Another Road Trip 7: A day off, and practicing my saxophone


You know where you catch the train?

Where you stand to get out of the rain?

I practiced my sax

Down by the tracks

Nurturing the right side of my brain.

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record System (EMR) I can get along with. I spent the winter in Nome, Alaska, and I just finished an assignment in rural Iowa. Right now I’m working in suburban Pennsylvania, combining work with a family visit.

You can drive from New York to San Francisco in silence, but it will be a much nicer trip if you have some music.

If I don’t bring my saxophone with me on a trip lasting more than 2 weeks, I make arrangements to rent one when I arrive.  Of course I have to find a place to practice.

When I went to Barrow, Alaska (find it on the map, and gasp) in the summer of 2010, a knock came one evening while I practiced.  I answered the door to find my neighbor.  I apologized profusely, and asked if there were a time we could set up that I could play and not disturb him and his family.

“We want you at rehearsal on Thursday,” he said.

In a hotel, finding a place to practice becomes more difficult.  So on Friday, my day off, Bethany and I went downstairs to the light rail station, in the heat of the mid-morning.  I’ve always wanted to play in a train station.  This time, however, I didn’t have the foresight to make a sign saying, “Give your money to someone else.”  And I didn’t have a music stand.

We sat on a bench in the shade.  Bethany held the book of Barrett etudes, and I started to play, and found I had world-class acoustics.

It’s always more fun to play in front of an audience, and, in this case, a young woman sat at the other end of the platform and gave us the active ignore.

After the battering I took yesterday in the Urgent Care, my heart went into the music.  I have practiced these pieces, so that the notes find themselves under my fingers, and the sound soared across the tracks in both directions.

After a while, a young man with a guitar slung over his back walked past.  I said, “Whoa, sorry.  Dude.  I just needed a place to practice.  If this is your spot, I can move.”

On his way from one place to another, he hadn’t come to play.  He played in a 10-piece band, he said.  They had a horn section with a trumpet and a trombone, and they were looking for a saxophonist.  He expressed pride that ages ranged from 14 (guitarist) to 54 (trumpet).  After I explained that the instrument I played was a B flat soprano sax, I could tell he wanted to invite me to jam.

In another time and another place, I would have.  But I have passed the age when I can work a day job till 8:00, work a gig till 2:00, then get up at 6:00 and do it again.

He asked me what I was playing, I said, “Barrett.  He mostly wrote for oboe.”  I could tell he enjoyed what he heard.

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