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THIRTEEN
When I was 12 years old I was still a child, but I have always kept busy. Early on I used to shine shoes for a nickel. I had a paper route and sold magazines door-to-door; later on I peeled potatoes and washed dishes at Jerry’s G and L drive-in at the corner of Green and Lake in Pasadena. Pretty much anything legal for a kid to make money I did. I was a happy, industrious kid. At thirteen though, I started thinking about stuff: life, girls, relationships, marriage, divorce, and so on. I made two decisions then which have had an enormous influence on my choices ever since.
The first had to do with music. Mr. Dana, the band leader at our junior high school, loaned me a rather beat-up old cornet to play, saying they already had too many drummers, which was my first choice! All my life I had been listening to music. Dad played piano by ear, Mom played violin, piano and sang. The radio player the Make Believe Ballroom featuring Glen Miller, Woody Herman, the Dorsey brothers and more. This was the music I labeled as “good”. They also played Guy Lombardo, Sammy Kay, and others of their ilk – “bad” in my estimation. My list was extensive, but you get the idea. “Good” was solid, man! It was hip, groovy, where it’s at, right on! My friend, fellow student and pianist, known as Larry “Boogeyman” Bangham, at Pasadena City College would say with great energy that any “bad” music was “sca-ware” (square) meaning that it was utterly not acceptable, man! Larry was completely self taught. He played for years in a small shack at the back of his parents’ home. His playing of boogie-woogie was the best I’ve ever heard. I went into the Army and lost track of him. He was my age, which is now 89. There was nothing in the world worse than being “square”. I promised myself I’d never, ever be square! The second decision I made had to do with just showing up and staying put. Over the years I’ve seen so many people just up and leave. Friends, relatives, women, kids, so many wander off to parts unknown. My Dad just left when I was young. He went to live in Detroit. I was going to go see him on my first furlough from the Army, but he died before I could get there. Just up and left the planet. I promised myself to never do that either.
Be hip. Hang in. Words I live by…