The Top 100 Moments of 2011

January 4, 2012 Uncategorized 9 Comments

Wow, it must have taken some cajones to put him on the cover of anything.

Here’s a tradition carried over from my old blog. At the end of the year, I make a list of the top moments in my life for that year.

The list is not about my favorite moments, nor my best moments. These are the top moments, the “Hitler as Man of the Year 1939″ moments, the ones that changed me, moved me, taught me, inspired me, humiliated me.

They are mistakes, triumphs, failures, wild successes. Some are comprehensible by anyone, others belong only to me. They are not listed in any particular order, only the one in which I think of them.

If I left out a moment you think should be here, don’t be upset. Exact your revenge by leaving a comment!

Martin’s Top 100 Moments of 2011

  1. The cyclonic windstorm on the first tee of the preliminary SSCC golf tournament round where Mark, Mat, Chris, and I were nearly blown into oblivion.
  2. Playing “Seagull Shuffle” with Brian Holland and Danny Coots at after hours in Sedalia, and having Danny call it “the deepest pocket I’ve ever been in.”
  3. Learning about the death of Steve Jobs and having my entire world rocked repeatedly by watching his 2005 commencement speech over and over.
  4. Receiving Max Morath’s review of my new CD and having him tell me that Eubie Blake would have loved it.
  5. Learning that an 8th-grader in Connecticut did a PowerPoint presentation on me for his school music class.
  6. After repeatedly assuring Mat about how good of a driver I am in the snow, crashing his car into a snowy embankment because I was thinking too hard about what to do next with my life.
  7. My phone interview with the Sedalia Democrat that turned into an article about me on the front page of the paper.
  8. Getting into a fight with my boss and nearly losing my job.
  9. Animating and scoring the holiday card for our parent company and having it go out to thousands of people all over the world.
  10. Driving in the car with my sister and listening to the radio at the precise moment when the radio is playing “Red Elephant Rag,” which I wrote for my sister. CRAZY AWESOME.
  11. Finally winning the Old-time Piano Playing Championship after deciding, “Fuck it, I’m just going to make something up,” and improvising arrangements of “Five Foot Two” and “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad”.
  12. Learning that Good.Bye Films wanted to make a documentary about me, and filming my first interview.
  13. The grand and emotionally turbulent ride from Sedalia to St. Louis on the Missouri River Runner.
  14. Eating the best barbecue on the planet at the gas station in Kansas City with Jerry and Mary Grace.
  15. Having my voice teacher, Marguerite, tell me in all seriousness that I had a good voice.
  16. Making my public singing debut with “Oh You Beautiful Doll” at the Black Fox Lounge in DC.
  17. Failing to deliver a master that Rambling Records wanted to use, and ending up with nothing to show from our supposed record deal.
  18. Earning the nickname “Senor Cuervo” at Risk because I left our host, Mat, with an empty bottle of Tullamore Dew, an empty bottle of Captain Morgan, an empty bottle of Maker’s Mark whiskey, a 95% empty bottle of Jose Cuervo, three mangled and chewed on pieces of the Green army, and a broken toilet flusher, all by my hand (and mouth).
  19. Getting kicked out of the Steinway Hall practice room for not paying to use it (I maintain it was because Art Tatum was too hip for them).
  20. The hot, impromptu duet on “Dizzy Fingers” with Richard Dowling in Baltimore.
  21. Being able to say, “Last night was incredible!” multiple times to the woman I’ve been with for 10 years.
  22. Birdieing the 10th hole in the SSCC team tournament, having finally relaxed (after three days of golf) and found my swing.
  23. The food tour at Pike’s Place Market, following the bearded man with the pink umbrella, and watching them throw the fish.
  24. The shrimp and cheese grits at Slightly North of Broad in Charleston, SC. Hot damn.
  25. Meeting Smiley Wallace in Kansas City and listening to his stories about Eubie Blake, his wife, and his lifelong perpetuation and promotion of ragtime music.
  26. Purchasing my new iMac with money I saved up from my ragtime concerts and finally retiring my workhorse Power Mac G5 after six years.
  27. Learning that Eubie Blake ate chocolate cake every night before he went to bed. I mean seriously, how awesome is that.
  28. Performing live with my brother for the first time, and then with his band.
  29. As Artist in Residence, being asked by literally ten 8-year-olds if I played “Uncle Ian” in the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie.
  30. Taking the brewery tour at Leinenkugel’s in Chippewa Falls, WI with Wheels and Adam.
  31. The Gullah performance at Boone Hall Plantation that lifted up my heart.
  32. Standing around the green room with the next generation of great composers – Max, Will, Brett, and Bryan – talking about music and playing each other’s pieces.
  33. Nighttime beach walk on Two Mile Hollow Beach in the Hamptons; getting soaked in the surf; looking up at the stars.
  34. Staying at the shadiest hotel on the planet in Versailles, MO and fearing for my life.
  35. Selling my first copy of Handful of Keys to Daniel Levi.
  36. Arranging flowers for the first time and realizing that it was very, extremely, wonderfully Zen.
  37. Skyping with Emily and Jeffrey for the first time – so different than talking on the phone!
  38. Being featured in a company press release for the music I composed to the 2010 holiday card.
  39. My epic single-dice-roll defense of the Northwest Territory that went 5-6, 6-6, 3-3, 4-6, and 1-6. Nate’s yellow army has never recovered.
  40. Racing go-karts at 50mph like a crazy person with my brother out in Prince William County.
  41. The endless adventures with my bowling team, Livin’ on a Spare, including Jess and I combining for a no-open-frame 185 in one game.
  42. The amazing, picturesque sailboat/snorkeling tour in Puerto Rico that ended when the main sail tore clear in two right above my head and we had to navigate the seas on a 20hp backup engine.
  43. Paddling through a mangrove forest at twilight.
  44. Dipping my hand into a luminescent bay and watching as the lives of billions of bacteria extinguished in a light display worthy of Pandora.
  45. Swimming under a waterfall in the El Yunque rainforest.
  46. The Segway tour of Old San Juan.
  47. Discovering the mysterious and dangerous La Perla.
  48. Chowing down on the salted caramel ice cream at Molly Moon’s. Sweet pancakes it was amazing.
  49. Touring the Spragpole museum and eating huckleberry shakes in the middle of nowhere, Idaho, with the Elliotts.
  50. Having my sisters and father in Sedalia this year and getting to show them off to all my ragtime peeps.
  51. Completely screwing up the piano accompaniment to “Mister Rogers” and earning the ire of “Handyman Joe” Negri at the concert to benefit the earthquake victims in Japan.
  52. Resenting Jess’ desire to get bunnies. Getting the bunnies. Hating the bunnies. Slowly coming to love the bunnies. Now inseparable from the bunnies.
  53. Two words: crisis beard!
  54. Watching the Super Bowl at Dukes and Boots, drinking myself silly on Captain and Diet, and playing pool with JC while being unable to feel my hands.
  55. Staying with Jerry and Mary Grace, while in Kansas City, and feeling like their adopted child.
  56. Losing my brand new Zoom H2 recorder in Eau Claire without ever having had the chance to even turn it on.
  57. Jamming with guitarist Craig Ventresco at the hotel bar and just looking on in wonder at how amazing he was.
  58. Recording “The Entertainer” with a couple of ragtime crazies on an old upright outside in 20-degree weather.
  59. Holding Ava Lynn Lee for the first time.
  60. Lisa’s 30th birthday party at Secrets in DC where I saw more perfect flying penis than you could shake a stick at.
  61. Making Bryan Wright scat-sing to “Charleston Rag” before an audience of 200 people and play coconuts, washboard, and scat sing in front of 600 (all while wearing a tuxedo).
  62. Having Yuko bring cookies and Red Bull, and give great massages to get me through the late-night recording sessions for Handful of Keys.
  63. Playing laser tag against vicious 12-year-old girls with my DC friends for my 29th birthday.
  64. Streaking naked through the woods in drunken glee at the cabin for New Years.
  65. Failing to finish Monsters!, the children’s book that I was writing for an app on the App Store.
  66. Writing 10k words in my novel at WW’11. Medium-core anal has never been more productive.
  67. Hearing that my version of the “Tiny Toons” theme delighted series creator Tom Ruegger, who later friended me on Facebook and posted it for all his friends to see.
  68. The fantastic Riskino night, with big wins at the craps table and my first Risk victory against three former champions.
  69. The horrific (but still fun) That’s Me Lucky Rolls craps outing where I lost all the money I won at Riskino night.
  70. Speaking of losing money, I blew my own mind when I spent $700 on two coats, four shirts, and two pairs of jeans after my concert.
  71. The wonderful gift of Rebecca Sheir and my interview with NPR that brought folks to my show, sold a bunch of my CDs, and gave me the mountain-fresh scent of musical legitimacy.
  72. Surviving a dark night of my soul in March (and not leaving any puke in the ZipCar afterwards… whew.)
  73. The first moment when I composed with the chorus from the EastWest symphonic library where all of a sudden a whole new world of possibilities opened up and I discovered a new sound inside of myself.
  74. The great appreciation of dark beer I developed drinking with Chuck and talking about work.
  75. Having the tour guide at the Bayernhof Museum get mad at anyone in our tour group who asked a question.
  76. Driving through the misty, snow-kissed mountains and auburn, windswept plains of the West on our way to Seattle.
  77. Premiering “The Smoky Rose” for Danny Matson in Eau Claire, and having it go on to win the composition contest in Peoria.
  78. Failing to get a Grammy nomination despite talking and acting and dreaming like I would get one. Thanks for nothing, law of attraction and The Secret.
  79. The standing ovation I got after the 10PM show at the Black Fox that filled every pore of my body with excitement.
  80. Watching the last Harry Potter movie and realizing that the first movie had come out 10 years earlier, right as I was graduating film school, and even after 10 years I still had not finished my Star Wars movie.
  81. Filming the videos for my brother’s website,, and feeling a small flame enkindle within me that said, “You should do more of this!”
  82. Walking around New York City in women’s shoes, and then no shoes.
  83. Living to see another awesome Muppet movie be released in theaters.
  84. Discovering Austin Kleon and reading about how to “steal like an artist.” From Austin: “Make the art you want to see. Write the stories you want to read. Play the music you want to hear.”
  85. Deciding we were moving out of our apartment, only to decide to stay in it two months later.
  86. Reading the eulogy Steve Jobs’ sister wrote for him in the New York Times and wishing I could impact one person the way he impacted millions.
  87. Impromptu dinner party with Jess, Bill, Dasha, Bryan, and Yuko in NYC and feeling like a wealthy person.
  88. Max Morath saying, “I recognize you as a major pianist.”
  89. Preparing for Hurricane Irene for days and then having absolutely nothing interesting come out of it except a small leak in the ceiling.
  90. Having the gang say, “The champ is [whatever mundane thing I was doing or feeling]!” every time I did something in Peoria after winning the trophy.
  91. Finally seeing Les Miserables live and learning what all the fuss was about. Other theater highlights: Billy Elliot, Mary Poppins, and Memphis!
  92. Having a moth fly into my ear in Adams Morgan, drowning the moth inside my ear with earwax remover, and then having to go to the ER to have the moth removed.
  93. Looking up through the ancient purple glass in the sidewalks as Jess and I took the underground tour of Seattle.
  94. Hearing Dalton Ridenhour’s take on the blues at Mimi and Friends in Versailles, MO.
  95. Realizing I’d gained back 30lbs of the 75lbs that I lost in 2010. Dammit. See #74 as to why.
  96. Shoveling the driveway of my host family as Artist in Residence for the SJF.
  97. Nearly losing my job because of, and being given brand new Mac Pro by, the same people in one week.
  98. Canceling, un-canceling, canceling, un-canceling, canceling, and then putting on my show on November 12th.
  99. Improvising on “Amazing Grace” at 3 AM in Bellefield Hall, with nothing but the happy silence of creation and a perfect 9’ Steinway to accompany me.
  100. Looking out upon the night sky at Writer’s Weekend and its thousands of stars when suddenly, in the night, the largest shooting star I’d ever seen streaked across the sky and I wished the same wish I always do, the one that I hope comes true…


9 Comments to “The Top 100 Moments of 2011”

  1. Barb_in_GA
    Happy New Year, Mr. Spitznagel! Your music and zest for living continue to delight this reader. May 2012 be all you desire.
  2. Martin
    Thanks, Barb! I hope 2012 brings us all many blessings.
  3. Daniel Levi
    I am honored to have made the list*! The time and energy I put into music is such a big part of my life now. Just in the last year, I've gotten a piano, started taking lessons, went to a number of ragtime events around the country, and two co-workers have also recently started playing piano, somehow inspired by my never shutting up about ragtime. And it all started because of the wonderful music and warm reception I received from you and the rest of the crowd back in Eau Claire a year ago. Thanks! *I'll just assume #35 isn't one of the Hitler Moments. :)
  4. Martin
    Thrilled to hear it, Daniel. Thanks for reading and for posting, and I look forward to all the musical adventures yet to come for you!
  5. Ma
    Martin, I love your redesigned site and all its newsy content, a unique mix of business and personal. It's neat to think we can continue to refresh our brand as life's adventures shape us. Thanks so much for sharing your 2011 moments. Now, it's off to creating "Martin 2012"! Love ya, Ma
  6. Richard Dowling
    Well, well...*I* made your top 100...boy am I honored! Yes, duetting Zez Confrey's "Dizzy Fingers" with you in Baltimore at the Schwarz Jam Party was a real treat...but hey, for me my Top 100 2011 Martin Moment would have been the fact that you and Jess (and Bryan and Yuko) came to Jim's and my wedding in New York on December 11th. THAT was really, REALLY special. Thank you again for making the effort to be there. It really meant so much to Jim and me. Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks at the Blind Boone hearing you play of course...and also for us to get to spend time with Mr. Morath. THAT definitely will be in your Top 100 for 2012, right? XXOO --- Richard
  7. Martin
    Richard! Any time with you is a highlight :) Jess and I had a wonderful time at your wedding and were so touched to be included in the celebration. I simply cannot wait to see you in Columbia, and no doubt we'll have much ragtime geekery to share with Mr. Morath in attendance! Top moments for sure!
  8. Miguel
    Hello Bob, I just discovered your wibeste. I had looked up Scott Joplin because I just learned The Entertainer( a fairly simple flatpicking version). I got on YouTube to watch other people's versions and discovered Maple Leaf Rag and saw your version of it. I really like your playing and thank you for the Maple Leaf Rag transcription! Victor in Boaz Ky.

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