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Lockdown Lemonade #47 by Ken Stern

How the Carl Memorial Alzheimer’s Poker Game Led Me to the Path of Singing Outside My Shower

When the pandemic hit, I contacted friends, telling them to stay safe and eat lots of cookies. Little did I know, cookie eating would become a major pandemic activity. But, I digress.

This story is about how the pandemic helped me advance down the path of being able to sing in front of others. That path started at the age of 7, continuing to now, age 70.

In Second Grade, I thought I was great at everything. I auditioned for the school chorus, thinking I would be a shoo-in to make the chorus. Can you hear the sound of screeching brakes? I was told that my singing was so bad, if I ever sang in public, I would be shot. Hey, what’s so bad about a 3 note, monotone range?

In Fifth Grade, circa 1963, I was sent to the Principal’s office; because my singing was so bad, the music teacher thought I was trying to disrupt the class. After that, I could not sing in front of anyone for about 47 years.

Then, about 2010, I started administering a poker game at my mother’s assisted living home, where the players had Alzheimer’s Disease. I threatened that if they argued with me, about whether they anted, or received their new cards, I would start singing. And I did. What the hell, they would not remember five minutes later, anyway.

I progressed in my advancement of singing in front of others, by singing at karaoke, where other singers’ voices were as questionable as mine. Although I couldn’t do much about my three note range, I learned to put more emotion into my singing voice.

The pandemic hit. I started singing in Zoom song circles, with singers of various talents, building my confidence. Finally, I screwed up my nerve to sing, occasionally, in the FAR-West Campfire. For me, this was and is, a great challenge, being able to sing in front of others, all of whom are highly talented, both as singers and songwriters.

So, the pandemic has helped me continue on my path of increasing my confidence in singing in front of others. Splenda in my lemonade.

~Ken Stern

Being born at the Manhattan intersection where George Gershwin wrote Rhapsody in Blue, Ken was destined to love music.  He wrote music and concert reviews for C.S.U.N.’s Daily Sundial.  In law school, he won a Nathan Burkan A.S.C.A.P. Copyright Law Competition award for writing a paper on record piracy, and also wrote a paper on combating ticket scalping. He continues with avid music ears.


Lockdown Lemonade is FAR-West’s response to the dramatic and drastic shifts of 2020’s global health and economic crises. For many, this cultural reckoning and political upheaval spurred a period of personal reflection and the discovery of coping mechanisms some of us didn’t even know we had. Lockdown Lemonade is a look at the bright side. With this collection of flash creative nonfiction, brief personal essays, recollections, and musings from members of our community, we hope to shine a light on the best things that can and have come out of the most challenging of times. This column will continue on a weekly basis and postings will be released at 10 AM Pacific every Monday, so watch for them! For guidelines and submission details, please contact Julie Zipperer at julieZ@far-west.org or Marlynn Block at marlynn@far-west.org Submissions will be posted based on approval from the Lockdown Lemonade Committee.

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