JUST THE TIP

On behalf of Mr. Bump and DA Whitam, I’d like to thank all our WordPress friends and followers who jumped on board The Rhythm Section bandwagon. It is extremely gratifying to see so many of you enjoying our new site.

What you’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg; there are still three new categories we have yet reveal so you’re in store for lots more music, videos, interesting tidbits and a whole lot of fun!

We have posts scheduled for Saturdays through Thursdays with something in the works for Fridays. Just like any new project, it’s been a lot of work getting everything ready for you but we enjoyed every minute. This is a labor of love for all of us to enjoy together.

Mr. Bump has a cool new segment coming up tomorrow; I’ll be back on Tuesday with a new category and every Wednesday DA Whittam will take us on a musical journey. There’s plenty to read, see and hear; you won’t want to miss any of it.

We’ll continue to reblog The Rhythm Section posts for a while so you can have easy access to them. You can always check out the site at https://rhythmsection.blog/ or just search for rhythmsection.blog and it’ll take you right there.

Have any ideas, comments or suggestions? Let us know. Hitting any snags viewing the site? Let us know that, too. Whenever we can we will try to accommodate you.

Once again, thank you! We’re so happy to have you with us. See you next time at The Rhythm Section! 🎶

I’m The Sicilian Storyteller

NAR © 2023

IT’S A WRAP!

How’s everyone doing? I’ve got big news!

I’m delighted to announce tomorrow’s launch of an awesome music site called “The Rhythm Section”.

We’ve been hard at work for a couple of months and the big day is finally here. I’m happy to say that now DA Whittam (the artist formerly known as Nope, Not Pam) has jumped on board the soul train with me and Mr. Bump (mrbump.uk).

This project has been a labor of love and these last two months have gone by very quickly as we did research and compiled all we needed for a cool-looking, informative and fun site. We’re thrilled with it!

I will reblog the first couple of posts from The Rhythm Section right here so you’ll be able to see them and easily click on to the site.

I hope you’ll stop by “The Rhythm Section” tomorrow; I think we’re going to make beautiful music together.

See you on the flip side, friends! 🎶

NAR © 2023

WHAT A HAM!

P.S. 78.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the abbreviation, P.S. stands for ‘Public School’, a tax-supported US school providing free education. That’s where I attended kindergarten. I was there for only one year but some things about that year I will never forget. 

My mother would walk me to the red brick building every morning and greet me every afternoon when school was over. Mom was the no nonsense type and it took us less than 15 minutes to walk to school. It wasn’t much fun during the cold or nasty days but then Mom got her new Ford Fairlane 500 and going to school got a whole lot better.

Sometimes we’d stop at the Post Arrow – a mini amusement park/restaurant right on the corner that catered to regular folk by offering simple items such as hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches and ice cream. I’d get ice cream and go on a couple of rides; it was a magical place. My family always ate our meals at home but once in a while Dad would get a craving for a hot pastrami sandwich on rye bread and we’d zip up to the Post Arrow.

Being just a small kid, a place like P.S. 78 could be intimidating with so many other older and bigger kids but after a while, just like everything else, I got used to it. My classroom was on the first floor and I can still picture it. Low bookcases just tall enough for a bunch of munchkins hugged the walls all around the room. Short round tables which seated 4-6 kids were strewn about and there was a giant chalk board on the right side of the brightly painted room. Old metal casement windows took up one full wall while the other walls were covered with drawings, the alphabet and numbers. But the pièce de resistance was a vintage upright piano diagonally opposite the classroom doorway positioned catty-corner as opposed to being flush up against a wall. Today we would say the room had a very feng shui feel about it and the angled look of the piano was extremely appealing. Back then we just thought it was a happy room to be in.

We kids loved that classroom and felt comfortable from the very first day. Our teacher’s name was Mrs. Merchant; to this day I have no idea what her first name was. Mrs. Merchant was tiny in both height and weight; she always wore dresses with sweaters, had short wavy salt and pepper hair and wore glasses. It was impossible to tell her age; in the eyes of a small child she could have been anywhere between 35 and 65. She was a very sweet, patient woman who clearly enjoyed teaching kindergarten. She would play the piano during song time and she’d often read a book and play the piano simultaneously, making the stories pop to life. We’d all sit on the floor near the piano, our eyes glued to Mrs. Merchant as she dramatically read to us while she played.

There were so many wonderful times in kindergarten. Mrs. Merchant focused a lot on music and singing; I’m sure that was where my love of music first began. We would have musical parades around the classroom every day, each child playing a different instrument, and once each week one of the kids would perform for the class.

I remember every detail about one of my performances – my song, my little dance and most of all my costume. I was a little pig. 🐷

My mother, ever the creative seamstress, bought a child’s pair of pink one-piece Dr. Denton footed pajamas with a rear flap for “easy potty time” (if you don’t remember Dr. Denton pjs, you’re really missing out on something!). Mom brought home some pink felt from the shop where she worked and used it to make little pig ears and a curlicue tail. She covered one of my plastic headbands with felt and attached the ears to it. My piggie nose was made from stiffly starched fabric covered with felt; Mom cut two little holes on each side for the string which she tied around the back of my head keeping my piggie nose in place like a mask. For the tail she curled a length of a wire clothes hanger, covered it with felt and sewed it to the little rear end flap on my pjs. I was told I looked absolutely adorable but sadly, no photos were taken of that momentous occasion – at least none that I’m aware of.

I was always a “ham” when it came to performing and never shied away from the opportunity to entertain. Even as an adult at our fabulous choir Mardi Gras parties I would be front and center serenading everyone with one standard after the other. Gimme a mike and I’ll sing you a song! 

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to record and upload a few of my stories for a prominent UK broadcasting corporation. I even had the chance to sing during one segment but I’m pretty sure that didn’t make the headlines. Let’s check the News. Nope, nothing there.

My dream was to be a professional singer; I think I’d look pretty good sprawled on a piano a la Michelle Pfeiffer! Instead, here I am happily entertaining you with my stories. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll surprise you with a song.

Once a ham, always a ham! Stay tuned. 🎤

NAR © 2022

SOMEWHERE THERE’S MAGIC

For this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, we were asked to “find a word that starts with the letter ‘u’ and use it however you’d like.” Someone wrote a piece about the ‘ukulele’ which got me thinking. Here’s my stream of consciousness:

How many people do you know who play the ukulele? Unless you’re from the glorious state of Hawaii, I bet your answer is the same as mine: None. 

Oh, I’ve heard people playing the ukulele. If you’re old enough you’ll remember Arthur Godfrey’s ukulele playing and his signature greeting of “How Ah Ya? How Ah Ya? How Ah Ya?”. And let’s not forget Don Ho’s “Tiny Bubbles”. Hell, even George Harrison mastered the ukulele; he played the instrument for at least 20 Beatles songs; bet you didn’t know that. I have no idea how many ukes George owned but you can be sure it was a lot; he didn’t just like the instrument – he was obsessed with it.

Still, I never gave the ukulele much thought. I had nothing against it; I just never thought about it until one day I heard something so wondrous, so ineffably sweet and touching, I sat mesmerized by the magic coming from the radio. It was only after the song was over that I realized I was crying.

Give a listen, won’t you? Don’t worry if you cry; it’ll be our secret.

NAR © 2022

NB – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole suffered from obesity throughout his life, at one point weight 757 pounds while standing 6’2” tall. He endured several hospitalizations because of his weight. With chronic medical problems including respiratory and cardiac issues, he died at the age of 38 in the Queen’s Medical Center on June 26, 1997, from respiratory failure.

PS – I read recently that some readers outside the US, especially in the UK, cannot view the videos I post. That’s a shame because they are relative to the story and make for some damn good viewing. If you are unable to watch these videos, please drop me a line in the comments section. I think there’s a way around it; how easy it is I have no idea but I want you all to get the full benefit of my stories. Thank you!

THE MAESTRO

Here is another Six “Sentence” Story challenge/invitation from my friends at GirlieOnTheEdge, the prompt word being BOOKMARK. In the (alleged) words of William Faulkner: “Punctuation be damned!” 😎

My cousin Nina and I went to Italy during the late 80s, stopping in various cities along the way including the ever-glorious Florence, famous for her art museums, precious gold markets and some of the best leather products in the world – the perfect place for two 30-something savvy American women to leisurely stroll – and it was where I fell in love with a beautifully aged and well-preserved leather bookmark engraved with the image of La Scala Opera House in Milan with the name in script below the image – soft as butter to the touch and a lovely fawn color, it immediately became my favorite accessory which I slipped into my purse after bargaining with the vendor for a ridiculously low price leaving him muttering something about “irresistible American women” and he smiled devilishly at me remarking that he could never resist a woman with eyes as green as the Mediterranean.

Nestled between the many gold and leather stores was a tiny book shop which beckoned to me and I found myself in a cramped yet delightfully appointed treasure trove overflowing with tomes of every sort, including a volume which drew me in like the proverbial moth to a flame: Grandissimo Pavarotti ­– A Celebration of the Career of the World’s Greatest Tenor on the Silver Anniversary of his Debut; as a musician and huge fan of The Maestro, I knew I had to own this jewel of a picture book and I held it in my trembling hands, opening the front cover only to discover to my amazement that it was a signed copy, one of a limited number of editions, forcing me to quickly snap the cover closed but not before sneaking another peek to make sure I hadn’t imagined seeing what was clearly there in black and white – the honest-to-goodness signature of the greatest tenor ever – which then made me glance at the price while holding my breath; there was obviously a mistake as the cost of this gem was insanely low for a first edition signed copy of anything let alone a gorgeous photo album of the magnificent Pavarotti.

Acting as nonchalant as possible for someone about to pee her panties, I gracefully waltzed up to the register, handing my selection to the young male clerk who gazed into my sea-green eyes and scanned the label without so much as a second thought; I said a silent prayer to The Creator for gracing me with such apparently mesmerizing eyes, purred a “Mille grazie” to the love-struck cashier and left the store while cradling the book in my arms like a newborn baby, not even daring to show Nina my impressive find until we were safely back in our hotel room which I insisted we return to immediately, acting more like a secret agent than even I realized, praying no one in the area noticed while being extra-careful not to look directly at anyone with my dangerously alluring occhi il colore dell’acqua del Mediterraneo.

Upon our return to the hotel, I lovingly wrapped my precious new purchases in layers of tissue paper and placed them between newly-bought scarves made of silk from Como (gifts for my mother and sister); Nina laughed at the care I took in packing, exclaiming they were just paper and leather, not the Hope Diamond, to which I explained that to me they were as fine as any jewel and she wouldn’t understand because she did not possess the heart of a musician which didn’t seem to faze her at all; however, I was very content knowing my goods were safely locked away in my suitcase and would remain there until we were back home in The States.

We were met at JFK airport by our family members who smothered us with Italian hugs and kisses, loudly thanking God for our safe flight and equally loudly admiring our tans and new Florentine gold necklaces; I’m sure the women were wondering if we had jewelry in our luggage for them – which we did – but I knew I had something even more valuable, at least to me, and I couldn’t wait to display my new book on my coffee table at home (of course, the bookmark would travel with me always in whichever book I was reading but The Maestro would remain at home, center stage, for friends to gaze upon in awe).

Now settled into my usual routine, I returned to my job in Manhattan via the Metro North train from my apartment in New Rochelle; it was a pleasant ride and I had a book with me and, of course, my beloved bookmark which was standing guard in this week’s book of choice – Agatha Christie’s “Appointment with Death”– mysteries being one of my favorite genres; however, it was an unhappy and puzzling realization when I returned home from work one day to discover my book and treasured La Scala bookmark were nowhere to be found and I had no idea what happened to them or where I last saw them (having gotten distracted by a lengthy conversation with a friend preventing me from enjoying my daily read the entire train ride); I repeatedly emptied my purse praying they would turn up but they did not so I sat at the piano to calm myself when suddenly the phone rang and an unfamiliar female voice asked for me, saying she found my book and bookmark on the Metro North (thank heavens for taping that label on the inside cover of the book with my name and phone number); fortunately the woman who found my priceless belongings lived nearby and delivered them to me that very night, and by the sparkle in her eyes I believed she knew in her soul that my beloved bookmark held a place not only in my book but in my heart as well.

NAR © 2022

TOP ALTO

Just like all people, I have my talents and weaknesses. There are some things I can do very well with pride and great ease. At the same time, there are tasks in life for which I have no talent whatsoever and have zero chance of accomplishing even with someone holding a gun to my head.

It’s been a known fact since elementary school that I’m absolutely terrible at mathematics; I just didn’t have a head for numbers. Having to tackle word problems would make me sick to my stomach and anything beyond basic math would cause me to break out in a cold sweat. It was quite distressing and I’m sure I failed every math test I ever took. There’s no grey area in mathematics, no wiggle room, and I found it to be stifling and utterly confusing. Clearly my left brain was dominated by my right. Eventually the time came for me to study algebra and geometry. The situation was so traumatizing for everyone that the school principal and teachers took pity on me (and themselves). They had a discussion with my parents where it was decided I would be dismissed from further math classes and allowed to concentrate of different subjects. I was granted a pardon from the warden and permitted to double-up on courses such as English, foreign language, music, history or religion.

Two other things I’m really bad at are playing sports and drawing. Can you imagine the humiliation of never being chosen to play on any sports team? I was always the last person standing on the sidelines, staring down at my shoes waiting for my name to be called. Likewise, in art class I couldn’t sketch a decent stick figure or draw a crooked line let alone a straight one and most of my work was unidentifiable, leaving people scratching their heads in bewilderment.

My stronger points lean toward the creative and dramatic, including the ability to learn foreign languages, music, singing, playing the piano and organ, acting, cooking and gardening. If there’s a trivia game, I’m the girl you want on your side. I was always good at fashion and makeup which opened the door for some modeling. I’m also a damn good driver, unafraid of bad weather, 18-wheelers or New York City taxi drivers. And let’s not forget my great love – writing – a true passion realized later in life. I’m good with words and turning a phrase, my imagination is unstoppable and I’ve got fantasizing down to an art form!

While I’ve only been writing in earnest for five years, music has always been a huge part of my life, hence my nickname “Top Alto”.

In school I auditioned for and landed the lead role in every musical. I can sight read any piece of music I’m asked to sing. In fact, when practicing my alto lines at home, I would often play the soprano, tenor and/or bass line on the piano while singing the alto line. It’s not that easy to do but an excellent way to learn your part.

Now, please don’t misunderstand; this is not bragging – it’s simply stating the facts. And if you want a list of other things I can’t do very well I’ll be happy to provide one. Believe me – it’s a long list! But that’s not the purpose of this story. Today I want to tell you about a time I failed at something I normally do very well. I didn’t just fail; I tanked. Royally.

You see, our choir was practicing for a special Mass, one we had been anticipating for weeks. Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York, along with a retinue of religious bigwigs and officials, was going to visit our parish and I was chosen to be Leader of Song for the Responsorial Psalm. The melodies of some Responsorial Psalms are complex while others are rather easy. This particular psalm was bordering on ridiculously easy, a tune I could sing in my sleep. It consisted of ten words all chanted on the same note. Let me repeat that: ten words, one note, ridiculously easy. This was not Celine Dion belting out “My Heart Will Go On” while precariously balanced on a replica of The Titanic in Las Vegas.

I practiced a lot; the Mass was a big deal. The Cardinal, previously mentioned bigwigs and a church packed with the faithful as well as TV crews from Catholic Faith Network and Fox News were in attendance. Did I say it was a big deal? Now, I’ve sung at countless Masses in front of packed churches for years; this was a no-brainer!

The choir looked resplendent in robes of red and gold and I was hell bent for leather. Fifteen minutes into the Mass and it’s time for the Responsorial Psalm. Ten words, one note, Top Alto.

The organist played the intro, nodded at me to begin and I opened my mouth to sing. Now, let me just say if I choked and nothing came out of my mouth it would have been preferable to what did come out of my mouth. I, a mature, confident, talented woman, had suddenly been transformed into Alfalfa from The Little Rascals!

This was supposed to be a piece of cake and I was so damn sure of myself. I was ready; I didn’t clear my throat or wet my whistle before singing. Nope, I just plunged into the deep end of the pool.

Ten words, ten frog-like notes, Alfalfa.

Everyone averted their eyes and I couldn’t blame them. To say I was stunned and humiliated is an understatement; I just sort of slunk down into my chair and hid behind my music binder. Why is there never a rock to crawl under when you need one? I couldn’t help wondering if Cardinal Egan was asking himself “WTF was that?”

It’s all water under the bridge since that debacle and it’s something I can laugh about now but at the time I just wanted to croak. Come to think of it, I did!

RIBBIT!

NAR © 2022