Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Align: (v) 1. place or arrange in a straight line. 2. to give support to a person or cause

The technician was frustrated.

He could not for the life of him get my 1957 beat-up Chevy to align its wheels so that they were balanced and equal.

I had brought the car in for the process because it was bumpy and the tires were wearing out very quickly. Unfortunately, the uneven treat wear was on the inside of the tire, where I couldn’t see it so I always thought my tires looked like they had tread–right before they blew out.

But try as he might, he could not get the tires to align.

I’m sure he was curious why my car was in such bad shape. You see, I was a teenager who had inherited this piece of junk, and treated it as if it were a WWII surplus tank instead of a more fragile mobile.

Case in point: I’d heard about an unpaved road that ran alongside a local river, which was great fun to drive on, and also park with your girlfriend. So without doing any reconnaissance whatsoever, I picked up my lady and we drove down there in the dark, found the bumpy road, and before we realized it, came face-to-face with what appeared to be about three-and-a-half feet of water, which had come over the trail due to recent heavy rains.

Well, there was no way to go backward in the dark. After all, there was no actual road.

So pulling together all the elements of my immaturity, I drove through the huge puddle, rocking and spinning, until after about ten minutes, I freed myself to the other shore, only to discover there was an embankment that went straight up a gravel hillside, to meet up with a highway above.

The climb seemed impossible. Yet what was more unlikely was me calling my parents to tell them that my car was stuck on a non-road somewhere near a piece of over-run river.

So I gassed it up, climbed, and after about the fourth or fifth attempt, banging and crashing my car into the hillside, I made it to the top as my girlfriend cheered my mighty virility.

So even though the technician was baffled by his inability to get the car straightened out, it seemed completely logical to me. After a while, I just told him to do the best he could to align the wheels.

“Just try not to make it too bumpy, so I won’t kill too many tires.” He rolled his eyes but quietly went to perform the task.

Aligning things is tricky business. Especially if you’ve done your best to bust things up.



A cappella

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

A cappella: (adj. or adv.) {with regard to choral music} without instrumental accompaniment.

I was sixteen years old and had a musical group. We thought we were great, which is the necessary profile to maintaining the immaturity of being sixteen years of age. We had recently won a talent contest at our school, so we were over-pumped with our abilities and found other people’s instruction repugnant.

A gentleman asked us if we would like to record the song we had sung at the talent contest for his local radio station, to be played the following Sunday for the vast “tens of listeners” tuning in.

Of course, we agreed, fully aware of how fortunate this man was to have such a talented group of young people coming in to his little station to share their unique abilities. We arrived at the studio and found that there was no piano. We required one, so it seemed like we were stumped, with no recourse. The radio station owner ran from the room and quickly returned, holding in his hand–a pitch-pipe.

He said, “Why don’t you sing it a cappella, and I’ll give you the note to start on, and we can record it?”

Well, we had never sung our song without accompaniment, but after all, being the best singers in Delaware County, it seemed like something we could take in stride and accomplish with no difficulty whatsoever.

So he blew a C on his pitch-pipe and we began to sing, as he recorded. We struggled a bit. None of us realized how dependent we were on the strands flowing from the keyboard for our sense of self-confidence. Yet we persevered.

When we reached the end of the song, I looked over and noticed that our recording engineer had a grimace on his face. He paused and said, “Would you like to try that again?”

Fully inflated with arrogance, I replied, “Why? It sounded good to me.”

So he blew the pitch-pipe and played back the last note we sang, and explained that we had fallen a full tone in the process of singing our song. Still fueled with immaturity and impudence, I said, “What difference does it make–as long as we ended up together?”

I added, “Perhaps your pitch-pipe is broken.”

This last assertion was quickly disproven when he played back the entire recording and it became obvious where we lost our way. Yet because we were young, impetuous and just damned lazy, we refused to record it again, insisting that “it sounded fine.”

Faithful to his word, he played our a cappella version the following Sunday morning on the radio, and amazingly enough, no one commented to us about it–good or bad.

That was the day that I gained great respect for singing a cappella–and also for the value of honoring the pitch.

In all facets of life, if you don’t stay in key, you will end up with a whole lot of sour notes.