Monday, December 28, 2020

Merry Christmas 2020!

It isn't often that we don't have our Christmas letter finished and sent out by... well, you know, Christmas.  No excuse.  Just lazy.  They say, if you want something done, ask a busy man to do it.   I haven't been very busy.  Most Decembers, I'm up to my eyebrows in assorted trombone-playing ventures, including performing Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet.  On trombone, of course.  Without a marketing survey to consult, I'll hazard a guess that me performing a pas de deux in a tutu would have only very limited appeal.  Well, who knows, it worked for Red Skelton.  But I doubt they could find a dance partner able to lift me.  But this year, our Governor has given us glad tidings of great Oy!  Musicians are not "essential workers."  Musicians won't take my advice.  Instead of calling it a concert, call it a "protest" against institutionally-racist silence in the concert halls.  That ought to be worth a politically-correct free pass.

When the WuFlu hit us last March, I started working from home.  I love the convenience.  The commute to work consists of stumbling from the bed to my easy chair.  Done!  No, I don't miss going to the office at all.  I like it here just fine.  No dress code, except when Debbie gets tired of seeing me in my PJs at two in the afternoon.  The coffee machine is about ten feet away.  So is the fridge.  So is the stereo.  When we all need to talk, we can teleconference, otherwise email works just fine.  The programs themselves don't care where I write them -- they're very cooperative in that limited scope.  If and when things ever do get back to normal, it'll be hard to readjust to waking at 5:30 AM and driving forty minutes through heavy traffic.  I do sometimes miss the piquant environment of our little techie building, which is an old Fifties elementary school minus the aesthetic appeal.  It does have a nice waterfront view; unfortunately, it's the kind of waterfront created by poor drainage.  Mosquito Beach, Virginia.  For the kids, we have a Canadian goose petting zoo; only problem is they're hard to catch, and sometimes they chase you.  And they do leave little tokens of appreciation scattered along the sidewalks.  My brother used to own a '71 Ford Maverick painted the same color.  Watch your step.  It isn't easy being green.

But the big news this year is I've retired, so to speak, from trombone playing.  We're selling off the herd.  I'm keeping my best tenor 'bone just in case I change my mind, but it isn't likely.  It has been an amicable parting.  I wasn't giving them the love they needed for so many years, and it grieved me to see them pouting in the closet.  But when they started talking to divorce lawyers, I knew it was over.  I had been playing trombone since Fall of my seventh grade year, which was... lessee... September of '66.  That's fifty-four years.  A good run, I think.  With all that experience, I should play much better than I do.  But sometimes you get fifty-four years of experience, while other times you get one year of experience fifty-four times.  I might be somewhere in the middle.  But, to be honest, I haven't been sounding very good for the past couple of years, and finally realized I should quit while I'm still behind.  I've been writing our orchestra's program notes for a couple of years -- I don't know whether that will continue, but I'm hopeful.  It's a lot of work, but I find it quite enjoyable.  Still have lots of musician friends, so I'll feel like I'm part of the gang even if my tommy gun is no longer firing.

One of my old music colleagues owns a music store and he agreed to sell my trombones on consignment.  So we loaded up the herd into the splendiferously comfortable and luxurious '05 Honda Element, and felt every glorious bump in the road between here and Omaha.  Along the way, we stopped and visited our pal Sam, who owns a beautiful old house in the little burg of Bloomington, Indiana.  We had a wonderful visit with him and some of his church friends.  The next day, Google Maps took us to the Illinois home of an old Air Force trombone colleague.  Illinois is a corn field with Chicago at the top.  He and his wife live near Joliet, which, if you will consult the music historians, is where Jake and Elwood performed "Jailhouse Rock" at the local prison.  Great beer, great pizza, even greater conversation.  After a couple hours, we scooted off to Omaha.  It's always fun to see my old colleagues in Omaha -- musicians and programmers.  We had dinner with our friends, Tom and Mary, and Tom arranged a get-together with a lot of my former colleagues from my defense contracting days.  It was quite touching, to be honest.  More than twenty years have passed, and they still remembered us well enough to enjoy an evening of beer and food with us.  I have the best friends one could ever hope for.  On the drive back to Virginia, we remembered that Sam had warned us about all the speed traps in rural Indiana and Illinois; he said they'll even ticket for five mph over the speed limit.  Rural areas are starved for cash.  I made it a point to travel the speed limit and no faster.  Sam turned out to be a prophet, which for the cops turned out to be a loss.  Coming through southern Indiana, the speed limit on I-64 was 70 mph, so that's where I set the cruise control.  Then, suddenly, a truck went screaming past doing well over ninety.  He was followed within a couple of minutes by a low-flying German luxury sedan.  Then, as we rolled around a curve, we saw that an Indiana state trooper had the truck already pulled over, while another Smokey Bear was attacking the sedan.  Debbie and I chuckled all the way to Louisville.  A good time was had by some!

If anything, Debbie's musical involvement has intensified.  She has turned her flute into a ministry -- both at church where she plays every Sunday, and as a regular performer at nursing homes.  Before the WuFlu hit, she was giving concerts on nursing home premises.  But now, mostly, she performs for the old folks via Zoom.  Her concerts usually have a theme -- big band jazz, for example.  She does a nice job of researching her selections and provides a cheerful commentary in between numbers.  She also occasionally puts on concerts in the little park across the street here in our condo farm, and people bring their lawn chairs.  The recreational coordinator absolutely cannot get Debbie's name right.  She is "Dee Dise" as far as the coordinator is concerned, and no amount of being corrected phases her.  I don't like it -- sounds too much like what you do when you want to get rid of all your Dises.

Sadly, Debbie's mom, Audrey Wallace, went into a nursing home a couple of months ago.  She had recurring leg infections, fell twice, and can no longer walk.  She just turned ninety this year.  Please pray for her.

I'm looking seriously at retiring this coming year.  I hope to spend more time writing and maybe even getting published, but we haven't made any final decisions just yet.  I'm pessimistic about the political situation, but I have to remind myself that a Christian has no business being a pessimist.  We have the most wonderful Father in Heaven, to whom we pray every day, "Deliver us from evil."  He is Master of the world; we just live here temporarily.  It's nice, but a nicer place awaits us.  This Christmas season, as the song says, remember that the Child that Mary delivered will someday deliver us.  In the coming year, may blessed peace find you, and may others see it work in you.

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