Tuba blues 

The Observer's kid is a junior high schooler now, which means not only lockers and gym shorts and an A/B schedule that has him changing classes, but also band. He's long been head and shoulders above his classmates, with broad shoulders and powerful legs like Dear Ol' Dad, and is already three inches taller than his mother, even though he won't turn 12 until December. Try as we might, though, we can't talk him into playing football. He's afraid, he says, of hurting someone. Yep, that's our boy — gentle, gray-eyed soul that he is.

Instead of pads and cleats, therefore, he has taken up an instrument: the tuba.

Don't ask us why the tuba. The Observer played trombone (poorly) in school, but we tried to talk him into a trumpet. A trumpet is the universal instrument, we argued; flip open a trumpet case on any downtown street corner in America and start playing, and — if you're good enough to hold a recognizable tune for the 30 seconds it takes pedestrians to get in and out of earshot — you'll soon have at least enough dough for a burger and a cherry Coke. Learn "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" for Christmastime and some Gershwin for spring, and you'll be all set. We've never really seen a tuba busker, we told him, probably because you'd work off the calories from any food you might get out of the deal hauling a tuba case the size of a Subaru to the corner and back. Try as we might, though, tuba it is. When he makes a decision, he's solid like that — yet another thing Dad admires in him (and wishes we could do better with our damn self).

We've yet to actually see the brass beast at home, which is probably for the best given our tenuous hold on sanity. He's been practicing after school, but the most we've heard of the tuba at The Observatory is Junior buzzing scales through the teacup-sized mouthpiece Spouse and I purchased for him a few weeks back. Though we know it'll sound marginally better when he's tooting an actual horn, for now his at-home practice sounds like a dying antelope, choking on a kazoo.

Given Junior's reluctance to play football, we thought all was lost on our dream of sitting in Razorback stadium, watching our kid play. Then, the other day, somebody mentioned that the mighty Razorback Band has had up to a dozen tubas at times (with a lot of those folks there on at least partial scholarship) — all the better to project that big, heart-pumping sound. Given that: Keep on buzzing, Junior. Buzz to your heart's content. Even at the risk of wasting a good defensive lineman, your Old Man will honestly be just as proud to come see you play your horn as to see you play ball.

More news on The Observer offspring front, but first: We know we confuse you, faithful Observer readers, with our many manifestations: Sometimes we have children, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we have sons, sometimes daughters. The Observer is middle-aged and The Observer is a babe in his 30s. So bear with us as we tell the story of The Observer's daughter, a student at a college just up the road from Little Rock. It's late on Friday night, she's coming back to the dorm from a birthday party. She enters the locked front door and there, standing in the dorm's parlor, is a guy holding a pair of scissors and looking a little crazy. He's managed to get in through a door in the parlor and is in the process of tearing down posters from the walls. His explanation: Werewolves are after him. He asks for a light, apparently to set the posters on fire.

Then the intruder asks The Observer's daughter, "Are you a vampire?" She assures him she's not, and suggests, helpfully, that he stay in the parlor, because he'll be safe there. Fortunately, the man being chased by the werewolves has been loud enough to alert others in the dorm to call the public safety folks, who arrive and try to calm the guy down. He is led away by police, who convince him that his handcuffs are made of silver and will protect him from werewolves. Daughter gives a statement at 2 a.m., and reveals all to The Observer the next afternoon. They were just little scissors, she assures us.

Our promise to you: The Observer is not a vampire, nor a werewolf, and never will be, so you'll never be confused on that point, at least.



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