They Call Me Mellow Cello

Until the sudden disappearance of the Lancaster Library and their vast DVD collection, I watched about 10 movies a week. I considered it film school, and I recently learned in a Masterclass with Aaron Sorkin, that it, indeed, is film school. I’m not going to try and deduct my couch and TV off my taxes though. Choose your battles, I say.

One thing I noticed during many of the movies, was the extraordinary use of the cello in the film score. I wished I could play one. Then came the lockdown. So, if ever there was a time to learn, this was it. I ordered a cello online and it recently arrived.

Cello - 01

It didn’t come with any instructions, but it didn’t need any batteries, and I had 2 beginner cello books I’d also purchased online. I did the minimum assembly required.


The first day, I couldn’t get any sound out of the cello.  I thought maybe it was broken, and I made sure to save the giant cardboard box that it came in.


The second day, I got sounds, but nothing musical.  Maybe it’s just defective, I thought, as I wondered if I would have to call Customer Service to get an authorization number to return it. I worked in shipping for a while at Cyber Medical many years ago.


The third day, I got a couple sounds that resembled musical notes.  I guess whatever might have jarred loose during shipping must have settled down. Maybe it’s not broken. It just needed time to settle.


The fourth day, I was getting notes out of every string.  I still can’t play those first two notes of the Jaws Theme, which I tried to figure out for at least an hour, but I was learning some other things.  On the C string, the thickest string, I was able to make noises that sounded like whale songs, maybe, or perhaps, more likely, whale farts.  On the thinnest string, the A string, I was able make a sound like a dying mosquito.  Those are my favorite kind of mosquitos, so I liked that sound.


So, this is where I should now be playing London Bridges, Frere Jacqua, or something like that, but, let’s face it, that’s boring.  I ended yesterday’s Saxophone practice with The Star-Spangled Banner, so that was on the music stand when I sat down today. So that was my project for the day.


By the end of today’s session an astute neighbor might have recognized five notes I was playing on the cello as being eerily similar to the first five notes in the Star-Spangled Banner.  I’m getting the hang of it.  Purple Haze might be a little tougher to learn, but the journey of many miles must begin with the first step.


After that, Freebird!


Peace & Love, and all of the above,



Where the Wild Things Don’t Roam


I just checked, and it’s been over a month since I posted a new blog. There’s no baseball, no roller derby, and the liquor stores are closed, so I haven’t had any of my favorite subjects to write about.

How are you all doing? I hope you’re safe and well. I spent a year stationed on Adak, Alaska when I was in the navy, so isolation is easy for me. At least I’m not freezing my ass off this time. Sure, there’s the danger of death, this time, but I’m taking as many precautions as possible. The last time I left my apartment was to go to the mailbox to mail the May rent check, and I didn’t come in contact with anyone along the way.

I haven’t been indoors all this time, though. I’ve got a back yard and that has become my playground. What I’ve been playing is musical instruments. When I was a kid, I played the clarinet and saxophone to get me over a history of Asthma. It worked, as far as the Asthma goes. Musically, it wasn’t as successful. After 5 years of music lessons I still wasn’t much past the beginner level.

When I moved here to Lancaster I decided to go back to playing, so I bought a clarinet and saxophone. I practiced the clarinet for 45 minutes, 3 times a week. I only got the saxophone out one time. It was so loud, and I was so bad, that I decided that the quieter clarinet was enough punishment for my poor neighbors.

Then Covid-19 hit, and I wound up in isolation, social distancing to the extreme. I have a heart condition and I’m a former Asthmatic, so I tried to stay as far away from the Corona Virus as I possibly could, especially since it appeared that old people with health problems were the most likely to wind up in a morgue if they caught it.

So, I started playing the clarinet every day in my backyard. After a while, I decided that it was time to try the saxophone again, and this time, I stuck with it. Now, I play either the clarinet or the saxophone for 3 hours a day. Then, I decided that I would get one of those Casio keyboards with built in rhythm makers to accompany me. That virtual drummer made playing more fun, but I kept looking at the keyboard and thinking I should give that a try, too. What the hell, I thought, even if I suck at it, it’s quieter that the saxophone.

I turned out to be right. It was much quieter that the saxophone, and I did suck at it. But the beauty of having a lot of time on my hands to practice, is that I no longer suck at it.  Now, I’m just plain bad. But you know what? It’s still a lot of fun. Today I was having a blast playing the old Troggs hit, Wild Thing. If you’re not old enough to remember the Troggs, you probably still know the song from the baseball movie with Charlie Sheen, where the fans nicknamed him Wild Thing. I don’t play the whole song, just those same Rock n Roll chords that have been the backbone of Rock for ages, C, F, and G.

“Wild thing, you make my heart sing.” Music, they say, has charms that soothe the savage beast. It’s working for me. And the keyboard came with headphones, so the neighbors wouldn’t even know I’m playing it, if they didn’t hear me occasionally belting out, “Wild Thing, I think you move me.”

A trio of instruments wasn’t enough for me though. I looked at my stimulus check and said to myself, “Self, it’s not going to stimulate the economy just sitting there.” So, I went online and bought a cello. It’s supposed to arrive this week. I love movies and a cello is one of the ubiquitous instruments in movie soundtracks, so I might use it to do my own little musical improvisation for my three screen plays.

Of course, I don’t know how to play the cello, but if a guy named Yo-Yo can learn to play it, I figure I should be able to learn it too. I ordered all the self-instruction booklets I can find.

So, my backyard has become my recording studio, and I’ve posted some of my clarinet and saxophone solos on Facebook. I’m almost ready to post my first keyboard effort, too. My friend Tilda asked me if I would play the Theme from Mahogany, Do You Know Where You’re Going To. I practiced it for a few hours today, and I can play the beginning of the song fairly well. Another couple days of practice and I should be able to play the whole song. Right now, I play a version that is a blend of the beginning of the Diana Ross song, and then it goes into Wild Thing. No two songs were ever less likely to mix in a medley. It’s not normal, but these are strange times we’re living in, and normal just doesn’t exist anymore. I’m thinking of getting a YouTube account. Maybe I’ll inspire another former musician to break out their old instrument and play. Or better still, maybe some scientists will hear me play and work harder to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, so that I can go back to the bars and stop making all that racket in my backyard.


Peace & Love and all of the above,