I grew up at a time when the brand of your clothes you wore was a major factor in you determining social status. Polo, Izod, Gant, OP, Jams, Guess, Reebok–it didn’t matter if the off-brand clothing item was identical; without the brand, it was absolute TRASH and you were better off not even trying.
I learned this in my days of middle school in Norman. I moved from a small farm town in Arkansas where I was aware of name brands, but so many of us were poor and I think we were more forgiving about clothes. In that town, Lee jeans were the standard. You looked for that genuine cowhide patch with “Lee” branded on it. They weren’t expensive. They didn’t promise any kind of status. We just liked them. But Lee was not cool in 1984 Norman. I was set straight very soon at Whittier Middle School. In a panic, I begged my mom to buy me a couple pairs of Levis, but I had to wait.
When we marry, we bring with us our own scripts, experiences, preferences, and needs. It may take quite of few years before a couple can come to a place of sufficient understanding of each other. We may not even know our own needs at first, but marriage is a great platform for self-discovery as well. We also come into a marriage thinking the way we grew up was normal. We may learn, however, that we all grow up with some peculiarities and biases.
That brings us to the topic of throwing up. I grew up believing that throwing up was a private matter. In order to protect one another’s dignity, my family of origin left each other alone to suffer through the event–saving each other from embarrassment. There is no dignity in the way I and other members of my family upchuck. It’s like listening to an exorcism.
Once in a while, my wife and I get asked how we met. We both love to tell it. It shares themes with many love stories–politics, prestige, perseverance, admiration, and hearts that went pitter-patter.
Our story begins with music. Jennifer and I both played instruments in the band at West Mid-High in Norman, Oklahoma. She played the flute and I played the tuba. She sat on the front row and me on the back row. Ninth grade passed without any interaction that I remember. Other, she was just one of the nameless gaggle of giggly flute players on the front row.
It’s a little early to think about Halloween, but this story is ultimately about growing up with an extraordinary father.
Eighth grade is a weird time for Halloween. Eight-graders are caught between childhood and adolescence. They want to enjoy all the fun of a childhood Halloween and also enjoy the teenage and adult age fun of parties. It was the last year I tried to trick-or-treat. Over the summer, I’d become a six-foot-tall bass-baritone. I wondered if I could still pull it off one last time. I blew what little money I had on a hobo mask. Yes, this was a day when dressing like a homeless person for Halloween was acceptable. The mask was replete with a tattered cigar protruding from a weather-worn, unshaven rubber face.
I don’t know if this is even a story, but it somehow represents my life in a small way. I’ve struggled with a stuffy nose since college. Medicines help a little. Nose sprays, over-the-counter pills, saline snorting–yeah, I could do all that. The stuffiness would be no big deal except that it does affect my singing voice which is important to me. Depending on the style of music, I sometimes have to go on Sudafed for a few days before singing to get everything in tip-top condition. If I need a lot of resonance, a stuffy nose can hold me back. It can also drip down on my vocal cords and give me a little laryngitis. It’s a whole big thing.
A few summers ago, I took the Wilson-Burns family to Orlando for a week of Universal and Disney fun. Read all about at Wally World or Bust. As the week progressed in balmy Florida, my nose cleared up. I noticed while singing in the shower one morning. Everything was just easier. I had the kind of control and ease I had lost over the last few years. Ah HA! There must be something in Oklahoma that is causing this!
In the mid-nineties, my wife and I decided to go see a couple of our favorite bands at the Zoo Amphitheater in Oklahoma City: The Doobie Brothers and the Steve Miller Band; staples of the 70s and early 80s. Naturally, The Zoo Amphitheater derives its name from the Oklahoma City Zoo where it is located. It is Oklahoma City’s premier outdoor music venue, and mostly features older rock bands touring the country with the hits that made them the superstar giants of my youth.
I was newly married, and although we had our spats including one where a tub of Turtle Wax was hurled against our apartment wall with a great splat (by which of us I cannot remember), this was a wonderful time in our lives together; before kids and mortgages–just the two of us developing our style with each other which consisted of humble apartment living, healthy eating, card games, church family, singing in the choir, Franzia box wine, Roseanne and Nick and Night, and classic rock.
I’ve always been a special kind of music lover. Yes, I listened to top-forty kinds of music on the radio as a kid. I was obsessed with MTV. I was mostly normal. But as I began to learn music as a tubist, pianist, and singer, my tastes expanded immensely. When I say “immensely”, I don’t mean I started listening to country as well as rock. I mean all manner of classical music–opera, jazz, Gregorian chant, progressive rock, English folk music, Tibetan throat-singing–just whatever I could get my hands on. My appetite had very few limits and have almost no limits today. But there was one form of music that I became most particularly obsessed with.
I sang in my church choir in high school and the director put a very ambitious work in front of us–to this day, one of my very favorite pieces of music–“Requiem” by Gabrielle Faure, a masterpiece of impressionistic choral music.
I took this blog down for a while because I published its content in a book on Amazon and I gave them the digital rights so that it could be on Kindle Unlimited. I’ve set those posts to private. But I have more to say! I have a substantial list of more stories and essays I intend to write. Perhaps there will be another book down the road.
Thanks for reading!