He Cut His Teeth

He Cut His Teeth

He cut his classical music baby teeth

on Debussy while in the a/v room

of his community college


where he worked to make a few dollars

to help with the cost of his books having

received a scholarship which


paid for his tuition but which meant he would

have to live a couple more years with

his less than agreeable mother


after his lovable but very troubled father died

prematurely at his own hand at the age

of fifty-six. He listened to C chords


and sharp chords not knowing to what he was

listening and what one critic acknowledging

the 150th anniversary of Claude’s birth


dubbed a piece of Debussy’s music “as if

a tectonic musical plate has shifted.” He

didn’t know that.  He just knew he


had shifted in his seat in the a/v room when

he heard it.  He didn’t have a clue about

that tectonic shift having listened


mostly to The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and

Mary and the unbelievable harmonics of

The Beach Boys, not then appreciating


the classical music talent of the boys anymore

than he understood Debussy. He just loved the

storm of La Mer, the waves rolling high


and violent and feeling so much like Lake Michigan

a few miles away on the Chicago, Illinois side

originally and then the Michigan side


directly across from Racine, Wisconsin

and the image of the deer stopping in the

woods in his imagination near Lac du


Flambeau, Minocqua, and  Indian Lake in

Prelude to the Afternoon of the Fawn.

He just learned that the tectonic


genius who was ambivalent about being

an Impressionistic composer but  also

ambivalent in love and lust


having bedded several, leaving one

to attempt suicide and then fathering

his only child, a daughter, by a


married woman. “Oh, Claude, what am I to do

with you?”  he called to the heavens on the

anniversary of Debussy’s birth.


Nothing, absolutely nothing anymore than

He would do to the Kingston Trio as he

strummed MTA and Tom Dooley


or Peter, Paul and Mary as he worked

an arpeggio from B minor to E minor

in “The Cruel War.”


He put the guitar down, sat back and thought

about PP and M at the McCormick Place concert.

Peter said he was no disciple, Paul said he was


no apostle and Mary said she was no virgin.

They brought down the house.  He was with

the girl friend who he thought he would


see at the fiftieth anniversary of their high

school graduation but she died in Tucson

AZ after an unhappy marriage to


an Ivy League professor.  Here all this time

since he sat in the a/v room listening to

Debussy he was just sure her life

had been magical.

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