This post is in response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt “Strike a Chord.” supposedly an experience about playing an instrument. (My Mother and myself when I was 16.)
I doubt if few people, like myself, who have absolutely no musical talent, have loved music as much as I do. Even so, I have had some minute experience with two musical instruments. Only one of which, I will attempt to make a readable anecdote about.
West Los Angeles cerca 1957 is the setting. My divorced Mother and my 14-year old self lived in a two bed-room apartment by the railroad tracks on Exposition Boulevard only three blocks from where I attended Daniel Webster Jr. High School–a short block from the intersection of Pico Boulevard and Sawtelle Boulevard.
Mother was very supportive in letting me follow my interests, and most often my interests became her interests, which was about the only and the best thing in our relationship. It was me who led my Mother culturally, not the other way around. All the movies we went to see, which were usually at least two a week, were films I suggested, but she always liked my taste. I did have very good taste in films. We saw all the great foreign films of the time, by the great French and Italian directors, i.e., Rossellini, De Sica, who was my favorite, Goddard. Every weekend, it was me who usually came up with some unique activity. This led to some interesting experiences for us both. Be patient, I’m getting to the musical instrument part.
One afternoon I told her about a car race near Palm Springs in which James Dean was supposedly to be in. So we went, but we didn’t see James Dean. The only thing I remember is that we were in the middle of the desert. Neither Mother nor myself had any interest in car racing. We just wanted to see James Dean. This man, who was part of a small group, ran up and took a photo of my Mother, then ran back to his group and they all kind of giggled. Mother was pretty and glamorous looking enough to attract an incident like that. I’m getting to the musical instrument part.
Another time, I told Mother that the Brooklyn Dodgers were arriving by plane that day from New York to become the L.A. Dodgers and we should go to the airport and meet their plane. We did that, acquiring a life-long memory. A few years later, Mother worked for the L.A. Dodgers as a secretary. I’m still leading up to the musical instrument part.
Out of no where, I suddenly liked Flamenco Dancing. Most probably, this new fascination came about from seeing Jose Greco and his dance troop on TV.
One weekend, I told Mother that Jose Greco was going to be in concert at a theater on Wilshire Blvd that day. So there we spent our Saturday afternoon. [Jose Greco and his dance troop appear in the film Ship of Fools (1965)], if you care to see them on film, or you can see them on YouTube.) I also remember that Herb Jeffries was in the audience. Jeffries was a well-known singer during the 1940’s (he only died last year at 101).
After that afternoon, I wanted to start studying Flamenco dancing, which was the first kind of dancing I had ever taken an interest in. After school once a week, I rode my bicycle east on Pico Blvd. to the Casino Dance School for my Flamenco Dance lesson. The Casino school was owned and operated by Rita Hayworth’s uncle, who was also my dance instructor. Hayworth’s real, maiden name was Casino. She came from a family of Spanish dancers who were performing in Tiajuana when she was discovered, so the story goes.
At last, here comes the musical instrument part of this story. In my Flamenco dance class, after a half-hour of learning how to stomp our feet correctly–which I didn’t really enjoy enough to practice at home–we had about 1/2 hour of training with the Castanets, an integral part of the Flamenco. The castanets were really a good instrument for me, because they only require having rhythm, which I always had, if nothing else. I quit all these after 3 or 4 months, and never took any further interest in Flamenco dancing.
I once played my castanets in a class at school, without any accompanying dancing or showing any rhythm. Afterwards no one commented and I was never asked to play again.