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December 2009

Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

I would appreciate your candid advice on a recurring issue I've been having. As a trombone player, my slide has occasionally speared someone at my gigs. Once I even managed to mangle the manager of the hotel! What do you recommend to avoid these awkward moments:

  1. Yellow traffic cones marking the "danger zone"?

  2. Soft padding on the end of the slide? or

  3. Attaching a bayonet and skull & bones flag to forewarn wayward cha-cha-ers to gimme some distance!
Rich Coffey

Dear Rich:

AHEM! AHEM! That's the sound of me clearing my throat, twice. Of course we all know that nobody actually says "ahem" when they're clearing their throat, but there's simply no way to replicate it on the written page. My best is "ckuhuh humnn!" Not great, I know, but it's as good as anything I've seen. It just show how sadly inadequate the written word is, doesn't it? Yet that's how people like us are forced to communicate; a compromised conversation from the start. Ah, but now you're taking me deep, Rich, bringing out Mr. Profound Cat. So seldom does anyone plumb my depths, though spiritually I am an oceanic trench.

The point is this: A lot of people (and I might not be one of them) think that the trombone sounds like someone clearing his throat ("ckhuhuh humnn!" if you will). If that's the case, does it really matter what notes you play? And, with that in mind, couldn't you just skip the ones that involve pushing that thing out—slide, position, whatever? That would save you a lot of unnecessary prep time—clever though your suggestions may be—and keep everyone around you safe. Another option, perfectly suited to the trombone, would be simply not to play at all.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Whenever I pick up my horn to play, I feel like I don't have any chops. Matt, New York

Dear Matt:

It's the human condition; our expectations are set too high and our performance is never good enough. Before I embraced homeopathy, I felt the same way about my bowel program.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

When a club owner wants you and your group to play free gigs (citing all the wonderful "exposure" you'll be getting, even though the club is a roach motel with disturbing olfactory hints of a Jeffrey Dahmer type having left samples under the bandstand, along with an overall vibe of "vintage trash dumpster"):

What's the best way to tell this gentleman (in a thoroughly professional manner, of course) to place his reproductive organ firmly in his own anus? Phil Kelly

Dear Phil:

Like many who see Mr. P.C. as a role model, you're probably wondering how I got here—whether I've been a harmonious citizen of the Earth from the very beginning. Well, I'll confess that I committed my fair share of sins against mother Gaia; none worse than my childhood passion for burning earthworms with a magnifying glass. When I later learned about karma, I knew I had a lot of catching up to do. In that sense, nothing has shaped my quest to be a force for good more than my early brutalization of the worm.

What was it about earthworms? Surely there's no dirtier, slimier species (though you make a good case for club owners), but it was more than that. The way they could split in half and become two living beings was both magnificent and frightening. It was also thought-provoking: Could bait stores and worm farms double their profits by cutting worms in half? Quadruple profits by slicing them again? What terrifying machinery would do the dirty work, and how far could it go before the new worms were stillborn?

But even beyond that, I was obsessed with the fact that each worm contains a fully mature set of sexual organs from both genders. Surreal visions of a worm somehow mating with itself—separate from or in conjunction with reproduction by scissors or shovel blade—plagued my childhood thoughts. I guess my adult self had merely repressed all that, because your letter has triggered a new flood of troubling images. So, I have to ask... this club owner of yours: Is he an anatomical anomaly, or some sort of exotic yoga master? I'm a yoga enthusiast myself, as you might guess, but auto-erotic hermaphroditic poses are new to me. This whole concept of selfing flies in the face of my belief in community, but I'll have to admit I'm intrigued...

Dear Mister Politically Correct:

I play in a trio led by a guitarist. We play standards and some original material, and I'm pretty content. The only problem is that the leader plays r-e-a-l-l-y l-o-n-g solos. Solos that make the Jazz at the Philharmonic jams sound like Haiku by comparison. I figure that, if I'm bored, the audience may well be, too. So what should I do? Tell him he's lyrically loquacious? Ask him to stifle his strings? Tell him his soliloquies suck? Ask him to inhibit his improvisations? Or should I just lie back, close my eyes, and enjoy it? signed, Blind Or Really Easily Distracted



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