I dug my saxophone out of the closet and cleaned it, got out my Mel Bay “You Can Play the Saxophone” (very) Beginner book, and tried to toot. I haven’t touched it in a year. Have to start over. I remember how I first thought my instrument would be guitar but my fingers are too short and so is my sense of rhythm. Then the idea: wind, wind, I’ve got plenty of wind. I’m made for a horn. And so I went to a pawn shop in New Orleans and got a tarnished Bundy II sax from a public school band (Lord, I hope some kid didn’t pawn his horn to get drugs) and a couple of beginner books and started to blow my horn.

It’s mostly for myself that I play. I’m not fit to play in public. I can’t perform yet for others because I’m too self conscious: “Here I am playing and people are listening… then… where’s the G? Where do my fingers go for F? Where am I?” And I start laughing and high bleeps and snorts come out, which makes me laugh more, and it’s a bust.

I play the sax for the pure joy of it, of hearing the solid note come through, of holding the sax against me and feeling comfortable like it’s part of me and I’m swaying with the notes. Time goes away and it’s just me and my horn making – every now and then – some mighty blessed sounds.

This time, though, when I started playing again I had serious problems with F and D.

Very serious because all I could get was air sounds, no note at all, just air swishing through, which is not terribly good for melody with no F and D. It took two days of trying and then I decided it must be something structural, and sure enough, there on the F key the pad was missing from the key. I found it in the case and got some glue and put it back and let it sit for the night. First thing in the morning and with great expectation I blew my horn, and ahhh…. there was F loud and clear, which meant D was okay, too, and I got my horn back.

Second discovery: lessons on video on the Internet, and isn’t this downright wonderful, this nice lady in a black dress showing me where to put my fingers on the keys, how to hold my horn and blow full breaths, how to get a tight embouchure (make a little smirk with your lips) and how not to get discouraged when low D has a mind of its own and wants to keep coming out high.

Now, every day, as my reward for writing (writers need little rewards to beckon them at the end of a day of writing) I get to play my sax and I’m ripping through ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ and ‘Three Dizzy Rodents’, and even a bit of the folk song, ‘All My Trials, Lord’ that Joan Baez used to sing so hauntingly and with that clear, bell-like voice.

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