A Sharp Turn in the Road

Though I’m on FaceBook and enjoy seeing news and humor from friends and former students, there are changes I’ve been observing over the past few months that are draping an ugly shroud over that social experience.

I thought that, especially during the Covid-19 Pandemic, we might all be able to lift up one another in supportive and sympathetic ways as a nation. My miscalculation in that regard has been nothing less than cosmic. The increasing rancor and division in our nation, often based upon blind party loyalty, social class, skin color, misguided and twisted religious fervor, and utter paranoia, have turned the country upside down in a vortex of suspicion. I suspect that all these reasons have been bubbling like molten lava beneath the surface of whatever social equanimity we at least thought we had before.

Composure, discussion (not wrangling), and actual reasoning seem now to be on hiatus in favor of passionate denunciation of one group or political party by another in the most insultingly simple ways. Both sides are guilty of this, but the problem is that the two sides rarely if ever anymore merge for the good of the nation, where there is terrible need amid the rage of name-calling and constant accusation hurled hourly by one party at the other…in both directions. What does this solve? “Nothing” is the correct response, friends. If Vladimir Putin himself were the puppet master (which I believe he may well be), he couldn’t be pulling the strings for his own benefit more successfully in order to encourage our self-destruction.

On FaceBook there are posts every few minutes, not of news and facts, but of stories about supposed evil plots (i.e. mail fraud, blown way out of proportion for the benefit of the current administration) that make the National Enquirer look like The Farmer’s Almanac. Much of this, of course, has to do with terrified and suspicious people who find comfort in myths about conspiracy theories, ones that are shared as “factual” instead of the absurd, dangerous lies they are. Such terror and hopelessness are, I believe,  origins and nursemaids of the terrifying “Q” phenomenon upon which history will someday look back the way we now see the appalling ignorance and horror of The Dark Ages. High emotion based upon hunches and preconceptions are being systematically tweaked and polished as actual news by those whose blind worship of our current leader in The White House couldn’t be more terrifyingly strange if it were based upon Voodoo, or secret mass lobotomies after which the scars are covered by hair and the victims continue to function, but in the most bizarre ways. The real reason for the sudden and massive changes in limiting voting rights has nothing to do with facts, but rather with fear that the current jig may be up for our current absolute monarch.  JB

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Regarding Change through Race Relations in America

In 1963 I read Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, for the first time in the American Literature class of a superb teacher, Mrs. Bernice Johnson. She taught the book through free discussion and application to whatever was familiar to us in Northern Indiana, where at that time there were only a few black students in our school. Our city was next to Gary, the place where the number of black residents had risen dramatically during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. I knew little about race relations then until after reading Harper Lee’s wonderful book. My only contacts with black people were at bus depots and occasionally at the public library. Some of my experiences with them involved friendly discussion or just getting or giving directions to certain places. There was little idea in my mind about oppression or the treatment blacks received in their daily lives in Northwest Indiana.

Some level of change came gradually through the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Stokley Carmichael, Shirley Chisolm, and others renowned for their compassion, intelligence, and ability to lead and bring about some level of change. That change became more visible in the mid 1960’s through peaceful marches, books, and visibility of eloquent blacks who conveyed messages of hope for those who were oppressed in a nation filled with white denial and lack of sympathy, due to an appalling lack of experience with black folks (and vice versa). There was so much presumption on both sides through comments like one from an uncle of mine who deemed black people “lazy” even though he was unable to name even one black person he had met and knew.

I remember being at the home of my maternal grandparents for a visit one afternoon after school, and on the news was a film clip of Dr. King and a huge number of other people singing “We Shall Overcome.” I thought I understood what was intended by the lyric, but my grandmother peered over her eyeglasses to ask (quite innocently), “Overcome what?” As my grandparents had grown up with blacks as servants and workers (who were treated kindly and generously), they actually didn’t begin to understand or see the oppression until Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat at the front of a bus, or the young men who demanded to be served at a lunch counter in the South, where a sign read “NO NEGROES.” Those images began to gnaw at the undercurrent of conscience in many Americans sixty years ago, and the peaceful marches at that time slowly brought visibility until riots came with flames and hatred rekindled, mostly by white Southerners, who were used to ruling the roost, especially being what my parents called “white trash,” those whose only illusion of dignity came from mistreating their black brothers and sisters as inferiors. The Civil Was had not really ended in the South.

Over the past few months, I have been watching news casts about new protests, most of which have been well-meaning, even if impractical and annoying to commuters and others whose use of a few large cities was impeded by massive crowds, some of which became destructive mobs lashing out at everything and everyone in a blind scatter shot of rage against anyone who was the wrong color. There seemed to be some level of karma in all this.  Of course, it’s possible that some of those mobs were staged and supported by whites who wanted the tide of racial equality to be stopped. In any case, my original level of sympathy ebbed when I saw the wanton destruction of historical monuments, which often really need to remind us of history so that we don’t repeat it. The ugly parts of history are perhaps among the most important ones to preserve if only to goad us into doing better in the present and future. Blind indignation is bad if it doesn’t remind us that we can and must do better. The wake of such pointless ruins serves no purpose but to inflame more anger on the part of those who have been mistreated by the already abused. I wonder about what level of success is expected by violent and visionless rage that leaves in its path only destruction, ugliness, and horror.

Abuse shouldn’t occur on either side of this argument over racial equality. It serves no purpose but to ruin any progress that may already have been made or is yet to be achieved.

I just came in from my front yard, where Adjou and his Haitian work crew trimmed my lawn and the trees, which they have been doing for several years now. Their work is exceptionally good. There are also black lawyers, teachers, doctors, everywhere. That connection is a microcosm of a larger view of race. We all in this society need each other and can make things work well through mutual respect, honesty and hard work. Change is occurring, but utopia is not in sight for us as a nation…or as a world. Much remains to be done through all our efforts and hopes. If I sound like Pollyanna, so be it. I do see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel (Please excuse the tired cliché, but hope is the only thing we have right now). As a teacher of high school English for thirty-five years, I taught the novel To Kill a Mockingbird many times, and when I still read it now and again, it still gives me hope that change can and will continue to benefit all of us, not just the few.  We need to see all sides if we can, and hold up values espoused by Atticus Finch.  We need him now more than ever before.  JB

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The Terrible Need for Change

The Terrible Need for Change

It’s disturbing to me that constructive discussion and meetings with positive agendas are, in too many places, being replaced by destruction of property of innocent people in order to be noticed in the media. That will not win sympathy or understanding from those in power. There is a middle ground where change is necessary and can benefit everyone, but blind and pompous destruction is not the answer. It gets attention but really only fans the flames of rage on both sides. There are better ways to win allies.

Change is absolutely needed, but it won’t happen overnight, and certainly won’t happen by tearing down every monument or other symbol that smacks of controversy on one side or the other. Resentment on both sides is being intensified. We change history by civil discussion and understanding each other’s needs and shared history, not by trying to erase them. We need history at times to remind ourselves not to repeat it. Injustice is still rampant and felt most by minorities, who have waited too long for change and compassion. It’s not difficult to understand the fury and exasperation of the oppressed, but forcing that anger upon innocent people doesn’t help to eradicate it. Determination is only increased on both sides, instead of finding middle ground for compassion and real change for everyone’s benefit. Turning our nation into a war zone is simply not the solution.  It’s only making things even worse than before.  JB



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Uncivil Disobedience

We Americans have been nurtured for more than two centuries by the idea of personal freedom. Emblazoned upon our collective consciousness are phrases like, “the land of the free” from Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner. We have clung to the idea of free choice as a result of our history classes showing us the horrors of strict dictatorships and oligarchies across the globe. Freedom of speech is of prime importance among our many liberties, though our broader freedoms of choice have sometimes been more blurred by varied experience, wealth, race, sexual orientation, education, religious affiliation, etc.

I have noticed more bravado recently on the evening news in comments made by people who seem to refuse recognizing recommendations and even laws about wearing masks in public places and keeping safe distances during the Covid 19 pandemic. In my entire life, I have never witnessed such bravado in dismissing established science facts and safeguards with the standard, “I’m an American and have freedom of speech and assembly.” Such grandstanding and disregard for the safety of others filters down, of course, from “the top” in an egomaniacal avalanche of refutation, posturing and pretense. The result is a perilous fantasy that everything is just fine, and that everything is under control by our capable leaders. The argument by others who flout current etiquette and law about masks and distancing is the terror that we could too easily become “a nanny state.”


The title of Frank Sinatra’s hit song of the 1960’s, “My Way” sums up the growing attitude of many Americans, who are weary of being cooped up and want to hear or pretend that everything is just fine again. During World War II Americans thoroughly observed in their homes and businesses black-out laws, as did the citizens of The British Isles. People may have whined about the inconvenience, but people were less likely to flout the laws, because there was a deeper sense that errors could harm others too. Our sense of community seems to have suffered set-backs since then. People grumbled in the 1960’s about seatbelts in their cars, but the facts about saved lives made most people less likely to disregard the law. I liken this to the current attitude of some in their reluctance to immunize against Small Pox, Polio, Measles, or any other dreaded disease that can be fought effectively through such serums. Science is not in the list of important considerations for such people. Our national “ME FIRST” mentality has risen to the surface again through those who would prefer a display of braggadocio and poor betting instead of protecting their own lives or those of others.

People are certainly weary of being cooped up and are nostalgic about what life was even six months ago. The Bubonic Plague of the middle ages and the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 must have made folks feel similarly imprisoned and bored. Today, the media give us a much wider view with many more mixed messages that can confuse and imperil many, who want or need to be dangerously optimistic instead of hearing heart-rending facts.

As a nation, we have not been this pessimistic since the Great Depression and World War II. We need to remember that some of our freedoms become blurred and even compromised when their misuse threatens the very lives of others. So many interviews I’ve watched on television showed people wearing swimwear and no masks on crowded beaches, enjoying the limelight and bragging at not being concerned about the virus, as though their stand is heroic instead of just plain stupid and possibly dangerous to others. As much as I admire and love the writing of Henry David Thoreau, his powerful essay, Civil Disobedience is not currently helpful or especially wise. “For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it.”

The worst current problem we have is mixed messaging, a yin/yang of careless disregard versus healthy fear and respect. We have to realize that this is all temporary and can be reduced only by everyone’s cooperation. In that regard, the Me Too movement has become the Me First mentality for too many. Our charity and patience are essential to our survival, and it is that mind-set that can and must prevail.     JB


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Rage Gone Awry

I’m sure that anyone can stand back far enough to see the widest view of what occurred in Minneapolis last week, but I need to express some deep feelings (maybe even thoughts) about that tragedy and what followed.

Our national history is certainly smeared by racism and unfair entitlement, despite that part of our credo that asserts “All men are created equal.” That history even includes a devastating war that, based mostly upon skin color, almost destroyed the nation. Many of the wounds on both sides have never really been healed. Being forced to exist at the bottom of such a social totem pole, due to skin color, is something many don’t even begin to understand, but the unmitigated murder of George Floyd by “law enforcement” was the most recent of such atrocities going back over two hundred years.

Each time such a travesty occurs (and this is certainly not the first) mass demonstrations and rage have resulted. The arresting officer, Derek Chauvin, will be reviled (justifiably) until the next malefaction by police of his ilk bring more empty apologies to families of the deceased or maimed. Such folly and the resentments that accompany it are an awful blight on the nation and upon law-abiding, hard-working police officers across the nation. One fear I have is that all policemen will be clumped together in one unfair stereotype based upon villains like Chauvin. That will also be a blight upon our country’s ethos and history.

I was so proud of all those demonstrators of all ages and races, who peacefully made their voices heard with intelligence and compassion. The frustration and rage of many can be understood without effort, considering the scene played too many times a day on every possible newscast and talk show. The horror of it is embedded in the national conscience (if we have one), those torturous nine minutes reminding many of thumbscrews and other tortures without trial during the Middle Ages. I do understand the resulting wrath and exasperation of so many who feel powerless to stop such corrupt and evil behavior from those sworn to protect justice.

The other reaction I had was in conflict with the pride I had felt earlier in those thousands of people who created emotional posters and speeches evoking tremendous sympathy before the dark side of people returned in the form of looting stores of innocent businesses owned by struggling merchants who also have families to feed in a time of deep crisis beyond what can be measured by lawlessness. Seeing those masked bandits leaving destroyed stores in flames with TV sets and other appliances, clothing and more made my heart sink at any progress that seemed in those moments evaporating by those who set upon destroying the efforts of so many to bring peace and understanding through actual justice. I understand the feeling of hopelessness over laws that work for some and not others. It was as though all the work and compassion from the peaceful marchers across the country had been erased by yet more hate and desire for revenge, which are not always the same thing as justice.

No one knows how all this will play out. Much of the optimism and hope I had of so many thousands of people coming together for a common, powerful sharing of peace and hope for change melted away with every masked looter smashing his or her way through neighborhoods of cities all over the nation, only increasing the angst while solving nothing. Even though I still want to believe that progress can be made, it seems that too many among us insist on remaining where they are with no real attempt to change anything or anyone.  JB

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A View of Our Current Political Landscape

       I’ve never comfortably labeled myself as a liberal or a conservative, as I see myself somewhere in between the stiff definitions both seem to have, especially now. The terms in our current political arena have lost their broader meanings to become almost comic caricatures of their former selves.

The American political landscape has become a war zone of almost cosmic proportions, based too much upon snide innuendo and self-righteous posturing. The two extremes are rich fodder for SNL skits, but the rivalry is no longer amusing, but rather poses an ugly and dangerous precedent that may leave other nations like Russia and North Korea in fits of laughter at seeing us destroy ourselves on the world stage. The far right has turned President Trump into an icon who can do no wrong, so that wearing blinders has become the norm for them, as they bristle when others point out his gaffs and sarcastic tweets. It is a kind of worship without any criticism of someone whose ego is already grotesquely inflated and makes the more liberal voters see him as being worse than Nero and Caligula ever were in ancient Rome. Everything the president thinks is blithely tweeted, which may comfort some into believing that anyone who is so apparently transparent and naïve, blurting his every thought, must be an honest man.

There seems to be no middle ground anymore. Extreme conservatives seem to excuse every gaff and cruel, fifth-grade insult (or at least seem not to care) the White House makes on a daily basis. While those on the more liberal left attack almost everything the president says or does. I don’t know if his fifth-grade vocabulary is a political tactic to woo the majority of his base or if it is no guise at all and represents his true intellectual level. I do know that he’s on stage all the time anyway and sees himself as the star of every event at every moment.

I believe we’re all weary of trying to prop up our beliefs in the face of vicious verbal attack. We have become a battlefield of righteous opposition, like the North versus the South during our horrendous Civil War of the 1860’s. There is bitterness and rancor on both sides. Our once shared values seem to be terribly out of focus.

It’s time to see again what we might share as a nation, despite our many other splintered and varied values (under only one flag) and stop constantly reducing one side or the other  to comic rubble. Both sides have issues and values worth considering and sharing, especially if we can stand back far enough to see the broader view. There have always been disagreements between Dems and the GOP, but I don’t recall another era (even the 1960’s) when the political arena was often just a Punch and Judy show, based too often solely upon the words “conservative” or “liberal.” We need a clearer and more accurate view of what those terms actually mean by stepping back to see them with greater clarity and honesty.

The term “one nation” in the Pledge of Allegiance has lost its meaning since the days when, as children, we recited the words in elementary schools of the 1950’s. Boxing gloves aren’t as effective for the nation as discussion and reasoning, minus the red-hot emotions we have seen so frequently the past three years, replacing those gloves with a reluctance to turn every issue into a political scoreboard. 

In fact, everything boils down to the next election. Having observed carefully and honestly (we hope) everything over the past three years, people just need to make sure they vote after taking all the hyped up rage manufactured by those who prefer an adrenalin rush instead of facts and balance. Gut feelings and truth don’t always agree, and it’s hard to admit this whenever we go astray of honesty, especially in politics. Whether the nation will be for us all, or just for the chosen few will turn out to be either a shared triumph or our undoing. It’s not too late to come together again under whatever president is chosen by the nation, but first we have to recall what our values truly are, if we can even remember them.   JB

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Effects of Isolation

One irony of our international need for isolation is that we are all feeling the effects of it from our own homes at the same time. That sentiment is universal and somehow brings us together in a collective sympathy for others who may feel the terrible absence of loved ones and friends in a time of fear and mystery too.

This afternoon I had on my earphones and listened to something on YouTube that moved me deeply. It was a Spanish choir and orchestra performing the song Moon River. The song is a favorite of mine, but beyond that, it was the faces of the musicians as they performed the music that brought back that joy of being in a large venue, like a theater or concert hall with many other people all sharing something beautiful and moving…together. Use earphones if you watch this little video and look at the faces of the performers, remembering the joy of being in large groups for a united purpose, whether it’s a play, concert, baseball, football, or basketball game, or rally…and that uplifting feeling of sharing with others something special.

Let’s remember that eventually such freedom of happy, safe crowds will return. For now, we have the telephone, FaceBook, and computers to connect with one another. Here is a link that I hope works to find what I was enjoying earlier. Paste it in the web search box.

Voces para la paz singing Moon River

We’re all in this together.


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Trump’s Influence on the Older Generation

The mystery is a powerful one to me. I don’t think it’s as much blind faith as rage against and mistrust of former government in America over the past fifty years. To many, a “broken” or risky system is better than one that excludes or panders (even though that is exactly what Trump is doing). Trump’s lies are a comfort to those whose vision has been irreparably damaged or criticized by educated and wealthy liberals. Trumpsters are people who are sticking their tongues out at the “old order” of the past four or five decades…the one that used to have power and influence in government. It’s all a kind of comforting illusion with a red hat that helps them pretend they have influence on the world stage again, as they did in the 1950’s, which they see as a golden age. Their spokesman has become a man who combines the ethos and irreverent style of Don Rickles and Rodney Dangerfield. Dignity is dead. JB

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Are We Becoming a Nanny-Based Society?

I remember my childhood to a great extent in terms of riding my bike, rolling down the dunes of Lake Michigan, roller skating on Hessville sidewalks, Mom’s endless supply of Band-Aids, my falling out of trees, bee stings, and playing softball in vacant lots without helmets. We all received scrapes and gallons of Bactine over the years, but not one of my friends was ever killed or even seriously hurt. We were allowed to be inventive in creating our own worlds, like our front porch becoming a spaceship.

We were left to our own devices and imaginations to come up with entertainment that was rigorous at times but I believe also very healthy in allowing us to figure things out for ourselves much of the time. That freedom encouraged creativity, independence, and how to get along with others. We loved being outdoors. I see so many kids now glued to their cellphones or iPads, cheated out of a rich social development that will pass them by right into adulthood with too little social interaction with actual people instead of tiny, restrictive visual screens. I don’t know the answer to this problem (which is a national one), but I hope that there will be a national realization of what has been lost in our descent into becoming a nanny state. Kids do need guidance, and lots of it, but they also need freedom to err and to create their own solutions to life’s problems in actual, face-to-face social venues.  JB


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The Lawrence Welk Disaster

Grandma Bolinger came to our house every few months to spend two weeks with us.  She would stay with other relatives too, filling up her years in family guest rooms and bringing to each house her imperious and unbridled judgments on politics, cuisine, television shows, music, and fashion.  Admittedly, her taste in clothing was a bit geriatric, but the problem was that she tried to impose that taste upon the rest of the family. Most of her views were set in stone.

One visit began on Halloween night of 1957 when Grandma B arrived wearing an orange cardigan sweater, a black skirt with a large sequined poodle, and saddle shoes with bobby socks, her hair in a long pony tail secured by pink pop-beads.  She entered our house with her black handbag and luggage carried by the cab driver, and there was a deafening silence suggesting we were waiting for Grandma to say, “Trick or treat?”  The fact is, I would remember that entrance for all Halloweens afterward and recall it later as a “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” moment.

We all felt relieved after Grandma confined that long and dangerous hair by the usual bun and doffed those terrifying teenage garments for her usual white blouse, black cardigan, and tweed skirt.  Also the comfortable security of her black orthopedic shoes (what my sister Connie Lynn called “Wicked Witch of the West shoes”) brought sighs of relief from the rest of us.

Whenever Grandma B came to our house, we knew that there were certain television programs to be watched at her request.  Perry Como made her swoon like the teenager she had appeared to be on Halloween, but his singing was like a powerful sedative to me and my siblings.  Grandma, however, was always riveted by his crooning so that no interruptions were looked upon favorably, even coughing, sneezing, or trips to the bathroom.  She seemed to have similarly romantic feelings for Lawrence Welk and for James Arness, who played Sheriff Matt Dillon on her other TV addiction, GUNSMOKE.  Her final TV requirement was THE JACK BENNY HOUR during which every gesture by Mr. Benny threw the woman into gales of laughter.  During these shows my brother David and I would exchange looks of wonder, disgust, and facial contortions suggesting severe stomach cramps.

Even now I blame Lawrence Welk for the next turn of events which began with Myron Floren’s virtuoso accordion performance of “Lady of Spain,” which impressed Grandma B so much that she had to put both hands over her heart.  His rendition of “Alice Blue Gown” brought my mother to tears.  I was right there in our living room when these performances were watched, but little did I realize the longterm effects of Myron’s fingers flying over those accordion keys.


My mother’s attachment to the waltz, “Alice Blue Gown” went back to her first formal dance at the tender age of fifteen, when she had worn a pale blue, floor-length gown and a blue silk ribbon wound through the long braid of hair wrapped around her head.  By my father’s account, Mom had been a vision of loveliness and charm that evening with a gorgeous smile  and amazing eyes that captivated everyone in the ballroom. As she and my teenaged father entered the room, the orchestra’s conductor turned to see her, abruptly stopped the current musical selection, and played “Alice Blue Gown,” a baritone singing the words, all eyes on my young mother.  It was ever afterward my mother’s favorite song.

In her sweet little Alice Blue Gown

When she first wandered down into town,

She was both proud and shy as she felt every eye,

But in every shop window she primped passing by.


In a manner of fashion she found,

and the world seemed to smile all around,

Till it wilted, she wore it.

She’ll always adore it.

Her sweet little Alice Blue Gown.

After dinner one evening Grandma B announced that she thought it time for me to take music lessons and that she would pay for them the first year and even purchase the instrument.  The noose was now growing tighter, but I didn’t feel its grip until it was declared that the instrument would be an accordion.  The strains of “Lady of Spain” began at that moment to haunt me for the next year.  Dad agreed to the proposal and was further moved to acquiesce by the fact that unlike a piano, the accordion was not only portable but would require no rearranging of furniture in our house.  Coupled with my parents’ enthusiasm was Grandma B’s irrefutable generosity.  It was a done deal.  Any hope I had now of escaping those music lessons was like leaving the porch light on for Jimmy Hoffa.  I was doomed.

My music lessons began in March of 1958 on a Saturday morning when Miss Clairmont, my instructor, came to our house, where the lessons would be given at the same time each week, ten o’clock sharp for thirty minutes.  Miss Clairmont was that day wearing a black pleated skirt, a gray silk blouse, and black beads.  Those beads were an omen of things to come, though I hadn’t the sense to be tuned in to anything that morning except Miss Clairmont’s stack of sheet music and rather dazzling accordion, an instrument displaying more mother of pearl and gold leaf than the Palace of Versailles.  Her initials, D.A.C., were engraved on a red panel over the keyboard.  By contrast my accordion was a sober ebony with no sparkling accoutrements of any kind.  The complete appropriateness of that contrast didn’t strike me until much later.

Then I discovered that her name was Diane Arlene Clairmont and that she had actually played the accordion professionally for a couple of years at a night club in Chicago.  My first thought on the subject was how terribly far down the woman had fallen. I pictured her once wearing sparkling evening gowns and playing encores of “Lady of Spain” for an intoxicated but affluent audience who would stand and applaud while throwing kisses and ten-dollar bills.  Now here she was in our living room of shabby furniture whose glory had also suffered the ravages of time among the cheap art reproductions like our faded prints of “The Laughing Cavalier” by Frans Hals, and “The Blue Boy” by Thomas Gainsborough.

Despite my heart going out to poor Miss Clairmont and my wanting desperately to please her by doing well at my lessons, I was a consummate failure at the accordion, able to play only two songs that people recognized, “Silent Night” and “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.”  Unless it was the yuletide season, that left only one song to play when visiting relatives asked for a performance.  It got run into the ground pretty fast.  My rendition of “Alice Blue Gown” turned out to be much bluer than anyone had anticipated, and my chances of ever playing “Lady of Spain” with any competency were as great as my chances of playing “Flight of the Bumble Bee,” starring on the Lawrence Welk Show, or appearing at Carnegie Hall.  My mother did cry when I played “Alice Blue Gown,” but I couldn’t tell if her tears were from nostalgia or from the many wrong notes of my less than lovely performances of the song.

The other thing that permanently scarred my ego was that our cocker spaniel, Topper, howled to go outside as soon as I even picked up the accordion, and my family would all leave the house on Saturday mornings at 9:58, always on the pretext of some group errand or on the grounds that they didn’t want to disturb the “flow” of my music lesson.  Yeah, right.  During the year that I took those lessons, Miss Clairmont never committed suicide, but I imagined more than once her limp body being found in some motel room, her accordion unfolded and sparkling on the bed next to a note explaining her utter revulsion at having to teach music to a boy whose rendition of “Volare” took six weeks for him to learn and another six weeks for her to erase from her memory.


This was an excerpt from one of my books…a novel called This Ain’t No Ballet, available as paperback or Kindle on Amazon or as paperback at Barnes & Noble and other bookstores nationwide.  JB


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