I was at a Barnes and Nobles over the weekend, and was browsing the kiddie section when I found a miniature version of Dr. Seuss's "Happy Birthday to You". It was one of those chunky, durable books made for young children who are just as likely to eat the pages as read them. I got to the page where the little boy is taking a dive into the Mustard-off Pools. He has just gorged himself on frankfurters, and the verse gaily states:
Of course, now we’re all Mustard
So one of the rules
Is to wash it all off in the Mustard-Off pools
Which are very fine warm-water mountaintop tubs
Which are built just for this by the Mustard-Off clubs
This was always one of my favorite parts of the book, because the little boy is diving into the Mustard-Off pool butt naked, with his shiny little hiney proudly exposed. He looks totally free from all cares. But in the preschool version, something has changed. Somewhere between the frankfurter picnic and the Mustard-Off pools, the little boy must have encountered an editorial Grinch, because he is now wearing a pair of red swim trunks! What? Who slapped that pair of shorts on him? I don’t understand why his bare bottom is being censored from babies and toddlers. They don’t wear pants half the time anyway. It’s crazy.
Last night my daughter played in a strings concert that brought together all the grade schools, middle schools and the high school in the eastern part of the school district. That means hundreds of kids with violas, violins and cellos crammed into the gymnasium of one high school. And hundreds of parents crammed onto the bleachers on one side of the gym. I was thinking this must have been what it was like to travel via steerage. There was only room for one set of limbs, and there was so little air that everyone had to take turns breathing. It was incredibly hot inside the gym, and I entered a woozy state wherein I felt like I was on the verge of passing out. So I experienced the music in an altered state of consciousness. Listening to a hundred beginner violin students play Turkey in the Straw is mind-altering enough, but if you hear it while you’re lacking oxygen, you begin to hallucinate. I kept seeing all these basketball hoops, then realized the visions were real. There actually were 13 basketball hoops in the gym. I counted them.
In my lightheaded state, the whole concert began to seem a bit Seussian to me. The sight of all those children sawing away on all those violas and violins looked like a scene straight out of the “5,000 Fingers of Dr. T”, a movie co-written by Dr. Seuss, in which 500 boys are enslaved by a piano teacher to play a piano with 5,000 keys. They are locked in a dungeon and made to wear "Happy Fingers" caps.
“Tomorrow, down below me, I will have 500 little boys, 5,000 little fingers — and they’ll be mine, all mine!”