Age of Discovering

by Rick Beck

Chapter 13

The Real Deal

Once home, I told my parents about the opportunity to go to Seattle with a violin prodigy I knew from school. This, coming out of the blue, was a shock to them. I told them that Glenn's mother was going to call to explain the arrangements.

They didn't say yes or know, wanting to talk to Glenn's mother, but there was no question they were letting me go. The only thing more amazing to them than knowing a violin prodigy, was him inviting me to accompany him on the trip.

My parents had always been tolerant of my music. It was my only serious outside activity throughout high school. This meant I got a pass when I was out late on the nights we played. As long as my schoolwork was done, I could go to band practice on school nights.

My parents were happy I took an interest in music. They thought it was part of having a good education. Having a band had become part of that equation.

Once they agreed to let me go to Seattle, they'd need to meet Glenn and his mother before they gave their final yes to the trip. It's what I expected the terms to be.

I knew they'd be impressed by Glenn's mother, and they were when she called. Glenn was another kettle of fish, and his mom was bring him down to meet my parents. I told Glenn that the only thing that could keep me from going with him was him. He acted hurt I'd say such a thing. Then he laughed when I gave him a dirty look.

"I'll be good. Promise!" he said.

Going away together was a little scary, after he told me what he'd done with the German boys. I was sure Glenn wasn't as sure of him self as he acted. He couldn't bring up going to Seattle, until we'd spent the afternoon together.

For all his bravado, I thought it was his way of covering up his insecurities. Of course there was the chance that he was crazy. It was a risk I was destined to take. There was nothing I wanted to do more than spend time with Glenn.

After calling my parents Saturday afternoon, Glenn's mom set a time she'd drop by on Sunday afternoon.

As my parents and Glenn's mother stood inside the front door, she couldn't stay long. She was on the way to meet Glenn's father on the base. He had weekend duty.

They chatted, laughed a little, and she was very happy that someone as mature as me would be going with Glenn. My parents were happy too.

Glenn stood next to and a little behind his mother's left shoulder. He was wearing a very conservative shirt and tie and a nice pair of slacks. His shoes shined. He looked angelic. When his mother left, she kissed Glenn on the cheek. I don't know how he managed it, but Glenn blushed.

"Mom and Dad, this is Glenn," I said.

Glenn reached out to shake first my father's hand and then my mothers.

"Very nice to meet you. I appreciate you letting Gordon go along to Seattle. I don't know many people here and I guess Gordon is the nicest," he said politely.

"Do you travel to play the violin often?" My mother asked.

"I played with the Berlin Philharmonic at their Christmas Pageant at Christmas last year," he said. "In Seattle I'll be playing with Preston Hathaway's symphony Orchestra. I've signed a contract with him for future dates."

"My word! Preston Hathaway's Show," mother said. "It sounds like you are on your way."

"It's all new to me. I guess I'll get used to it. Preston didn't want me to have too much exposure before I was eighteen. I'll be eighteen in May."

"We're going back to my bedroom to talk," I said, taking Glenn's arm and leading him out of the line of fire.

When I shut my bedroom door, I started laughing.

"Who is in your body?" I asked.

"Just my professional demeanor. Going to Seattle is business, you know?"

Yes, it was.

The following week Glenn decided to walk me home from school to supervise my selection of wearing apparel to take on the trip. He took that opportunity to delve more deeply into my past. I filled him in as we walked. There wasn't much to tell.

"Tell me again why we're walking instead of riding in your car? If I had a car we'd be driving to your house. I wouldn't want you to walk if I could give you a ride, Gordo."

"Think back to the last time we took a ride in my car, Glenn. Extreme gas shortage. I save the car for evening practices and when we are playing somewhere."

"If you drove Eddie and me to school and back, we'd cough up the gas money," Glenn bargained. "We wouldn't be walking now if that arrangement was in place."

"Gas money isn't all the cost of having a car. Besides, it's almost the only exercise I get."

"How did you and Eddie become friends?" Glenn asked. "He's not too clear on it."

"I needed diversions that went beyond sitting in front of my five year-old computer. Music had gotten my attention beyond listening. I wanted to play an instrument but I didn't know which instrument suited me best. I had an old acoustic I'd toyed with when I was younger, but to get in the swing would require an electric, and I knew there wasn't any money for that kind of leap."

"Eddie! Remember Eddie? How did you meet?"

"I settled for dance class about the time you were reaching for a violin in a tiny music shop in London. My idea was to become a singer, dancer, musician. Like I said, I was young. I had more dreams then sense. Eddie was in dance class the first time I went."

"Makes sense. He still dances. He does ballet," Glenn said.

"Eddie is good," I said. "Dance class absolutely wore me out and singing was the weakest point in my plan. That left me with an appreciation for music and no outlet. I knew I'd never be a dancer. I couldn't keep up with Eddie."

"Eddie is never short of energy," Glenn said.

"Whatever I decided on, my parents needed to approve, because they'd pay for it. A guitar was always what I really wanted to play, but like I said, cost was a drawback.

"I was thirteen when Eddie and I decided to go to a music festival in Coates Park. We were friends by then. He excelled in dance class and I was mediocre at best.

"Eddie moved into the Heights the year before we met in dance class. I'd been there three years. I knew him by sight on the path going to the elementary school, but we weren't in the same class and didn't speak to each other until dance class. Eddie takes everything in stride. I don't think I've ever heard him complain," I said.

"I'd played the acoustic guitar in third or fourth grade. Play would be an exaggeration. My parents picked it up at a garage sale and brought it home to me.

At the music festival I got up close to an electric guitar. I was in love for the first time. I pulled out the secondhand acoustic I'd shoved into the back of my closet after fifth or sixth grade.

I never heard anyone playing acoustic. So I didn't want to play it, until I was hot to play an electric. The acoustic was better than no guitar. The idea of making music fascinated me," I said.

"I went up to the Five & Dime and had Mr. Crawford order me a songbook for the acoustic guitar.

"Shortly after that I decided to take lessons at school. The music teacher loved acoustic and he spent a lot of time teaching me. When I told him I was learning the mechanics to convert to electric later, he was disappointed, but the songbook I got was the Beatles Songbook. My music teacher taught me to play Yesterday from the songbook. It became my favorite. It was made for an acoustic," I said.

"Beatles music was everywhere in Germany. That's where they got their start. A place called The Star Club. Rumor has it they burned it down after a gig one night. Might have been the Jacaranda. Anyway, they were accused of burning one of the clubs down."

"What town?" I asked.

"Oh! Hamburg maybe. I'm not sure," he said.

"The following Christmas, without asking, my grandparents had sprung for a decent electric guitar and amplifier. I'm sure my parents noticed the magazines I brought home with bookmarks at the pages that advertised the electric guitars I dreamed about."

"Then you had the instrument you really wanted. Electric is dynamic and what teens want to hear," Glenn said.

"You're right. At that time all you had to do was show up with an instrument and a desire to play, and a band would pick you up, especially if you showed signs of talent. At first I played with two older guitarists, a drummer, and a keyboardist. We made a heavy duty sound together," I said.

"They turned my desire to learn into a desire to become an entertainer. They were all about the sound they made. Being third guitar in a band wasn't a big deal but one guy left and I was second guitar by default. I felt like I was making progress. At first I mostly listened and tried to duplicate what I heard. Then, as second guitar, I had to carry the sound beyond backing up my band mates. I was soon able to carry some of the songs on my own, so first guitar wasn't going full tilt all the time at a gig."

"How long from the time you went to the music festival and the time you played your first gig?" Glenn asked.

"About two years," I said. "What I learned from my music teacher transferred to the electric OK. I was able to play songs I liked as soon as I plugged in the electric. It was like getting out of a six cylinder Chevy and getting behind the wheel of a Corvette. I took off and never looked back."

"That's good. You obviously have talent. Everyone isn't that musical," Glenn said.

"No, that's for sure."

"After breaking my arm, I left the violin alone at first. Then I went back to Herr Gorman. He'd aged in only those few weeks. After the cast came off, he arranged for my first recital. I'd had the violin almost for three years by then."

"I was sixteen. I matured fast after that. My violin playing matured, I should say. I was no longer a scrawny kid either. I'd put on weight and grew a couple of inches," Glenn remembered. "I looked like any musician if you didn't look too closely at my face," he said.

"We played a little girl's birthday party. They loved us but they were only 9 years old. It was a start. I got a kick out of playing in front of an audience, even a short one. Probably a good place to perform the first time. We did a lot of birthday parties because they were fun," I said.

"Guys graduated and went away to college and other guys replaced them. I became first guitar, so comings and going left less of an impression on me. The last two to join the band were Bobby and Andy. By then it was my band. I renamed the Monks, The Mad Monks."

"We both have madness in our background," he said.

"I guess we do. Richie was the last one to come on board. He was my find. I knew we need something more than what we had."

"Pretty Richie. Are we sweet on the Richie?"

"Please! I've got better taste. He's a piece of work but he serves a purpose."

"All the band members are seniors. That means when we graduate, the Mad Monks will be no more. Nothing says I have to leave the band at school. It's how they did it when the original Monks graduated. I might take the band with me and try to make a go of it," I said.

"Take it to college with you?"

"No college. I have ruled that out," I said.

"Why? You're a smart guy, Gordon."

"My parents would have to pay for it. I'm not doing that to them. They've done their job. I'm grown up. I'm not going to bankrupt my parents to get a job. I'll be OK. From what I hear, kids are graduating from college and they're thousands of dollars in debt and can't find a job."

"True. Higher education don't come cheap," Glenn said. "I've come a long way in a short time since I picked up that violin in London. Wasn't like me to go for something as complicated as a violin. I wasn't a kid most likely to commit to a mental challenge. Physical challenges, no problem. I keep thinking I'm going to wake up from this dream."

"Destiny is hard to deny," I said.

"That's your story," he said.

"Don't wake up before we make the trip to Seattle. I'm looking forward to it."

"Delicious madness. Mad Monks. I sense a theme here," Glenn said. "By not asking a fair price for your services, by being willing to play for nothing, you're creating the idea you'll play for very little pay. If all you want is the experience of playing in front of an audience, it could be a good deal. If you need to make a living, not so much."

He looked at me to see if I was going to ask a question.

"What I'm saying, Gordon, if you drive a harder bargain, your market value will go up," Glenn said, as we turned into my driveway. "You and I will always have music, Gordon. No doubt we'll improve with age."

"When you talk music, you are more mature," I said.

"No way to make a joke about music. I do take it seriously. It's the best thing I do."

"Destiny," I said.

"You're a Mad Monk. What do you know??" Glenn said.

"You do have a point, but you're smarter than you give yourself credit for being," I said.

"Smart! Me? You're on something."

"The way you talk about music. The way you see my music. You're way smarter than you think, but you still have a strong desire to be a kid for as long as possible."

"Do not," he objected, sounding like a kid.

"That's the part that is confusing. Your kid part hides the smart part well."

"Does not," he objected.

"Does too," I argued.

"Not," he countered with a smile.

We laughed.

Glenn went through my closet in search of clothes he thought appropriate for the trip. Once again the change in him was obvious. He pulled shirts out, took a quick glance, and returned them to the closet.

I had just enough to get by. My band shirts were colorful to say the least, when I didn't just wear a tee-shirt and jeans. I never went anywhere. When my mother browbeat me into going to church with her, I had two white shirts that went with my sports coat and a couple of pairs of slacks I never wore but they were good for all occasions.

"This is it?" he asked, after he finished his examination.

"All my dress tee-shirts are in my dresser."

He kicked off his shoes and he laid back on my bed, resting his head on my pillow. He had that look on his face when he was giving something thought and wasn't certain how I'd react to it.

"I've got a dress shirt that's too small in the chest for me. It's just the thing for a casual well-dressed look without it being uncomfortable. You've got dress shoes?"

"Sure. They aren't new but I wear them to church and my mother hasn't suggested a new pair. You've seen most of my clothes. I like jeans and tee-shirts. I just fold that stuff up and put it in one of my drawers. Little need for anything dressy."

"There's a reception the evening we arrive. A casual but neat look for that. The shirt I'll give you will be fine for my performance. That and your sports jacket is fine. For the reception, well, I have a baby blue shirt I never wear. It's got frills at the cuffs and where it buttons. It's a pretty shirt but not my style. I'll give you that to wear at the reception. You'll look good in it," he theorized.

"Frills?" I said.

"Hey, it's an expensive shirt. The baby blue will match the color of your eyes. It was made for you, Gordo."


"I got a football jersey you could wear but you won't feel comfortable. You can wear one of your white shirts. That's out of vogue. I want you to feel comfortable."

"Are you going to be there?" I asked.

"Of course," he said.

"I'll be comfortable no matter what I wear," I said.

"I've got a pair of Speedoes that... are a bit revealing on me, but you could wear those. It would assure you'd get plenty of attention."

"Frills? Show it to me and maybe I'll like it."

"You'll love it," Glenn said.

"But you don't?"

"Not my style, Gordo. On you, in a dark pair of slacks and your black shoes, you'll look like a million bucks. That'll take care of the two events that are must attends. Jeans and tee-shirt at all other times is how I dress."

"I'll see you have a seat backstage so you can watch from one of the wings. Allows us to make a fast getaway, once I'm done. You'll see everything close up," Glenn said.

"I'll get out of my tuxedo before intermission is over and we'll be gone shortly after intermission ends."

"Tuxedo?" I asked.

"He insists on it. I'll be spotlighted when I play and he wants me in a tux. My solo is just before intermission. I do not sit with the orchestra. The stage goes dark. I come in from the wings. Once I'm in place, a single spotlight is on me. There's applause. I bow. This is when a piano and violins usually come in. It's simple backup for the piece I'll play. The violins and piano fades and I play for about five minutes. I don't really hear what Preston selects for accompaniment. I practice my piece of music and I rarely hear the accompaniment. I know it's there but my mind is on my music."

"You're a professional musician," I said, trying to grasp the concept that the boy on my bed was on his way to a professional music career.

It had become my dream, or fantasy, once I decided that college would have to wait until I saved money for it.

"How will the rest of the orchestra react to your being in the spotlight. Sounds like a good way to piss folks off if they were there first. Like the man who played first violin before a brash cocky kid came to play."

"I'm not brash," Glenn said with a smirk. "They're professional musicians. They may not like it but it's not their decision. No one wants, 'Doesn't play well with others,' on his resume'. Preston calls the shots. What he says goes. They make big bucks playing with the Preston Hathaway Orchestra."

"He's the man behind the music," I said.

"He conducts, so he's in front of the music too."

"This is a big deal, Glenn."

"Most people think so," he said.

"Yes, well, as performances go, let's stick to the violin."

"It's Preston's orchestra, Gordo. It's his gig. I'll have a few minutes in the spotlight and I'll fade away until the next gig. It's what he wants and what he insists will have people talking at intermission. He's designed it to show me off. I disappear. Go back to my life. The music world is left with a mystery. Who is Glenn Denning? All the reservations are made in Preston's publicity manager's name. My real name is only written on the check he sends me."

"By the time the audience is back in their seats, after intermission, we'll be on our way to explore Seattle after dark," Glenn said.

"Sounds like a football game. We skip out at half-time."

"I'd not make that reference in front of the music aficionados fawning over me. They would be horrified by the use of the term half-time."

"You're nervous?"

"I guess that's what it is. What if I get out there and fall on my ass? What if I draw my bow across the strings and it screeches like fingernails on a blackboard?"

"You'll do fine. The music comes from inside you, Glenn. It won't go away. It needs to get out."

"You think so? Wait until the wheels of the plane touch down. That's when it becomes totally real, Gordo."

"I'm a musician. What you have is a gift. You can't teach it and even Preston doesn't know how you do what you do. They're just happy you do."

"I think that and then I hear those damn fingernails. My entire future depends on five minutes in Seattle."

"Once you're on stage it will be over in what will seem like a split second," I said.

"One can hope," he said. "Preston had a tuxedo made for me. He'll keep it for my appearances with his orchestra. That way I don't need to carry it back and forth, and he knows it's always ready for me to put on. That way I don't need to drag it around with me. He has it cleaned and ready for the next gig."

"This isn't your first appearance with Preston?"

"I sat in during rehearsals when they played here. He saw me play in Berlin. I don't know who told him about me, but he came to hear me play. He talked to mother and me before we flew home. He told us he'd have a contract made. He sent it to the house a week later. He's been in touch each week since then."

"Oh, you told him you jumped the gap," I said.

"You kidding me. He'd freak if he knew I did that. Especially how it ended."

"It must be a bit like a dream come true for you," I said, trying to imagine how I'd feel.

"It's a bit more complicated than that. I haven't had that much exposure. Seattle is my real entry into life as a professional musician, and then I'm still shielded from the fallout. I might not know the reaction to my performance before I get home. I don't mind that. It's just not the way it is for most professional musicians," he said. "I'm going there to assure I'll have a future with the violin. I won't get really nervous until we touch down in Seattle. That's when it becomes real."

"You're going to do fine, Glenn."

"I'll accept what comes of it. I know how high the stakes are for me. I'll leave Seattle with a career or without one. Your being there will help."

"I'm glad you feel that way," I said.

He kept his hands behind his head as he spoke. He looked relaxed. I sat at my desk, taking in the new information. This was a new side of Glenn.

He reached for my guitar and strummed the strings without plugging it in. It was like he was searching to hear a sound he could identify. He put it back where he got it.

"You have an acoustic?"

I took down my acoustic guitar from the closet, handing it to him.

He managed a few cords by adjusting and readjusting his fingers until he heard a sound he recognized. It never sounded like noise. He said he hadn't played the guitar in any serious way. It sounded more like music than inadvertent noise.

He watched his hand, toying with the sound he made. He cocked his ear to make sure of what he heard as he repeated notes until the sound built on itself. He played and replayed a tune he'd created in my bedroom.

What made someone a musician? Being exposed to music early enough to have an appreciation for it? Having parents who encourage you to take an interest in music didn't hurt. My parents always had music on in the background while I was a child.

"Your interest in music goes back to when you found the violin?" I asked.

"I played piano. I was never good. I'd love to play the trumpet. Armstrong was a genius," Glenn said with admiration. "I'd like to have heard him live."

"Keyboard?" I asked.

"It's a modified piano," he explained. "I could play one if I had one. I didn't enjoy the piano that much. It was a lot like work."

"The Mad Monks need a keyboardist."

He smiled like he heard me. He strummed the guitar still searching, watching, listening for what, I wasn't sure. "Tell you what, Gordo. Don't pack your jacket or dress shirt. Mother does my packing and there will be plenty of room for my stuff and your stuff in my garment bag.

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