Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gettin' after it.

Leroy and I attended the benefit jazz concert for saxophonist/composer Andrew D'Angelo at Roosevelt High School tonight. Listening to the jazz band took us out of space and time.

My reaction was similar to most concerts I attended when James played bass trombone for four years in that band. It is amazing -- but not surprising --that young people can understand and interpret and improvise music so clearly. Scott Brown, the band's director, teaches his students about collaboration, about listening to one another, about taking one's turn. He insists upon something very close to perfection through countless rehearsals. He's the reason that these kids care so deeply about how well they play and how as a group they inspire one another to play better. As a musician himself, he models the behavior and the artistry he expects from his team.

James grew as a musician and as a person being part of both the Eckstein Middle School Jazz Band (Mr. E.) and the Roosevelt Jazz Band (Mr. Brown). In those years, he played Lincoln Center four years running in the "Essentially Ellington" competitions. He became a world traveler, traveling with the band to locations like New Orleans, Mazatlan, China, the North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreax Jazz Festival, and concerts in to-die-for locations like Luxembourg Gardens in Paris and the San Sebastian Jazz Festival in Spain.

It was nice to see a new group of jazz band members playing to that same standard of excellence that Mr. Brown brings out in each successive band. Tonight's concert included an Ellington piece (it's the Duke's birthday today), followed by "Urban Jungle," then one commissioned by last year's graduating band ("Roo Tune?"). The band finished with an astounding arrangement of Bob Marley's "War." I hope that the event raised a lot of money for Andrew D'Angelo's medical treatments, past and future.

Cancer shows no mercy.

Many readers know that my walk honors four or five very special people, who are survivors of different cancers. Here's an especially heartbreaking story....about a musician I will add to my roll call this year.

From Earshot Jazz:

Raised in our town, and educated at Roosevelt High, Andrew D’Angelo is experiencing a health crisis after being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. On January 25, the saxophonist and composer suffered a major seizure in Brooklyn, New York, where he lives. Tests revealed a large tumor in his brain. After surgeons removed most of the tumor, they determined that the growth was cancerous. He faces a long and difficult battle over the next several years if he is to regain his health.

At this writing, it is unclear what form his treatment will take. Andrew has been frankly discussing his experiences on his website, www.andrewdangelo.com, and his entries there suggest that the most likely options are radiation and chemotherapy, with or without further surgery.

He speaks on the blog of the difficulties he faces in affording the extensive treatment he has already undergone, and the additional treatments he will need. One aspect of his struggle will strike many jazz musicians, and working musicians of any kind, as sadly and chillingly familiar: Andrew has no health insurance. And already he has amassed huge medical bills.
Friends and colleagues of the popular saxophonist have rallied in the most heartening way to his cause. They have established a fund for him, to help with the costs of his surgery and recovery; for details, see

And, in an extraordinary display of concern and affection, friends and fellow musicians have also planned benefit concerts in cities in the United States and abroad. As this publication goes to print, events had already been staged in New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, and the Boston area, as well as in cities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Belgium, Iceland, Spain, and Norway.

Many more are in the planning – in Brooklyn, New York, and Maine, and in Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.

-- Excerpt from Article in Earshot Jazz by Peter Monaghan
Copywright 2008 Earshot Jazz, Seattle

Concert is at Roosevelt High School, $15 for adults, $10 for students. It begins at 7:30pm. It will be great music all the way round. All proceeds to Andrew.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another park, another view

I got up early and drove to Everett to meet the Kindred Spirits team at Legion Park, pictured in an early photo many years ago. By now I should have figured out that Penny never usually has us actually walk in a park -- we park our cars there and then walk out. Today it was through the historic district of Everett all the way over to General Hospital, then back.

I was lucky to walk with Ginny, a friend from last year's walk. We had a chance to catch up. She is such a positive person in her outlook, and this year she is walking in honor of a young breast cancer victim who herself has just decided to join us in the walk even though she is only half way through her treatments. What spunk! My hip held up fine both on Saturday (4 miles) and today (5.6 miles), but the Nikes don't seem to offer enough support. They are designed without much headroom in the toebox, so back to Super Jock & Jill before next weekend's walks.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Seward Park

Is there anything more splendid than flowering trees near water?

Seward Park is full of endless vistas.

Seward Park was a WPA project during the Great Depression.

Yesterday was Arbor Day. My company donated one million trees to be planted by the Arbor Foundation, of which 2200 are Douglas Firs that will be planted in the Seattle Area. The rest will go into national parks and forests, including those burned out last summer in the wildfires. Trees remind us that there is both a past and a future that does not include us, but from which we can learn.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance." -- Confucious

Penny cancelled the six mile walk in Everett today because they have inches of snow on the ground. I walked in very cold and wet weather at Green Lake, for three miles. I miss the Kindred Spirits team, but want to be 100% when I go back to training up north on the slopes and hills.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"What does not change/ is the will to change" -- Charles Olson

My trainer and I talked this morning about how we find ways to get keep ourselves motivated and focused. It's tough, especially working back from an injury.

Super Jock & Jill has physical therapists and sports medicine specialists in their store every Thursday evening. Tonight my feet were examined closely, as were my orthodics, by a professional. The Saucony shoes got swapped for Nike men's shoes that have less support but one important distinction: there is no rubbing, no pressure, nothing but fabric over and near the bunion. I probably do need stronger orthodics than I have right now.

I can start to walk again more than a mile at a time with some confidence that I won't get worse rather than better.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Times Three.

On the road to Green Lake by 5:45 even though back seems tight this morning. I did a mile only, with stretching on both ends. Tomorrow morning, lower body training with Amy in the gym.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Every wall is a door." -- Emerson

I walked Green Lake yesterday morning with no difficulties, and no consequences, except for a sore bunion. I walked again this morning in old shoes, without problems. I'm going to see if I can do that on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this next frenzied week, along with training on Tuesday and Thursday. I feel so much better when I walk. It clears out my head and my heart.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

"Behold the turtle. He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out." -- James Bryant Conant

I did manage to walk the 2.8 miles around Green Lake yesterday, though it took me about 20 minutes longer than usual. I stopped to stretch often. I don't think I did myself any harm at all, and it was certainly fine to be out in the open air.

Now that I know about the psoas muscle and its tendency to tighten, I'm able to keep myself a good deal more comfortable with the right stretching exercises. There's an excellent website called thestretchinginstitute.org.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Mighty Psoas.

We have a name for my hip/back problem finally. I have a sprained ligament and a strained psoas tendon. I am glad to know what the problem is, because I can modify my patterns to better correct it. It will take 8-10 weeks to correct a ligament condition, and I am 3 weeks in. Both my trainer and my doctor agree that sitting is harder than walking for me. They do not feel that walking will set me back if I do the right kind of stretching before and after I walk. So I am going to give it a shot tomorrow. Not sure yet if I'll go up to Mukilteo for the 4.4 mile team walk; or simply take a shot at 2.8 miles at Green Lake, a terrain I know very well and where I can always easily get myself back home if I run into problems. The challenge is a metaphor for life: to break through the fear that something worse will happen if you simply try. I have become a cautious creature, and know that I need to move back to the confidence and joy that comes from walking.