Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 12

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Saturday February 16, 2008 (diary, bio, Babette's writing and lecture presentation, food)

With Uncle Ansco and cousin Tom This past week (especially for Feb.13 and 15) I had to think through how deep I go into things in this Blog. Where do I set my boundaries. After some soul searching I have come to a very simple and straight forward criterion. I will include in this Blog whatever I myself would have wanted to know about my parents. For that is most likely what my children will wish to know about me.
With this criterion in place I immediately decided for example to put the very private poem of Feb.13 on my Blog. To protect the privacy of its author I have given her the code name "She", if I refer to her again in the future. I will do the same thing with other outsiders where that seems appropriate. (My children will of course know their real names.)

Returning from the Surf Club today I drive again to my lockup and collect the poem and also a box with 35mm slides. I have checked with Camera House. They have scanners converting slides into digital images. I will either buy one, or get my slides scanned by a photographer depending on the cost. From the 60s until the digital camera era 5-10 years ago all our visual memories are on slides rather than prints. It will be nice to have this material converted to digital for the Blog and CDs for the family. We will see.

Back home I have a look at Babette's rewrite of the Prologue for her first novel. I had made some editing comments on her earlier version about two weeks ago. Her new version is miles better and becoming a good, coherent and intelligent read.
As Doug is off to the Palmwoods Blues night, Babette and I have an early dinner at the Thai Parnit Restaurant in Nambour. We are all hooked on the fried cuttlefish balls, so that has become our must have entree (photo next time). We talk a bit more about writing.
Also about her visit to Darwin 5 years ago on a emotional rescue mission (I lost a girlfriend I never really had in the first place. I know sounds complicated). I coached her then for a lecture presentation she was preparing for a Convention the following week in Sydney. She tells me her talk was a great success and stood miles out from the other presentations. Sounds very much similar to my effort in Madrid at the time. It just goes to show that when you do the right preparations you will get a great result.
After our meal we rush home just in time to catch 'Doc Martin' and 'The Bill' on ABC TV.

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Sunday February 17, 2008 (bio, Holland, presonality, freedom, beach, Dokkums, Grotie, Raoul Dufy)

Freedom 1
Virtually all actions, thoughts and purpose in my life are driven forward towards two ultimate objectives : freedom and growth. When you look more closely at what I write in my Blog you will discover that many of the things I think or do, even at the most mundane level, are directed at or contribute towards growth and enhancement of these two conditions in my own state of mind, at a variety of levels.

My understanding of the purpose of life is simple : You start growing from the moment you are born and you must continue to grow until the moment you die."
Besides being lucky enough to maintain good health we give ourselves the best chance to grow by continuously striving for freedom. Freedom is achieved by removing or avoiding constraints whether physical or mental.
Follow the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius' advise : make decisions in your life that give you the choises to grow in various different directions, and that don't lock you into a fixed unalterable plan you can not escape from.

Grotie, my Grandmother As a child in cold and miserable Holland, summer was the time of freedom. I can still recall my relish of feeling the dry and soft warm sand over my bare feet, when walking through the horse track (stirred loose by countless hooves) in the center of the country dirt road the Flierderweg, which led past our woods and home in Gorssel. It was a feeling of freedom : no cold, no shoes, no restrictive layers of warm clothes covering the entire body, no convention.
I also loved the holidays on the North Sea coast in Noordwijk aan Zee where my uncle Ansco and aunt Tinie took me during the first few summers just after the war.   Later, when my Grandmother "Grotie" returned from Martinshof back to Scheveningen I spent most of my summer holidays with her and you would find me on the beach every day.
The sea was the closest thing to freedom I could experience in those days. But when I was 16, in 1953, and the German borders had opened again (after WW2) for foreigners, I traveled through the Sauerland (East of Köln and Bonn) on my bicycle, staying at Youth Hostels overnight.

Raoul Dufy I loved the paintings of Raoul Dufy (often described as colourful drawings by brush) with his scenes of palm trees and subtropical vegetation along the boulevards and beaches of the French Riviera. And these promising vistas became a reality as a student in geology, when I traveled to Spain, mapping the geology of its Northern mountain regions of the Pyrenees, Asturias and Galicia.
In due course I found in my wife Antien an ideal and willing partner in sharing my continued search for freedom when we migrated to Australia. Once there we kept moving every two to three years to new areas, Newcastle, Kalgoorlie, Yonki (in the PNG Highlands), Canberra and finally Bougainville Island.

Here is where my search for freedom suddenly burst out into a new form. Over a span of 14 years I had become increasingly frustrated with my work. I was restricted by most companies in my creative thinking and approach to my work, and felt trapped and totally bogged down in my life in every possible way. At age 40 I had wondered what this talk about a mid life crisis was all about, but 3 years later I was right in the middle of it.
Too naive and too introvert to talk this through with my wife, I burst out of the marriage and soon after also out of my profession. There was an enormous amount of pain involved and for a few years I felt like a burnt out house with only some of its walls standing. But I kept going (and so did Antien, bravely redirecting her own destiny), and eventually a new, different me rose from the ashes, entering the world of music.
Freedom continues February 18

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Monday February 18, 2008 (bio, personailty, war, parents, Grandparents, Iron Curtain, Wivica)

Freedom 2 continues from February 17
Looking back it was paradoxically the very imprisonment of my parents in a concentration camp after WW2 that removed two heavy shackles from my mind set, greatly facilitating my quest for freedom throughout my entire life. I would by nature probably have shrugged off such hindrances eventually anyway, but these early experiences removed them very early in my life.
The first was of course my experience at the Oldenhof which freed me from public opinion.
I can not recalled a single occasion in my life that I in any way was influenced by this, but always thought and acted strictly according to my own insight. Not for me any of this "what will the neighbours say" nonsense, which anyway is only the trivial aspect of this mental enclosure.

Besides losing their freedom, my parents lost their business, their money and all other worldly possessions, confiscated by the Dutch Government. They had absolutely nothing left. Fortunately our home Martinshof was legally the property of my (neutral during the War) Dutch Grandmother and could not be touched, so that we still had our own roof over our heads.
This experience immediately instilled in me the determination that I would never depend in my lively hood on material property (like a store, surgery, factory, etc.) but always carry my business and wealth with me in my head. I have done this throughout my entire life and with great success. I now travel the world, free as a bird, with only a laptop and run my online business wherever I am, on a cruise ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean, or driving through the vast and remote vistas of Central Australia.

My parents never held any grudges or bitterness over their treatment. They accepted it as a consequence of what they had honestly believed in and had stood up for. That was a very rare attitude in those days. Most people back then sat very quietly on the fence and kept their mouth shut.
My parents experienced their years of captivity as a very positive thing and later looked back on it with gratitude. It had given them a new perspective on life enabling further personal growth, understanding and compassion. My student friends absolutely adored them and valued them way above their own parents.

With Opi and Omi My Grandparents in Germany too lost all their possessions after the war.
At the end of the war the demarcation line between the Allied and Russian forces ran only a few kilometers to the East of their home town Wismar. I was there at the time (story later) and used to march with the Allied soldiers right up to that "border" when they were changing the guard. (When my parents found out they strictly forbade me doing this.)
When the demarcation line was officially negotiated and set (after we had left) it moved farther to the West, placing Wismar 25km within the Russian side of it.

My Grandparents were law abiding citizens, never associated in any way with the Nazi party, but they were reasonably well off and had a flourishing jewelry business. This was usually incentive enough for the corrupt Russian and East German officials to send them on a one way journey to Siberia. And many older people went that way.
A few years after the war (around '49- 50 I believe) my Grandparents were warned by a friend that they too had been added on "the list". They immediately fled via Berlin to the West, settling in Hannover were they survived for the rest of their lives (a dozen or so years) on a small German pension.

Before they fled my Grandfather had managed to burry some jewelry and stones from his shop in a garden plot they owned (or leased ?) at the outskirts of Wismar. In due course he ventured back and under the cover of darkness retrieved these treasures from the garden and returned safely, crossing the East West border in Berlin (still pre "Berlin Wall" days) by pretending to be an old blind man. The border guards kindly guided him across to the West.
He carried silverware in a woven basket, had hidden diamonds in his shoes and a string of rings tied around his waist. It was a great and brave adventure we kids and his loving wife listened to full of admiration. The booty was in money terms relatively small however and improved their living standard only marginally. My Grandparents loved each other dearly however and this helped them enormously to accept their lives as it had unfolded without bitterness. They remained deeply contented with one another throughout the rest of their lives.

After the West German border reopened with Holland, we sometimes went to see them in Hannover. They also regularly stayed with us at Martinshof. In later years my Grandfather, father and I would play skart together in the evenings, a German card game played by three players. We all three loved those evenings, three generations in fierce mental battle with one another. I still think of it these days with great nostalgia and fondness.
My step Grandmother (my real one having died when my mother was still very young), although at least 10 years younger than my Grandfather, died one night quietly in her sleep. My Grandfather lived on for another year. He visited us for a while, then went home, placed flowers on the grave of his wife, went to bed and overnight also gently and happily passed away in his sleep, leaving a half eaten piece of chocolate lying on his bedside table. He was 81 years old.

my sister Wivica About 40 years after my Grandparents had fled the East, the Berlin Wall and with it the Iron Curtain came finally down.
My sister Wivica who lived in Germany by then immediately traveled to Wismar to reclaim my Grandparents' property. She was able to track down and photocopy all legal documents held by the local municipality relating to their house. Armed with these she reclaimed our family's possession.
It became a prolonged and difficult quest which she doggedly pursued with great determination and nerves of steel. She eventually succeeded in getting the house back and selling it the very same day to a developer from the West for a top price.

This feat of hers has helped me greatly to pursue my own quest for freedom these days to its full extent. For this I will be forever grateful to my sister. My Grandparents and parents too, I am sure, will forever smile on her.

Freedom continues February 20

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Tuesday February 19, 2008 (diary, food)

Doug recommended to me a small photo shop in nearby Forest Glen. The guy specialises in converting old negatives and 35mm slides into digital format and, as I find out when I visit him, at very competitive prices. I leave 8 large black and white negatives with him and in due course will also give him a lot of slides to convert.

The cabin and my tent Kim Page, from the mango farm in Virginia where I stay when up North, sends me an email. It is still raining continuously in Darwin and her husband Andrew is working hard on their home, all inside the house now.
I was hoping to stay two weeks in their cabin before flying out to Germany on April 15, but Margaret and Brian (fellow roamers like me) will probably still be in there then Kim thinks. If that proves to be the case I will stay a week or so longer here at ThreePonds, then perhaps stay a few days at my son's home in Darwin before flying out. We will see.

Sashimi and Sake Doug is flying out to India tomorrow as Marketing representative for Babette's PGIC Colleges. Babette employs female marketers for most Asian countries, but in India the authority of a man is much preferred. It is a great adventure for Doug, who has been preparing for this trip for weeks, making contact with the various Indian agents and planning his itinerary. For the Bon Voyage Sashimi dinner Babette has bought a feast of fish : tuna, salmon and scallops. Also my favourite Wakame salad (seaweed with sesame oil) and Korean nouri (dried seaweed sheets). These are salty, thinner and with more texture than the Japanese variety. I have purchased for the occasion a bottle of Sake, an Australian brew ("Go-Shu Blue") which Doug and I immediately take a liking to.

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Wednesday February 20, 2008 (bio, Adelaide, Jazz College)

Freedom 3 continues from February 18
After our split up in Bougainville Antien and I both, separately, moved to Adelaide in South Australia. Here I worked disheartedly as a Consultant for Western Mining for 10 months, then quit my job, to start on January 1, 1981 on a new career in music. Within 6 months however my studies on saxophone and piano where interrupted when my father suddenly died of a stroke and I rushed to Holland to run the family business (story later).

Gerry Mulligan I returned to Adelaide on the 24th of August 1983, and immediately contacted the Jazz Department at the South Australian College of Advanced Education (SACAE).
Hal Hall, a brilliant and inspirational Jazz Educator form the USA was in charge and kindly took me on as a private saxophone student. Within months I also started to take, on Hal's recommendation, private piano tuition with Dr. Graham Williams
A few months later I auditioned for entry into the Jazz College, but failed, as Hal beforehand had warned me about. However my relentless practice regime had impressed him and he allowed me to unofficially follow the classes throughout the next year and promised to credit me any subject I would pass the following year, provided of course I would pass the audition next year. His offer was not entirely unselfish as I majored on baritone sax, an instrument badly needed for the College Big Bands and Concert Band.
From a very young age I had been inspired by the wonderful flowing melodic improvisations of Gerry Mulligan and his characteristic baritone sound. Later I also listened to the less well known English baritone sax player Ronny Ross and was blown away by his uniquely mellow highly sophisticated tone. That decided me forever.

Going through that College was the hardest thing I had ever to do in my life. I studied 10 to 13 hours a day, 5 days a week. I always rested for two days over the weekend and also took all College Holidays off. This enabled me to keep up this regime for 6 full years.
For once, at age of 47 (and as a beginner with less than 6 months practice under my belt) I was at the absolute bottom of the pile. All other students had a minimum of 6-7 years experience and I usually sat in class next to 18 year old Andrew Firth, then already one of Australia's most brilliant clarinetists who could play any Bennie Goodman solo backwards, and faster. He also regularly performed on stage with Don Burrows and other top class performers. Andrew as well as all other students (most at age 18 to early 20s) never put me down, but often helped me with useful advice and brief mini lessons on articulation etc. It was really wonderful.

Besides a life long love for music and the wonderful creative freedom of Jazz improvisation I was deep down motivated by a relentlessly powerful force. Never, never, never would I ever go back to my previous profession or any other job where I would have to work for a company or for someone else. I realised that at work I had always felt like a prisoner. All Companies I worked for had owned me for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (at least), and had always told me what to do. It had depressed me beyond description. I would never return to this again.
And I never did.

Freedom continues February 21

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