Tag Archives: Brother

Big Blue Kazoo

My brother recently (as in a week and a half ago) decided to quit smoking and is vaping to ease the transition. His vape pen looks like a big blue kazoo.

Kazoo (noun): a small, simple musical instrument consisting of a hollow pipe with a hole in it, over which is a thin covering that vibrates and produces a buzzing sound when the player sings or hums into the pipe.


Simple toy, assorted history:

– As the story goes, the kazoo in its North American form was the brainchild of one Alabama Vest, a black man from Macon, Georgia. To bring his idea to fruition, Vest eventually teamed up with German-American watchmaker, Thaddeus Von Clegg, though the circumstances of their meeting remain murky. At the 1852 Georgia State Fair, Vest’s “down south submarine” was purportedly introduced to the world.

– The first documented invention of what we now call the “kazoo” appears in 1883 via a patent application undertaken by American inventor Warren Herbert Frost.

– However, mass production of the kazoo did not occur until 1916, and is said to have come about after a traveling salesman, Emil Sorg, happened upon the down south submarine at the 1852 State Fair. Or so the story goes.

– And from here on, Vest and Von Clegg disappear from the narrative. No documentation of their collaboration has yet surfaced. It’s not certain if Vest attended the fair alone, or if he had partnered up with Von Clegg for the event. It is unclear whether Von Clegg only helped to create the prototype for Vest’s invention, or whether the two worked together to come up with the first ever “kazoo.” It’s difficult to say what that first kazoo even looked like.

– There is no proof that Vest and Sorg ever met, least of all at the 1852 State Fair.

– “Alabama Vest” and “Thaddeus Von Clegg” may or may not have ever existed at all. There is only no proof that they didn’t exist.

Which leaves us with our kazoo lore. And “down south submarine.”


So, then: my brother recently (as in a week and a half ago) decided to quit smoking and is vaping to ease the transition. His vape pen looks like a big blue down south submarine, which is about as descriptive as I feel like being on this particular item.


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Filed under Characters, Family, History, Names, People, Uncategorized

1. 2. & 3. Real Stories About Music

No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:




– Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without Country (2005: 66).

1. A Trip to the Supermarket.

Drink up, before it gets cold! It’s not as nice when it gets cold.

You know, I was at the supermarket, picking up this and that for the house when I saw it. It was on sale. So drink on up!

The thing about the supermarket, though, dear, you know. All the supermarkets today. They play songs. Fast songs, radio songs, saxophone songs.

And the people.

The People, the people say, you know, that even if they don’t particularly like them – or at all – that the songs don’t bother them. Not at all. They say to me all the time, dear, people say they can’t even hear those songs. Can you believe that?

But meanwhile, you know, there’s other people. People like me who can’t just stand there and not hear the songs. Clattering around in your brain like rats in a bone heap.

Have another. There’s plenty. Don’t be shy; it does no good.

So, you know, now, it’s like, OK. When people don’t mind the songs, when they don’t even hear them anymore, then why, why, why, why play them?? I can’t stand it. It’s like, well, you know? It’s like…

[bangs fists softly but rapidly on table top, abruptly stops]

It’s. Like. It. Makes. Me. Want. To. Take. A. Gun.

A gun, dear.

It makes me want to take a gun, put it in my tote, drive to the supermarket and then take out my gun from my tote and stand there in the supermarket and shoot out all the speakers. Every last one of them. Such a rush! And I’d shoot them one by one so that they’ll see and learn and know what those songs can do to a person.

Honestly, it’s enough to drive one mad.

Have another sip, dear.

That’s a girl.
2. Radio in E-flat Major.

Whoa. Wait, wait, wait! One moment…

Ah! I knew it. Concerto No.5! Beethoven. No. 5, E-flat Major, Op. 73. To be eggs-act. Sorry, guys, I need to turn this up!


The Emperor Concerto. “C’est l’empereur de concerti!” Beethoven’s last and best, if you ask me. Forget your Rachmaninoffs and your Brahms and Tchaikovskys!

You can keep Mozart.


HEY. Did I ever tell you guys about Charlie? Charlie H. Now, there was a good man. Good man, Charlie! Tough and mean as bloody hell, but a true and loyal friend if you were lucky enough to get on his good side. Which few ever did. He’d mess you up.

Charlie, Charlie.

 Charlie, Charlie, Charlie

They must play more of this kind of thing on the radio, all the time.

But good old Charlie. God, you shoulda seen him! Head like an anvil; gigantic, immovable! Legs so bow-legged he looked ready to pounce soon as you looked at him. But his hands. My god, but his hands were a thing of absolute beauty. You wouldn’t think they could be his, but they were. Delicate, yet firm. Strong, yet elegant. Luminous in the day and night.

Artist’s hands.

Charlie could play piano. Self-taught. He was, believe you me, one of the greatest pianists around, ever. Period. Charlie could play Beethoven’s No. 5, E-flat Major and he knew it and only played it very, very rarely. I used to go over to his house and he’d try to teach me but I never did get the hang of it. Mind you, I’d go over all the same, just to watch him play that fearless piano. The 2nd movement is where it got me every time. Gets me.

I like to imagine him, lying there that night, listening to the radio to No. 5, E-flat Major when his cabin burned down. Lit up like you wouldn’t goddamn believe, and with poor old Charlie inside.


Just like that. Log cabin in the middle of the woods, there was nothing left but ashes.

Nothing left of Charlie. Nothing left you could call Charlie.


HA, HA! The Gods themselves had to take good old Charlie down!

That was years and years ago, see, but it wasn’t properly writ up in the papers. They got wrong what happened, is what.

November 28th, 1811. Leipzig. I would give anything to have been there at the Gewandhaus. But what can you do?

What can you do?

His bed was right there, next to that old piano. Almost at it should have been.

You know?

Shit. I think we missed our exit.
3. Soundtrack of Our Lives.

My brother? The usual. He’s taken over the entire basement now – threw out all my old workout stuff and videos. I dunno. He’s, like, dwelling down there with god-knows-who. Different fucking people all the time. Fucking different people.

Why not? Because where is he supposed to go, that’s why not. He barely works. He’s bad with money. He’s broke. She knows that.

He’s the youngest too, which helps his case. I couldn’t get away with half of his fucking goddamn bullshit.

All kinds of people!

OK. Look. OK.

He’s got sheets and, like, lights up on the walls. He’s got cameras, CAMERAS, pointed at them.

Because I went down there to find it. I know! He asked me to come and see.

So we go down there and he’s got these white sheets up on the wall and there’s his laptop and he opens it and turns it on. I’m like, “OK. Where is it?” And he’s like, “just wait, man. You have got to see this.”

And it smells down there. It fucking reeks and I just want to get it and leave and, I dunno, get on with my life. OK? I mean, there’s garbage and furry plates and dirty underwear, like, fucking, everywhere. And…there’s a fucking mattress in front of the white sheets. Like, an extra, additional mattress in the middle of the room in addition to the one he sleeps on. And I look at the screen as I’m, you know, taking this all in and there’s that fucking mattress again.

On the screen! On his fucking dirty-ass laptop. And then, fuck me, these two ladies come on and they are rough as fucking hell and they start making out on the mattress on the screen and, you know, the one starts pawing at the other’s Sears underwear and ripping off her sports bra and I’m sure, I am like fucking goddamn sure, that I recognize one of them, she worked at the high school or some shit, like, holy fuck, is that lady from the admin office? Dylan’s mom? Is that Dylan’s fucking mom sinking into that dirty-ass mattress in the middle of the room, on the screen?

I am so, fucking, enraptured by this that I don’t even notice it at first. But it’s there. It was there from the instant when he clicked on the video. To play it, right? I realize that now.

My music. The stuff from back in the day. He found it when he was throwing out the rest of my shit. And, and, he cued it up. He looped it to make it last. He made it happen. OK?

Ever? No. Not ever. How do I, I can’t even. And it’s, like, he made it work. Finally. Which means, in a way, I made it for him.

It was always for him.
“Back to music. It makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it” (Vonnegut 2005: 67).

Vonnegut, Kurt. A Man Without Country. (2005). Random House Trade Paperbacks: New York.

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Filed under Music, People

Dog Face

I neglected to tell Stephen when he started walking Louis that he would, occasionally, be approached by people who would want to know what, exactly, Louis was.

Louis is a dog.  The rest, evidently, is theory.

Quick!  Someone call a taxidermist!!


The story within this story goes like this:

It was a breezy day with bitter wind and I was standing in line at Sherbourne station waiting for my turn to procure a TTC ID card.  The line wound outside the station and up and down the street, and seemed determined to circle the entire block.  People began to envy my spot, which had started at the end.  They gave us forms to fill out while we waited.  It didn’t help.

I called Stephen to let him know I’d be home in exactly forever.

“You missed it!  I’m out walking Lou.  And this old lady just came up to me and practically started yelling at me!”

“What?  Why?”

“I had my earphones on.  She came up to me and she pointed to Lou and was like, ‘what kind of dog is that?’  I took off my earphones and told her he’s a dachshund, and she was like ‘NO!’”


“Yes!  ‘NO.  That dog is not a dachshund.  Not a pure dachshund.  He’s more di-di dinsmont’…or something.  I think that’s what she said.”

“Was it dandie dinmont?”

Bill Cosby had a champion Dandie Dinmont back in 2007, Harry, named after Prince Harry.  Who could make that up?  Its proper, full show name? Ch Hobergays Fineus Fog!

I wish this dog were a toy that I wished was real.

“Yes!  That’s it. Then she was, like, ‘Are you sure he doesn’t have any dinmont in him?’”

“OK.  What did you say?”

“That, ‘uh, his name is Louis.’  I had no idea what she was getting at!”

And she left.  Stephen swears in was in “a huff.”

I will admit.  Lou is a strange creature.  Hard to pin down.  Some days, his fur is more red than brown.  Other days, it’s more of a kind of yellow.  Tawny?  He’s too small to be the standard of his breed and too big to be a miniature.  If I had to say, I’d say is ears are a little short and his legs are longer than they should be, for him to be what he is.

D-O-G spelled backwards is blasphemy.

Dachshund 4. Black & White Engraving from Cassell's The Book of the Dog, 1881

Officially, he is listed as “wirehaired dachshund” (for licensing and identification purposes), but I often have to add, “he’s probably got some Jack Russell…or something…in him,” to satisfy non-believers.


They are often not without their own theories:

Jack Russell…Corgi…Fox Terrier…Border Terrier…Beagle… Basset Hound…Cairn Terrier…Schnauzer…Norwich Terrier…Irish Terrier…Scottish Terrier.

People see what they want to see.

I get “Chinese” a lot.  But not always.  When Stephen and I drove up North, clerks asked me for my native card.  I have been mistaken as Korean aboard and at home.  Once on campus, a guy asked if I was Laotian, and I was flattered, somehow, by the novelty.  There are those, of course, who pinpoint Vietnamese. But the more astute among them want to then know: North or South?

It happens all the time.

Why not?  The benefit of a doubt is the proof of certainty.

If it’s not a golden retriever, it might be a yellow lab.  If not a lab, perhaps a lab mix?  There is slim, very slight chance it’s a pit bull – more likely, if anything, it’s part pit bull – but it’s surely not a bull mastiff.

Why?  Goldens are loyal. Yellow Labs are courageous.  Pit bulls are tenacious. Bull Mastiffs are devoted.  To a fault.

There’s no guarantee of all this, of course, but chances are…

Chances are…

And then?  Life goes on!

Hey.  Here!  I am, actually, part Chinese!  If that helps.

But I don’t know kung fu.  My brother does, a little.

It’s funny.

Maybe that’s why the old lady got so agitated.  Maybe that’s all she wanted.

That’s what it all boils down to, right?  In the end?

Reassurance.  Confirmation.  Meaning.

Standards, really.

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Filed under Dogs