Whistler’s Mother: How picking up the cornet
suddenly improved my whistling technique

August 18, 2018 – “Hi, Kurt,” I wrote today in the comments section of a YouTube video. “Something really amazing just happened to me, and I’d like to know what you think.”

“I was whistling while I was waiting in my apartment door / hallway (great resonant space) for the delivery guy to come up. I noticed my mouth felt much different, much stronger, and my whistling has improved! Do you think it’s because I’ve picked up my cornet again and started gradually (carefully) developing my embouchure?”

This is the question I posed to Kurt Thompson, who teaches trumpet and publishes videos about technique.

My lips felt so strong, so tight, so focused. I had this amazing command at a higher register, and my sound was pure, clear and sharp. How did this suddenly happen?

A couple of weeks ago, I got the horn bug again and took out my cornet. I sat down with a trumpet pro in my building in Harlem (there’s a story about that), and I mean a real pro, who gave me the tips I needed to jumpstart my playing again and do it right. He warned me that I’d have to be careful and gradually get my embouchure back into condition. Wisest advice I have had.

So after visiting Sam Ash and getting the final things I needed to be fully equipped (Blue Juice — you’ll laugh, I asked for Jungle Juice! — slide grease, valve casing brush, etc.), I put in an order for the last big item I was missing: A mouthpiece. Mine may actually be lost somewhere in my apartment, and I haven’t touched my vintage Yamaha YCR-231 from Japan. I felt confident I remembered correctly what size piece my cornet salesperson gave me four years ago.

While I waited for my special order to come in, I started reading up on my Arban (the text passages on technique, not the scales — although I did sing through many of them) and learning things I’ve never known before.

I picked up my Bach 6C last week, and every day I’ve been noodling around on my horn, gradually acclimating myself. I love the smell of valve oil and slide grease! It’s a beautiful horn, in mint condition, finely refurbished before I saw it at Sam Ash, put it on layaway, and picked it up months later.

So now in addition to working on my cornet/trumpet technique, I have another technique I can develop — whistling!

– p.k.


A Haunting Melody, A Phantom Trumpeter:
The Gift of the Glyph in ‘Godfather Waltz’

July 24, 2018 – This month I was thrilled to see a piece published in The New York Times ‘Metropolitan Diary’ that I had held onto tightly for six years while I submitted other work. Headlined ‘Godfather Waltz’, it appeared online the evening of Monday, July 2, and in print (without the headline) the morning of Monday, July 9.

I had been haunted by a moment I experienced in 2012. I knew the moment was worthy of a Diary piece, and I could not risk dashing off a trifle that would get lost, dismissed, or brushed aside. I set myself to my usual task: Crafting it into a composition that surpassed anything I had yet written, to such a level of quality that I was personally convinced an editor could not ignore it. It sounds lofty, even self-aggrandizing, but sometimes you must trust what you know is true and strive to see it become real.

This writing experience taught me a great deal. One was to be extremely selective about who I share my unpublished work with, and then listen to them when I do. My friend, the writer Lou Craft, recognized its qualities instantly. Even though I already knew the moment was worthy, and the final draft worked, Lou’s approbation set me on fire, gently singeing me into an elevated awareness of my own talent that forced me to own up to it in a slightly more serious way.

Another lesson learned is to trust my instincts and practice the disciplines I’ve developed as a writer. One such discipline is to not let go of a piece when even one tiny thing nags or bugs me. I must fix it, or let it simmer and stew for a few months, or longer, until I melt it away I can see no flaws.

Another is to not give up trying to convey a moment of beauty (or humor) perfectly, even when stumped. It took me six years kicking this story around, trying to discover a way to put what I heard into words before choosing the moment I disclose it outright to the reader (though the headline writer spoiled that in the online version).

In May I found a graphic I created in 2012 as I began the challenge of telling this story. I had written out the melody in musical staves. I abandoned the graphic approach and reached for words, the only thing the column publishes. Well, words, plus a sprinkling of punctuation.

Putting bar lines into the phonetic melody was, I don’t mind saying, a ‘stroke’ of genius, but it was also an enormous risk. The symbol known as the vertical bar, or pipe ( | ) is rarely used by The New York Times (or any publisher or writer of non-fiction) in any format, Web or print. By employing this glyph I risked having one of my most treasured stories, one I absolutely believed in, getting rejected (though I prefer “passed over” or “not selected”). Even after hearing from the editor that it was accepted, silly me, I considered for a moment telling him he could substitute a slash ( / ). I came to my senses. He had accepted the piece! Why was I second guessing myself, and him?!

Still, when I saw the pipe “ | ” in the online version, it only barely sunk in that there was my melody, complete with bar lines. In print, I finally accepted it was real, and strange as it sounds, I am almost as proud of getting an arcane and specialized math, physics and computing symbol into a piece of breezy, creative non-fiction as I am of the piece itself. (Yes, even more than the parenthetical exclamation point (!) in ‘A Practice Nook in the Subway.’)

In the end, however, after all the personal pride and joy, the satisfaction of getting published, and the ecstatic reception by readers, the only thing that matters is that a moment of exquisite beauty was now set to words perfectly and shared with the world, for its beauty alone. That is the only thing I really ever wanted, and judging by the thoughtful online comments, I “nailed it.”

Dear Lord, how grateful I am that in Your tender and forgiving and eternal love, You have comforted me with a moment I couldn’t forget, blessed me with the gift to put it into words, encouraged me through a friend, and given me the honor of seeing it published.

I pray that when readers enter my story and hear these silvery tones ring through through my block, they get the shivers and sense in it something in their hearts they have yearned for — the presence of the loving, beautiful, mysterious Holy Spirit of the God of this world, floating across the bricks, up the fire escapes, through their open windows and into their hearts.

Let those who have ears, let them hear.

– Paul Klenk


Fosse: 1999 Broadway Tribute (FULL VIDEO)
PBS’ Great Performances: Dance In America

August 28, 2017 – Recently on YouTube I stumbled on this complete live performance of the 1999 Broadway production of Fosse (see below), and have been watching it obsessively since. Fosse was one show not on my radar back in 2001, when I was seeing as many as I could. When there were fewer and fewer plays and musicals to choose from, I took it in one Sunday, and I’ll never forget it.

And now I’m happy to share it with you. Time markers are included in the song list below, in case you want to come back to watch it again and jump to your favorite numbers (and I know you will).

So turn up your volume, switch to full screen view, and enjoy. And please share this page with friends on Facebook, Twitter or other sites using the sharing buttons above.

ACT I  Intro (0:00) |  Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries (0:45) | Fosse’s World (2:58) | Bye Bye Blackbird (6:59) | From The Edge (10:34) | Big Spender (12:34) | Crunchy Granola Suite (18:17) | I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man (25:25) | Commentary: Ann Reinking and Ben Vereen (35:40) | ACT II  Shoeless Joe (40:11) | Dancing In The Dark (43:56) | Steam Heat (47:39) | I Gotcha (52:17) | Rich Man’s Frug: The “Aloof, The “Heavyweight, The “Big Finish (55:54) | Cool Hand Luke (1:01:40) | Nowadays (1:05:13) | The Hot Honey Rag (1:08:40) | Commentary: Dana Moore, Ann Reinking and Ben Vereen (1:10:43) | ACT III  Manson Trio (1:14:35) | Mein Herr (1:16:18) | Razzle Dazzle (1:20:52) | Who’s Sorry Now (1:22:52) | There’ll Be Some Changes Made (1:24:30) | Mr. Bojangles (1:25:53) | Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries (1:32:01) | Sing, Sing, Sing (Parts I and II)  / Christopher Columbus (1:35:22) | Bows & Credits (1:50:12)

Thanks for visiting! Please visit again, as more show information and links will follow soon...


To the Editor: How learning to write letters to editors
is expanding my range, skill, and publication credits

May 20, 2016 – I made an amazing new friend in November 2014, via our mutual passion for writing. Talking frequently about craft and “inside baseball” by phone, between New York and Los Angeles, has also helped both of us fuel our writing activities more. We met for the first time recently when he visited New York, appropriately, in the New York Times building.


My passion, at least with respect to published works, has been creative non-fiction, and my friend David is a prolific writer of letters to editors. He writes and submits letters frequently and in great numbers to newspapers, magazines, journals and other publications. His list of published works is endless, his scrapbooks are numerous and thick, and he is appearing in new publications regularly.

So now, with his example and guidance, my passion is extending to this genre (yes, it really is a genre). There are concrete, specific skills one can acquire to get published by any journal, even the most prestigious and exclusive.

I’ve decided to start journaling what I’m learning, and document my published items in the print and online editions of journals. David, a retired librarian, has helped me appreciate the print medium, due to its physicality, permanence, and beauty. Getting a letter on a publication’s Web site is an achievement, but to make the print edition is harder, decidedly more prestigious, and very satisfying once you see your work on a printed page over your byline.

Here is the start of my log of published, pending, and unpublished letters:

THE ECONOMIST  |  This prestigious weekly newspaper dates to 1843 and, I am told, is very hard to crack. I learned of this paper last year, and sent Editor-in-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes two pieces in one weekend relating to articles in their Feb. 14th, 2015 issue. I did not follow up, and discovered purely by accident 14 months later that one of them was published! Lesson learned: It takes skillful writing and persistence to crack such a journal, and anyone is capable of it. Track your submissions. Try, and keep trying.

Pending: 1 article. Unpublished: 1 article.

THE NEW YORK TIMES  |  Although I have had nine items published in the Metropolitan Diary, my recent attempts at sending letters have not yet resulted in getting a letter published. I have a lot to learn; it has been a fun process writing, sending, failing, and learning. When I met Letters Editor Mr. Feyer and his staff recently, he gave me advice and encouragement that sparked new efforts. I look forward to getting my first credit as a letter writer, and many more. And the great thing is, The New York Times has many columns and sections that invite letters, not just the Opinion page.

Unpublished: 5.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH  |  A tribute I wrote after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and sent to four or five of Ohio’s major newspapers was published by one of them, resulting in a life-changing story you can read here.
MY BUCKET LIST  |  I told David recently that I need to list the publications I’d like to get into. Many of them are ones that David has been published in. Here is my ambition list:
  • The New Yorker
  • The Financial Times of London
  • The New York Times
  • Vogue
  • Vanity Fair
  • People
  • Time
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Smithsonian
  • TV Guide
  • NRA’s American Rifleman
  • Newsweek
  • Bon Appetit
  • Rolling Stone
  • Popular Science
  • Field & Stream
  • Popular Mechanics
  • GQ
  • Forbes Fortune
  • Wired
  • Mad Magazine
  • Town and Country
  • Cigar Aficionado, Wine Spectator, and other publications of Marvin Shanken
  • National Geographic
  • Readers Digest
  • Major U.S. newspapers such as The Washington Post, Washington Post Magazine, Washington Times, New York Times Magazine, Boston Globe, Boston Globe Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Boston Herald, Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times, and others (including smaller newspapers)
– p.k.


Britten’s exquisite English art song cycle,
“Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings”

March 16, 2013 – Here are the lyrics and a YouTube audio of Benjamin Britten’s song cycle Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings (Op. 31).  The poems are by Cotton, Tennyson, Blake, Jonson, and Keats, as well as the unattributed verse known as the “Lyke-Wake Dirge.”

This 1971 Angel recording features tenor Robert Tear and horn player Alan Civil, with the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra conducted by Neville Marriner. Enjoy!

PROLOGUE (instrumental)

PASTORAL (Charles Cotton, 1630—1687)

The day’s grown old; the fainting sun
Has but a little way to run,
And yet his steeds, with all his skill,
Scarce lug the chariot down the hill.

The shadows now so long do grow,
That brambles like tall cedars show;
Mole hills seem mountains, and the ant
Appears a monstrous elephant.

A very little, little flock
Shades thrice the ground that it would stock;
Whilst the small stripling following them
Appears a mighty Polypheme.

And now on benches all are sat,
In the cool air to sit and chat,
Till Phoebus, dipping in the West,
Shall lead the world the way to rest.

NOCTURNE “Blow, Bugle, blow” (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1809—1892)

THE splendour falls on castle walls           
      And snowy summits old in story:         
    The long light shakes across the lakes,  
      And the wild cataract leaps in glory.    
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying. 

    O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,       
      And thinner, clearer, farther going!     
    O sweet and far from cliff and scar       
      The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

    O love, they die in yon rich sky,  
      They faint on hill or field or river:       
    Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
      And grow for ever and for ever.           
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,        
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

ELEGY “The Sick Rose” (William Blake, 1757—1827)

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

DIRGE “Lyke-Wake Dirge” (Anonymous, traditional)

THIS ae nighte, this ae nighte,
— Refrain: Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
— Refrain: And Christe receive thy saule.

When thou from hence away art past
To Whinny-muir thou com’st at last

If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
Sit thee down and put them on;

If hosen and shoon thou ne’er gav’st nane
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane.

From Whinny-muir when thou may’st pass,
To Brig o’ Dread thou com’st at last;

From Brig o’ Dread when thou may’st pass,
To Purgatory fire thou com’st at last;

If ever thou gavest meat or drink,
The fire sall never make thee shrink;

If meat or drink thou ne’er gav’st nane,
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane;

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
— Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
— And Christe receive thy saule.

HYMN “The Hymn of Hesperus” (Ben Jonson, 1572—1637)

Queen, and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep :
    Hesperus entreats thy light,
    Goddess excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose ;
Cynthia’s shining orb was made
Heaven to clear when day did close :
    Bless us then with wishèd sight,
    Goddess excellently bright.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal shining quiver ;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short soever :
    Thou that mak’st a day of night,
    Goddess excellently bright.

SONNET “To Sleep” (John Keats, 1795—1821)

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:

O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities.

Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,—
Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;

Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.

EPILOGUE (instrumental)

This post is dedicated to my new friend Elliott, for these last rare views of the sunset through the interlacing branches of Harlem’s winter trees.  – p.k.


THE FRONT PAGE at www.paulklenk.us

The Front Page is published weekly on Mondays.

Recent articles...

  • Enjoy John Singleton Copley’s Watson and The Shark, and other art, on the Virtual Museum Tour. Links to the Met, MoMA, Whitney and NGA are updated.
  • Give new ESV Bibles to your friends and neighbors for as low as $2 – or even $1 – apiece.
  • My sister recently introduced me to an easy, yummy Chicken Stuffing Casserole.
  • “Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants,” performed by the legendary sleight-of-hand artist under the direction of David Mamet, is this week’s Feature Presentation in a 6-part YouTube playlist.
  • Like Scrabble? My new list of playable given and proper names may surprise you.
  • My short items in The New York Times’ “Metropolitan Diary” are linked on one page.
  • Hear Tim Keller’s sermon, “Injustice: Hasn't Christianity been an instrument for oppression?”
  • Many links and tools throughout the site are now refurbished and updated.


$2.99 Bibles available for $2 apiece, and as low as $1

Crossway’s affordable
ESV Economy Bible
February 20, 2011 – A few years ago, I fell in love with a new and fresh translation of the Bible, called The English Standard Version (ESV). And today, I’d like to share with you how you or your church can buy some very inexpensive, elegant editions of this Bible for $2.00 each, and even as low as $1.00.

Everyone should have a Bible, and every Christian should be prepared to give a Bible to anyone who wants or needs one. This can be done economically. Crossway, the publisher of the ESV, has made giving Bibles much easier by publishing the most affordable edition of the Bible on the market, called The ESV Economy Bible.

Crossway calls these “outreach editions,” a trade paperback designed specifically for giving away in small and large quantities. By producing them inexpensively, they can be purchased in cases of 48 by churches and even individuals, at a low price. Crossway’s outreach editions are lovely to look at, with very elegant typesetting (a feature I have always loved about their Bibles), and are easy to carry and read. Some are full Bibles (Old and New Testaments), and some are New Testaments only. They have NT editions with both Christmas- and Easter-themed covers, priced at $1.00 and perfect for use in inviting your neighbors to holiday services.

ESV Outreach Bible,
Blossom Design
The ESV Economy Bible has a retail value of $2.99. But it is only available by the case; when purchased quantities of 48, or $86.12 per case, the price drops to $1.80 apiece. With shipping ($20.83), the total cost per unit is $2.29.

For an even more amazing price, you can purchase 5 cases at $48.00 per case; this is 240 Bibles for $240.00, or $1.00 apiece, an ideal price and quantity for churches. Shipping for 5 cases is $98.01, making the per-unit cost $1.41.

Remember, this is a full Bible, not the New Testament only, in an edition less than 1" thick that includes an article on What the Bible is All About, a Reading Plan, and a Plan of Salvation.

Follow these links to learn more about the translation philosophy of the ESV, its team of translators and its editors, and the history of translations leading to this version. An excellent study Bible is also available, complete with an amazing interactive digital version on the Web which allows you to bookmark pages, highlight passages, and even make notes in the margins, just as you would with a paper Bible.

– p.k.

counter for iweb


Cooking for Non-Cooks: Chicken Stuffing Casserole;
Revised to reduce sodium for a better-tasting dish

February 10, 2011Chicken Stuffing Casserole is a tasty and hearty “homemade” dish that is easy for non-cooks to make. It is guaranteed to satisfy everyone, from finicky children to grown-up foodies. It will get gobbled up at potlucks, and freezes well if you like to stock up on homemade meals. Read more »


“Household” names, playable in Scrabble

February 4, 2011 – One of the delights of playing Scrabble is learning unusual and arcane words.  Recently I was surprised to find that the first names of two of my siblings, Laura and Timothy, are actually playable words. Read more »


My pieces in The New York Times Metropolitan Diary

Revised July 2, 2018 – Welcome, New York Times readers and fans of the Metropolitan Diary! If you followed a link to this site from David W. Dunlap’s fine article about the column’s history, you can read more about our November 2016 anniversary celebration here.

Below are my Metropolitan Diary items, and my thoughts about the column. If you enjoy them, I’d love to hear from you.

Illustration by VICTOR KERLOW

“Godfather Waltz” (tinyurl.com/ddtrumpet) | A haunting melody heard through the courtyards. | July 2, 2018

“A Stranger in the Building on Official Business” (tinyurl.com/ddbadge) | At first, he thought maybe the woman in the elevator was from a utility company. Then things got interesting. | April 13, 2017

“Ivy Hears Me in the Hall (tinyurl.com/ddivy) | A poem about a neighbor’s sweet potato pie. | October 13, 2016

“A Practice Nook in the Subway” (tinyurl.com/ddpassage) | A singer found a great acoustical cul-de-sac in a Midtown station where he could exercise his scales. | April 16, 2015

“A Reader at Home in Middle-Earth” (tinyurl.com/ddillustrated) | With his scruffy beard, ginger hair and eyes matching those on the dust jacket, the subway rider looked like the Tolkien characters he was reading about. | January 21, 2015

“A Busker Counts His Coins” (tinyurl.com/ddgrateful) | An occasional subway performer reflected on how people’s gratitude for his singing meant more to him than the money. | August 24, 2014
Illustration by LARS LEETARU

“A Misunderstanding at the Starbucks Counter” (tinyurl.com/ddblackguy) | A customer hears what he thinks is racially offensive coffee terminology. | May 22, 2012

“The Motormouth” (tinyurl.com/ddmotormouth) | A memorable quip from a hilarious cabby. | March 29, 2010

“The Lollipop” (tinyurl.com/ddlollipop) | A sweet but sticky subway situation. | May 5, 2008

“The Goose” (tinyurl.com/ddgoose) | A cabby and his passenger kick off the holidays together. | December 19, 2007

“The Tourists” (tinyurl.com/ddtourists) | Visitors to New York City get an exciting firehouse tour, but no pole dancing. | March 19, 2007

“The Everything Bagel” (tinyurl.com/ddbagel) | My first Diary piece, about an unintentional quip that never fails to make me smile. | May 29, 2006

– Paul


Each Monday in its print edition, and each weekday online, The New York Times publishes reader submissions about life in New York City in the much-loved and widely read “Metropolitan Diary” column. It’s a day-brightener of anecdotes, cute stories, overheard conversations and acts of kindness which reflect the city’s unique signature.  The Diary was edited and curated by Michael Pollak during most of time I have contributed; since the fall of 2016, Ed Shanahan has been at the helm. The column has run since November 1976 (bit.ly/1stdiary).

It has been a distinct honor to have had a number of my original works of creative nonfiction and poetry, some of them autobiographical, selected for publication in this column. At last I can say I am a regular contributor. Entries are published under my byline (and some listed in the Times’s author index).  Two stories were cleverly illustrated; one by Lars Leetaru (“The Tourists”), and one by Victor Kerlow (“A Busker Counts His Coins”).

I look forward to submitting more work for consideration, keeping my fingers crossed each time I hit the send button, and joyfully sharing my pieces when they appear in the column.

In the future, I plan to coordinate gatherings here in NYC for other Diary contributors, for fun, support, and the joy of sharing our experiences with each other over lunch. If you are a published Diary contributor and wish to receive invitations to these private gatherings, contact me at paulklenk@gmail.com.

– p.k.