Sunday, April 1, 2007

MVFP (my very first post...)

Dear Friends,
This is my first post, so please be kind. First, I'd like to thank my manager, Alon Amit, for setting it up so quickly. What I hope to do here is discuss various aspects of my personal, scientific and musical life in the hope that it is of some interest or benefit to others.

I was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Ottawa, at a time when there were only six teams in the NHL, and the CFL was much more popular in Canada than American football. I loved going with my Dad to Landsdowne Park, becoming intoxicated with the cigar smoke, and watching the Roughriders clobber the Hamilton Tiger Cats. We used to go for lime-flavoured ice cream at some small dairy right in town, I wish I could remember its name.

I attended Hillcrest High School, the school was just a few years old when we started. For some reason, I declined to study music, and 'majored' in things like woodwork. I was a total disaster in woodwork and still can't hammer a nail into the wall without injuring the wall, the nail or my finger (hammer remains intact, though). I studied with some very talented kids, and wonder whether any went on to have illustrious careers.

I left Ottawa after grade thirteen (does that still exist anywhere?) and came to Israel for one year. That turned into a very long year, and with the exception of a year in Toronto on sabbatical, have lived here practically ever since.

Some seven years ago, during one of my visits abroad to talk about bad breath (what I do for a living, along with smelling people), I met some people from Ottawa at a tiny train station in England (somewhere near Chester, the name will come to me). They told me that Hillcrest had become one of the best high schools in Ontario. In grade nine I did really well on a math competition and received a slide rule (who remembers what that thing is?) from none other than Russ Jackson. Turns out, I had a lucky day, and bombed out in subsequent math competitions. I have really fond memories of a lot of teachers at that school, particularly Ken Crouch (I understand he won the prime minister's award, he deserves it) and E.W. Benoit who turned a bunch of science nerds into lit lovers.

I studied classical piano with Sandra Coupal on Daly Street. I was taking a piano lesson when John F. Kennedy was assasinated. Isn't it funny how you remember exactly where you were on that day, at that hour? Sandra was a great and demanding piano teacher, I learned recently that a prize is awarded in her name each year. Sandra had a fantastic student (I think his name was Frank Parkinson) who began piano at sixteen and was wonderfully talented. Within three years he learned to play "Rhapsody in Blue" and performed with our teacher at the concert she organized every two years at Academic Hall. The very next day, Frank stopped taking lessons. It turned out that he had this dream to play this particular piece, he succeeded, and that was that. This is one of the poignant stories of my youth. Where are you today, Frank? Have you gone back to the piano?

Anyway, this was (at the age of ten) my first exciting exposure to George Gershwin and jazz. Too bad I didn't follow up on it till I was twenty. I guess it was just one of those things.

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