Two Things I Won’t Do Again

Arnold Jacobs told me a long time ago, I think it was in the mid sixties, that there are only two kinds of truly great brass players, those who are stubborn aggressive personalities and those who are stubborn personalities who have learned how to modify their aggressiveness with social grace in their musical communities. Please forgive me if I attempt to put that into today’s vernacular: there are two kinds of great brass players, assholes and assholes that have made an effort to try and be nice guys. Jake was an eloquent man, I wish I could be like him; I’ve been working on that ever since I heard those wise words more than forty years ago.

I hope I was a good brass player but I’m absolutely sure I fall in the category “stubborn aggressive personality” and having said that I hope that I was able to modify that tendency enough to successfully function socially in my musical environment. But now I’m out of that symphonic environment and am blessed with the luxury of being more my natural stubborn self. This has not become a big deal; it’s just little things I simply don’t have to do any more.

For example, I will never wear a tie again. I never spoke about it but in 1967 on a 10 week round the world state department tour with the Los Angeles Philharmonic we were required to wear coats and ties when we traveled; that was all the time and for what, to give a good impression of Americans. It was too late for that, Americans had already made an impression and me wearing a tie was not going to make a difference. But there’s more, quite simply, I never understood the point of why we civilized people of this world are expected to wear a tie. Ties have been around for over 2000 years and we are not sure whether the original reason was to keep the neck warm or to have something handy to wipe the sweat away; perhaps it was both. It seems that in more recent history it has become the object of individualism for the modern man. Ok, in any case I made the decision fifteen years ago I would never wear a tie again and it’s made my life a little easier; I never really learned how to tie an attractive knot with a tie, sometimes it took me several tries to get it even vaguely acceptable. And the white bowties that were required for wearing with tails, which were required for symphony orchestra concerts, took in a yellowish greenish hew after a short time as well as loosing their shape. Today I am fortunate enough that for occasions that require a tie I have my tailor make me something that stands on its own and looks elegant without having to adhere to that archaic time consuming custom.

Another thing that I have stopped is driving a car. I calculated it one day, in the 25 years I worked in Los Angeles; I spent almost 3 of those 25 years sitting behind the steering wheel driving! The last time I drove a car was two years ago on the Greek Island of Lesvos. The car rental people in the little town of Vatera gracefully ignored that the license I showed them was both fake and expired. I hope in the future I won’t be traveling alone and I hope that my co travelers will tolerate this small eccentricity by agreeing to do the driving. Perhaps I will get a valid license someday but frankly it’s not on my agenda. Perhaps it’s the road costs, car, maintenance and gasoline (I’ve heard the price is higher since I left LA) that have put me in the position where I can have my clothes tailor made.

Hamamatsu, Japan, July 2006

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