(To properly write this post I need to include all the links to great old video on Youtube but this strange Disney hotel room PC I'm working on (strange but also free, so I really can't complain) doesn't allow access to that treasure trove site, nor Facebook nor Flickr nor Sorry I Missed Your Party nor lots of other fun and important parts of the web that must not contain the required Wonder and Whimsy quotient. No pay-per-view movies either. It's a bizarre world here in Orlando - summertime breezes and sun in December, crayons and muscle undershirts at the fancy restaurants. So you'll need to just hear the songs in your head, as you easily will if of a certain age.)
After the presents, after the turkey feast, after the tipsy jokes and the traditional recalling of my minister father-in-law giggling uncontrollably while trying to tell a PG joke*, then the inevitable retelling of the joke itself, after the Wii bowling games where even the little girls could make spares, I sat down at my brother and sister-in-law's sticky-keyed old piano and started picking out some tunes.
Ever thoughtful Rebecca, who had been up since 4:30 with her kids and running around all day offering fresh drinks, hors d'oeuvres, dessert and cheer, rushes into her office and comes out with an armful of music books. I grab a Paul Simon songbook. "American Tune" (found my links!) plays like a beautiful and solemn hymn and the sentiment is perfect for this day at the end of an often hopeful but often difficult year.
Many's the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home
Rebecca and Dave had bought their kids for Christmas a beautiful trumpet with engraved bell and an instrument I'd never seen before, a slide trumpet, that looks like a child's-size trombone. Earlier in the day, with a couple of mimosas in me, I took up the trumpet out on the front porch and figured the fingering for the C scale. I did some arpeggios and was ready for Joy to the World when some kiddy crisis or another sent my attention another way. But the buzz of the embrochure on my lips and the snapping of my fingers on the mother of pearl was giving me an itch familiar from high school band days. Making music for this bad amateur is a combo of fun math puzzle, the satisfaction of quick improvement, tiny glints of pretty and a bit of my old camp counselor exhibitionism.
Dave and Bec have always been musical - Dave played lead guitar in his lawyer buddy band, Learned Hand, for a few years, even landing on the cover of Orlando Magazine doing an Abby Road thing. While I was at the piano, Dave got out his guitar and Rebecca and he did a pretty version of The Beatles' "Blackbird."
Then Dave saw the "100 Great Rock Songs of the Decade" I was flipping through. The pages were much too browned and crumbly for the immediacy of the music inside - these tunes were as familiar as dear friends. But then again, the way I'm aging, the far past is more vivid than yesterday - isn't that the way it goes for us all? On the cover of the playbook was a Star Wars style swoosh on a starfield under the vague title - but "the Decade" sounds specific enough for me since when I first heard these songs I was an age where the 70's were all I had ever known and seemed to have no foreseeable end.
We started with "Horse with No Name," laughing at the literal lyrics: "There were rocks and birds and plants and things..." Dave started strumming the chords as I held up the book for him and the living room turned into a 70's singalong. Neighbors Terry and Mike joined in with gusto on Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" and called for more.
Bec and Dave's ex-nanny (she's going to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune next month!) and her cool husband sweetly played and sang "Morning Has Broken," then took us to their 90's for "Every Rose Has Its Thorns" and Eric Clapton's heart-breaker "If I Saw You in Heaven."
"Leaving on a Jet Plane." "Black Water." "Dream On." "Dream Weaver." We tried James Taylor's "Whenever I See Your Smiling Face" but all the chord changes, even in that first line, beat us up. And then, most thrilling of all, though my voice was shot by this point and I was losing all the high notes, Fleetwood Mac's "You Can Go Your Own Way." This song is really hard to sing - the syncopated line starts are a bitch to catch but I bellowed "Loving you isn't the right thing to do...Baby, I'd give you my world!" and it was my Christmas present.
*A man hires a prostitute and takes her to his hotel room.
"What would you like to do, Honey?" she asks.
"Would you mind putting on this raincoat?" he asks.
"Would you mind sitting on that armoire?"
"Would you bang your heels against the armoire really loud?"
"Okay, like this?"
"Yeah," he says. "And now, would you take this glass of water and pour it on my head?"
"Sure," the prostitute says. "But don't you want to make love?"
"What?" says the man. "In this weather?"