I Join the Ys Men’s Club in Westport

This morning I attended my first meeting of Westport’s Ys Men’s Club here in our new hometown of Westport CT. I didn’t know what to expect. I was imagining a group of 10-20 men meeting in a church basement.

I was right about the basement part. We met in the Weston Congregational Church equivalent.

But my numbers were way off.

I discovered that the Ys Men’s Club here was founded 42 years ago. It is highly organized, and now has a local membership of over 400 seniors like me. About 250 were present for the meeting this morning.

It was standing room only because the guest speaker was Chris Brubeck, one of Dave Brubeck’s four sons. And, as I’ll tell you below, his presentation was delightful.

The meeting started at 9:00 with coffee and doughnuts. As I was consuming my decaf and half a chocolate doughnut, I met several members, including the membership chair of the club. One man I met told me that 15 years ago, he and his wife had made the same move as Peggy and I have just made. They moved to Westport to live next to their grandchildren and grow up with them. He said it was the best decision they had ever made. He assured me that it would be the same for me.

Everyone else I met had one first question: “What are you interested in?”

I had looked at the long list of club activities. And from them I selected golf and discussion current events as strong interests. I said I was moderately interested in a book club – depending on what the group might be reading.

When I informed the membership chair of my current events interests, he soon had me talking with the convener of that group. I was told it meets Mondays from 8:45-10:00 at a nearby seniors’ center. Next week, the convener said, they’ll be discussing Thomas Friedman’s NYT column on the Yellow Vest Movement in France.

That seemed especially providential, since I had just returned (last weekend) from France, where I devoted a lot of time to reading about and tracking down Gilet Jaunes.  In fact, on my return, I published an article on them here on my blog, on OpEdNews, and as my monthly column in the Lexington Herald-Leader. So, I’m really looking forward to Monday’s meeting, where I hope to share some of those just-published thoughts. That will be a good way of breaking into this Ys Men’s club.

As for Chris Brubeck . . . He regaled us with stories of his father Dave, their family, and Chris’ own career.

He played a couple of base trombone solos for us and showed us the amazingly low notes he could hit with his instrument. Chris grew up in nearby Wilton. He studied with jazz and classical masters – including at Interlochen MI, the great summer music camp where Peggy and I had sent two of our children, and where last summer we saw the Glen Miller band and the Beachboys. The summer before last, we attended a Diana Ross concert there as well.

The highlight of Chris Brubeck’s presentation was a couple of performance tapes he shared with us.  One was of a piece he had written for three violins – with each violinist playing a different music style. That was just amazing for a Suzuki parent like me to watch.

The best one, however, was of the celebration of his father’s career at the Kennedy Center just before Dave Brubeck died at the age of 91. President Obama and Michelle were in attendance. Chris told us that in the run-up to the event, Dave had asked that his four sons (each, of course, a great jazz musician in his own right) might play together at the event. Chris said that Dave (that’s how he referred to his father) was crestfallen when he was told “No, we just can’t do that.”

Well, those who made that refusal had other plans. They wanted to delight and surprise the Great Man. So, on the night in question, the Army jazz band, along with Herbie Hancock and other jazz stars did a stunning performance of “Take Five.” One after another three groups took up the theme. Then, as the piece de resistance, Brubeck’s sons were introduced. The old man was dumbfounded. When the curtain went up on his sons, he blurted out in surprise “Son of a b__tch!” Luckily, he was un-miked. But watching his lips form the words was both hilarious and charming.

The prospect of working and playing with Westport’s Ys Men is an unexpected bonus on top of the wonder of growing up here with my grandchildren.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

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