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Monday, July 29, 2002

Canons and Fastballs

I have taken the past week off from life while my 12 year old nephew visits me from Chicago. To borrow a quote from my nephew, “Being 12 years old isn’t half bad.” Having a 12 year old kid around isn’t half bad either.

Under the guise of childcare a pseudo-intellectual dipshit like me has an excuse to see the new Austin Powers movie. I can be amused without guilt as a midget receives a cruel beating. OK, so I was laughing my ass off but only because the kid thought it was funny. I don’t think I have been subjected to so many dick jokes since I myself was 12. Come to think of it, when I was 12 I could have written an Austin Powers movie.

I live across the street from the Seattle Center which is a sort of a low-rent Disneyland. As the Eiffel Tower has its Ferris wheel, the Space Needle has its half-assed amusement park. Along with the carousel and the Ferris wheel there is a video game house. This place is like a casino for kids and my nephew has a video game addiction worse than any Las Vegas burn-out. He can stretch out a couple of bucks longer than your granny playing nickel slots.

Like all good parents do, I left him to his devices as I sat outside finishing my book, A Piano Shop on the Left Bank, by Thad Carhart. Piano Shop is the story of a guy who discovers a piano shop in his Paris neighborhood and also rediscovers his love of the instrument. Some people are self-taught on the piano but most of us mere mortals need teachers. Being a parent and being a teacher seem to be similar vocations.

I have a piano in the middle of my apartment so naturally my nephew has taken to it. He plays the viola but has never really been introduced to the keyboard. I have been teaching him to play Pachelbel’s Canon in D major. This piece wasn’t originally written for the keyboard so you are able to play it at any level of difficulty as long as you remain in D major. This piece can also be played by two people which is pretty fun.

I am surprised that he hasn’t been taught this piece before as everyone likes it. Perhaps his music instructor is simply sick of teaching it year after year. One of my piano teachers told me that if she had to teach Für Elise one more time she would explode.

From the rudiments of Pachelbel’s Canon my nephew has learned to improvise in that key. Pretty simple stuff but something I never knew at his age. A little bit of instruction goes a long way on the piano. He will sit and pluck away at the keyboard until I find some other means to occupy his time.

As I was at his age, my nephew is fairly obsessed with baseball. He gave me a stack of Seattle Mariners baseball cards as a gift the last time he visited. I use them for book markers. I no longer play baseball myself but I remain fairly obsessed with the game. I got him an instructional baseball that has markings to help you throw a fastball, a curve, and a slider. I haven’t thrown a ball around much lately and I was afraid my arm would fall off but it felt pretty good. It felt really good. I felt like a kid.

I never played organized baseball growing up. We had enough kids in our neighborhood so that we could always get a pick-up game going in no time flat. No adults needed, none welcomed. We never really learned how to play the game very well although I think we gained a lot by simply improvising in the right key.

Tonight I’m taking the kid to see the Seattle Mariners play the Detroit Tigers. I hope the Mariners win. It will make the kid happy.

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