Monday, May 24, 2010

29 Days Until NMA Reunion

I have weird dreams. For some reason, Eddie Murphy seems to be in a lot of them. In one dream, I actually was Eddie Murphy. I (Eddie Murphy) was making an action/comedy film about an old grizzled, jaded detective who was simultaneously trying to solve a murder and interact with the only witness to the crime: a young grizzled, jaded boy from the streets. Up until the other night, the weirdest dream I ever had was one in which Captain Kirk, Spock, my ex (the psycho hose-beast) and I were fighting the evil Democrats in the vast tunnels underneath West Memphis, AR. I wish I could have saved that one to a DVD. Not only did it have mind-blowing special effects, but also a really great musical score.

Once, when I was Director of Operations for the Memphis Symphony, we had as a guest conductor --- a rather famous film score composer, Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future II & III, Abyss, and others). Anyway, as D of O, one of my duties was to wait until everything was set to go and the orchestra was tuned, and then open the stage door for the conductor to walk out. While Alan (I call him "Alan") and I waited for the orchestra to finish tuning, I decided to find out if famous film score composers had to put up with the commercial crap we not-so-famous musicians do. I asked him, "Do you ever get like the perfect score written and then some suit with a cigar says, 'Great work Alan, but you've got to cut 37 seconds from the main title.'?" He answered "Yes! I hate it when that happens!"

And I remember another incident years earlier when I was stationed at the Naval Academy Band. Herb Ellis was performing at the King of France Tavern in the Maryland Inn. During a break, some suit made a tune request and made to give Herb a fiver. I fully expected Herb to tell him to stick his request up his ol' wazoo. What did Herb do? He took the $5 and played the suit's tune. Later, at Denny's, I told Herb that I was thinking of tossing away my 12 years in the service to get out and play some decent music. "Stay in the Navy," said Herb, "Look! Last time I counted, my name was on the front of more than 130 albums. But if I stop playing, in a few months I'll stop eating. I wish I had been in the Navy: you can retire in 20 years and then play whatever the hell you want!"

I learned a very important lesson from these two incidents: If you play for money, the money will tell you what to play. Years later now, I am in the fortunate position where I don't depend on music to pay the bills. If I make some money playing, great. If not, then what the heck. Bottom line is that I have the freedom to play no more crap!!

But I digress.

I was talking about dreams. The weirdest dream I've ever had happened night before last in Springfield, IL. It was about the NMA reunion. Ann and I were in the lounge by ourselves. The other Navy Musicians were trickling in. We got to chit-chatting and telling sea stories, but underlying our banter was the anticipation that Frank Mullen was expected to arrive soon. And arrive soon he did. Frank strode in, to thunderous applause, wearing a knee length Hawaiian shirt and a beaver-skin cap. He had poise. He had dignity. He had the longest durn conductor's baton I ever saw! He strode up to the stage (which magically appeared) and began to conduct his rather eclectic ensemble: electric upright bass, a couple violins, a trumpet, keyboard, accordion, etc. The music was strange but good, and Frank, conducting, reminded me of a pelican flapping its wings. The next act was conducted by a Chinese dwarf playing a violin with an impossibly complex bow. The conductor wore the typical Chinese robes and they, like the ensemble's robes, were of a shiny blue and gold material. But the thing that struck me about all the Navy Musicians was that they looked just as I had last seen them.

Upon waking with a start, I was troubled. I got up, grabbed Axecalibur, and played an E flat-9, sharp-5, add mystery-note chord in order to summon Dracrevocsid, the Lady of Lake Taneycomo, whereupon she appeared, unkempt and yawning. She said, "Who in the name of Mother of Mini Pearl gets me up at this hour? Oh, it's you. What do you want at such an un-Godlike Vision hour?" "Well...," I stammered, "I was a good boy, took Axecalibur to Springfield, IL and practiced... but... you probably already knew that." "Of course I do," she replied, "Wouldn't be much of a Godlike Vision if I didn't! What do you WANT??"

"Well... You see... I was kinda hoping you'd grant me a wish, you see... it's... well... I had this dream, you see. It was about the NMA reunion and all the other musicians still looked good, and I've grown old and fat and bald and my right shoulder hurts and I have wrinkles and bags under my eyes and I don't get around much anymore..." She had begun to nod, but woke up and asked, "Could you be more... specific?" "Oh Lady of Lake Taneycomo, it's that... well... I guess I'm just not the same anymore." Whereupon she whupped out her magic wand, bonked me on the head and said, "There!". She blew on the end of her wand as though it were a six-gun. "Wish granted," she said, holstering her wand, "That was too easy."

Excited, I ran to a mirror, but when I looked in the mirror I saw that the wrinkles, fat and such were still there, and the hair was not. Disappointed, I said, "I'm still old and fat and bald and such." "Of course you are!" she said, "Did you not ask to be the 'same'?" "Yeah, but..." "'But' me not, mere mortal. You asked for a wish and I have granted it!" "But what will the other guys think of me?" I asked. "Worry not, mere mortal, for I have cast a spell on all of them. When you see them, they shall have aged as much as you (well, except for that Charlie Sweet. He must have made a deal with the Lady of some other lake).

"There remains only one thing left for you to do at this point..." I paused for quite a while before answering in a small voice, "Practice?" "Right!" she said, "Now get to it!" So I picked up Axecalibur and started to play with renewed vigor.

1 comment:

  1. I don't have a Hawaiian shirt or beaver-skin hat to wear to the reunion. I will, however, be wearing an article of clothing I suspect you'll remember...