Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Mean Judge: “I sentence you to 20 minutes of having two children practice their recorders in your car!”

Me: “Nooooooooo!  Please!  Mercy!  Whip me instead!  Hang me!  Water board me!  Not recorders!  NOT RECORDERRRRS!!!!” 

[Prisoner, foaming at the mouth, is escorted from the chamber.]

The torture instrument known as the recorder (an ironic name in that it has never been recorded without attendant ear pain and screaming), is one of the more popular instruments inflicted upon parents by sadistic music teachers. 

Other dreadful instruments in this category include the Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Messerschmitt, Budweiser, Lubejob, Pomegranate, and Woodblock.  

The recorder, known in its native German as DersqueelingkEarsbleeden, or ‘Annoying Large Whistle’, is a wooden interpretation of what a badger being run over by a five ton truck might sound like. 

The sweet melody produced by these instruments (we really do need a sarcasm font, don’t we?) always brings back memories which I thought had been erased by many years of therapy.

It all started in elementary school, where I was sentenced to several years of musical instruction by my parole officers (or “Parents” as some people refer to them). 

My first music teacher was a charming French woman named Mrs. Boehnert (pronounced Bo-nair). 

Mrs. Boner, as we instantly and maturely called her, was a charming and matronly woman, who we suspected was also deaf as a post and unable to speak English. 

Her favourite (perhaps only) English phrase was “Vey fine!” (very fine).  Everything was “vey fine” no matter what transpired.

Me (raising hand): “Mrs. Boner?  MRS. BONER!  May I please go to the washroom?”

Mrs. Boner: “Vey fine!”

Me (after an hour of wandering the halls, committing various acts of vandalism and truancy): “Mrs. Boner? 
How do I play this recorder thing?”

Mrs. Boner: “Vey fine!”

I graduated from the recorder (from the Latin to “squeak horrifically”) to the clarinet (“play only while drunk or attempting to become so”), to the saxophone (did you know a skillfully loaded saxophone can hold up to twelve cans of beer?). 

I will never forget the sound of our high school band, winning music competitions with sweet melodies like “Overture for Zits,” “Variations on a Theme of Puberty,” and “Concerto for Dorky Blue Uniforms Vey Fine.”

Band tours were common until the government found out.  We would routinely inflict ourselves on unsuspecting communities where families, who had upset the local school in some way, were forced to take us in.    

People not only had to let us stay in their homes (“Back away from my daughter or I’ll play this recorder!”) but also assemble in their gyms and listen to us “perform.”    I suspect they were bribed to do this with large cash grants from the municipal emergency reserve fund.  No one would volunteer to do any of this without coercion of some form. 

These and other warm memories come flooding back to me as I observe my children beginning their musical odysseys. 

I observe only, since I am wearing earplugs.

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