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"On the Other Hand"
Emmett's Blog and Essays
Oct 2, 2006
Happy Birthday to me
Emmett writes about his surprise 70th Birthday Party

On this Sunday evening I'd like to express my gratitude to all who came to Diana's elegant new home last Sunday for my 70th surprise birthday party.

It really was a surprise because no one ever celebrated my birthday before its actual date, Sept. 28th, and because I was there to celebrate a different event, Grace's going-to-Prague party (to meet her husband Mike "on location" for a film). I even brought a "flying away" card for Grace with Czechoslovakia sketched on it. (What a ruse it was!)

So when I opened the door, there was a roomful of friends' and loved ones' faces plus Dan's and Dean's videocams and Yumi's digital cam, all in one accord - "Surprise!"

I greatly enjoyed each conversation in this diverse group of old friends and family, also the music, and especially the prepared "readings" and spontaneous accounts of my influence from years long past.

The readings were the high point for me, and made Diana's party a real "life event" for someone of 70 years. As the accounts of past experiences accumulated, I became aware of myself in a new way, realizing that my value to others has been, not in my personality, nor in the charm, not even in good deeds done, rather, the quality that seems to matter most in all my relationships is my never ending attempts to communicate novel ideas and mental explorations. I've always considered myself a doer more than a thinker, so this comes as quite a revelation.

Diana started off the readings with the best one of all, taking me back to her babyhood awakenings with Dad and first awareness of moon and planets, music, design, philosophy and science - so lovingly written and well expressed, Diana!

Others followed in the same vein, recalling my novel perspectives and ideas in various fields we had in common. I began to get the picture: Don about mental imagery, Fred about my early guitar designs, Grace about my unusual approach in teaching her to read, Greg's sent in from Virginia about "Tennis with Emmett" (painfully funny and very accurate), Vance's about my willingness to explore any subject with him, and several other impromptu accounts along these lines.

Yuta's was one of the last readings and was about our life together and where my "musical dream and adventure" has taken her. Yuta has always given me love and dignity. A quote from her reading puts a twist on the old cliche about shades of gray: "With you there is no black and white, everything is in spectacular color and beauty and imagination."

But then the music was a big part of the evening, and I played more Stick in more duos than I ever remember doing on one occasion. Dan brought his bag of harmonicas and we played a new arrangement of "Back Yard" and other songs and improvisations. I enjoyed blending Stick with several pianists who played Diana's upright piano with great livingroom acoustics from the high beamed ceiling, including Vance playing '60s songs, Villen playing jazz standards, and Grace, Chiz and Yumi, all improvising in their own styles to the Stick rhythms and harmonies.

I got to experience each player as a musician, on a purely musical level. Chiz is as wild on piano as she was at the party, but disciplined enough to put on a great show. Yumi seems to approach piano like his Dad, listening attentively and gently exploring directions, nice for duos. Grace surprised me with energy, chemistry, drive and flow, maybe the most fun of all, and she doesn't even play piano these days, just electric bass in a "metal" rock band. (Wouldn't you know, that would be the ticket.)

I enjoyed Melinda's vocal and Villen and I joined her in trio. Villen and Nona sang a birthday song with lyrics of praise to the tune of "Hello Dolly" (lot of laughs). Later in the evening Yuki danced interpretations to the music. What a creative evening! If only Don had brought his NS/Stick. We jam sometimes - dang!

Heartfelt thanks to all of you, and to brother Jerry and Maureen, Gary, Cynthia, Kathy, Hardy and his fiancee Mary Beth for stimulating conversations and reminiscences on this occasion.

Even Diana's hired chef had something to say, perhaps a more objective view (not really), as in the following message Diana shared with me:

>Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2006 15:43:03 -0700
>From: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>Reply-To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>Subject: Re: thank you
>Dearest Diana: How are you? Wow, what a wonderful night of food,
>fun and family gathering. I must say, I had done over 300 parties
>or so, and nothing compare to your dad's 70th birthday. Like you
>said in the party, we all meant to be there last night. So thank
>you so much for inviting me....I never met such incredible and
>nicest people like your family. I even call my mom last night and
>we chat about the party and my dad. I guess I really miss him a
>lot... Thank you Diana for everything, you are so beautiful, warm
>and nice like an angel. Please take care!
>Regards, xxxxxxxxxx

What more need be said? A truly happy birthday to me!

Much love and appreciation, Emmett.

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