Monthly Archives: March 2019

The Saxophone

So many excuses to use!  Not a single one good.  Time to step up and get it in gear I guess.

Several months ago, for some unknown reason, I told myself that I was going to learn to play the saxophone.  Yeah, it was a big surprise to me too.  Not like I have any great musical talent.

Back in fourth grade I played the baritone horn in the school band.  I wanted to play the drums but the band director saw a chubby boy and said baritone horn.  I spent three years in the school band.  But I was never really very good.  The high school band didn’t recruit me very hard.  Not a bit actually.

My mother made me play the piano in junior high school. That was even worse.  Just no desire.  Can’t sing.  Can’t dance. So what possessed me with this saxophone thing?

Maybe it’s the music I’ve been listening to lately.

Not going to mention any names, you gotta choose your own music, but the sax has been right in there making a big sound.  I like the shining brass, the booming sound and the way the sax player moves on stage.  Looks like fun.  Maybe I can do that.  Turns out that there is a lot to playing the sax.  Even thought some say it’s the easiest instrument to learn.

First you have to decide on what kind of sax.  Size matters here.  Alto, tenor, baritone, soprano and base.  And maybe a few more. Each with a different sound.  Then you have to find one.  And be able to afford it.

I chose an alto.  Used.  Some high school band dropout told his mom to get rid of it.  So I got a deal.  Also need some reeds so the thing will actually make a sound.  Online.

And then of course there is learning to play the thing. With my musical inability, I wasn’t going to learn by ear.  Lessons, like the horn itself, are expensive.  So, once again, I went online.  In search of free lessons.

You Tube has dozens of them.  You can see what the instructor is doing.  And can hear the results.  But you miss out on the instructor reaching over and putting your finger where it belongs, or squeezing your cheeks to get the right form in exhaling. The personal touch that is.  But I found a good lesson program.  And its freee.  And includes music.

Now I have a sax, and a lesson plan, so why isn’t the thing making music?  Because you gotta blow into it first!

Excuse: I’ve had a respiratory ailment and I cough a lot and am short of breath.  Pretty strong, but not good enough.  Excuse: don’t have time to do this every day.  What else am I doing?  Not like my dance card is full.  Excuse: fear. Now that’s a good one!

A saxophone in the hands of a beginner can make some terrifying sounds!!  Trust me, I’ve made one.  Dude, I say, you don’t know how to play the thing.  Of course you suck at it.  Practice.

OK, so that’s it.  No more excuses.  Gotta run now- I like good sax!

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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The Magic Carpet Ride

That one is nice.  Oh, that one is ok too.  Nice and OK, but not perfect.  Not “the one.”  People spend years searching for a spouse with such observations, and I’m hunting for a new rug with the same requirements.

Some people decorate their house over and over, every couple of years or months or whatever.  Me, I’ll change things up but there are some items that, once selected, are going to be around for a long while.  A room sized rug is one of them.  Unless it’s really cheap!

But a good rug ain’t cheap.  Keyword, good.  I can go to Target or Ollie’s to buy a rug.  It will be a piece of cloth that lays on the floor.  Thin, coarse, hard as a rock, and without great color or imagination. Sometimes a plain beige rug fills the need, but what I’m looking for is something more spectacular.

The best part of the search is that as it goes on, the target moves.   That is, I change my mind as to what I’m looking for.  The journey began with a yen for a contemporary, or transitional rug. Somethieng between modern and classic. Not Persian, not geometric.  Big bold pattern.  Bright colors in the red family.

As I looked around my eyes kept coming back to blues, and yellows.  I love blue, but it wasn’t what I wanted for this rug.  I have enough blue.  Wait, there can never be enough blue, but I needed something else.  And I do love a Persian rug.

When I was in the Navy I had the opportunity to travel widely.  And to buy several fabulous rugs in Turkey and Morocco.  Hand knotted and with brilliant color.  Folded up neatly so I could carry them back to the ship for the journey home.

Some habits die hard.  I wanted wool.  The synthetics were just to shiny and thin.  Yes, yes, technology has come a long way and “fake” rugs are much better than they used to be.  But I wanted wool.  And I needed it large.  At least eight by ten.  With a thick pad underneath.  So soft and squishy underfoot.  And for the dog to sleep on.

So I travelled the land, searching for this rug. Furniture stores, antiques stores, decorator stores and yes, rug stores.  Both the more broadly defined flooring stores and pure rug stores.

I love the rug stores best.  Hundreds if not thousand of rugs hanging on racks or piled high on the floor.  The proprieter was always happy to peel back the layers of these piles so I could get a look at each rug.

After four or five stores I realized that I was seeing all the same things.  Unless I looked at the hand made wool rugs.  So I finally just said show me the good stuff!  And they were very patient as I looked and looked.  And left empty handed.

When I’m searching for something this way I always tell my self that it will jump out at me and I’ll know it when I see it.  On this particular day I was looking around in a furniture store.  They didn’t have any rugs, but I was in there looking at Danish modern furniture. Beautiful, but a different story for another day.  Next door there happened to be a rug store.  And in the back there were hand made wool rugs.  Dozens of them.  I searched through the racks.  Ooooh, this one is nice!  And that one too!  But no, not “the one.”  And then there was a spotlight that shone down from above and a chorus of voices singing “Ta-Da!”  And yes, there it was.  The right size.  And so thick and soft to the touch.  The pattern was perfect.  And the colors divine.  This was indeed “the one.”  If it would fit in the car!

The salesman assured me that it would fit. He knew how to adjust the seats and cargo spaces of every make and model of vehicle to get that sucker in there. And so with the rug rolled up, one end touching the dashboard and the other end the tailgate, I rode off toward home with my elbow resting on the rug.

It is beautiful on the floor.  Now I have to paint the room…

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Trophies

Have you ever seen a picture of a fisherman, male or female, holding up some big fish they caught?  A trophy.  Or a hunter holding some dead animal.  Trophy.  My uncle was a fisherman and had lots of stuffed fish, taxidermied fish, hanging on the walls in his office.   People like trophies.

Athletes love trophies. Best runner.  Highest jumper.  Participant. All the bases are covered.  I got a trophy once.  My car won the Pinewood Derby when I was in Cub Scouts.  It was a real nice trophy with an old time race car on top of an eight inch column of wood.  There was a brass plate on the base of the column that said “Winner.” Truth be told, my dad, the engineer, helped to build the car.  I had fun putting it on the track and watching it go though.

Pickers collect trophies too.  They aren’t blue ribbons or medals.  Just the things that we find along the way that make our day.  I went to an estate sale today and found a whole pile of such trophies. A farmhouse way out in the country isn’t really a place where I’d expect to find a lot of mid-century modern artifacts, but I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.  And so I was rewarded this day with, right, mid-century modern treasures.

When I got home from the sale I put all of my new things on a table.  Lined them up and organized them.  Sorted through them and examined them.  Just like holding up a string of fish or some dead animal.  No, not at all like that.  Not to me.

When my parents bought their last house, a rambling wreck of a stone Pennsylvania farmhouse, the effects of years of sun and smoke from the fireplace were evident on the walls.  In the living room there were two big oval shaped spots that were much lighter than the surrounding solid pine paneling. One over the fireplace and one by the front door.  They were the marks left by the stuffed heads of a moose and a bison that had adorned the walls.

I saw the heads when my folks were still looking at the place and deciding if they were up to the challenge of fixing it up.  They could see way beyond the moose head.  And they bought it.  Me, I was amused that someone would decorate this way, and horrified that someone would choose this décor.  Just my opinion folks, no judgment…

My trophies are blow mold Santas  and mid-century artwork.  Teak furniture and Chinese cloisonné.  Persian rugs and cool looking hunks of industrial iron.  Don’t forget the colored glass!  I collect it to keep it alive.  And to inspire the future to create new things.   And because I like beautiful things.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Up In Smoke!

Fire in the hole!  A warning cry meant to save your life.  If you hear this, you better duck.  Or at least pay attention to what’s going on around you.  There is about to be an explosion.

It’s an expression used by miners when they are about to open up a new area.  They dig, or drill, a hole in the ground and stick a piece of dynamite in there.  As they prepare to push the plunger, or light the fuse, they holler fire in the hole.  Its lit and gonna go boom.  And lots of rocks are going to go flying.  So look out!

Of course like many specialized terms this one has made its way into everyday language.  It just means be ready for some action.

On this particular day it meant that I was lighting a fire to burn some yard waste.  Sticks and leaves.  I don’t normally do this because I don’t like all the smoke, but I was cleaning up in the yard and woods and had a pile of rotted old sticks and last fall’s leaves.  What do you do with that crap?

The best answer is to just leave it to do what nature does with it.  But that can sometimes look messy.  And since this is my front yard I wanted it to look decent for any visitors.  Last time one showed up was…well, I don’t remember. Anyway…

Or you can pile it up and haul it off to the landfill.  Biodegradable so I don’t mind doing that.  Except that I don’t have my truck anymore so I have no way to transport it. So, the alternative is to burn it.

I have a chimney in the back yard so I thought I’d do a little burning in that for a little while.  This wasn’t going to get rid of all I had piled up.  It was more just some entertainment.

So I lit it off and told myself fire in the hole. I knew I was going to have to stay right there with it.  There was a bit of a breeze blowing and I was concerned about hot sparks flying out of the smokestack.  The air temperature was just so, which made it warm enough to not need a fire, but cool enough to enjoy its warmth.

So I sat and relaxed, occasionally tossing some more sticks and leaves into the fire.  The leaves made a lot of smoke.  And there was a strong smell.  I knew the neighbors would be curious about the fire.  They couldn’t see what was going on from their houses.

Sure enough, one of the neighbors came over to check it out.  He asked me what I was burning.  When I told him sticks and leaves he said I should just make a big pile in the yard and burn it there.  Douse it with a gallon of gasoline or so and fire it up.  He assured me that the burning leaves wouldn’t get blown away into the woods that are filled with dry leaves and rotting sticks.  An image of scorched earth came to my head.  I’ll just do it my own way.  Inefficient as it is.  I just wanted to get the leaves out of my flowerbeds.  And keep them from blowing back in later.

I used the mulching lawnmower on some of them too.

When I was a kid one of my neighbors would always pile up his leaves in the gutter at the edge of the road and his yard and burn them there.  Often without actually being there himself.  They would just burn slowly.  And smoke like crazy.  I’ve never understood how you can make a pile of leaves or logs burn slowly and safely. But I see it all the time.

I’m not a firefighter, but I have a little experience with fire.  It’s unpredictable and has a mind of its own.  It’s dangerous.  And not to be toyed with.  So I am very careful with it.   I’m not gonna use an accelerant to make it exciting on the edge of the forest.  I’m not Smokey the Bear, but I listen to what he says.  My niece’s husband said he’d come by and pick up all the sticks and logs I need to get rid of.   And take them to the landfill.  Rot and roll baby!

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Treasure Pots

A friend of mine is a professional Leprechaun catcher.  Gets one every year.  At least that’s what she tells her grandchildren.  I don’t know the specifics of the process but I’m pretty sure she does it on a catch and release basis.  She just wants the kids to see one of these folks.

If I caught one I might be tempted to ask for a share of the pot o’ gold.  Or a better look at the rainbow.  But even as a captive, the leprechauns aren’t giving up any secrets.

The other night a group of us were out at a drinking and dancing establishment having a good old time, including my friend. And I do believe that the leprechauns were in the area.  Maybe they follow her too.  I saw little green hats on several of the tables.  And little bitty red solo cups.  All empty, but they smelled like they had once contained some Irish whisky.  Knappogue Castle 21 Year Old Single Malt?  I don’t know.  I usually don’t go around sticking my nose in used solo cups.

The hats and cups were way too small for humans, so they had to be for leprechauns.  I didn’t see any, but they had left their trail.  My friend didn’t say anything about seeing any either, but I know she was thinking about how she was going to nab one this year.

Leprechauns are known for not being goody-goodies. But they are also not evil.  Just a little mischievous.  Hey, I’m a leprechaun.  Maybe not…Whatever they are, they don’t deserve to be locked up and that’s why my friend lets them go.  I think she’s actually moving more toward just spotting them in the surroundings and pointing them out.  If they ever go back to wearing their original red suits, they’ll be a lot easier to see.  But then they’d be mistaken for Santa Claus.

There isn’t any money in being a professional leprechaun catcher.  You can only really do it one day a year.  St Patrick’s Day.  They are supposed to grant three wishes for their release, but my friend just lets them go. Unless I don’t know about some secret stash of pots of gold she has.

Today is St Patrick’s Day.  A celebration of the patron saint of Ireland.  The legend is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland. But what he really did was convert the heathen Druids to Christianity.  Or chased them out of town.

It’s a day marked with serious religious ceremony, and festive secular celebrations.  I’m a little bit Irish, as is everyone on St. Patrick’s Day, so I’ll be joining the festivities.  If I catch a Leprechaun, I’ll ask for my three wishes.

And what I’ll wish for is peace, love and happiness.  Because they are worth more than any pot of gold.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Appointments

The appointment had been made a year ago.  An annual checkup.  And of course I had long since forgotten about it.  Until the automated text message showed up on my phone.  OK, this time it’s the eye doctor.

I’m not sure my insurance will cover the cost of another pair of glasses this soon.  For some reason I think they only allow me to get new glasses every other year.  And I got new ones last year. But I’ll go on in to make sure my eyes are otherwise healthy.  Gotta pay a token co-pay.  Oh well…

When I get to the office they want to check my documents.  Drivers license, health insurance card and vision insurance card.  This year I have a new one too.  Medicare. I’m too young for Medicare but special circumstances made me eligible.  All in order. Wait for the doctor.

They call me back to a room filled with optical equipment.  Lots of eye charts.  The technician wants to check my specs.  Yes, the glasses match the prescription you gave me last year. Can I still see well she asks.   Well…, in a manner of speaking I guess.

She gives me a wand to hold over my eyes.  One at a time.  Read the letters as best you can.  A, B, C and some round looking thing I say.  She chuckles.  I notice she’s not wearing glasses.

Now lets see which lens is better for your sight.  One, or two?  Two or four? Or both the same.  It’s hard to tell sometimes and I hate to make a mistake that could seriously impact how well my glasses work in correcting my vision. Show me again.  She is very patient.  Then dilates my eyes

Knowing that I will soon be highly sensitive to light, and half blind, she sends me to a darkened room to wait.  Sure enough, my pupils widen and even the dim light of the television is blinding.  The picture is blurry, but very bright.

In a few minutes a second tech calls me back.  He checks to be sure my eyes are dilated properly for examination. He shines a laser beam like light into each eye and says yup, it worked.  Well hell, I coulda told you that!

He leaves and the doctor appears.  I’ve never seen this one before.  Seems nice enough.  He confirms from my chart that I wear glasses.  Near sighted.  My vision is actually getting better and I can get weaker glasses if I want.  He says if I’m satisfied with the way I see then I don’t need to get new lenses.  But I can if I want.

He also tells me that there is some evidence that cataracts are starting to form.  Oh great, something else to worry about.  Ain’t life grand!

And he tells me he’ll see me next year.  Nice to meet you.

Oh, by the way, I love your mustache.  Are you a fan of Rollie Fingers?   Yes, and Yosemite Sam.

I drive home, in the rain, wearing my sunglasses.  Bad glare, and blurred vision.  Fortunately it’s not far.  As I sit here typing, I can’t read what I’ve written because my vision is still blurry.  Give it some more time to clear up.  That dilation sucks!

Yes, I wear glasses.  And I’m cool with that.  And with age come new problems.  And I’m cool with that too.  Know why? Because I want to live forever so that I don’t miss anything.  But when I do kick the bucket every single piece of me is going to be worn down to a nub. Fully expended.  No reason to leave any of it on the table.

That’s part of my story.  What’s your?

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The Spectacles

There is nothing like a grand spectacle.  Big, loud and colorful.  Something like a parade or maybe a rock concert.  Great stuff.  What’s not so great is actually wearing spectacles.  You know, eyeglasses.

I’ve worn mine for a looooong time.  Dozens of pairs from the geeky mid sixties plastic ones I had in third grade to the round John Lennon type.  Round, square, metal, combos, big, small and even tinted.  Styles change.  And so do my eyes.  But I still need the damn things to see.

Yes, I tried contacts, but just didn’t like them.  And I’ve thought about surgery.  But not much because while the success rate is high, there is always that chance that I end up blind.  No, no, no.  I’ll wear the glasses.

This morning I was reminded of just how sight impaired I am.  I always lay my specs on the nightstand next to the bed. Within arms reach.  That way I can grab them instinctively.  No problem.  In the shower I usually lay them on the window sill.  Right there where I can grab them.  Even if they are covered with water droplets.

For some reason, this morning I put them somewhere else when I got into the shower.  And when I got out I couldn’t remember where.  Without them I can see clearly as far away as six inches.  Which makes it kind of hard to search a bathroom looking for something fairly small.  .

Panic set in.  Where the hell…if I cant find them I’m in big trouble.  I have a spare, old pair somewhere, but how will I find even them?

I put my face up close to all the flat surfaces in the room.  Toilet seat, sink, vanity, soap holder in the shower. Nothing.  So I ran my hands across everything.  Still nothing.

Think man.  What were you doing?  Did they fall into the laundry basket?  Not into the toilet I hope.  The floor? Damn, I know I’ll step on them and be even worse off.

I started to call out to my wife for help.  She wears glasses too.  But she sees much better than I do.  I hesitantly spoke her name two or three times.  She was too far away in the kitchen to hear me.  Probably a good thing because I know I’d feel really stupid asking her to find my eyeballs.

I decided to sit down to think this through.  There is a seat in the shower and since I hadn’t gotten dressed yet I decided to plop my fat butt down there and ponder my fate.  And try to remember where I put my specs.  This search was itself becoming a spectacle!

As I put my hand down to ease onto the seat I felt something.  You got it!  There they were.  Why there? And how had I missed them during my search?  Great mysteries of the universe.  I had found them, and that was what counts.  Covered with water droplets.

I cleaned them off and put them on.  I was complete again!  And it’s still a no to contacts and surgery.  Just so happens I’m going to the eye doctor today for my annual check-up. I don’t think he’s going to tell me I don’t need them any more.

Glasses are cool.

Thant’s part of my story.   What’s yours?

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