Thursday, July 11, 2013


American Classics

I persist in my efforts to expose the kids to American classics.  Last weekend High School Friend on Right Ocean, a chemical engineer who is also a jazz saxophonist, came to visit along with his wife.  He brought his alto and soprano saxes, and led The Boy and The Girl in a jam session in the family room.  HSFRO played soprano, TB played alto, and TG played piano on “Blues Walk,” by Clifford Brown, and “Sonnymoon for Two,” by Sonny Rollins.  They didn’t have any sheet music, so TB and TG had to figure out the notes.  Which they did.

Jazz may be well past its prime as a cultural form, but I apologize to nobody for exposing the kids to Sonny Rollins.


For the Fourth, we took the kids to Boston to expose them to Fenway Park and the Freedom Trail, two more American classics.  

Aside from an unremitting and indecently strong heat wave, it went beautifully.  TG picked up a stuffed “Wally,” the Red Sox mascot based loosely on the Green Monster.  I hadn’t realized just how small Fenway actually is.  I grew up going to Rochester Red Wings games in the old Silver Stadium -- the one that eventually closed due to pigeon droppings -- and Fenway didn’t feel that much bigger.  

We saw them play the San Diego Padres.  The Sox won on a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth.  I couldn’t have asked for a better game.  The Boy’s favorite player, Jon Lester, pitched, and pitched well.  Several players doubled off the Green Monster, which seemed appropriate.  And TG got her ice cream in a batting helmet.


Despite the heat, we decided to do the guided tour of the Freedom Trail.  I felt bad for our tour guide, who wore a wool overcoat and hat despite Satan’s Sweatsock levels of heat and humidity.  

If you haven’t done the Trail, it’s worth doing.  The tour guides slip in and out of character as appropriate, and the sights are worth seeing.  Paul Revere’s grave!  The site of the Boston Massacre!  The kids were shocked when the tour guide referred to Christmas celebrations as “Catholic superstition,” but that was appropriate to his character.    

Sometimes the clashes of old and new led to unintentional comedy.  At the site of the Boston Massacre, the guide noted that the building across the way was the British customs house, the most reviled building in Boston.  Now, by contrast, it’s...a Bank of America.  Some things just don’t change.

For once, I even got to trot out some of my old political theory training.  The guide mentioned John Locke and his theory of “life, liberty, and..,” and the crowd said “pursuit of happiness!”  I said “property!”  The guide looked surprised that I knew that.  The kids were suitably impressed.  Yes, reader, I quoted Locke to impress the kids.  Because that’s how we roll.


We wrapped it up with a visit to the MIT campus and science museum.  The Boy was impressed at the posters for the campus Quidditch league, and we made sure to take pictures in all of the places you’d expect.  If you haven’t seen the MIT museum, I recommend it.  The building doesn’t look like much on the outside, but it’s bigger than it looks, and the second story is seriously cool.  It has an impressive hologram collection, a nifty exhibit of machines as art, and an arresting collection of photographs of human settlements in extreme climates.  TB was like a pig in mud.  

Holograms may not be old enough to be American classics, but they’ll get there.  And the sight of a twelve year old boy’s face open in undisguised wonder is a classic in any culture.

In reverse order:

Thanks for bringing back my memory of seeing a real, single-color laser, hologram for the first time.

Sonny Rollins wrote two of my favorite "Miles Davis" songs, Airegin and Oleo, although I only have the recording with the Davis-Coltrane quintet from 1956.

Sonnymoon is awesome, including its evolution over more than a half century:
1957 live at the Village Vanguard

2011, playing live with Ornette Coleman, is now twice as long

Perhaps next time we can have an engineering jam session in addition to a jazz jam session.

CCPhysicist, I like your idea of adding some links. Here's one to a classic recording of Blues Walk.

CCPhysicist's link 1957 and link 2011.
The next time the family comes for a visit, we should go to Nationals Park for a game. While I miss the grubby, rickety charms of RFK Stadium, Nationals Park has its own appeal. Just don't sit on the first base line on a sunny day, as it disagrees with our pallor. And man, the statues outside are weird. ("Daddy, why does Walter Johnson have four arms?")

Having worked in Colonial Williamsburg for a summer, I can assure you colonial-era costumes are indeed as hot as they look. Cotton isn't historically accurate, so it's linen and wool, and it can be thick. Man, I do not miss that job and its accompanying levels of sweat. (Also, a passable knowledge of printing technology circa 1760 proved not to be the resume-builder you'd think. Alas.)

The MIT museum should have a section dedicated to robots that went insane and tried to exterminate humanity. Surely by now they've built at least a few. Don't hide those, MIT! Celebrate them!
If your kids are really getting into jazz, maybe next year check out the Junior Jazz Foundation. A group out of Hilton Head Island that supports jazz music education for kids. They do a summer camp every year on Hilton Head with world famous singers and musicians. Can't beat the location and the experience. We are fans of the founder who also has a jazz club on the island that we visit every year. Great music and food.
DD, thank you for sharing, for a wonderful post.
Boston sounds grand but it sounds to me like your family is ripe for a visit to the Smithsonian Museums - take the time to go to the one out by Dulles that has actual missiles, airplanes, and the Enterprise shuttle (the real one!) The modern art museum is pretty good and the Natural History museum is excellent. Stay in Arlington and take the metro!
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