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A redneck listens to a little classical music - Bob Paslay

Ho-Ho-Ho. Fooled you. You probably thought with the holidays so close I was going to write one of those sappy Walton family Thanksgiving or Christmas stories about how we went out and stalked the turkey and sat around the dining room table singing Thanksgiving songs.

Well, first, we lived in the city and we stalked our turkey in the frozen meat department at the A&P and more importantly I believe there are memories that should be kept just for yourself, that are special and lose some of their special nature if you go around telling them at the drop of a hat. Jean Shepherd is to be commending for tell of a life in “Christmas Story” that obviously resounds with a lot of people but since so many people share his story, he has exposed it to light and I suspect lost a little edge from his memory.

We had the basic Norman Rockwell holidays, a pretty normal family and so those memories and smells and sights and feelings remain safely tucked away for me. I feel sorry for people who have bad holiday memories. I worked with a guy and he apparently came from a dysfunctional family. He didn't share much, but once let drop that his family didn't believe in presents and so the parents took the presents away and gave them away. It sounds like Mommie Dearest. Kids who grow up like me deserve to have those warm, cuddly remembrances. That doesn't mean you need much but you need a series of things that say Thanksgiving or Christmas to you... whether it is popping corn or licking batter out of the pot after the cake has been put in the oven.

(For those of you who are not Southern, this is a lesson in how we talk. We say things like: Not changing the subject but... Then we change the subject. So I said I wasn't going to talk about the holidays and spent a couple of hundred words doing just that).

So for my real topic. I have lately been listening to classical music on the local public radio station. It all started as an accident. I was listening to county music and then Paul Harvey came on and he annoys me because you can't tell where he is reporting a story and when he is luring you in with what sounds like a story but is really a disguised commercial. So I say, Enough is Enough and I twist the dial on my radio and it lands on Public Radio. And so now for weeks I have left it there.

When I was in grade school we were trooped down to the basement where Mr. Lyles, a lanky man with black slicked back hair, would put on a record of classical music and then lift the needle off and ask us questions, like, What instrument was that? I didn't and still don't know an oboe from a hobo and so I never got any of it right.

So my classical music was really confined to the television or movies that used a classic al theme like the William Tell Overture or Flight of the Bumble bees.

If you asked me to come up with a hook for what I am intellectually, I guess I would have to say I am an intellectual redneck. By that I mean I will willingly be dragged to the Museum of Modern Art. But I still harbor this belief that some now dead artists are laughing at us from the grave. I kind of have the Jed Clampett view that high-brows can't tell a valuable abstract from a picture painted by Daisy the Monkey.

I certainly don't know any of the music terms and when the announcer in that reverent whisper they use on public radio uses the terms they go in one ear and out the other. And I sing so bad my parents made me lip synch in the shower. I saw Amadeus and believed it was gospel and now am told it may be purse speculation. So I watched the Lone Ranger television show, the Green Hornet and picked up a nice Beethoven from “Rosemary's Baby” (Feur Elise or For Elizabeth) and some more Beethoven from the Charlie Brown animated television shows. So as I am driving along I do try to enjoy this classical music.

I find I enjoy the ones I know and I really like the classical guitars. So you ask why I am trying so hard to at least develop an appreciation for this classical music. And the answer is I am not sure. I am certainly not an elitist. Even we redneck intellectuals want to expand our range and knowledge. I admit there is probably a line in your life that once you cross it you are not going fully embrace it. But the Christmas season is the time to pick up some fine examples of good classical music. I celebrate the great skill and dedication it takes.

So what does it matter that I only know Eugene Fodor because he would play on Johnny Carson sometimes? We all come to our culture in different ways. Who knows? I might get just interested enough to read on the great composers and then again I might not.

Bob Paslay is editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com .