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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, September 8, 2010 • Posted September 8, 2010

Life’s Alarming Situations…

Details are murky at best about Rome’s big fire in AD 64. Historians, for example, back away from the long-accepted account that Nero fiddled while the city burned. "Fiddles" came along later, so if the emperor chose a recital over the bucket brigade, he was probably plunking a lyre.

How e’re it was, be assured that his parents, grandparents and a host of others showed up, hair singed and chariot wheels charred.

Maybe the event "birthed" at least three current expressions—"command performance," "hot time in the old town tonight," and, of course, "come hell or high water."…

* * * * *

Some things never change. Parents and grandparents continue to anchor crowds for youngsters’ recitals. And if other relatives feign "previous commitments," they’d best involve ER rooms and/or Heimlich maneuvers, because we "anchors" are watching. Scores are being kept, and punishment will be meted out.

Recitals’ only downside, really, is that our kids are prodigies, while the rest are, sadly, merely average.

The late, great TCU chief, Dr. Jim Moudy, loved to share a story—perhaps in "first person"—about a youngster with "zero" interest in violin who was signed up for classes under protest. The disinterested youth planned—and carried out—negative actions to sour his first—and only—lesson. He tracked mud into his teacher’s home, knocked over a lamp and then dropped the teacher’s violin. Eyes ablaze, she warned the nine-year-old: "If you don’t shape up, I’m going to tell your folks that you have definite promise."…

* * * * *

These thoughts came to mind during our oldest grandchild’s guitar recital. My wife and I made no real sacrifice to attend. It was scheduled in a next-county church, and the AC churned out cool air on the hot Saturday afternoon. And the pews were comfy.

Kevin Townson, a veteran teacher and respected professional guitarist with a busy, structured life, bade us welcome. Then, he kindly requested that the audience help keep the recital "distraction free." Included was the obligatory request that cell phones be silenced.

We obliged. None of us wanted to be stared down by kinfolks of young artists who might resemble deer caught in headlights if distracted. They risked plunking the wrong string or pressing wrong ones down. Even worse, they might bolt from the stage, give up music entirely and wind up running for political office….

* * * * *

From grandparents’ standpoints, things started well. We heard solos, duets and such, ranging from "Are You Sleeping?" to "Cotton-Eyed Joe."

I’m pretty sure our Ben was "bobble-less" during his brief moment in the spotlight.

Okay, so most of the others played well, too, particularly when Townson joined in, as he often did. When needed most, though, he was right in the middle of a tune….

* * * * *

A blasted cell phone went off! Masking his frustration, the teacher and students played through, as did the cell phone.

We in the audience looked at each other, readying collective stares to rivet on the thoughtless bloke who didn’t heed directions. We went from high beam to low upon realization that the sound was coming from the stage.

When the tune ended, Townson sheepishly moved stage right to turn off HIS cell phone, we snuffed out our stares….

* * * * *

In recital’s afterglow, we had to cut him some slack. Turns out that he had actually checked every box on his "to do" list. It included, of course, turning off his phone, which he had dutifully done.

With a full schedule of classes for college students every morning and younger students during late afternoons and nights, he depends on "power naps" to propel him through late evening sessions.

The "ring" we heard, as did bicyclers riding past, was actually the alarm that wakes him from naps most afternoons at 2:30. Look for him to add another item to his recital check list. (A pox on the clutch of us figuring it was a call from his wife, reminding him to bring home a loaf of bread.)…

* * * * *

Human foibles are with us as long as we feeble humans meander about. Without intent, we blunder, one and all.

A gaffe probably inspired Robert Burns’ poem, To a Mouse, back in 1786. It was an apology to the mouse that built a nest in a plowed field. The plowman, in the business of furrowing, took no delight in disturbing nests.

You remember, "The best laid schemes of mice and men that often go awry."

And the poem provided the title of John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, Of Mice and Men. That was a very good year, marking my discovery of America. I am told that my birth that year occurred with no alarms, and prompted few, if any, phone calls….

* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Ph: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com.

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