Monday, April 18, 2016

At the Patch

We were perplexed by the strawberries.  I nodded over at Hansel, we had quite a task ahead of us: to eat all of the strawberries in the second act pronto. One of my eyes was concentrated on the conductor and the other wondered just how Hansel was going to eat all the plump juicy real life strawberries layering the bottom of the basket in about six measures.  I was chewing on one slowly in between singing “Kuck Kuck” or “Guck Guck” or “Schluck Schluck” and Hansel, as far as I could tell, wasn’t tackling more than one strawberry either during her breaks.  We couldn’t get rid of the strawberries on time. It was slightly worrisome: We were sitting stage front with our legs in the orchestra and we had too many strawberries and not enough measures.  Was Hansel going to dump the strawberries in the orchestra?

“I got real strawberries!”  Announced the directress. We hadn’t had the prop in the dress rehearsal.  It was launched on us on the evening of the first performance. It was slightly disconcerting to be wondering how the mezzo was going to get rid of the fruit treat and still look at the conductor by the time I was to launch into “Hansel, you just snarfed all the strawberries.” Problematic props.

“Did Göring’s piano arrive?”

Okay so now I was no longer in Switzerland singing “Hansel und Gretel.” I was at a masterclass near Berlin.  The private estate hosting the event had a grand piano brought in for the masterclass.


“No, the other one.”

That would be the infamous one then. “Too bad, his brother helped the Jews.”

Getting a masterclass off the ground is hard work, but at a lower level.

“He died. I was told I could use him to pick people up and run errands.”  The organizer sighed.  “Last week. Heart attack, quick and easy death.”

The errand man had taken time to talk to me last August whenever I was standing in the raspberry bush having a snack. He was very spry. “During the war,” he said looking at me with blue eyes under a mop of white hair, “I had to play in the Hitler Youth Orchestra around here. Played the…..” He liked to give out hugs and enjoyed being around the music.
I gazed at the raspberry bushes under the chill sky, just beginning to come up with tender green shoots, all promise, strewn with a heap of horse manure.  The horses out watched from the stable paddy as we waved our hands about standing on the lawn. The Chi Gong teacher happy bustled about with his set of brass bowls and gong hammer. The tent on the upper lawn shimmered embroidered with Taoist motives. The grand piano moved in that afternoon after lunch and was sounding good.

The strawberries were coming up too, a few frail plants to start. I remembered the patch’s billowy fanning leaves hiding the few remaining berries at the end of the summer. I had felt guilty eating them, whenever I found one lurking at my feet, yet determined to fight the ants from getting the first bite. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Symmetry Under a Cemetery Wall

I need a book recommendation from someone I have never met – she said.

We hadn’t ever met before, face to face.  I weighed the opportunity sideways.

Have you finished it yet? – an Irish colleague asked me – I couldn’t get past the first two pages.

Why rush through Joyce? – I asked myself – It’s slow but good savory.

(Take this, for instance, about music.  One never writes well about music.)

Numbers it is. All music when you come to think. Two multiplied by two divided by half is twice one. Vibrations: chords those are. One plus two plus six is seven. Do anything you like with figures juggling. Always find out this equal to that, symmetry under a cemetery wall. 

Here pause I – last month invited to dinner by effective strangers – do you want a bird they asked in springtime watching for eggs in the cage. Alarm I jumped. All is well after I sang some Schubert; I received an inky Magnificat in the post just for me and mine – not symmetry under a cemetery wall – quite contemporary – fresh to be potentially buried and mown and harvested.

He doesn’t see my mourning. Callous: all for his own gut.  Musemathematics. And you think you’re listening to the ethereal.  But suppose you said it like: Martha, seven times nine minus x is thirtyfive thousand. Fall quite flat.  It’s on account of the sounds it is.

Play it – my coworker urged – click on the audio file. 

Synthesizers surged. Not quite the harmonic mix of me and a violin.  Not the oozy sliding cocktail we make.

Instance he’s playing now. Improvising. Might be what you like until you hear the words. Want to listen sharp. Hard. Begin all right: then hear chords a bit off: feel lost a bit. In and out of sacks over barrels, through wirefences, obstacle race.  Time makes the tune. Question of mood you’re in.  Still always nice to hear.


Do you read Joyce? I ask my eye watching for the reaction.

Such and such and so and so – she said – early bits.

Then try Ulysses – I replied ever so softly across the table. People were busy cleaning up.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Have Time to Print the PDF?

Some days I am led to believe I was raised in the Neanderthal era, California in the early 80’s.  It happened again. I was reading an article on a site called Everyday Feminism. It was an article about the over sexualization of women of color.  It wasn’t a bad article, quasi reporter quasi bio, and I even read about the author at the bottom of the page.  This was unusual because most journalists are instructed to write a catchy title to make people click on the article and then deliver practically no content.  Here was an article that put forward points based on people’s experiences, and didn’t try to solve or dissolve the issue by ranting or charts.

So slightly encouraged about the website’s integrity, I read along the right side of the screen the titles of other articles that Everyday Feminism was offering.  Hmmm something about five easy ways to talk to your ("potential") partner about your sexual preferences. I had just been to a tax talk at a women’s group coaching women to talk about money issues with their partners. Frankly both subjects are ones that I’d rather avoid and go wash windows for an hour or two and stay forever single.  Maybe it’s not the Neanderthal era that is doing me in, maybe it’s my own cowardice and insecurity.

Having been forced to listen to the tax and money talk, I thought what the hay. I will just click and see what this article has to offer for advice.  Links.  A link to a downloadable PDF, a seven pager, that you could print out and fill in with your potential partner or, even, your present partner.  You needn’t worry about gender orientation, it's genderless.  So I admit I had to google a few of the activities listed on the first two sheets. I clicked “images” and then “all” but not “maps.”  Then came the part about wording: how do you want your body parts to be called and which words are not kosher by you?

I had this flashback to being twelve or thirteen and sitting in sex ed class. We were being taught guidelines like, “So if you are comfortable with a boy and you feel safe, then you can consider exploring…” We are, in 2016, a whole lot further than that fuzzy wuzzy incertitude. A PDF folks.  Wow, I thought, you can define your intimacy, like right down in words in your own house. Concept.

I clicked further, the link to a site called Scarleteen.  It’s for teenagers.  When are you ready for sex? The site provides a checklist. A checklist. A flipping checklist. I mean back in the 80’s man there was no checklist. What are you getting yourself into with whomever? And then the link to what constitutes intimacy?  Another great web page filled will the catagories of intimacy: emotional, spiritual and physical.

Well then. That’s a bit of a relief to read I must say, especially in this day and age of internet contact. And you're welcome for the tip.