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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story–Drugs & (129) ARTSY Variations: Canopas

Pharmaceutical Adventure

Another example of Shepherd telling a story as a metaphor—especially in an era when youngsters were experimenting with drugs to a larger extent than before. He once commented on the air that life was full enough with exciting possibilities without having to resort to drugs.

I think one of the most exciting parts of anyone’s house is the medicine cabinet.  It tells so many sordid stories.  Subtle secrets.  You go into this guy’s house.  You’re visiting the head of the English Department.  You’ve been invited to the faculty tea and you’re upstairs and you’re supposed to be washing your hands.  You open the medicine cabinet and look.  There’s a bottle that says, “IN CASE OF FIT, take three times quickly and say SHAZAM!”  Signed Dr. Gumpock.  And you wonder who’s having a fit!  What kind of fit?

Well, there was this old house—there’s always a house that people have moved out of in your neighborhood.  Kids are always drawn to them, and this one time Schwartz and me got into this place.  We’re running around in this empty house.  There were papers on the floor, an old apple core in the corner and a busted chair, a Sears Roebuck catalog and a pile of old newspapers, a broken comb, that sort of thing.

You know that secret sense of being in a house that isn’t yours?  There must be a certain excitement, a satisfaction, of being a burglar.  Break into somebody’s house, walk around in it.  You open the refrigerator.  They’ve found that almost all burglars open the refrigerator.  That doesn’t mean that they eat anything out of it, but they open the refrigerator.  It’s one of the basic things—it represents food—life, there it is.

More Pharmaceuticals to Come

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VARIATIONS

CANOPA/CONOPA

“Small stone figurines, or conopas, of llamas and alpacas were the most common ritual effigies used in the highlands of Peru and Bolivia. [Usually thought of as having been made during the Inca period—before Pizarro—but some may be much more recent.] These devotional objects were often buried in the animals’ corrals to bring protection and prosperity to their owners and fertility to the herds. The cylindrical cavities in their backs were filled with offerings to the gods in the form of a mixture including animal fat, coca leaves, maize kernels, and seashells.” (Brooklyn Museum)

Canopas depict camelids—not the Eastern Hemisphere camels that vary depending on the number of humps, but the South American kind—alpacas, llamas, and also vicuna and guanacos–two forms which seem not to have been depicted in canopas).

One encounters some of the long-necked llamas, but seeming, more frequently carved, are alpacas, carved with stringy hair usually indicated from their throats and down their chest. (The “suri” variation of the actual animal, at least today, have this hair all over the body.) Many carvings are about four inches long, but can be somewhat bigger or smaller. The few reaching 5” long seem to have increased majesty about them. In the Peoples of South America Hall of New York’s museum of natural history, the Inca section has a well-done larger example.

Suri Type of Alpaca and What is Probably a Suri Canopa

I’ve been interested in canopas for decades, so I’ve encountered and printed out scores of photos of them from ebay and by googling. (With two spelling variations, one has to search both.) I have three examples– a small black alpaca, an even smaller one with stringy hair covering its body, and a rather rare, multi-colored carving that had been decapitated in what is thought to have been a ritual “killing.”

My Canopas (and, on Right, a Coiled Netsuke Rat).

Most frequently seen are alpacas in black stone. Rarities occur in ceramic or wood. Some specimens still retain pieces of the offerings in the cavity, and some have not had the 500-year-old dirt removed from crevices in the stone carving. Many variations appear in shape, details, and color. As sculpted objects, I prefer solid black with a body that is a rounded but somewhat flattened rectangular shape, and a distinctly shaped mane down the front which is nearly flat–only slightly rounded–and with well-sculpted facial features. Variations in body shape and in the treatment of the mane make a considerable difference in overall effect, as does the angle of the neck and head—more upraised gives a more stately effect. Some are two-headed!

On the subject of llamas, note the poem

by whimsical American poet Ogden Nash:

The one-l lama,

He’s a priest.

The two-l llama

He’s a beast.

And I will bet

A silk pajama

There isn’t any

Three-l lllama.*

* The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration

known as a three-alarmer. Pooh 

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story–Picnic finale

On occasion, Shepherd implies some psychological commentary

regarding the American soul.

It’s pure coincidence that this story happened to end this way today.

•   •   •

Some of them had wild colors like red, and some of them were purple.  They must have been big shots!  And there were little kids.  Whole crowds of them.  Getting quite full of potato salad.  It’s a little scary to think of a ghost eating potato salad.

We just sat on our bikes for about five minutes looking at the scene.  Finally, Schwartz said, “Let’s get outa here!”

Flick says, “Ah, come on, come on.  They don’t care.”

Schwartz said, “Come on, let’s go, we’re gonna get in trouble.  I don’t like this.”

Bruner was already whimpering.  He wasn’t saying nothin’.

One of these guys with a long, high cape started to look around with a flashlight.  We started moving, peddling like Billy-be-damned over the gravel roads, through the long, winding forest under the great orange moon surrounded by hoards of gray, moving, misty mosquitoes, until finally we were out on the superhighway.  Out on the superhighway.

What can I tell ya?  What can I tell ya?  Not very much.  Except to say that was one picnic that I did not soon forget.  I remembered those curious white shrouds that looked gray in the dark light of the moon.  It seemed like a fantastic conclave of evil spirits.  Which is, I guess, what they wanted to look like.  And the light.  How they lit the scene.  They had a huge cross that was burning.  A burning cross.  Ever seen a burning cross?  You haven’t?  You’ve heard of it.  Hearin’ of it ain’t the same as seein’ it.  That’s like just hearing about King Kong—it ain’t the same.  So, we rode back on our bikes in absolute silence.  Somehow, that whole picnic scene had changed.

I had no idea what the Ku Klux Klan was.  I’d heard the name, that’s all, just like most of you.  Just heard it.  And I came home about ten o’clock, and I felt very strange about this—it was a really scary experience.

I went up the steps into the kitchen and there’s my mother.  She was hanging over the sink in her Chinese red chenille bathrobe, rump-sprung, with the petrified egg on the lapel, her hair up in curlers.  I was in the kitchen and I’d had nothing to eat.  I opened up the refrigerator and there was half a meatloaf there.  It was a holiday meatloaf—my kid brother’s birthday.  On any holiday occasion my mother put tomato paste on top of the meatloaf, with little sliced olives.  That was a gala meatloaf, so I took it out and made a sandwich.

My mother was hanging over the sink, my kid brother was under the daybed whining, the old man was sitting in the front room in his underwear drinking some beer, which was what he always did when he was sitting around in his underwear in the middle of August.

I don’t know how adults always know these things, but all of a sudden my mother turned and said to me, “What’s the matter?”

I said, “Nothin’.  Nothin’.“

She said, “What’s the matter?  I won’t tell your father.”

I said, “Ma, what’s a Ku Klux Klan?”

Clank!  She dropped the fork she was drying.  “What was that?”

“What’s a Ku Klux Klan, ma?”

She said, “Where did you hear that?”

I said, “You know…I…I just heard it.”

She said, “You stay away from them.  Don’t you ever have anything to do with those people.”

“Why?”

“Just don’t.”

And I never had reason to doubt her.  We’ve never mentioned it since.  I don’t think I have ever told that story to anyone.  In fact, I don’t even tell it to myself.  There are some rocks down in that fetid garden of human souls that we do not wish to turn over.  For fear of the evil grubs that we will find underneath.

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories-more Picnic

We knew we were onto something good.  We’d accepted the first picnic as a fluke.  From that minute on, every week we would look forward to whatever company picnic came along.  There were wild company picnics.  At some of these picnics, twenty-five thousand people would show up.  The Riesling Chemical Company and the Sinclair Oil Company because of all the steel mills around. I became an aficionado of picnics.  I could tell the cheapy companies and the companies that were in trouble and the companies that were having labor troubles when the big, heavy, tough guys from trucking would show up wearing hard hats.  Every picnic had its own character.

Every one.  And then came the ultimate.  One of the strangest things that ever happened to me in my life, and it came about in this summer of picnic crashing.  We had gone to nearly every picnic.  With Schwartz, Flick, and Bruner, I’d gone to what must have been fifteen picnics when this happened way at the end of summer.

It was still hot out in the Midwest—any place out in the Great Plains—and you are very very aware and conscious and attuned to the environment.  Late in August, when the sun is sitting there about four-million miles across and there’s a kind of brassy quality to the air, and the steel mills off in the distance have been belching blast furnace dust into that atmosphere day and night, day and night, and it hangs low, the air has a curious kind of orange/red/gray/greenish cast and the sun hangs at a peculiar angle in August.  Late in August and early September.

And at night, when the moon comes up, man, that’s something to see.  Because the moon gets unbelievably enormous.  It’s because of the curious invection currents and how the light is bent because of the heavy atmosphere that’s hung low in the heat.  In hot, late August and early September in Indiana, I’ve seen the moon stretch almost from one end of the horizon to the other.

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story–Baseball 2

So Schwartz and Flick and Bruner and Shepherd and Emdee, and a few other guys and stragglers from the neighborhood, one hot summer afternoon, set out down towards the end of the street.  There was a big vacant lot down there.  Great, big, fantastic lot that was covered with weeds.  The big weeds.  Weeds just grew waist high, neck high.  Stickers, thorns, thistles, swamp, snakes, bugs, frogs, grasshoppers, groats, crummies—the whole business.  It was all growing out there.

So one day we decided we were going to build a ball diamond.  I have a sense of involvement when I hear stories of guys building pyramids because—I don’t know whether you ever tried to build a ball diamond in a giant jungle when you were a kid.  But me and Schwartz and Flick and Bruner and Emdee, for what must have been three weeks, every day from morning to night—we slaved with little hand sickles, cutting away weeds.  I had a blister starting six inches out from my hand that went all the way down to the soles of my feet and about six inches into the ground.  Shepherd’s one big blister.  I was one big walking blob of water.  If you’d have stuck me—Aaaaaagh!

You don’t stop.  The blisters break, you keep going, chopping away. So we were chopping away, chopping away for two or three weeks.  You could see the ground!  For the first time in this area.  We found all kinds of stuff.  Junk that had been there for years, old Indian-head pennies, we found stuff from the seventeenth-century.  The ground had never been cleared.  It was a great sense of real accomplishment.

We had gotten ourselves some chicken wire, which we’d stolen somewhere.  We made a backstop out of it with big sticks holding it up.  We made baselines, we put sand around the home plate area.  And there it was—it was a baseball diamond.  And we started to play on our own baseball diamond—Schwartz and Flick and Bruner and Emdee and me and all the guys.  What a great time!  What a fantastic moment of success!

We would choose up every morning.  And kids play ball—I mean really dedicated ball players—they start at the absolute crack of dawn.  Instantly after breakfast you started playing ball and you did not stop playing ball until around eleven-thirty at night.  You know, when it says that Mickey Mantle at bat went two for four, on a good day at bat I would go something like seventy-three for a hundred and twenty-eight.  We would not keep score of runs.  It was all done on a time/unit basis, so we would play on and on, over and over, with all kinds of complex rules.  If you caught a ball on the second bounce it was an out, if you bounced one off the fire hydrant it was a double, but bounce it off the left side of the hydrant it was foul, all kinds of things.

More baseball to come.

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories–Worms 7

“I’m pulling in the dough!”

Then I have another idea.  I’m desperate, I’m digging all Saturday and I must have gotten only about twenty worms.  I’m digging out there and Schwrtz is walking along and he sees me and he says, “What are you doin?”

“I’m digging worms!  What does it look like?  Don’t bother me, I’m in a hurry.“

“Digging worms?  Ya goin’ fishin?”

“No. I’m not going fishin’.  What do you think that sign is out there for?  I’m selling worms.”

“Oh yeah, yeah.  Gee, come on, we’re all going to play ball.”

“I can’t play ball, forget it.  I’m digging worms.”  And it hit me.  “Hey, Schwartz, I’ll give you ten cents for every dozen worms you can dig.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

Schwartz rushes home, gets a shovel, and now he’s out back of his house digging worms.  About an hour later Schwartz comes back with a couple of dozen worms, which I pay him for.  The word gets out among the kids and within three days, I have about twenty kids working steadily digging worms.  Bringing the worms home and selling them to me.

I’ve given up digging.  Now I’m just a buyer, which puts me in a totally different category.  So I’m sitting at a card table in the basement, and as each kid would show up I’d count his worms.  I’d say, “Oh man, forget this one.  Look at this—it’s a dead one.  What’re you tryin’ to pull on me here, Schwartz?”

He says, “Well, it wasn’t dead when I dug him up, for cryin’ out loud.”

“I’m sorry, we can’t take no dead worms.  And look at that one!  Little skinny one.  I don’t want no baby worms.  I’ll only give you half price for the baby ones.”

So Schwartz is getting his money.  I had Roper, Jack Morton—I had all the kids.  They’re hitting the jackpot and I’m pulling in the dough!  I’m putting the worms away in the boxes every night. Well, it is now getting to be August and the kids are becoming very scarce because the kids are running into the same problem I’m running into.  That problem is this.  As the summer grows longer and hotter, worms get scarce.  And even a kid who’s getting ten cents a dozen worms has got enough brains to realize that after you’ve dug for two days and you get three worms, this ain’t a paying proposition.

And then I have my fourth and most cosmic idea.  I’m sitting down in the basement.  I’m desperate.  The worms are getting low.  You know how much money I’m making at this point?  I’m knocking down about twenty-five to forty dollars a week.  And if you don’t think that’s a lot of money for a kid who is about fourteen or fifteen, then you don’t remember what it’s like being a kid.  I’m making this dough and I want to keep it coming in and the business is growing, because out there, guys tend to take their vacations in August.  So I’m getting fantastic orders.  Guys are come up and buying for fifteen or twenty friends.  Can you imagine a guy walking in and he says, “Gimme thirty dozen worms.”  And you ain’t got ‘em.  And I have my fourth and most colossal idea.

I realized there was a fatal flaw in my business.  Do you see what it is?  My fatal flaw is that I am depending on nature.  And little did I realize that at that moment I am going through the same evolution that ancient man went through.  You know one of the big differences between the truly savage tribes and the tribes that are beginning to be civilized?  A savage tribe’s nomadic.  They rely totally on what they can find.  And so they will kill all the animals in some place and eat ‘em and eat all the plants that are growing and then they move on to the next place.

What’s the difference between that and the civilized tribe?  The civilized tribe grows the animals, so instead of relying on going out and shooting rabbits they say, “Why is it we don’t grow some rabbits?  Why don’t we grow some of those gourds we’ve been looking for?  Why don’t we get some seeds and grow some?”  That’s the beginning of what we call the agrarian culture.  Nobody’s giving me any advice, see.  I have to go through the whole evolution myself.  So, suddenly it hit me—why not grow worms?  Ah huh!  Grow them instead of gather them.  And it was at that moment that I changed from just a kid who sold worms, to The Worm King of Cleveland Street.

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories, Early Toil “Paperboy”– & (119) ARTSY Cloth, Bone, Feathers

There was one specific doorway that I always remember.  I used to look forward to this point on my route.  There was a long stairway lit by light bulbs that went right up to the second floor on the inside of the building and the downstairs door was always open.  You could see the landing up there and there was a scrub pail set right in the corner.  The first couple of weeks I just threw the paper up on the landing.  One day, just by accident, when I threw the paper up, it hit the wall behind, and it went katunk!  It bounced right off that wall like it was a backboard on a basketball court, and landed in the pail.  Shepherd had canned another three pointer.

The next day I tried to do it and I just missed, but every day that was my big moment, and I got so I was really great at it.  Remember, I was riding on a bike—this was not a stationary shot.  I’d go swooping past this door—and zap!  Oddly enough, I never saw it go into the pail because I was already past the door, but I’d hear it go bump-bump and bang.  Oh!  That meant it was going to be a good day!

These little things are very important to a newsboy.  Another little satisfaction is to learn how to really fold papers.  You can tell how good a newsboy is by how small he can fold the paper.  The smaller the paper is folded the more you can get in the sack, the less bulk the sack takes up, and the better the paper throws!  At first I really envied the other guys.  Flick had started before I did and he was fantastic!  He could fold fifty papers in about five minutes flat.  Hard as a rock.  I had no more papers than he did, but my sack was gigantic, like Santa’s bag, and Flick would just have this little sack hanging on him.   He would take a ten-pound, end-of-the-week-and-full-of-ads Chicago Tribune and fold it to the size of an Eversharp pencil.  Unbelievable!  I began to work on my paper-folding technique and after about a month-and-a-half, I was one of the great paper-folders of our time.  Even Flick came over to me one day and said, “By God, you can do it!”  Like being told by Roger Maris, “You got a good swing, kid.”

You can handle this newspaper—it’s just a poor little piece of paper and you can learn to control it.  You can ultimately learn to be a pretty good shot riding a bike and throwing a side-arm shot to the upper deck.

More to come of “Paperboy.”

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FEATHERS

Featherwork has become an important part of

our household decor because of

an Inca belt and elegant feather hats.

This piece (a belt or what?), also bought in the Cuzco fabric store, is 38” X   2.5”, with the repeated feather-motif of llamas in orange, black, and white. I showed it to the world-renowned anthropologist who specialized in pre-Columbian textiles at the museum where I worked. He turned the feather work over to view the backing cloth and immediately told me that it was authentic Inca (pre-1520).

(He was amazed that it had cost me only $15. He seemed unperturbed that I’d bought pre-Columbian material. The younger anthropologist I worked with on our permanent South American Hall much disparaged buying this material, because those who found it were in the business of digging up pre-Columbian sites, thus removing the material that belonged to that country’s heritage and destroying accurate, scientific investigation of it–I understand that view in theory, but in practice, I’ve bought minor pieces. When I discovered, in an auction catalog, a large casting of a famous pre-Columbian piece for sale (the Raimondi Stela), he wanted it for our Hall, but would not set foot in the pre-Columbian sale gallery for fear of being seen there, so I went to the auction with Museum money and won the piece for our use.)

A few years ago my wife, Allison, became interested in feather hats and has acquired over a dozen. (They were very popular from the nineteenth century until recent years when new ones were prohibited because of endangering various species of birds. One can still buy older ones in some vintage clothing stores.) They are truly beautiful and varied in their colors. We have some on the walls in our living room, dining room, and bedroom.

 

(Photos for “Cloth, Bone, and Feathers”

by Allison Morgan Bergmann)

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories, Half-time Sousaphone & (117) ARTSY Cloth, Bone, Feathers

Was he being sarcastic?  What was he being?  I’ll never tell.  All I can say is I learned a lesson.  I can’t figure out what the lesson is—yet.  I’m running it through the lab.  I’m trying a little titration on it, maybe a little litmus paper.

All I’ve got to say is, when you see that band and those half-time ceremonies marching out and striking into the wind, you are seeing a machine that few people understand.  Only those who have been in the middle of one know what it’s like.

I can still feel that little tingling around my lips once in a while when I hear a band playing “Semper Fidelis.”  That little chapped feeling of a guy who’s rehearsed long and hard on the second coda chorus of every known march that was ever printed.

Pumpapapumpapapum!  Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump!  Oh yeah!  Come on, Pick up them knees, you guys!  Come on, move out, move out!

Drump! Pump! Pump! Pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pum! Drump-pum-pump pump pump!

Rump-pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump

Pumpapapumpapapum! Here we go now!  All together now!  The torches light up, the crowd is going ape! Bababapooombapoooom!

[End of “Halftime Sousaphone” and Part 6]

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CLOTH, BONE, FEATHERS

CLOTH

My interest in cloth as esthetic subject began when I started doing a bit of research for my trip to Peru in 1980. I’d be spending time mostly in Lima, and the Inca highland capital of Cuzco which is a center for traditional Peruvian weaving.

We got the name of a good retail shop in Cuzco where we could get quality woven cloth from highland Peru and Bolivia. These objects are traditional ponchos and other pieces made for local consumption in the early-to mid-twentieth century that had been used and then sold, so that Americano tourists could buy and transport them back to adorn walls and furniture. Eventually I’d also buy some minor pre-Columbian objects from there and from other sources. (The photo shows the kind of serious fabric store one can find in Cuzco.)

Beautiful craftsmanship again expands my idea of “art,” though weaving still doesn’t make it to the highest levels for me. Mostly I’d say, it’s “quality, attractive craft.” Yet I enjoy looking at my few pieces and contemplating them.

My wife and I have two major walls in our living room, one with

musical instruments, the other with cloth and artifacts.

A variety of pieces including a poncho, a very long piece

that might be a scarf, a highland campesino’s hat,

a cloth baby carrier from the Amazon,

an Inca feather-work piece, a small, pre-Columbian cloth doll,

etc.

End Part 1 of 3

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories, Half-time Sousaphone & (112) ARTSY ETCETERAS, INTRO

Well, our band rehearsals were something else.  We had this teacher who was the top marching band director in that area.  He had been an ace band director at three universities and a top trumpet player.  His name was Wilson and he would say, “I want you to work on number four in the book, ‘On the Mall,’ and I want to hear crisp section work.  I don’t want to hear anyone faking it.  If you come to a section you don’t know, don’t fake it, ‘cause I can hear it.”  All of us knew that if you don’t know the notes you fake it—if you’re a good musician you can get by with it, but not with Wilson.  He knew every note of every march that was ever published—and he could hear them all.

Old Shep, you know—I knew everything we did by heart.  I knew every move, I knew every note, every fingering, and one day we were out at rehearsal—that terrible day.  We’d finished musical rehearsal, which was great.  I always enjoyed the musical side of it.  But then Stinky Davis took over and he would line us all up way down at the south end of the field and he would start lecturing us.  “I want to see a lot of knee movement.  Pull in your guts, Schwartz.  I don’t want to see any guts hang out!”

He was one of the few drum majors I ever heard of, who had the power to drop people from the band—if they weren’t doin’ it.  He really was an officer, and that’s why we hated him.  We got high school credit for being in the band and he could flunk you.  I remember the time he dropped Billy Singleton and they had a fantastic fistfight right out on the field.  Billy was a trumpet player and one day he came out to the field about fifteen minutes late.  Stinky stopped the band and here comes Singleton walking over with his trumpet.  Stinky just stood and waited.  Singleton moved into his position on the line.  Stinky didn’t say a word, he just moved his thumb like an umpire—out!  Singleton lowered his trumpet.  Stinky went—out!  Billy walked up to the front and said, “Make me!”  Stinky did.  After Stinky got through with him, I don’t think Singleton could even play the trumpet for a couple of months.  That was the end of Singleton in the band.

So there was a tension all the time when Stinky was out in front.  He had an ego that started at about twenty feet above the ground and worked up.  Unbelievable ego.  And that’s what it took!  And he was fantastically self-disciplined.  Outside of school he used to rehearse twirling maybe ten hours a day.  That’s all he did.  Had no friends.  He would just sort of materialize, like one time he showed up wearing a monocle.  Can you imagine the kind of guts it took for a guy in an Indiana school to wear a monocle!  That’s what Stinky did.  Fantastic!

And then comes that terrible day.  It is a Thursday like any other Thursday.  Except that it is hotter than blazes.

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ARTSY ETCETERAS INTRO

Many collectors have, hung on walls, tiny stuff displayed in an authentic type case–the kind in which typesetters stored individual lead letters made for plucking and arranging into words and paragraphs to be printed. Mine has varied nick nacks and other artsys, including spiral encounters (especially, see the unusually small chambered nautilus shell, upper left corner). Guitar rosette element with “eb” initials. Tiny caliper and level for who-knows-what. Pre-Columbian heads and a whole little standing figure.

And, nearly centered, a beautiful,  pre-Columbian Mexican, reddish-brown, elegantly stylized, bird-shaped whistle with four sound holes, its well-rounded stomach with its tail feathers sticking up. It features a multi-note twitter. Only 1-3/8″ from mouth hole to tail, it has two holes (underneath, not shown) for threading a string that can be put around the neck for carrying as a necklace–which I do on occasion, making me feel a bit as though I’m at-one with the original pre-Columbian owner.

Many etceteras.

Let them stand as a simile for all of the foregoing artsys

and for the following end-of-the-line miscellany descriptions.

Excelsior!

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories, Half-time Sousaphone & (108) ARTSY Table of Contents part 4

Half-time Sousaphone

The double B flat sousaphone is one of the most difficult instruments to master.  Many, many are called, but few, friends, are chosen.  It’s one of the most difficult instruments to master for a number of reasons.  First of all, you have to learn cross-wind landings at an early age.  Try to play “Semper Fidelis” in a spanking, forty-five degree cross-wind that’s making maybe fifteen or twenty or twenty-five knots, gusting to forty knots.

I remember Schwartz was also a tuba player and he made the switch to sousaphone.  He was a bit too little.  The point is, to play a good sousaphone, ya gotta be big, because, when you’re wrestling with a sousaphone, man, when that wind is blowing hard out of the north and you’re trying to play “Semper Fidelis” and the wind is blowing at you—you know, the sousaphone is the only instrument that plays back.  It’ll actually play you.  If you’re not careful, that horn will start blowing you, and the next thing you know, high, thin notes are coming out of your ears.

And with all that, try to go into the coda and keep up that steady hundred-and-sixty-beat march!  We used to have about three different tempos, and our band would switch from one tempo to the other to gas ‘em all in the stands!  We’d come out, we’d do our slow step, Drump! Pump! Pump! Pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pum! Drump-pum-pump pump pump!

You see, all bands go for the fast step.  You ought to try the slow one.  That’s the tough one. Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump!  We’d come on and all of a sudden Stinky Davis, our ace, fanatical, maniacal, Nazi-like, top drum major, would go Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Waa waa with his whistle.  We’d go Rump-pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump—we’d shift tempo in mid-step.  The crowd would roar!  And then he would give two short blasts on the whistles Weeeee! Waa!  We’d crack into that “Semper Fidelis”!

And there’s Shepherd.  On the end.  Eight marching double B-flat sousaphones!  Hitting into a spanking wind!  And these were not plastic sousaphones.  These were magnificent—gold-plated—deluxe Khan—B-flat sousaphones catching the light, moving against that sharp, spanking wind and cracking “Semper Fidelis”!  Pumpapapumpapapum! Here we go now!  All together now!  The torches light up, the crowd is going ape! Bababapooombapoooom!

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More Table of Contents

MUSIC’S CHARMS

INTRO—THE MUSIC WALL I’ve a tin ear, but I love music all the same.

GUITAR What is the form that produces the function? Student luthier takes on the challenge.

FLUTESFlutes galore!  Breath of life on the fingertips.Shakuhachi and a hose clamp.

SUZANNE FARRELL Farrell, Balanchine, and signed ballet slippers.

SUBWAY VIOLIN BUSKER Classical violin amid the subway roar.

EMOTION OUTRANKS TECHNIQUE—DYLAN & DIEGO Why would anyone prefer Bob Dylan to Andy Williams and Josh Grogan? I’ll tell you why! How could a self-effacing, solemn, gypsy guitarist supplant Sabicas, Paco de Lucio, and Manitas de Plata?

JEAN SHEPHERD AND BOB DYLAN Not music to his ears, even if the guy’s now a Nobel Prize winner.

PRINCE Honey, I think you and I were wrong! What was it about Prince that, for all these years, we missed?

PLASTIC HARMONICAS Variations on a theme. Surely the world’s greatest museum-worthy collection. And one of the artifacts is a real mouth organ.

SPAIN & PERU

GRANADA I’m falling under you spell. “Pomegranate,” “hand grenade,” and the city of Federico Garcia Lorca–all important parts of an obsession “…no hay en la vida nada…”

BULLS I’ve gone to the bulls on three continents. How deal with the line between barbaric and civilized? How can a gentle, passive soul be such a passionate aficionado de los toros? Ole!

PERU The intihuatana, flight over the Nazca Lines with no altimeter, no gas gauge. And especially, the truth/fiction of Rio Amazonas.

THE NEW YORK TIMES

SPECIAL DELIVERY!Whitman, Bosch, Louis Kahn—three of my favorite creative people all have articles devoted to them in the same issue of the NYT. Oh, the ecstasy!

MEMORABILIA— Dickinson & Hemingway—tidbits from creative forces!

FULL COLOR NEWSPAPER WARS Has anyone else ever noted—and collected—artistic depictions of human disasters?

COMPOSED HERMAPHRODITE –Sometimes the NYT likes to tease us before eventually satisfying our curiosity.

BOOK ILLUSTRATION and ELEPHANT ART —It’s so easy to glance at and dismiss illustrations in a newspaper, though I try not to do so. A masterpiece of a kid scrawl and a herd of elephants.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Astro Turf & “Muriel”—what momentous artsy matters! Yet, both are matters of great concern—at least to some of us.

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories RE: Music & (103) ARTSY Mom

I would turn to page fifty-seven and there it would be at the top: pizzicato.  Pizzicato means a string that is plucked.  “Should I start at the top, Miss McCullough?”

“Yes, please.”

So I would grab that bass and I would start dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun.  Now my left hand is aching all the way up to my shoulder and I feel seven gigantic blisters forming on my right-hand fingers—which never did when I normally played.  I used to dread Thursdays.  She never told me anything.  Just used to sit and listen.

So, wherever you are, kid, taking those music lessons, we bow our heads for ten seconds in silence.  I know exactly what you’re going through.  God only knows the torture that man can wreak upon his fellow man.

End of Music Lessons

Stay tuned for even more of Shep’s music

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MOM’S VIOLIN, PARAKEET, AND EGGS

Violin

As a young woman, Marjorie Crosby, my mother, left home to play the violin in vaudeville. She joined a woman’s dance troop. The dancers would come on stage and do a few numbers and then leave to change costumes, which is when my mother would come out from behind the curtain and play classical music for the audience.

The dance ensemble moved from city to city, and in New York, finally broke up, where my mother remained, eventually meeting my father, Benno Bergmann. After a long courtship, extended by the financial strain of the Great Depression, they married and had me, their only child. Eventually she taught me to play the violin well enough to be in the high school orchestra.

From time to time, when we had guests, mom would play the violin for them. As she was very shy, with our adult friends in the living room, she entered the next room, closed the French doors, and then play.

Pretty Boy

My mother taught our parakeet to recite poetry. She set up an audio tape loop, playing a word or two over and over by his cage until Pretty Boy could repeat it, then go on to the next word.

Eventually Pretty Boy could recite, all together, the first lines of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám:

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light. 

Friends kept erroneously saying that Marjorie’s bird could recite Shakespeare. So she taught Pretty Boy to recite a few lines:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them.

A bird food company wanted to pay Pretty Boy to recite during a live TV commercial, but Pretty Boy would only perform when he wanted to.

Eggs

Then my mother, inspired by Faberge Eggs, began designing her own original creations with chicken eggs. She discovered a way to be able to twist the egg shells into varied shapes. (She would never reveal her secret.) Sometimes she would also design cutout shapes for the basic shells and my father, with his Dremel tool, would cut them to her specifications.

She promoted her work to a mid-town Manhattan bank, which displayed her eggs one Easter season in their show windows. I designed an exhibit of them for the Museum where I worked. One year, New York’s Daily News sent a photographer and a reporter to our house, and her work was displayed in the Easter Sunday double-spread of its magazine section.

She designed and made elegant royal crowns,

complete with real diamond, ruby, and emerald chips.

Marjorie Crosby Bergmann

was our family’s original

artsy fartsy artist supreme.

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