When Russ was in the mood, he liked to talk about these wild theories he had. Most are very interesting (though probably amount to pop psychology at best), but I think he liked them because they added to this aura of mysticism about him. Anyway, one day we were sitting in his studio – I think it was after a lesson – and he was talking about people.

Russ: You know, gang, I think there’s two sides to everyone.

Me: Oh, really?

Russ: Yep. Everyone has a bad side and a good side, and they’re equal.

Me: Interesting.

Russ: Separate but equal!

He chuckled at his own joke. Mom and I laughed.
He got up from the piano bench, his 60’s style black shoes making shuffling noises on the carpet.

Russ: I’ll show you!

He grabbed a piece of sheet music and ran over to his wall.

The wall of his studio was covered – nearly every inch of it – with headshots of students (the more notable ones, at least). He ran up to one and placed the sheet music evenly over their face, dividing it in half.

Russ: See?

Me: Huh. Looks normal.

Russ: Right! Now…

He moved the sheet music to the other side.

Russ: What do you see?

Me: Huh. Kind of creepy looking. A little evil, maybe.

Russ laughed.

Russ: Wild, huh?

Mom and I agreed, and he ran around the studio doing the same thing to many of the headshots. He finally made it over to mine. A picture of Joey Lawrence with Johnny Carson stared down above me.

Russ: Even you, I bet. Look.

I looked. He was right.

Me: Huh. Interesting.

Russ: I know, man, I know!

He started talking a little bit about Freudian psychology – how one side of us is the “higher self” and the other side is the “lower self”. He called the lower self the Ud Factor, for some reason, and thought this was pretty amusing. Thereafter, Mom announced that this was a different “Russ” and she called him “Mr. Ud Factor” (or “Mr Ud”). The talk of psychology, along with the fact that his hair was several shades lighter, got her convinced that this was a totally new person dressed up as Russ. I actually noted myself that his hair was more blonde than usual – almost a white, really – and filed that information away for later examination. What I determined was that he was dying his hair, which accounted for the shade difference – a fact she flatly rejected.

Mom: No, no. It’s a different Russ. It’s a different personality and everything.

Me: Mom, I don’t think so. Honestly. He’s just dying his hair.

Mom: Well, don’t you remember when Johnny Cash came to teach you?

I was quiet.

Mom: And Ross Perot? And Gaffe?

I held my tongue and my breath. I had strayed a little too far into unknown territory. I had never outright challenged her perceptions before – at least, not in any direct way. She looked thoughtful for a moment, then got that thousand yard stare. She started mumbling to herself just under her breath – having what appeared to be conversations. I sighed.

Mr. Ud would only appear a couple times – usually whenever Russ was due to dye his hair again, or was in a bad mood. But Mr. Ud didn’t interest her as much as the others – Roy Orbison, Buck Owens, Andre the Giant – all the celebrities who supposedly dressed up as my music teacher and came to teach me. When I pressed her on why exactly they were doing this, Mom insisted they were “scouting talent”.

Me: That doesn’t even make any sense. Why would they do that?

Mom: Because it’s an easy way to do it. They can see how people are when they’re not starstruck or intimidated.

Me: And how is this related to the Mafia?

Mom: Because they’re laundering money through there. It’s a front.

I didn’t really see the logic in this, and told her. She got extremely edgy.

Mom: Dammit, Danny. Just stop. I know what I know, okay?

I stopped.




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