I’m With the Band

Following in the footsteps of Benny Goodmanbenny-goodman

I was prepared for Winter. I was ready to hunker down, watch movies, and work on my screenplays. I just wasn’t prepared for this Winter. This February has been like Spring. I haven’t worn my Winter coat in weeks. Usually a light jacket is all I need, and I didn’t even need that half the time. I was all prepared for being snowed in, but instead we got days that are much too nice to waste sitting inside. I’m not complaining, but I was stuck for things to do. The Barnstormers don’t start playing until late April, or I would just go to ballgames. My hip is feeling much better so I can go for walks around the neighborhood, but I can only go for an hour or so before that becomes painful.

I could sit in the backyard, but there’s not really anything I can do back there. I’m not into gardening or anything like that. So, I dug out the clarinet and saxophone I bought when I first moved here. I figured I’d sit in the backyard and practice. It’s been 50 years since I played those instruments, so I wasn’t very good. That’s not true. More truthfully, I was actually god awful, and I only had one song book. So I screeched through the same songs over and over again, but at least I was getting outside in the sunshine and fresh air.

Then the library annex held a sale of “gently used books.” They normally sell used book for a couple bucks, but on this day everything was half price. For less than $20, I filled up my knapsack and a shopping bag full of books. I bought every songbook I could find, Wedding songs, Love songs, Traditional songs, and the songbook from my favorite Musical, Jekyll and Hyde. Now, I could go out in the backyard and practice until my lips were numb, and I didn’t have to repeat the same songs. I also didn’t have to worry about bothering anyone with my screeching. My backyard faces a parking garage.

So, whenever the weather is nice I head out to the backyard with one of my instruments, usually the clarinet, since that’s easier to play than the sax. Since the weather has been great, I’ve been getting quite a lot of practice. I’ve worked my way up from god awful to just plain bad. I can even play some of the easy songs fairly decently. It’s getting to the point where you could guess what song I’m playing, if you knew the song. The other day my 6-year old neighbor, Isabella, heard me playing and grabbed her plastic recorder to join me. Together we made the backyard sound like a slaughterhouse, but we had fun. She didn’t know any of the songs I was playing, and she only knows how to play a few notes on her recorder, but that didn’t stop us. I thought I might find something she knew in the traditional songbook, but a 6-year old can’t be expected to know By the Light of the Silvery Moon or Mack the Knife.

It finally dawned on me that she might know some Christmas songs. So, we tried some of the classics like Santa Claus is coming to Town. I didn’t have any sheet music for these songs, but we both stumbled our way through, figuring it out as we went along. Then we hit on Jingle Bells. There are only a few different notes in that song, and we were both able to figure out what they were on our respective instruments. Since it was the only song we could both play we did it a couple times. After the third time we heard somebody politely applauding. There was a girl on the 2nd floor of the parking garage listening to us. She stayed for one more rendition, but I guess that was enough Jingle Bells for her. She waved, got in her car, and drove away.

Today was a beauty with temperatures in the 70’s, so I got out the clarinet and headed for the backyard. After a short while ‘Bella appeared with her plastic recorder and a friend, another 6-year old named Lisa. Lisa said she was also learning how to play the recorder, but that she didn’t have it with her. “That’s okay,” I said. “You can be the drummer. Just use your hands on the table.”

I played a few classics which they didn’t know, but we had fun anyway. Then we reprised our hit single of Jingle Bells, and we were finding our groove. Then I thought of a Rock N Roll song that I thought they might know, The Tokens hit from 1962, The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Sure enough, thanks to The Lion King, they knew it. So, that became our song of the day. We even worked out an arrangement. I played the wee um ba way wee um ba way part on the clarinet and they played drums and sang the chorus. After a while I heard a third voice singing. Isabella’s mom, Rene was sitting on her balcony singing along with us.

We haven’t signed with any record label yet, but we’ll be appearing here all week, if the weather is nice. Don’t forget to tip your bartenders and waitresses.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


The Man Cave of the Film Bear

cave-drawing clan-of-the-cave-bear

Back in the ‘80’s Jean M. Auel wrote The Clan of the Cave Bear, a fictional book about a clan of Neanderthals who raised an orphaned 5-year-old girl they found near death. The girl, Ayla, is one of “the others,” the Cro-Magnon people who gradually dominated the Neanderthals and eventually evolved into us. The 700 plus page book was a best seller and it was followed by even more sequels than Rocky. Each of them was just as long as the original, and I read and enjoyed all of them, even though it took me many years.

So, fearing that winter might force me inside for some months, and spying a nineteen CD set of unabridged recordings of The Clan of the Cave Bear at the library, I decided that this might be a good time to revisit the Earth’s Children series. I went from one CD to the next, still just as enthralled by the story as I was 30 years ago, and I quickly zipped through all 19 CD’s in just a few days. Now, I needed something else to keep me busy for the winter.

I rushed back to the library to see if they had The Valley of Horses, which was the next book in the series. Unfortunately, they didn’t, but they did have thousands of movies. Since I was also using the wintertime to work on polishing final drafts of my three screenplays, I decided to let the library become my film school.

Many of the movie DVD’s contained director’s cuts with commentaries about making the movie. If I particularly liked a certain movie, I could check out other movies by the same director, or from the same studio, or with the same actors who impressed me. I also checked out audio books by actors and directors. I listened to “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future” by Michael J. Fox. He explained about how he, a high-school drop-out, had acquired the equivalent of a college education just by living life. I’ve acquired quite a film education over the past few months by watching more than 100 movies and listening to dozens of audio books, but the main thing I’ve learned is that an education is only intended to give you a foundation for the real work of living your life. So, using what I’ve learned, I finished the final draft of my screenplay, Miles to Go Before I Sleep.

Soon, Spring will be here, and I will crawl out of my man cave armed with more of the tools I need to improve my writing and further my education in Life 101. Some say that our opposable thumbs are what separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Now, I tend to agree with that, because our opposable thumbs gave us the ability to hold the writing instruments that allowed us to pass down our knowledge and stories and thus affect and enrich the lives of others. We began with prehistoric cave drawings and now have DVD’s and Internet streaming of information and stories. I’m glad I live in these modern times, and I’m grateful to all those who paved the way. The stories of our ancestors are now our stories, and many of them are now movies. Director Michael Chapman, screenwriter John Sayles, and actress Daryl Hannah did an outstanding job of bringing The Clan of the Cave Bear to the Silver Screen in 1986. Now, I look forward to the stories, which we will all enjoy in the future. I’m also hoping that some of those stories might be mine.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,



Gone With The Wind – The Sequel


In Super Bowls of the past, Tom Brady was guilty of deflating footballs. In Super Bowl LI, (The one named for Long Island) he deflated an entire city. He turned Lady Gaga’s amazing half-time show into a warm-up act for his second-half show.

To open her show Lady Gaga jumped off the roof of the stadium. After Tom Brady’s show, I wonder how many Atlanta bettors jumped off bridges. General Sherman is probably more welcome in Atlanta today than Tom Brady.

Congratulations to the New England Patriots, and congratulations to my friend Sally in Maine, who was rooting for the team all the way. I don’t know how she manages to get through winters in Maine, but I’ll bet that days like yesterday sure help.

My condolences to the Falcons and their fans, but, as the son of the world’s biggest Brooklyn Dodger fan, I learned that quite often in sports you are forced to wait ‘til next year. Just stay off the roof until then.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,