Friday, September 5, 2008

When life throws you zucchinis

Make ratatouille. Zukes, tomatoes, herbs, hot peppers from my north forty inches. Eggplant and sweet peppers from Dervaes.

But wait, I have something to whine about. I see a piano moving truck in front of my new neighbor's house and it brings back memories of my sad, sad, sad childhood. No, I wasn't beaten nor was I verbally abused. We weren't poor. There was no madness in the family, at least not at that time. But yes, we had no piano.

In a family of tin ears, I could carry a tune. I had a bit of a talent, I could play by ear. But there was no way these easy-listening-radio-station-never-bought-a-record parents of mine were going to invest hard-earned lucre on a musical instrument. Every one of my friends had pianos, half of them complained bitterly about lessons. All I had was a bad case of piano envy.

Fast forward a couple years. In the fourth grade, our school offered "band", I think it was called. We were sent home with permission slips, a check mark next to the instrument we wanted to play, along with instructions on how to buy or rent said instrument.

I wanted to play the violin! Well, guess how much that cost. Instead, my mother found a bargain through a friend of a friend on a clarinet. Allegedly a clarinet. It was not made of wood, oh no. This clarinet was made on some kind of steel or iron, actually looked like one of my corroded sewer pipes with a mouthpiece welded on top. To this day I've never seen another like it. I think she got it for $5 -- or maybe the people paid my mom to haul it away.

So I would spend the next two years, looking like those illustrations of the north wind, puffing out my cheeks and blowing for all I was worth to get a noise out of this devil's instrument. Ever hear a goose try to honk out the Blue Danube? Oh, friends pretended sympathy, but I knew they snickered. Them with the pianos, the violins, and the wood clarinets in velvet-lined cases. I was hoping to annoy my parents so much, they'd spring for the real thing. But who was I kidding -- they didn't care. They just cranked up the volume on the Mantovani.


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    My father had a fondness for zither music. The piano lessons went to my sister. Her hands are half the size of mine. I wanted to study and she hated studying. After six years of lessons she could play one song. The parents traded the piano in for a player piano. This is when our family entered it's musical theater phase. My sister loves musical theater. I'd rather eat glass.

    Maybe you had an oboe.

  2. Your vegetables are beautiful!

    I wanted to play the flute in band, but my parents told me that we couldn't afford one.

    I finally got to take piano lessons in college. I thrived until the second semester when we added the second hand. I'm not coordinated and couldn't get the hang of it. I ended up lying about how much I practiced. I'd pound the keys for ten hours a week and then apologetically tell my teacher that I only had time to practice for four (instead of the required five). I didn't want her to know how bad I was after all that practice.

  3. PA, yes, we'll enjoy that meal of glass with -- catsup? When my parents reached their 60's, for some inexplicable reason, they started buying cassette tapes of musicals. I remember visiting when Evita was on an endless loop. And Susan -- I KNOW. A boyfriend finally bought me a piano for my 21st birthday. I tried, but it was too late.

  4. Yes! We have no piana.
    We have no piana today!

    That's why I have an accordion.

  5. Oh, natter, natter. I was given a black, plastic tonette in 5th grade, looked over my sister’s shoulder to learn the piano, played mellophone in the HS band. I did the PaPa to the Oomp, graduated from University with a degree in Music, and was always 2nd/3rd tier. But ah luv’d it! Git ovah it!

  6. I had four years of piano. I then gave it up because I was taking junior high clarinet (I wanted to play jazz saxophone or classical bassoon, and was told to start on clarinet). Clarinet was a smelly, spitty, hard-to-play instrument, and I never did too well in band because first chair always went to Steffan, the private student of our band teacher, no matter how I outplayed him. So band politics ended my woodwind career at a young age.

    I returned to piano when I joined explorer scouts (jazz combo), but we could never find a piano that was in tune and we ended up at Taco Bell instead, listening to our teacher tell about drunken nights playing in his combo at various bars.

    Later, I did take folk guitar lessons, and as an adult I took classical guitar lessons for a couple of years, but that ended after we had children and I lost my job. I can accompany reasonable well on piano and guitar these days, and break out my recorder during Christmas.

    My wife brought the piano she never plays into our marriage, and I brought the guitar. The guitar is worth more than the piano. I don't know what this means.

  7. I don't know Tim, I don't know. I suspect half of us need an attitude adjustment, and the other half need therapy. I am, however, most interested in hearing about your career opportunities in the Mexican food industry. My resume is ready.

  8. We always had pianos. My siblings and I learned on an antique stand-up grand, and later we had an antique square grand, too. At one time we even had an organ, purchased from a church that wanted to dump it. The house was filled with music, like it or not.

    Four kids: two without talent or interest. One with a lot of talent and some interest. Me: not enough of either to stick with it. There was one piece, though, a difficult Mendelssohn work, that I learned in my tenth (and last) year of lessons. I'd pound it out with glee and fury. It was the only time I truly loved playing.

  9. I'd say that your parents got off easy. A few squeaks from a clarinet is not so very awful. I was a drummer, and to this day my mother maintains that her diminished hearing is a result of my relentless practice.

  10. All right! Elvis in the house. Albert sez hey.