Learning the flute

I have always been enamored of the etherial sounds of the flute.  It’s such a basic musical instrument that it seems to have been invented by every culture.  

I’ve never had music lessons, as I grew up in a family that was not so well to do.  My parents threatened to enroll me in accordion lessons once, but nothing ever came of that.  My mother had an electric organ in the living room.  I remember that it was a really big deal when it arrived.  Mom took lessons and played it with enthusiasm and skill.

Out of curiosity, I sat down at the organ and played with the keys, and read some of the beginner books, and thus became familiar with sheet music.  I picked out some Beatles tunes with the right hand, but that was the extent of my musical education.

I have always envied friends who could play musical instruments.  Some friends can play multiple instruments. A couple of my friends are professional musicians.  My youngest son plays a half dozen stringed instruments.  I always figured it would be too much effort and too much money to learn an instrument myself.

But a strange thing happens when your children leave home — you suddenly find that you have a lot more time on your hands.  My parents responded to this by watching a lot of television, going to bars, getting drunk a lot, having affairs and getting divorced.  Now, I love my parents dearly and I refuse to judge them.  However, I could suggest that this was not the most beneficial or healthy way to spend their middle-aged years.

 I responded to this by learning a lot of new skills, including the sword.

Well, it might be time to put the sword on hold.  In order to continue in my education of that martial art, I’ll need to invest in armor and start competing.  This doesn’t appeal to me so much.

My spouse and I were talking about music last week, and I mentioned that I have always wanted to learn the flute.  She said, “What’s keeping you?”

A very good question.  After doing some research via the telephone, I discovered that the local music store will rent me an instrument for $25 a month, and that lessons are $30 for half an hour.  We stopped by that music store on Saturday, talked to the owners for an hour or so, rented a beautiful Armstrong flute, and made arrangements to take lessons.  The shop owner also gave me a beginner’s book and a DVD with some instructions.

I was warned that forming the embouchure is a difficult skill to learn, but I figured it out in about five to ten minutes.  I believe the reason it’s considered difficult is that most students start learning it when they’re 10-years old.  I have a much more experienced mouth.  Perhaps being an old dog can be an asset when learning some new skills.  And speaking of old dogs, I’ve heard that learning music helps prevent Alzheimer’s.

Using the book and the DVD, I have learned the F Major scale.  I don’t play it rapidly or with any facility, but at least I know it.  While I practiced, my spouse dusted off her old alto recorder that has been sitting in the closet since college, and we managed to make some music together.  I wouldn’t call the cacophonous noise from that session a “jam” but it’s a start.

I hope I’m ready for the first lesson tomorrow.  In the meantime, I’m off to watch some Jethro Tull videos on YouTube.



Star Trek: eXtreme

(Spoiler Alert: Eva, this means you.)

In spite of the plot holes big enough to fly a starship through, the newest Star Trek movie, which basically re-invents the franchise, is a fun romp through Federation space.  The movie was intended to bring the 1960’s idea into the 21st Century, thereby attracting a whole new younger audience.  There was even a tag line, This is not your father’s Star Trek.

To that extent the movie was successful.  J. J. Abrams achieved this by ramping up the pace of the movie to warp speed.  The action, the space battles, the bar fights, the incredible stunts and even the jokes come at the audience in rapid fire phaser blasts.  It gets slightly repetitive, though, as Kirk seems to spend half the movie hanging by his finger nails from one precipice or another.

Abrams also achieved his goal by performing a frontal lobotomy on the philosophical side of Star Trek.  One of the hallmarks of the original show is that the crew slowed down enough to discuss the ethics of what they were doing.   Abrams could have gone a long ways towards keeping the original audience of the show by deleting just one of those cliff-hanging scenes and replacing it with a philosophical discussion on the ethics of time travel or some other aspect of the plot.

So while the movie is faster and more fun than most of the previous 10, it’s also dumber.  This is exemplified by Kirk’s cheating of the Kobiyoshi Maru exercise.  I always imagined this event to be something much more clever, and we are, in fact, advised that Kirk is “genius level” by Captain Pike.  But instead of something clever, we get “in your face.”  Instead of intelligence, we get self-absorbed belligerence.

And for this, it is implied that Kirk deserves, and indeed expects, to be promoted from cadet to commander of the fleet’s flagship.  Kirk is rewarded for jumping first without thinking about it at all.

That’s not the Starfleet I came to know and love.  My children’s generation is welcome to it.

The Age of My Life

I really hate that I qualify for this event.  The city of Sacramento, California is sponsoring a program called Sports for Life!  The tag-line is The Sports for Life! Series aims to provide many of Sacramento’s 50+ athletes with an opportunity to continuing pursuing the sports they love.

Ach!!  50+ Athletes?!  Yes, that refers to age, not the number of participants.  I’m over 50?!  Gack!!  I can’t be that old!  I was just in college … well … thirty years ago.  But that was just last week!

When our oldest son turned 21, we told him that was enough.  He’s not allowed to have any more birthdays because we aren’t old enough to have kids his age.   To his credit, he has made every effort to comply, but he turned 27 in March.

But hey!!  Look at the program of events that the City of Sacramento is sponsoring:

Tentative 2009 Series Schedule

March 28 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, Hotshot and Free Throw Event (Leonardo Di Vinci School)

April 25th & 26th Soccer Tournament (Cherry Island Soccer Complex)

May 9th Archery Tournament (Discovery Park)

September 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, Hotshot and Free Throw Event (Leonardo Di Vinci School)

Basketball, soccer and archery.  It’s not like it’s chess and contract bridge.  This blog is being written by a senior woman who has scars on her hands from swords and wrenches (I repair airplanes for a living), and callouses on her fingers from archery, and I wear them as a badge of honor.  This is not our parents’ retirement!  During sword sparing class last night, a young man in his thirties commented, “You’re kicking my butt in the endurance department!”

Still, there’s that psychological reaction to one’s half-century birthday, and that was a few years ago.  Is the Senior Olympics next?

It’s time to embrace the age of my life and enjoy it.  And by enjoy it, I mean kicking whipper-snapper butt with sword and bow.  I know where I will be on May 9th (The Flower Moon).  Heading for Sacramento with a banjo on my knee.  Where will you be?

Don’t Let the Past Remind Us of What We are not Now …

For the Rock n’ Roll illiterate, the words in the title of this post are from a song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, called Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, sung at an event that has become an icon of the 1960’s, Woodstock.  I am reminded of these words a lot lately.

I do not pretend to have any knowledge of life beyond physical death, but if reincarnation actually happens, then I feel that there is a very good reason why we don’t remember our past lives: because if we did, we’d waste much of our valuable lifespan trying to right the wrongs of those past lives.  We need to live here and now.

And this concept is not limited to past lives.  I often catch myself wishing for the svelte, athletic body that I had in my younger days.  I need to stop and enjoy the many gifts that the ensuing years have given:  A little more wisdom; children who have grown into amazing adults; experience and perspective yet denied our Gen-X and Gen-Y replacements.

Besides, as I wrote in a previous post, I am still possessed of the spirit of a 25 year old.  I just hope that that 25 year old doesn’t want it back any time soon.

Lune, the AARP is calling.

Age is a state of mind, but entropy totally sucks.

My ego and my body are at odds. There is a constant battle about just how old I am. According to my ego, I’m a young and spry 25. My body constantly tries to remind me that my real age is something more than that.

For instance, I take sword lessons. No, not fencing, sword. The difference is that fencing is a sport, and all the weird rules about right-of-way and staying on the lane and scoring with a mere whisper of a touch of the blade keep it a sport. Swords is a martial art. Nobody cares about right-of-way, and nobody is going to pay attention to a touch of the blade that wouldn’t draw blood. (Yes, we are armored. Like the punch line says, “I’m crazy, not stupid.”) And if you insist on staying in a lane, people will look at you funny and talk about you in hushed, conspiratorial tones in the showers.

Certainly, this is not a sport for the infirm, and it favors youth and speed and skill to varying degrees. I am of an age where skill must be the deciding factor.

I am also of an age where I have to take ibuprofen for the achy joints and muscles afterwards.

Do I ever remember to take the medication prophylactically? Surely you jest! When I don the armor and wield the sword, I’m 25 again.

Then in the evening, we cut the rug with a West Coast Swing.

And then I go home, and the body says, “Y’know, you ain’t a kid anymore. The ibuprofen is on top of your dresser, where you left it last night.”

“We already had this conversation,” the ego says.

“Yes, we have,” the body agrees. “Every night this week, as a matter of fact.”

“So, what are you saying?” the ego demands. “I should just stand on the sidelines and watch the kids have all the fun?”

“What happened to bocce?” the body says. “That was a good, painless sport.”

“Any activity that can be done with a glass of wine in one hand shouldn’t really be called a sport,” the ego insists.

The body sighs. “You’re going to keep this up until your joints fall apart at the seams, aren’t you?”

“Even the universe is mortal,” the ego reminds. “I’m going to scuba dive with my grandchildren some day.”

“Your kids aren’t even married yet!” the body says with an exasperated tone.

“Hush, hush,” the ego makes calming noises. “We have lots of time for that.”