Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"For the Children!"

I had a most unusual encounter in my driveway yesterday.  As I turned the corner, you could hardly miss him: A stranger with a clipboard moving from one door to the next, though the knee-length plaid shorts and bowtie were more of an affront visually. As I stepped out of my car and gathered my bag and my violin from the back seat, I heard the neighbor across the street shooing him away. As I turned to face the house, ...

"Hey, big guy!"

Over the years, the neighborhood seems to have become an open market for the door-to-door solicitors and evangelists.  Today's fare?  Magazine sales...

... for the children.

Over the years, I've encountered the door-to-door "help send me to college" magazine salesmen, but I hadn't heard the "for the children" pitch yet...

"I have a few minutes before I have to be in for dinner. Tell me more."

The organization he peddles for, I'm told, gives the children a chance -- children like him, deprived and disadvantaged, a fellow who tells me he was shot and had to learn to walk again -- and the organization, one that would give someone like him a chance when others like McDonalds might not.  So, might I not subscribe to some magazines my neighbors listed here have already done, showing their confidence and support, and then might I not receive a hand receipt just like this one on writing my check to this organization's name, not to the salesman himself?

"I'm sorry, but I don't need any magazines."

The exchange continued, each of us taking information the other had volunteered, attempting to turn it to our own advantage, until:

"I'm sorry, but like I said: I don't need any magazines."

"Look, no one wants the magazines; support the cause."

This fellow told me he could continue to press well past when my dinner would become cold. It seems I didn't have to tell him that I was willing to chat with him all evening, but who knows how many easy sales he'd miss that way?  He left...

... but not before this: "I like you.  I like your spirit and you're clearly talented.  Have you considered how much better you'd do for the children if you were selling something that we needed?"

"This organization gives folks like me a chance."

"Have you considered how many of these people you could help if you hired them and sold something people wanted?"

He wasn't going to hear it.  I told him that I would set aside the same amount of money as the cost of the subscriptions until he returned selling something we needed. He told me that he's not coming back.  So that was that.  I went inside and we took care of the children.



I'm not sure there's anything fundamentally special about the encounter except in review: After all, it's well understood that people sometimes aren't purchasing what they're actually buying or selling what they're offering, and there's nothing unusual about building connections and appealing to sympathies to gain advantage. So, what must have been on my mind for me to have responded as I did?  What did the exchange fish out?

What are your thoughts?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Once More Into the Fray

For Father's Day: A New Method for Torturing the Kids
I've resisted this one for quite a while...

It started with the mandolin -- everyone knows that story. And when I felt I needed a little variety or to explore outside the edges, I added a banjo, a guitar, and eventually even a bass guitar. Every so often I try to tune my voice with the guitar, too, and I do keep a harmonica in the car for when I'm stuck in traffic.

This, though, is something different.

The overarching intention hadn't changed: I want to see more amateur musicians practicing out in the wild. It didn't seem that that was going to happen unless I was part of the scene, so I picked up an instrument of my own and started. Along the way, I also picked up the notion that it would be wise to have one or two of each of the bluegrass band basic instruments on hand so that I could host and encourage the effort. With that, I also picked up the notion that I should at least be passable on each of those instruments so I could fill in on one if people dropped by with particular expertise or interest in another.

The fiddle, I figured, would be the last -- and a long way off before I would even consider it. The learning curve to "passable" -- or even "bearable" -- is comparatively huge.

Now here it is.

In retrospect -- or rationalizing backwards -- I couldn't have imagined the fiddle being my first instrument: there would simply be far, far too much for me to learn all at once.  Now with some fiddle tunes under my belt from the mandolin, why not try them out on a fiddle?

It's going to be a while before anyone else enjoys this as much as I do, but at least I've gotten out of my own way to give it a shot.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Who.

What do I know about Maya Angelou?

Some years ago, she was scheduled to be the commencement speaker at the university.

Maya Who? The university didn't teach me that -- different major. I looked her up. The university didn't teach me that either -- another story. Ahh, a poet... and some quote about what to do when people show you they are.

She didn't show up. Something better on the schedule, I suppose.

Here's hoping.

And now you know.

Spirit bells ring in the distance, a former monk mispronounces your name.