Culture, II

We’ll park at the hotel, he said. It has a nice bar and we can have a drink and eat all their peanuts.

She was Meh about that.

You just have that black leather jacket, I’ll leave my coat in the car, he said. That way we don’t need to check our coats and we can escape faster when the concert is over.

They parked at the hotel. The bar was full of maids with vacuums, and no one else. There was a little sign saying it was closed for rennovations.

He looked at his watch. They had an hour and a half to kill. They walked around in the cold looking for a place to eat. They went all around the Konzerthaus. There was nothing anywhere. There was a restaurant actually in the Konzerthaus, but the menu had illustrations of modern gourmet lumps of foamy stuff so they both shook their heads. They ended up eating sausages at a Würstlstandl across the street from the hotel.

The entire walk, the eating the sausages, all that, apparently took only three minutes because they still had a lot of time to kill.

Time was being weird that evening.

Very weird.

They went into the Konzerthaus to warm up. We can watch people. But they were the first guests, of course, no one comes to a concert more than an hour early. But the bar was open. What would you like? he asked the girl.

Red Bull, she said.

No little sandwich thing, he asked.

I had a sausage, she said.

A beer and a Red Bull, please, he said to the man at the bar.

The man opened a small bottle of Ottakringer Pils for him, and put it on the counter with a glass. What was the second thing you wanted? A sandwich?

A Red Bull, he said.

A what? the bartender said.

See, it wasn’t the volume of the man’s speech. The concert hall lobby was full of that background hiss you get in large, nearly empty rooms when people are setting things up and doors are opening and closing, but it wasn’t loud. It was the man’s pronunciation. He had been saying “Red Bull” with an American English pronunciation.

Rrret Boool, the man said.

Ah, said the bartender, and gave him a can, and a glass.

He and the girl killed time with their beer and energy drink.

An old man entered and walked across the lobby extremely slowly.

See, he has to come early in order to get to his seat on time, the man said. Unlike us he has a good excuse.

They finished their drinks and hit the restroom.

Eventually it was time to take their seats. Like, the earliest possible time. Just for a change of scenery.

The ticket taker told them the hall wasn’t open yet. They could go to the other bar on the other side if they wanted. So they went over there and stood around for a while.

What is it we’re seeing, anyway, the girl asked.

Something modern I think, said the man. He normally bought a program, but this time he wanted to see how he responded with no preconceived notions of this thing.

More time passed, then they took their seats without any great mishap.

There was a lot of stuff on the stage. A grand piano, and note stands and chairs. A double bass and a harp and a bicycle wheel sans tire. A few balloons. A plate of glass, a turntable and some wires and some tubes with mouthpieces.

Musicians came out. A tall skinny conductor with thick red hair came out. They began to play. They played and played. The conductor conducted with extreme precision. The musicians played with great precision. The cellist pressed the balloon to the fingerboard while he bowed, instead of fingering the strings. Other musicians blew into the tubes, or swang them about their heads, or both. An arpeggio was played on the bicycle wheel. Sounds were made on the turntable, and scraping sounds on the plate of glass, and on the wires.

Time did more of its weird thing, slowing down and speeding up, but mostly slowing down.

The man and the girl changed position now and then, trying to get comfortable. The man drifted in and out of sleep. The music played the whole while, behind his dreams and his hypnopompic visions, there in the Mozartsaal of the Konzerthaus too.

Everybody clapped when the song was over. The composer took the stage and got applause, and the guys on the mixing board. The conductor and musicians left the stage and the roadies moved stuff around.

A second piece was played, then a third piece.

The best composition involved a unique instrument that looked like a busted up electric motor attached to the top of a kettledrum. The man found it quite enjoyable. The composer of that one was female. She got a lot of applause.

The lights came on and people got up.

Is it over, said the girl.

The man looked at his watch. About an hour had gone by since the concert started.

It may be over, or it may be intermission. Would you like to hang around and see, or shall we leave.

The girl gave him a neutral look.

I  vote we leave, my ass hurts, said the man.

They got another Rret Bool on their way out.

Which one did you like the best, said the man.

Oh, my god, said the girl.

That first piece was neat, with the bicycle wheel, wasn’t it? asked the man.

The girl looked at him. With her new darker hair, and all the mascara, and that leather jacket, he imagined a certain resemblance to how the scary-looking hacker woman in those Swedish movies, you know, The Girl Who Burned The Concert Hall and so on, may have looked at the age of 13.

That second piece, Hallo Tinitus, said the girl.

The man agreed it would be a fitting title.

I did like the third one a lot, with that invention thing they  played with electric fans and stuff, though, he said.


I spent the first song trying to decide if the conductor was a man or a woman, said the girl.

I spent the first song trying to decide if he had a hunchback or not, said the man.

They drove home.

Later the man checked the program online, out of curiosity. They had left in the intermission after all.

But it was okay. His tailbone had really hurt.