Band buddy

I vividly remember my first high school band rehearsal. I had missed marching band camp, and had to learn marching fundamentals at a quick clinic in the parking lot behind the band room before going inside for a music rehearsal. My timid ninth grade self was not prepared for the deafening wall of sound that erupted as we ran through the music we'd be marching to at the first football game. I quickly figured out that for marching band, you had to play really, really loudly, even indoors! (To this day, I get goosebumps whenever I'm enveloped in sound like that.)

Although the student drum majors were in charge on the field, the band director ran the music rehearsals. Our director, Gene Duman, seemed really old to me, although he had to have been in his late thirties at the time. He had a round face, with a wild curly fringe of hair ringing his rapidly receding hairline, and a happy grin that rarely went away. He also happened to be my clarinet teacher's husband, so I knew I couldn't get away with anything. On top of that, the Dumans lived in our neighborhood. 

Now, nearly four decades later, I have a new appreciation for Mr. Duman, and all the other teachers and directors I've had the pleasure of playing for. High school band directors are some of the hardest working teachers out there. In larger schools, like mine, they can be responsible for well over 100 students, from ninth to twelfth grades, in various stages of musical ability. Imagine taking a gaggle of socially awkward teenagers with raging hormones and somehow molding them into a group that can work together toward a common goal, and have fun doing it. He even took us to Florida on the train to compete in a band competition. That's bravery!

Mr. Duman died suddenly a couple of weeks ago, at the age of 76. Although he moved on from my high school after my sophomore year, he had a profound effect on me and my bandmates that has lasted for nearly 40 years. He instilled good habits of ensemble playing, held us to a high standard, and helped us become a part of something bigger than ourselves.  Every time I play with a group, I bring a little bit of Mr. Duman with me. (Mrs. Duman too, but that's a post for another time.)

The last time I was in Reston, I knocked on the Dumans' door, but no one was home. I'm sorry that I didn't get to see him one more time and that I didn't get a chance to thank him directly.

Thank you, Mr. Duman, for making band so much fun, and slipping the learning in while we weren't looking. Thank you for giving us a safe space to grow up. And most of all, thank you for the music, even when it was really, really loud. 


I started my new venture at the summer solstice and now the autumnal equinox is days away. It seems like everyone is moaning the end of summer, but I have always loved late summer and fall. June is too bright and busy; July is too hot and busy. But then comes August, lovely August. The garden is full of vegetables, the bugs are mostly gone, the afternoons are long and lazy and light-filled.

Light through the pines on a lazy August afternoon. 

Light through the pines on a lazy August afternoon. 

And as much as I love August, I love September and October even more. The air is cleaner and cooler, and somehow the snap in the air brings a snap to my mind as well. New school year, new beginnings. (OK, OK, I have a fall birthday as well, but that's beside the point!)

This will be the first fall in 25 years that I'm not "going back to school." I can't help but think of my former colleagues and all the returning students. I will miss them, but I have my own "new year" to think about.

It's going to be a great one.

Details, details

Life in Maine is full of unexpected delights. When I moved here in 1987 I never dreamed that less than three miles from my home was an amazing collection of classic cars.  Owner Bob Bahre opens the collection to the public on Paris Hill Founders Day (July 20 this year) as a fundraiser for the Hannibal Hamlin Library. Even if you aren't particularly interested in cars, the collection is well worth seeing.

A view of the lower car barn on Founders Day. Don't miss the upper car barn at the top of the hill. 

A view of the lower car barn on Founders Day. Don't miss the upper car barn at the top of the hill. 

There are over 70 cars in the collection, ranging from a few fairly recent models to a few nearly a century old to an impressive array of Packards and Duesenbergs. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the display, which covers two buildings and a parking area. My advice is to stop at the top of the hill and enjoy the view and the cars parked below (they look even more beautiful when they are outside). 

Then make your way down and take a close look at the details: grilles, side mounts, headlights, hood ornaments. Here are a few of my favorites. 


Weighty inheritance

During my first year of school in England, when I was five, I made my father a turtle paperweight. I remember making a ball of clay and squashing it flat, making indentations for the feet, rolling a rope for the head and sticking it on. I don't remember giving it to Dad, but I'm sure he was delighted with it, as all fathers are of presents made for them by their young children.

My memory weight. 

My memory weight. 

The turtle made its way home with us to the States in 1970. At some point the head broke off, but Dad carefully repaired it. He was not a particularly handy man, but he took great care of the things he loved. I found it, still on his desk, when we cleaned his house out last year after he moved into a nursing home. Dad is still here in body, but his mind is slipping away, traveling all over the world to other places and other times.

Now it lives on my desk. In this digital age I don't use it to hold papers down, but to anchor my memories of childhood and a father's love.