Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sadie & The Side Effects

Recently I took Sadie, my golden retriever, to the vet. (That's her in the foreground. Lexi owns the couch.) Sadie had developed a limp, "possibly arthritis in the shoulder," said the vet, who gave me a prescription for her. Meloxicam. 1 tablet by mouth every 24 hours. Note: If it hadn't said "by mouth," I'm not quite sure of how I would've administered the pills. I hate to think of the alternative.

I had the prescription filled, brought it home, gave her a pill, then decided to read the lengthy info sheet that came with the tiny pills. Big mistake. You probably know as well as I that you should never read about the possible side effects with any medication. Guaranteed you will end up not taking it, preferring to suffer with the disease or ailment rather than risk the side effects.

Meloxicam is classified as a NSAID. That's Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug. Sounds like the perfect treatment for arthritis or anything that makes a joint hurt or, in a dog's case, makes her limp. I looked at my beautiful dog, in the process of slowly digesting her Meloxicam, and realized what may be in store for her.

Of course there were the usual suspects: heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney failure, bleeding in the stomach and intestines, etc etc. It seems just about every prescription drug comes with these risks. Even Advil, Tylenol and aspirin have their dark side. I've never looked closely at a bottle of Pepto-Bismol but I suspect that lurking in that pink solution some evil malady awaits the man or woman with gastric distress.

So, back to Sadie and Meloxicam. It was some of the other side effects that caught my eye, started me wondering. For instance, "Asthma Attack." I would be hard pressed to distinguish between asthma in a dog and just plain panting. Unless, of course, they made a wheezing sound. No, I couldn't picture Sadie wheezing. Wheezing doesn't sound like a dog thing. "Dizziness" was another. I don't think I've ever seen a dizzy dog. I know dizzy people, but a dog? I guess that could be like a drunk dog, a weaving dog, like an art director I used to work with after several shots of vodka. He kept a bottle in his file cabinet. 

Among possible stomach reactions were constipation and diarrhea, which I won't discuss. Not a happy subject for man or beast. But there is one other that amused me. "Gas." Now I don't know if you've ever been around a dog that has gas, but it's a pretty disgusting scenario. Usually the action is silent, which means the effect hits you a few seconds after the expulsion. The dog is gone, and will have no idea what you're upset about if you try scolding him or her. Flatulence in a dog, however, can have dire social consequences. I know of this first hand. A friend of mine, many years ago, had a fox terrier named Daisy with chronic flatulence. Daisy seemed to store it up until my friend had a party. Then, while we were all sitting around the living room, Daisy would pick someone out, walk over to them, sit by their side, and emit a silent burst. She would then walk away. A few seconds later we'd all catch the drift and stare at the person in the center of the activity. The funny part is that no one would say anything, just accept it and move on. I'm convinced Daisy knew what she was doing. 

One final side effect deserves mention. "Slurred Speech." I can't even imagine what Sadie would sound like if she developed "slurred speech." I suppose that translates to "slurred barking" or "slurred whining." That reminds me of an old nightclub routine by Woody Allen. He talks about a pet store that specialized in damaged pets. Birds that can't whistle, hamsters with no tails, fish that can't swim. He mentions a dog that stutters. It goes 'B-b-b-bow, W-w-w-wow." A funny bit. I would put "slurred barking" in that same category. Like a dog who drinks vodka instead of water, then goes out to chase squirrels. 

Happy to say, the Meloxicam has alleviated Sadie's limp, and she is free from all side effects. As far as I know. Still, every day I check her for "swelling of the lips."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Cole and the E-Flat Chord

Several people emailed comments to me about my recent post about "Stardust." Usually I just put these away in a folder. 

But I have to share this one with you. It's from Steve Kopcha. You probably don't know the name, but Steve is one of the most creative, intuitive, dedicated ad guys I ever worked withe. He also has a sharp sense of humor, which you need to survive in advertising. Steve, who now lives in New Hampshire, was Creative Director at D'Arcy Advertising, in St. Louis, then in Detroit.  I think that was during the '60's and '70's.Steve was a major influence on Budweiser's great advertising. His presentations were effective and entertaining, even if the client didn't buy it all. After D'Arcy, he became a professor of advertising at Mizzou in Columbia. Along the way he honed his chops as a somewhat talented alto sax player. 

It's in this musical role that Steve responded to my thoughts about the old songs.

"Nice piece, and I agree with you 100 percent. Regarding the "old" composers, here's an anecdote for you:

Many years ago, I decided to teach myself to play the piano so I could play from songbooks. I was hesitant, because when I was a second-grade pupil, I just could not grasp the concept that the bass clef notes were not the same as the treble clef notes. Upside-down and backwards or something like that.

Then I had the Big Idea of my Life.

I already knew how to play the notes with my right hand---I could read them direct from the music, and hey, I could memorize the fingerings for the chords (the guitar/piano chords also in the music).

Once I did that, I could play any song as long as they had the guitar/piano chords printed. This is old stuff to you as a keyboard guy, but it was huge for this sax player. I discovered that when you fingered, say, an E-flat chord, you could fill in the holes with various arpeggios, etc. and they would mostly be right as long as you honor the key signature for sharps and flats. Your hand was already poised over all the right notes within the scale.

Then, the other big discovery:

After playing through many "Great American Songbooks" I noticed something happening, time after time.

The songs I found that had "something extra" going for them...the songs that were richer and more engaging to the mind...mostly all came from the same guy: Cole Porter.  And furthermore, many were in the key of E-flat, a nice key for piano and singer.

I became a Cole Porter fanatic, learning all i could about him. I even drove hundreds of miles from Detroit to Peru, Indiana, his home town (the chubby girl at the gas station in the middle of town thought I was from Mars, I guess, when I asked where Cole Porter's boyhood home was. "Who's he? Never heard of him," she said)  Yikes!

Anyway, when my son Mike went to Yale, I was thrilled to find out that Cole Porter, class of 1914, had written many of the Yale songs...and they still sing them today. 

Also, the Waldorf-Astoria (where Cole lived) had his piano on display in the lobby and I managed to sneak up to it one time and played an E-Flat chord, just for the magic of it. I did the same thing in Salzburg, waiting until the museum was almost empty to reach over the velvet rope and run my fingers down Mozart's clavichord. I thought I would die of rapture...touching the very same keys my idol, my adored Wolfgang Amadeus had touched.

Then I went down to the gift shop and bought some Mozart Balls...little chocolate confections about the size of a golf ball. They were good.

Thanks for the cool piece on the best composers and songs ever."

Thanks for the story, Steve. I, too, saw the Porter piano at the Waldorf many years ago, but didn't have the cajones to play a note, much less an entire chord. Beautiful piano, though.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Sometimes I Wonder Why - "

Here's a short quiz for you music lovers. One of the most recorded songs of all time is "Stardust." The question is, Who wrote it? I'll give you two clues. One, he also wrote "Georgia on My Mind," and Two, Nat "King" Cole recorded the quintessential version of it. No, the answer is not at the end of this post. I'll tell you right now. It's Hoagy Carmichael. That's right, the guy from indiana with the strange voice.

Hoagy wrote a lot of other distinctive songs that made the pop charts, like "Skylark" and "Two Sleepy People," but "Stardust" remains one of the greatest American songs ever written. 

At least I thought it was, until I attended a seminar recently. Several of us were discussing popular music and immortal songs, when someone mentioned "Stardust." Five people, all under the age of forty, asked "What's that?". I sang a few bars - not a great rendition, but adequate. They had never heard it before!

I realize then that great American songs, the ones you and I grew up with, are in danger of joining TWA, Burger Chef and De Soto cars in the lost and found of our memories. Let's face it, where can young people hear songs by Hoagy, and Rodgers and Hart and the Gershwin's and Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin? Not on the radio stations they listen to, not on TV, not in clubs. They can search for it online, like old YouTube videos or iTunes, but they have to be motivated to slip into a search mode. Maybe their parents or grandparents have given them access to their LP's or CD's. Come to think of it, they probably don't know what an LP is, right? If it was written B.E. (Before Elvis) and it's not in a digital format, how relevant can it be? I'd love to find just one person under the age of twenty with one of Hoagy's tunes on his or her iPod or iPhone. I might as well search for the Holy Grail.

Just think of all the incredible music they'll never be familiar with. I don't understand how a person can go through life without knowing the rhyme Lorenz Hart came up with for "We'll take Manhattan...", or the repetitious note that signals Cole Porter's "drip, drip, drip" at the start of "Night and Day." I still believe those songs will live forever, but the audience keeps shrinking. There are rays of hope, however. Artists such as Rod Stewart, Boz Skaggs, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Michael Buble and Judy Collins have recorded many of those songs. You may know of some others. What we need is more of them. Perhaps Lady Gaga Sings Irving Berlin (although she did make an album with the ageless Tony Bennett). How about Pit Bull: A Tribute to Johnny Mercer. Or Kanye West Does Harold Arlen? Maybe forget that one. Immortality has its limits.

This populist approach just might be the solution: the start of a musical movement to Save the Great American Songs. I'd start off with "Stardust" performed by a popular singer. Who? I Googled "Most Popular Male Singers of 2014." Here are the top four: Drake, Jason Derulo, Chris Brown and Bruno Mars.   I have no idea what they would do to one of those great songs, or even if they could. You ever hear of them? Maybe there's someone out there, a Super Hero for Great Songs. Suggestions welcome.

And now, all together, join me: "Sometimes I wonder why I spend the lonely night...."