This records my personal memories, thoughts, and other miscellany.
- Name: Gerald McD
- Location: Colorado, United States
My wife Sue and I are retired and have lived in the same house for over 30 years. Our local family consists of son Mason, daughter Katrina, son-in-law Dan, granddaughter Natalia, and grandson Joel, all living in the same metropolitan area where we live.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Estes Park Getaway
March 17 was the beginning of school spring break for Katrina and Dan (teachers) and Natalia and Joel (students). We reserved a nice cabin at Estes Park CO for the weekend for the six of us. Mason had plans to participate in a golf tournament, so did not join us. We also did this trip three years ago and four years ago; we did not do this the last two years. Both Natalia and Joel were very eager to get back to the neat cabin, Estes Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Sue and I took a crock-pot with us and fixed chili for Friday night supper, and the Cavaliere family joined us just as we got unpacked. The cabin (Castle Tower) at Castle Mountain Lodge is perfect for the six of us. It is a well-designed building with three floors, built something like a tower, within a few feet of a rock wall mountainside. The first floor has a small but nice kitchen, a dining area that accommodates six easily, a nice living space with gas fireplace, a large bath with shower, and two large closets. The main door enters from the parking area, up a small number of steps, and the other door opens to the deck which wraps around the corner of the cabin.
The second floor consists of a large bedroom with king-size bed, a bathroom accessible from the bedroom and from the second-floor landing, and a large tub with water jets located in a room between the bathroom and the bedroom. The bedroom has access to the second-floor deck, built above the main deck. Sue and I have the second floor bedroom.
The third floor is a large bedroom with king-size bed, and with two alcoves, one on each side of the room. Each of the alcoves holds a twin bed (with a trundle bed under it) and has a window above the bed. Natalia and Joel stake out one of the alcoves, each, and share the third floor with Katrina and Dan.
The place is beautiful, with nice views from the windows and the decks of Fall River, about 50 yards from the cabin, as well as forest and rock mountainside by the cabin, and mountain views across the river.
After unpacking, Sue and I drove to the local Safeway for some refrigerator groceries. The kitchen is very accommodating, including an icemaker in the refrigerator and a dishwasher, things not found in all the cabins there. We stocked up on snacks (healthy and otherwise), as well as breakfast items. Soon, we could smell the chili cooking, and the kids were running up and down the stairs, having a great time.
Before dinner, we played a couple games of For Sale. Natalia had not played it before and was interested in learning. She and Dan tied to win the first game, and Natalia won the second game. I think this game might become one of her favorites.
The chili was delicious, as always, and we all settled into conversation, reading, working Sudoku puzzles Sue had brought, and other activities. I had scanned a number of puzzles from some recent Games Magazines, for Natalia and Joel to enjoy, and they worked on them off-and-on all weekend. I had also scanned a two-player game from one of the magazines, and Dan and I played a couple of times, and then he taught Joel how to play it.
We were expecting snow Saturday afternoon and night, so we decided to do some shopping and tour some of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) before the weather changed. Katrina and Dan fixed us a great pancake and link sausage breakfast Saturday morning and off we went.
Natalia found some shoes (Crocs) to buy, Joel bought a neat souvenir (a silver eagle mounted on a nice piece of amethyst), I found a couple of long-sleeved tee-shirts, and we bagged some fudge at a local candy shop; then we ate lunch at a local café and headed for the Park (RMNP). Friday afternoon, Sue and I had gone to the park entrance, where I purchased a Golden Age Pass (since I now qualify for it). For ten dollars, I have a pass to virtually all National Parks and many other Federal recreation areas, for life. Sue bought one last year, after she became eligible. The females got together in the Cavaliere car (with Sue’s park pass), and the males joined me in our 4Runner for the Park tour. The Cavalieres had brought their short-range walkie-talkies, so we could communicate between the cars. We had already seen a few elk and deer in Estes Park. We had no trouble finding several nice elk herds in RMNP and took some photos of the animals and the scenery. After stopping at the gift shop on the way out of the Park, we came back to the cabin.
The rest of the afternoon went by quickly. Dan, Joel, and I decided to play Lord of the Rings Risk, which took quite a while. I managed to eke out a win, with Joel coming in second. Everyone did some reading, puzzles, or whatever. The fireplace felt good after dinner, as we watched the beginning of the snow.
Sunday morning we got up to several inches of snow covering everything and more coming down. Sue and I fixed a French toast and bacon breakfast, which went over well. After finishing the dishes, Katrina and Dan put some pork chops in the crock-pot, and we all went outside to enjoy the snow. Sue built a snowman while I took some digital photos and joined Joel in a snowball fight against Natalia and Dan. Katrina soon joined us, taking some photos and then tossing snowballs. When we had burnt off a bit of energy, we all took a long walk through the cabin area and along Fall River, observing deer, elk, goose, and duck tracks, and enjoying the beautiful wet snow blanketing everything. Katrina and Dan’s pork chop lunch, with macaroni and cheese, and green beans, was delicious.
The afternoon was spent playing games – Through the Desert, Ticket to Ride, Bohnanza, Boomtown, and Fill or Bust. We all had a great time playing games all afternoon. Later, everyone again read books, worked Sudoku or other puzzles, and played games in twos or threes. Everyone then fixed whatever they wanted for a light supper (ramen, popcorn, quesadilla, etc.). The fireplace, again was great, while snow started up outside.
Monday morning showed the cars well-covered with snow. We packed the cars and left for home on snow-packed, but plowed, highways. It was a fantastic weekend, and Joel said it was even better than the last two times we went. Couldn’t have asked for a better time!
Sunday, March 12, 2006
High School Class Reunion
Sue and I are spending a lot of time preparing for our 45th high school class reunion. Gads, we’ve been out of high school for almost half a century?! Yep, ‘fraid so.
We graduated in the same class from a fairly small school. Our class had 47 members. Four of our classmates are deceased, and we have no address information for a few members. There are three marriages in which both spouses were in our class, including Sue and me; there was a fourth, but they divorced many years ago.
We have attended our 25th, 30th, 35th, and 40th reunions. Over a year ago, we began making plans to attend this year’s reunion. We also volunteered to assemble, print, and distribute an up-to-date class directory, with postal addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. This is quite a project. We sent out 38 letters, to the last-known addresses that another classmate has kept. He is very active for our class. He still lives in our hometown, arranges our reunions every five years, and sends flowers to funerals of classmates (from the class). He provided us with his address list, and we took it from there.
We have received 18 responses, which we believe is a good percentage for this type of project. I scanned each class member’s senior photo from our yearbook. We will print each person’s senior photo with his/her current address information. I designed a half-sheet layout in Word, with four photos and address blocks on each side of each half-sheet. We will prepare a half-sheet cover sheet. We also scanned the masthead from the last high school paper of our senior year, and added the last cartoon in that paper, which was drawn by a classmate. We will have the booklets printed and bound at Kinko’s, with a clear plastic cover, black vinyl back, and plastic-covered spiral binding, which allows the booklet to be opened up and laid flat, when using it. We will also send out updates and corrections for people to mark up their copies, when necessary.
Sue is really into scrapbooking, and she decided to create a scrapbook of our senior year, to share at the reunion. We have scanned many items, documents, and memorabilia, and Sue has purchased the book and other neat things to include. She has begun working on it, and I’m really eager to see the results.
We will create and print some peel-and-stick labels with each person’s senior photo, to use as name tags (without names, of course). We also will try to emulate a neat item we encountered at Sue’s old church’s 100-year celebration last fall. Someone had printed paper labels with photos and text related to the church’s history. They then wrapped them around foil-wrapped Kit Kat candy bars and made them available as eatable “souvenirs.” I have created the appropriate-sized labels, using six different scanned items related to our class. This will be a lot of work, but should be really neat at the reunion.
I am also considering creating one or two music CD’s, using many of our favorite pieces of music from our high school days, to play at the reunion.
Our entire project will cost quite a bit of money, especially the directory printing and distribution. Two classmates offered to help with the directory expenses, but we declined their offers, choosing instead to make this a gift to the class.
Who knows whether we will be around for the 50th reunion, or how many classmates at this one will not be around in 5 years? We decided to enjoy the 45th as much as possible. If we are still able to attend the 50th, we’ll probably try to top what we are doing this year. Another project to look forward to…
Saturday, March 04, 2006
I am a fan and collector of movies and a music-lover. It’s a natural combination, because a movie without music is difficult for me to imagine. Movie music includes not only songs that may be sung as part of the movie, but also background or theme music.
Without question, my favorite movie music composer was Henry Mancini (1924-1994). Mancini had a wonderful knack for creating music that matched the theme of the movie -- the tone, the emotions, the action, the “feeling” of a movie. Many of his more famous movie pieces became great favorites of mine. Hearing one of those pieces can still evoke a specific memory or a strong emotion within me.
Often, a certain movie music piece will remind me of the movie for which it was written (or in which it played a key role). Even more often, a specific Mancini piece will bring back emotions and memories not related to the movie. Perhaps the best example of this is “Moon River.” This composition was the theme of the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I recall only a little about that movie, but the music – well that’s a different story.
“Moon River” was written in 1961, the year I graduated from high school. It was written specifically for the movie and more specifically for Audrey Hepburn, who starred in the movie and sang the song in it. She was struck by Mancini’s music, too, as witnessed by this letter she wrote to Mancini:
I have just seen our picture - BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S - this time with your score. A movie without music is a little bit like an aeroplane without fuel. However beautifully the job is done, we are still on the ground and in a world of reality. Your music has lifted us all up and sent us soaring. Everything we cannot say with words or show with action you have expressed for us. You have done this with so much imagination, fun and beauty. You are the hippest of cats - and the most sensitive of composers!
Thank you, dear Hank.
Lots of love, Audrey
[See this site for more info.]
Two years after the song and movie were introduced to the world, I was in college, and that summer, I took a class at a geology camp near Canon City, Colorado. When our field work was completed each day, we returned to a café/bar in town to relax. The café jukebox naturally had the popular music of the day available, and “Moon River” was one of the choices. In fact, we played it every day, usually several times each day, for the four weeks we were there. Even today, I cannot hear even the opening bars of that song without remembering that café, geology camp, and the emotions I felt at that time of my life. Since I was seriously missing my girlfriend Sue back in Oklahoma (whom I married six months later), I certainly had some strong emotions when listening to “Moon River.” When I hear that music, I feel an odd combination of emotions: calm, peace, anticipation, excitement, sadness, and happiness. Now, how do a few musical tones evoke such a wide variety of feelings inside my brain? It is a most interesting mystery.
On the Internet Movie Database website (IMDB), Mancini is listed with music credits of 493 instances, for movies, TV shows, and cartoons. His credits are dated 1953 through 2006. A large number of these are for the famous Pink Panther theme. Is there hardly anyone in the world who doesn’t recognize the Pink Panther Theme? Some of the credits really surprise me: Abbott and Costello movies; music in the “Glenn Miller Story” and the “Benny Goodman Story” movies; Ma and Pa Kettle movies; a Francis the Talking Mule movie; and several science fiction and thriller movies. Of course, I knew he wrote the theme for the Peter Gunn TV series, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Hatari!,” and “Days of Wine and Roses.” I did not realize he wrote the music for “Operation Petticoat,” “Charade,” “The Great Race,” the Colombo TV series, The Thornbirds TV miniseries, the Hotel TV series, “Santa Claus: The Movie,” “Blind Date,” “The Glass Menagerie,” “Victor/Victoria,” and “Switch.”
One of the above-listed movies – “Hatari!” – is a favorite of mine, a John Wayne movie set in Africa. It included Mancini’s famous Baby Elephant Walk. I watch that movie a couple of times a year, at least, and I know that Mancini’s music is one of the key reasons I continue to enjoy it.
Some other movie music composers who always attract my attention: John Williams (the Star Wars movies; Harry Potter movies; Indiana Jones movies; Jurassic Park movies; Jaws movies; Superman movies; “E. T.;” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind;” “The Cowboys;” “Midway;” and a wide variety of TV show themes from 1952 through 2004); Danny Elfman (movies and TV from 1980 through 2006, including: “Beetle Juice;” “Ghostbusters;” the Tales from the Crypt TV series; “Batman;” The Simpsons TV cartoon series; “Mission: Impossible” movies; “Men in Black” movies; “Spiderman” movie; “Chicago” movie; “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” movie; and Desperate Housewives TV series); and John Barry (“Dances With Wolves;” “Out of Africa;” “High Road to China;” “Somewhere in Time;” and many James Bond movies). These are just a few examples of their fantastic contributions.
Even in the days before “talkies,” movies were usually accompanied by music played live in the theater, to heighten the excitement, add a romantic mood, or highlight the slapstick comedy. I cannot imagine truly enjoying a movie without accompanying music. For me, some of the best movies ever made were the musicals and musical-comedies, primarily in the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, because of the fabulous music frequently written specifically for those movies.
This, of course, is a topic about which much has been written and much more will be written, by better writers than me. I just wanted to document some of my thoughts about the subject.