The Van Doren Nursing Home

The stretch of metallic ribbon from Queens to the Midtown Tunnel is crowded with all manner of things while contemplating in what ways one may incur debt or just seperate oneself from money upon reaching the goal of NYC, where everything is attainable.

It is a gently hilly ride though punctuated with agressive and speeding vehicles,dipping down a long way surrounded by small Long Island communities, shopping malls, Levittowns copied over and over, and the huge cemetery endelssly acompanying the trip.

One soon sees the NYC skyline begining to emerge as one approached the tunnel, but there was always one landmark that reminded me and others of my ilk of our possible future somewhere down the line.

The was The Van Doren Nursing cropping up over the horizon for a few minutes on the way to the city.

The curious thing about the Van Doren Nursing Home was that the colors were the very same as those found on a box of Van Doren Clarinet Reeds, blue and yellow., and by extension one thought that the inhabitants or the patients in this home were all clarinet players, somehow committed through unreality in the inexorable search for “that” reed. Van Doren was the most popular clarinet reed of the time with some justification.

This was uncanny and suggested endless possibilities and scenarios of the sounds of reeds being tried over and over again completely without success, violence in the hallways, morphine drips for those clarinetists who had completely lost everything in the search for first a pleasant sound of a new reed, then finally as the end drew near of no sound at all, just the death rattle of a reed vibrating emitting nothing save vibration, accompanied by rolling eyes and strong orderlies equipped with cattle prods for those who had allowed themselves to be lead down the path of the impossible reed,mouthpiece, and instrument,always unattainable, just a bit out of reach.

By this time, we were beginning to line up into one of the lanes leading into the Midtown Tunnel, where I would become one of the future candidates for admission into Van Doren Nursing, for the route was similar: shopping for reeds in Lynx& Long, or Schirmers, or Mannys, returning through the LIRR to practise and audition endlessly for positions each which thousands of hungry clarinetists, attempting to continue the circuitous route to and from the LIRR, hoping not to finally end up, either out-of-gas or luck to find oneself ,on the way to an audition, at the Van Doren Nursing Home.

Sherman Friedland


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