Personal Letters

Alice and Jan Wedding

My Dear Family and Devoted Friends,

Do you remember where you were on Sunday afternoon, October 9, 1966?

Perhaps you were preparing for Game 4 of The World Series? Or maybe looking for a betting line on The Giants? Or maybe you were struggling with the Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle?

Or maybe you were in the Baroque Room of The Plaza Hotel, celebrating at the marriage of Alice Rosemarie Dawn, 26, of New York, of blessed memory, and Jan Robert Polatschek, 26, of New Rochelle.

Alice's father, David A. Dawn, and his new wife Helga, made us a splendid wedding forty years ago today.

I still enjoy the memories of that Sunday afternoon.

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!”

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.

Divorce and the Economic Stimulus Package

The White House

Washington, DC

April 1, 2010
My Fellow Citizens,
On my flight back from Guantanamo Bay where I went to cheer up and support our Troops - BTW they are doing "a hell of a job" -  I had a few spare moments on Air Force One so I Googled my own name.  And what do I find?  Mr. Jan Polatschek's Economic Stimulus Plan that is posted on his website.  He was kind enough to mention my name.

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.