Yellow Mustard-Dogs in Commercials

“You are a yellow dog, yes that is what you are…A Yellow Dog!”

The term “yellow dog” was used to signify that someone was a coward.  I have been called a yellow dog many times.  Of course it really has nothing to do with music, after all someone who plays the xylophone, an instrument that went out of style in 1932 and practices five hours a day for fifty years is a coward?!  Maybe?  Yellow? Dog?

Okay so I was recently called a yellow dog by an elderly lady who I actually admired.  We won’t go into that.  Use your imagination as they say.  But it did get me thinking about yellow and dogs.  My father hates yellow; he says its bad luck, especially in the theater and recently went wild when he got as a gift a pair of yellow socks.  My brother and I lied to him by saying, “My oh my what a beautiful shade of gold!”

Gold = Good        Yellow = Bad

I don’t think yellow or any color for that matter is bad in the theater.  It’s not like saying Macbeth.  My guess is that my dad wore a yellow dressing gown in a show a million years ago that closed in one night.  He blamed the gown.  Maybe the watery script, moronic direction, silly scenery, over use of makeup, seventy-eight year olds playing teenagers (more on Yiddish theater some other time) and shitty music might have contributed to the closing of the show as well as the fact that the air cooling system broke down in July.  The critics vomited and reached into their jacket pockets for cyanide pills but to my dad the actor, it was still the yellow gown.

Okay, okay but…but…just sayin’ yellow mustard sucks!  It’s yellow, not much taste and everyone knows yellow is bad luck.

Many years ago I was eating a hot dog and I put yellow mustard on it.  That night I got a phone call from the Beatles.  They desperately wanted to add me on the xylophone but I turned them down because I had already accepted a tour with James Brown.  After I hung up, James called and cancelled.  So I went back to $35 club dates…Damn that yellow mustard!

Now I want the real stuff to go on my hot dog.  That watery-yellow crap doesn’t make it… Amateur night!  Why there must be dozens of good mustards on the market.  If I go anywhere that might sell franks, like a ball park for instance, I have a jar of the real stuff in my coat pocket and liberally shmear it on.  I also have a cell phone with me in case I get a call from Robin Thicke.  Look, I just do not like yellow mustard.  It reminds me of the show my father did.  My dad also told me that there was a thing called a “Yellow Dog Contract.”  In order to get the job you had to agree not to join a union.  Yikes!  Mercifully in 1932 it was outlawed.

All dogs are good.  We’ve had them for years and I personally loved each and every one.  And I just loved walking the dog.  The last one I had would sit whenever she heard the “Yellow Dog Blues” by W.C. Handy.  I could just hum or whistle the tune and she would sit.  If my dog heard a recording of it she would fix herself a nice cup of espresso and light me up a fine cigar.  Bessie Smith was her favorite.  A lot of people walking their dogs in the neighborhood would stop and chat with me commenting on that they used to think I was a bad person but felt that since I had a dog I am worth getting to know.  After my dear pet passed on, they naturally stopped talking to me.

I was told NEVER TO DO my routine on TV, stage, etc. about dogs.  “You can say anything generally but never something against dogs.  Americans especially love them…more than people…and if you say a bad thing about a pup, you’ll wind up unemployed forever.  In a recent film the space people attacked and killed billions of humans but the audience cheered when the dog survived.”  And all this was from an old-time Vaudevillian who owns six cats.  Well!

Oh! So that’s why so many television commercials have to have a dog in them, especially a Golden Retriever (I know that beautiful dog is popular).  It doesn’t matter what the product is, a headache remedy, an auto dealership, etc. etc. You name it, there always seems to be a dog in the ad.  Do the folks that make those commercials think that if there is a dog in it we’ll definitely buy the product?!  Are they the same people, that use semi-clad women in commercials thinking that I’ll buy the trip, go to that corny resort and score?  If there is a dog in a commercial and it has nothing to do with the product, I AM NOT BUYING IT.

And I am definitely not buying that silly yellow mustard.  You know what I am buying?  Another dog… And I am going to call it Ol’ Yeller.  And then get him or her a gig in a commercial for toothpaste.

Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.       Mark Twain

 I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow.  He told me to wear a brown tie.            Rodney Dangerfield

 I can’t wait to die so I can be a skeleton and play my chest like a xylophone.                            Thom Yorke

NEXT BLOG: Writing For Nuts

Yellow Mustard-Dogs in Commercials

Minimum Wage

I am for at least minimum wage, and full benefits.  Really, can you expect anyone to live on anything less nowadays?!  I am not an economist, nor a businessman; just an old time xylophonist and I try my best to be a good citizen who serves.   If two parents make minimum wage and have a couple of kids, at the end of the week, after all their deductions and expenses, they are probably left with nothing.  It is ridiculous.

But…If a person gets even twenty bucks an hour to serve up some fries what should a Fireperson get?!!

Oh P U L E E Z E…..

That person should start out at two-hundred-and-fifty-thou.  You do not agree?  Okay I’ll settle for one-hundred-seventy-five.  I have observed many people that do not deserve more than minimum wage.  Their lack of expertise in their field shocks me and poisons the very marrow of my bones.

I was in a music store that had classical sheets and I had been going there for many years.  I could see that the internet was killing them as the repertoire pieces were beginning to thin out, but I could always rely on this place to order something for me that I needed for a concert.  I asked the salesman for a particular piece by Borodin.  He looked at me like I just landed my space ship from the planet Zulac.

He said, “Er…ah…Borodin, I…well…can you spell it?”

I answered, “Yes I can.”

He said, “Oh, I’m not sure who that is…
“Are you a musician?”


“No, you are not.  I would like to see one of the older salespersons.”

A regular of the place came over and after the numerous, “Oh Mr. Finkel, please let me help you.” I ordered the Borodin Piece.  The old-time-regular-guy told me the salesman was new, only getting minimum wage and I should have come to him for help etc.  I said, “Right behind his computer is a whole shelf of Borodin and good gosh, sweet lord, man oh man, forget it will ya?”

One year later I was in Barnes and Noble Bookstore and I inquired as to a book by Thurber.  The salesman said, “I’m not sure who that is.  Can U spell it?”

“Yes I can.”

“Er…would you spell it for me?”

“Okay…T H U R B E R.” I did this very slowly.  The literary expert types it into his beloved computer and turns to me and says, “Nothing has come up.”  I looked at the screen, he spelled it wrong.  I say, “I want to see a manger.”

“But I am a Manager.”

“You’ve never read a book by T H U R B E R!”


“Did you ever attend college?”

“I have four degrees in…blah…blah…”

“Okay forget about it.”

I turn to leave.  Guess what is on a shelf about two feet from his station.  Yes, that’s right, about a dozen books by T H U R B E R.  Should he get minimum wage, or more?  Or benefits?  What the hell was he reading in college?  Sports Illustrated?  Rooster Fighting In The Philippines?  Novels by Ian Finkel?!!!

Next:  Prescription filled.  I get it at a big drug store and go to a counter to buy a package of gum…sugarless of course.  The little sign says:

SALE $1.00

Hey not bad!  I pull out a buck and take one.  I think it was peppermint.  Well you know it wasn’t wintergreen…More about that some other time.  I put it in front of the salesperson.  She hits the computer and says, “Four-dollars-and-fifty-three-cents.”  Notice the absence of the word “Please.”

I say, “It is gum…The sign says, Sale, One Dollar.  Are you kidding?”

She answers, “The computer says four-dollars-and-fifty-three-cents.”

“But it’s a pack of gum!”

The salesperson who I already felt should get four-dollars-and-fifty-three-cents an hour, turns around and brings over a guy.  Is he a manager?  And they both stare at the computer screen ala deer in the headlights and he says to me.

“The computer says four-dollars-and-fifty-three-cents.”

“For gum?!!  Oh, forget about it!”  I yell, put the gum back and leave thinking that if that Manager was a Fireman; his barbeque would look like The Burning of Atlanta.  And the dirty rotten idiot is getting paid a somewhat decent wage to know nothing.

I could go on and on and on as anyone could but I could not top this.  I must first tell you that this was told to me by my brother Elliot.  Elliot accompanied his daughter Jamie to the Motor Vehicle Bureau; this was in New Jersey as she had to get her driver’s license.  She had all the proper papers and her American passport as her ID.  She presented her paperwork and the lady behind the desk said, “I cannot give you a driver’s license as you are not an American Citizen.”

Jamie said, “Of course I am!  The passport reads I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico.”

The government employee shot back, “That is in Mexico.  You are Mexican.”

“No Albuquerque is in New Mexico, USA.  I am a citizen.  I was born here!”

“Let me consult with my colleague.” I hate the word colleague as lately it is used to pass the buck.

“Oh Ceil, Ceil…Albuquerque, New Mexico…Where is that?”

Ceil sleepily looks up from her way-over-minimum-wage desk and says, MEXICO, Mary.

A shouting match ensues and my brother Elliot who had never heard his daughter raise her voice comes over and asks what is going on.  When he gets the whole ridiculous story he adds to the scene and of course Security is called.  Elliot asks the Security Guard if he knows where Albuquerque, New Mexico is.  The guard replies:  “South next to Texas.”

“In the USA?!”

“Of course.”   Give that man a raise.

The first lady, “Mary” quickly issued the license.  No apologies given of course.

So as I review all the insanity, the Americans that are proud of their stupidity, the general frustrations we go through, I still insist that everyone should get a decent wage, benefits, and a wonderful life.  I of course should receive a minimum of one billion dollars a week with an extra box of Cuban cigars at the end of the year’s holiday.

For more of my writing click here.

Next Blog:         Dogs in Commercials – Yellow mustard



Minimum Wage

Fitted Sheets

I went to see a very close pal of mine the other day who just happens to be The World’s Greatest Psychiatrist.  No, it is not what you are thinking about.  I do not need help.  It is just that I wanted to give him the most recent novel I had penned because I felt that it would help him to further understand entertainers of which he has many patients who need help.  Also I wished to inform him that my regular doctor said that I am not crazy, just eccentric.  During my session he asked me to stop calling his patients nut jobs, but rather to prefer to them as people who need help.  So I said, “Here is my last book to help those nut jobs ya got who need help.  Can you please help me now?!”

I explained that it is a small thing, really, that I have had the same dream every night for the past thirty years and I always wake up right after it in the middle of the night and I need my sleep so I can practice and write, and though at first I was a little frightened, I had gotten into it and now I completely enjoy the dream.

I went on to tell my dear pal The World’s Greatest Psychiatrist… Who the hell else would I go to being The World’s Greatest Xylophonist…that still after fifty years I take fourteen showers a day and brush and floss around thirty times daily as well.  So not too much has changed in all that time.

I told him “Maybe I do not need help…but listen…here is what I dream about.  Rats.  In my dream they are thirty feet high and devour me with knife, fork and mustard, Kosciusko is their favorite and mine.  They do scare me as much as the Mafia Guys in the two thousand dollar suites who want to prepare me for the rats, though they never do catch me, I think they also need help and plenty of it as all of ‘em really deep down want to be Sinatra, though Frank could swing, they could not, Frank had great taste in music, they do not, Frank possessed marvelous diction which they ain’t got and…and…and…and…and all of those guys in my dreams add silly cheap ties to the shark-skin suits.  In other words they all suck big time and some of them have Nelson Riddle Charts re-orchestrated for banjo and glockenspiel and they always tell me to light their cigarettes before they serve me up to the rodents.  In fact the other night when I final fell asleep, it took three hours doing the alphabet trick, one of these Corleone wannabees sang me an odd meter arrangement of AL-DI-LA.

“Okay, so maybe I do need help.  For the love of everything Kosher, Doctor pal-o-mine, you are a Freud man, didn’t he write the book, The Interpretation of Dreams?!

The World’s Greatest Psychiatrist questioned me as to what kind of bed I sleep on, the pillows and the blankets. I mentioned that my bed is very traditional, a double-king-size with a carved Knights of the Round Table scene headboard.  I use only twelve pillows and my blankets which are recyclable are made of the finest espresso coffee grounds that are held together by freeze dried Piqua syrup.

The good doctor put down his Second Avenue Deli sandwich and told me he had seen a similar case like mine when he was interning in a hotel in Thimphu Bhutan.  He said, “I believe your problem is the sheets.  Yes, I am sure, that is it.  What kind of sheets are you trying to sleep on?”

Well he nailed it!  Of course, that’s it!  That’s why he gets seven hundred and fifty dollars a half hour.  I have been trying to sleep on fitted sheets.  Oh those pieces of crap.  Who was the Nazi Bastard that invented them?  They never fit.  You pull them over on one side and the other side pops off.  All sides have elastic trimmed corners.  You tape the corners with gaffer’s tape and pull, the corners pop off again.  They really suck.  I have been given the best ones made.  I have purchased the best ones.  All of them never work.  I CURSE THEM!!!!  I BEG THEM!!!!  I have dozens of them but none of them make it.  I have even invited some pals of mine over to hold down the corners while I yank and pull.  I just cannot be done.  The fitted devils slip out of their fingers and shriek with laughter at me.  I have cut open the corners to make them into regular sheets but I still wake up in a cocoon.  The cruel, ugly, torturous things wrap themselves around me and all the help in the world cannot save me.

My good pal, The World’s Greatest Psychiatrist tells me to go out and buy some regular sheets.  If I do that I will get some rest and be as close to a “normal” person as one can get.  He used four fingers in the air when he said the word “normal”.

I ran from the doctor’s office and went to a linen store and had a lovely time buying regular-normal-no-help-sheets.  They were in all colors.  Some were orange, some were purple, some gold colored.  When I got home I saw that the fitted sheet on my bed was trying to make the letter V out of the mattress.  I ripped it off.  Then!  I threw all the fitted sheets into a very old xylophone case.  My first night of “Normal” no help sleep was upon an all silk periwinkle job that was cool and flat.

The rats can now go and eat someone else.  The Mafia wannabees can get some new orchestrations and vocal lessons.  Yeah, that’s right; get someone else to light your cigs.  My pshych pal has founded the cure.  Bless him.

I might even pay him one day.  Maybe even give him a gift:  An old xylophone case filled with “slightly” used fitted sheets.

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Next Blog:  Minimum Wage


Fitted Sheets

The March King

I  had a rather intense discussion with my dearest pal Martin Fischer, the excellent drummer (I consider Marty family not just a best friend) over John Philip Sousa who I feel is certainly The March King.  I was asked what makes his music so good.  Is it the melodies or the orchestrations or what?!  Of course my answer went on way too long but to capsulate it, I answered that it is a combination of many things.  Of course I noted examples of his stirring melodies and instrument usage.  But most importantly I believed his pieces are some of the finest examples of American music.  One could guess that it hit a spot in the country’s patriotic heart of the time.  These days the public at large is more interested in what underwear a Kardashian is wearing or where they can purchase a new gun.   It is quite difficult in Sousa’s  music to hear even a hint of anything European.  Not that I dislike European marches!  Where would the old time circus bands be without that stuff in their books?

I spent several years in the early 1970’s in a symphonic band that always ended its concerts with a Sousa March.  Since Sousa never really wrote for the xylophone, yes, that is what I play even though it went out of style in the 1930’s, I would take a piccolo part to the conductors annoyance and the snickers of the flute section and play it.  I did this every concert and after the first season I had learned dozens of Sousa Marches.  I guess the conductor couldn’t have been that annoyed as he did let me do this at all concerts.

My “punishment” for the sacrilege of adding xylophone to Sousa was I also had to play in the Dixieland band which started the second half of the concert, all the “real” xylophone parts in all the other selections which I hated doing because they were poorly written and in such small portions and…and…and every other week I play a concerto which I lifted from the violin repertoire and re-orchestrated for the symphonic band.

All the above paid a whopping thirty-five dollars a concert which usually took at least six weeks to get the check.  It felt like the check would never come which at the time I needed the money badly.  Still do!

I must say that by studying the Sousa Scores I found it a bit easier to orchestrate for the band though copying out all those parts in pre-computer days was certainly the punishment.

Thank you Mr. Sousa where ever you are for forgiving my adding the xylophone to your magnificent marches.

It was an honor to get up at 7:30 am, now-a-days I get up at the crack of 2 pm, and schlep the xylophone and a heavy set of orchestra bells and drive forty miles in my old junker car and then wait six weeks to be paid.  I think that band still owes me a check or two.

(Next blog:  The “Merde” of Park Avenue)

For more of my writing click here.

The March King