Imagine what a curse this is

Imagine you are on stage at your junior high school, playing the piano. Your parents are in the audience, along with several of their closest friends.  As you play, your father turns to his best friend, a guy who was always like your funniest uncle who is also a guitar player.   Your father says quietly to this guy “it’s a shame she doesn’t have the discipline to ever become a great concert pianist.  We started her too late, that other girl is so much better than her.”

You will of course never hear about this, unless decades later this beloved uncle figure is suddenly rejected by your parents as the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler.  The transformation became necessary after he witnessed embarrassingly human behavior and your parents both felt humiliated by his moral stance.  Uncle Hitler might write something like this, like this thing you’re reading right now:

You were a musical prodigy, my dear, the independence of hands that you had at the age of 6 was as amazing as your ability to play full classical pieces by ear.  Your musical talent was mind blowing, off the charts, phenomenal. But your parents, who, as I only recently learned, are both narcissists and see the world as strict hierarchy, black and white, win or lose, glory or shame, didn’t understand that somebody with your degree of musical talent should be guided by love of music to wherever that talent takes her. 

In their ignorance/arrogance your parents decided they could harness your love of music to instill discipline in you by forcing classical piano lessons on you.  I always gave them the benefit of the doubt on this, neither one realized that the greatest musicians we know often can’t read music.  You know the long list of these Paul Simons, John, Paul and Georges as well as I do.  You hated these lessons, and the straightjacket of classical piano training, although you easily mastered everything they required.  You fought a succession of these overmatched teachers, who were surrogates for your implacable fucking parents who wound up needing to convince you, decades later, that, among other things, your beloved uncle was actually Uncle Hitler. 

I am so sorry to be the bearer of this unbearable, but hopefully helpful news, that your feelings about the unsafeness of the world are based in real experience, and you are not to blame for the hurt you feel. I’m there with you now, in solidarity.

My door is always open to you for any insight a guitar playing mass murderer who has known you since you were born can share. 

Have a nice day, and if you will excuse me now, I have to get back to my unslakable, inchoate rage and ongoing mass murder project.  I’m on a timetable here, dear, and the clock is ticking.

Love always, 

Your Uncle Adolf


A beautiful, famous tune by a genius named Django Reinhardt.

Decided to try to do this lilting number as well as I possibly could. Needed to learn the slightly odd, genius form by heart, which I don’t always do, and learn the essential parts of the original arrangement, and then be able to play the melody over it comfortably enough, and in different positions, that I could start throwing the blues over it a little bit. This one’s much of the way there (after a solid couple of days playing it a lot) though not quite ready yet. But I thought it was worth a  listen.   If you get a third of the enjoyment listening that I had playing it, it will be well worth your minute and a half.

I hope you are well, and if not well, at least not too bad. 

We brought out the worst in each other

I stand by my original comment.

“From when I asked you what was the reason for your final, fatal estrangement?”

Yeah, when I told you we brought out the worst in each other.

“Yeah, I remember when you said that, but I have to confess, I never really got that.”

I fucking shot the guy, twice.

“OK, but it seems clear you had no intent to actually kill him.”

I took a gun and shot my oldest amigo twice, once in the thigh, once in the kneecap. In the kneecap, because it’s supposed to be excruciatingly painful to be shot in the knee. I would say the worst in each of us had been brought out by that point.

“Not so, I beg to differ, not the worst, he didn’t bring out the worst in you (though you may well have brought out the worst in him). The worst would have caused you to shoot to kill, you would have blown his brains out or shot him twice in the gut, so he’d die slowly and in great agony like in the Westerns when somebody gets gut shot

Well, sure, killing him would have been worse, in a strict sense the worst, but goddamn it, I shot a guy I’ve been friends with since we were ten years old. I would say we brought out the worst in each other, or, at the least, very bad things.

“As you admit, not the worst, bad, sure, very bad, but by your own admission, not the worst.”

Well, as Shakespeare has some poor devil say in King Lear, “as long as you can say it’s the worst, it’s not the worst.”

“Ah, you mean:

  • Edgar[aside] O gods! Who is’t can say ‘I am at the worst’?
    I am worse than e’er I was.
  • Old ManTis poor mad Tom.
  • Edgar[aside] And worse I may be yet. The worst is not
    So long as we can say ‘This is the worst.’ “

Yes, I lack your eidetic, photogenic memory.

“You mean my lightning fast google fingers.”

Yes, I’m sure that is what I mean.

“But anyway, I’m interested in hearing more of this ‘we brought out the worst in each other’ business.”

Well, shooting my old friend was about as bad as it got, and, of course, I only winged the guy, or crippled him I guess is more accurate, so I guess nothing really bad happened between us…

“No need to be snide, Clyde. Precision in language is important, as you know, being an officer of the court. Bringing out ‘bad enough’ in each other is far from bringing out the ‘worst'”

Is there a point to this exercise in semantics?

“Are you referring to lexical or conceptual semantics?”

Plain old school yard semantics.

“It’s just that you are in the habit of making wild claims you later are unable to back up, I’m trying to help you communicate more clearly and not contradict yourself.”

So to avoid contradiction, for you, I need to make it clear that we brought out very bad, dark, violent things in each other, that while shooting him was, admittedly, bad, and I spent two years on probation (talk about a good lawyer), we did not actually bring out the absolute ‘worst’ in each other, unless you consider that perhaps the worst I could do was shoot somebody I’ve known for years twice, deliberately, to cause maximum pain.

“No need to be so snippy about it, I’m just making a point.”

Snippy, you say, could you give me the lexical semantic etymology of that term of art?

“Snippy is a colloquial phrase, as you well know. It means short-tempered, snarky, bitten off with an overtone of hostility, as in snipping, or perhaps, nipping. I don’t think it’s fair to take it out on me if you habitually seek a pass, a poetic license, for speaking with imprecision.”

I made the point that we stopped being friends for good once I finally understood that we were in an eternal struggle, that there was no chance of coming to any understanding, that we were locked in a zero sum game for who had the right to be more disappointed by the other, whose anger and hostility was more justified. Our rotting cadaver of a friendship had by then become toxic, septic, it had to be put out of its misery for everyone’s good. My shorthand for all that, and my abiding belief, when pressed for a summary of the reason we are no longer friends, after almost half a century, is that we brought out the worst in each other. We had no empathy towards each other, to put it as mildly, and unsnippily as I can.

“Well, there’s no reason to be so fucking snide…”

Argumentative, your Honor!

“I’m not the one making floridly exaggerated claims.”

Floridly, you say, as in floridly psychotic, complete with the fragrant bouquet of hallucinations and addled brain full of false beliefs?

“Whatever… you know, for someone as smart as you are it’s kind of sad that you can’t have a simple intellectual disagreement with somebody without getting all bent out of shape and taking it out on the other person, charging me with being argumentative. You know argument is sport with me, and I can as easily argue your side of the debate as the side I am staunchly defending against you. Why do you take it so personally?”

I only take it personally, I suppose, because I am personally being subjected to this hectoring lecture on precision in language, over a heinous and painful thing I personally did to an old friend after years of escalating hostility. I personally have to defend myself against your sporty, fun ‘I get such a kick out of being contrary!’ inquisition, or maybe prosecution is more accurate, I have to check to see if my poetic license has expired or not.

“Jesus, you really are a fucking hard-ass. You can certainly dish out the punishment but you seem incapable of taking even a gentle push to make yourself more clear.”

The only way I could be more clear, at this point, is by going home, getting my legally possessed gun (great lawyer!) and pointing it at your fucking knee.

“Oh, you talk a good game, tough guy, but this would be a second offense and you’d do prison time.”

Not necessarily, not if I killed you and buried your body here, at this scenic spot where your carcass would never be found.

(He pulls a gun out of his backpack and clicks off the safety).

“You talk a good game, pal, but now that you’ve threatened to kill me, this would be self-defense, standing my ground in reasonable, or at least articulable, fear of deadly assault, here in the great state of Florida.”

We’re in Mississippi, friend.

“Same shit, different state motto”

Well, you might as well shoot me, but, not in the knee, please, for the love of God.

“Don’t worry about that, there is only one reason to shoot somebody, and it’s not to make him limp for the rest of his miserable life.”

Your clearheadedness is an inspiration to everybody in the Laughing Academy, sir.

“Oh, I’m the crazy one? On your knees, motherfucker.”

You shouldn’t use the ‘f-word’.

“Are you fucking mocking me?!”

Oy, I wouldn’t dream of it!