Many years ago I arrived at a Village Voice advertiser’s apartment to meet with a verbal fusillade describing a customer who had exited just minutes before. To her colleague sitting on the couch, the girl let go: “That fucking asshole was no lawyer. He was a dirty, nasty, disgusting trick!” It didn’t end there as y’all can imagine. Working girls tend to say the same thing ten times before they’re done. I’ll spare you chapters 2 – 10. Once she had more or less exhausted herself, I took the initiative by giving the girls a quick lesson in bull shit detection they could utilize in the future to out the liars. And it went something like this:
“If a guy says he’s a lawyer, ask him to define the word ‘tort’.” If he says he’s a stock broker, ask him how many stocks are in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and name 5 of them.” And similarly, if a guy says he’s a doctor, tell him to name the endocrine glands.” The last leads me to a true story.
A new Asian outcall agency called me a few years ago to run an ad on my blog. The attractive woman who showed up on my corner driving a fresh new BMW was a low-class hustler who told me she was a doctor. So I hit her with the pop quiz (name the endocrine glands) and her response was (and I’m not lying) “I’m not that kind of doctor!” Yeah, she was a doctor all right – with a PHD in Tubular Massage!
Back to the point: I wax philosophical about this because just yesterday, I pulled a pop quiz down at the old Catholic Worker. It seems that many of the residents who are capable and industrious enough to actually contribute at mealtime fancy themselves musicians. They talk a lot of smack about their bands and such and essentially have musical egos. I actually made the mistake of “jamming” (and I use the term loosely) with one and I wasn’t impressed. What the guy didn’t know about playing the bass could have filled encyclopedias. And he told me the volunteer with the biggest musical ego was a bad musician. So I can only imagine.
Now I recognize that there are musicians who know no theory and can’t read a note but somehow play their asses off. I actually met one once! (And btw…Glen Campbell was one of those brilliant players who couldn’t read a note.) But they’re kind of few and far between. When I played music for a living, the smartest, best and most talented guys all read and wrote music fluently.
Well anyway…here was the pop quiz I pulled on the boys: “How many sharps are in the key of E Major?” Everybody looked away! I persevered: “Name the notes in a C7 flat 9 chord.” No response. It occurred to me to write a rhythm figure on a napkin to see if anybody could read it but at that juncture, what was the point? Clearly, lawyers they weren’t (if you get my drift)! I don’t want to sound too elitist but come on! If you say you’re a musician, you might want to learn a few of the basics.
Oh well! What did I really expect? The musical ego guys are all 60-something and living in a shelter. Standard societal criteria for defining “winners” has escaped them all these years. But ya know what? It doesn’t matter because my Saturday volunteer gig is chock full of winners as it turns out. School teachers? Guidance counselors? ADA’s? Wall Streeters? Tech geeks? We got ’em all. I wouldn’t even bother to run a pop quiz on them. They’d all pass!
Regardless, the pop quiz isn’t just relevant in classrooms if you want to find out who’s for real and who isn’t. They work in real life as well. That’s today’s theme. I’m out.