Copyright: (n) the exclusive right to make copies in music

I had just turned nineteen years of age when I was sitting in the back area of my mother and father’s loan company which they had opened in our small town, and for some inexplicable reason, there was a piano situated in one of the corners.

I don’t know how it got in there. I don’t know whether someone was unable to pay their loan and offered their piano as penance—but it was there.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I was also present—with my new wife, whom I had only been married to for about seven months, but we already had a first son. (You do the math.)

Long story apparently being made longer, I decided to walk over to that piano and write a song. I had sung songs for years. I had done my karaoke versions of popular tunes long before the “Kary” came from “Okie.”

I don’t know what gave me the idea that I could write a song. Maybe it was because I was nineteen and pretty convinced I could do anything. Somewhere in the expanse of the next hundred and eighteen minutes, I wrote two songs. I had no idea if anybody would think they were good—I was so damn impressed with them that the notion of seeking another opinion seemed redundant.

I did not know if I would ever write another song, so I immediately wanted to make sure these two songs were not only recorded, but copyrighted—to make sure that no less-talented individuals would steal them, attaining great notice and gain.

There were two ways to copyright my songs. I could make original copies of the lead sheet and words, and mail them to myself, and never open that envelope because it would have the stamped date on the outside from the official Post Office.

This did not sound dramatic enough to me.

So instead, I pursued the other avenue, which was to contact the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C, and receive innumerable forms, which I filled out, paying a small price for each composition. From that point on, once it was cleared that my songs were indeed original, I would have a copyright for all time.

My God. Who could resist such majestic red tape?

I went through the entire process, and even today, somewhere buried deep in a box in one of my closets, is a certificate informing the whole world that my two songs made a visit to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and returned home again—sanctified.

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Collateral: (n) something pledged as security for repayment of a loan

No one is ever interested in hearing about my successes.

Perhaps it’s the flash of arrogance that enters the human voice whenever we talk about ourselves in a positive way.

I gain empathy, friendship and humor with my fellow-travelers by “pranking” myself in a snarky way–especially when remembering a time when it appears that I was infested with the demon of stupidity.

To protect myself I always begin these stories with: “It happened many years ago.”

That way you know that I would not pursue this particular adventure today–and if I did, since I am older, I would have more money to address it.

I wanted to borrow two hundred dollars. This was back in a time when two hundred dollars was my “guesstimation” of the value of Aladdin’s castle.

The person from the bank told me that if I had some collateral he would be “willing to consider” such a loan.

I didn’t question any further–I asked myself, What do I possess that’s worth two hundred dollars?

Ruling out my kidney, liver and lungs, I came up blank.

Yet all at once, I remembered that in the basement of my parents’ loan company, there were some huge slabs of marble left over from when they had decorated the office. It seemed to me–since they were marble–that they were certainly expensive.

I wasn’t a rube, so I called a local lumberyard person and asked him what he thought such a slab would be worth.

After he understood the dimensions, he said that if I bought them at the store each one would cost me a hundred dollars.

I was thrilled.

All I had to do was carry three (playing it safe) marble slabs up a flight of stairs, around a corner and out the door, and I would have my collateral.

The problem was, the only person available to help me was my wife. Though sturdy, she was not at a strength level to lift her share of what probably was two hundred pounds each. This did not deter me. I decided the best thing was to put her at the bottom and me at the top.

It took two days. (Not full days. Twenty-minutes-at-a-time days.)

We took a lot of breaks.

Finally we actually unearthed from the basement tomb three two-hundred-pound slabs of marble, got them into the back of our van and drove them to the bank.

I was so damn proud.

I coaxed the banker to come out and see what I had to offer for collateral. Opening the back door of the van, he stared at the dusty pile of stone.

He laughed.

And not just a little. It may be the first time in my life that I was laughed to scorn.

He patted me on the shoulder, shook his head and said, “That’s a good one, man. I can’t wait to tell everybody about this one.”

I assumed the loan was a no-go.

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Auction: (n) a public sale in which goods or property are sold to the highest bidder. dictionary with letter A

Honestly, I’ve only been to one auction.

I think. (Sometimes we make bold statements like “I’ve only been to one…” and then we’re contradicted by a friend or loved one who reminds us of previous encounters. But let me stick to my story.)

I was 11 years old.

My dad was a “jack of all trades” (as long as that trade was accounting.) He had his own loan company, which was moderately successful. He did tax forms during the season and every once in a while he was the accountant at auctions, taking care of the bids and the money.

At 11 years of age, I didn’t have the attention span of anything because I had not yet acquired an attention span.

So thinking it might be fun, I begged my dad to let me go with him to one of the auctions. He was reluctant, fearing he would have a droopy-shouldered, bored kid with him, but apparently was going through some sort of fatherly guilt over not spending enough time with me, so he agreed.

It was the most boring thing I have ever experienced–and honest to God, I have been in some boring experiences.

Here’s the truth: to enjoy an auction, you have to have money, be able to understand what the auctioneer is saying with his light-speed lip service, and have some interest in a bunch of crap which just might turn out to be valuable in some unexpected way.

As you look at that short list, you can see that an 11-year-old boy is shut out of the game.

I was literally underfoot, being stepped on four times by adults. I was stepped on because I was trying to lay down to take a nap, because I was sleepy from trying to listen.

My father’s face had that common blend of pity, fury, desperation and amusement that often accompanies any parent who ends up taking a child to the wrong place.

Finally he gave me $5 so that I could bid on one of the items from a toy chest which had been brought in for sale.

So I did.

It was actually two different toys–a huge bag of army men and a Slinky. Suddenly I became possessed, and needed to have both of them.

So I bid, trying to keep up with the auctioneer’s patter.

Unfortunately there was another kid bidding against me, and even though deep in my heart I believed he was not interested in the items, he was certainly intrigued over winning the game.

Finally I yelled at the auctioneer, “Five dollars!”

A chill went down my spine as he said, “Going once…going twice…”

And then, all of a sudden, my nemesis screamed out, “Five dollars and ten cents!”

I looked at my dad, hoping for another quarter. He looked away, as if the paternity test had proven him seedless.

I was beat out by a little punk who didn’t even want the toys.

I don’t like auctions.

Now you understand why.



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dictionary with letter A

Ap·praise:(v)assess the value or quality of.

I was nineteen years old and I had a great idea–at least, I thought it was a great idea.

My mother and father ran a loan company in our little town and in the basement of the structure, there were slabs of marble used for flooring and trimming. Apparently they were left over from when the building was constructed and placed down there because no one knew what to do with them.

The marble was beautiful, but terribly heavy.

My wife and I decided to bring up five huge pieces–because we knew they had to be worth a lot of money. As a matter of fact, we confirmed this by calling a local store which dealt in such commodities and asking what these units were worth.

Our minds were boggled by how expensive marble was, so we figured we would bring up five slabs, and probably take care of our budget for the next six months. Who knows? Maybe a year.

We didn’t think of getting them appraised before making the arduous journey of carrying them upstairs. So much to our chagrin, even though the marble pieces were very expensive at one time, somebody had determined that this particular design was outdated.

We even carried one of them across town to an actual dealer, who agreed that it was quite lovely, but that he had no use for it. When I complained, stating that the marble was just as valuable as it once was, he replied, “It’s not what the marble’s worth. It’s what people will pay for it.”

I never forgot that.

Without becoming too philosophical, let me say that we live in an age when we appraise human value, human life and even human interaction as priceless.

Yet when it comes right down to it, what are we really willing to pay to see other people secure, content, safe and happy?

It’s all too cheap.

And I would like to be part of a movement that reappraises human beings from conception to death with a more realistic price tag, which could actually be followed up with legitimate concern.

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dictionary with letter A

Anomaly: (n) something that deviates from the normal, standard or expected

I liked music.

At eighteen years of age, I’m not so sure that I was totally devoted to a career in the field or whether there was a bit of laziness tied into the equation, because playing piano sounded easier than punching a time-clock. (After all, we get ourselves in the most trouble when we try to purify our motives instead of accepting them a trifle sullied.)

One afternoon during that eighteenth year, I took my girlfriend, who was soon to become my wife, into a back room of a loan company owned by my parents and sat down at a piano which had been given to our family, but because we had no room in our house, ended up stuck in the back corner of this lending institution.

I had never written a song before.

As a teenager, I sang in choir, a quartet and for nursing homes, pretending like it was a big gig at Madison Square Garden.

Yet on this day, I suddenly got this urge to compose. It was not stimulated by a professor at a college asking for an assignment, nor was it motivated by my ancestors, wishing that I would abandon all normal courses of occupation and pursue a musical path.

It was truly an anomaly.

  • It was contrary to what everybody wanted me to do.
  • It was an open, seething contradiction to my cultural training.
  • I sat down at that piano, and in the course of the next ninety-four minutes, wrote two original songs. I didn’t know if they were good and certainly was not confident they were great.

But something came out of me that wasn’t a conditioned response or a well-studied answer for a final exam.

It was mine.

Whether it was good or bland, it came from me. It excited me. It encouraged me to muster the perseverance to survive the critique of my society and even overcome my own fits of lethargy to pursue it.

It still excites me today.

Hundreds of songs later, I still feel as thrilled when pen goes to paper, words appear and musical notes cuddle up next to them.

No one in my family ever took the course of action which I chased, beginning with that afternoon in the back room behind that piano.

But it is the selection of that odyssey that has made me who I am.

There are two things you have to remember about an anomaly:

  1. It is never immediately accepted.
  2. It always takes more work than you expected.

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Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Adjacent: (adj.) next to or adjoining something else.

It was a big chunk of three-story, square brick building, sitting right in the middle of our little town, holding within its confines a trio of completely unrelated businesses. The only thing they shared in common was that they were adjacent to one another.

The building looked like it had been constructed by about forty-five Amish men with only a break for lunch in between bouts of mortaring. It was simple.

My parents’ little loan company was located in the center, with a hardware store to the right and an optometrist‘s to the left. Our eye doctor fellow only showed up two times a week, driving in from Columbus to take care of the bespectacled in our community.

The hardware store was always open, but never busy. As a boy I often wondered how they stayed in business. It seemed the only commerce was the pop machine in front of the store, which was frequented by everybody on the block, since such contraptions were a bit of a rarity at the time.

Directly across the street was the town green, wherein sat another brick-chunk building, dubbed The Public Library.

For many days and in many ways, this little parcel of business and commerce was my stomping ground, playground and home, as I patiently waited for my parents to finish the dribble of business they did, often loaning money to people in our burg for anything from motorcycles to stud bulls.

Beneath this massive construction was a basement that connected all three businesses, and when I y worked up my courage, I went down to the spider-web-infested terrain, hoping to discover some treasure I might be able to sell, in order to acquire enough coinage to stroll up the street and visit the local Five and Dime for treasures often beyond my comprehension.

The town was so small that actually, everything was adjacent to everything else. And like so many pieces of my life, the older I became, the more it seemed to shrink and become insufficient to my expanding boundaries.

But Samuel’s Hardware and Bremen Optometry will always be in my mind the quintessential definition of adjacent.