On the Mend

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For those who have asked, I am doing well. Computing is a challenge as I cannot use both hands – mouse is verboten. This text is laboriously being typed (with many bad words spoken aloud) with one-fingered left hand. My physical therapist is impressed with my progress and has cleared me to drive sparingly with one hand while keeping myself in my shoulder brace. This driving does NOT include my manual transmission convertible (!). At any rate, I do not intend to push my limits.

I’ve been incommunicado because at almost the same time I had surgery, Markus Utz received funding and green light for a series of concerts and recording sessions for my editions of Heinrich Isaac’s Choralis Constantinus motets, which have been my life’s work ever since 1982. He sent a list of motets that he wishes to perform and record and, of course, many were not in final form according to my latest standards. So I have been sitting at the computer with a track ball on top of a pillow (so my shoulder does not move) trying to work Finale with my left hand. Much profanity ensues….

But, Markus begins rehearsing this weekend and needed some music that I had not even begun. Then, he also got funding to add instrumentalists, so I am in the process of generating instrumental parts for the 22 motets in the queue.

The first recording session is early July. I would have liked to attend, but it is too soon after the surgery. Markus assures me that the process with extend into the fall and next year, so I am hopeful I can attend either a concert or a recording session. Meanwhile, he tells me that I am writing the CD liner notes (!). No pressure there.

Needless to say, I have done little else other than focus on Isaac. Poor Michelle has had to be my chauffeur until yesterday. Loki doesn’t get much exercise and the house is pretty dirty. I am (kinda) keeping up with laundry, but have had to hire out the yardwork.

Despite all that, the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. 11 more days in the sling. PT continues and I am scheduled to go back to work on August 8.  Michelle and I have managed to grab a few moments for fun. We went together for haircuts last weekend (I needed something that would not require using two hands. Check see the result at the right.) Then we stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall place next door to the hair salon for supper because it was pouring rain (Thank God, we need rain). King’s Kitchen, Fort Myers. Amazing service, amazing food. 

Next weekend we’re heading to Miami for an immersive Van Gogh exhibit. Drop off Loki at the kennel in the morning and take the 2.5 hour drive to downtown Miami. We’ll  take in the exhibit at noon and have reservations at a great restaurant for an early dinner and then drive back to Fort Myers and be home by 6:30pm. We LOVE living here.

So, Thanks to all of you who expressed birthday wishes. I’m older and no more wiser. Always happy to hear from you.

Summer Doldrums

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In many ways, I am no longer the person I was. I was a visionary, administrator, choral conductor, and teacher. Now I am a budding sommelier, wine retailer, genealogist, and amateur musicologist who is dealing with the onset of old age.

Arthritis is a gift from both my parents, who I never realized were working through a lot of daily pain. Before I left South Dakota arthritic conditions showed up in spinal stenosis – for which I had surgery in 2017 – and also in the knuckle joints of my hands, probably the result of years of pounding the piano during choral rehearsals.

Monday I go into surgery for a rotator cuff repair. At this moment I cannot lift my right arm more than to a horizontal plane (I never realized how ridiculously right-handed I was until now). I could not conduct nor teach conducting at this moment if my life depended on it.

This condition can be blamed on many factors – 1) my work at Total Wine, which entails lifting/pushing many cases of wine; 2) my own yardwork/housework, which is quite strenuous, 3) working and playing with the Doberdork, which is active and arduous, although one would never know that from the image to the right, and 4) from degenerative arthritis growth in my shoulder.

It has been almost three months that my shoulder has not been right. I have not been able to do things without tremendous pain. And after the surgery I am likely to be even less that person until physical rehabilitation is completed. Those of you who know me will understand that this situation is not something with which I will happily comply. I will not be able  to  1) drive my sports car, 2) pilot my boat, 3) work at Total Wine, 3) do yardwork and gardening, 4) clean the house and do laundry, 5) go to the store, etc., etc.  I am hopeful that my desk can be configured in such a way that I can at least access the computer and work on such things as my wine professional study, Isaac motets, website, and genealogy. I will be in a sling that immobilizes my shoulder.

Ah well, perhaps God is telling me to take some downtime. It’ll make me appreciate what I do have.  It is annoying that it happens as the summer begins. It is the time of year when all the speed restrictions on the Caloosahatchee River are lifted because the manatees are far out in the Gulf. That means we can easily go by boat to downtown Ft. Myers (35 minutes) or all the way down to the Gulf, Ft. Myers Beach, Sanibel, Captiva, St. James City and other cool spots within 90 minutes. <sigh> Maybe Michelle will finally consent to learn how to pilot the boat (ha!) Can’t wait to see her reaction when she reads this.

Seriously, this will place a huge burden on Michelle because she leaves for her job around 6:30-7:00am and gets home about 6:30pm. And she’ll have to do many of the things around here that I usually do in addition to driving me to physical therapy. Here’s hoping that I recover quickly and can at least drive the automatic transmission car within a short period. It will be a fun experiment learning to do things with my left arm.

Here’s hoping you’re all doing well. Drop me a line or a call if you get a chance. I’ll probably be available!  🙂

Counting Blessings

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I work Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays for a total of sixteen hours a week at Total Wine, the largest retailer of wine and spirits in the USA with 208 stores in 24 states. We stock over 8000 different wines in our store. I am one of about 800 wine specialists working for Total Wine across the country. I don’t work because I need the money. I have plenty to keep me busy with the house, yard, Heinrich Isaac editions, and family genealogy. But I do enjoy the atmosphere of working with my colleagues. It is very reminiscent of graduate school. We’re all wine geeks who love talking and learning about wine.  I’m the odd guy there because I’m part-time but they keep me around because I know just enough to be valuable and they appreciate that I always want to learn more.

So, today I get a call from the wine manager. Quick organizational chart: 2 store managers, 3 asst. managers, 1 wine manager, 1 wine supervisor. I consider the wine manager to be my mentor in wine; although he is probably 20 years my junior, he has sommelier knowledge. Anyway he called me today and asked if I would be interested in being part of a wine tasting next Tuesday with Tony Biagi – Napa Valley’s Winemaker of the Year for 2020. This guy has been behind some of the best-known wines in Napa for decades. OK, so let me get this straight: They want to PAY me to spend two hours tasting wines with one of the best winemakers in California on my day off. Gee…..

That call got me thinking about how fortunate I am.

I turn 68 this year. The ravages of age have indeed begun creeping up on me. I have a rotator cuff problem right now with my right shoulder. It is probably akin to the other health issues I have had such as the spinal stenosis (for which I had surgery in 2017) and arthritic knuckles which prevent me from any keyboard work. I have been afraid to try playing my tuba or euphonium because of the condition of my right middle finger.

Waa, waa. 

I am continually told that I do not look my age.  A (younger) co-worker was shocked to discover my age yesterday. I see the differences but evidently others do not.

I walk my Doberdork about five miles daily on the days I do not go into Total Wine. And when I am at Total Wine I probably walk ten miles in addition to climbing ladders and hoisting cases of wine up and down.

I go to my doctor, dentist, dermatologist, ophthalmologist appointments regularly and they invariable send me away with nothing more than cautionary warnings (“eat more veggies”, “don’t drink too much”, wear a hat”)

I live where it does not snow. It doesn’t even frost! I have a swimming pool and hot tub right outside my 24-foot glass patio door – which most months is wide open, making the pool area (called a “lanai” here) part of my living room. There is a 25-foot boat on a lift on the canal at the edge of my property. Said canal leads to the Caloosahatchee river and right down past downtown Fort Myers to the Gulf of Mexico.

My beautiful wife, Michelle, turns 50 next Tuesday. She continues to amaze me with her intelligence and dedication to her chosen career. She is considered a rising star in her field, but those people do not even begin to grasp her breadth and depth of knowledge in things like music history and performance, cooking, or craftsmanship. Two days ago, she whipped up a seafood pasta from leftovers that was worthy of any restaurant. The next day she designed and executed an undercarriage for a beautiful desk that we bought on Craigslist that allows it to be wheeled around. That same day, she went out to the lanai and made two black iron trellises for bougainvillea look amazing by painting portions of them (see image at top).

Every day I thank God that I get to spend my life with her.

There are other blessings. The afore-mentioned Doberdork – Loki – continues to grow and annoy and amaze. He is definitely a challenge – one we did not anticipate. I figured we could handle any dog with our combined backgrounds in psychology, education, veterinary technology, and dog ownership. WRONG! Despite previous dogs such as Bassett Hounds Collies, Springers, Cockers, mutts of all types: Loki is the smartest and most stubborn animal we have dealt with. He is also the most loving and dedicated.  When Michelle comes home, his ears go to his shoulders and he cannot wag his tail enough. I mean, really, how do you beat that?

There are my ongoing friendships and work with Markus Utz and Harold Lischkowitsch. Both live in Konstanz, Germany and both are central to my current life.

Markus is truly one of the finest musicians in Europe. One of the last students of Eric Ericsson, he has risen to be the professor of choral studies at the Zurich School of the Arts – where Hindemith once worked. His work at the Konstanz Munster caused our paths to cross and while his star has continued to rise; he has allowed me to tag along by creating editions of music for his groups to sing.  He keeps me in the game and challenges me to keep working in the research that I began way back in 1982. Markus is invited to Yale University again this fall as a visiting professor for their Sacred Music program. We have been collaborating on his presentation there where he will use portions of my presentation material from the 2010 Isaac conference at Indiana University and music from my editions from the Choralis Constantinus. His planned project to record an entire CD of my editions is still on track, but keeps getting pushed back due to Covid-19 problems.

Harold and I spoke just last Saturday. We miss each other. He has been one of my best friends ever since we set eyes on each other the day after German reunification  (Deutsche Wiedervereinigung) in 1990. We were in Vienna – neither of us had slept the night before. But both recognized a kindred spirit. And it was our good fortune that we both had a connection to Konstanz. I was on that trip only for the chance to see Konstanz, the focus of my doctoral research. He was there as a native Konstanzer to introduce the city to a group of Americans. I cannot speak for him, but I can say with confidence that he has changed my life for the good. It will remain a great regret that Covid-19 forced the cancellation of our planned family visit to Konstanz because I so wanted to show my family all the things that makes the city so appealing.

I have two children. Neither is my biological child, but both call me “dad”. I am proud of both. They have chosen their paths in life and are pursuing them. They call me daily and I am always glad to hear from them. They are a blessing.

In conclusion, I could complain about what is wrong with the country, with politics, the world, but I have decided to focus on what is going well. I truly believe that much of this appreciation comes from cutting ties to social media. My Facebook account remains active because Messenger is helpful for sending information to others. But Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are all gone. I ignore most emails from Academia.edu – the majority of which seem intent on getting me to pay them to discover who might be reading about me (seriously?).

My wish for all reading this is that you see the beauty around you and seek happiness in the little things. Happy Eastertide.

March Update

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It’s been almost two months since I last posted. Much has happened since that time, but I haven’t had the opportunity to write about it. Here are some details:

Spring has sprung in southwest Florida. The Key lime, Barbados limes, and Bearss limes are all blossoming as is the tangerine tree. The avocado that we grew from seed may never bear fruit, but avocados never do until they’re about seven years old anyway, so maybe it will someday. I’m eating tomatoes and herbs from the garden. The rosemary bushes and Italian parsley are truly loving this climate. The African blue basil never stops trying to take over its space.

In February I was again reminded how my immediate family runs the gamut of the baby-boom generation. My oldest sibling was born in 1945 and my youngest in 1964.  My oldest niece Carrie came to Fort Myers on vacation with her husband Dan. They are now empty nesters and grandparents (!). This makes me the brother of a great-grandfather. Hmmmm. Even funnier, it makes Michelle, who is several years younger than my niece, a great-grand aunt. Hehehe.

It was great to spend an evening with them in downtown Fort Myers at the rooftop bar on top of the new Luminary Hotel overlooking the Caloosahatchee River. We caught up on many family things and laughed about the many things that makes our family unique.

While Michelle and I rejoice almost daily that we live in this paradise that we have created for ourselves, one of the things that we do miss is seeing the Feiszli clan. Of course, we had the whole family trip planned for June of 2020 until Covid-19 knocked everything off course. All of our generation with the exception of our youngest sibling, should soon have received their second Covid vaccination.  Michelle got both of hers quite early due to the nature of her job at a state-run facility.  I just received my first Moderna shot yesterday and am scheduled for the second on 1 April. Hopefully by the fall of 2021 we might be able to have family gatherings again.  I have missed at least three weddings and have not seen at least two new babies. I have not really seen any of my family since 2015. 

Mask up! Get the vaccine! Let’s get over this plague!

BTW, this photo was taken on a rooftop (outside), and we all wore masks to the table and only removed them when we were seated far away from others. Dan and Carrie had already contracted and survived Covid. Michelle already had both her shots. I (the oldest) was probably most at risk in this photo.

Only a week or so later, Jackson and Nathan came down for a visit. This was actually more than simply a “spring break” for these two. It was actually Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Michelle’s birthday celebration all rolled into one, since Covid had put the clamps on everything for the past year.

They now live in Sioux Falls and are carving out their own life trajectory.

Nathan is a rising star in the Olive Garden chain, serving as the culinary manager of the Sioux Falls restaurant but (from all indications) being groomed to become a corporate trainer for other managers. They have already flown him to Italy (in 2019) to study cooking and culture – an experience that, just as my first trip to Europe in 1989, was life-changing for him.

Jackson has come to enjoy the hospitality industry – despite the fact that he completed a degree in electrical school. He enjoys working with people and with the challenges that hotel work brings him. After working at the Alex Johnson in Rapid City, he immediately took a position with a boutique hotel in downtown Sioux Falls and may soon investigate other positions with more responsibility.

Their ultimate dream would be to have their own restaurant with Nathan running the kitchen and Jackson running the house. Too bad I’m so old because I’d love to run their bar.  🙂

They were here a week and the five of us managed to do much together. Michelle and the guys went to the beach one day while I and Rachel worked. The four of them went kayaking at the Manatee Park without me one day. We all went downtown the night of this photo. We hot-tubbed, swam, played with the dog (Loki misses Nathan now that he’s gone, I think), had some really great home-cooked meals with good wine and cocktails.

As the old newspapers used to say, “A good time was had by all”

I missed the kayaking trip because I have somehow managed to injure my shoulder. The specter of  old age is making its ever-increasing impact upon my life. I went to the doctor’s office and the nurse practitioner suspects a torn rotator cuff and ordered an MRI. OK, scheduled that only to have my health insurance company refuse to approve it until 1) I got an x-ray and 2) saw an orthopedic surgeon. <sigh>

So, I can’t work, can’t do yardwork (and have to pay someone else to do it), and have trouble sleeping because I can’t lie on my right side. Oh, and I have discovered how pathetically right-handed I really am.  Got the x-ray. It shows nothing other than arthritis (big surprise). If it is torn tissue that won’t show up in an x-ray, of course. I (finally) get in to see the ortho on Tuesday and then (maybe) the idiotic insurance company will OK an MRI so we can discover what the hell is going on. Grrr. 

Ah well, I can’t play piano because of arthritic fingers. I couldn’t raise my right arm to conduct if I had to. Looks like I’ll have to resign myself to being retired in Florida with a boat, pool, spa, and convertible. 🙂

That’s all the news from Lake Wobegon. Hope you’re all doing well and finding some happiness in your daily lives.