On learning music

A guy I know is a professional musician. He has about a dozen kids or something. He plays the whatever in the something theater in Vienna. On the radio this morning, when I turned it back on after running out of songs to sing on my morning commute, they said something about how they were now playing something there that they play every year at this time.
I figure for him, and those in his orchestra, it must be like blocks of Legos by now. For the next few weeks we will play this again, they say, and reach into their music bags and take out preassembled blocks of Legos already all fit together. They might rearrange a couple plastic bricklets, but everything is basically already in place.
Yesterday I practiced the cello after slacking off for a couple days. I practiced the LeClerc piece I like so much and even it was hard. I did a couple scales and my hand cramped right away. The stuff for the orchestra was horrible.
Overall, it wasn’t like Legos. It was like stacking ball bearings.
It was like, here, stack this pound of ball bearings into a single column, in the dark, and then you can have some Legos.
On the plus side, I got a red GEWA hard case for my cello for Christmas and it looks very, very cool. I am most pleased with it. The luthier gave me a good deal. First he gave me a discount because I was a regular customer. Then he gave me a good price for my old cello bag. I kept going, geeze, I really want this but it’s just… expensive. I wasn’t trying to negotiate with him, I was just being honest. He kept talking himself down further and further. Finally he was taking out his catalogs and showing me how, this is what he pays for it, he has almost no profit margin left. Showing me the actual figures.
Maybe he felt sorry for me. Maybe he likes me as much as I like him, who knows. Maybe he’s a good guy, he seems to be.
He even gave me a pencil when I left. It has a clip attached to it by a string so you can hang it from your music stand and annotate your music. He gave me another one for my cello teacher.
I didn’t tell him about the ball bearings.

The marvel of the human mind

Our cat, the scientist one that has figured out doors, woke me at 3 because he wanted out so I felt my way downstairs in the dark and unlocked the front door as quietly as I could but the lock still made the loud click it always makes and when the cat got out it realized that out wasn’t where it wanted to be, in was where it wanted to be because it was cold, and snowing or raining or snowing and raining and also I am perhaps partly to blame because I gave him a choice. I stood there for a couple seconds with the door open, looking at him on the doormat and actually asked him, “are you sure about this?” and he came back inside. He followed me back upstairs and slept on the bed, at the foot of the mattress while I lay there and stared at the ceiling and at the dresser until about 4 when I reset my alarm clock to 6 from 5 because I was going to need the extra hour of sleep seeing as how I wasn’t falling right back to sleep and my morning journal writing could just wait until another morning. At this time the cat knocked something off a night stand, or was about to, which is his way of letting you know he wants out, if the bedroom door happens to be open and he can’t wake you by scratching on it. I think I let him out at that point, but my wife may have.
I must have finally fallen asleep around one minute to six because the alarm woke me just as I was getting into a dream about driving on icy streets in the darkest of nights. It was just as well. It was one of those dreams where you go, duh, how about encoding things a little more next time. Where, if you read it in a work of fiction you would mentally chastize the author for not trying harder or for being so obvious.
All that was missing were colored blocks falling from the sky, eternally, clogging everything up.
So I felt my way back downstairs in the darkness and made coffee. Both cats were back inside, so I guess my wife let scientist cat back in soon after one of us let him out. I fed the cats. I ate muesli. I drank a cup of coffee while checking my email. I vaguely remembered another dream, where someone told me something, gave me an idea, suggested something and I thought, Hey, that would be a perfect project for evco in 2007.
I can’t remember what it was, though. It may have involved volatile substances and my place of employment so, ehn.
Then I showered, shaved and got dressed. Before getting dressed I also dried my hair and spent a minute applying some sort of hair product to it in an attempt to get it to behave the way it behaves for my hair stylist. Then I gave up on that. I sprayed deodorant from an aerosol can into my left armpit. Then, still using my right hand, I sprayed it into my right armpit. To do this, I had to hold the can upside down.
Held upside down, mostly just propellant comes out. Back in the days of freon propellant, you could freeze flies by doing that. Did you know that? It reminded me of my job in a photo shop when I was in highschool, lining up rows of frozen flies along the counter on slow days, mentally betting on which would thaw out and fly away first.
I wondered if any scientific papers had been written on the relative incidence of armpit conditions in left and right armpits, whether there was a significant difference and whether they had concluded holding the aerosol deodorant can right side up vs upside down were a contributing factor.
Here’s the best part: I thought all this in a split second. The human brain is a marvel.

Then I went upstairs and got dressed, as quietly as possible, and put on my shoes and drove to work.
The roads were wet, but not icy. Because they were wet, the windshield was soon opaque with road grime, but I had to ration my windshield cleaning fluid because I wasn’t sure how much was left.
So I only cleaned the windshield when it was absolutely necessary. Sometimes I got lucky and a truck would splash my car a little and I could use that water to clean the windshield.
The radio was all blahblahblah so I turned it off and sang the usual songs.
I was the first one at the office so I took the best parking space. Normally I park a few spaces back to make the higher-ups happy or whatever. But today I figured, it’s the last working day in the year. Fuck them.

Visitation rights

A day or two ago, I saw my father’s ghost in the living room. The irony of that didn’t occur to me until just now.

He looked troubled, I would say. The word that first came to me was “tormented,” but that is maybe too dramatic, or leaping to a conclusion.
But surely troubled. Out of focus. Lost.

My initial reaction was to pray that he would find his destination. That he would find God, if that was a prospect, and peace. Pray that he would be led to the light by loved ones that had preceded him, and that if there are more than one place one can ago in death he would go to the best place, and sit at the right hand of Jesus beside his beloved brother Jack.

Assuming that is an option.

But what do we know of prayer? What if it is not a good thing? For we know nothing of the effects of prayer on the living or the dead.

What if prayer is like asbestos or cell phones? Will our grandchildren one day shake their heads and murmer, “They actually prayed for the dead”?

What if my father, or his ghost, or however that works, only wanted to talk, and I, out of fear of ghosts masquerading as filial love1, prayed him away? Maybe he was all, “Son, listen, the six right numbers are…” and then, SSSSUCK! as the force of my prayer for his peace and salvation created a metaphysical vacuum.

Cause later on I had to wonder about that. Why he visited. Was he lost and wandering, or was he looking for parts of himself in others (the parts of others we bear in ourselves) or do we lose pieces of our souls and he was just checking everywhere he’d been, or was he fine and simply visiting loved ones?

I had to wonder what he would have said. Maybe, “Son. When we’re dead, we’re dead, except for the ghost thing. There is so much of me in you that I can do dice tricks and become visible, if only at the very edge of your peripheral vision. I loved you so much. You know the feeling — I loved you as much as you loved me. I’m sorry we didn’t talk more, but that’s how it turned out. You talk more to your kids, maybe that is a good thing.
What I wanted to say: I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to give up on happiness, even if the pursuit makes you miserable. You don’t deserve unhappiness and fear. You don’t deserve to be anyone but who you are. It is so brief! Believe me. It is so brief, there is only time for honesty and love.
I want you to be the you I love, the shining spark at your center. The rest of you is merely fuel.
I never told you what I wanted, because I didn’t want to interfere. You thought it proved your unimportance or insignificance, but I just didn’t want to interfere. I have never wanted anything for you but for you to be as only you can be. Not good or bad or afraid or careful or successful. Be you. Do what you do. What life tells you through you and through the world, not what others say or what you think they want. Not what good sense says or the ghosts of your forefathers.”

Maybe he just wanted to say, “I love you so much.”

Maybe he just wanted to say, “where are the goddamned dice?”

    1The fear, of course, is masquerading as filial love, and not the ghosts. No one fears ghosts masquerading as filial love.


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Originally posted March 2004

Points of orchestral etiquette

For the second year running, I am in a local amateur orchestra. For those of you in a similar situation, I offer the following tips on participation in rehearsals, which can be challenging and complicated interactions.

  • Come on time. This means a few minutes early, because you have to find your place, and unpack everything, and tune, and yada yada yada.

  • By no means come, like, half an hour late when everyone is in the middle of the Mozart piece and the only spare cello seat is in the middle of the orchestra somewhere.
  • If you do come late, unpack quietly and when you wrangle your way to the empty seat in the middle of the packed rehearsal hall, try not to forget your cello.
  • If you do forget your cello, and have to get back up and excusemeexcusemeexcusemesorry your way back to the grand piano in the back of the room where you left it, pretend you’re going because you got an urgent call on your mobile phone if, luckily, your daughter calls to check where you are because she forgot you had rehearsal.
  • When you go to your seat for the second time (excusemeexcusemeexcusemesorry), with your cello this time, by no means are you to forget to tighten the little screw that holds in the spike, because it is, like, a two-foot, half-pound piece of sharpened metal that can make a loud noise when it falls out and CLANGs to the floor between a viola player’s feet.

The Devil’s Advocate and the Shit Weasel

Gamma has been very protective of Red Cat since his recent crime (see previous post). She often sticks up for underdogs like that, although in this case it feels more like devil’s advocacy. I’m guessing there is a certain feeling of kinship there, although most of it is, probably, softhearted sweetness.

Last night she asked for a bedtime story. Anything I wanted, she said, as long as it did not involve something nasty happening to a cat. This meant I had to toss my first story idea. To be honest, I did not toss it, I just gave it a happy ending, and told the short version so I could more quickly get on to the main story for the night. The cat story, about an evil cat that ate the birthday cake of a poor one-legged boy I knew in school, so poor that his parents went without lunch for a year in order to afford the first birthday cake of his life, with the result that the cat was thrown out an upper-storey window, landing on telephone wires and dancing from one telephone wire to the other, and was discovered by a circus, where it thereafter performed, financially saving the family, was just the opening act for the story of the shit weasel. Please don’t inform CPS.

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