The Coyotes Of Columbus

No one would mistake Columbus, Ohio for the Wild West, but we now have one thing in common — coyotes.

A peaceful suburbanite will sip her morning coffee and look out into the backyard, and be startled to see a brown, loose-limbed creature ambling across the lawn.  They call them “urban coyotes,” and studies indicate that they are thriving in cities across the northern states.  The urban coyotes tend to be more nocturnal than their rural counterparts, are better fed, and live longer, too.  They often live in packs that claim specific territories.  And while no one knows exactly how many there are, because most coyotes are too smart to be easily caught and tagged for electronic monitoring, researchers estimate that there are anywhere from hundreds to several thousand in most metropolitan areas.

Although timid suburbanites are worried that the coyotes might devour the house cat and small dog population, the coyotes mainly feast on small rodents and the eggs of those annoying Canadian geese — and thereby are helping to save the world from being buried in goose droppings.  I’d say they are providing a valuable service in that regard, and don’t mind if they take an occasional stroll through our neighborhood.

Savannah Music Festival

Every March/April Savannah holds a Music Festival.  For seventeen days there are concerts, often three or four and sometimes more each day.  One of the highlights of the series in our view, is something they call Swing Central Jazz.  It comprises a number of high school jazz bands who come to Savannah for several days and are tutored by some of the name professionals who are here to appear in the music festival.  This year there were twelve bands that were invited to participate.  The professionals who tutored the kids included jazz pianist Marcus Roberts, saxophonist Jeff Clayton, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, trumpeter Jon Faddis and drummer Jason Marsalis, to name a few.  Some of these professionals also travel to the high schools during the year to provide instruction in playing jazz.  The week culminates for these kids in a competition for a first, second and third place money prize on Friday.   The bands compete during the day, each playing the same three pieces that had been identified last Fall, allowing each to make their own arrangement of the pieces and how they would be presented.   Then the three top bands are announced and they perform again in the evening after which  the winning order is announced.  Following the kids performances the professionals play a concert of their own.

I went all day last Friday to hear these bands compete and my wife and I went to the evening performance as well.  The kids are terrific !  It amazes me that people so young can play so well.  To my ear, they are all professional level performers.  I don’t know how the judges are able to pick the winners.  One band from Fort Lauderdale,Florida – Dillard Cente rfor the Arts Jazz Ensemble – had won the last two years and this year it tied for first with a band from Agoura Hills,California.  I guessed that the Dillard group would be finalists again as they had a unique presentation.  As to the others, I really couldn’t pick one or two as standing far above the rest.

Some of the band directors, in thanking the festival organizers, parents of the kids and their school administrators for the support of the program mentioned that these kids met three or more times a week as early as six a.m. to get their practices in while attending their normal classes.   So often we hear of the early and difficult practices for the various athletic teams in high schools and even have them highlighted on the local evening news, but we seldom think about and virtually never see what the arts majors are doing to reach their potentials.  What is really troubling is to hear that the band, or art classes, choir or drama activities have to be cut from the public school curricula for budgetary reasons.

As an end note, it was amusing to see the kids, who are so professional when they are on the stage performing, sitting together in the audience before and after they perform, acting like teenagers.  I know that is what they are, but when they are performing it is hard to remember that their hormones are raging and that they are at that time of life when they are trying to devise their own personalities and independence.  These young folks are great ambassadors for their contemporaries.  When one wants to despair over “today’s youth” they need only see what thee kids are doing.

30 Wonderful Years

Today is Kish’s and my 30th wedding anniversary.  They have been 30 wonderful years — but it’s still hard to believe it has been 30 years since that special day when we tied the knot.

It had been warm and in the 60s only a day or two before, but April weather in Ohio is notoriously unpredictable.  A cold front moved in, and when April 3, 1982 dawned in Vermilion, Ohio it was frigid, with snow falling and a brisk wind blowing.  We were married in Kish’s family church by a minister we really didn’t know.  He had insisted on counseling us about marriage; it’s always made me chuckle that he was divorced within a year or so while Kish and I have somehow muddled through and remained happily married for decades.  Perhaps he’s just an example of the old saying “those who can’t do, teach.”

We kept the ceremony as short as we could, consistent with the requirements of the church.  The entire service, from beginning to end, took about 12 minutes.  We planned it so that we didn’t have to light candles, read scriptures, or really do much of anything other than remain upright and repeat our vows.

I was glad the ceremony was short and simple, because I was nervous.  UJ, my best man, and I stayed in the baptismal tank until we were summoned into a full church.  I stood there, uncomfortable being the center of attention in my traditional black tuxedo, but felt a lot better when I saw Kish coming up the aisle, looking cool and beautiful and radiant in her lacy white wedding gown.  I knew that I was making a smart decision, and I was right.