A pint glass of Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale accompanied me the other night as I played Irish jigs and reels on my fiddle. My violin and bow calling forth traditional tunes that resonate in the deepest recesses of my musical being and the toasty ale made in Yorkshire, the ancestral English home of the Whitacres, transported me. I felt as if I were playing in a British pub rather than in my bedroom. The problem is that the pub I see in my mind doesn’t exist, not in this country at least, not that I know of.
I picture an old-fashioned pub, something like you see in “The Quiet Man.” In that movie the men gather at the pub not merely to drink “black beer,” as John Wayne calls it, but to socialize and learn of community doings. It’s like a living room for the extended family of a close-knit village, and one of my favorite scenes is when a singer playing accordion launches into “The Wild Colonial Boy,” quickly joined by other patrons: Read the rest of this entry »
“My Dog Has Fleas” is a little ditty used to tune a ukulele that even non-players know. It’s one of those infectious bits of music that sticks in your head and won’t leave. I used it for years to tune my mother’s ukulele, and I still hear my younger brother’s voice as he walked about the house adding his own (to the best of my knowledge) lines to the tune: “My dog has fleas, my cat has fleas, my dad has dandruff.”
My Uncle Ray bought that ukulele in Hawaii while living there for two years. He worked for Lockheed in Marietta, Ga., and lived for long stretches in places as far afield as California and Portugal, and I was insanely jealous when we received a Christmas card in the depths of winter showing Uncle, Aunt, and their three children wearing bright short-sleeve Hawaiian shirts. The other man’s grass is always greener, of course — Aunt told me years later that they hardly occupied their house until Uncle’s retirement after nine years in Portugal. Read the rest of this entry »
I rarely watch football, and when I do, usually at a family gathering where I’m forced against my will to submit to the artificial world of high-stakes ball-chasing, it drives me crazy because they can’t play the game without stopping. Because I don’t watch television, I’m accustomed to movies on DVD without interruptions other than those I choose, so it annoys me to no end to see the continuous stopping of the action in football. Imagine an orchestra concert run like a football game.
First, the kickoff. The orchestra manager stands at the back of the auditorium and kicks the conductor’s baton in the air, and the conductor races to catch it while all the musicians, instruments in hand, race from the sides of the room and find their seats. Read the rest of this entry »
“Old Farmer’s Almanac” says the Halcyon Days begin today. From the Almanac: “This refers to about 2 weeks of calm weather that often follow the blustery winds of autumn’s end. Ancient Greeks and Romans experienced this weather around the time of the winter solstice, when the halcyon, or kingfisher, was brooding. In a nest floating on the sea, the bird was said to have charmed the wind and waves so that the waters were especially calm during this period.”
My mother died on Nov. 26, and rather than write a beautiful award-winning piece on losing my parent where I conclude with a nugget of wisdom about the human condition, such as describing her love of knitting as a metaphor for her knitting together a family dominated by males, I instead offer a few miscellaneous reflections.
As I described two weeks ago, the pink brick house in North Canton was our family home, owned only by our family, so to see it being emptied after 48 years of continuous occupation by the same family is difficult. Knowing for months it was coming doesn’t help either. Read the rest of this entry »
When I began reading “How To Sharpen Pencils” this week, I felt sure that author David Rees was turning my crank.
Rees begins his little pencil-yellow book with “The Pencil Sharpener’s Tool Kit,” listing, among other items, his favorite sharpeners, including the Alvin Brass Bullet single-blade pocket sharpener; the Palomino-KUM, a two-step pocket sharpener that he says “produces a lovely, long point”; the Dahle 166 single-burr hand-crank; and the El Casco double-burr hand-crank. “This is the finest hand-crank pencil sharpener in the world,” he says. Okay, so this smacks of parody, I thought, suspecting he invented those names to convince gullible readers those sharpeners truly exist, like the bit at the end of the movie “American Graffiti” that tells each character’s history subsequent to the movie to add realism to the story. But I found every sharpener on Amazon, so that shoots that theory. Maybe he is serious, I thought. Read the rest of this entry »
This two-volume 1908 Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of the English Language dwarfs the collegiate-size New Practical Standard Dictionary beside it. The dictionary is the 20th Century Subscription Edition, with a title page bearing the owner’s name in what looks like under scrutiny to be hand-lettered calligraphy and signed by Editor-in-Chief Isaac Funk. Read the rest of this entry »
I keep thinking of a satyr when I see the name of this pencil sharpener, but that’s a creature that is part man and part goat. The Saphir is this No. 4035 pencil sharpener made by A.W. Faber in Germany. It came from the effects of my grandmother’s stepbrother and makes a fine addition to my pen and pencil collection. I have no information on its age. It came with a small green leather case, which looks light green in these photos but is a darker pine green. “Saphir” is German for sapphire and is pronounced zah-fir. Read the rest of this entry »
I was a child in North Canton at an ideal time. Enough woods, field and swamp lay within biking and walking distance to provide an abundance of activity for a child who loved the outdoors. We lived on Chapple Hill Drive, one block south of Applegrove, which started at Overland on the west and dead-ended at a field near Bob O’Link Golf Course on the east. When we moved in we were only the second house on our side of the street, the other an old farmhouse barely within sight over a slight rise in the land.
We moved to North Canton in 1964 after a long house search while living in Kent. My father had taken a job in November 1963 with Goodyear Aerospace in Suffield Township, and we moved on Thanksgiving weekend from Worthington to a house near the Cuyahoga River in Kent. We made trips on weekends to North Canton to look for houses, and I remember one dark winter night on the southwest side of the city looking out over the valley toward Whipple Avenue, which back then was a mere single-lane road bordered by farm land, its intersection with Everhard Road a simple four-way stop. Read the rest of this entry »