Archive for July, 2010

Blue Thunder, Sore Gums!

July 28, 2010

This past Sunday, July 25, Megan and I attended the U.S. Navy Blue Angels “Extreme Blue Thunder Air Show” in our home town of Idaho Falls, which drew a paying audience of about 50,000 people on Saturday and Sunday.

Here is a link that tells you all about the show.

The Blue Angels have been putting on air shows across the country since 1946. The last time they put on a show in Idaho Falls was 35 years ago (which I didn’t attend).

We enjoyed the air show immensely. I snapped a few photos with my iphone – which, I admit, are a tad lame compared to all the zoom photos and video footage being taken by spectators all around us. Oh well, these photos are all I’ve got.

It’s noon and we are seated in our folding chairs near the six Blue Angel F/A -18 Hornets – parked almost in front of us:

For the next three and a half hours in the scorching sun we watch several other air show pilot performances. Here you see stunt pilot Matt Younkin performing feats in his Daytime Twin Beech 18 Aerobatic:

And Megan trying to keep from baking to death under the mid-90-degree sun, demonstrating the feat of holding the umbrella while managing her $4.50 puff of cotton candy:

The U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon soars overhead like a continuous explosion – it can reach speeds up to Mach 2 at altitude, or about 1500 miles per hour:

… which feels like it could blow your eardrums apart. Megan is wearing earplugs with her hands over her ears.

It’s 3:30 PM now – time for the Blue Angels! The first four F/A-18 Hornets have taken off, simultaneously, side by side:

Followed by the other two:

They perform all kinds of aerial maneuvers,

passing over the runway in front of us, inches apart, upside down:

They soar off into the deep blue sky,

circle the perimeter of the city, soar back in front of us again, and charge upward:

Wow!

All six are soaring skyward in a diamond formation now.

They climb thousands of feet, and then roll and drop simultaneously, ejecting smokey white streamers that lay a giant firework formation against the crystalline blue sky:

The show leaves me awestruck and inspired – not to become a Navy pilot, mind you, although those Blue Angel pilots are incredibly skilled.

Megan and I have to make our way home now through the foaming crowds and terminably stalled traffic. But it’s okay. We had fun.

That was Sunday.

On Monday I get a gum graft. No kidding. As I’m lying there in the dentist’s chair waiting for the novocaine to take effect I’m thinking about the last time I went through this. It was 35 years ago. Believe you me, I remember it vividly. I had to have gum sliced off the roof of my mouth and grafted in front of my lower front teeth. And treat my sore mouth very gingerly for a while. Boy! Not my idea of the ideal weight-loss plan.

Well, I guess that gum graft took a beating through those 35 years, because gum had to be grafted again on Monday in the same spot.

Yeah, so, as I was lying in that dentist chair I was thinking about how this week I experienced two distinct once-every-35-years-events in the space of two days: a local Blue Angels Air Show and a gum graft. Hmmm.

And since I had strict instructions from the dentist not to talk for one whole day following the surgery (can you believe it? Not even on my cell phone – it was torture), or laugh (why would I laugh? Like gum grafts are funny-), or walk (the vibrations could also dislodge the graft, apparently), I’ve had no recourse but to write on my blog.

Oh, and I can’t pull down my lip and look at it either, not for at least a week, the doc says. So, sorry, dear readers, I can’t take a picture of my gum graft and post it for you on my blog. (Awwwww…) At least yet. Hmmm. Maybe in this case it’s a good thing my iphone camera doesn’t have a zoom.

Gum graft?

Yeah, gum graft. Which, if you need one, that link will tell you how. Although, I figure I should make it past ninety before I’ll need another one.

Our Piano

July 13, 2010

We recently sold our Yamaha C-7, 7’4″ concert grand piano. It had been in our family for over 17 years, giving us countless hours of enjoyment, filling the house with its beautiful sound.

When we first purchased the piano in 1993, we lived in a good-sized house in Augusta, Georgia. We had a room just for our piano. Our two sons, Aaron and Ben, and I were taking lessons from a retired Julliard-grad concert pianist who had hand-picked this piano for us to practice on and to hopefully blossom into accomplished pianists.

We learned sonatas, etudes, waltzes, sonatinas, and many other pieces on that piano. We all performed at Music Teachers National Association auditions and the boys advanced to competitions at the Georgia State level. I loved listening to Ben’s Chopin Etude in F Major filling the house, and Aaron’s Sonata by Soler.

David had taken years of lessons growing up and would sit at the piano and play, too. Sometimes we’d gather around the piano and sing while he played.

I’ve had a piano in my life as far back as I can remember. Growing up, my family owned an old 6 1/2-foot black baby grand that stood all polished and regal in one corner of our formal living room. Except it had a broken sound board – we must have inherited it with the big old house my parents bought to accomodate all eight kids? I don’t know. But we would bang on that piano, and it must have sounded bad, because my mother would invariably yell from wherever she was in the house, “Get off the piano!”

So I had played a little growing up – I could bang out ‘chopsticks’ and a few simple tunes by ear.

I decided to enroll in lessons with our sons when I hit forty. Of course, I soon learned that (like just about everything else) playing piano well requires consistent practice, dedication, and discipline. I got several pieces under my fingers – Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, the Bach Prelude that accompanies Ave Maria, a Chopin Waltz in A Minor (well, sort of – could never play it up to tempo or get contol of one section of it, no matter how much I practiced).

The boys got some fine pieces under their fingers, which won them awards at the state level.

That was then, in Augusta. The boys grew up, of course. Aaron left for college, and Ben abandoned piano for guitar. I stopped taking lessons. As a 40-ish beginner my fingers lacked facility. (That was my main excuse for quitting, I suppose, other than it proved harder work and less fun to learn to play piano than I had bargained for.)

In 2000 we bought a house in Idaho – 2200 miles from Augusta – and had to manage the move ourselves. I flew to Idaho from Augusta with Ben and Megan while David loaded a 28-foot U-Haul truck and drove it across country – twice! Of course, I just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the piano behind. On his second trip David had to hire piano movers to load the 800+ -lb piano onto the truck in Georgia, then drive it across, and hire another crew to get the piano off the truck in Idaho.

We decorated our formal living room in Idaho around the grand piano. And the piano looked magnificent and regal in our formal living room. Its rich sound filled the house. Except, none of us, uh, played much. When I did play, it could sound pretty bad, because I was so out of practice, and thoughts filled my head of others in the house wanting to yell at me, “Get off the piano!” – because it was so loud. Maybe that’s an excuse. I found lots of excuses not to play that magnificent piano that had been such an integral part of our family for so long.

The piano is gone now and I’m missing it. We sold it to a professional jazz pianist in Provo, Utah, who is ecstatic to have it and plays the piano as it was meant to be played – probably five hours a day. It’s a long story about how we happened to sell it. I know it was the right thing to do. Except for right now. I’m missing it and all the beautiful piano pieces that filled our house over the years, pieces that flowed out of that piano from underneath my sons’, my husband’s, and even my fingers.

I played the piano for over an hour on the day it was leaving us. And I photographed it from across the room:

It’s pretty hard to capture the whole piano in a close-up:

I took some photos after the movers arrived, as it is quite an ordeal to move a 7′ 4″ grand piano.

Here you see Greg, one of the movers, playing it in our house for the last time,

while his partner examines how the legs are tethered.

They’ve got it wrapped now, have dismembered one leg, and are taking it down.

They strap it to the dolly,

and maneuver it into our front entry

where it nearly gets stuck.

Ten minutes later they’ve gotten it through our front door

and out onto the sidewalk, where they have to turn it around.

There it goes onto the truck.

Farewell O’ Fairest Grand Piano!

You didn’t think I could really just sell that piano and live without one now, did you? (which are the exact words I said to David when we sold it.) For nearly two weeks we had two pianos. You see, after we sold the grand piano, but well before the movers came to get it, I found a slightly used upright studio piano for sale on Craig’s list.

Albeit, it doesn’t even begin to compare in sound to the 7 ‘ 4″ grand. But we have downsized the piano. You know, in case we decide to retire and move into a condo.

Yeah, like I’m going to give up this house.