Al Batt: This is not exactly some music to my ears

Published 7:36 pm Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt


Everyone should have a friend in Raymond, Nebraska.

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I’m fortunate to have several there. Friends help me understand the day’s plot.

One of those friends from Raymond, Nebraska, told me his family had informed him that he makes odd noises when he gets out of a car.

Life has its own sound effects.

I watched an old film years ago. It was titled, “The Wild One” and was about Johnny, played by Marlon Brando, and his misbehaving motorcycle gang. The only lines I remember are a woman named Mildred asking, “Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?“ Johnny replied, “Whaddya got?“ The movie stereotyped bikers to a great degree, but Triumph motorcycle sales rocketed as Brando wannabes welcomed the opportunity to ride something resembling the Triumph Thunderbird 6T Brando/Johnny had. I expected it’d have been a Harley that Johnny rode, but it wasn’t. The leader of a rival gang of ruffians, Chino (played by Lee Marvin), rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. “The Wild One” was loosely based upon an incident in Hollister in 1947 when a large group of bikers rode into town, but unlike their celluloid counterparts, they did no ransacking and caused little civil unrest.

Brando was able to jump off that Triumph without a grunt or an “oof.”

I’ve watched “The Godfather” movie, a mob drama in which Brando played Don Vito Corleone, the head of a crime family. Had Don Vito ridden a Triumph, he might have been able to dismount the bike without making too many odd sounds, but it wouldn’t have been long after that when the creaking knees and groaning would have been the musical accompaniment for such endeavors.

John Wayne, that legendary movie cowboy and Iowan, played a seedy character in “True Grit.” He made sounds as he got in and out of the saddle on his horse.

It’s not just movie stars. I make sounds. Rising from any seated position demands a soundtrack. There is the occasional cracking of a joint that is unscripted, but the rest are vocalized. We are urged to make a joyful noise, but there is little joyfulness in the noises I make. I produce nothing sounding like hot soup on a cold day or the sound I’d make if I’d struck oil in my basement. Hannibal climbing down from his elephant probably didn’t make as much noise as I do while getting up from my desk chair. I groan, moan, creak and grunt as I get to my feet. I’ve yet to reach the stage where I must rock to arise, but that’s coming. As my body mumbles, grumbles, mutters and complains, I tell myself to use my words. “Uffda!” is the only one to arrive.

Some of the things my father said have sadly been lost in the mists of time, but I do remember some sounds he made when jumping from the tractor, especially those in his later years when his dismount was done gingerly and noisily.

One sound doesn’t fit all. As I steered my shopping cart through the produce section, a sneeze was heard from several aisles away. A woman, lightly squeezing peaches in the hopes of finding one worthy of purchase, said, ”That’s my husband. I’d recognize his sneeze anywhere.”

Many people personalize their sneezes. A friend ends his sneezes with a barnyard epithet. Fortunately, he doesn’t sneeze often.

I say “Bless you,” “Gesundheit,” or ”He shoots, he scores” when someone else sneezes. I typically sneeze three times whenever I sneeze. For the first one I say “Salud.” For the second ”Dinero” and for the third “Amor.” Health, money and love. It gives me something to do between sternutations.

The sound we make when yawning can be thought of as onomatopoeic. It sounds like “yawn,” but many of us reject the factory default and replace it with odd sounds or words. The sound of yawning would make an excellent cellphone ringtone. When a cellphone yawps, everyone within earshot yawns.

Hemingway wrote about something happening gradually and then suddenly. He was writing about bankruptcy, but it applies to most things.

One day you’re getting off your Triumph motorcycle/Allis-Chalmers tractor/La-Z-Boy recliner without making a sound. Then you begin making slight noises. You start quietly and then, one day, your utterance is loud enough for you to notice.

You respond by saying something similar to Dorothy Parker’s “What fresh hell is this?”

Eventually, you’ll learn that the best way to deal with a peculiar, exclusive shout-out is to grin and share it.

And hope that no one hears it.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Saturday.