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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Is That an Arpeggio in Your Pocket? or After Band Practice We're All Meeting at the Dairy Queen

Wednesday started much as any day starts: a brisk walk to the bus stop, a good-natured hollering from Mike, That Guy on the Bicycle (“MORNIN’, PEARL!”) followed by a quick fleecing at the Starbucks and a ride up 48 floors to my desk where the bright lights and heady acclaim of my life as office drudge and witty conversationalist awaits.

But first, where are my manners? I know why you’re here! You’ve heard, haven’t you, that my iPod, set on “shuffle” and played during my morning commute, foretells the future!

It’s perfectly true, I tell you!

Aw. Come on. Play along.

Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones by The Hives
Setting Sun by The Chemical Brothers
Daft Punk is Playing at My House by LCD Soundsystem
Nu Tones by Nomo
Who Cares? by Gnarls Barkley
Up From the South by The Budos Band
Dancing Machine by The Jackson 5

What’s it all mean? What do you mean, “what's it all mean”? It means push the furniture to the walls! Invite the neighbors! It means dance party, baby!

That’s my official take on it, and I refuse to be swayed. We will party and we will do it with vigor.

So it is foretold.

And now, back to Wednesday. Because that’s the day, the day that started normal and ended in a supremely sweaty room full of musicians and perverse sheet music, some of which harbored five sharps…

I ask you: Five sharps? Is that necessary?

Following in the footsteps of my father, professional drummer and King of the Clean Joke (a title without compensation or property, I assure you), I was a musician myself for a number of years. Eventually, however, the need for me to cook, clean, and pay the bills overtook the time I had to practice my instrument (primarily the clarinet) and I lost touch with that side of myself.

Until Wednesday.

“It’s a great band, Pearl,” Scott had said over calamari a month ago. “We meet five weeks at a time, twice a year, resulting in two concerts. You should come.”

And I've been practicing since then.

So let me ask you this: When’s the last time you were in band class?

The woman next to me, a woman 20 years my senior and roughly half my height, moves the music stand we share to almost directly in front of her own chair.

“Sorry,” I say to her, not very sorry, actually, “I can’t really see that.”

She eyes me suspiciously. Clearly she is envious of my status as 10th clarinet of 14. She reaches forward, angles the stand infinitesimally in my direction, sits back, then reaches forward again and readjusts it so that it is once again directly in front of her.

I am transported. The years fall away, and despite the fact that I am no longer first chair, I am in love. The flutes sit just over there, perky and straight-backed; the French horn player behind me mocks the arrangement of Pavane we’ll be playing; and I’m pretty sure that the drummers are sneaking out the back door when they think no one is looking.

Nothing has changed but my weight.

And I think I can take some of those second clarinets.

30 comments:

jabblog said...

Playing with other people is far more satisfactory than playing on your own - music, that is;-)

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Put her in her place quckly Pearl or you'll be playing on a wing and a prayer. Tell her if she doesn't play nice you'll have to sit on her lap.

Pearl said...

jabblog, right you are. :-)

Delores, sure, she looks all cuddly and Mrs. Claus-like, but that woman's out to get me. But how to trump her initial attempts at dominance?!

Simply Suthern said...

In school I signed up for band. They assigned me the Tuba so I never went back. Nothing against Tuba Players mind you. They look Great in the marching band swinging their instruments around but it wernt for me.

I few years back I recieved a quitar for Fathers day. I would love to play but seens my fingers are a bit too thick and stiff to reach around the neck. I spose I'll have to just air guitar or bang on my desk for music.

In the meantime enjoy your rebirth as a musician.

Simply Suthern said...

You could try humping her leg. That works for the dog.

Pearl said...

Simply, I marched with a Sousaphone :-). BIG fan of the low brass. And humping her leg? The next practice is Wednesday. I'll let you know how it worked out. :-)

Shelly said...

Snarkiness never dies in some people. Ahh, the days of band and orchestra!

Pearl said...

Shelly, I think she was actually quite clueless about the fact that I didn't have a clear shot at the music. She's pretty old. Oh, wait. You're not talking about me being snarky, are you?! :-)

Cheryl K said...

Cool! Where are you doing this? I went to concert that Kirsten (like ear) was in a couple years ago up in Anoka county, it was so moving. Good luck & have a blast!

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl! I tell you, she'll be lucky to get more than a forlorn quack out of her clarinet after you introduce it to her catflap. People - don't you just hate 'em? Indigo x

Daisy said...

Hope you'll record the concert!
In High School I played the trumpet-it was a way to meet boys. But the band teacher had me practicing, alone, on the roof of the building where I wouldn't disturb anyone!
Daisy's Barbara

Eva Gallant said...

I just love, love reading your posts! You are just so funny and such a great writer. I'm in awe most of the time.

jenny_o said...

Simply Suthern's comment made me leave the computer so I could stop laughing :)

Can you scootch your chair over right beside her or are they already packed together like sardines?

I was in a rhythm band from Grade P-3. Does that count? Kazoos and sticks and triangles, yes we had them all.

Pat said...

I hope the pleasure outweighs the irritant. She sounds a hopeless case.

SeaD said...

Pearl, you just made the years fall away for me as well. I played the clarinet as well. Joined the band purely to flirt with the drummers, and I am pretty sure they were sneaking out back now and then. Great story!

Joanne said...

I once met a clarinetist (?) who was a ringer in the Ohio State marching band. And we were surprised at Jim Tressell.

Macy said...

I'll have a dance party over here Pearl.
It's Friday
And you ipod has spoken...

Leenie said...

So when is the CD coming out?

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Pearl, I think you know the answer. Stand very tall as often as you can, just looming over her. Then sit and readjust the stand. And when she moves it and you're playing, lean in. Hard. You have an excuse; you can't see the music. Pretty soon she'll be eager to get you out of her space by moving the stand to an appropriate position.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

You just keep up with that first chair attitude, baby!

vanilla said...

She who tooteth not her own horn, lo the same shall not be tooted. (Ripped from Gene Fowler)

Doubting Thomas said...

HA! I'll bet you can scrap those second clarinetists no problem. Now the trombones... those are tricky...

Amber Star said...

It has taken me a few minutes to get myself together after reading first your post then your readers' posts. The whole bunch of you are funny as all get out.

I took violin lessons and my teacher told my parents to save their money. It was not going to happen in this lifetime. Violin is upstairs with my husband's. He suffered much the same fate. Somehow most of our kids have rhythym and stuff. However, after our early disappointment we didn't send them to learn an instrument.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Aside from the music-stand-hogging-woman next to you, this sounds like a really fun thing to do, Pearl. What kid of music do you play (other than fabulous, of course)?
xo jj

Lazarus said...

Pearl, I've read a lot of fiction in my day but you are really spinning a tall yarn here, it's just not believable. There's a 48-story tall building in Minnesota?!!! Come on girl, stop pulling our legs!!!

Scarlet Blue said...

I play the saxophone [badly] and am feeling your pain regarding those 5 sharps.
Sx

River said...

Scoot your chair right up to hers, then lean in close to the music stand, that should give her a clue.
I quite like the sound of clarinets.

Esther Montgomery said...

I'm glad the post ended happily, Pearl. I was worried your emotions were going to link up with bad memories of school - because that's where the woman with the angled stand took me. It's very clever to bully someone by making their life difficult in a way which will make them seem petty if they complain or make a fuss.

Enjoy the band. Wouldn't it be fun if we could all travel across the world (or the block!) to come and hear it? Wouldn't it be great when we all trooped in and you said, all nonchalant-like, "Oh, here come my friends."

Susan in the Boonies said...

Very well, then: Begin the Beguine.

Pat Tillett said...

All of our kids spent at least some time playing instruments at school. One of them took to wearing t-shirts and wearing pins that said, "marching band is a form of child abuse!"
I'm not sure she was wrong...