Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bench! And chatting with Joel.

A friend of Joel's was video-ing his act that day, and he had a shirt on that said "Bench." on it. Here is the story of why that makes me laugh:

When I was five years old, my parents enrolled me in piano lessons at Herb Granquist's Imperial School of Music in Geneva, Illinois, where I grew up. I ended up having some small talent for piano, most of it being "faked" since I preferred to play by ear instead of absorbing all of that difficult theory nonsense, but nonetheless, I ended up being inserted into all of these young people's piano competitions around the county.

At one of them -- I must have been age seven or eight -- I was competing in a group that included a wider range of ages. As such, a wider range of sizes of children had to be accommodated at the piano, so there was an adjustable-height chair available for use by the toddlers, and an adjustable-height bench available for the taller kids. Each competitor was asked if they'd like to use the chair or the bench, and it was usual to be polite and say, "I'd like the chair, please," or "May I please use the bench?"

At one point, this tiny little boy, probably age 3, clambered up onto the stage to perform. And without waiting to be asked, he just straight-arm pointed and bellowed, in a surprisingly deep voice, "BENCH."

My brother Joe (4 years my senior) and I were seated in the house, and Joe exploded with laughter at this. "BENCH!" he howled, and I got caught up in it, and we laughed for about three hours.

This "BENCH!" became one of our Things We Said All the Time for the next twenty years, particularly when describing neanderthal-like people and their very basic-but-loud demands for things.

A few years back, I related this story to Tom (the outstanding specimen to whom I'm blissfully wedded), and it delighted him, so it became part of our parlance as well. And at the time, Tom was engaged as the airbrush makeup artist for the ensemble of faerie characters at the Bristol Renaissance Faire ("The Fantastickals"), and so as he airbrushed their brightly-hued skins onto them daily, he regaled them with the tale, and soon all of the faerie performers had added "BENCH!" to their piles of catchphrases as well.

Imagine our horror/delight when a browse of internet photos one day revealed a pic of some guy wearing a t-shirt that said, simply, "Bench." We howled with laughter. Why did it say that? Where could we get one? We later learned that "Bench." is a popular brand in the UK, the way Abercrombie and Fitch is over here, so a visit to a mall somewhere in the UK would surely reveal a gruesome concatenation of clothings covered in the word "Bench." Hooray!

So it was with great pleasure that I found Joel's videographer to be thus attired. I demanded the shirt of him on the instant, and he nearly gave me the thing; but it wasn't that warm of a day, so I relented and said he must keep it, and I'd acquire my own (which I later did). But Jenny and I could hardly stop giggling the entire time, periodically muttering "BENCH!" to each other under our breaths.

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