Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Eye See You

So, the latest round of eye-boogery ...

To make a long story short, I noticed my glasses were getting fuzzier on the right side, so I went to the optometrist to get a new prescription. 

Wow, that's changed a lot, said the doc. It was pretty stable, for like, five years. You should go get it checked. 

So I did. 

Ophthalmologist said, I don't see anything, but let's take some pictures ...

Oops. Little hole in the retina there, wasn't there before ...

A quick lesson in eye physiology and anatomy: The eyeball is filled with something like warm Jello, called vitreous humor. As we age, it tends to shrink, and when that happens it pulls away from the lining, which includes the retina. No problem, except that sometimes it doesn't want to let go, and you get a torn retina. Not as bad as a detached retina, but maybe needs to be repaired.

Easiest repair is laser surgery. They deaden the eye, hit the tear with with a laser, and spot-weld it back into place. Outpatient, surgery, take it easy for a few days, all fixed, another little blind spot, but beats the option.

So I want to visit the next level of specialist, one who does such things. Another round of tests and pictures, eyes dilated for two days, yadda-yadda, and cut to the chase, no surgery for now.

We are going to–pardon the word-play–keep an eye on it for a couple-three months, then recheck it. It can get better, worse, or stay the same, and depending on how that goes, probably need a new lens in the specs on that side.

Never a dull moment. 

Meanwhile, I am cleared to go bungee-jumping, skydiving, or trampolining. I should not allow myself to be hit repeatedly in the head, but that's not a good idea anyhow ...

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Even a Blind Pig ...

... finds an acorn now and then ...

The jam group to which I have belonged for a time, the Closet Musicians, meets once a week. Most of us are past retirement age or about to get there. The composition varies, but usually there are a couple of guitars, a ukulele or two, a washtub bass, a kazoo, harmonica, sometimes a banjo or mandolin, and a couple of non-instrument-playing singers.

We get together, sing songs, talk about our ailments, tell bad jokes, and generally have a fine time.

Musically-speaking, and being realistic, we aren't very good. Now and again, we manage a song whose harmony blends pretty well, and there are a couple that seem to do that consistently, but some of the songs are pretty ragged.

The most recent session, we tried a couple new tunes that were so-so. Then we went into our list and did some with which we were familiar, along with a couple that we'd played, but not recently. Old chestnuts, most of 'em, the kind of stuff that people roll their eyes and groan over when they come up,  but due to some unknown surge in the Force, or the full moon, or syzygy, whatever, they sounded good.

I mean, really good. We started on the same note, ended on the same note, the harmonies were spot-on, and frankly, we amazed ourselves.  

It's a running joke in the group, that if somebody misses the session, we always tell them how great we sounded because they were gone: "Oh, you should have been here! We were great!"

 However, this time at least half a dozen songs just flowed out like warm honey. On-key, tight, even. The a cappella finish to "Wagon Wheel" was perfect. The harmonies on "Hallelujah?" Nailed down. "Can't Help Falling in Love?" Nicely-done, if we do say so ourselves. "Mustang Sally." "Way Down in the Hole." "St. James Infirmary." "Kansas City." 
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight." We sounded like we knew what we were doing ...

It might never happen again, but having happened once? That means it is possible ...

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Classical Ukulele

Cory Fujimoto, doing a little Pachelbel and Bach ...

Accidental Lead

So, recent round at the Lehrer acoustic jam, the group started out small: A bass player, harmonica, conga drum (with a small high-hat), cello, and me, the lone ukeranger ...

No guitars. Usually there are more guitars than everything else put together, but not so this time. One did show up after a bit, but it started out with me having to be the rhythm guy and singer. I was gonna write the chords on the white board, then realized nobody needed those except me. 

We cranked it up, played four or five songs, no hurry, and eventually the guitarist and a flutist showed up. A pretty nice blend of instruments, and the guitar player could sing, so he led a few songs.

At one point, the guitarist started off on some old rock number and I missed hearing what key it was in. My ears, such that they are, aren't adept enough to immediately figure that out, so I cheated: I looked for a note and tried to play a melody, which sometimes will point me to the right chord progression.

Wasn't happening quickly enough, so I just found a pentatonic that worked okay and riffed, but quietly.

Those of you who don't know, five-note scales, i.e., pentatonics, which usually leave out the 4th and the 7th, sound pretty good behind pretty much any blues or rock song. Won't make you sound like B.B. King or Clapton if you just stick to that, but it won't sound terrible.

So I noodled along. The cello took a solo, then the flute, then I realized they were looking at me and I was already playing it, so I just upped the volume a bit and did a verse's worth of bars, then the harp-player did a solo before we went back to the guitarist.

Bam! Just like that, unintentional, my first ever solo in public.

Here's the funny part: I can't remember what the song was ...