Yeah, that’s a lame play on words. Sue me.
It’s the first of April and I haven’t posted anything for a while, so let’s see what Bob’s been up to lately.
I fell behind on my reading. The only book I’ve gotten through recently is Ice, a 2015 thriller by Kevin Tinto. An archeologist in New Mexico stumbles across granite that only comes from one place on Earth: Antarctica. How did it end up in a previously undiscovered cave dwelling that’s over 800 years old? Good book. It’s the first of a trilogy; I’ll read the others at some point.
New Pen Day
Cecil, my penabler (the person who got me started in fountain pens) and I went to the Arkansas Pen Show in Little Rock a couple of weeks ago. It was the first pen show for either of us. We both went with no real plans to buy anything, although I would have grabbed another Pilot CON-40 converter if I’d seen one. I just don’t want to pay for shipping one from an online vendor.
“No real plans to buy anything.”
Yeah, about that.
I brought home this handsome-looking sterling silver Grifos. I’d never heard of them before. We stopped by their booth almost on a whim as we were leaving and got into a nice discussion about their stuff. They had several wrapped with a variety of exotic leathers, including salmon. I didn’t even realize you could tan salmon skin. The salesman kind of offhandedly mentioned that they had several used show demonstrators, though only one of them was a fountain pen. Somehow I managed to pick it on the first try (there were two other similar-looking ballpoint pens). It’s currently inked with Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts. I’d been wanting to try that out, and Cecil had a big bottle of it, so I filled up when we got back.
Cecil ended up with a very nice Conklin All-American and a bottle of really cool grey-black ink whose name escapes me at the moment.
The pen has a nice heft to it, which I appreciate. For some reason I’ve always been drawn to heavier pens. It’s got a German Fine nib and it really just glides across the paper. It’ll be a regular part of my rotation, such as that is, but it’s probably not going to be an everyday carry pen. It’s a little too nice to be tossed in my pocket and scratched up.
I’ve been working on trying to fill in some blanks in my Dad’s records. He wrote back in the early 90s,
“Where did the 43 years, 1941-84, go to? Figured out while at College Park:
5 years at Corpus Christi, in service, and back at Michigan 1941-46
7 years in Columbus, New Orleans, summers in Maine, Rochester, New Orleans
3 years at Eastman School of Music, 1953-56
1 year at Minnesota, 1956-57
1 year in Austin, 1957-58
9 years at Austin College, 1958-67″
I’ve been working on fleshing those years out. That mostly involves digging through newspaper archives, city directories, and so forth right now, though I’ve probably got some paper documents here and there that would be interesting to go through. At any rate, it occurred to me that Corpus Christi Schools might have some documentation of his time there, so I checked their website. Turns out you can request employment records online, though there was a hiccup when I tried to enter his date of birth. He was born in 1920, but their dropdown for year of birth only goes back 100 years.
At any rate, they sent me what records they had.
He was paid $1,440 (equivalent to $27,464 in 2021) for the 1941-42 school year as an Assistant Band Director, though he didn’t finish the school year; he was drafted in December 1941.
Dad graduated from the University of Michigan. It’s where my love of UM comes from. Dad was part of the Michigan Marching Band in his undergrad years, marching under the direction of William D Revelli. Dr. Revelli was to the Michigan Band what Bo Schembechler was to the football team.
CCISD included in their records a glowing recommendation from Dr. Revelli.
“One of the finest seniors of this year’s class. Mr. Mueller has what it takes. He is a high class gentleman, scholar, musician. Makes a good appearance, is an excellent musician, has initiative, and is easy to get along with. I recommend him very highly.”
I never met Dr. Revelli, but I knew his legacy after 36 years as the director of bands. It’s pretty danged cool to read what someone like him thought of my dad.
The other interesting thing I’ve found so far is a bundle of letters written to my mom over several years, from her mom Rebecca Smith Baldinger and her brother George. It’s maybe two dozen letters while she was teaching at the Kuenhle School of Music in Natchez, Mississippi. The letters are nothing earth-shattering, but they’re a wonderful peek into what everyone’s lives were like in the late 1940s and early 1950s. World War 2 had ended, and with it, my grandfather’s life, literally; he died on the day before the Nagasaki bombing. Mom had graduated from Newcomb College and taken the teaching job in Natchez. My Uncle George was attending several schools, then was drafted, then got married. The last letter in the bundle mentioned him having stomach trouble, a harbinger of the cancer that was killing him.
It’s been enlightening to read the letters, especially from my grandmother. As I’ve mentioned, I was always very intimidated by her presence when I was younger, and never really knew her well. I caught several glimpses of her very strong-willed personality through the letters, making me think that intimidating presence wasn’t just a figment of my imagination. I do wish I’d been able to know her better though.
A funny thing happened on the way to the blog post…
My MSI laptop has served me pretty well for about four years, though I’ve had to replace the cooling fans a couple of times. But it’s been giving more and more grief these last few months. I’ve had to resort to a separate keyboard because several of the bottom row keys were getting fidgety. Then one of the fans died again.
But then the really bad things started happening. Random crashes were bad enough, but then I was getting “Checking Media Presence…No Media Present…” messages when it rebooted. That meant the system hard drive was probably failing, and that was a little beyond my skills. I hope it’s only the system drive, because replacing the computer itself really isn’t in the budget right now. So I took the MSI to a shop in Tulsa and I’m making do on what’s been my travel machine for a while. It’s a (very) old HP Pavilion notebook that Diana got back when we were on the road, I think. Pretty sure it came with Windows 7 at the time, and while the OS has been upgraded, the hardware hasn’t. There’s not a lot you can expect from just 4 gigs of RAM these days when part of that is used by your graphics processor. Such is life. At least I’ve got a back-up machine.
One of the things I’ve noticed already though is that I’m able to stay more focused on what I’m writing. It was far too easy to get pulled in twenty-nine different directions on the big machine between social media, YouTube, Pandora, and so forth. Because this machine doesn’t multi-task nearly as well as the MSI does, there’s less for me to get distracted by. That’s a Good Thing™, right? Seems to be, anyway.
I’ve started a new short story (yes, I know I’ve got several other projects still going. Hush.), this one inspired by the movie Passengers. If you look at that movie from Jennifer Lawrence’s character’s viewpoint, it’s a really creepy story. I’m giving that a crack, for no particular reason. I’ve got just over 700 words on that so far. We’ll see where it goes. Maybe with some luck I’ll finish one of the things I’ve been working one in the next month.
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