One day in 2006, I entered the search terms ["mr abraham" cello] on a Google search, hoping references to my father-in-law, cellist and cello teacher Robin Abraham, might appear. One item that did come up was the minutes of a meeting of a committee of educators in Kansas who had toured the studio of a sculptor named Eric Abraham (and elsewhere on the tour had listened to a performance by some string-instrument students). My first name is Eric; my wife's maiden name is Abraham: if when we married I had taken on her surname instead of the other way around, my name would now be Eric Abraham. Eric Abraham was born in New York City, in the Harlem section of Manhattan, to artistic parents who had met in NYC. My wife was born April Abraham in New York City, in the Harlem section of Manhattan, to artistic parents who had met in NYC. Eric Abraham studied at an arts institute (Kansas City Art Institute) in Kansas City and earned a degree in fine arts (visual arts) from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln; he lived in two small towns in Kansas (Waubansee and Lucas). My father, Henry Brahinsky, studied at an arts institute in Kansas City (KC Conservatory of Music, which was across the street from the Art Institute) and earned a degree in fine arts from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (in music [the music building was across the street from the art building]); he lived in two small towns in Kansas (Concordia and Marysville). I love pigs and passionately collect sculptures, trinkets, curios, etc. of pigs; I particularly seek out flying pigs. Eric Abraham was a sculptor whose signature item was flying pigs; his studio was called "The Flying Pig Studio." April's great-grandfather Samuel Abraham was a professional artistic painter. Eric Abraham was a professional artistic painter. Eric Abraham lived within a few miles east of US Highway 281 (in Lucas, Kansas). April and I live within a few miles east of US Highway 281 (in San Antonio, Texas).

In 1982, I was appointed concertmaster of the orchestra for Texas Opera Theater, a touring company based in Houston. On the way to the first rehearsal of that season, I went to dinner with a colleague, Avi Yosselevitch, who had been staying with me. We couldn't help noticing that part of the conversation at a neighboring table involved classical music performance and musical theatre, but we resisted the temptation to interrupt the other diners. . . . At the rehearsal that evening (which was not in the same part of the city as the restaurant), the assistant music director, Sue Marie Albert, was introduced to the orchestra. She was one of the ladies Avi and I had seen at the restaurant. . . . There was not a good opportunity to speak with her at that time, and it wasn't until well into the tour that Sue Marie and I had a chance to converse. It turned out that she and her companion had noticed Avi and me at the neighboring table that evening, mainly because they saw a violin case next to my chair. She recounted that her friend had jestingly remarked to her something like: "Look—a violin. You think he's in your orchestra?" "Are you kidding?" Sue Marie had smirked. "He's probably the concertmaster!"

In the summer of 1997, I enrolled in an Independent Study course in mathematics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. At my first session with my two professors for the course, much time was spent filling out various forms for use by academic and administrative officials. . . . Appropriately, I had brought with me my (Pisces) horoscope for that day, as printed in the San Antonio Express-News. It read:
            "Pisces (Feb. 19–March 20). Independent work and study helps you stand out from the crowd. Strong relationships with smart people will get you through the rough spots, but make sure you have deals in writing."

I usually discard the fortunes that I get in fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants, but there was one I got in 1994 or so that I found amusing, so I kept it in a prominent spot on my kitchen counter. It read:
"You have a magnetic personality which will lead you to trouble."
In January of 1995, I met April Abraham, who would become my wife later that year. One of the first things I learned about her was that as a 3-year-old, in the only dramatic role of her life, she had played Cio Cio San's young child in an Aspen, Colorado, production of the Puccini opera Madama Butterfly. The name of her character: Trouble.

In 1985, I flew from San Antonio to Phoenix to audition for the Phoenix Symphony. When I got on the plane, I spotted Donna Poole, an old violinist friend from Houston days; she had boarded the plane earlier, in Houston, and was also going to the audition. Once we were in the air, I got up from my seat to visit with Donna. She introduced me to her friend in the next seat, Melissa Pierson, another hopeful auditionee. When we got to Phoenix, Melissa and Donna offered me a ride to the motel with the parents of a friend of Melissa's. Although dozens of violinists were staying in the motel, Donna and Melissa were assigned to a room immediately adjoining mine. As Melissa and I chatted, we found much in common. Via correspondence over a period of many months we became close friends. . . . In the fall of 1986, I began work as a violinist in the Virginia Symphony (in Norfolk). I found out that the only other symphony members in my immediate neighborhood were husband-and-wife violists Greg and Gail Barnes, so the three of us formed a carpool. I soon mentioned my good friend Melissa Pierson. Gail recognized the name, because Gail knew Melissa's sister, violist Davin Torre. Not only did Gail and Davin know each other—they had been viola majors at the University of Michigan together. And they had lived in the same dorm. In the same room. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In 1987, Melissa and I began a serious relationship; along the way we learned more and more trivial details about each other. Among them was this:
Melissa had grown up in Livonia, Michigan. In junior high her orchestra director was a man named Weldon Minnick. Some time not long thereafter, Mr. Minnick moved from Livonia to take a teaching job in Texas. Yes, I told her; I knew his name because his new job was as the orchestra director at Skyline High School in Dallas . . . my high school (although it was after I had graduated). . . . . . . . . . . . .
One of my symphony colleagues was Beth Stoppels (now Girko). Beth and Melissa got to be good friends in Jacksonville. They learned that they had both studied violin at the Eastman School of Music (Rochester NY), though not at the same time. Each had lived in an apartment in Rochester. They compared addresses. . . . It was the same apartment. . . . . . .
In 1988, Davin Pierson Torre, Melissa's sister, was appointed music director of the Flint (MI) Youth Symphony Orchestra. She took over the position from David Mairs, who had just been appointed to the artistic staff of the San Antonio Symphony, where he would eventually become Resident Conductor. As I was a member of the SA Symphony from 1989 to 1999, I worked with David dozens of times. After my departure from SAS, I played a number of seasons with the Mid-Texas Symphony under its music director, who was also no longer affiliated with SAS: David Mairs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Beth Stoppels Girko has had exactly three full-time orchestra positions: the Jacksonville Symphony, the Virginia Symphony, and the San Antonio Symphony. I have had exactly three full-time orchestra positions: the Jacksonville Symphony, the Virginia Symphony, and the San Antonio Symphony. (We were in Jacksonville at the same time and San Antonio at the same time, but in Virginia at different times.)
. . . Beth, who was originally from Michigan, was at one time acting principal second violin of the Virginia Symphony. She had a long-term relationship with Phil (Koch), who played oboe and English horn in the Virginia Symphony at one time and lived in Minnesota at one time. Beth now owns long-haired dachshunds, one of whom (Sieglinde) is named after a character in a Wagner opera. . . . When I was in the Virginia Symphony, Eloise Clark-McKenzie, who was originally from Michigan, was principal second violin. Her husband, Phil (McKenzie), played oboe and English horn in the Virginia Symphony; he had lived in Minnesota at one time. They owned a long-haired dachshund (Tristan), who was named after a character in a Wagner opera.

When we got internet service, my wife and I created screen names by the very common method of combining one's first initial with one's last name (April used her married surname, Brahinsky). The screen name that resulted for April exactly matched, for its first five letters, April's maiden name. She considers "abrahinsky" a perfect blend of her maiden and married names, which are, respectively, Abraham and Brahinsky.

I figured out that if one spells out the names (in English) of the ordinal forms of the first 100 counting numbers (first, second, third, and so on up to ninety-eighth, ninety-ninth, and one hundredth), then alphabetizes this list, then arranges the alphabetized list in columns of 26 (inspired by the fact that the alphabet has 26 letters [the fourth column is left short]), the words at the bottoms of the first, second, and third columns will be, respectively, first, second, and third.

In 1985, I attended a violin master class in San Antonio given by Dmitry Sitkovetsky. I went mainly to hear my friend and San Antonio Symphony colleague Debbie Torch play; afterwards I would not remember who else performed. As I would later learn, one of the other performers was Phyllis Nguyen, then a high-school violinist. . . . I met and befriended Phyllis some five or six years later when she worked several times as a substitute violinist in the San Antonio Symphony. . . . . . In 1995, I met pianist and piano teacher April Abraham, who would soon become my wife. I learned that April had been extremely close to the whole Nguyen family; she had spent much of the 1980s playing chamber music with them. In fact, she had been Phyllis's accompanist at that master class in 1985. . . . Through April I got to know the Nguyens better. One thing I learned was that Phyllis had married a physician, John Averyt, in 1993. John's mother, Claire Averyt, had already been known to April because Claire was active on the San Antonio piano-teaching scene. Through April I met Claire. . . . . . . .
In 2001 April and I were visiting my mother in Dallas. While we were going through piles of old papers and memorabilia, I ran across a very old program, from 1965. It was from a choir concert at Alex Sanger Elementary School in Dallas that my brother, then in sixth grade, had sung in (I actually remember hearing that concert, as a third grader). The program listed an accompanist for the choir, who (as it would turn out) was Sanger's class piano teacher. Her name was Claire Averyt.

The following is a description of a chain of events over a two-day period in 1991, exactly as I recorded them in a notebook at the time:
"On 7/28/91, I began reading The Falcon and the Snowman. Later that day, a friend from the SAS [San Antonio Symphony] visited. As we were driving around, we came to Jones-Maltsberger Rd. She commented, 'I never want to live on this street, because I wouldn't want to have to write "Jones-Maltsberger" in my return address all the time.' Her comment reminded me of when my brother used to joke years ago about what it would be like to be a cheerleader for California Polytechnic Institute at San Luis Obispo:
'Give me a C!'
'Give me an A!'
. . .
. . .
. . .
(20 minutes later)
'Give me an O!'
On 7/29, I read some more. The book discussed Chris Boyce's fascination with falcons and falconry. Then I encountered (only a couple of pages into that morning's reading) this paragraph, quoting his application to work at TRW:
           "'"I am delaying my prelaw studies at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo," he wrote "for financial reasons and seek employment to correct this situation, determined to work until September 1976.  I am also a licensed California falconer presently flying an Accipiter cooper."'
           "I was pretty stunned at reading a reference to Cal Poly SLO the day after thinking about it, as it is not exactly a topic that crosses my mind frequently. Even while being stunned, I noted with interest the word 'Accipiter,' since it was not one I knew. I figured from context it was a type of falcon and thought no more of it. . . . A couple of hours later, another friend from SAS dropped by. He wanted to play 'Big Boggle' (a word game), so we did. A couple of games in, I made the word 'addle,' which he challenged. As I looked it up, one of the 'guide words' in the dictionary (last on a page and printed in boldface in the top margin) caught my eye: 'accipiter'! . . . We finished a few games—he went home. I flipped on the TV and decided to watch a bit of The Beastmaster (which I had not seen before). A couple of minutes into my viewing was a scene of Marc Singer flying his falcon. . . . . . . . . "
. . . [Addendum:] A few days after I typed out this story, I got one of those junk e-mails where the body of the message consists of a random string of words. One of the words was accipiter.

The following is a description of a chain of events in 1994, exactly as I recorded them in a notebook at the time [N.B.: I was at that time a violinist in the San Antonio Symphony]:
            "A few days ago (as I write this on 10/14/94), a local pianist brought by the violin parts for a quintet by Dohnanyi she wanted me to play. A day or two later, I began reading the next book in my pile, a biography of Jacqueline du Pré, the British cellist who had established herself as one of the world's greats in the 1960's and 70's, when her career was cut short by a diagnosis of M.S. when she was just 28. . . During the time I was reading the book, I first looked at the Dohnanyi music. Although it had been checked out of the Trinity U. library, it was still inscribed with the name of its previous owner: Philene Ware. I knew Philene: she was a free-lance cellist who lived in Dallas around 1979–80, and played a few jobs my dad contracted. At that time, my dad mentioned off-hand to her that I was looking for a violin. Well. . . it turns out that her husband had had a violin on order from the excellent contemporary maker Sergio Peresson, but her husband had just been killed in a car accident; she would be willing to have the order transferred to me. It was, and I now play on that violin! What had her husband's job been at the time of his death? A violinist in the San Antonio Symphony. . . . Too many coincidences? Well, there's one more. . . . A few months after the Peresson conversation & transaction took place, Philene was diagnosed as having M.S. . . . Oh, yes—one more: late in her career, du Pré bought a Peresson cello."

On the way back to Texas from Florida on a car trip in 1999, April and I stopped for the night at a Red Roof Inn in Lafayette, Louisiana. When we checked in the desk clerk remarked that another party with the same last name was also staying there. We thought she was either mistaken, or, possibly, my uncle and aunt from Denver, who traveled a lot in those days, could have been there. The clerk got our permission and the other party's to give out our respective room numbers, and we met the couple, an elderly pair from Florida. Their last name was Brohinsky, but the gentleman's father had changed it from Brahinsky. The man, Hesh, was a nephew of the eminent early-20th-century Yiddish-language poet Mani-Leyb Brahinsky. . . We also established that Hesh had a cousin, Steve Robbins, who taught computer science at the University of Texas at San Antonio at the same time I was studying mathematics there, and who taught mathematics at MIT at the same time I was studying mathematics and computer science there.

While eating lunch at a cafe in Indianola, Iowa, in 1990, I was absently gazing at the pictures of various foods printed on the paper placemat. At the moment my eyes happened to be fixed on a picture of fried eggs, a song came over the Muzak with the lyrics: "One less bell to answer, one less egg to fry. . . ."

In 1968, as a seventh grader, I made friends with a boy, Jim King, who had just moved to Dallas from Illinois. He lived only a couple of blocks from me. At the end of that school year, his family moved again, to Austin, but, mainly attributable to a common interest in math, we began corresponding—and that correspondence continues to this day (2006). . . . In a 1974 letter to me, Jim mentioned that his four-member high-school computer team in Austin had won a programming tournament; one of his colleagues was a neighbor and fellow math and science whiz named Matt Delevoryas. . . . In 1977, at the Meadowmount School of Music in New York State, I became friends, based in large part on shared interests in violin, word puzzles, science, and Texas, with a violinist from Houston named Debbie Moran. In 1980–81, Debbie was my stand partner in the Texas Opera Theater orchestra; at that time we became much closer friends. In a letter to Jim that year, I mentioned Debbie because she was my friend, but also because both Debbie and Jim were extremely interested and involved in astronomy, they had both attended the University of Texas at Austin (at the same time), and both had lived in southwest Houston. It turned out that Jim had lived only a couple of blocks from what would be Debbie's house, but he had moved away from Houston just months before she moved to Houston. . . . I fell out of touch with Debbie for quite a few years, but have re-established contact through e-mail. She still lives in Houston—now with a long-term boyfriend with whom she shares interests in astronomy, word puzzles, and fencing. His name is Matt Delevoryas.

During the time I was preparing this list of coincidences (March 2006), I was surfing the web when, for no particular reason, I decided to look at the personal page for my favorite mathematics professor from my days at the University of Texas at San Antonio (1995–97), Walter ("Rich") Richardson. The first link I followed led to a page whereon Dr. Richardson listed his favorite restaurants (all in Austin). The restaurant whose name caught my eye (I don't know why) was Threadgill's (which until then was unfamiliar to me). I then felt compelled to look at the Threadgill's website, which I examined at some length, including downloading a pdf of its menu. As a vegetarian, I was pleased that they offered vegetable plates and that the ingredients of their vegetable dishes were described in detail on the menu. I told April about my "find" and that we should really consider going there next time we're in Austin. Why Threadgill's seemed to have me under such a spell that day, I don't know, but . . . that same evening I turned on the TV. The guide listed a biography of Janis Joplin on the Arts & Entertainment channel. Since I knew she had been born in Texas, I decided to watch at least the beginning of it. A few minutes in, the narrator told of how Miss Joplin left her native Port Arthur to attend college at the University of Texas at Austin, and how her friends urged her to show off her singing voice at local restaurants and bars, and how this led to her first gig as a professional singer. The restaurant where she debuted was pictured prominently on the screen. Its name: Threadgill's.

During the time I was preparing this list of coincidences (April 2006), I was browsing through the "Biographical Names" section of my dictionary. I looked at only a few names, and of those one in particular caught my eye: that of John Kenneth Galbraith. I noted with wonder that he was still living, as his birth year of 1908 would make him 97 or 98. I specifically thought that his death, when it came, would be an important news item, and it was inevitable that it would be relatively soon. . . . Not 5 minutes later, I signed onto America Online to check my e-mail. The welcome screen came on and listed four headlines under "Top News." The second was: "Renowned Economist Galbraith Dies of Natural Causes."

During the time I was preparing this list of coincidences (June 2006), I returned home from a performance as a musician at a wedding. My wife asked where the ceremony had been held. I told her that it was at St. Leo's Catholic Church. As a joke, she asked whether Leo LaFosse (a former concertmaster of the San Antonio Symphony, by then deceased) had been there. "No," I answered, "but funny you should say that." . . . The groom's name was Nicholas La Fosse.

During the time I was preparing this list of coincidences (July 2006), I did a Google search for my late uncle Morris Shulik of Philadelphia. One of the first few hits contained this sentence:
"I can never say anything bad about the Philadelphia Orchestra again, considering that I've moved next door to Morris Shulik, one of the first violins."
The sentence was from a post by Jason Greshes on a bulletin board that was part of his own website. The website is devoted to the music of Gustav Mahler. Mahler is my favorite composer. The host for Mr. Greshes's website is the listserv of the University of Houston. UH is the college at which I earned both of my music degrees. . . . An e-mail from my aunt Helen, Morris's widow, confirmed that she and Morris knew Mr. Greshes well.

During the time I was preparing this list of coincidences (August 2006), I was involved in another project: downloading and printing out old stories of interest from the archives of The Dallas Morning News, the newspaper in my original hometown. One of the stories that appeared when I entered the keyword “brahinsky” was a feature from July 1954 about an upcoming chamber music concert at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in which my father, Henry Brahinsky, would be playing. In the article, the other four musicians’ names were given; the bass player’s name, James Krummenacher, was unfamiliar to me, so I googled it on the off chance that he was still active in some capacity. The first link I followed indicated he was currently a member of the bass section of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The second link led to a column at from January 2006, wherein it stated that Mr. Krummenacher would soon be retiring after 50 years in Pittsburgh, effective August 31, 2006: exactly five days after I read that 52-year-old article about him.

In 1940, a young violinist named Henry moved to Dallas. Henry had just completed a degree in violin at the University of Nebraska but was already an artist-level musician; indeed, within a very short time he would be appointed assistant concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. . . . When Henry first arrived he lived in an upstairs room in a South Dallas home. The lady next door taught private piano lessons in her home; Henry, in his musical sophistication, found the sounds emanating from the nearby piano studio amusing. With one exception: on Saturday mornings, he liked to sleep in, but he was invariably jolted from his rest at approximately the same time by the same wrong note in the same tune, evidently by the same recalcitrant student, week after week. Before long, he moved on, or the student quit. . . . In the ensuing ten years, Henry played with the Dallas Symphony, served in the Armed Forces in World War II, returned to the symphony, quit the symphony, started a private violin studio, became a public-school music teacher, and met, courted, and married a young local physician named Muriel. They settled into their new home together. Like every 1950 couple with any class, they had a baby grand piano. Muriel sat down and played a few notes. Henry let out a startled yelp. Muriel, panicky, stopped, wondering what emergency medical condition had stricken poor Henry. He was physically intact but visibly shaken as he gasped: “Keep playing! Keep playing!” Muriel, a bit shaken herself, continued, until suddenly Henry cried out: “That’s it! That’s a wrong note!!!!” Henry’s new wife had been the girl who, ten years earlier, had repeatedly disturbed his Saturday morning reveries. . . . . . . . And of course, Muriel Silberman and Henry Brahinsky were my parents.

When I was a music student at the University of Houston, one of my best friends was Jan Lipscomb (now Thomas), a fellow violin major who, like me, began her studies in Houston in 1976. In one conversation, Jan and I came to realize that we had attended the same matinee performance of the musical Fiddler on the Roof about a year earlier—on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I had been a student at MIT at the time; Jan, who then lived in North Carolina, was visiting a friend, Sandy Ayres, who attended MIT. Although I hadn't known Jan at that time, I knew Sandy (slightly), since she and I were both in the MIT Symphony Orchestra.

In another conversation with Jan Lipscomb, we learned that earlier that day, each of us, in our respective apartment kitchens, had dropped and broken a jar of pickles.

The following is a description of a chain of events over an eight-hour period in 2002, (almost) exactly as I recorded them in a notebook at the time:
"On 12/07/02, while sitting at the breakfast table in our home (which is situated in the attendance zone of San Antonio MacArthur HS), I read in the paper that the boys' basketball team from my own [high school] alma mater, Dallas Skyline HS, was playing in a tournament (the game was in progress at the very moment I was reading about it). The site of the game: [San Antonio] MacArthur HS. The opponent: [San Antonio] Roosevelt HS. . . . At 5:30 that evening I went to the concert of the [Texas Music Educators Association] Region XII orchestras in the auditorium of SA Roosevelt HS. I had one violin student in the top orchestra. She attends SA MacArthur HS."

On December 5, 2002, while in San Antonio, I wrote an e-mail to a friend, Debbie Moran. One paragraph of that e-mail contained the following text:
". . .You were probably in Midland during those years. . . . A few notable coincidences already, eh? . . . (Is that the Twilight Zone motif in the background?)"
Twelve days later, David Flores's sports column in the San Antonio Express-News contained the following text:
"Ross . . . listened to the Judson-Midland game as they returned to San Antonio from a tournament in, coincidentally, Midland. Is that the 'Twilight Zone' theme I hear playing?"

Between 2003 and 2006, I taught private violin lessons to three brothers in San Antonio. Their father allowed that he is not an accomplished musician but did study piano privately for a few years during his boyhood in Houston in the early 1960s from a nice lady named Mrs. Smith who lived on the corner and had a big harp in her living room. Knowing of the neighborhood where Dr. Ivy had lived, I asked, "Do you know if her first name was Louise?" Surprised, he responded that yes, he thought that was right: Louise Smith. I informed him that Louise was my wife's aunt, and the harp belonged to Sharon, my wife's first cousin.

In June 2007, I created an article for Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, on the subject of Hans Kreissig (1856–1929), the founder and music director of the original Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1900. My reference source mentioned that before Kreissig came to the U.S. he toured Europe extensively with a great cornet virtuoso named Jules Levy, so I included that fact in my article. I checked to see whether an article on Levy already existed; one did, so I created a link to it from my Kreissig article. A little later, I checked to see when the Jules Levy article had been created. According to the time stamp, it was uploaded (for the first time) probably 5 to 10 minutes before I searched for it.

On New Year's Day of 1979, I turned on the TV at my parents' house in Dallas to watch the Cotton Bowl Parade. The opening theme music for the broadcast was an upbeat, march-like, vaguely old-fashioned-American-West-sounding tune that I could not identify, though it sounded maddeningly familiar. At breakfast I sang it to the rest of my family, and everyone agreed it sounded familiar, but no one knew exactly what it was. . . . Over the ensuing decades, that tune would pop into my head once every few years, but it wasn't until about 2005 that the mystery of its identity was solved. I was watching The Unsinkable Molly Brown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) when, suddenly, there it was on the soundtrack (the name of the individual song is "I Ain't Down Yet"). . . . In April of 2008, my wife and I were eating dinner at home in San Antonio when she mentioned that she wanted to watch the Fiesta Flambeau Parade on TV later. I asked her if she had always watched the Fiesta parades when she was growing up in San Antonio. "When I was growing up," I explained, "I always watched the Cotton Bowl parades." As I spoke, that Molly Brown tune started playing relentlessly in my head. We finished eating. I went into the bedroom, still humming that tune. I turned on the TV, and there was a marching band on parade. Playing "I Ain't Down Yet"? No, that would be too obvious. What happened was that the Fiesta parade broadcast went to a commercial break, so I decided to grab the remote and flip to TCM to see if a good movie was on. And one was: The Unsinkable Molly Brown. The first music I heard, a few seconds later, was "I Ain't Down Yet."

During a dinnertime conversation in October 2008, my wife happened to use the word unbeknownst. I remarked that although one occasionally hears unbeknownst, no one ever says beknownst; in fact, I was sure I had never encountered beknownst in my life. The following morning, I was reading an article in Wikipedia when I came across this sentence: "Remembering the fate of their niece Eggletina, who wandered away and never returned after (beknownst to her) her father had been seen and the big people had brought in a cat, Pod and Homily decide to warn Arrietty."

As a onetime member of the National Puzzlers' League, I often compose flats, which are puzzles in verse involving various sorts of wordplay. In February 2006, I wrote the following couplet:
"Anne Boleyn was false to me?
Fie! Let's see how she HEW WHEE!"
I wrote the flat as a "LETTER BANK (7, 12)," meaning that HEW is a cueword, or placeholder, for an English word with 7 letters, all different; and WHEE is a cueword for a 12-letter word using the same set of 7 letters but with repetitions allowed. . . . The solution is HEW = handles; WHEE = headlessness. With solution words substituted, the "couplet" (which clearly no longer rhymes or scans) reads:
"Anne Boleyn was false to me?
Fie! Let's see how she handles headlessness!"
I deliberately used the word fie, an archaic interjection expressing disgust or shame, but it occurred to me that someone reading the verse might wonder if I had intended the more common word fine, used in an ironic or sarcastic sense. Out of curiosity, I checked the dictionary (Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate) to see if the entry for "fine" mentioned that the word is sometimes used ironically. It didn't, but I did notice within the entry the following definition and example:
"7 – used as an intensive <the leader, in a fine frenzy, beheaded one of his wives – Brian Crozier>."

Woody Yenne and I grew up together in Dallas as next-door neighbors. Many years later, I had a full-time position as a musician in a symphony orchestra, playing violin in the San Antonio Symphony under Music Director Christopher Wilkins, and Woody had a full-time position as a musician in a symphony orchestra, playing trumpet in the Colorado Springs Symphony under Music Director Christopher Wilkins.

One morning in February 2009, moments after I viewed the lists of obituaries in The Dallas Morning News and the San Antonio Express-News online (as I do virtually every morning), the name "Perry Sandifer" popped into my head. Mr. Sandifer had been a Dallas/Fort Worth-area trombonist. I had never met him and had only vaguely heard of him, and even that was many years in the past. I had probably seen his name only a handful of times in my life, on rosters of musical engagements my father had played, probably in the 1960s, and had not thought of it since. Nevertheless, "Perry Sandifer" was suddenly, and for no apparent reason, front and center in my brain. I googled him and learned that he had died the previous Sunday, aged 98. I found his obituary, which had been published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram during the week that had just ended. I double-checked the Dallas obituaries I had just read a few minutes earlier to see if perhaps he had indeed been listed there: possibly I had seen the name without realizing it and it had registered subconsciously . . . but his name was not there.

In May 1974, in the corridor outside the auditorium in Dallas where my high-school graduation ceremony was about to take place, two female classmates simultaneously kissed me: one on each cheek. I have never known who one of the perpetrators was, but the other was Cindy Stanard (now Dankberg), a girl who had been in my English class. . . . As I was at that time a painfully shy individual regarding such matters, the very next kiss I experienced (possibly not counting pecks from older relatives) did not occur until about a year and a half later, when I was a sophomore at MIT in Massachusetts. It was my first "real" kiss—that is, involving mutual participation and lasting more than a fraction of a second. The young lady was Mimi Fuhrman, an MIT freshman. . . . In 1984, I attended my high-school class's 10-year reunion and received at that time a directory of my erstwhile classmates. I wrote to Cindy (who had not attended the reunion), and that was the beginning of a long-term correspondence that has continued to the present. Cindy and her family have lived, for the past fifteen years or so, in Encinitas, California. . . . In February 2009, I decided to google Mimi, whom I had never seen nor heard of since I left MIT in 1976. She is a Ph.D.; following a career as a geophysicist and some years working for an educational testing service, she has opened a standardized test-preparation service . . . in Encinitas, California—a few blocks from Cindy's home.

When I attended MIT from 1974 to 1976, one of my suitemates, and a good friend, was Edwin Robert Meyer. . . . When I lived in Jacksonville, Florida, from 1987 to 1989, the zip code of my residence was 32256. . . . I joined Facebook in 2008, and in April 2009 I searched for my old MIT friend Edwin Meyer. The search returned many Edwin Meyers but only one in the MIT network. However, there was not enough additional information displayed for me to establish definitely whether that profile was of the person I knew, so I messaged the owner of the profile and asked a few questions to try to determine whether he was in fact my former suitemate. The answer was no, but the Edwin on Facebook said he had "run across the trail" of the other Edwin Meyer from MIT before, including having had the guy's lost wallet returned to him many years earlier. He said he knew that the other Edwin Meyer (actually Edwin Meyer, Jr.–whose father, Edwin Meyer, Sr., was also an MIT alum) lived in Florida. . . . I finally got the idea of looking in the directory at the MIT alumni website. It turned out that the Edwin Meyer I was seeking was neither the one on Facebook nor either one of the Sr./Jr. pair from Florida–"my" Edwin lives in New Jersey. But the father and son in Florida, as it turned out, live together in Jacksonville, in zip code 32256.

One afternoon in May 2009, I was reading The Dallas Morning News in the living room of our home at the same time my wife, April, was teaching piano out in her studio. As I read the obituaries, I ran across a notice for June Brown Tighe. I had never heard of her, but her life story fascinated me: her ancestors had contributed to the foundings of Hempstead and Oak Cliff (towns in Texas) as well as Southern Methodist University; and June herself had been a fine pianist, a Juilliard graduate who had studied there with the great (San Antonio-born) pedagogue Olga Samaroff Stokowski. I was eager to tell April what I had read about Mrs. Tighe. When April came in for dinner, she told me that while she was teaching she had gotten a call inquiring as to whether we would consider hosting in our home a piano teacher, Louise Anderson, who would soon be in San Antonio for a couple of weeks to judge the National Guild of Piano Teachers auditions. April decided to go online and google Mrs. Anderson to see what she could find out. As she was logging on, I mentioned the Tighe obituary and read it to her. April had also not heard of Mrs. Tighe but was at least as fascinated as I by her story. Meanwhile, Google had returned some results on Mrs. Anderson. April followed the most promising looking link, which was to a 2003 monthly newsletter of the Dallas chapter of the music sorority Mu Phi Epsilon. She found a bit of information about Mrs. Anderson. Then she looked a few lines up on the same webpage at "Member News." The top item was about June Tighe.

Peggy Tisinger, a pianist from Houston, attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York in the 1940s. One of her closest friends there was Betty Ruth Robbins (later Tomfohrde), a pianist who was also from Houston. When Peggy married Robin Abraham in 1949, Betty Ruth played at their wedding. The Abrahams and Tomfohrdes would remain in touch, and much later, Peggy and Robin's daughter, April, would take some piano lessons from Betty Ruth. . . . One of my 7th-grade classmates (at S. S. Conner Elementary School in Dallas, 1968–1969) was Jim King. (Earlier on this page is a list of coincidences involving Jim, Debbie Moran, Matt Delevoryas, and me.) Cheryl Thurmond was also a 7th grader at Conner that year, though she was in another section–I knew her only slightly. . . . During the 1970s, a girl named Jo Beth Downum grew up in San Antonio. She was a very talented pianist who studied privately throughout her childhood with Peggy Abraham (at the Abrahams' home), during which time April and Jo Beth got to know each other well. . . . In 1978, I took Repertory Coaching during my music studies at the University of Houston; my private instructor in that course, who also accompanied my senior recital, was Betty Ruth Tomfohrde. In 1979, I finished a Master of Music degree there. . . . As described earlier on this page, Jim King and I have carried on a correspondence ever since 1969; in a letter from 1980, Jim mentioned that his apartment complex in Dallas had a new manager, and her name was Cheryl Clifford, née Thurmond. . . . During the 1980s, Jo Beth Downum completed a Master of Music degree at the University of Houston, where one of her piano teachers was Betty Ruth Tomfohrde. . . . In 1995, April Abraham and I married in San Antonio, with Betty Ruth in attendance (as well as Peggy Abraham and Jim King, among many others). . . . In 1996, my parents moved into a retirement home, 12 Oaks, in Dallas. They soon met and befriended Loel Camp, a young pianist who often played musical programs there. As my father was himself a retired musician, he and Loel played programs together at the home and also presented a monthly music trivia game together. . . . In 2001, my father died; my mother would eventually (in March 2007) move out of 12 Oaks to live with April and me in San Antonio. . . . In late 2008, I joined Facebook, and in May 2009 I got a friend request from Cheryl Thurmond Clifford. Although I immediately recognized her name, I was a little surprised since I had not been close friends with her before–anyway, I accepted the request and went about examining her Facebook profile. Memorial Day had just passed, and Cheryl's latest post was some words honoring an uncle, David Camp, who had died in World War II. Cheryl stated she was proud to be a member of the Camp family. I would not have made a connection, but a comment under Cheryl's post was from Loel Camp Bomgardner. . . . I wrote a Facebook message at around 5:30 that evening to Cheryl, including a remark that someone my parents knew quite well, Loel, was evidently a relative of hers, and please give Loel my mother's regards. . . . The following morning, I received an e-mail, time-stamped 11:14 pm (the previous evening) from Loel apologizing for not having written to my mother in a long time. It seemed obvious to me that Cheryl had promptly passed along my mother's regards to Loel, and Loel had immediately responded, all within six hours. I friend-requested Loel, and she accepted. Meanwhile, looking over both Cheryl's and Loel's profiles, I determined that they were first cousins. While I was looking, I got a Facebook post from Loel saying how strange it was that I had friended her cousin Cheryl the same day she (Loel) wrote an e-mail to my mother! I messaged Loel and asked whether she was saying that her e-mail was not a response to my mother's regards via Cheryl, and she confirmed that that was exactly what she was saying–she didn't even know Cheryl and I had communicated at all. Loel also requested in her post that I relay regards from one of her dearest friends, Beth Quillian, to April. Beth Quillian was formerly known as Jo Beth Downum.

In July 2009, after taking a month off from teaching violin lessons, I started making phone calls to my students in order to schedule lessons for the remainder of the summer. I called Juan Rivera, and after a couple of tries to find a mutually agreeable time we agreed on the following Tuesday at 7 pm. I looked at my date book, and said, "So–that's 7/7 at 7!" . . . About two hours later, my wife and I were watching a baseball game. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were batting against the Texas Rangers. April said, "Did they just say the batter's name is Juan Rivera? Isn't that your student's name?" I said, "Yeah! I just talked to him tonight! His lesson will be on 7/7 at 7!" At that moment, the Rangers' pitcher threw his next pitch to Juan Rivera, who hit a three-run home run to make the score 7–7.

Howard Dunn (a teacher at my high school) was born December 16, 1938, and moved to Dallas with his family as a boy. In the Dallas public schools, he distinguished himself as a top student and top musician, studying bassoon and composition. He graduated from Southern Methodist University. He taught at Richardson High School, Skyline High School, and Southern Methodist University, and also served on the faculty of Big "D" Music Camp at SMU. In the midst of a career as a professional musician and music educator, he died at the age of 52.
Sam Rhodes (my best childhood friend) was born December 16, 1956, and moved to Dallas with his family as a boy. In the Dallas public schools, he distinguished himself as a top student and top musician, studying bassoon and composition – the latter with Howard Dunn – at Skyline High School and Richardson High School, and he attended Big "D" Music Camp. He took some bassoon lessons at Southern Methodist University. In the midst of a career as a professional musician, he died at the age of 53.

Sue Erwin (my high school classmate) grew up in Dallas: a city on I-35, at that time the second largest city in Texas. She was a first violinist in her high school orchestra (Skyline HS) and went on to study violin at North Texas State University (now called the University of North Texas), which has a very large music department. NTSU (UNT) is in Denton, a city roughly an hour north on I-35 from Sue's hometown. She studied there with Robert Davidovici, a man who was at one time the concertmaster of the Fort Worth Symphony, a major orchestra in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex. (Davidovici has long since departed, but Mr. [Philip] Lewis is now a major violin professor at that school.) Sue now free-lances as a violinist and teaches strings.
Sue is married. Her husband, Galindo Rodriguez, is a trumpet player who earned a graduate degree from NTSU, the same Texas university where Sue studied as an undergraduate. He became a professor of trumpet at Northwestern State University, a college that is in Natchitoches, a town near I-49 in Louisiana. Galindo is an active member of, and has held leadership positions in, the International Trumpet Guild.
Kristin Oppenheim (whose mother, a pianist, is a friend and colleague of my wife's) grew up in San Antonio: a city on I-35, now the second largest city in Texas. She was a first violinist in her high school orchestra (MacArthur HS) and went on to study violin at the University of Texas, which has a very large music department. UT is in Austin, a city roughly an hour north on I-35 from Kristin's hometown. She studied there with Leonard Posner, a man who was at one time the concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony, a major orchestra in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex. (Posner has long since departed, but Mr. [Brian] Lewis is now a major violin professor at that school.) Kristin now free-lances as a violinist and teaches strings.
Kristin is married. Her husband, Gary Mortenson, is a trumpet player who earned a graduate degree from UT, the same Texas university where Kristin studied as an undergraduate. He became a professor of trumpet at the University of Louisiana - Lafayette, a college that is in Lafayette, a town near I-49 in Louisiana. Gary is an active member of, and has held leadership positions in, the International Trumpet Guild.

When April, my mother, and I stopped for lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Corsicana, Texas, during a road trip in May 2012, the fortune in the cookie I received with the meal read: "Soon wedding bells are in a family member's future." We then got back on the road and proceeded to our destination of Arp, Texas, for April's cousin's wedding that evening.

During a televised baseball game between the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics that I watched in June 2012, a graphic appeared on the screen showing, from left to right, each team's totals of runs, hits, and errors. As I was looking at the line for Oakland, which read

10 12 0,
the TV announcer gave the official attendance for the game. It was 10,120.

During a trip to Dallas in March 2014, April and I began the day 3/24 by checking out of Room 324, then starting the car to find that the trip mileage indicator read "324."

In November 2014, I attended two performances of a one-act, one-character opera, The Italian Lesson by Lee Hoiby. As the opera opens, the character is trying out different translations from Italian into English for the first couple of lines of Dante's Inferno. Three days after the latter opera performance, I was reading a book, Le Ton beau de Marot by Douglas Hofstadter, and came to a chapter whose primary topic was translations from Italian into English of Dante's Inferno; it included various translations of the first couple of lines.

In January 2016, in the span of perhaps three hours of TV watching one evening, I saw scenes from three different programs showing people taking other people over their knees and spanking them. The first was Sheldon spanking Amy in a 2012 episode ("The Fish Guts Displacement") of The Big Bang Theory; the next was Jack Benny spanking Dennis Day in a 1961 episode ("Jack Is Followed Home") of The Jack Benny Program that aired on JLTV; and finally the Duchess spanking the Pig Baby in Norman Z. McLeod's 1933 film version of Alice in Wonderland, which aired on TCM.

The first paid professional musical engagement I played with violinist Joan Christenson as a colleague was in November 1979, and the last was in April 2016 [* see note below]; this constitutes the longest timespan over which I've played paid performances with any one individual. The repertoire for the 1979 performance was the opera Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi. The repertoire for the 2016 performance was the opera Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi. And those occasions were the only times I ever performed that opera.
[*Update: The situation as described above held true from April 2016 until January 2018, at which time I played another musical engagement with Joan Christenson, which was not Il Trovatore, although it did (coincidentally) include several selections from other Verdi operas! It still remains the case that the timespan of my professional performances with Joan is longer than that with any other individual colleague.]

April's and my anniversary is 10/14 (i.e., October 14). We have established a tradition whereby whenever we are together and one of us sees a clock (especially a digital one) reading 10:14, that person announces "It's 10:14!" and we acknowledge the moment with a smile and (when convenient) a kiss. . . . In July 2016, while driving with April from La Grange, Texas, to San Antonio, I watched as the clock on the dash went from 10:13 to 10:14 and announced "It's 10:14!" At that precise moment I looked to the side of the road at a city limit sign we were approaching and read it out loud: "Uhland. Population 1014."

My father, Henry Brahinsky, was a professional violinist. In 1925, when he was eight, he began his violin studies in St. Joseph, Missouri, from an elderly gentleman named Joseph Kneer. Mr. Kneer, who had retired from a position in the Boston Symphony, passed away in 1929. . . . April Abraham, who much later would become my wife, did her undergraduate studies from 1970 to 1974 and earned her degree in piano performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. . . . In the 1980s, '90s, and subsequently, I came across several articles about my father and learned of his studies in the 1920s with Joseph Kneer. . . . Between 1993 and 1995, April Abraham taught piano on the music faculty of Trinity University in San Antonio. April and I met and married in 1995. . . . In 2014, while browsing the internet in search of more information about Joseph Kneer, I ran across the website of a professional violinist and violin teacher named Joseph (Joe) Kneer—but he wasn't my father's old teacher; rather, he was a fairly young man, and he was a graduate of Peabody. I emailed him with this interesting coincidence and asked if he was related to the older Joseph Kneer, fully expecting the answer to be yes. But in fact, young Dr. Kneer knew nothing of his older namesake and was virtually certain they were not related. . . . Having begun a friendly correspondence, Joe and I became Facebook friends. . . . In 2016, April and I were attending a piano competition at Trinity University. The head of the piano department, Carolyn True, approached me and asked what I knew about (young) Joe Kneer: he had applied for a position on the Trinity music faculty; Carolyn had looked him up on Facebook and noticed that he and I were friends, so she thought I could provide some information about him. I told her the story of how Joe and I "met." . . . A few months later, Joe announced on his Facebook page that he had been offered and had accepted the position at Trinity University; he began teaching there in August 2016.

For many years, I was the treasurer of a music-scholarship foundation. At the end of the 2015 tax year, the foundation's total monetary assets (two investment accounts plus a checking account) were $111,000.00—exactly to the penny.

In December 2016, I read an obituary for Penelope Perskin Alecknavage in The Dallas Morning News. According to information contained there, plus some obtained from some further research: Penelope and I were born on the same day in 1956 in the same hospital (St. Paul's in Dallas). She and I were both the youngest of three children of a mother named Muriel and a father whose middle name (for Penelope's) or first name (for mine) was Henry. Both of our families were members of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas. Penelope and I both graduated in 1974 from high schools in Dallas ISD. Penelope's father and mine were both born on the 6th of the month and died at age 84.

At the conclusion of the day of March 4, 2017, Dirk Nowitzki, star forward on my hometown Dallas Mavericks of the NBA, had 29,962 career points, and my car's odometer showed 89,962 miles: a difference of exactly 60,000.

Symphonie espagnole by Édouard Lalo and Poème by Ernest Chausson are both staples of the repertoire for violin and orchestra, written by French composers in the final three decades of the nineteenth century. I discovered that the letters of Symphonie espagnole can be rearranged to spell "No, she's playing Poème."

I realized that for n = 1, 2, 3, the smallest positive integer whose standard name (in American English) contains the nth letter of the alphabet is equal to 10^(3^n). (one thousand, one billion, one octillion)

In March 2017, April and I were stopped at a red light immediately behind a Scion. We are both obsessed with anagrams, so as I observed the Scion logo on its back bumper, I called out, "Coins. Icons. Cions." Satisfied that I had exhausted all possibilities, I returned my gaze to the general view in front of us and noticed it was dominated by a large sign in front of the fast-food restaurant directly across the street. It read: "SONIC."

Leo Ornstein (1893?–2002) was a Russian-born American avant-garde composer and virtuoso classical pianist of some note. While doing genealogical research around 2010 I discovered that I was not-too-distantly related to Ornstein: his sister was my great-aunt by marriage. William Zorach (1887–1966) was a Russian-born American artist; his daughter-in-law was a second cousin once removed of my wife, April. Thus April's and my marriage in 1995 made relatives (albeit by a somewhat tortuous path) of Ornstein and Zorach. Perhaps that is appropriate because Zorach made a painting in 1918 of Ornstein at the keyboard; this artwork graces the front cover of Michael Broyles and Denise Von Glahn's definitive biography of Ornstein.

I discovered that throughout the entire sequence of initial letters of the names (in American English) of the counting numbers (ascending from 1), each and every subsequence that consists of a complete run of identical letters that is longer than any such run appearing earlier in the overall sequence has a length exactly equal to the position of its starting element in the overall sequence. . . . A longer but perhaps clearer explanation can be found here.

In June 2017 I watched a 1980 episode ("Back Pay") of M*A*S*H in which three visiting Korean doctors, Dr. Jin, Dr. Wu, and Dr. Po, relieve Maj. Winchester's back pain. When the episode ended, I scrolled through the guide to find that on another channel an infomercial was about to begin, entitled "Dr. Ho relieves back pain."

In the 1950s and '60s, a cellist named Robin Abraham had a steady gig playing in a piano trio that entertained guests in the lobby of the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio.
In 1972 and 1973, I attended the Sewanee Summer Music Center on the campus of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. SSMC's charismatic camp director at that time was a cellist named Martha McCrory. . . . During one faculty chamber-music concert that I attended at Sewanee, a dog wandered on stage during the performance, causing the audience to erupt in laughter.
In 1993, I was a member of the Carmel Bach Festival orchestra in California. A violinist colleague there, who became a good friend, was Amy Kimberling Natzke.
In 1995, I married April Abraham, Robin Abraham's daughter.
In 2007, someone started an online discussion at, a site I frequent. He asked people to recount the strangest experiences they had had while performing. I responded (in January 2008) with the dog-on-stage story from Sewanee days (with the disclaimer that I wasn't actually performing at the time).
In the fall of 2008 I joined Facebook. Soon after I received a friend request from Kristin Oppenheim Mortenson. I did not know her then, but as she was a violinist from San Antonio and the daughter of a friend and colleague of April's (and we recognized each other's names from discussions), I decided to accept. Kristin and I have become good friends online.
In 2017, April and I took a long driving vacation, which passed through Tennessee. The great scenic beauty of the Sewanee area had made a lasting impression on me, so we went out of our way to visit the campus and take pictures. Soon after we returned home, we posted the pictures on Facebook. A few days later, there was a comment on one of the Sewanee pictures, from Amy Natzke. She said she too had attended Sewanee years earlier and remembered the many stray dogs in town. So I replied to her comment and included a link to my 2008 post.
The next day April and I arranged to meet at her parents' house (we had to drive separately) so we could show them our vacation pictures on Facebook. As I drove over, I turned on the radio to the classical-music station. They were playing selections from the Háry János Suite by Zoltán Kodály. . . . At the Abrahams' house, when we came to the pictures from Sewanee and told Robin I had attended music camp there, he asked, "Did you know Martha McCrory?" I was quite surprised at this question: what possible connection would he have had with her?! I said, "Yes! She was the director of the camp!" Robin replied, "She played at the St. Anthony Hotel. I was her replacement."
Later that same day I was looking at our Facebook picture album again and clicked the link once more to my old dog-on-stage post. This time I noticed something I had not before: the post immediately above mine was from Kristin Oppenheim Mortenson (whom at the time of that discussion I had not yet met, even online). In her post she recounted the time during a concert she had played that a conductor ended a piece and left the stage before he realized there was still one more movement left in the piece, which was Zoltán Kodály's Háry János Suite.

From 1971 to 1974, I attended Skyline High School in Dallas. I shared numerous classes with Mary Jo Carlson (now Hoch), and by the time we graduated together in 1974 we had become good friends. Mary Jo and I continued an occasional correspondence in succeeding years, but we eventually lost touch. In the late 1990s I attempted to contact her but could not find an address. However, I found an address for Mary Jo's sister Michelle Carlson, whom I had also known at Skyline, but only slightly, as she was two years younger. I wrote to Michelle and obtained Mary Jo's address; meanwhile, I became acquainted with Michelle a bit, and with the advent of Facebook, she and I became friends on that site. . . . Since 1996 I have been the treasurer of The Colburn-Pledge Music Scholarship Foundation in San Antonio, which awards funds annually to talented students of string instruments. In June 2016, a high school student from Austin named Lillian Young played an excellent audition, at my home in San Antonio, on double bass and earned a scholarship from the foundation. A few days later the Colburn-Pledge secretary instructed me, as treasurer, to write the check to Lillian's mother: Monica Carlson. I knew that Mary Jo and Michelle Carlson had a younger sister, and I vaguely remembered that her name might have been Monica, but thought that even if that was true, the similarity in names was probably just a coincidence . . . until December 2017, when a picture showed up as a post on my Facebook News Feed because my friend Michelle Carlson was tagged in it. It showed Michelle with Lillian Young, who was holding a string bass. A message from Michelle in response to my inquiry confirmed that Lillian is her (and Mary Jo's) niece. So a person who had stood and played a musical solo a few feet in front of me inside my house in San Antonio was the niece of one of my best high school friends from more than 40 years earlier in Dallas, and I didn't even know it!

In January 2018, I was watching a rerun of an episode of the old sitcom Alice that featured Tom Poston as a guest star. When April came in to join me, we tried to recall other shows in which he had appeared. April mentioned The Bob Newhart Show; I added Newhart, and then asked, "Wasn't he a panelist on To Tell the Truth?" April said she didn't remember. I said I'd look it up. I sort of forgot about it, but then less than two days later, as I was scrolling through my Facebook News Feed, I came to a link, posted by one of my Facebook friends, to a YouTube video of a 1961 episode of To Tell the Truth. Next to the screenshot for the link were two lines of text. The first line just stated the series title, episode title, and date. The second line began: "PANEL: Tom Poston, . . ."

In April 2018, I was scrolling down through my Facebook News Feed. A post from one friend was a recommendation for Santa Fe Trail New Mexican Cuisine, a restaurant in San Antonio (Texas). I then scrolled down to the next post immediately below: it was a check-in from another friend, showing her location in Rowe, New Mexico, next to the one and only road showing on the map, which was labeled "Santa Fe Trl."

In May 2018, a friend posted to Facebook a video from a live performance of a Shostakovich piano concerto, which was followed by an unidentified encore. The poster suggested the encore might have been by Alexander Scriabin but asked for comments confirming that (or not). April was able to confirm that it was indeed a Scriabin prelude. She and I then discussed Scriabin for a while, then began making anagrams from the letters of Scriabin and subsets thereof. Suffice it to say Scriabin dominated our conversation and activities for a significant amount of time! Immediately thereafter, I wandered into the bedroom, switched on the TV, and began scrolling through the guide. Within the first few channels was listed the 2015 crime-drama film Black Mass. . . . Black Mass is also the subtitle of a piano sonata by Alexander Scriabin.

While surfing the web one day in May 2019, I ran across the name Thomas Sleeper. I had a vague recollection that there was a talented musician by that name, around my age, who had grown up in Dallas, my hometown. I googled the name and found that Thomas Sleeper was, indeed, a composer and conductor of sufficient note that he had a Wikipedia article. I read the article, which was thorough but, I felt, in fairly dire need of editing. The next day, I set to work cleaning it up, which took close to two hours. That done, I added his name to the Wikipedia "List of people from Texas." Then I added a listing for Mr. Sleeper to a webpage of my own that lists classical musicians who grew up in Texas. Having devoted a significant portion of my day to Sleeper, I clicked "Sleep" on the computer menu and took a break to watch TV. I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my old favorite movies was set to come on in about 15 minutes, so I proceeded to watch, in its entirety, Woody Allen's 1973 comedy, Sleeper.

In May 2019, as April and I were passing the grape bin in the produce department of the grocery store, I noticed a single grape on the floor and pointed it out to April. "It escaped," she said. I replied, "The Grape Escape!" As I said it, I visualized the iconic scene of Steve McQueen riding a motorcycle along the camp fence line from the 1963 film The Great Escape—but with a large purple grape in place of his head. . . . When I turned on the TV at home a couple of hours later and began scrolling through the current listings, there it was: The Great Escape. . . .
. . . And a little subsequent research revealed that I am not the first person to coin the phrase "The Grape Escape." Among other things, there is a Parker Brothers board game, a video game, and a winery in New Jersey!

In July 2019, Rachel Abrams, a classical singer who also happens to be my second cousin once removed, posted a quiz on Facebook challenging her friends to name art songs whose titles included the name of a color. I suggested a Mahler song, "Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz" ("The Two Blue Eyes of My Sweetheart"), but did so hesitantly because I was not sure it would count as as an "art song."* I commented, "Not being a singer, I'm semi-ignorant." . . . A couple of hours later, I realized that "semi-ignorant" is an anagram for "I'm not a singer."
[*Rachel later said yes, it would count.]

During September 2019, I had exactly two appointments with health-care professionals. One was on the 10th, at 10; the other was on the 11th, at 11. I mentioned this coincidence to April; she replied that she had just had a conversation with her father, Robin Abraham, in which he had remarked what a coincidence it was that he had medical appointments scheduled for the 10th at 10 and the 11th at 11. . . . After my second appointment, April and I went together to an appointment with our tax preparer; when we came out, as we approached our car in the large parking lot, a man was getting out of the car parked just behind ours. It was Robin Abraham.

In September 2019, I discovered that the bank that issued my Visa credit card had made a serious error, failing to credit to my account a payment I had sent, which they had already processed. When I called to inform them, the first representative I spoke to (and with whom I would later correspond by mail) gave her first name as Shay. It struck me that within my recollection I had never before encountered anyone with that name and spelling. . . . After several weeks had elapsed with the error still uncorrected, I decided to go to a local credit union to open a new credit-card account. The first representative I spoke to was named Shay.

One morning in December 2019, April and I prepared to play a game of Big Boggle. She handed me the grid; as I began to shake it, I could tell by the sound that the cover was not on securely, which, had I not noticed and proceeded to adjust it, could have resulted in the 25 letter cubes flying all over the kitchen. She jokingly said, "I sabotaged it!" I responded by saying the word "sabotage" in such a way that she instantly recognized I was doing an impression of the Vulcan character Valeris (played by Kim Cattrall) speaking that word in the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. About an hour later, I went to watch TV, and Star Trek VI was listed in the guide. When I clicked on it, Valeris was speaking (but it was past the point where she said "sabotage"). . . . Then about four hours later, I began to watch TV again. The guide listed To Be or Not to Be showing on TCM. I selected it. About one minute in, one of the characters exclaimed, "Sabotage! Sabotage! Sabotage!"

One morning in January 2020, I walked into the kitchen and noticed a used-up peanut-butter jar April had left soaking in the sink. In that moment I recalled the time one day in, I think, the late 1960s that my brother Gerry had explained to me the diagramming of sentences, using as an example the sentence "Collecting peanut butter jars is fun." My thoughts continued with the recollection of the time in high school I asked my German teacher, who was also an English teacher, for a quick lesson on diagramming sentences, since that topic had never been covered in my own English classes. . . . About an hour later, as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, there was a post with a link to an article on the NPR website entitled "A Picture of Language: The Fading Art of Diagramming Sentences."

In 1970, two of my junior-high friends, Jim King and Sam Rhodes, joined with me to form a club, which we named , to share our common passion for mathematics. According to the Constitution, drafted primarily by Jim, there would be three executive positions, which the three of us would occupy in rotation: President, Vice-President, and Director of Research.
Since 1996, I have been the treasurer of The Colburn-Pledge Music Scholarship Foundation. In 2019, April agreed to fill the position of president, which had been vacant for some time.
One evening in May 2020, following a long day of working on Colburn-Pledge matters, April and I began watching the film Erin Brockovich, which had come on TV. During a commercial break, with our respective minds still somewhat in president and treasurer mode, we decided to try to amuse ourselves by recalling all the previous occasions when either of us had served as an officer of an organization. Before long, I mentioned . "President" and "Vice-President" seemed like ordinary-enough generic titles; "Director of Research" seemed weird and random by comparison, and we both had a good laugh at that silly title I had barely thought of in the past 50 years.
The following morning, I looked up Erin Brockovich in the online movie database IMDb. The trivia section there mentioned that the real Erin Brockovich is still employed by the same law firm, Masry and Vititoe, where she worked during the events of the film, but is no longer a file clerk: she has since been promoted to . . . Director of Research.

In September 2020, April and I bought a new toaster. The following morning there was a post on my Facebook feed from a friend who teaches at a local university that mentioned that a student had used an eggcorn. I followed a Google link to a site about eggcorns; one of the handful of examples they gave was if someone were to say "pass mustard" in place of "pass muster." Perhaps 15 minutes later, I went into the kitchen. I asked April if I should go ahead and recycle the box the toaster came in. She replied, "Maybe wait until we see if the toaster passes mustard."
(Note: In case there's any doubt, April was deliberately making a joke.)

In September 2020, I joined a Facebook discussion in which we were reminiscing about the teachers in the music department at my high school during the time I attended it in the early 1970s. The name of Richard McKean, a choir director with whom I had a conducting class, featured prominently in the discussion. . . . Later that same day, I began reading the next book on my pile of books: The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins, illustrated by Dave McKean.

In September 2020, while playing Big Boggle with April, I found the word nineteen (perhaps the first time I had found that word in the many thousands of games I have played). When I was adding up my score for that game a couple of minutes later, the 11 points I earned for nineteen brought my running total at that point to . . . 19.

Amy Kimberling Natzke, who is mentioned in an earlier post on this page, has a brother, Brian Kimberling, who is an author. In December 2020, I read his excellent novel Goulash, which is set in Prague. The front cover of the dust jacket features the Old Town Hall Tower; the text mentions the Charles Bridge numerous times. Two days after I finished the book, I added a quote from it to a list of quotations on my webpage (with the book sitting, front cover up, just in front of me as I typed). Immediately thereafter, I went to Facebook. One of the first few items (possibly the first?) on my News Feed was a post from another friend, Debby Large, with a picture captioned "Charles Bridge, Prague," with the Old Town Hall Tower prominent in the background.

In January 2021, a Facebook friend, Jan Bennett, posted a meme showing a cartoon horse saying "YOU CAN LEAD A HUMAN TO KNOWLEDGE, BUT YOU CAN'T MAKE IT THINK." I commented by asking Jan if she remembered Kyle Gann. Kyle and I had attended Skyline High School in Dallas together in the early 1970s, when Jan (then Nicholson) had been an adjunct member of the music faculty there. I brought up Kyle because one of his favorite sayings had been: "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think." In my next comment on the same post, I mentioned that Kyle had performed a piano recital at Skyline that included John Cage's 4'33"—and almost 40 years later, he published a book, No Such Thing As Silence, about that work. . . . Five hours after I posted that comment, another Facebook friend, Bill Drake, posted one of those extremely numerous Bernie-Sanders-in-mittens memes that proliferated in the days following the Biden–Harris inauguration. Bill's post showed Bernie sitting next to a grand piano but not playing it. On the music rack was a score whose cover read:
4'33" .

In March 2021, April and I watched the 1935 film A Midsummer Night's Dream on TCM. When it was over, April went to check on and talk to her elderly mother in her room; I, meanwhile, went to look up the entry for A Midsummer Night's Dream on the Internet Movie Database. I could hear April's voice from across the hall as I read the IMDb synopsis. She said ". . . things are confusing a little bit," and I read ". . . the whole thing becomes a little bit confused," at the exact same instant.

In June 2021, as my wife pulled her elderly mother's wheelchair away from the lunch table, she breezily asked, "Where do you want to go? Do you want to go around the world?" Immediately, the tune "Around the World in Eighty Days" began playing in my head. As soon as I finished washing a few dishes, I went into the bedroom, turned on the TV, and began flipping through the guide. One of the first titles to show up was The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze.

I subscribe to a daily email feature called "A.Word.A.Day." One day in August 2021, the word was curtal. The first of several definitions shown was "A woodwind instrument, an early form of bassoon, also known as a dulcian." As a lifelong professional classical musician who had been totally immersed in musical study and practice for some 60 years, I was surprised to then run across two unfamiliar names (curtal and dulcian) for a musical instrument. . . . About an hour and a half after reading that email, I did a Google search for a bassoonist from Texas, John David Mings. There was a link to his obituary, the second sentence of which was "David came in the eighties from Texas to The Hague to study baroque bassoon and dulcian."

In November 2022, April and I attended a concert by Symphony Viva of San Antonio. One of the selections they performed was the 4th movement, "March to the Scaffold," from Symphonie fantastique by Hector Berlioz. In subsequent days that music often played in my head . . . including one day a couple of weeks later as I was cooking lunch, whereupon I began humming an excerpt audibly. My humming was unexpectedly interrupted by the microwave, which upon reaching 00:00, beeped a sequence of four identical pitches. . . at exactly the point in the Berlioz score where the winds play a sequence of four identical pitches. The microwave beeps were on precisely the right pitch (for the key I was humming in) and were close to being in the right tempo.