who is she?” the stickiest tune I’ve ever written–Mitchell and I both have earworms of the entire song; and “Julian Montiel y Duarte, Your Servant,” a scena that is damned close to a patter song with some humor and obsession. I’m now working on “Since I first heard her singing,” a fantasy aria with wild mood swings. I’ve been so busy the last three weeks, I haven’t had much time to compose, but have the rest of the month off from school and now, finally, will.


I just returned from spending a couple of days with my parents. Having just turned 58 this week, I count myself fortunate to have both parents alive. We talked the whole time. A great visit. Mom pulled out two huge boxes of family photos and news clippings. We spent a couple of hours going through them, reminiscing, and finding pictures we had never seen. We separated many of them into piles to give to my siblings and children of my late siblings, and another pile to go through altogether after one of more of my parents die. We talked about “after I/we are gone” several times, and these are good talks to have.

Last year, you may remember Daniel and I participated in their bi-weekly aquacize class. This year I went with them to their Qigong class and loved it. I’ve been in physical therapy for some fingertip numbness and nerve issues, and all of the exercises my physical therapist has given are in Qigong basic exercises as well as Tai Chi. Tai chi: here I come.

BuddyOne of the family members who kept popping up was my father’s favorite grandmother: Marie Griffin (on the left in the above photo). He told stories of her reading the bible to him; telling him about the disciples; encouraging him to go after JoAnn (his future wife). I saw some pictures of her when I was a boy, and memories slowly seeped back: I remembered her smell, I remember her hug and how big she was. Pictures trigger memories, and those memories can be valuable to revisit (sometimes). In this case, it was wonderful to see my father wax so poetic about her. On the other hand, he was less generous in his praise to his other grandmother, Lida Coates “Buddy” (Netterville) Yelton (photo to the right), . His sister remembers her fondly; my dad, not so much.


Bo scales fishOne of our family traditions was to spend a few weeks on a small lake in Kentucky; a place where my mother’s parents owned a cottage: Park Lake. I found a picture to prove that I actually have had fish scaling duty (photo on left). What I don’t have a picture of is my late night boating with my grandfather Rhodes to gig frogs. “Gig” in the context, is a verb, meaning to spear a frog in the back with a trident (sic). We would row around the lake very slowly and quietly along the shoreline… listening for that sound: the sound of a frog sustaining that frogsound pitch. You had to use your ears to find out where he most likely was sitting. And when you were certain, turn on the flashlight, the frog is stunned, and you gig him in the back, bring him in the boat, club him over the head (with what, I forget), and throw him into the fish basket. Later it would be my job to cut off the legs from the body, and skin it for deeeelish frog legs. MM mmm!


Like me, my father has had many obsessions/hobbies/artistic leaning. One was photography. It seemed to happen after they’d had their five kids. I only vaguely remember it, but going through the huge boxes of photos revealed his oeuvre. We tucked it away and I instructed my mother to NOT let Dad throw it away. The one at the bottom of this post was my favorite. It was likely done around 1965; he told me it was his study in silhouette. These two are in their early eighties now and still hopelessly in love.

R&J sillhouette

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