The Music Of My Life

I cannot remember a time in my life when music was not an important part of who and what I am. It all started when I was five or six years old. My parents hired a piano teacher to come to the house to teach me how to play. I took lessons for the next 10 years or so. I actually got pretty good at it. The only problem I had was that I could never really memorize anything. I remember when I was in junior high school, my piano teacher wanted me to learn to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Actually, it was only the first movement that was more than my poor musical memory could handle. She wanted me to play this piece for the annual recital her students presented every May at the Willow Grove Methodist church. I ended up playing it, but I had to have the sheet music in front of me. Sight reading was never a problem. In fact, in my heyday I could pick up pretty much any popular tune and play it respectably the first time I saw the music. In high school I had a book of piano arrangements of Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” album. I loved playing that album and singing along. My parents hated it. LOL

 

Speaking of singing, in both junior high school and high school I sang in the choir. I started out as an alto and by my senior year I was a baritone. I wasn’t great, nowhere near as good as my daughter Heidi was in high school, but I managed to stay in the choir all those years. I still sing when the mood hits me, but now I sound like a frog with a sore throat. LOL! That’s what 50 years of smoking will do to you. I actually started smoking in junior high school and I suspect that had at least a small part in my voice changing so much.

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What the Hell is Going On?

That when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s we Americans were involved in a “Cold War” with the Soviet Union. I suspect that the Cold War had something to do with my parents (and of course, my brother and myself who were small children at the time) emigrating to the United States and Germany, specifically what was then known as West Germany. We came to the United States around the time of the Berlin war, when East Germany, on orders from Moscow, blockaded West Berlin.

 

In elementary school, we did air raids probably every month. We were all frightened of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. That attack, fortunately, never came. But there was a constant state of very high tension between the two countries. I remember seeing Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the podium at the United Nations condemning the United States. I remember the Cuban missile crisis during the Kennedy administration. I remember watching public service announcements on the television networks showing how to protect yourself in case of a nuclear attack. I remember the commercial for fallout shelters for those who could afford them. Boy, if they ever wanted to get rid of poverty by eliminating poor people, that would have been the time to do it.

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Through the Doors Of Perception

The Doors of Perception is the title of a book about taking hallucinogenic drugs, especially LSD. It was written by Aldous Huxley almost 100 years ago, now. Jim Morrison, the late lead singer of The Doors read this book. It inspired the name he chose for his group. Timothy Leary read this book and became a prophet of LSD. I read the book back about 1966 or 1967. It took me until fall of 1968 to screw up the courage to try LSD. That first trip is an experience I will never forget, along with a few other memorable “trips.” “Trips” are what we called the experience of taking LSD.

 

The first trip was on a nice warm day in October, I think, as I was hanging around with some friends on the streets of Old Town in Chicago – the hippie district. The reason the trip was so memorable was that was when I called my father back in Furlong, Pennsylvania, to tell him that I was in Chicago and I was not coming back. A very interesting conversation, indeed.

 

About two years later, I was working at an auto parts store on the South Side of Chicago. I had recently moved in with the woman who became my second wife. We shared a large apartment on the North Side of Chicago, a couple blocks from an elevated train station. The reason that is important to this story is that I used public transportation, a bus and the elevated, to get back and forth to work. I had been there at the auto parts store for several months and had made friends with several of the guys who work there. One afternoon, when we were outside on a smoke break, one of the guys I knew handed me a little orange barrel shaped pill. I knew exactly what it was – a very, very good form of LSD called “orange sunshine.” It was recognized as one of the purest forms of acid available on the street. My friend said I should take this as I was leaving work and I would be tripping quite nicely by the time I got home an hour later.

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