The Grammy

April 22, 2008
My dad is napping when the most important phone call of his life arrives. I, however, have been waiting all day for such a call. The idea that my father could finally win a Grammy enthralls me and I have spent the entire evening discussing it with my dog, Davis. When my dad calls me into his room I know what he is about to say. “I guess I won Grammy”, he tells me. It’s a rather anticlimactic breaking of the news but I’m incredibly excited nonetheless. Does this mean that we’ll finally get a pool? Will my mother start wearing stylish clothing? Will I at last get to see Celine Dion live in concert? My eleven year-old self has no doubt that this award will make all of my dreams come true. But as my dad’s name zooms across the television screen in between Britney Spears and a cheap beer commercial, I’m a little bit confused.

I continue fantasizing about the perfect life that I believe is coming my way, but eventually I am faced with the reality of the situation. About six months later my family is eating at our favorite Korean restaurant when the crisis point in the Grammy ordeal arrives. We’re eating raw eggs out of stone bowls and wishing we weren’t the only Caucasian and obviously Jewish family in a restaurant full of fur clad Koreans. The uncomfortable situation reminds me of recent disappointments. My mother has still been wearing a parka that screams the brand name “Oi! Lily!” across the back in bubbly letters and there is still no pool in my backyard. Our family conversation bounces from this to that as usual. My parents discuss the weather and the latest pedophilic episode at the public middle school; boring stuff.

I interrupt whatever is being said to ask about this year’s chances of getting a G- R-A-M-M-Y. “Not so good,” my dad says “We don’t have a label for this one.” I think it’s a joke. Bob Mintzer obviously doesn’t need a record company to win a Grammy. He’s famous! But as it turns out, the year the “Bob Mintzer Big Band” is actually recognized by the world just happens to be the year that the band gets signed by Heads Up, a sizable record company. My dad explains to me that this kind of thing often occurs when a band joins a new label. Every record executive wants as many Grammy award winners on their roster as possible so they pull some strings, make some phone calls, get the word out. He shrugs it off. “It’s a bunch of jive bullshit anyway, if you ask me.” I’m speechless.

After this day things are different. I begin to realize that the whole system is kind of a scam. My dad doesn’t care about the damn award. Instead of gladly telling anyone who’ll listen about my father’s Grammy, I start keeping the whole thing to myself. I finally realize that our yard is too hilly for a pool and that my mother is not a fashionista, but an expert in early childhood development who’d rather wear baby vomit than Gucci. This does not exactly upset me, but it’s nothing to brag about. I am no longer proud of this bizarre statue that has found its way into my living room but instead feel a strange hatred and resentment towards it. What nobody seems to understand is that this award represents next to nothing.

For the next few years I enjoy my transfer into the cushy world of New York private school where a Grammy doesn’t usually produce more than a raised eyebrow. But high school rapidly approaches and before I know it I’m studying clarinet at an arts boarding school. I realize that things are different at this new place when I hear, “Dude. Your dad won a Grammy.” I try to explain to this girl that it isn’t really a big deal, but she disagrees. She believes that winning a Grammy means people really care about your music and that nothing is more important. I don’t particularly feel like arguing about it, however, so I make a puzzled face and pretend to type on my cell phone until she goes away. This type of artistic idealist can’t admit that the Grammy system might not be completely fair and unbiased. They don’t want to believe the general public might never properly recognize their art.

But consider what people take away from the not so shiny statue in my living room. Do they see the thousands of hours my dad spent in a practice room to acquire the skills necessary to succeed? Do they see what it’s like to be completely exhausted on tour with a month of one-nighters to go? Does this statue give them any idea what it’s like to suffer the consequences of being an irresponsible jazz musician in the 1970’s? It seems to me as though it only shows off a dull shine from a thin gold veneer and an equally superficial image of success, but perhaps I’m being too negative. I suppose I’ll take another look when the pool is built and Celine comes over for a swim.

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