Here’s the main reason I chose the title of today’s post:
“It’s a Raggy Waltz,” by Dave Brubeck, has been playing in my mind a lot, lately.
Here’s the original version of that tune (with just the album cover as a visual), which I listened to, when I was a kid:
(thanks to MasterXelpud)
Here’s Dave Brubeck playing that tune (not with his usual crew) in some 60’s British movie which I’ve never seen (according to the YouTube comments):
(thanks to Jane8948)
So why has that tune been playing in my head?
How the hell should I know, people? My mind is very mysterious and complex (as I’m sure yours is, too). But it IS fun to guess. So I’ll ask myself that same question, again:
So why has that tune been playing in my head?
Hmmmm. I’ve got nothing for “why,” at this point. However, I shall now free-associate about the title, and perhaps the “why” may appear, in some way. And if it doesn’t, so what?
When I was a kid, I liked listening to Dave Brubeck, especially the albums “Time Out” and “Time Further Out.”
I liked playing “Take Five” and “It’s a Raggy Waltz” on the piano.
Even though my family didn’t eat any ham when I was growing up, I was quite the ham when I was a little kid. That is, I loved singing, dancing, and telling jokes. (By the bye, I still love doing those things.)
And, also, I loved acting.
When I was in nursery school, I played the baby bear in the Big Annual Production of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” This was quite a coup, because I was the ONLY child in the younger class who had a part in the play. This amazing triumph may have been the result of type casting (I looked the part). I prefer this explanation: it had to do with my talent.
When I was in junior high school, I eagerly joined the drama club. Early that year, there was a contest: to write and put on a skit. Because of Writing Rule # 1 — “Write What You Know” — I, with my friend Laura, put together a collection of jokes about Being in the Hospital, which we then performed, in front of everybody else in the club. My memory is:
- I stole most of the jokes in that skit (but not all of them).
- Laura and I won the contest.
Aha! Now I know why “It’s a Raggy Waltz” has been going through my head! I believe it was triggered by my use of the word “braggy” in some previous posts (here and here). Yes, indeed, that Dave Brubeck tune has been playing on my internal radio station, since I coined the word “braggy,” a few days ago. (Yes, “braggy” sounding like “raggy” is enough — in my mind — to trigger that sort of thing.)
And … this has been a braggy post so far, too.
At this point in the post, though, I’d like to turn my attention to the other side of “braggy.”
If “braggy” is the word I use about things I’m proud of — successes — what word might I use to describe … failures?
This is an especially challenging question, since I invite myself (and others) to let go of the concepts of failure and success, since we continually re-evaluate what success and failure mean, as we move along the paths of our lives. Also, I believe those concepts don’t really help (especially the concept of “failure”).
Nevertheless, I shall return to this question: if I use the word “braggy” about “successes”, what word should I use for “failures”?
This reminds me of the Miller Analogies Tests I had to take, to get into Film School AND Social Work School. Okay! Cue the Miller Analogies Test, for this post:
Success:Braggy :: Failure:
(a) Are you kidding? We have to take a Miller Analogies Test, just to read this friggin’ post?
(b) “Braggy” itself is a made-up word! How dare you make us guess another one of your made-up words?
(c) Oh, all right, I’ll take a guess for your stoopid test, just to get this over with.
While all those answers are legitimate, I would say the answer is “d”.
Where was I, before the phoney-baloney Miller Analogies Test?
Oh yes. I would like to turn my attention to something that felt like a failure, when it happened, no matter what language I use to characterize it.
Here are the facts:
After my braggy moment in the Junior High Drama Club, I tried out for the class play that year (I think it was “Alice in Wonderland”). My memory is that I didn’t get a part. I’m not sure about the accuracy of that — I may have gotten a teensy-eensy part — but I do know I was very disappointed. It felt like a failure. Also, around that time — age 13, people! — I was getting more self-conscious and self-critical. I began to think of myself as “bad” at certain things, including acting.
I didn’t try out for any more plays, throughout junior high and high school.
However, my last year in high school, the drama club put on an old-time, spoofy melodrama, called “Love Rides the Rails.” And I did participate in that play, in a different way.
I became the piano player for “Love Rides the Rails”, which also involved arranging all the music for the show.* I got to plan and play all the music, which included chase music, romantic music, villain music, and so on. I stole pretty much everything, from the silent movie musical vocabulary**, but it still felt I was creating AND performing. That was so much fun: to arrange the music, to play for the rehearsals, and to watch the actors create and build the play.
Time out, for a very early memory:
Since I was very young, I always loved watching actors create plays, My first memory of that is my friend Debbie Popkin’s mother, Nancy, creating plays for a local children’s theater.*** Watching that process backstage and watching the plays themselves, was …. magical.
For “Love Rides the Rails”, it became even more fun when I was given a partner, to help play the music. His name was Richard Pollack, he was a Junior (so I didn’t know him before we got to play together), and he played a string instrument (my memory is that it was a mandolin****).
Here’s a photo, of Richard and me, during a performance night:
This is what I want to point out to you, about that picture:
- It was taken by one of my parents, probably my father.
- You can see Richard’s musical instrument, which I still think was a mandolin.
- Richard is tipping BOTH of our hats, since I’m using both my hands to play piano, in that moment.
- I can recognize some of my classmates, in that photo.
- People in that photo look very happy.
Before I end this post, I need to ask one final question:
What in the Wide Wide World does all of this have to do with the title and the topic of this post?
Just this: For the intermission of “Love Rides the Rails”, when I was in High School, I played a song that was really fun, and which I really loved to play.
“It’s a Raggy Waltz.”
Thanks to musicians everywhere (to whom I always like to give credit), to Morland Cary (who wrote “Love Rides the Rails“)*****, to people from my high school (including my friend Harry, who was a great villain in that play), to my friend Debbie’s mother Nancy, and to you — of course! — for visiting today.
* My official title, for the play, was “Musical Coordinator at piano” (which I just found in my high school yearbook).
** I’ve searched YouTube for specific examples of that music I stole, but no luck yet. Actually, this post includes some of the romantic music I stole.
*** I can’t remember the exact name of that theater group, but it had the words “light” or “lantern” in it. I remember that because (1) somebody held up a lantern at some point during the introduction of the play and (2) those plays brightened up my childhood, for sure.
**** The high school yearbook doesn’t help my memory, here, because it just lists him as “musician.”
***** Yes, I really linked to the complete script of “Love Rides the Rails” there. And here, too.