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Entry date: 9-25-2022 - The Sackbut - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,


So much for the heavy thoughts of late. I need to lighten it up a bit before I go even further down the self-exploratory rabbit hole that is the inner workings of my brain. Doing this, sometimes, is kind of like swimming deeper and deeper in a large body of water. There is only so far you can go before you have to go back up for air. If you don’t, you might be down there for good.


During senior year of high school, Brian and I were sitting in the library one day because we were too high to go to class. That type of thing happened occasionally. I was usually game for going into class under the influence pretty much any time, but this day were hiding out in the library. I don’t know why I did it, but we were giggling and trying to maintain so we wouldn’t be questioned about not being in class.


You see, you could sneak into the library at Camelback by using a back door entrance that faced 28th Street. There were a couple of long halls that connected classrooms and the audio/visual department to the library. It was good for ditching or “borrowing” books from the library you weren’t sure if you were going to bring back. I still have Camelback’s copy of Catcher in the Rye somewhere and probably a couple of other things, too.


Anyway, we were sitting there at some of those desks that had partitions so you could read or study in a little bit of privacy. They had high wooden side the color of bland caramel and the noise reverberated off them in a way that was least conducive to the quiet that was expected. Basically, they were like amplifiers, and they were always ready to broadcast the sound of what you were doing.


What I did was this: I slapped myself really hard on the thigh and yelled, “Stop hitting me.”


This caused us both to crack up and we were asked to leave the library. I think Brian may have actually hit me once we got outside. I don’t remember what else happened that particular day, but I remember that incident for some reason. Probably because it still makes me laugh.


I love that I can have that sort of twisted fun with my friends. I’m very fortunate to hang out with likeminded people who laugh at the most absurd things with me. You have to have that, right? You have to be able to just sit back sometimes and yuck it up with the people you love. I feel sorry for those who don’t have this ability.


I think I come by my sense of humor honestly. Both of my parents are sharp, quick-witted, funny people. As heavy as some of what I wrote in the last week alluded to, I also laughed a lot growing up. We had to, I think, because things were not always the greatest for any of us.


Because of my parents, I enjoy comedies. The darker, the better, too. For better or worse, I was exposed to a lot of great humor growing up that was probably way beyond what my age group was supposed to see and hear. I don’t feel like it had an adverse effect on me, though, to see Animal House in the theater or any of the other great, R-rated movies that came out in the 70s and early 80s.


John Landis would have appreciated the bit I pulled in the library with Brian. It could have been a gag in one of his films. I know it.


When we all lived in the polka dot pad on 48th Street and McDowell, someone came up with the idea of “Jeff’s Slumborama” and everyone sort of piled into Jeff’s bedroom one night. Jeff wasn’t super happy about it and from that came a phrase, “Why don’t you strap your house to your back and bail.” Stupid things like that were so funny to us.


The polka dot pad was a barrel of laughs a lot of the time. I only lived there for three months, but I was there almost every night for the three or four months before that. Matt and Andy (now Drew) and Jeff lived there, and I took over the couch when my mom booted me for choosing a weekend in Mexico over having a job. What was she thinking?


We were pretty incorrigible, and I should probably devote a few blogs to doing the story justice. My point here is that we still laugh our asses off about things that happened there thirty-four years ago. Humor sinks into your life and becomes something akin to a comfort food. When you need a smile, you can call one of those friends or think of a stupid thing you did and voila, you feel better.


At work, I’ve been talking with the students a lot about the balance in music. Musicians working together or notes complimenting each other or how two or more instruments can blend their unique sounds into one glorious tone. It’s just necessary. We have to work together, and the different parts of our lives have to do something similar. The good and the bad or the horrible and the sublime.


In Quick Change, Bill Murray says at one point, “I’m the cryin’ on the inside kind of clown” or something close to that and it’s always stuck with me. Humor protects us from the scary stuff and thank the Lord (or chocolate or whatever you want to thank) for that.


On Thursday, I was explaining to my 8th graders that the original name for the trombone was the sackbut. They found this as funny as I do. I warned them not to go and start calling their little brothers and sisters a “sackbut” and they found this entertaining, as well. One of them even messaged me on the chat feature in Zoom that she called her little sister, who is also a student of mine, a “sackbut” and I just had to laugh.


Now some parent is going to write me a nasty email. They’ll probably call me a “sackbut,” too. Everybody wins.


See you tomorrow.



For sackbuts everywhere.

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