A few years ago, I re-connected with a guy I hadn’t seen in about 50 years. We’d been friends in junior high, but once my family moved, Gary and I wound up attending different high schools. Which is pretty much like living on different planets.
After he came across my stuff on the Internet, Gary contacted me and suggested getting together for lunch. And so we did. While reminiscing about the old days, I told him that I was still grateful that he’d taught me to play tennis. He was surprised to hear that I still played. But his surprise was nothing compared to mine when he said that he was grateful that I’d introduced him to good books and great music. Quite honestly, I hadn’t realized I’d done that. Unlike his teaching me tennis, it wasn’t something I’d set out to do. But he assured me that I was the first person he’d ever known who read Steinbeck and Dickens, Salinger and Dostoyefsky, Benchley and S.J. Perelman, and who listened to classical music.
It had never occurred to me back then or at any time since that I was anyone’s role model. In fact, the only time I ever set out to influence anyone’s taste in books was with my son and, in spite of or perhaps because of my efforts, he’s always hated reading anything but a hand of cards. As for music, the only kind he ever seemed to like was the sort that people of my generation refer to as a lot of very loud noise.
Actually, my own taste in music, as with books, is pretty eclectic. Along with Beethoven, Bach and Brahms, I enjoy Puccini, Copland, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Barber, Prokofiev, Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers, Berlin, Kern, Sondheim and Loesser. I also have a soft spot for the best of those guys who have enhanced so many movies with their dramatic scores; people named Steiner, Waxman, Korngold, Bernstein, Legrande and Morricone.
But it was only in the past year that I discovered and fell in love with yet another musical genre; namely, country western. It happened quite by accident. When I’m in my car, I tend to listen to talk radio. But on weekends, guys like Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Miller, thoughtlessly leave me in the lurch, forcing me to fend for myself. Well, some months ago, after station-surfing all over the AM dial and finding that the only topics under discussion seemed to be computers, vitamins and investment opportunities, I bit the bullet and switched over to FM. It was there I discovered a country western program, and there I stayed.