This was published in yesterday’s GoLocalProv
Is it too late to learn how to whistle? No, I don’t mean the Lauren Bacall “Put your lips together and blow” whistle. I can do that. I can hold the pucker position for a bit and whistle a marching song, maybe. I heard the world whistle champion on NPR one day. He sounded like the symphony, whistling more notes than I could count. Forget that.
There is one other whistle in my repertoire; the one modulated with a piece of grass held between thumbs and cupped hands and blowing. A high-pitched, short-lived meaningless shrill emanates. Though the grandchildren may love it, it’s not the whistle I covet.
I want the neighborhood whistle … the loud, crisp, no-nonsense signal that opens up the street and gets attention; the kind Andy’s father made, a crisp … phweep … when he wanted him home. One whistle and Andy was running, even if he was out of sight. That’s the one I want to do. I have tried and failed.
I yearn for that fingerless, attention-grabbing special, the one that is born by pursing lips and curling tongue in some kind of contorted fashion and blowing. I envy those who can just let go. I moisten my lips, conjure a sardonic grin and blow. Nothing but a wisp of silence. Harder. Deep breath in, breath out. Impossible. The wisp becomes a whoosh that only I can hear. I’ve tried by sticking my fingers in the sides of my mouth. I saw some do that. A bit unsanitary but worth the risk if it worked. I tried different combinations … right and left index, right and left middles, right and left pinkies, thumb and index in a variety of positions. All I get is a silent saliva spill.
I’ve tried a variety of tongue positions … broad tongue, flat tongue, rest it on my bottom teeth, push it on the top, close my lips, open my lips, make a ‘V’ shaped hole, blow through the hole. I get neither sound nor attention. I am stumped. So I checked the internet.
There is a fair amount of information about whistling techniques. I’ve tried them all. It’s a good thing I was not being recorded. Looking at the monitor and contorting my face in so many different ways bore its share of ugliness. If I had any success, it would have been worth it, but I could never find the sweet spot. I blew until I had a headache, got dizzy or my jaws hurt
So I bought a good old fashioned metal whistle, the kind that looks like angel wings, the one with edges of sharp metal. When I was a kid, I had one that worked. I was able to make a bunch of different sounds, even music, sorta. These days, I can repeat a few, but when I saw blood at the sides of my mouth, I quit and threw it away.