Sunday, November 09, 2014

...And On The 7th Day...

(part II)

I lifted the lid slowly and, as the light hit the golden lacquer on the tubes, I imagined how an absent husband must feel when about to explain his absence. I lifted the flugel horn from the case and was delighted to find the valves unfrozen. I attached the mouth piece and let the horn have its revenge on me.

The chops weren't there. Like an athlete who hasn't trained in a long time, the muscles we horn players call our chops were not ready to take the field. A whiny, thin tone, lacking in overtones, dribbled out when I blew in. The range I was able to navigate was narrow and my fingers seemed to say, "Really, Dick? After all this time?"

I lasted only several minutes before my lips tingled and I had to put the horn back to bed. 

Jump ahead several days....


I had stuck with it and had finally built up the nerve to take out my true ax: the trumpet my parents had purchased for me about 60 years ago and which had survived 3 refinishes, a few dent repairs and travels with me to SE Asia. The horn I had used when I sat in with some of Jackie Gleason's musicians and other groups. Memories started to flood back into mind. By now the chops were amazingly agile. Muscle memory  and brain-muscle connections so often used in the past proved to be hard wired.  

My range increased as I worked through my collection of first smaller and then larger mouth pieces. Soon, I was using my Bach mouthpiece with the deep bowl that gives those rich overtones. Soon, my fingers did their job without thought. I had, as we say in kayaking, gone from conscious stumbling, to conscious capabilities that level of unconscious capability that allows one's thoughts to magically come out of an instrument as jazz.

The sound filled the house as I thought the thoughts that came out as scat out on the water. Now, as in the days of old, they emerged as sounds racing through unnamed chord changes. Thoughts became sound and, before very long, I was actually hearing the sidemen running along beside me in a satisfying catharsis of jazz. And I remembered. I remembered how some of us once had decided what the bible should have read. For we, the lovers of jazz, knew that...
(will be continued if I can find somewhere to jam or sit in).

Paddle safe...

Friday, November 07, 2014


(part one)

Thinking of it now, it had begun a few days ago when Jeff and I were heading in after riding waves along the wall and negotiating the slop in the outer harbor. He commented that I must have been enjoying the paddling as I had a huge smile on my face. It was news to me. 

In fact, for the proceeding several moments I hadn't even been in my kayak; at least not mentally. I had been in a revelry where I had been experiencing a jam session. I was on trumpet and could actually hear the throbbing of the upright bass (not electric, please) and the driving sound of the drummer. It's always been that way with me. I begin processing a tune in my head and before I know it I am taking rides and hearing the side men as if it were all actually happening. In fact, paddlers have told me that I am constantly singing scat while paddling, although I am generally not aware of my actions. So, on Wednesday evening, while at my men's group, I decided to talk about all this during my work round.

I apparently did more than talk as I described the above. Suddenly, I realized that these men (who knew me as well as any in the world) were looking at me as if a stranger had joined the discussion. "What?" I asked. As it turned out, they had no idea of my attachment and love of music happened again...I had apparently been scatting and making the sounds of the entire rhythm section as I "spoke" about it. It soon became apparent to them that I not only missed my music (read: Jazz) but loved it deeply. It was time (it somehow got determined) that I revisit that part of my life. So, I took a stretch. I promised (myself) that I would work with one of my instruments at least five out of seven days each be continued

Paddle safe...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Doug Winter

Still missed by friends

It seems as if it were just yesterday when we messed around in boats.

Doug (far left) was our friend, a kayaker, a fine teacher of children and...above all...a fine decent guy. 
After all this time he is carried in our hearts. His name is spoken often in our circles. 

Paddle safe...

Monday, September 08, 2014

And so it goes

And so it goes...

As usually happens in this latitude, the summer has gone by swiftly and the Big Lake (Michigan) is starting to cool down from the night temperatures. I am back to lecturing at the university (UWM) and find myself reflecting on the past 4-5 months.

I paddled a good deal and found someone (Jeff) who is both a colleague (ER Doc) and someone with a schedule that allows him to paddle during the weekdays.

I had a tough experience with some of my training goals and am still resolving medical issues around all that.

The two symposiums (DKSKS & GLSKS) were wonderful experiences. Teaching continues to be my passion and got to do that on my own and with Sherri and Danny and other wonderful instructors from whom I have carefully stolen some excellent teaching techniques.

I am presently searching for something long and lighter to replace my Cetus MV as I most often paddle alone and have a short carry to the launch site. To fund this I would need to sell one of my Greenland boats (I have a SOF and one I built from a Mark Rodger's kit). I will hold on to my old Romany for teaching a lot of short paddles.
I need to hook up with some local traditional paddlers as I do not like to be on the water alone in boats that cannot be wet exited or in which it is difficult to do so. The weather (and water temps) is ideal for the Tulik.

I am grateful for the blessings that have allowed me to be active at my age and to do so with so many wonderful folks.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Sunny Side Up

I Don't Give Medical Advise (anymore)

While in practice I tried to keep up with new discoveries in nutrition and diet and learned long ago that low vitamin D levels (common in northern latitudes) were associated with depression and may be part of the cause of SADs (seasonal affective disorder...treated with bright lights). I did blood levels on several patients who complained of depression and found low Vitamin D levels in their blood. On therapy their levels rose and so did their moods.

Now, a new study indicates that upping levels of Vitamin D helps treat (remove brain plaques) in Alzheimer's Disease. Perhaps that 5,000 units a day (which raised my levels to normal) is why my brain is so excellent at my age [(my wife (and others) would disagree].

Perhaps, too, it is the sun exposure and production of the vitamin that makes paddlers so happy. (BTW: Vit. D is fat soluble and requires some fat in the tummy to be absorbed well).

But you didn't hear it from me.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Healing Has Begun

After the experiences of the past few months I came up to the Door County Sea Kayak 
Symposium with my main man, JB. There I met up with Sherri, Jeff, Robin, Kelly and a whole bunch of kayaking colleagues from around the Midwest. My schedule turned out to be ideal. Nancy, (Da Boss) was kind to me.

Friday morning I taught a forward stroke class with master Danny Mongo...from Werner Paddles...and we danced...and the students improved before my eyes.

Friday after noon and Saturday am I taught a progressive boat control course and, again, I saw remarkable progress among the students.  Saturday afternoon I taught rolling. 2 of the 3 hit rolls in the first half hour.

Sunday morning was for surf which didn't occur, but Danny, Sherri and I put together a land and on water presentation with great results. In the afternoon I did a one on one rescue lesson that went well.

Being back in the game and among wonderful people (and no caffeine) has had a huge effect on my health, both physical and mental. I am grateful for that and for the kind support of those in my life. I am blessed.

Now, onto Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium and cold water.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

I recently thought the end was in sight...

I was experiencing mental illness....

A little while ago I had the opportunity to do some teaching at a kayak get together.Those of you who know me and my passion for teaching will understand how painful an experience it was when I tell you that I screwed up some of my stuff. It was worse than that. I screwed up things I knew how to teach and had taught (well) before. Even worse, I knew it was going badly and (worst of all) I had no idea what was wrong.
My fellow instructors were also aware of my plight and equally confused about my sloppy work. I, too, was confused, disappointed and (I must say it) a little ashamed. I could see the disappointment in the eyes of my colleagues, especially one who asked, "Where did that come from?" He appeared sad for me, and I could not answer. Mentally, I was out to sea.

As if that were not enough, while rehashing and agonizing over the event I began to develop other problems. I started to fall asleep every time I sat down to watch TV, even if it was the morning news. Then, I would wake several times during the night, finally be sound asleep at 1 or 2 am and then want to sleep in each morning. My thinking was slow and I felt a tad confused and depressed. What the hell, I wondered, was going on, In spite of doctoring myself and having a fool for a patient, I repeatedly reviewed the events of my teaching and the present symptoms but could not tie them together. I felt like hell, did not know why I had screwed up so badly and was concerned about my mental state. Then I asked myself a question I would have asked my patients in a similar situation, "So what changed before you went to teach?" I had not started any meds, inhaled gasses or done anything else except....whoa, wait a minute. 

The week prior to all of this I had seen a doctor who (for reasons not to be discussed here) recommended I cut out coffee or go to decaf. Well, I went cold turkey a day or two before the kayak gathering....and....I suddenly wondered if that might have anything to do with what was going on. So I Goggled " Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms". ...And a whole load of references came up including....

Results of the Johns Hopkins study should result in caffeine withdrawal being included in the next edition of the DSM or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, considered the bible of mental disorders,

I could not my eyes as I read about the symptoms which included: problems sleeping, sleeping during the day, loss of mental sharpness, etc.

I was amazed, surprised and (for the first time in several weeks) hopeful. No excuses, but I had a plausible reason for what happened, and it something about which I can do something. I am presently working on a plan to reintroduce some caffeine and to gradually back off. I guess I am like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. I'm not crazy. Only, in my case, my mother didn't have me tested.

I wish to hell I had chosen another time to go off coffee.

Paddle safe...