As previously mentioned, and well-known by everyone who knows me, even if only slightly, I am a whistler. It's the one musical talent I inherited from my grandfather, who taught me everything I know about it by simply telling me, "Put your lips together and blow." His lesson, while not the most detailed, and which certainly omits quite a lot about the actual technique of whistling, was a valuable one, and one I have practiced daily since that very first whistle, standing in his garage on Reed Street in Idaho Falls, back when I was no more than five years old. While not the best whistler--I'm certainly no Cartter Frierson!––I am pretty good, especially in the morning. At work. When no one seems to like me. Long years I have entertained the idea of cracking into that great untapped Whistling Market, recording and releasing an album of favorite whistles. I envision a world where farm fields in upstate New York will overflow with the muddy and sometimes nude bodies of tens of thousands of America's youth, who've gathered for a four day music festival of world renowned whistlers, like Frances Bonifazi, Fred Lowery, the Great Roger Whitaker and Mike Riston, a Whistival, if you will, a place where we can meet free of shame, unafraid to practice our art without fear of retribution. But alas, that day has not yet come and so I dream alone, whistling as I work, sending my call out into the world in hopes of attracting others like me.
Like many talented musicians, I am haunted by my art. I spent much of last winter with Arthur Fiedlers's "Sleigh Ride" banging around inside my head, demanding I purse my lips and belt it out at the top of my lungs, or tongue, or whatever it is whistlers like me use to craft our music. "Sleigh Ride" refused to let go of me and still occasionally sneaks up on me when I least expect it. About all I can do in those moments is let it out, over and over again, all day long. Sometimes I whistle the melody, sometimes the harmony leaks out (which is interesting because, unlike my friend Jen, who can harmonize to a fart, I can't pick one out to save my life), and sometimes I attempt a grand symphonic discourse and end up with a strained tongue and chapped lips, which, if you're one of the Whistling Ignorant, is the worst thing that can happen, like writer's block, or a bad hair day.
I do have my standards, those tunes I whistle over and over and over again. There's Für Elise, which I do first as Beethoven intended, but on my second trip through I jazzify it and transform it into a snappy little number you could bebop along with. Then there's "I'll Be Seeing You," which, for three years, drifted over the campus of Lake Forest College late at night as I walked back to my room keeping my eye on the moon, or if there was none, on the halos which glowed around the lamps which lit the paths. There's also "Recipe for Making Love," by Harry Connick, Jr, which is just plain fun on the lips. But of course, as an artist, I must constantly push myself, which is why I've gotten pretty good at whistling "Lose Yourself," by Eminem. I would, after all, hate to be pigeon-holed as a performer of nothing but pop standards. "Lose Yourself" was my version of Dylan going electric.
I hate to admit it, but Summer can be just as dangerous for earworms (those tunes which get stuck in your head) as the holidays and that damn Feidler tune. It's only crept up on me the last day or two as Duncan and I have strolled the park and even on the edges of Lilley Gulch. It starts off innocuously enough but before you know it, it's lodged as firmly as a twin absorbed in vitro. It only appears during the hot Summer months, and typically only within earshot of places where children gather, children with money in their pockets or grown-ups who can be pestered for money.
That's right. It's the ice cream truck with that damn ice cream truck song that every person in this country knows by heart. The damn ice cream truck has crashed my whistling party and made a mockery of the tunes and voices which play constantly in my head. Even Duncan, who normally isn't phased by anything on our walks, other than the hopping-away of a rabbit or a screaming squirrel, has started whining when we walk the park. Or the lake. Or down Leawood. I'm hoping that when my vacation starts next week we can get up into the mountains where there's nothing but peace and tranquility. And Für Elise, of course.