Monthly Archives: February 2020

unpleasant musings

Whose business is it what you do in private? Why is it called private if you display it to the world? Why are we so hung up on privacy that we have 32 different procedures to get into our mail and then tell everyone our latest diseases and deepest darkest secrets? Has it occurred to anyone that  NOBODY CARES what you do in private? No?

See this makes no sense. My son posts pictures of his breakfast. I think to myself: self? Is this something I should like or comment on? Why would he care what I think of what he eats? Why would he care what ANYONE thinks of what he eats. If you were on the phone with someone, would you start your conversation, “Hey Joe! I had pancakes with strawberry syrup and bananas this morning. Did you have a good bowel movement? Do you want to see a picture of my sock drawer? I could send it to you.”

One of the things people used to do would be to hang dirty laundry on the line to air out so they wouldn’t have to wash it. Everyone would know it hadn’t been washed and it would be rather embarrassing if there were stains. It would, or should embarrass the owners of the laundry and the witnesses. So telling everyone private things is a bad idea. It’s private because it’s none of anyone’s business. And yet…

I really don’t care what you do in your bedroom. It’s none of my business if you’re homo or hetero sexual, bisexual, polysexual, asexual, solo sexual, an orgy enthusiast, or have a trapeze and a mirror in your bedroom. I don’t care what kind of pregnancy prevention you use. I don’t want to know if you have ED. (In the advertisements, they show a couple holding hands in separate bathtubs outside. How sexy is that? I picture a moose coming up and drinking out of the bathtub. I picture mounds of bubbles coming out her tub. I picture swarms of flying bugs forcing them under water. I picture him asking her, “What do you mean, ‘your water is too cold?’ How do you…never mind.”)

What I’m getting to is this: Why does ANYONE need to come out of the closet? Why is it necessary that the world knows what you do in private? It would be wayyyy too much information, I think! I know there are gay people, and I know there are trans people, and drag queens and such, but most of them don’t walk around with a sandwich sign saying “I’m Gay.  Change my mind.” They don’t wear feathers and flounce like Jonathan on Queer Eye. But they also don’t pretend not to be gay either. I don’t ask them about their private lives, and they don’t ask me about mine. We need to look past peoples’ private lives and just acknowledge that some things are none of our dam business.

You don’t need anyone’s approval to be the person you are. You don’t need to go viral on Face Book to prove your worth. All you need to be for the public eye is a good friend, a good member of the community, a good relative. How you do that is up to you. What you do in private has nothing to do with that, and is your concern, and your concern only!

Reminds me of a joke:

My favorite way to spend an evening is a great meal, candle light, and making love in front of the fireplace.

Apparently Cracker Barrel has a policy against this.


Musings on weird things

What does it take to attract people to your cause?

If you look at the political campaigns, the people running for president are making promises they have no authority to make. One man cannot change a whole system to his vision of free tuition and affordable health care if he’s the only one with the vision. One man cannot make America great again if he has no support. Why do we elect one person that says all the right things and does all the right things and then turn around and elect people that are diametrically opposed to this guy?

When Barak Obama was elected, 1/2 of his constituency was trying to UNelect him…They were looking for birth certificates, they were accusing him of being a secret terrorist. They wasted 4 years trying to reverse the election, and then when he was REelected, they spent the next 4 years trying to discredit him. Did our representatives actually get any work done?

When Donald Trump was elected, 1/2 of HIS constituency was trying to UNelect him…to the point of impeachment. But being impeached means nothing if the guy retains his office. Clinton was impeached but not removed. But he was in his 2nd term and just finished it out. Andrew Johnson was also impeached but not removed, and also finished out his term. He was only in office for the one term.

What’s different? Mr. Trump is not backing out of a run for a second term. Did he do something illegal? Something that was contrary to the country’s interests? Something outside of the scope of his office? He traded military support for Ukraine for information about his political opponent. Or did he? The house of representatives believed he did, the Senate did not think it was an offense that merited removal from office. What most people didn’t realize is that the trial for the senate is not a trial like a civil or criminal trial. The case is presented and witnesses and depositions are prepared for the House investigation. It is not a grand jury trial, it’s an actual trial. The Senate looks at the proceedings and determines whether or not the verdict of the house merits removal of the president from office. This is much like an appeals court.

Now, most people would be embarrassed and just back down to a less conspicuous role. But instead, he’s running for a second term.

Here’s the thing. If you were to use all the consultants and to follow all the polls and do everything you could to get elected, you’d end up like John Cain…who lost. Mr. Trump did exactly the opposite of what we’ve come to expect from a suave, sophisticated, politically savvy candidate. He’s been crude, insensitive, and ill-informed and he doesn’t care how he comes off. He doesn’t care who gets offended. He tweets all the time and some of these contradict each other. He’s famous for ripping people off especially when they cannot afford to face him in court. Whom does he attract? The very people that he’s marginalized! The women, the working poor, the people of color? What does he do? He mocks his detractors from his lectern. He tweets disparaging remarks about his opponents. Does that grant him Authenticity like in the clip above? Is that what people are looking for instead of the slick caricatures that have been the objects of focus groups, pollsters, and consultants to make a common person with vision and leadership skills into something akin to an “electable candidate?” This guy, Mr. Trump, not only ignored the advice, he did the exact opposite! But he attracts enough people to win an election.

You understand that the movement to “kill the rich” is impossible when the only way you can get control of the country is to spend millions and millions of dollars? If you have unlimited resources, then, you can buy the presidency and you don’t need to appeal to anyone. 40% of the country didn’t even vote.

Give us Sam Elliot in a bar in his jeans and workshirt with his down-to-earth opinions and his approach to adversity. Oh, and give him a great speechwriter, and a fantastic cast and crew. We could all vote on FaceBook and not have to leave the comfort of our homes or even put our phones down. And, because FaceBook has anti-scam software, there wouldn’t be duplicated or lost votes. Even Millenials could vote, and you could have places to call to have a Millenial vote for you if you feel uncomfortable using a Smart device. It could work.

Reminds me of a joke…2 Irishmen walk out of a bar.  It could happen!

Wail Oil Beef Hooked.

Musical Chairs, the story

I’m alone again.

I guess I should be used to this, but it’s hard nonetheless.

Why is this so very difficult for people?

I picked up the banjo the other day. It was dreadfully out of tune, so it didn’t hold pitch very long after I tuned it. I played a couple of songs, then had to retune it.  You know when something is just a bit out of kilter and it makes your teeth itch? That’s an out of tune banjo. Somebody walked by, looked at the room number, looked at me, checked their registration page, then looked at me. If I had a dollar for every time they did that, I wouldn’t have to teach. Finally, figuring out that rather than wander around looking for the right room, the guy knocked and poked his head in.

“Where is the opera teacher’s studio?”

“You’re in it.”


“Are you Brad?”

“Yes…but I was taking opera lessons. When does the teacher get here?”

I hung my head. I sighed.

“I’m the opera teacher.”


They all get that befuddled look.

“Don’t stand in the hall, come in. Where’s your audition music?”

“You’re really the opera teacher?”

“Remember you’re auditioning for me and not the other way around? Get your audition music out. Or do you have it memorized?”

“Where’s the accompaniest?”

“I’ll give you a starting note, and you’ll go from there. It’s how I can judge how well you can stay in tune.”


“Have you warmed up?”

“Um, yes?”

should have given him his starting note on the banjo, but I wanted to rid myself of him as soon as possible. He sang his audition piece passably, and only dropped a 1/4 step in his descending passages. He was a little thin on his upper notes and some of his Italian pronunciation was a little American.

“Ok, Brad, the results will be posted tomorrow noon.”

Then I grabbed my French Horn and whipped out a bit of the Strauss #3. He nearly dropped his folio. ‘Wait! You play French Horn too?’ he’d say then look askance. ‘No, I have a recording cleverly hidden in the bell.’ I had quit coming up with witty repartee because I abhorred explaining the jokes.

“Whoa!  You play the French Horn AND the banjo?”

“Why do you think I have all these instruments in here? Decoration?”

I was annoyed. I started scheming how I could bring in some bagpipes to annoy the other teachers in between lessons. I hadn’t found a good, reasonably priced set of pipes yet. But when I did…

My neighbor, Mrs. Fletcher, was especially critical. “Well, I specialized when I got my degree. Not a Jack-of-all-trades.”

I would whisper under my breath, “Ya, and not a master of any either.”

But if they needed a French Horn for the brass quintet or the woodwind quintet, it was me they asked. If they needed a timpanist for the Mahler who could tune the timpani in seconds instead of minutes, they called me. If they needed someone to sight-read the alto part for the Renaissance Faire quartet because Mildred got a frog in her throat, it was me they came to. The vocalists liked the fact that I could fit the music into their key. “You want it in Ab instead of C? Sure. No problem.” They never asked me to solo, that would be too embarrassing. No one ever asked Fletcher for help. She always begged off due to her relentless schedule. They didn’t ask Bosq or Williams or McGregor or Vidal. They made it a policy that they would only play or sing if they had at least one month’s notice. They were professionals after all. I was only an adjunct with 50 students to their 28. They were tenured, I was hired year to year. I was the teacher 2nd-year students requested. 1st years were always assigned to TAs and adjuncts, but by their second year, they knew who was the best teacher and they requested me. It was rumored that I didn’t work them as hard as the professionals. It was kind of funny that my students’ recitals were much more complex and more polished than the others’ students. Mine were nearly always the first to get professional jobs too.

This year, they needed an opera teacher, so that’s what I was doing. That put me in charge of the yearly performance and we were doing “La Traviata” this year. The lead tenor was a bear to cast! All so tentative, all so soulless.

Ben was my 4:00 and he was late. I got out the violin and played some of the music from Sherlock Holmes. Ben knocked on my door at about 4:05.


“Um, I’m Ben, and I have an audition?”

“Oh, alright. Come on in. Get out your music.”

“I don’t have my music.”

“Then what the hell are you doing here?”


“Without music?”


I sighed. OK, here we go. A prima donna. My voice is a gift from the gods. Bow and worship my wonderfulness.

“Which part?”


I plucked a string on the banjo and said, “There’s your first pitch for your…”

“Could I start with the recitative for the ‘Lunge da lei?'”

I blinked. This was unusual. They don’t usually start with Lunge, they love the Parigi o cara. I played the first pitch on the piano.

He closed his eyes and you could actually see him assume the character. Was this a real musician? His first notes transported me! He finished the aria, and I thought, “Why not find out what he knows about the opera?”

I asked him plot questions, I asked him character questions, and then I asked him if he could tell the story in a modern setting. He lit up! He lept into the descriptions and you could tell he was passionate about the opera.

“What year are you in school?”

“1st-year. Why? Am I ineligible?”

“Oh heck no!”

“Am I your last audition for the day?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I heard your violin before I got in…did you know there was a second part?”

There isn’t a second part. These pieces are solos that Sherlock plays when he’s thinking. But he had me curious now.

“I haven’t heard the second part.”

“I have my violin with me, could we play the duet?”

“I’m not using the sheet music.”

“There’s sheet music?”  I think I like this kid. We tuned up and played for over an hour.

Then he had this look of horror on his face.

“What’s up?”

“I just basically told you I play by ear! Oh-my-god what an idiot! Are you going to tell? I don’t want to be expelled.”

He was freaking out. I assured him I wouldn’t tell and explained that since he’d been accepted by the school, they couldn’t kick him out just because he sang or played by ear.

“That’s not what my teacher said. He said I could never make it as a teacher or professional because I played by ear and the best musicians didn’t.”

I laughed.

“Did he teach you how to get such a good sound and pronounce the Italian?”

“He taught me trombone. I listened to La Traviata on the radio when I was little. My parents were very musical, and my sister plays 4 or 5 instruments.”

“How many do you play?”

“I don’t know. Give me an instrument to practice on and a book or a tape and two weeks and I can have the basics down. Why? How many do you play?”

“All of them…”

“This is going to be a fun semester…”

“Yes indeed.”


Musical Chairs

“Write about a character who was raised in a musical family.”
– a prompt for this week’s CW piece.

“F#!!!!” came from every corner in the house. I’d missed it, and everyone knew it. My mom taught piano and organ, my dad taught everything in the winds and percussion instruments. My dad could play every assignment I was working on by heart. Mom had perfect pitch and had to transpose it to Bb, but that didn’t slow her down. My brothers figured that if I’d made a mistake in that particular exercise they had a 2/3 chance it was an F#. Most trumpet tunes won’t go more than 3 sharps, and they could tell by the tune about what key it most likely would be. There was no escaping it.

My Grandma played the “Mother of the bride” for me at my wedding because my mom was playing the organ and my dad was directing the brass quartet. My mom’s grandmother was her “mother of the bride” because her mom played the organ for her wedding.

Our family played for Easter and Christmas and Reformation Sunday. Mom would arrange the music…2 trumpets, French Horn, Percussion (sometimes drums, sometimes marimba) and pipe organ. We sounded magnificent with those acoustics and mom’s arrangements.

All of us kids studied music in college–Morningside College and Illinois State for me, and Eastman School of Music for my brothers. Sooooo I was the black sheep. One brother taught at Kent State in the Percussion Department, and the other played Horn in the Pittsburgh Symphony. I got fired from every music job I held.

My folks were nice enough. “Oooh She’s a financial genius! She runs her own business!” I worked fast food to keep my studio open. I quit Fast Food to become a stockbroker (hence the financial genius) and got fired from that job. Then I joined an even bigger financial company and built my Dad’s portfolio up to where he was spending $2000/month out of his annuity and getting $2400 in interest. But I had to teach music. I was addicted. I reopened my studio in my house. The difference was that now, due to my financial business, I didn’t have to teach the kids that said, “I’m only here because my Mommy Makes ME!” Those went away really fast! My dream was to get some of my students into Eastman, but that will never happen. Dream crushed. My wish was to be able to bring in a 6 figure income from my financial business, but the desire to succeed was weak there.

I play every instrument. I sing. I speak 5 languages. I can discuss science, math, English literature, Renaissance Literature, Renaissance History/geography/culture. I have co-authored 5 books. I’m a Distinguished Toastmaster, but I’m still the black sheep of the family. Since Mom and Dad and one of my brothers are no longer living, the only one that knows that is me. My little brother doesn’t know I’m the black sheep.

But because I am a musician at heart, I can know and do all that other stuff. Music teaches you how to look at everything around you and to listen intently. Get your kids into music, then study it yourself. If you have a good teacher, the world will open up for you.