When Someone Great is Gone

A year ago today I lost someone extremely special to me: my dad.

I owe so much to him, including a good portion of my love of music. I grew up listening to him playing Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, Bach, and even jazz, as he played in dance bands in the 50s to help pay for college. I remember playing the piano with him from a very early age (Tcherepnin’s duets from “Exploring the piano”), and he wrote down a piece I wrote about a bee when I was three. I also remember playing with matchbox cars in empty churches while he practiced the organ, turning pages during choir rehearsals, tasting his gourmet cooking, and watching lightening storms on the horizon from the back patio. I remember him playing the intermezzo from Schumann’s Faschingswank aus Wien flawlessly from memory when guests asked to hear something.  I remember his support, generosity, and kindness.  While it’s an incomplete picture (he loved listening to spirited debates and liked to keep up with news/politics, for one), I’ve always said my dad’s favorite things were family, food, and music.

It couldn’t have been easy to support a family as a piano teacher and musician, and some things didn’t go the way he had originally planned. That said, I’m so proud of all he was, and all that lives on through those whose lives he touched.

I took a picture of the music rack on his piano on the day he died, and for numerous reasons did not look at what piece it was until now. The last piece he ever played was the Brahms B♭ minor Intermezzo, Op. 117, No. 2, which is — to me — beautiful, sad, and hopeful.

My dad is loved and missed, and I’m so grateful for the time I had with him.

My Dad's piano as he left it

P.S. While I don’t really know what the song is about specifically, “Someone Great” by LCD Soundsystem moved me when I first heard it about a year ago, and has been part of the ongoing soundtrack in my head as my emotions have evolved.  In honor of where at least half of my music geek genes came from, I’ll add that it is in E♭ mixolydian mode.

Rotring 600 Polycarbonate Cap

Rotring 600 with polycarbonate lid

For a late birthday present, I got a Rotring 600 0.5mm mechanical pencil. It’s a great pencil, but the tip does not retract, making it very un-pocket-friendly. I set out to make a lid for it, and after exploring wood, acetal, UHMW, and teflon, I opted to go with polycarbonate (partly because I found it for cheaper than the others). First, I measured it with a dial caliper, and then selected drill bits and depths from there.

Rotring 600 Grip
Measurements of the Rotring 600 Grip

After building a proof-of-concept model with a wood dowel, I used my Grizzly 7×12 lathe with center drills and four regular bits (smallest/deepest first) to build one with 7/16″ polycarbonate rod. I cracked the first attempt, broke off a drill bit in the second, and while the third is not perfect, it works. Apparently, polycarbonate turns to powder when overheated — not good, but good to know.

Rotring 600 0.5mm Polycarbonate Lid Measurements

Thanks to the slight taper on the grip, the cap as built fits snugly, keeping the tip out of harm’s way. Now the pencil is pocket friendly, can be carried or stored with the lead out, and as long as I don’t drop it on the tip while using it (granted, this is when it is most likely to be dropped), I should be good to go! As an added bonus, the cap is apparently compatible with the Alvin Draft/Matic series; I bought an 0.3mm pencil ( No. DM03 ) as a more-affordable complement to the Rotring, and its grip has similar dimensions.

Finished Rotring 600 0.5mm Polycarbonate Cap