Cream of the Crop

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cream of the crop: (n) the fatty part of milk, which rises to the surface

Audacity can be richly comical if you don’t take yourself too seriously and believe that any one of your proclamations or dreams is sacred.

I’ve always been a music man with a poet’s heart, and the body of a lumberjack. (An overweight lumberjack.)

I’ve wanted to play songs, and I reached an age when the music part of my show was just not bringing in enough dough.

What I had available to me was a wife and two sons. So I decided to form them into a music group. We were not exactly the Partridge Family, the Jacksons nor the Osmonds. We were more like the…

Well, like the Smiths.

There was talent there—but the nine-year-old had just started playing drums, the fourteen-year-old was faithfully practicing on a bass guitar that was mostly broken, and my wife… My wife sang like a wife.

I was an old war horse who had done music for so long that I convinced myself, and quite a few other people, that I was proficient enough at doing it that I should not quit. So I decided to tour with my family.

I am not going to try to rationalize my decision nor disparage it. It was what was available, it was what we could do, we would be together, and no animals would be harmed in the process.

I taught them five songs. That’s right—five. It took a while. The sound was not great, but it would have evoked a smile of approval from the grouchiest member of an audience.

We needed to make a tape we could offer for purchase after our little shows. This way, people would have the music and we could have a few dollars for bologna.

We rented a studio and went in with our five songs—plus one, which I added the day of the recording session. Over the next five hours, we recorded them, mixed them down and ran off a master copy for duplication. Considering that I was working with a nine-year-old, a fourteen-year-old, my wife and my own nervous energy, the production quality hovered just north of bad.

The engineer turned to me and said, “What would you like to name the tape? Because I have to write something down on the label.”

I paused. I thought about the fact that these were the only six songs we knew, and there were no prospects in the near future of adding to the roster.

I thought about naming the tape, “The Best So Far.”

I mused the title, “Our Greatest Hits.”

I lamented that the title, “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” was already taken.

Finally it came to me.

Since it’s what we had, and we did our best, and it seemed we were at the top of our game at this station in our musical journey, I told the recording engineer to name it, “Cream of the Crop.”

He winced—but obeyed.

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Bongo

Bongo: (n) a pair of drums held between the knees

One of the more annoying aspects of pursuing a Christian philosophy of life is the need to at least attempt to treat every person kindly. Even though it works out Dictionary Bin the end, the journey to get to the destination is often arduous, if not exhausting.

Randy was a tag-along.

When I was in high school, our church youth group decided to start a coffeehouse, and Randy volunteered his services to assure his place in the historical moment.

Here was the problem: Randy had no vices–just faults.

A fault is a difficulty someone possesses which you really can’t harp on too much because it doesn’t do any harm–it’s just mind-numbingly frustrating.

  • Randy talked too much
  • Randy had really bad ideas
  • Randy’s breath smelled like he had been licking the bottom of a birdcage.
  • And as it turns out, Randy played bongos.

This came out when we were discussing musical possibilities for our newfound venture.

We had located our guitarist, a piano player and some singers, and were ready to close our discussion when Randy suggested that what we lacked was a “bongoist.”

Quite certain there was no such word as “bongoist,” I explained that not every song needed rhythm. He agreed–and promised to only play the bongo when it was warranted.

On opening night Randy sat with the bongo between his knees, and determined in the moment’s anointing, to play on every song, including a very confusing interpretation of Kum ba yah.

He was oblivious to his intrusiveness and lack of timing.

Everybody expected me to tell Randy to “de-bongo.” I couldn’t. He was so enthusiastic. Matter of fact, after our first meeting, he explained, with tears in his eyes, that he thought he had found his calling.

I’m happy to report: fortunately he became an accountant.

 

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Auditorium

Auditorium: (n) a large building or hall used for public gatherings, typically speeches or stage performances.

dictionary with letter A

I love auditoriums.

I think anybody who performs looks forward to being on a big enough stage that it provides for a backstage.

Backstage is fun.

It’s where you sit or stand and wonder about how many people are coming to the concert, or you slide into a side room that’s been provided for dressing and make-up.

When I graduated from high school I started a music group, wrote two original songs and actually built up the courage to raise some funds to record them.

I made a 45 RPM.

I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in that era it made me nearly a god. Having a record made you look like you were not only prosperous, but talented.

So I was able to get a gig at a large auditorium on the Ohio State Fairgrounds. I loved that building. I had been to concerts many times in the facility, and now I was going to get to play in the auditorium.

I dressed everybody up and we even hired a drummer to come in and perform with us. I thought we sounded pretty good.

Unfortunately, the gig was for a religious church group youth rally, so there was an air of stuffiness surrounding the event, and a lot of rules and regulations laid on us, which honestly, I just didn’t listen to.

I found out later that:

  • We weren’t allowed to have drums, which we had.
  • We weren’t permitted to be loud, which we were.
  • And there couldn’t be any rock and roll in the sound, which there definitely was.

So we were halfway through our song, jubilantly sharing our talents, when suddenly the curtains started to close in front of us.

At first I thought it was a mistake, so I ran forward while the band still played and tried to pull them open. But they continued to close, because there were two austere men of dark countenance pulling on ropes, making sure that our sound and appearance were terminated.

I was furious.

I demanded they reopen the curtains, but they refused.

So the young audience booed for a second, and then were rebuked by their elders.

We still sat in the lobby offering to sell our 45 record to anyone who might have enjoyed the 16 bars of the tune we were able to pump out.

Only one girl of the 728 present was brave enough to come to our table and see us. The rest of the kids avoided us like we were an unwelcome leper colony. The young lady bought our 45, told us that she thought the grown-ups were assholes, and as she left, she raised her fist and said, “Rock on.”

I did.

And I’ve never stopped.

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Ambience

dictionary with letter A

Ambience: (n) the character and atmosphere of a place

I guess some vibes are normal.

For instance, at a funeral home, there is usually organ music, the sickening smell of flowers and people whispering tearful regrets.

At a rock concert, there’s screaming, with people pumping their fists, patting each other on the back and yelling lyrics at a stage which is too far away to hear.

In Washington, D.C., ladies and gentlemen dress up in their parents’ clothes and follow the rules of a Parliament they fought an eight-year war to escape.

And in church … well, sometimes it’s a somber climate with worshipful silence, and in other places, it’s tambourines, drums and modern interpretations of songs written by shepherd boys on a lute.

How important is ambience?

If I walk into a restaurant and the waiters are wearing tuxedos, the food is not necessarily going to be better–just expensive.

I think the aura or overall feeling that best exemplifies our country, though, is a beach on a Saturday afternoon at about 2:30. It is the oddest collage of beauty, beast, coolers, umbrellas, tanning lotion, tossed balls, screaming children, strutting studs and prancing babes.

It is America:  we boldly worship the sun while knowing that it’s slowly killing us with skin cancer, convinced that we have every right to occupy the available space on the sand, which is the width and length of our blanket and also, completely and arrogantly confident that we are just as good as the next bathing suit nearby.

Ambience is a tricky thing.

It’s used to telegraph propriety in a world that no longer knows what a telegraph is.

It’s a bit old-fashioned, it’s a bit presumptuous, and it certainly is often misleading.

Yet each one of us does generate an individual glow around us, which is either inviting or repelling.

And determining what that beam of self turns out to be … will decide our happiness.