Sunday, August 15, 2010

Thoughts of 'Tits'

Teenage memories of a well-endowed American beauty

NOTE: This blog was originally posted to back in 2001, almost a decade ago. I'm re-posting it here because of a recent comment of my sister's, which then reminded me of an old 'acquaintance' from long ago.

She was gorgeous, a golden all-American beauty... Tall, lithe, with small pert breasts, a sixteen year-old's dream. I've been thinking of her quite a bit lately, especially since finding a new mistress this past spring. My new love is Italian, a golden beauty as well, though much younger, more petite, and, uh, less 'well-endowed'.

I was a sophomore in high school, struggling to play 'the family instrument', an ancient tenor sax. My uncle Eugene, my dad's oldest brother, had bought the sax back in the late forties from a long since defunct little music store in downtown Lodi, California. The horn was a Buescher, made back in the mid-thirties, and I considered it to be something of an eyesore growing up. When I entered the fourth grade and was finally old enough for band, my parents bought a new case for 'The Buescher' and sent it, and me, off together on the bus for school.

Ours was a 'love-hate' relationship from the very start. I'd complain that the instrument was too hard to play, too difficult to blow, but would never practice the hours I was supposed to... "It's old, breaks down all the time, and then has to be fixed" I'd say, failing to mention the many times I'd taken a running start and slid on the case all the way across my elementary school's lunch room floor.

My whining pretty-much continued until my sixteenth year, when my sister helped change the situation completely. She, unlike me, was (and still is) an accomplished musician; A piano/keyboard player, a bass player, a composer and arranger, who today holds a master's degree in music. Back then she was an aspiring pianist in the high school jazz band who needed a new instrument to take to gigs, an instrument my parents ended up buying her... a brand-new Fender Rhodes electric piano. It was the perfect opportunity... If she could get a new instrument, why couldn't I?

Though I felt I held the 'high ground', I was still surprised when my dad, a man forever frugal to a fault (the new Rhodes is still a partial mystery to me), actually appeared to give in. He took me down to our local music store, Bill's Music on Harding Way, in Stockton, California where we lived, and we talked with the owner, Bill Magellan, about tenor saxes. Bill was almost my downfall, as he'd been a sax player himself, had tried The Buescher, and thought it a fine horn. Still, I was determined to replace that scratched up old horn with something nice and shiny, so we were shown the new student instruments, all Conns, untouched polished brass and mother-of-pearl glittering in sapphire-blue lined cases. We were also shown one other horn, a slightly older, semi-professional model I immediately fell in love with, and later nicknamed 'Tits'.

The sax itself was a tenor, also made by Conn, but an upgraded 'Artist' model, with beveled keys and improved action. I'd love to say that the horn's quality was what impressed me the most at the time, but that really wasn't the case. The feature that stood out to me (so to speak) those twenty-two odd years ago was the engraving on the front of the bell, of the nude bust of a woman. "I'd be the only guy in school to have an instrument with TITS on it!", I remember thinking to myself. Needless to say, I was sold, and my father, the man under whose tutelage I gained my early appreciation of the female form, seemed as equally impressed.

Abandoning the old family instrument to a dark closet somewhere, I took that new and sexier horn a lot of different places... On high school jazz band and choir tours across California, Oregon, and Florida, and later on the road with GoldRush, the Top-40 lounge band I joined in my senior year of high school, playing in bars, clubs, and on military bases across four states and two countries.

A year or so after getting married, in our first house and so deeply in debt that each day felt like we were but a breath away from bankruptcy, I had to sell 'Tits' to help pay some bills. She ended up being bought by a music teacher from Holt, California, who needed instruments for the San Joaquin County Schools music program.

While I'm enjoying my new Italian beauty, a professional alto sax made by Grassi that I picked up in May and played this summer in the local community band and community jazz band, it's not the same. The action's superb, the tone (even from a hack like me) vibrant, her brass and mother-of-pearl shiny and new... Still, she's a little too 'flat-chested' for my tastes, leaving me to wonder if there's another obnoxious sixteen year-old out there, back in San Joaquin County, who's just been assigned his school instrument, has removed it from the case for the first time, and discovered that he's already 'made it to first base'.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

The REAL Marcus Welby, M.D.

A few years ago, Dr. Guey C. Mark retired and closed his practice in my hometown of Stockton, California. The local paper published an article on his retirement and, as he'd been my family's doctor since I was six years old, I felt compelled to write the following OpEd piece at the time (which can also be read in it's edited/published form)...

To the Opinion Page editor(s) of the The Record,
I am writing to address an inaccuracy in a recent Record article entitled "Doctor to retire after 50 years". The article, about the career of Dr. Guey C. Mark, stated that Dr. Mark and his wife "...raised three children in Stockton...", a fact I know to be patently false. Why? Because Dr. and Mrs. Mark helped raise a great many other Stocktonians, myself included.
Growing up in Stockton in the 1960s and 1970s, it wasn't Marcus Welby, M.D. or some other fictional character who defined for me what it meant to be a 'family doctor', it was Dr. Mark. When my sister or I were sick or injured, my parents called Dr. Mark. And when my parent's phone calls led to a doctor's visit, that doctor's office was warm and friendly, with children's books in the lobby and a friendly smile and lollipop to assuage childhood tears after.
Even as an adult, Dr. Mark remained an ever comforting and reliable presence in my life. Driving home from the airport after a business trip, it was Dr. Mark at the other end of a late night cell-phone call, directing me to the emergency room during an attack of appendicitis. And just a few years ago, long after moving away from Stockton, it was Dr. Mark and his wife who looked up ancient shot records from the 1960s and mailed them to me, so that I could enroll in graduate school.
Dr. and Mrs. Mark, deserve my heartfelt gratitude, along with the gratitude of a great many other Stockton children whose lives they helped nurture and enrich over the years. The care we received helped define who we became, who we are, just as sure as if our last names had been "Mark".
Tim Nunes
Lisle, IL

Though several years have passed since Dr. Mark's retirement, and it's been more than ten years since I moved away from Stockton, hardly a day goes by when I don't think about him. Like dear relatives or close friends, Dr. Mark's care and council were ever present as I was growing up, became a part of the child I was, the teenager and adult I grew into, and the man I am now.

Which is why it hurts so much to know that Dr. Guey C. Mark, doctor and councilor, mentor and friend, Stockton's very own Marcus Welby, has passed away. I just received the call from my mother a few moments ago. I've also read his obituary which, though it very effectively communicates Dr. Mark's numerous accomplishments and impressive statistics, falls far short of communicating anything personal about the man himself... Of strong hands and a gentle disposition, serious advice tempered by a ready smile, or eyes that always seemed to glimmer with warmth and humor.

The City of Stockton, the State of California, this country and the greater planet we all share are all a bit poorer today with Dr. Mark's passing. And I... Well... I've lost a part of myself. I'll survive of course, partially due to the strength instilled in me at a very early age by a certain doctor... But not without experiencing pain only time can heal, and shedding tears no prescription can treat.

Farewell, Dr. Mark. To quote the Tao, "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step". I wish you well on your new journey, and hope we meet again at the end of mine.