Guitar (and) lessons
It's important to let kids know I rock
One of my hippier professors in grad school once sat us in a circle and led class with acoustic guitar. I can’t remember the content, just the takeaway: using guitar in class can spark interest. And in 12 years of teaching, I’ve never once brought my guitar into the classroom. But I’ve played guitar for the kids a lot, often with them. No real educational value beyond letting them know their English teacher rocks.
A lot of my bands have been teacher-student hybrids. My first had the most, with five kids plus me. I am passable as a singer and a relentless self-promoter, so I usually take vocals. We rehearsed once, played a gig for field day on the last day of school. I invited sixth graders to the stage to do backup vocals on “Twist and Shout.” One Direction was popular, and my grunge reimagining of “What Makes You Beautiful” drew an impromptu seventh grade duetist. Closing our (three-song) show, I yelled, “Thank you very much, read five books this summer, make sure one’s nonfiction, my name’s Mr. Tobin!” and name-checked the band.
Our band teacher is an accomplished saxophonist, but he played bass in his after-school rock band club, and he invited me to join. We worked up to playing a school assembly with a couple sixth graders doing an original rap for the entire school. They got the crowd GOING, it was incredible. The bass player and I kept it going, student drummers came and went, trombones and saxes sat in, we became an assembly fixture over years. I got my home room to sing on “Man in the Mirror,” and we reached our peak on “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls,” with a full horn section and multiple drummers. The seventh grade sharing vocals killed the Left-Eye rap.
It’s a new way of knowing kids, and new way of them knowing me. Being peers in a band changes the relationship game. For the audience, seeing your English teacher playing guitar and singing “Back in the USSR” creates some new shadings.
Our first post-pandemic gig is today (if you’re reading this Monday) and we’re booked to play lunch for the kids. I’m both relieved and disappointed that most head directly to recess, but the few who stay are in for… something. The principal called us together as part of a year-long pro-arts campaign, so we have a math teacher on drums, a counselor on bass, others on violin and a viola. (Ever since high school, I tend to have a violin in my band.) Only a few of us rehearsed Friday, but I had a blast with “Sweet Home Chicago.” A lot of blues artists have put their own spin on the lyrics, all math-focused. So I’m taking my turn: “Two and two is four, four and four is eight, if you don’t have a pass you’ll be marked late.”
The Week in Dog Poo
Does it count as a Mosi Ta-three-poo if the three are sort of in rapid succession? Winnie dropped three deuces spaced out by several seconds and maybe five feet apiece. Usually if there’s to be a Ta-two-poo, there's a few minutes between. If they're sick, close together still just means the same block. This was three mini poos, all within half a Red Zone. It’s like she finished, then started walking and said, But wait there’s more. Twice. Did she break her own personal record? By the technicalest of technicalities, I guess. Woo-hoo?
In other news, my father-in-law insisted the fridge was secure and Winnie’s diarrhea was not due to an overdose of cakes. He’s an old PR guy, so I responded with his favorite line when my wife says he’s gotten something wrong: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Artistic dog poo liberties are occasionally taken.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Lovisa to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
This was basically me st school this past Friday, and again two days ago (if you’re reading this Wednesday). The idea was a play on Bring Your [LOVED ONE TBD] to Work Day, I gave Lovisa a rough idea and she went to town. The guy in his office with his feet up was all her, and is possibly my favorite part, and I love the revelation of the Boss’s bald spot. Also as I said last week, Lovisa has a substack, you should subscribe!
Jam of the Week
I seen a rainbow. TLC FTW.
My Back Pages
I’ve always noodled around with writing, and my one-time document of half-started, heart-hearted fiction in the college era was called “Stories.” Based on context clues, this is likely from 1994.
The Diary Of The Late Dr. Von Gumminstein
Today I went to the movies with my friends Scott, Laura, and Caroline. We saw, "In The Line of Fire," and it cost us a mere $2.50, because Caroline knows the best places to spend money at. Interesting people, these Americans.
Laura purchased some Gummi Bears at the concession stand, for chewing and digestion. These were strange pieces of food, and they were new to me, since there are no such treats back home in Germany. The candy is a small, brightly colored bear, about the height of a paper clip, and as thick as a magic marker.
In fact, I did go to that movie with those people and with such snacks purchased. I guess I needed to be German to make the “Von Gumminstein” work. I used to think it was unfair that college creative writing teachers were unimpressed by me, but I’m now looking with clearer eyes. I wrote like an overgrown sixth grader.
The fruit flavor was interesting. I attempted to chew the Bear and promptly swallow, but I was thwarted by the sheer power of the candy. What had first seemed a squishy food was proving to be, as Grandma used to say, as hard as a concrete dildo.
Sigh. I plead teenager
This amazed me greatly. I interrogated my chums for information about these Gummi Bears. All I acquired were green and yellow bears, and the results of an interesting experiment performed by Scott. It seems that he once immersed one of these candies in water for a long period of time. Apparently, the comestibles in question swelled up to an enormous size.
I had this conversation at the theater and became intrigued by the idea of swelling Gummi Bears. Years later in LA, I hosted a party where we soaked Gummi Bears in vodka and I walked around spooning them into people’s mouths. It was a super-spreader event for colds, not my greatest triumph. “Comestibles” is 100% cheese shop.
Bought a package of Gummi Bears today, for experimental purposes. Ate them all on the way home.
Bought more Gummi Bears. Steiny, my dog, urinated on the box, and I decided that this perhaps ruined the purity of my testing and opted to halt my experimentation.
Dr. Von Gumminstein has a successful first attempt and wants more, so he consults with Scott. In real life, Scott would soon become my nerdy roommate, and later best man at my wedding. At this point, he was just a nerd.
Scott suggested that the Bears' growth was possibly impeded by the constrictions imposed by the cups I used. I have decided to perform my next experiment in my swimming pool, in hope of creating a larger Gummi.
Bought more Bears. Perhaps I should invest in stock in the Gummi Corporation. I tossed a red Gummi Bear into my pool and I hope for the best.
I have not written in some time, and with good reason. I have been on the run, and am presently in a fallout shelter. Like some bad horror movie, my experiment went awry, and now I am being pursued by monstrous Gummi Bears.
Right, right, that was the impetus for this whole “story.” They get bigger, but HOW MUCH BIGGER COULD THEY GET? I was crushing hard on Woody Allen at the time (didn’t age well) and he loved his oversized.
When the initial red Bear dissolved in my pool, Scott decided that there was a negative chemical reaction which melted the candy. So we repeated the experiment in his brominated pool. Before he was absorbed into the Gummi flesh, Scott said that he believed there was an insane chemical reaction with the bromine.
At around 3:00 AM, we heard a crashing noise outside. We arrived to see a 50 foot Gummi Bear towering before us. It immediately devoured Scott, and I ran. The bear absorbed whatever it came in contact with. I climbed a tree and watched it wobble down Main Street, absorbing cars and buildings into its gelatinous exterior.
I do not think that it will find me in the fallout shelter.
Wait, I must answer the door. There is a man out there named Gerry Bare. Hold on.
I’m just impressed I once knew the word bromine.
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