Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hydrangea Ideas

While waiting for the bus in Gouda, I listened to someone practice the piano, old fashioned pieces and  not badly played. I inspected the hydrangeas next to the bus stop, and all the other foliage in full summer bloom. A retired person was exercising their free time and motor skills. It was a day off from sitting in the office. I had just finished a long rehearsal and, before returning to Amsterdam, was heading to the not Amsterdam prices thrift store to look at skirts. Solid color skirts, the kind to which I am rarely attracted.  I stood at the bus stop looking at the collage of greens, whites, purples and pinks in the abundant vegetation and reminded myself, “Sensible one colored skirts, missy.”

“You’re off for something un-Bohemian then?”

My office colleagues know about my arty side but still...I get more compliments when I am dressed a bit more reserved. My summer wardrobe is a little sparse. Three Bohemian kaleidoscope skirts from which two don’t fit well.

“Do you know of a grand piano I can practice on?”

As it happens I have one in storage. I am looking for a place to put it. There are a number of hypothetical options and a great deal of fantasy. Mine mainly.  I would also like to have more time to practice again. Hey, I said to the pianist, you find me a place to put the piano and you can practice on it.

“The house,” I was told about my house in Gouda that sold last month, “was bought for a contrabassist student. She wanted to take over the mirror because she needs to practice in front of it.” The mirror is immense and I couldn’t move it easily any place for storage.  “So the house will still be used by a musician.” This was launched at me in triumph. The topics of the house, the mirror and the piano had all been battle axes in my marriage.

Can you hear my heart breaking?  While I am in a manner pleased about the house passing on to another musician, I am also watching the final part of the total destruction of my former life.  It’s not dying of hunger, or a third world problem, but it’s a little bit of my soul that is drowning in unhappiness, the part that kept treading water for so long hoping to reach land.

I think I need to go eat some salt for buoyancy and move on.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Valuable Thought

“I don’t want to write that, that proposal.” My eyes cast themselves upon the essay topic. It’s that time of the year again when I become obsessive about Coursera courses online, this one entitled “Soul Beliefs” and the topic was “Why are religions necessary?” They are certainly not in any way necessary even if the root, as it was pointed out as if it was the cement to the rambling rocks representing world truth, of the word means “to bind.” In Latin based languages. What about Mayan?

Here was the belief that one should argue the point or, in my case, not argue the point. I didn’t argue the point.  I rolled my eyes towards the back of my head and got that itchy bitchy feeling like I was going to start screaming in protest. The next lesson, after the assignment, was about how religions are, perhaps, not necessary; typically the lesson that follows everyone being led down one path to turn them around and herd them back to the fork in the road. It’s the religion of undergraduate courses, I thought sourly with irritation.  I can sniff these things out a zillion miles away. Even when I was ten I would stand dead still and refuse to cooperate on such matters.

I told the Voice Teacher to the Stars, who I recently met, about the Coursera course, which in general – aside the assignments – I was enjoying, after he told me about his Catholic School upbringing. We were sitting outside the Hilton Hotel watching Beyoncé’s dancers and band members get into the touring buses to go to the venue. One of the backup singers gave him the sign. They were both African American.  It was the hey brother-hey sister recognition nod. He did look like someone special. “When I worked with Bobby McFerrin…” he began a story.

Nobody nodded at me. I wasn’t wearing dreadlocks and looking thin in black jeans. We chatted. “Hey you’re a sistah.” He complimented graciously after we exchanged notes on Berkeley.  I get that old feeling that I had managed to pass the test and get within the parameters of a club. We got on one of the touring buses and took a look around. I spotted behind an anti-slide about yet open for accessibility attached nook a row of those mini boxes of cereal that enchanted me when I was seven. They still enchant me even though I can’t eat them anymore because of a gluten allergy.  I just want to sniff the sugar and caress the cartoon animals on the box. I want to be happy like Froggo and Pando and Piggo with big smiles and sunshine, stock myself a mini store and play shopkeeper using one of those “I am not drinking a beer” sized paper bags produced for the USA market. We had our picture taken on the sofa in a group. “It’s not going on facebook,” he promised our mutual friend.  We were inner circle, and keeping that way.

The bus engine started up.  We jumped off in the parking lot only to meet up later for the show on the pavement in front of the will call. My first show in the Amsterdam Arena. I packed a gluten free sandwich in case there was nothing for me to eat at the concession stands. We shuffled though the VIP entrance, drank some Prosecco while waiting for the star to appear.  I looked out at the masses and fingered the wrist pass I was given to go stand next to the stage.  If I went there I couldn’t get back to my seat, a seat in the first row. It was like being between two religions that offered some type of privilege at a cost. I sat there thinking about ego and why I would need to be seen in a photo on facebook either in my front row seat or next to the stage, all five feet of me standing under someone’s armpit.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

This Past Week

“Couldn’t you have written a haiku instead?”

It probably would have gone over better.

“One more time!”

The last take was the best. It made the video.

“I would like you to write a song cycle.”

Well, there’s a not unpleasant thought.

“Have you looked in the bookstore?  They have a book there: how to write a play.”

Okay, we were inspecting the first draft. It was evidently not going to be the last draft.

“I am not into this opera. I need to bow out.”

A wise decision, but one that leaves me without a director, and a premiere on October 23.

“I may get around to buying your book.”

I ask myself from time to time for whom am I doing this? My ego? That would be ridiculous considering the amount of people it takes to launch and complete a project.  I do it, because I want to try or can, more or less.  After a lamentable encounter this week when I thought I am not deigned to be called a musician (we all have our moments), I realized once again that not being successful is totally necessary to make me understand the scope of work that needs to be done.  I don’t mind working.  I like working.  I keep picking myself up and dusting myself off and thinking up projects.  It's like being a child again.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wibble Iggle

The painter indicated the way to the canteen.  The deal was a cake and a coffee, white tile surroundings, and he also brought a composer. This was the painter’s happiest moment, a one euro coffee and cake in the Hema (Dutch five and dime) at 16:00. I’d rushed to be there. “You made it!” The painter beamed with pleasure.

Okay so the painter lives in a studio filed with boxes of paintings.  A set of four large cardboard boxes grouped together with a sheet over them is placed smack in the middle of his one room low rent abode. It’s clever because by putting everything in the middle, we can all move around the parameters of the space.  The painter needs a canteen to hold court.

We chatted the usual artist nonsense, this and that, and then parted ways after mild refreshment. An agreement had been made, a completely profitless contract, thus we decamped, the painter to paint, the composer to work on his cello and piano piece, and me to practice the national anthem of the United States of America and the Netherlands.  “You’ll send me the poem?” The composer asked for confirmation after we all had dutifully inspected the reduced prices, the yellow stickers at 17:00, in the grocery department. “I already hear the rhythm,” he hummed and snapped his fingers, “we’ll dedicate The Canteen Song to The Painter.”

“You are not being observant,” the violinist hissed at me.  “He said he only ate sweet potato chips in outer space.” I had been inspecting the sweet potato packages on the display table in the garden tent for gluten, and hadn’t noticed the extremely tall person standing next to the table and anyway he spoke to the higher altitudes, not me down below. “What oh what is his name?” my friend tapped her finger, “not Wibble Iggle,” (the Dutch do have funny names and this one is actually Wubbo Ockels) “no, no…something else.”

“The more famous Dutch astronaut?” A colleague reiterated a part of my question, having ruled out Wubbo Ockels. “Apparently he makes a mint by endorsing products.”

It was pouring outside the tent, we finished our set of national anthems and slogged over the swampy grass out of the Ambassador’s residence and made our way back to the van. Time for my next gig: The Bee’sTour of with Vinita Book Launch. It’s taken three years to get this book out.  “They (the stores) want the guide book too.” What? “I told you that it was still a product we can sell.” We are now updating the guide book for a new printer.

I sent my Canteen Poem to the composer.  “Very nice,” the Brit returned to me. In other words he hated it.

Everybody Spend Two Euro in Your Own Borough
“Use the other door,”
The note instructed
8 am struck the staff
White flutter
Dark cafe front
Down in the alley
“It’s humid.”
Where do you go
To get away
Get lost in a it’s-crumbsy-cake-crowd cloud
And start your day?
The Everybody Canteen
Everybody say Yeah!
Say Two Euro
In your own Borough!
The café staff instead
Turned down the alley
Trouping cheeks towards the canteen
As Marxist primates to a tree,
Away from jammed doors
And pee stained drain pipes,
They ordered the two euro breakfast –
Lo! So mighty armed,
A corporation above all other
Earthly issues, the breakfast,
A wheaty waving first floor fortification
Tea tray pretty Elysian euro white tiled field
Battles the Soggy Future below with orange juice,
A bun, a Viennoise; a coffee, a handicapped neighbor.
Where do you go
To get away
Get lost in a it’s-crumbsy-cake-crowd cloud
And start your day?
The Everybody Canteen
Everybody say Yeah!
Say Two Euro
In your own Borough!

“Do you know that place next to the Rembrandt House?” Joseph Segaran inquired at the A Sample of Gouda book launch. “They sell alternative publications.” I just mentioned to him that I had found an old mimeographed (I had to explain what a mimeograph was to the young folk) edition which had been stapled together and sold as a chapbook in the early 70’s.  “I always mean to buy something and be supportive, but I can never bring myself to like any of the crap.”

“Have you got any feedback about the book?”  I asked Vinita. 

“People say it looks much better than the first one.”