Re-evaluating the accordion

Kevin Cowherd

October 31, 1990|By Kevin Cowherd

SOME WEEKS ago, there appeared in this space a calm and reasoned discourse on the accordion.

The gist of the column was that the accordion was surely the most annoying instrument known to mankind, and that maybe 20 people in the whole world actually enjoy accordion music -- most of those people no doubt under round-the-clock observation in one facility or another.

The column also argued for stricter laws prohibiting the gathering of men and women (often dressed in lederhosen) for the express purpose of inflicting the screech of accordion music on the citizenry.

Finally the column took accordion players to task (although gently, I thought) for smiling as they played their nasty instruments, instead of wearing a properly contrite look and seeking some sort of spiritual absolution for the pain they were putting their audience through.

In any event, despite the lucidity of these arguments and the clarity of the prose, a number of readers wrote in (or had someone write in for them, often in bright red crayon) to say they were offended by my remarks.

I know, I know . . . offended by what? Beats me. Nevertheless, these angry letter-writers insisted that they enjoy accordion music and -- here's a huge upset -- actually play the instrument themselves, apparently when the ward attendants are occupied with other patients.

One hysterical woman from Michigan wrote a particularly disturbing letter, noting "the tiny size of your brain" and thereby confirming one of my worst fears. (Men are always comparing brains in the locker room; I've always suspected mine was smaller than most.)

"Your writing creates violent nausea among accordion lovers and players," the Michigan woman also observed, no doubt before --ing off a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine to warn of this latest virus sweeping the accordionists' community.

Another fellow from California, who represented the extremist fringe of some polka-players organization, wrote that I was a mean-spirited individual who hated to see people have fun.

Hoo, boy. In any event, after receiving all these letters, I went back over the original accordion column to see what (if anything) could have touched off this uproar.

Then I did a lot of soul-searching. Day after day I took long solitary walks up into the mountains to brood. I fasted on mineral VTC water in order to achieve a purity of spirit. At night, I tossed and turned for hours.

Sure, a lot of that tossing and turning had to do with the "tiny brain" remark -- what a thing to say to a person!

But I was also agonizing over whether my remarks about the accordion had been fair, or whether I had gone off half-cocked (it happens sometimes, especially with a hangover) and just written the first thing that popped into my head.

Anyway, after a long period of some of the most intense introspection a person could endure, I arrived at this conclusion: Yes, my brain is tiny. There's no sense kidding myself anymore. All the women in my life have told me it's "average-sized," but any fool can see it must be pretty darned small.

Consider the facts: Not once was I ever called to appear on "It's Academic." A 9-year-old could probably drill me in chess. Most major appliances baffle me; I can barely work a shower curtain. Finally it is no secret that I am barely hanging onto this job, and would have lost it months ago were it not for an unusual arrangement whereby I shine shoes in the newsroom.

As to the business about the accordion, let me say this: I was wrong.

Believe me, it's not easy to admit you're wrong. Try it sometime and you'll see what I mean. The words sort of stick in your throat as you summon them and positively refuse to spring from your lips without fierce prompting.

But I was wrong (blame it on my tiny brain) about the accordion.

The accordion is a very fine instrument.

Accordion players are very fine people.

"Roll Out the Barrel" as played on an accordion is one of the all-time classics.

To the accordion lovers I might have offended, let me add that I hope to put this incident behind us and look forward to the establishment of better relations.

Good luck with your music. And I wish all 20 of you mule-faces a happy and healthy holiday season.

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