Most who know me know that I have long followed with a high degree of interest pretty much all things sports since I was able to walk under the table without knocking my little Yankee ball cap off my noggin. So, when it comes to my Walter Mitty-like fantasies, of course, No. 1 would have to roaming the emerald expanses of Yankee Stadium’s center field, as my childhood idol Mickey Mantle once so famously did.
That’s a no-brainer, right?
But, while that would certainly be on my list of what I’d love to have had been awarded the talent to do, the longer I live and see so many of the musicians I admired when I was young still selling out arenas and maintaining a high degree of relevance, the more those thoughts of gliding across the outfield snagging a liner are replaced by visions of my being able to pick up a guitar and cover flawlessly a Simon and Garfunkel, or Crosby, Stills and Nash song.
Of course, when it comes to the longevity factor, any kind of sports fantasy also comes with the reality that in most sports, those who have amazed us with their grace and dexterity have almost all lost their abilities to continue to stun us at an age most would consider young in a different career.
However, with musicians, all you really need to know is that if you think it’s amazing that Mick and the rest of his Stones are still Rolling, having toured for more than 60 years, please consider Tony Bennett, who celebrated his final birthday that will come with an “eight” as its first number in early August, and is still performing both frequently and very well. Now that’s the kind of longevity I want out of my fantasies! Realistically when it comes to most fantasies, and yes, I’m fully aware of the oxymoronic nature of the term “realistic fantasy,” there’s a gap between our actually having the ability to perform well in the glare of such a bright spotlight and actually being that professional athlete or musician.
And, while when I was younger, I did have enough modest success swinging a bat and catching and throwing a ball that I at least could envision actually living out that MLB fantasy if every single domino fell precisely right (including being awarded at birth a whole lot more hand-eye coordination) my musical fantasy has always had zero credibility, even by fantasy standards.
I have to laugh when the Knights of Columbus has live musicians, which occasionally occurs. And, when a group is scheduled, inevitably, I’ll hear one of my customers around the bar weigh in and say about a group, “Oh, they’re not very good.”
Now, if I know the critic pretty well, which is almost always the case at the place where I’ve served a couple of bar shifts a week for close to 30 years, and like “Cheers” on Boston’s Beacon Hill, where I know most of the names and most of the faces, I’ll have some tongue-in-cheek fun with whoever has rendered such a review.
I’ll say, feigning surprise, “Oh, I wasn’t aware of your musical background, which you certainly must have to critique a musician’s talent.” And, of course, in nearly every case, the critic will admit he can’t play that little ditty about Mary and her lamb on any instrument more sophisticated than a kazoo.
Really, because of the expense involved with live local music, at our little club just south of Lima Central Catholic, it should be a treat whenever sales have been good enough to afford to bring in a musical act. As someone who long ago was weeded out of the Flutophone band at St. Charles, and rightfully so, I am utterly amazed that anyone can actually pick up an instrument like a guitar and play a song and sing well enough to resemble anything close to what I’ve heard on the radio.
So, here’s to all our local musicians, those who have been able to master the notes that create the sound either on instruments or through their own voices or both. As someone whose entire anthology of musical ability consists of my rendition of taps and the first half (only) of “Red River Valley” on a harmonica that my sister gave me for Christmas during the Carter administration, I stand in awe of what you do.
Oh, and a little tip from the ‘tender. The Knights of Columbus is again this year the headquarters for the Lima Blues Society. For a very modest cover charge, you can come to the K. of C. on the last Sunday of each month at 5 o’clock in the evening, and listen to some very aspiring and inspiring young musicians showing off what I, even in my wildest Middy fantasy moments, could never do.