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The Bagpipes

Whilst jogging through Central Park today, I heard a lone bagpiper playing off to my left, beyond a knot of bushes.  I am not one of those who unilaterally detest the bagpipes; rather I enjoy them in the midst of a romping Celtic reel or mixed in with an Irish rock band like The Dropkick Murphys.  There is an ethnic power contained in those pipes that can push a band forward with the power of a steam engine.

However, singly, when played as a solo instrument, like one would play a tenor saxophone, I find them an affront to civilized music and society in general.  The one thing that can be said about the lone piper is that he can be easily found and eradicated, a victim of his own instrument’s penetration.

As I parted the bushes with the barrel of my blunderbuss and sighted on the beast’s inflated wind bladder, I reflected upon the few special appearances that this bizarre instrument has made in my life.

I recalled seeing a lone piper while walking into Camden Yards for an Orioles game.  I was a wee bit of a lad, and it was the first time I ever noticed that it’s possible for a piper to take a breath without interrupting the chainsaw-laser intensity of the tone stream; the purpose of his blowing is to fill the air sac at his side, which he squeezes with his elbow.  But, being a clarinetist myself, seeing a wind player breathe while sound comes out of his horn naturally made me scream “FAAKE!” in my tiny testicle-free alto as I arced through the air, slashing my baseball mitt down double-handed, Sparta-style.  But before I had the chance to reign down but a score’s worth of blows, one of my parents was kind enough to explain the true physics of the situation.

I also recalled a stand-up routine that I saw as part of a Live at the Improv compilation that I viewed on VHS whilst virulently infected.  I sadly don’t remember the comic’s name, but he was a terrifyingly tall and sweaty Ginger of a man whose routine was extremely high energy and abrasive.  He wondered aloud “How did they invent the bagpipes?”  He then adopted a thick Scottish brogue: “I wonder wha’ ‘appens when I blow on a vacuum cleanerrrr?”  He placed two fingers in his mouth an strenuously blew into them, crimsoning his face and crossing his eyes.  He proceeded to perform the best, most humorous bagpipe impression I’ve ever seen, which you can try at home.

First, make this noise: “fffffffffffffrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” and hold that “eee” out, the higher and more nasal the better.  Now hold your hand and fingers parallel to the ground  and sharply karate-chop your throat so that the sound warbles.  Experiment with different angles and throat locations.  Repeat the chop at 1-2 second intervals.  Now you’re piping like a pro!

Well, I guess the only other thing of interest I have to say about bagpipes is that when you blast a hole through through their air sacs with a lead ball, they make a hilarious flatulating sound that echoes off the buildings on Fifth Aveneue.  Also, this action doesn’t surprise the piper, who just sadly hangs his head lower and lower in sync with the fading fart noise.

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