Monday, May 19, 2014

Body and Soul: How a Masterful Instrument Repairman Had Me Swooning

“Just listen to these 16 bars,” Mr. Scott said to the unassuming black man, who I later learned could play like Chester Washington from “Earth Wind & Fire.”  

In all of its beauty, the stereophonic sax solo rang out, transforming Mr. Scott’s cluttered front room into the moodiest of jazz clubs.  I had just walked in through the screened-in front door, but now stood equally transfixed by the many colors of the sultry saxophone that caressed our faces, causing our eyebrows to curl upward and our eyelids to squeeze tight. 

The sax solo was from the 1939 jazz standard “Body and Soul,” first recorded by Louis Armstrong and now with hundreds of versions, including this one by Westchester musician Joe Stelutti.  It brought me to my happy place.

“Mmmm,” I swayed and swooned. 

A hidden gem down a suburban side street in Yonkers, NY, Scott Music Instrument Rental & Repair is a home-based workshop that preserves the art of musical instrument repair – all due to its namesake, master technician and gifted musician, Virgil Scott. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dear John Carmack

Full disclosure.  I never really liked (or was good at) playing video games – a tough admission from one who has lived the digital entertainment life, watching it crest and wave, strategizing and brainstorming its course.  But what you created so many years ago fascinated me and opened my eyes to a genius I had merely glimpsed in my years at Cornell University, surrounded by friends with nicknames like, “The Bug Finder.”

And then, there I was, back in 1994 with my own geeky nickname, “The DOOM girl.”

So, why I am writing you years later, and almost 20 years since the momentous launch of DOOM II (“Doomsday,” October 10, 1994)?  

Well, through my work and play, I am both a communicator and active observer of the studied, and at times astonishing, changes in consumer technology, digital and social entertainment. I am always hungry for the next big thing.  Our press invitation for the DOOM II launch presaged, “Prepare Yourself for the Second Coming.” I am wondering, is your new venture the “Third Coming"?

John, you have inspired me to look forward – and back…  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Camp Reunion: Summers at Camp Hadar

Last weekend I went to my camp reunion.  I was a camper in the late 70’s to early 80s, and although I can barely muster the memories, when I walked into that NYC bar and saw familiar faces, it all came rushing back.

Camp Hadar was your basic, coed sleep-away camp for kids of all interests – more like  “Meatballs” than today’s fancy camps that you might mistake for a country club, and with no competitive specialty like circus camp, space camp or fashion camp.  There were wooden cabins with clotheslines for wet bathing suits and towels, unkempt sports fields, jungle gyms and swing sets, an arts & crafts lodge and a fenced in swimming pool.  We had the typical camp traditions (e.g. Miss Hadar awarded to the male counselor that looked best in a dress, Gangster Day, 50s Social, Carnival, Olympics), and we lined up at the flagpole for the pledge, sang camp songs, cheered and even prayed for our food (Hadar was, like many, a Jewish camp).  We looked forward to getting out of camp for trip day and, if we were good, were treated to Friendly’s Fribbles at midnight.  It really wasn’t anything special…but it was.
 I drove to the reunion with my friend Missy who I hadn’t seen in 15 years.  We both live in Westchester, she in a huge stone mansion with its own pool house.  She still had the same red hair and tiny hips, and an ongoing banter and spirit that kept you smiling. 

When we walked in, the first one I spied was our very own camp celebrity, and the owners’ son.  You couldn’t miss Bobby with his Keith Urban hairdo and brown leather jacket, but with the six-deep line of women waiting to say hello I decided to walk deeper into the bar to see if there were any other familiar faces.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Crawl: Swimming as Salvation

Back in 1992, I was in a crazy car accident. 

A North American Van Lines tractor trailer side-swiped my tinny Toyota Tercel on Rt. 4 in New Jersey, spinning my car around three times in what seemed like a slow-motion roundup ride, my screams going from loud to soft as the car careened and ended up backward on the median.  Although my Tercel was totaled, I walked away virtually unharmed, albeit in a stake of shock and picking the shards of glass out of my hair. 

It wasn’t until weeks later that my lower back started hurting and thus started my trip through the land of chiropractors. Each chiropractor seemed to practice his own special method.  One left me in a dark room positioned with various blocks under my back and legs while music played.  Another tied me into all sorts of pretzels and then prescribed me with the powder form of vitamin C and a charcoal supplement that made my poop black.  I guess his theory was that the digestive system was tied to spine health?  Anyway, nothing worked.

Fortunately, I was laid off from that highly stressful advertising job that had me on the road driving our creative (for this fateful trip, the new packaging for J&B scotch – and no, liquor was not involved in the accident!) to some very uninspired clients.  

And, just like that, I had plenty of time on my hands to recover. 

My friend Trish recommended that I try swimming.  Although I spent my summers in camp where every day involved a dreaded hour of swim instruction, I never made it past advanced beginner.  But, I did love the water and my gym had an olympic size pool.  So, I decided to give swimming a go…

1 lap.  Exhausted.
2 laps. Doubly exhausted.
10 laps.  Help!

But after a few weeks, I found my rhythm AND my back started feeling better!  A miracle! 

Now, years later, with ills that seem to be adding up daily including a torn Achilles and continued lower back pain, I am hoping that swimming will again be my cure-all.  Even more, I somehow believe it could be my physical and mental salvation.

It seems I am not alone.  According to Lynn Sherr, author of Swim: Why We Love the Water, “Swimming stretches my body beyond earthly limits, helping to soothe every ache and caress every muscle. But it is also an inward journey, a time of quiet contemplation, when, encased in an element at once hostile and familiar, I find myself at peace, able — and eager — to flex my mind, imagine new possibilities, to work things out without the startling interruptions of human voice or modern life. The silence is stunning.”

For me, swimming feels like the best stretch ever. Like that of an infant waking up from a deep sleep.  Swimming makes me feel young and thin – the water sculpting my body with each stroke.  And like Lynn Sherr, swimming allows me to think creatively and deeply, with no interruption, my body reaching for Zen with every stroke.

Actually, I never gave up on swimming…I saw it as my summer sport, believing that the only way to do it was outdoors, under a blue sky (which is preferable). But this year my New Years resolution is to swim year round.  And, I am proud to say that even though on Saturday morning it was a frigid 5 degrees, I pulled on my bathing suit and ice-cold bathing cap and swam 32 invigorating, lovely laps.  My shampoo and conditioner were both frozen, but no matter.  My passion for swimming will not be undone. 

That is, unless this new pain in my shoulder keeps me out of the pool…ARGGHH…SPLASH!!!