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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
Mike can be contacted via e-mail at mike@mikeredmondonline.com.

 

 

 

 Trombone, Writer No Longer Friends

 

I got the ol' trombone out of the case the other day, just to see if we were still friends after so many years of not seeing one another.

We're not.

Today I feel like someone punched me in the mouth, and I look like a person whose lips went to Collagen 'R' Us for the Meg Ryan Special.

This is what happens when you mix nostalgia, curiosity and hubris with a day in which I clearly did not have enough to do.

I'd been thinking about trying out the trombone again after a conversation in which I was asked how I came to play the thing in the first place. Fair question. After all, it's an ungainly piece of plumbing, a cross between a bugle and a bilge pump, and not particularly cool as musical instruments go. Consider if you will:

The Beatles - No trombones.

Led Zeppelin - No trombones.

Lawrence Welk Orchestra - Trombones. Lots of them.

Funny how that never occurred to me when I was a kid and the trombone was the center of my musical universe. I loved it, and never really wanted to play any other band instrument. In fact, from a very early age, three or four at most, I knew I wanted to be a trombonist.

Wow. What a little square.

The reason, or more accurately blame, rests with the school patrol boy who was assigned to our corner, back when my family lived in Indianapolis in the 1950s. I was a pre-schooler and this kid was my hero. To his credit, he was always kind to me when I went out to "help" him get kids safely across the street.

He played the trombone, so I decided that I would, too. And I never diverted from the idea. A few years later, one of my cousins passed his trombone to me (with 50 first cousins in the McKenzie family, it seemed like someone was always starting music lessons just about the time someone else wanted to quit) and I realized my little kid dream. I started trombone lessons.

I became a pretty good trombonist if I do say so myself. Then again, there were so few of us that the bar wasn't really set all that high. Anyway, I enjoyed playing and remembered it fondly, right up until the moment I went to the attic to fire up the old Conn (model 73H double-rotor bass trombone, for those of you keeping score at home).

This is when I learned that trombones can harbor resentments. I can't blame it. How would you like being shut in a case for 25 or so years? Even with the plush blue lining, it was bound to get a little stuffy in there.

And so it fought me when I tried to play a B-flat scale in whole notes. I had to quit about halfway through. I was getting lightheaded from trying to fill the thing with air. The tone brought to mind many things, none musical. Chief among them? Flatulent cow. Which, I discovered, is a highly scary sound to my dog Cookie.

I returned the trombone to its case, but brought the case down from the attic and found a place for it in my office. Maybe someday I'll play it and we can be friends again, but it won't be anytime soon. For one thing, my lips need to return to normal size first. And for another, the dog is still hiding.

 

 

 

© 2008 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.