Personal Letters

Red Shirts Protest: "It's Over!"

May 21, 2010
Friday Night

Dear Friends,

"They were crying.  They were crying."  So reported a friend of mine as he witnessed Thai people gazing at the burnt-out ruins of a local shopping mall.  "They were crying."

This is very unusual behavior.  Thai people normally do not display any emotion in public.  Laughing or crying, affection or anger are rarely seen.  Despite the volume of traffic and the traffic jams around town, no one ever voices or displays any sign of frustration.

To Myanmar with Love Book Launching Party

27 April 2009
Bangkok , Thailand

Dear Friends,

Last night, at the Nomad Moroccan Restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 12, ThingsAsian Press gave a party to launch the latest volume in their catalogue, "To Myanmar With Love."  (I contributed four essays.)

Almost one hundred animated guests showed up to chat and to exchange travel stories. The Mediterranean food was excellent, the music authentic, and those of us living in Bangkok vowed to return to the restaurant.

My new friend in Bangkok, Janet Brown, the hostess of the party met me at the entrance and brought me to a table with copies of the newly printed book. Also on display were copies of the previous offering, "To Vietnam with Love" as well as Janet's own book, "Tone Deaf in Bangkok ."

The Keyboards

Bangkok, Thailand
20 December 2008

Dear Friends and Family,

The keyboards that were silent are clicking again.

I am back in Bangkok after almost four months in the Americas.  What a four months!

Seeing old friends and making new ones, seeing family (cousins for the very first time), driving US and Canadian highways, and traveling through Colombia - all of this was stimulating and affirming.  I also realize that my relationships with my family and friends are deep and true and loving - more than I ever imagined.  I had a great time wherever I went.  At Thanksgiving, I had a lot to be thankful for.  Thank you.

Then, "life" intervened.

The New L 00 k

An edited version of his letter was to be published in To Thailand With Love, ThingsAsian Press, 2013. But at the last moment, the Editor made a different decision.

Bangk0k Thailand

02 August 2008

My Dear My0pic, Hyper0pic, and Fellow 20/20 Friends,

My classmate Jack Calabro had a neat trick.

My Taft High School classmate, and later, my University of Illinois graduate school classmate, Jack protected his mother from unnecessary worry.

Jack's mother wanted to know when we were leaving Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and when we would be arriving in New York. We would be driving all night across Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, with a slight dip into West Virginia. As dawn arrived, we would steer into the sunrise across Pennsylvania to New Jersey and then north to New York. That's a long drive, even on Interstate highways. A mother could worry a lot.

So what was the trick? Jack knew when we were leaving and could estimate when we would arrive. So, the "departure" time he gave his mother was actually our arrival time! She was so surprised!

Here's my contribution to the concept of worry avoidance:

I am pleased to report to you that I have undergone and recovered from two lens replacement surgeries.

Announcement 2008: New Website

Bangkok, Thailand
24 March 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

Telma and Jeffrey have been my loyal friends for many years.  They were generous and helpful to me, both when I was a "snow-bird" from Boston, and later as a bachelor resident of South Florida.  Whether for business or for my social life, I could count on them for thoughtful advice.

Eight years ago Telma came for a visit to my apartment in Miami.  She noticed that I did not own a television set.  I explained that I didn't think I was missing very much on TV.  I preferred listening to the radio, or spinning my compact discs.  I could choose one of the many unread books on my shelves.  And if I really wanted to be productive, I could play my grand piano that sat imposingly and patiently in the living room.

Telma was surprised once more when she noticed that I did not own a computer.  Again, I questioned the need for such an electronic device.  "Jan," she said, "You will love a computer. There is so much information on the Internet."  I pointed to the large stack of music that was calling to me from the piano.  "You see those books, Telma?  If had two or maybe three lifetimes, I still could not get to the bottom of that pile."  I thought to myself, "The Preludes and Fugues of Bach, the Sonatas of Mozart and the Nocturnes of Chopin contain all the information I will ever need."

Alas, my library expanded as did my CD collection.  The tower of music grew higher.  I wondered if a computer would help me to catalogue the volumes of my addictions.  I was also hearing about something called email.  And Jeff Gordon mentioned that computers store pictures and descriptions of female "singles!"  Hmm.


My Best Gift Ever

National Public Radio in the USA requested essays on the topic “My Best Gift Ever.”  Below is my submission.

Miami, Florida
December 19, 2002

The best gift I ever received was a bassoon.  Yes, a bassoon, the largest in size and deepest in tone of the woodwind musical instruments.  This gift had an immediate and joyful impact on my non-work life and, eventually, a dramatic influence on my professional life as well.

My former wife, the late Alice Dawn, knew that I came from a musical family.  I told her that I played the piano as a boy.  She also knew that I learned to play the bassoon in high school where I was a member of the orchestra and concert band.  After high school my music-making stopped.  I left home for college and the bassoon stayed behind at Taft High School, in The Bronx.

 In the early days of our marriage Alice and I attended a variety of concerts and recitals in New York City where we lived and worked as teachers.  Alice observed my enthusiasm and emotional attachment to serious music.  She also noted what I might call “nostalgia” for playing.  Even though we owned a piano, a wedding gift from my parents, I had abandoned all my playing, both piano and bassoon.

One day Alice walked into our little apartment in Brooklyn with a large leather case with a sweet ribbon around it.  I knew immediately from the size and shape that the case contained a bassoon.  To her astonishment, I screamed, “You got me a bassoon!”