Jan. 5 2011 10:54 AM

Surviving one of the many pitfalls of the holidays

One of the advantages being a childless uncle is that you get to enjoy, in significantly smaller doses, of course, some of the experiences of parenting. Most are fabtacular, such as watching kids tear open presents you bought them, or when they run into your arms as you first walk into the room, or watching with pride as they perfectly serve your dirty Stoli martinis the way you trained them.

Then there are the other experiences— the ones that remind you why you’ve never procreated. Having to clean up after a massive diarrhea mishap in the Target café, for example, or those times they get all screamy and jumpy and arguey in the space between you and the TV, or having to say “Who’s there” every five seconds during their interminable, knock-knock-joke-telling phase.

These are the moments that give me pause when considering parenthood, ’tis true, but it’s a recent experience of mine that’s permanently removed any lingering doubt. I’m talking about the nightmare known as the children’s piano recital.

The event, dubbed “A Holiday Recital,” was performed by the students of Betty Kaiser, a local piano teacher. My 10-year-old nephew, Noah, was one of the featured performers. For the record, I have no issue with the concept of a children’s piano recital and have great appreciation for any parent who endeavors to tame their demon progeny with the gift of music. A recital is exactly what these little ghouls need to take them to the next level. However, just because a piano recital is good for aspiring musician-kids doesn’t mean it isn’t also going to suck the will to live out of anyone within earshot.

Let’s be honest: The sound of a person learning a musical instrument is as pleasing to the senses as seagulls fighting over a disembodied tongue lying on the sand. However, the sound of an adolescent learning how to play an instrument is as pleasant as seagulls fighting over a tongue which is still connected to the mouth of a screeching Yoko Ono lying in the sand.

You know how clumsy kids are. They hunt and peck each note like a monkey trying to find the umlaut symbol on a typewriter. To make matters worse, they were scared out of their brains. The first girl who got up there, a little brown-haired cutie in a red dress, played “Carol of the Bells” with the same look on her face that Liberace had when he performed for the Westboro Baptist Church and Nazi Gun Club Benefit Bake Sale.

Then there was the boy whose lips were pursed so tightly that it seemed as though a black hole had formed in his mouth and was sucking all the matter from his face. He was followed by a girl who was so aghast at being on stage that the wisps of her breath rising from her mouth spelled out the words “Help me.”

As for Noah, he didn’t seem frightened. Nor was he that horrible a player, considering he only began six months ago. However, the piece he chose was a lyrical and melodical abomination known as “The Dreidel Song.”

“I have a little dreidel / I made it out of clay / And when it’s dry and ready / The dreidel I shall play.”

OK, can we all agree that Jewish children got screwed by their religion’s glorification of the dreidel? I mean, c’mon, it’s just a top. I’ve had tops. They suck. They don’t do anything. Not like Rock’em Sock’em Robots or Tranformers. No, the only thing lamer than tops is a song about tops.

“It has a lovely body / With legs so short and thin / And when my dreidel’s tired / It drops and then I win!”

OK, first of all—what kind of dumbass game is won by a piece that gets tired and drops? Seems like that makes you the loser, yes? Secondly, a dreidel doesn’t have legs. It’s got a fat, squat torso, which hardly qualifies as a “lovely body.”

“Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel / I made it out of clay / when it’s dry and ready….” and isn’t that all the song does all day? “Dreidel, clay, dreidel, play, dreidel, spin, dreidel win,” like the song itself is a top—which is to say that it spins pointlessly in place. That’s what I was thinking anyway, followed by the thought that this was all obviously some sort of karmic punishment.

See, I, too, took piano lessons when I was a lad of about 10 or 11, and watching these kids bludgeon their songs reminded me of how I tortured my family by playing “Michael Row Your Boat” on the living-room piano for four days straight, with my mom and dad on the couch taking turns punching each other in the head in hopes that their ears would swell and close.

Anyway, the recital ended without incident. No one ran out screaming, nor was much blood shed, save for some pulpy trickles leaking out of a few ear canals. I learned a lot from that incident. And as a survivor of the dreaded children’s Holiday Recital, I feel qualified to offer advice.

My advice is this: When the parents of an aspiring musician invite you to a recital, you tell them “Yes” (giving the illusion of support for the endeavors of their offspring). Then, on the morning of the performance, stab yourself in the face and neck, thereby providing a valid excuse as to why you didn’t show. Painful? Yes. But far less so than actually attending the thing—regardless of how many skin grafts were necessary.

Write to ed@sdcitybeat.com and editor@ sdcitybeat.com. Order your Transformer Dreidels at edwindecker.com.