This morning, while reading the paper, I experienced that combo thrill/disappointment that crops up when you come across someone doing some crazy thing you’ve always fantasized about. The fact that someone else is doing it confirms that your dream really could come true. Unfortunately, the novelty is now gone, and with it your chance of gaining fame and fortune with your highly original idea. The story? “In a Dark Lair, a Phantom of the Opera Trills
,” the tale of Columbia freshman Michael Barimo who is about to make his debut as a professional whistler.
Whistling was going to be my
ticket to the big time! I’ve always been musical, but also lazy. Much too lazy to actually master an instrument (I’m not counting the recorder, because even during primary school assemblies I would get confused and play a B when I was meant to play a C, so I never even got to play the descant recorder, the musical equivalent of a big pencil
). I demonstrated my raw but undisputable musicality by virtuoso whistling.
Throughout my childhood, I was admonished that “A whistling woman and a crowing hen frightens the devil out of his den.” Jeez, could they make it any more attractive? I spent hours working on my fancy show pieces, hoping to raise Lucifer, but all I got was the neighbor asking me to pipe down because her husband was on nights. One day I thought my big chance had come: At a primary school concert, the pianist couldn’t make it, so an adult was going around asking the gels who were learning the piano if they knew the pieces and could step in and play. “I can whistle!” I said, as excited as a kid who’d just watched Judy Garland and her pals put on a show in someone’s dad’s barn could be. The adults just rolled their eyes and sighed, “We know, June, we know.”
Six years ago I got braces, and one of my worst fears was it would mess with my whistling. For a while there I lost my vibrato and trill, but if I do say so myself, even with a mouthful of metal, I was still a superior sibilator. During this three-year period, I heard a piece on NPR about a whistling champion
and his struggle to rise to the top of the cut-throat world of whistling. It was hell—finally, competitive whistling was getting its media moment and I was on the orthodontic reserve, unable to do my best work. It’s as heartbreaking as a modern pentathlete having Montezuma’s revenge the week of the Olympic trials. (Actually, whistling is a favorite NPR topic. In the last year alone they’ve done features about a deceased whistler
and a pro whistler
Well, I think you can already guess what my first audblog
post will be. And sure, I take requests.