A couple numbers for you

Siting down here in Twenty-Nine Palms at the height of my career, rehearsing my 29-piece orchestra for the prime performance of ‘Indivisible’, loosely based on the biblical ‘Psalms 29’ text, I can’t help but reminisce about my long journey upward(?).
Yes, it all started with a whimper not a bang. A solo amateur-hour gig in Singapore. I did my naive best, but the reviews were caustic: One fellow wrote “He came to Singapore to sing a poor imitation of an Elvis tune?’
Another guy, in a strangely worded put-down penned: ‘The boy is nothing if not a dog-hound.’ But my favorite was some guy, Wolfgang, who said, dismissively, “He’s not even velvet…”

2) And so, tail between my legs, I returned to DuBois, PA, and put together a duo act, taking turns singing. Called ourselves ‘Two Boys from DuBois‘ of course. We got us a nice gig, two nights in Dublin. Led off with a half-hour of ‘Tea for Two’ Yeah, I thought we were doing great until I heard someone yell ‘Tea for too long!’ A French patron was even less appreciative:
“It’s ‘BWAA’, you illiterate!” Thus ended the duo’s short European campaign.
3) Back home, red-faced, we thought a bit and did some perestroika. In fact, I switched to balalaika, we hired an accordion player and tried our luck in the Tri-State area as the Troika.But once again, bitten by the forked tongues of linguistics, it turned out that Russian is *not* pronounced as it is written. Some of the geezers did hum along with the melody at times, which we took as slightly encouraging. Still, it was time for another change.
4) In this case, a quartet and a university gig. I hired three fairly high-priced side-men, which worried me some, but I thought that for four shows at Fordham I could afford ’em. Problem was that during rehearsals, they all insisting on including their own original songs, some slightly better than others but still… The school newspaper called us ‘Four Writers of the Apocalypse…and not in a good way.” We weren’t invited back. Yet. Hey, it’s only been 18 years.
5) So of course I knew what I had to do: form a nice classic organ-drums-bass-guitar-singer soul band. We called ourselves The Quintessentials and did, I think, five shows in Philly until the press had at us. Again! “Five characters in search of a tune.” quipped one critic. Another called us “The five people you meet in Hell” We were hurt, of course, and me maybe more than the rest. As the out-front singer, when you read ‘Oy, four tops and one bottom!‘ well, who do you think they are referring to?
6) The next step was clear: hire a foxy girl singer. We settled on the name ‘The Sextets‘ and things started to look up. Even recorded a CD in DC with her alluring likeness on the front ‘Tete-a-tete with the Sextets’. The sex was great for a while, although some Vets found the ‘tet’ offensive. And in addition, Bonnie found being gawked at increasingly un-put-up-with-able. The last straw was when some drunk yelled ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ in the middle of a mushy tune and she turned to us, said ‘I’ve had it!’ and walked off. No hard feelings though. Show business is a gory trip, we all knew that.

Ok, enough history for one lesson. We did find a sweet formula in the ten-piece horn band ‘The Decadents‘, followed by the ‘Decadents-plus-one’. Soon thereafter we added Randy Baker, (or he added us?) He was already a major draw, so we were the ‘Baker’s Dozen for a year and a half. He didn’t like my suggestion ‘Duodecahedron’.
Anyway, it does become more difficult as the numbers grow to fashion your image and venue around the numbers. I guess I’ll stop enlarging the group when we hit 57 players. Call it The Heinz, do a last CD called ‘Catch Up With teh the Heinz‘ and retire.


Actually, yesterday being my 65th birthday, maybe I can go for an earlier dismissal.
Anyway, thanks for reading this far/JS (Oh, and file under ‘Fiction’, if you haven’t already. The Truth would take fifty years to recount)

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27 thoughts on “A couple numbers for you

    1. solberg73 Post author

      You are very welcome. I may not be here to wish you a happy 65, just remember that I was an earnest fan of your strength and accuracy of expression while I was alive.
      Btw, I thought that this piece had a modestly clever conceit, and enjoyed fleshing it out. WP seems not to be the venue for assessing one’s failures or victories in the literary arena.

      Reply
    1. solberg73 Post author

      No, but at least i play there a couple weeks, in the sleaziest bar you could imagine. They do call it ‘Do-boys’, of course, regardless of the French. Truth be told I smell a rat, but haven’t as yet Googled the real pronunciation. (Prolly rhymes with Illinois(!)

      Reply
    2. solberg73 Post author

      Yes, that’s the whole question: the local natives do pronounce it’ Do-Boys’. I cringe, but am never sure to what extent correctly rendering borrowed terms is required. Here in israel, I cringe even more frequently, I suppose because I expected better from our world-traveled people.

      Reply
  1. eleanorio

    My dear JS, it is so good to see that you are still flourishing. Your story reminds me of many things, but mostly of when I was a poor wife-of-an-alien-student living in the United Snakes of America, with barely two kopeks to rub together, and hence got my hair cut at the hairdressing school for a pittance. The kids there were great and they did a pretty good job for babkes. Anyway, on one occasion my stylist-in-training was a pretty boy called Bloyce. I commented that “Bloyce” is a very unusual name, and he said his father’s name was Bloise (pronounced “blwaz”) and they had merely respelled it, passing the sins of the father onto the son. Happy birthday, old chap!

    Reply
    1. solberg73 Post author

      I always love your replies, El.. And also your cultured respect for codgers as olde as moi.
      (And just gueesing here, ‘Bois’ is wood, right? As in the origin of the word oboe, a wood-wind instrument.
      This tale isn’t terribly off-course for parts of my career. My reviews, I’ve noticed, were always coloured by whether I knew the critic personally, and the love-vs-hate quotient therein.

      Reply
      1. eleanorio

        Bois is indeed wood. Oboe is a rather anglo mangling of hautbois, or “high woodwind”, which the oboe certainly is. This is in direct contrast to its longer, weightier relative, the bassoon, or basson, meaning “the low guy”. Since the bassoon often accompanies the buffoon, we can see how the English spelling came about. None of us is quite sure how the cor anglais got its name, but the English horn has been translated rather boringly correctly.

        I love how you play with language, a word itself originating from langue ouage, or “tongue of the wake” (i.e. from marine vessels) in that it is very fluid and adaptable. Of course, I just made all that up, but I dare you to prove me wrong!

        Reply
        1. solberg73 Post author

          It’s vastly more gratifying to simply accept your semi-whimsical etymology than to wade into the murky waters. Thanks as usual for the info: one more baby step upward toward the light.

          Reply
  2. dimebone

    Sir: your blogs are altogether infrequent, and so it was with great anticipation that I read your latest œuvre. Hélas! the Two Boys from DuBois, Troika, and Four Writers of the Apocalypse are already familiar to us, since they were reviewed in Wikipedia years ago.

    If you need favorable reviews, and clearly you do, the best advice would be to hire Therese Plummer.

    Reply
    1. solberg73 Post author

      Thanks for the entertaining link, J. I make a point of, while composing, not checking whether my neologisms are unique or simple jism, new to me.

      Reply
  3. happierheathen

    Still breathing in and out, I see. That’s good news, now that you’re officially ancient. Happy birthday!

    I might have seen The Baker’s Dozen once, in a dream. But I wasn’t paying all that much attention because I was running, naked, in slow motion, from a ravenous bear.

    Reply
    1. solberg73 Post author

      Yes, I suppose that name has been used in several contexts: I didn’t , as usual, look it up.. We ‘ancients’ are too busy taking our meds, ha.

      Reply
  4. Roadkill Spatula

    You jumped abruptly from twelve to thirteen with The Baker’s Dozen, but change can happen quickly in show biz.

    “some Vets found the ‘tet’ offensive” is a phenomenal line. I suspect you could even make My Lai amusing, nasty event that it was. My knowledge of the Vietnam War is very spotty, based primarily on brief glimpses from TV news during my first grade and sixth grade years in KC and skimming occasional articles from Time and Life magazines in Colombia.

    Reply
    1. solberg73 Post author

      Yes, we all saw, blind, the same elephant, just a different part of its anatomy. And you are correct, I tortured myself on including the ‘Tet’ line, feeling the question of taste therein.
      And also, points for pointing out the 12/13 ambiguity. I oughta know, Back home in Lancaster County, a dozen is often 14 still these days.

      Reply
  5. melfamy

    Happy 65th, first of all, while it is a real milestone, hopefully you won’t wear it around your neck.
    Your advanced age, however, is likely the reason that you left out of your memoir the most noteworthy event of your career.
    I refer, of course to the environmentally-oriented series of open-air concerts held at wastewater reclamation areas around the country. The shows, underwritten by the Pitcher-Makers Federation, were well-attended, and the magic was caught on film and released as a documentary, Truly, the Ewer-Hewer’s Sewer Tour will not be soon forgotten.

    Reply
  6. solberg73 Post author

    I myself am hoping 65 won’t be an albatross around my neck; they poop a lot.
    And with ewe, hew and sew, you are solidly in that twilight zone of spelling-bee-hell I inhabit, instead of falling asleep at night.

    Reply
  7. somewittyhandle

    May glory and strength be ascribed to you in your prime, but watch out for falling coconuts.

    The truth about DuBois, now I look it up on the Froogle (with the truth) search engine, is as remarkable as it is plausible:

    Apparently, the local landlord was sufficiently disgruntled with the calibre (sic) of his clientelle (even moreso), that he put up a sign: “Dukedom and Fiefdom is not to be found in this environ, but sadly every manner of hobo is.” Over the years, a shortage of wood required that the sign be sawn up, so the middle section (incidentally bearing the inscription ‘kedom and Fiefdom is not to be found in this environ, but sadly every manner of ho’ ) could be employed in the construction of the deceased landlord’s coffin. The carpenter had the tact and good taste to make sure the ‘ho’ was facing to the inside. The remaining fragments of the sign were stuck back together, and re-erected to give “Dubois”

    So the correct pronunciation is Dyoo-bow-izz. Coincidentally exactly the same pronunciation as the English town of Pontefract.

    Reply
  8. solberg73 Post author

    I somehow startlingly was blithely not aware of the truth you lay out here so plainly. Yes, among the lot of explanations yours is surely the simplest and most plausible; Occam’s razor be damned and dulled.:As to broken bridges, the bands whose numbers I skipped over were best-forgotten attempts at river-crossings, and I learned to burn bridges instead, to foreclose any possibility of future salvage.
    Thanks for the good wishes, Duncan. You always inspire me to further my actual musical path.

    Reply
      1. solberg73 Post author

        My dream also. Don’t know what exactly is prevailing contra, (other than being tied wrists and ankles to irrigation hoses and two new kittens.
        Still, , I daily hold in my hand flowers, any one(1) of which could be traded for a passage to Heathrow. Perhaps I fear I’ll do that Saul/Paul epiphany routine and decide to live out my days in Blighty? Heaven knows, I’m enchanted by various salient aspects of the culture.
        And personally, having been non-plussed by the vast, broad and deep grasp of details you evidenced in your perfume reviews , I need to ascertain, come what may, whether, in contrast, I’ve in fact been raised by wolves. Oh I’m sure I’ve a detail or vignette you may lack but yet the competitor in me don’t sleep well at night.
        Seriously, expect a few songlets for perusal in the mail as I return to the fold/ JS

        Reply

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