Starched Shorts in C Minor


Victor Borge once explained that the main difference between a violin and a viola is that it takes a viola longer to burn. For my part, I’ve concluded that the main difference between the opera stars I heard this morning and an automobile is that an automobile will usually fire up when needed. But the starter on the operatic howler is unreliable. 

A miserable drizzle coated the highway when I left San Antonio at 3:30AM Monday. It was just enough to form a layer of slime that was dutifully picked up by vehicles and thrown onto the windshield, where it enlarged the glare of the headlights. Trying desperately to make an early morning appointment in Houston, I chased down a bear claw pastry with some robust coffee before reaching for the touch pad on my smart phone. I have the phone wired into the truck’s speaker system so I can enjoy good music. Since the sun would not make an appearance for a few hours, screaming metal guitars would not work. Jazz and Cajun music seemed a little too nerve-wracking for a night time run, so I gently tapped the little section on the touch pad menu that said “J. S. Bach.” This would be soothing, I thought, and would allow time to reflect quietly in the hours before I reached the madness of Houston traffic. 

I had never heard Liebestraum played on a harp before. For that matter, I had no idea that one could play as many notes simultaneously as can be played on a harp. It was beautiful and put me in a mood to anticipate what the sky might look like in a few short hours when the sun would work its magic, changing the horizon first from an inky black to rich hues of deep blue and purple. I knew the very edges of dark clouds would then take on a reddish tint that would slowly spread, turning orange and brightening the landscape. The world would awaken and I would be invigorated. This is how music speaks to me at times, by helping to illuminate with the mind things that the five senses dismiss as routine. 

Soon a harpsichord struck up a strange tune, sounding rather like a group of skeletons doing the tango. I was stuck on that uncomfortable visual when the next number was announced by violins that sounded like a soft breeze. So light and soothing until, …until it happened. A soprano entered the concert hall with a pocket full of vowels she had evidently purchased from Pat Sajak, and began dispensing them freely. It could have been a foreign language I suppose, but I doubt it. Is there any language that prohibits consonants? At inconsistent intervals our soprano would pluck out a vowel she was particularly fond of and take it for a tour. From one end of an arpeggio to the other she would haul it, up and down. There was no end to it. She dragged that thing through every scale in the neighborhood with an “ah ah ah ah ah ah AAAAHHHHHHH!.” Or perhaps it was stuck to her shoe. And, oh the heights she could reach. I’ll take my oath on a stack of Bibles that there’s not a dog whistle between San Antonio and Houston that can stand the competition. This is what too much starch in one’s shorts can do to a person. But clearly she was having difficulty bringing this project to a conclusion. So presently, a ’57 Chevy cleverly disguised as a baritone came in to assist. He went to work on the problem from a different angle, but his tool box had no more than the same collection of vowels the soprano had employed. His starter was stuck. Confusion reigned until they both seemed to lose interest in the project altogether and the violins sounded intermission. 

Next, a full chorus belted another round sounding nothing less than magnificent. I’ve no earthly idea what the commotion was about, but they were singing boisterously and making a strong and majestic racket until, …until you know who came back on stage. The chorus receded and made way for Madam Starchy Drawers herself. Only this time she toted a few “R”s with her as well, which she rolled all over the place. She seemed a good deal more confident this time around though and didn’t need further help from the baritone. But he showed up anyway, and with his starter rebuilt. The brass section got into the act. The chorus was thoroughly energized, the kettle drums rumbled like thunder, Chevy and the Drawers howled one for Old Glory, and the cymbals smashed the whole thing to bits. 

On second thought, Imus in the Morning wasn’t such a bad option, as the sun came up and Houston came into sight. Ultimately it turned out to be a good day, culminating with the house special at the truck stop tonight: Chicken Armageddon.  

There are 12 comments.

  1. Member

    I enjoyed the ride…

    • #1
    • April 12, 2011 at 3:24 am
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  2. Thatcher

    What is the difference between a viola and a trampoline?

    You’re supposed to take your shoes off before you jump up and down on a trampoline.

    • #2
    • April 12, 2011 at 4:47 am
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  3. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Lance, the short answer is yes, there is a road that has played a huge part in my life. I’ll have to write about that some time. Great idea! But for now, I must get rolling. Can’t keep the customers waiting…

    • #3
    • April 12, 2011 at 5:16 am
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  4. Member

    Dave, you set me to howling this morning. Great stuff.

    • #4
    • April 12, 2011 at 6:50 am
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  5. Inactive

    Many classical music stations have an unwritten but iron clad rule: no sopranos before noon. There is no quicker way to loose listeners than to inflict Renata Screecho, her vibrato quavering over an eighteen or twenty note range, on someone not fully awake or only semi-functional. Frankly, cats in heat are more endurable at that time of day. I am an opera lover, at least of an eclectic subset thereof, but I can’t deal with it before about 4 PM.

    The main reason I stopped listening to classical radio in the AM, however, is their infuriating habit of playing brass music as wake up selections. One of my core requirements for eternal bliss is the Canadian Brass and every extant copy of their recordings disappearing into the depths of the La Brea tar pits.

    • #5
    • April 12, 2011 at 8:15 am
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  6. Inactive
    Dave Carter

    At inconsistent intervals our soprano would pluck out a vowel she was particularly fond of and take it for a tour. ·

    I gotta learn not to read your posts when drinking coffee!

    • #6
    • April 12, 2011 at 9:03 am
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  7. Inactive
    • #7
    • April 12, 2011 at 9:15 am
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  8. Member


    • #8
    • April 12, 2011 at 10:07 am
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  9. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    Lance: Bravo! · Apr 11 at 10:07pm

    Thank you, …thank you very much.

    • #9
    • April 12, 2011 at 10:13 am
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  10. Member
    Dave Carter
    Lance: Bravo! · Apr 11 at 10:07pm
    Thank you, …thank you very much. · Apr 11 at 10:13pm

    You’ve provided the inspiration for tomorrow’s Song of the Day. No small feat considering the one I had queued up was a gem I had been keeping warm in my pocket since I began the exercise. But it shall keep. The image of you racing the sun into Houston will not. It demands an immediate homage. And I can think of nothing more more appropriate than the selection to be unveiled in the morning.

    • #10
    • April 12, 2011 at 11:05 am
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  11. Member

    It would seem your latest adventure has taken you to the sea and back on Interstate 10. Its the great road of my own life. I grew up in Phoenix and went to school at the UofA in Tucson. Back and forth I went on I-10. After college and some time at home, it was off to Los Angeles. Back and forth on The 10. And then my move to Austin, traversed along the Christopher Columbus Highway all the way east until shortly after Ft. Stockton, where we detoured through Fredricksburg and Johnson City and allowed the great Texas Hill Country to bid us welcome to our new home. That was significantly more charming than routing through San Antonio and making the proverbial climb north along the god foresaken Interstate 35.

    What’s your take on that long stretch straight across America’s beautiful Southwest? Are there any particular roads that serve as your own character in your life’s story?

    • #11
    • April 12, 2011 at 11:17 am
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  12. Inactive
    Margaret Ball I gotta learn not to read your posts when drinking coffee! · Apr 12 at 9:03am

    I would like to second this comment and also point out that if you really do have metal, jazz, Cajun, and classical all as options, then as someone who frequently follows Merle Haggard with Metallica, I applaud the breadth of your tastes.

    • #12
    • April 13, 2011 at 2:14 am
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