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MUSINGS AT 84     by Phil Klein


Now that my life is at this end of its cycle, I feel an urge to express some thoughts.   Most of these "musings" are not so amusing.

Early in my life, I discovered that I was blessed with a strong sense of curiosity, which manifested itself as a constant awareness of what was going on around me.

I will confess that my curiosity could, on several occasions, have cost me my life.    You may get a sense of what I'm saying when I tell you that my initial urge, when I got my first chemistry set, was to try and make some gunpowder.   This escalated through the years, especially in chemistry class, where I messed around with some very lethal stuff.

Youth makes one less cautious, and after getting out of the U.S. Navy in '46, I rushed out and got my first car: a '35 Ford, which possessed mechanical brakes, a virtually worthless commodity.   Because of Henry Ford's reticence to install hydraulic brakes on his cars (all of the other car companies, by this time had long since done exactly that...) I had numerous hair-raising experiences, because I insisted in driving MY car - brakes, or no brakes ! Judicious use of the emergency brake plus "shifting down" managed most of the time to work for me. You can't begin to imagine the significance of the latter "most of the time" with regard to what often happened at stop lights.

But that's not why I'm writing this piece.   I am weighed down with a strong sense of depression as I contemplate what we (this nation) have come to.

As a musical kid (later a lifetime musician,) my breast was filled with patriotic joy on days like July 4th when the town band would march down Main St., playing a Sousa march, while Old Glory waved in the summer sun that bathed the parade.   Those were early years in Saranac Lake (the 30's) and my Dad, a plumber, had a good job   which paid a buck an hour.   (But coffee was a nickel, and gas was 19 cents a gallon.)

But I have many other memories.   In school, every class had one or two "fat kids."   My God, look around you now!   The amount of obesity is stunning.   Yet I feel sorrow for those poor souls who have become a part of the general degradation of our country.

We also learned how to write beautifully (remember Palmer Method with its push, pull and ovals...?)   And we discovered where places were on the map...all over the world.    It didn't seem to be a great chore to learn the names of the 48 states and have a simple notion of where they were located.  

The idea of what we thought of as personal "modesty" was a real part of our lives.   Oh, four letter words were around, but who could imagine that someday they'd be everywhere; both written and spoken?

Most of all, we learned all about our great democratic republic, and its three branches of government which were designed to provide "checks and balances."   (Does that notion make you vaguely cynical these days?)

I saw WWII coming as a kid, and remember the day that our National Guard unit departed on a Greyhound bus, amidst many tears.    And the big war DID come, and how well I recall how, in a little town, the sight of a messenger from Western Union was something to be feared.   Was a telegram arriving to announce that your dad, brother, uncle or a friend had been killed in battle??   The agonized shrieks of the recipients of those messages are still fresh in my mind.

But now, war never ceases.   Back then, we had a President who actually said "We have nothing to fear but FEAR itself!"   How different from now!   The word "terrorist" has come to keep everyone in a constant state of anxiety.   The problem, of course, is not so much a matter of "they're gonna get us..." as the fact that WAR means a maximum return of $$$$ for some very fat cats who are pulling the strings.

And back to our government, with our Constitution and its Bill of Rights.   We were taught to cherish our democracy and the protection our precious Constitution gave to us.   Many of the Rights have been stripped by what is (not so laughingly) called The Patriot Act. And when we learned about our government, sometimes the term "lobbying" was explained to us.   Who could ever suppose that that practice could evolve into full-blown bribing?    I'm not na├»ve.   It always HAS been bribing.   But now, it's princely payola.

So where are we?   Well, for two things, we are fat and pretty much illiterate.   I have come to realize the curse of our civilization has turned out to be TELEVISION, with its spin-off of screens; screens EVERYWHERE in computers, cell phones, dvd's, blah, blah, blah...

Think of it as the two T's: Television and Texting.    (I almost had a head-on with a young texting woman...)   Aldous Huxley LIVES !!   (He's he guy who wrote Brave New World, in which the public would be so preoccupied with diversions such as American Idol, Survivors, sports, Jerry Springer...I'm getting nauseated...) that they wouldn't realize that they were being done in and controlled by their trusty leaders to the extent that they could be bamboozled and hoodwinked, and had the idea instilled that everyone was "out to git us!...let's bomb 'em!"

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I have spent a long and interesting life involved in music, as a performer (piano,) educator (at every level from elementary to graduate school,) solo pianist, bandleader, composer/songwriter; entertainer, storyteller and humorist. In my final (more...)

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At 84, I've been through a goodly number of decade... by Phil Klein on Monday, Jul 11, 2011 at 2:54:01 PM
I share your impressions of the flow of history to... by martin weiss on Monday, Jul 11, 2011 at 4:27:47 PM
Gee whiz, I'm also an octogenarian and I'm no... by Suzana Megles on Monday, Jul 11, 2011 at 5:54:48 PM