I once bought a trombone at a garage sale.
That’s not the opening line of a limerick. I really did buy an old trombone and I only paid $3 for it. This was in the early Seventies, when $3 was worth a little more than it is now but that was still quite a bargain. Of course, the trombone was ancient, tarnished, and badly dented, but I thought it would be fun trying to learn to play.
I’d always enjoyed listening to skilled trombonists, appreciating how the instrument’s mellow tones could add a lush sound to just about anything, whether it was Mancini’s smooth orchestrations (a favorite of mine) or something a little more solo-driven, like J.J. Johnson’s “Laura.” I didn’t think that I could ever reach a skill level approaching that, but I figured that I could at least get to the point of simple play. After all, I’d played a clarinet in grade school so I was musically inclined, right? (Those who know me can snicker at this point.)
I bought a beginner’s book and began working at it, but soon realized that it would take more time and effort than I was willing to offer — and there was another problem. My attempts at trombone play sounded a lot like a cat in heat, and we did in fact have a cat in heat at that time, so it’s entirely possible that my trombone tones caused her to increase her yowling. Whatever the case, the ‘bone soon found a spot in the closet.
My last memory of the trombone involved our own garage sale, which occurred quite a bit later. Looking for stuff to sell, I dug the old thing out of the closet and noticed that the mouthpiece had gotten lost at some point, so tagged it at $1. It was ignored all day, but finally an old coot chiseled me down to a half-dollar — and then complained because it didn’t have a mouthpiece.
I should have made him take the cat too.