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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Sound of Silence, or Please Do Shut Up

Remember how I said I was an easygoing sick person?

We may want to reevaluate that statement.

My head thrums on, as it has since Friday; and the illness itself has settled in my ears.

It’s an isolating thing, having the world’s volume turned down. There is no outward sign of my temporary affliction. The world talks on, oblivious to my inability to hear it; and I’ve become accustomed to shouting “What?!” at people whose faces are in front of mine, lips moving.

It’s really quite charming.

“What?!”

See? Isn’t that lovely?

I walked to Target yesterday over my lunch hour, cocooned in the cotton-bunting of semi-deafness. A childhood of recurring earaches and short-lived career as a court reporter has made me rather good at lip-reading; and honestly, as long as someone isn’t expecting a response from me, I don’t mind the silence.

Strike that. I didn’t mind the silence.

Because there, up in the skyway between the City Center and Target, is the new recorder player in town.

Remember the recorder?

The recorder – also known, in my day, as the “flutophone” – is introduced to the children of the U.S. somewhere around fourth grade. It has a thin, reedy, yet piercing sound. Well-played, one gets the impression that the harp player about to join in is just around the corner, that perhaps a massage is imminent. Played poorly, it sounds like a panhandler with high hopes, and, perhaps, a tin ear.

Of all the things I could hear clearly today, it had to be the guy with the recorder.

To compound the pressure building within the confines of my skull, it wasn’t even the “old” guy, he of highly embellished and off-key, year ‘round renditions of “Three Blind Mice” and “Away in a Manger” but a “new” guy, a strikingly well-dressed young man in a Daniel Boone fur hat (complete with raccoon tail). Swimming in cologne – Drakkar Noir, if my nose can be trusted – he stands in the skyway leading in to Target.

He is playing “Frere Jacques”, also known in The States as “Are You Sleeping?” Unfortunately and yet to his inventive credit, it appears that he has only ever heard the opening sally:

Are you sleeping?
Are you sleeping?
Brother John?
Brother John?


From there, he repeats. And repeats. The “morning bells” in the next stanza do not ring, nor will they ever. He is doing his best to make it soulful, trilling the life out of it in a flurry of excitement and fumbling fingers. The little cardboard box in front of him has a five- and a one-dollar bill in it. He lifts the recorder up, aiming its bell to the ceiling, his cheeks puffed out.

He is Dizzy Gillespie. He is Al Hirt. He is someone who knows “Frere Jacques”.

Head pounding, I am just inches from giving him a dollar to stop playing when store security comes out, asks him to move along. It’s all very civil, and he moves to the other end of the skyway, where he can now aurally assault the people going in and out of Macy’s.

The Skyway Arts live on to squeeze another dollar out of an unsuspecting public; and I move blithely forward, the trilling notes of the recorder fading behind me.

42 comments:

haphazardlife said...

I thought I was the only one. There's a panhandler with a recorder on a commercial street close to my home. He moved beyond Frère Jacques a long time ago - to the Ode to Joy part of Beethoven's ninth. A massacre in its supremest form. *shudder*

Maundering mutterer said...

Chortle - what my poor mother must have been through as I progressed through recorder to silver flute, took up guitar and did nasty things to a keyboard! My sympathies. The alto version has a much nicer tone. Ooooh. There's MONEY in it? Watch out city of George!

Silliyak said...

Previously mentioned steamed washcloth can be put in large cup/glass and held against the ear for relief.

Eric said...

At least ya got yer sense of smell. Can I have a dollar? I won't even bother singing for it.

Sioux Roslawski said...

My sympathies...Our music teacher used to have recorder lessons, and so there would be 20 or so kids, new to the instrument, playing the recorder all at the same time. The sounds that came from that room were horrifying! (Since I did not like the music teacher, I felt the torture was well deserved.)

Camille said...

I was trying to remember the name of those dang things, before they renamed them that is. Ah-Ha! Flutophones! You have a memory like a steel trap. Not bad for someone with plugged ear canals. Hope those suckers pop open soon and in the meantime, be vewwy, vewwy, careful.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

What memories....my sisters both played the flutophone-for that is what we called it then, no recorders for us. They were generally banished to the basement for rehearsal, as was I when I tried to play the trombone. My parents did not even pretend to be impressed by our attempts.
My mother recently has had trouble hearing, until we had her ears professionally cleaned (ugh-you don't want to know!) Now she hears more than she cares to hear from all of us.
Hope you are back to good health soon.

Simply Suthern said...

The recorder is the one instrument that can penetrate the blocked senses. On jobsites we have to wear earplugs and hollar at one another. Its a mite embarrassing when you realize the other person aint wearing any.

We went to downtown Wilmington, NC on the waterfront to visit college girl. There was a John Lennon lookalike(Round sunglasses and all) sitting on the corner playing bongos for a buck. It wernt Frère Jacques or any other familiar tune but it did have the natives stirred up.

Sorry to hear you aint feeling better yet.

Bossy Betty said...

I knew you were not an easygoing sick person, but I didn't want to argue with you for fear your would take my Fluteaphone away from me.

NotaSupermom said...

So raccoon tail hats are back? Alright!

Gary Baker said...

"Flutophone"?! *unattractive snort*

I played recorder. Graduated to an E flat Bass (Tuba to you) but ditched that when I realised girls in school didn't think it as cool as it clearly is.

I'm with NotaSupermom in welcoming the sartorial rebirth of the raccoon tail hat. Wearing that hat here, in the UK, is a sure way to get plenty of personal space on a crowded tube (Subways to you).

Polly Put The Kettle On anyone?

Douglas said...

You are now experiencing in both ears what I permanently "enjoy" of my right ear. When I have a cold and t stuffs up the head, I am basically deaf to all sound. Except that which no one should have to hear. You have my sympathies. Free... no charge at all.

IndigoWrath said...

I could just fancy listening to a tone deaf crooner with an accordion. Any at your end?

Flea said...

Oh you poor thing! Those recorders are the bane of a mother's existence.

Eva Gallant said...

We don't have skyways here in Maine, and it's too cold right now for sidewalk musicians, but they're lurking and will make their reappearnces soon, I suspect!

Leenie said...

Nothing beats an adolescent boy trying to learn saxophone for awful. Take care of those ears. You may need them for something some day.

ellen abbott said...

Oh yes, the recorder. I had one. Never learned to play it.

jabblog said...

Dreadful things, recorders! Even when played by 'proper' musicians, professionals, the sound they emit soon bores the listener rigid - this listener, anyway.
I hope your deafness eases soon - it's miserable, I know.

who said...

yes, I was taught the phlutomaphone as part of my third grade private school choiriculum.

From Kinter Guarden until third grade I attended a private preport-ra-tori school at the edge of the valley, nestled into the Topanga Canyon that cut through the foothills to the Sea. The school's name was Viewpoint and I felt lucky they were part of my foundations of learning, as I do not remember being taught this, one of the most basic multi-keyed wind and reed instruments that is tuned to a gold standard.

My life, and that of my families was also affected, more personally than most, by the crimes of Manson. Personal due to the close proximity of the area his family and mine resided in, at the time. Not a literal neighbor, although geographically he lived in our backyard.

Because this country is founded on clear and specific written, which read "magically" automatically translates to spoken, these principles I feel should not be deviated from. No deviation from core values of the choir's divination chorus. Although mine does not align with nor ring true within ANY of the accepted standards of ANY religions which are today, ironically common named "organized."

So from that standpoint, I really cannot speak for, or from within as an American, as I physically reside here by random chance of birth. But reside here by rite, of several generations including my fathers years of voluntary enlistment (not drafted) in the navy.

As well as my view of having my right illegally taken from me. And I am not speaking of "watching over me" I am referring to enforcement of sentencing after citation for breaking laws which I feel the judicial system knowingly without admitting failure, following the lead of policing authorities, who inturn followed the lead of generously paid "government" authorities who set into motion of rolling, this large and hard to stop ball of outright wrong, which I being the very person whom it rolled over despite my preference that it not. The very person, which is me, who spends the majority of my free time as well as time that should be devoted elsewhere, and to my detriment, because I am doing everything I possibly can to prevent anyone else from this same thing happening, without causing any further damage (directly or indirectly) to anyone, even those who I think deserve such ramifications.

This post brought me some relief Pearl, thank you

Pat Tillett said...

My granddaughter (third grade) brought a recorder home from school to "practice" for a musical show at school. Can you imagine what torture her teacher must go through listening to an entire room of the shrill and teeth vibrating noise? Oh crap, I just remembered, it was a kazoo! nevermind...

Cait said...

The recorder player sounds like my kind of guy! He's rakin' in the dough, he plays an instrument and he knows how to dress, cuz damn, nothing like a guy in a raccoon hat.

Homemaker Man said...

What?

MJenks said...

My wife, willingly, and with great pleasure, bought BOTH of the kids recorders for Christmas two years ago.

I remain unamused.

Boom Boom Larew said...

Why is it that the bigger your headache, the more piercing the dulcet tones of the panhandlers?

Simply Suthern said...

Thanks goodness they really dont record.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Ugh. One of the worst days of our experience with public education was in 4th grade when Mr. T brought his recorder home. Oy.

pilgrimchick said...

There are places in the world where you have to "try out" with the local city authorities before you are allowed to play instruments in subway hubs. I thought this was limiting, but now I see the logic.

Susan in the Boonies said...

Oh....the agony of the unfinished song...

It's like waiting for the other shoe to

Andrew Green said...

I remember when they made us "learn" how to play the recorder in fourth grade music class....
It was a disaster.

Unfinished Rambler said...

Flutophone? I never heard it called that. I guess I'm younger than I thought...or uh oh, maybe older than I thought.

At least, it wasn't an accordion. I don't know why, but it seems like an accordion would be even more annoying.

injaynesworld said...

I bet the recorder guy was just an illusion. Or delusion. That was alluded to. Now I've confused myself.

Jocelyn said...

Stop writing My Favorite Post ever...every single time you write a post. How can a girl leave any sort of a clever comment if you give me no option but praise?

Sweet Cheeks said...

Lip reading is one of the most valuable skills a super-sneaky-mcsneaky pants, no good, double-crossing, extra-extra secret agent can master...not that I'm sayin' anything about you personally by making that comment. (Ahem.)

Feel better soon Darls!
xoxoxo

Cloudia said...

That's what I'm gonna be: the old derelict lady with the flutophone :)

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

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Tempo said...

That would full on give me a headache...Ive been known to ask buskers to 'shut the f*** up!'
It didnt clear your ears Pearl? maybe he didnt play it loud enough!

Symdaddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Symdaddy said...

Ah the thrill of silence! I remember once ... that time I was shot in the side of the head ... that after the pain had subsided, there was a leaden silence that enveloped me.

For three days I sensed rather that heard an occasional hum which my doctors, via the age old medium of pen and paper, informed me that 'my ears were sorting themselves out'.

On the third day my right eardrum burst and, accompanied by more blood than I thought I had in my entire body, my hearing returned.

I should point out that the round, which was fired at close range, struck my skull bounced off and I did not die!

Just in case you were wondering.

River said...

I have never ever heard a recorder called a flutophone. Does every fourth grader get a recorder? Makes me glad I don't live there.
Most of our panhandlers have guitars or saxophones, the kids usually have violins.

the walking man said...

At least he wasn't playing Stairway To Heaven.

Sausage Fingers said...

Pearl you have inspired me to get up in the attic and dig out my old high school box, inside is an original bottle of Drakkar Noir. Oh how the wife will be melting at my feet with the pungent odor of 1987. I will keep you posted
Did you try my toddy???? (Not a sexual reference)
Get better

Jhon Baker said...

I have been known to pay people to stop playing their wretched assemblage of notes before, and when challenged to the old "can you do better?" I reply yes. and when further challenged to do so, I do. In some cases I do not relinquish the instrument until they agree to stop playing for an hour. I am that kind of talented bastard.

Mrs. Tuna said...

Great, now that tune is going to be stuck in my head all day.