Happy birthday dear Myrna

RecordMy grandfather on my mother’s side was, among other things, a bandleader who played piano and accordion. For her tenth birthday, he made a record of his band singing “Happy Birthday” to her. It was done on some sort of home-recording setup at 78 rpm. The label says “Myrna 10th Birthday 1955″ on it, written in pen on the center of a 7” record. As far as we know it’s the only surviving recording of his music.

My grandfather passed away in 1971, two years before I was born. For as long as I can remember, this record sat in my parents’ living room in their record collection, neglected due to the disappearance of 78 rpm record players.

This Mother’s Day we bought Mom a USB record player that, using the Audacity software programm, could translate 78 rpm recordings on her iMac. Fortunately, the record was kept in a dust cover and had not significantly warped or scratched. And with surprisingly little effort and distortion, my grandfather’s song was rediscovered.

Needless to say it’s a bit mind-blowing to hear one’s father/grandfather 35 years after his death. Mom cried a lot and hasn’t gotten over the thrill of it. I know I have yet to tire of the novelty of hearing my grandfather perform for my mother.

Herewith, my grandfather and his band. Listen closely for some great banter before and after the song. That’s Grandpa on the piano.

On spending four days in Chicago

A handful of (rather mundane, my apologies) observations:

• This town, at least in the area I’m in, is clean, comfortable, and gorgeous. I love the abundant architecture—unlike New York, Chicago seems to embrace every era of skyscraper style, and the overall effect is terrific. Art deco next to modernism next to a soon-to-be Trump tower on the river. Great.

• I’m not used to how wide the streets are, and how few cars are street-parked in the Loop and Magnificent Mile. Compared to Manhattan the place almost feels empty.

• Lots of good food: I have enjoyed Italian sausage and a Blackie burger thus far and am trying Ben Pao Chinese tonight. Which is a good thing, because the Hyatt’s convention center food is really quite awful.

• The Windy City ain’t windy when I’m in town: high 70’s and lots of sun all week. You’re welcome, Chicago.

FishyAnd to top it all off, my hotel, the Monaco Chicago, provides a complimentary fish to keep the lonely traveler company. My fish is boring but it’s nice to have a pet on loan. Highly recommended travel perk. The Monaco is hell-bent on details: a choice of turndown sweets, two bathrobes in the room, complimentary wine tasting in the lobby, even a handwriting analysis psychic and a massage therapist free of charge during the tasting. If it’s the little things that count, the Monaco’s number is very high.