Archive for October 2009

White Male In His Sixties

My youngest brother, who turned 50 this year, called me Wednesday and said, “Old man, we’re getting to the age where you might have to start changing my diapers again!”

As many of you know, I passed one of those auspicious “0″ birthdays on Wednesday (or as KathyR called it, “uh-oh”).  I made a little run at developing something lofty and philosophical to blurt here, but just couldn’t get that worked up.  Not that it doesn’t affect me at all, and that I blithely cruised through the week; the sound of “in his 60s”, while not profound in the sense that “dying of cancer” or “symptoms of Alzheimer’s” would be, nevertheless has implications for my self-image.

And maybe that’s it: that I’m simply sort of ashamed of turning 60, in a way that I wasn’t at turning 50. At 50, I rented the back of a restaurant and invited most of the people that I knew or had known, defiant and devil-may-care.  This week, it’s more a feeling like I’ve screwed up and gotten fired from my 50s, and I’m trying to hide it from the neighbors.

I’m just musing here, not looking for sympathy, just screwing around with words.  I’m healthy, happy, reasonably secure.  I’m engaged all of a sudden in new ventures (adult band and the rental house).  I could lose a few pounds. All in all, though, I think I miss last summer more intensely than I miss six decades.

Thanks to all of you in my life who helped get me here.

The ‘Bones Join In The Battle Of The Saxes

Another gem from band practice tonight, as our director exhorted us to blend and be aware of each other (with a sly grin):

“I want you to listen closely as you insert yourselves into each other’s parts.”

Mouthpiece is still lodged somewhere south of my duodenum.

Also, as a sort of maturation of the metaphor our director used in this post, notes that people have that are particularly exposed have come to be referred to by the shorthand “bikini notes”.

Affluence Gives Way To Effluents

“I think we’re on the cusp of a plumbing disaster.”

The voice on the phone wasn’t FEMA (they wouldn’t have been in on the front end); nor was it the Corps of Engineers warning about imminent flooding in the Green River valley;  it was my son and anchor tenant, calling last Sunday morning from my new rental house

Turned out that sewage had backed up into the downstairs shower and was recalcitrant about leaving.  I went right over, and we used a plunger and discussed various middling measures involving Drano and a rented snake, but I knew that the real solution was going to involve more sweeping action.

That this was happening on the very day that our last tenant was moving in was particularly inauspicious; that it was happening on a Sunday seemed downright mean. Amid a small army of people moving enough stuff in that I wondered if our new tenant was downsizing from something the size of the Biltmore estate, I was dialing around unsuccessfully trying to find a plumber who worked on Sunday.  This was also the day I’d selected to bring everyone’s leases over to be signed.  My mention of a “plumbing surcharge” did not immediately elicit chuckles.

Finally, one of the three companies that had promised to get back to me called and said he’d be there within the hour.   Upfront, he said the weekend rate was $225 for the first hour,  $185 for each hour thereafter.  I was thinking that we were in for 4 hours at a minimum, and I was indeed regretting that I hadn’t squeezed every last dollar out of the monthly rents.

Our savior arrived as promised.  We located the main cleanout to the side sewer (since we’d only owned the place for a month, I only had a vague idea where it was), and he went to work, lowering an infrared camera into the murk to try to disclose the problem.  As I had suspected, the culprit was roots pushing into the seams between pipe segments in the side sewer.  I helped our guy heave a 300-lb piece of equipment down the narrow stairs, and he started hacking his way  through the side sewer towards the street.

Upstairs, meanwhile, the moving party had finished unloading the several vehicles they’d arrived in, and begun to actually party, procuring beer and pizza.  This, as it turns out, is a circumstance that is inherently incompatible with plumbing that cannot be used.

Happily, our friend finished his task in an hour and a half, and left me with a thrilling VHS tape of a trip down my side sewer and a bill for $350.  I felt fortunate, both for the size of the bill and that the facilities became operational just as the revelers were reaching their various capacities.  It shot the day, but it gave me an opportunity to show that I was going to be a responsive landlord.


At band practice last night, perhaps the best music teacher metaphor, male band director division: the flutes and oboes reached a spot in a piece where they were in unison (playing the same note), and exposed (not many other parts playing), and they were, well, a bit out of tune.

Our conductor stops the band and says, “Well, that spot at measure ## sounded kind of like when you wear your bikini for the first time in the summer, and you don’t have your baseline tan yet.”

My mouthpiece is still somewhere in my small intestine.

When Electrons Stray

This burst of text messages I received a couple weeks ago had me going for a while. Maybe it was because I was up to no good - I don’t remember.  For my own peace of mind, and because I received no subsequent corporal harm around the domicile, I concluded it was a wrong-number text message:

10:09 pm Saturday: I know ur up to no good

12:54 am Sunday: Where the fuck r u at now

1:06 am Sunday: If u pull any bullshit with me tonight abt being late why the fuck can’t u answer me no excuse william call me

1:07 am Sunday: I am already hm where r u at

It ended there, and I never received another.  I hope William had a good story - a head wound, a totaled automobile, a dead grandmother.  I don’t remember reading anything in the papers.

Minority Status

So I spent Labor Day weekend in Ohio performing with my OSU alumni marching band at the OSU-Navy game.  Since I don’t like to have the Friday evening music rehearsal in Columbus be the first time my mouthpiece has touched my lips in a year, I spend an August week or two prior to the reunion down in the basement blatting away just to develop some muscle tone in my lips.

This year, I added a bit of a wrinkle.  Each year when the OSU reunion weekend is over, I lament a bit that, having built up to a playing level relatively devoid of pain, I then park my trumpet in the closet for another year.  So a few weeks ago I Googled around for community bands.

I received an email that a band was starting up its fall concert band schedule, and it seemed a very opportune time to check them out and also to get in some meaningful playing ahead of the 2009 OSU reunion.  So I showed up for practice and I’m impressed with the size of the group (75+), the instrumentation and the friendly enthusiasm.

As rehearsal begins, I’m even more deeply impressed with their musicianship and overall sound.  We play for about an hour, and then there’s a break.  They go through a set of announcements, blah blah, and my ears prick up a bit when the word “community” arises more than once.  Then there’s mention of the Pride Parade in a tone more proprietary than merely participative; and finally, when they begin to discuss a Labor Day weekend trip by many of them to something called the LGBA convention in New Orleans, the nickel finally drops.

I don’t know why the name Rainbow City Band didn’t clue me in.  Probably because we refer to Seattle in so many different ways: The Emerald City, The Jet City, Queen City (no hint of suspicion there, either).  “Rainbow” simply suggested something inclusive, maybe a little Jesse Jackson-ish.  And I must not have perused the web site, relying instead on my email communication with this fellow.

So there I was, enjoying playing with a fine group of musicians, directed by two terrific folks whose day jobs are as middle school band directors, harboring a guilty secret, feeling like an impostor.  I played through the rehearsal anyway, since I valued the reps ahead of the OSU reunion and was enjoying myself musically in a way that I hadn’t in decades.

Then, at the end, I outed myself to the membership chairman and was prepared for a nice-knowin’-ya.  Instead, he assured me that there were a few other straight folks in the band, and that I was welcome to participate as long as I supported their mission.

I paid my dues and went to their rehearsal the next week, on the heels of my weekend playing frenzy in Columbus, and it clicked right into place - I’m playing well enough not to destroy their ensemble and it’s very satisfying.  And since, in high school, the jocks all thought us band geeks were gay anyway, the ambiance doesn’t represent all that much of a paradigm shift.

We have a concert at the end of October, and I understand my gay friends are looking forward to the spectacle.