Monday, July 10, 2017

Encyclopedia of Me - T (Mark)

J.R.R. Tolkien: I'm a big fan of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I remember my mother reading The Hobbit and telling the story to us chapter by chapter when I was way too little to read a book like that by myself. I remember finally picking up LOTR and reading from beginning to end in college. In the middle of a busy semester with all kinds of Japanese to read and translate, and papers to write, and pre-med classes to pass, I decided I needed to read those. Reading those stories, and seeing the movies, and sharing all of that with my family has been something really fun. I know many people have criticisms of Tolkien's exhaustive style, but without him, modern fantasy would look a lot different.

Trombone: When I was in 3rd grade I lived in Canada, and the Canadian Brass came to our school to do a concert. I loved it. From that moment I knew that I wanted to play the trombone. When we moved back to California and I had the chance to join band in the 4th grade, the teacher told me that he only had experience teaching the flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, or drums, so if I wanted to play the trombone, there would be a lot of working on my own. I knew what I wanted, so my parents rented the trombone and I learned. I couldn't even reach the last position on the slide because my arms were too short, but who plays that many B-naturals when you're starting out on the trombone anyway? I went on to play for many years (and I really should be playing more right now) and it's been a source of a lot of fun times for me. I still have the Bach trombone I received as an eighth-grade graduation present from my parents, and which my middle school band director helped us pick out by going from store to store all over Oakland, so we could get her educator discount. Big props to my parents for letting me take a chance on an instrument that 4th grade teacher didn't want to teach.

TSR: This is the game company started by Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons. D&D is one of those things I've played off and on for many years, and each iteration is fun for different reasons. Also, TSR made a role-playing game called Top Secret/S.I., which is an RPG all about espionage. I played it less frequently, but really enjoyed that as well. TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast several years ago, so it's no longer around, but I have fond memories of any game or book with that TSR logo on it.

Thelonious Monk: Here is one of the great names in jazz. He's also a great musician. Somewhere in high school I came across his music and became intrigued immediately. He took the rules and twisted them all up in a way I hadn't experienced before. His dissonance and simplistic piano-playing style really spoke to me. At the time, I was probably looking for ways to break free from norms and expectations, and playing some very different jazz music filled that need. I still frequently go back to albums by him when I'm looking for something familiar and pleasant to the ears. Many people will argue about what's pleasant, but that's OK. There's room for everyone.

Tokyo and Takasaki: Here are two "towns" in Japan that shaped a lot of my first impressions of the country. My first night in Japan was spent in Tokyo. I remember being blown away on the ride in from the airport. It was so huge. We drove right through the downtown area and I couldn't believe so many people and lights could be in one place. I was soon shipped out to Takasaki, a fairly big town about 2 hours by train from Tokyo. It was my first taste of how blended agricultural and urban life are in Japan. It was a short bike ride from the huge city center to rice fields and little homes. I lived there for 4 months and it was the perfect place to learn the language and customs. Soon after that I moved to Tokyo for 7 months. Within days I learned to ignore the city sounds and find peace amidst the chaos. I drove in Japan for the first time in Tokyo. That was an experience and a half! And I was blown away with how a city so enormous could still have room for beautiful parks and shrines and temples and tiny little ramen shops. It's still one of my favorite cities I've ever visited.

Trains: I have to go back a lot of years to find a time when trains weren't a part of my life. I rode the BART in the Bay Area plenty of times growing up. Stacy and I took the train home for a surprise visit during our freshman year in college. And since getting married we've always lived close enough to the tracks to hear the sound of the train. Max was a train nut when he was a little kid and we watched a lot of Thomas, read a lot of train books, built many train tracks for Thomas and his friends, and drove toward train crossings to catch a glimpse of a night train. We can ride the train in and out of NYC to catch a show or spend some time in the city. I rode more trains than I care to count in Japan, including the Shinkansen (Bullet Train). I like climbing on a subway car or other train in a big city. There is something relaxing about traveling by train, wherever it is.

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The Magic Violinist said...

Wow, the Lord of the Rings books are already intimidating, and you read them through college? That's pretty impressive.

I didn't know you taught yourself a lot of trombone when you wanted to play. That's super cool! I'd love to hear you play sometime. I don't know if I ever really have.

I didn't expect trains to be on your list, but it totally makes sense. There are lots of memories involved, now that you mentioned all of them.

Boquinha said...

"At the time, I was probably looking for ways to break free from norms and expectations, and playing some very different jazz music filled that need."

That line right there.

I want to visit ramen shops with you.

And I like riding trains with you. <3

Also, Kate's comment above? We need to get on that. Play your trombone!