I Unadorn You!


I’m currently eating a cereal with a front cover that states, “Unadorned Organic Granola.”  What does that even mean?  Do I need to bring a dictionary to the breakfast table?  I do know this: I’m pretty sure I’m going to need my cereal to be adorned with as much adornment as possible.  I’m pretty sure if I want to be make it through the day, unadorned is not going to get it done.


7 Deadly Phrases – NFL Coach

1. “I understand that I already have a job. But in today’s environment, I think it’s a good idea to have a backup plan.”  (Monday’s phone interview for Team Mascot.)

2. “Randall, you understand the main responsibility of a wide receiver is having the ability to RECEIVE the ball when you are WIDE open?” (Tuesday’s review game footage.)

3. “That’s a great three part question, Sid.  A question whose parts I intend to ignore, obfuscate and spin in this order.” (Wednesday’s News Media Day.)

4. “No Darrin, you do not accumulate yardage running to and from the locker room.” (Thursday’s players’ meeting.)

5. “Just remember, we have a better chance of executing the play if all 11 players are on the field.” (Friday’s final run-through.)

6. “Okay, let’s go over tomorrow’s playbook.  Are we the X’s or O’s?”  (Saturday’s final coaches meeting.)

7. “Did the ref say ‘4th and long’ or ‘Everything will go wrong’?” (Sunday!)

8. “So, this new job, can you guarantee me that it will not involve taking any questions from the press?” (Monday’s 2nd interview for Team Mascot.)

Cool – Be Smooth

“I don’t know that I’ve made any real contribution.
I’ve done what I’ve set out to do.”
– Benny Carter

A lot of jazz musicians have come and gone, but I don’t think any had a life like Benny Carter. But what can you say about a man whose career spanned eight decades? Actually, quite a bit, but I don’t want to bog down on chronological facts. So here are some adjectives:

elegant, suave, harmonious

You probably never heard of Benny Carter for he spent most of his career just a step out of the limelight. He may have been one of the most talented musicians to pick up the alto saxophone. He also played the trumpet, trombone and clarinet. But where Benny really made his mark was musical arrangements, sewing the underlying lines of the American musical cannon to where he created his own sound. If you need an example, just listen to Ray Charles’ “Busted.” That’s Benny’s horns.

“The problem of expressing the contributions
Benny Carter made to popular music is so
tremendous, it completely fazes me.”
-Duke Ellington

Born in Harlem in 1907, Benny took to music at a very early age. Self-taught at every phase, by fifteen he was playing professional gigs. By nineteen he was arranging music for big bands. By his early twenties, everybody from Gene Krupa to Benny Goodman was asking Benny for help.

sophisticated, bright, inventive

What made Benny successful more than most was his multiple talents. He wasn’t a one-trick pony. He could play as well as arrange. He led big bands and also played as a sideman. He composed as well as taught. He wrote music for Hollywood and he even toured for the State Department. In fact, there is one word to describe this type of life—flowing. If something did not work out, Benny already had five other things lined up. He was far too talented to let failure get in the way. He was a consummate professional, who constantly improved his craft. Many outside the industry never noticed, but there was one select group that cherished him more than most – his peers.

“Everybody ought to listen to Benny.
He’s the whole musical education.
– Miles Davis

Benny wasn’t an American musical star. He was part of the foundation. He is one of the few musicians who actually grew better as he accumulated years. His sound never grew old. He was totally incapable of growing irrelevant. He may be the only musician who won more Grammys after receiving a lifetime achievement award (1987). He won Jazz Artist of the Year from both Down Beat and Jazz Times when he was 83. When he turned ninety, he celebrated his birthday by having a concert in Oslo, Norway. How many people get there name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well as receiving a National Medal of Arts from the NEA? Benny did. He also picked up a few Honorary Doctorates from a few places like Princeton and Harvard.

But that was for music. What made Benny cooler than most is how he lived his life. Although described as low-key and humble, he was no wallflower. Even though he was not one to stand on the mountaintop and make a stand, he did subtly and relentlessly beat back the racism he encountered at every turn. He challenged the ugly beast on many fronts when he formed the first international-interracial Big Band in Holland; called Europe his second home when he became tired of the treatment in the first; fought legal battles to live where he wanted in Los Angeles no matter the era or the exclusivity of the neighborhood, and challenged the current belief that an African American could indeed compose original music for the television and movie industry.

Through it all Benny Carter remained. There were no bouts with drugs, midnight arrests or multiple marriages. There was his love of music and the steady rise that is rarely seen in the industry.

“My good old days are here and now.”
– Benny Carter

My brother Chad was lucky enough to see Benny when the twilight years were burning their brightest. It was in Chicago at an outdoor musical festival. It was such a beautiful day and enjoyable concert Chad and his girlfriend remained well after the last song filtered through the humid air. They sat on a blanket on the open bluff and watched the crew break down the set.

Then Benny walked by.

Chad got up and thanked him for a wonderful concert, and being the consummate professional, Benny engaged with a little chit chat. He asked Chad where he was from Chad replied and returned the same question. Benny’s response:

“I live in Southern California, but I spend a great deal of time in Europe. But don’t hold that against me. If you’re going to hold anything against me, let it be Lena Horne.”

Image by fangol

Foreigners – Canadian Geese

Canadian Goose by by Robert LawtonI know it’s xenophobic but I do not like Canadian Geese.  As a group they are a gaggle of jerks. I don’t know why more people do not share this sentiment.  There’s been so much talk about closing down our southern border that these flying gasbags come in unimpeded and over-extend their stay.

Overall, I’m not a big fan of birds.  Let’s face it, they don’t make great pets.  Unlike Flipper or Lassie, there isn’t one classic T.V. show featuring a parakeet, let alone a finch.  Even in an ensemble, who’s the grumpiest Disney character of them all? “D-O-N-A-L-D D-U-C-K!”  Look at Donald’s extended family.  His uncle is a penny pincher and his nephews are named after failed, corrupt politicians and Italian gangsters.

I think we can all admit that ducks are a cranky breed, but they are sunshine and daffodils compared to Canadian Geese.  Foul indeed!  They are rude, obnoxious and go wherever they want to go and do whatever they want to do.  From a transportation point-of-view, I’m glad they don’t drive.  From an eating point-of-view, I’m glad they can’t get into all-you-can-eat buffets. If they did, there would be a lot more incidences of road rage in front of  Chinese restaurants.

What I don’t understand about Canadian Geese is they are exact opposite of their human counterparts.  Canadian Citizens are unflappably nice.  They don’t have a rude bone in their bone-chilled bodies.  I bet if you took a Canadian at birth and raised him in the South Bronx, you’d still have the most polite New Yorker unable to hail a cab.  In fact, the only rude thing about a Canadian is an insistence to sometimes speak French.

I wish the Canadian Geese could take the lead from their human counterparts and migrate back to their country at the first sign of the spring.  But no, they got it too easy here, taking advantage of our quaint neighborhood parks and plush golf courses.  And how do they show their appreciation? I can guarantee you they are not contributing to our national economy or adding to the tax base.  Instead, they hog up all the natural resources and push out the natural citizens like wood ducks, mallards and impede any golfer’s ability to make a birdie.

Let’s be honest here.  Canadian Geese are nothing more than panhandlers with no hands.  But instead of begging for loose change, they want whatever you were thinking of eating at the picnic table.  That’s right! Canadian Geese are nothing more than white bread junkies.  I hate walking through a gaggle of them.  They are slow to get out of the way and always give you a look of disgust if you don’t have any Wonder Bread.

The other day a goose hissed at me because I walked by empty handed.  Can you believe it?  Hissed!  I’ve never been hissed at before and that includes a summer internship in India as a snake charmer.

Don’t get me started what Canadian Geese do after they eat all that subsidized bread.  I don’t need to paint a picture for you can’t miss it while tip-toeing through the excrement.  My God, how can any group of animals close down a public beach?  That’s right! Your local beach wasn’t closed down because some mother forgot to change a dirty diaper.  It happened because the Canadian Geese on shore didn’t know how a public restroom works.

It’s time to get serious with these troublemaking ne’er-do-wells.  It’s time to round them up and deport them back to Canada.  It’s time to send them to Edmonton.  It’s time for them to vacate back to Vancouver.  It’s time to toss them to Toronto.  Now is the time to round them up and mush them back to Montreal.

One question:  Anybody know how close a border to an animal of flight?