The Music Man or Every Good Boy Does Fine

My first formal introduction to music was as a 3rd grader in 1960. Mr. Applebaum was hired at our school to teach us music appreciation. Apparently, someone made a donation to our poor private school to give us this luxury beyond mere reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. Applebaum was a roly-poly guy but with an authoritative attitude. Even though he looked like an easy mark, no one messed with him. Besides, he carried a long wooden pointer (but with a rubber tip) to emphasize the words that came out of his mouth. Or maybe he was just a creature of habit as he also conducted a band.

Mr. Applebaum never called us by our first names- it was always mister or miss so-and-so. Even though he was dealing with eight year old kids, it was all business. His life was music and he expected everyone else to share the same enthusiasm.

Fifty years later, I still remember the music associations that were drilled into the deep recesses of my mind: EGBDF- or “every good boy does fine”, as well as FACE. Both of these acronyms are notes in ascension placed in between each other. In other words, it starts with E, then F, followed by G, then A, B, C, D, E and finally F. Supposedly, you can place the first E on one the of lower lines or spaces on a musical graph and you will never forget how to sight read music. Okay, if you say so.

Mr. Applebaum wanted to show the school authority as well as parents that his charges were getting bang for the buck. He organized both a choir and a small school band. His trademark conducting method was to arrange all songs that were to be played with musical instruments to start with the same two beat staccato lead in as he waved his magical wand. It was very common and comical to witness the Star Spangled Banner start like this: “one, two, one two, one two, (slow down the beat) Oh.. Oh.. say (pause) can (pause) you (pause) see…”

Years later, good old Applebaum convinced the private high school board to let him put together a play production for my senior class. Nine and a half years after I first observed his baton waving shenanigans and marching band staccato, he was at it again and for four performances of My Fair Lady, the audience heard songs like “Loverly” and “I Should Have Danced All Night” start with the ubiquitous “one, two, one, two, one two..” I was one of the few who was in on the secret as only a couple of my 3rd grade classmates had gone on to the same high school. I guess Mr. Applebaum thought of himself as another Professor Harold Hill.

The next year as a freshman in college I took Music 101. I could read the sheet music and play half well a recorder but the lady music teacher did not share my sense of rhythm and gave me my first D. I had one more in Speech and Performing Arts but for the next three and a half years in a normal discipline of coursework I got mostly A’s and a couple of B’s and ended up graduating with honors.

About a dozen years later, I decided to take voice lessons as a lark. Again, I had to get used to sight reading a musical composition sheet. This time, though, there were words in Italian all over the page. My instructor, a Doctor of Music no less, kept on telling me to sing from the diaphragm. The next time I came to his place for a lesson, I brought one with me and asked him how I could sing through it. That’s when he threw me out and that was the end of music as a hobby. I don’t sing in the shower but I do in my car. Now that people talk on their cell phones while driving, with the window raised, most people can’t tell if I am making a fool of myself or breaking the law. Aren’t the two mutually exclusive?

Running From Presidency

My fellow Americans, I come to you today to announce that I am throwing my hat into the ring and running for President. I am the candidate of the Enough Already Party. This is our platform: Don’t vote for me if you fall into any of the following categories-

You smoke. You are not only killing yourself, but also stinking up the place. Do you really think that when you walk outside to puff that the stench that clings to your clothes magically dissipates when you go back inside the building and come in contact with more intelligent people?

You have a tattoo. Does that make you a man- or I guess nowadays, too- a woman? Audie Murphy got more medals for killing the enemy and taking slugs than any other soldier during World War Two and he didn’t have his skin etched. Nor did George Washington. Toughness is an inner strength, not bragging about your permanently artistic statement.

You talk on the phone or text while driving. Yesterday I was five cars back in the right-most lane on the expressway. It was moving at a clip at least 20 miles per hour slower that the other two lanes. Why? Well, when I was able to finally switch to the middle lane and close the gap, I saw that the lead car contained a female driver who was holding her precious I-Phone in one hand yapping on it oblivious to everyone else while proceeding at forty-five miles and hour. The car in front of her was 15 lengths in front. I wanted to run her off the road onto the shoulder or worse. If you use a hands-free device- never mind.

You switch lanes without signaling. Your lack of consideration causes the driver behind to slam on the brakes because you decided to dart in front to be king of the lane.

You go into a self-service checkout lane or walk up to an ATM device with no freaking clue how to use said equipment. So, you just stare hoping that the machine will figure it out for you and couldn’t care less how long everyone standing behind you has to wait. Oh, I forget- at the checkout line, you have 18 items in your basket and the fellow doing the dance behind you has only two.

You work for a telemarketer. Enough said.

You think beer commercials are just grand.

You own oil stock.

You think “you know” is a conjunction and”okay” is a preposition that leads into all questions.

You think the baseball season should start before May and sitting in an open-air football stadium with the temperature below 25 degrees is proof of your virility.

You believe that when someone apologizes they truly mean it.

As for the rest of you, I expect all twenty-five remaining registered voters will give full support to my candidacy.

Thank you.

A Bridge Too Close

skyway_bridgeEveryone has their phobias. One of mine is traveling over a bridge, presumably even over non-troubled waters. It all started when I was a little kid in the late 1950’s. We lived on Chicago’s Far West Side a few blocks from the newly constructed Congress Highway (years later it would be renamed the Eisenhower Expressway). On Sunday family outings, Dad would take the Congress (until today I still call it this) east towards the Loop, the downtown area. The end of the highway was signified by the gigantic US Post Office built smack dab on top of it. I understand that they built it with the cutout for the normal height of semi-trailer truck traffic in mind. After you went under the building tunnel, you were immediately hit with crossing over the Chicago River. At that spot, the river was no more than fifty or so feet wide. For a kid it was terrifying going over the steel waffle-like bridge pavement rather than solid cement. I was convinced that the ground beneath us was not sturdy and that we would eventually fall into the river.
Continue reading “A Bridge Too Close”