Wednesday, January 14, 2009


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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Smite me.

Dear Coupon-Cutting Zimbabwean Missionaries,

While I defrost some leftover dinner (at least I hope it's dinner–if you readers ever decide to home-store your potential progeny in order to save a few bucks on fertility clinic fees, take some advice and label all the Tupperware very carefully) I thought I'd post an update to this hallowed tome. Or is it thy shallow tomb? As in grave? Incidentally, “shallow grave” could be a bilingual oxymoron if you happen to be Italian-American. Or a possible resting place if you piss off the wrong Italian-American. Profondamente grave. Capite?

For that little opening caveat you have my college foreign language credits to thank. A requirement most definitely and deeply satisfied by my Italian TA, whose name escapes me but who was from Phoenix and who was most definitely not Italian but most definitely was hot. Hottest TA I ever had, in fact.

(Okay. Literally that would have to be sickly Mr. Stickler who very possibly ran a 104 fever for six of the eight weeks of my Central Asian History summer course. He resembled a stocky Mongolian steppe horse and sweat as if just getting to class required a feigned retreat at full gallop. Students used to place bets on which of his brow beads would roll to his soaked shirt collar first. Double or nothing on whether he would faint before or after Russia was freed from the grip of the Golden horde. But I've digressed from my digression. Back to la bella non-Italian Italian T&A.)

First day of class she wore a bustier. Cleavage makes extemporaneous conjugation remarkably difficult. I think our class's view of the Tuscan hills may have been deliberate titular tactics on her part, though; meant to steel our concentration against distractions; no matter how firm and round and smooth and creamy white those distractions were. My, was she hot. Molto caldo. (Which sounds “cold” but it's “hot”. Well, “warm”, actually but who's counting.)

Now I don't want to give you the idea that I'm some sort of misogynist who objectifies women as no more than a sum of their sexual attributes. I see their mean too. Their sum divided by the number of parts. I won't date anyone more than three standard deviations from the norm and if I'm uncertain about my attraction I'll perform a Chi Squared analysis against my model, who happens to be Jennifer Connelly. I joke. But seriously, I viewed my Italian TA as a full, well-rounded human being –very well-rounded– with hopes and dreams and thoughts, in addition to a nice rack. And I definitely don't hold some male superiority complex, either. We were equals in my eyes; yes, her ass needed a little work but then so did my fluency with il passato prossimo.

Anyway, that was a long time ago. The only lingering influence of my undergraduate foreign language studies is that, after consulting my Italian-English Dictionary for errors in the above blathering inanity, I'm sure to set it on top of my unpaid electric bill thereby incurring the red-hot wrath of MidAmerican Energy, manifested in a fiscally eviscerating $0.96 late payment fee due next month. Curse you hot non-Italian Italian TA from Phoenix, Arizona –ed i tuoi bei pomodori!

Now where was I? Ah yes. Updates. September is here to stay so it's high time for: What I did on my summer vacationAn absurdist serial farce loosely based on actual fictionalized events. Installments to look out for over the next weeks include:

A Russian Invades the Iowa State Fair in which, you guessed it, I take a Russian to the Iowa State Fair where, during an argument over the latest Russo-Georgian conflict (“Saakashvili is just plain nuts!” informed Ms. G to which I flailed, “Oh yeah? Well Putin is a megalomaniacal, paranoid control-freak!”
“–with a vast nuclear arsenal so thank you for proving my point!” basked Ms. G.), in a fit of gestural emphasis said Russian accidentally signals the highest bid on a 400 pound Berkshire sow. One with a gimpy right rear leg no less.


Idaho? I dunno... describes the genesis of a team of competitive water tubers on a pristine lake in the state that's most famous for Hemingway's shock-treatment-induced shotgun suicide and senators with wide scatological stances. Reading about people eating potato chips on a pontoon boat has never been this exciting. Never.

Put Your Canoe on My Shoulders, tells the nature tale of star-crossed siblings and various significant others in their ill-fated quest to consume as much lake-water-reconstituted Tang™ and campfire curry as is humanly possible and then “recycle” a generous portion of it in a shallow hole in the woods just a few dozen feet from where it was eaten. Humanity reduced its most basic animal instincts. Without the sex.

In Lifetime's inevitable miniseries of this tragi-docu-info-sit-dramedy, the part of the future birth-defected son appearing in one of the campers' lucid dreams will some day be played to critical acclaim by a youngish Edward James Olmos, Jr. whose 100% DEET-induced webbed toes enables him, in 2020, to break Michael Phelps's current Olympic record of 113 golds. Sadly, the Sultan of Swimming won't be around to see his mantle passed on due to the upcoming tragedy of the 2016 Olympics when a geriatric Phelps will arrogantly and tragically insist on swimming a 200 meter butterfly qualifying heat while actually donning his accumulated medals.


God Consults an Agnostic imagines a brainstorming session during which a religious skeptic named Adam reluctantly advises God on how to boost membership and morale... for a fee. Here's a snippet:

GOD: (offscreen) Why don't you believe in me, Adam?

ADAM: I need proof. And not just some piddling thing like your image on a piece of burnt toast. Something definite. Something indisputable.

GOD: I don't get it. Over thousands of years, billions of people have believed in me –and many were smarter than you. A lot smarter. What makes you think you're so special?

ADAM: Special?! Hey, you're one to talk. Who was it that said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?”

GOD: Um. I can't remember. It was either Clarence Darrow or Simon Cowell. I think.

ADAM: Well in my book taking credit for the creation of the universe calls for more proof than just healing a few lepers here and there. And to be honest, a good number of those faithful billions down through history also believed the Earth was flat or that the Sun went around it. Since then we've all come to our senses on those points because of indisputable scientific proof to the contrary.

GOD: Well, mostly all of us. Though I wouldn't bring that round Earth stuff up if your planning a campaign for Kansas State school board commissioner. Just a hunch. But now hold on. I work thousands of miracles every day. It's not always easy to get the credit you know. Especially from you proof pundits.

ADAM: With all due respect, let me give you a word of advice, God. Okay? If I may? Try for something bigger. Quality over quantity. You know? Mysteriously fixing Timmy's limp is all well and good but we can handle stuff like that now. Science has caught up to you in many ways. You know, in the old days you would protect the righteous and faithful by smiting down the armies of their enemies. Maybe you should get back to basics. We could really use some old school smite right about now.

GOD: Oh you're really something. Making biblical allusions to me. Obviously you didn't come to my book signing.

ADAM: And that's another thing. It might help membership if you'd update the bylaws a little more frequently. Maybe, like, a few new books each century. Or at least some cultural and historical content editing once in a while. I mean, we still got people stoning adulterers in your name. Is that what you want? And don't even get me started on your lax copyright enforcement.

GOD: Hey don't get snippy. I speak through prophets and leave the compilation up to you all.

ADAM: Well that may have worked three thousand years ago but in the age of mass media it's not a very efficient method. We got charlatans all over the place down here claiming that you "speak through them". I mean, have you listened to A.M. radio lately?

GOD: A.M.? Are you nuts? Do you have any idea how much static the ionosphere adds? No way. I'm a Sirius subscriber. Nothing compares to satellite radio. It's heaven. Just heaven. I heard every Red Sox game last season. But we're getting off topic and don't you charge by the hour?


Stay tuned.

A Herz mid-size rental car, low on oil and high on miles

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Degrees of Vegetation

Dear Cell Mates,

I've got a big date tonight and I'm not gonna lie to you. It could go either way. Imagine the two extremes flanking the vast spectrum of heterosexual social interaction. Okay, got those in mind? They both, somehow, feel possible, even probable, right now. There's lots to expound upon here but a gentleman's honor dictates discretion. Dig? Dug.

If you thought this blog was dead, join the club. I considered pulling the plug completely numerous times over the past six months but was always stopped by congressional decree. Apparently even some vegetative blogs might still meet the minimum standards of a Living Document. Since it's often impossible for the outside world to tell whether a blog is conscious or not I thought it would only be right to perform CPR as a last ditch effort to try and save HHWT. That stands for Crappy Post Resuscitation for you non-medical-types.

Oh and if you hoped this blog was dead I'm sorry to disappoint you. All I can say is hang in there. And maybe contact your representative in D.C.

I suppose it would be in order for me to pontificate a bit about the reasons why my postings here have dwindled to a slow drip. Let's start by being honest. I was never prolific to begin with. However, what few ideas I did have seemed to find their way out fairly regularly, if not with a feverish frequency. That sap stream of creativity has not hardened of late, but rather been diverted toward two different, even less fruitful directions.

Well maybe three directions but that third one has the saving grace of potentially getting me laid so I would hardly call it fruitless. In fact it's a big, full, fuzzy peach whose ripe sugary juices run down your chin with every hungry mouthful until you reach that tart, dark pit buried deep beneath its sweet, succulent flesh and you accidentally bite down too hard on it and your right incisor feels funny the rest of the day. Umm... Where was I? Ah yes. My creative diversions.

The first diversion is Facebook Status Updates. Thoughts which used to provide the germ for a blog post are now sneezed into cyberspace immediately after formation. These stunted ideas, boiled-down experiences, or extemporaneous observations are rendered for quick consumption into a sentence or three whose soul purpose is to cause my tenuous network of quasi-acquaintances to stop picking their noses long enough to wonder how I could've misspelled “pliant” before moving on to update their Netflix queues.

In the past, pre-Facebook, maybe ten percent of these kernels would incubate and flower into a blog post with all of its full-blown tedium. But now Facebook acts as a creativity abortion clinic, claiming many embryonic ideas before they have a chance to become fully blog-viable. The solutions to this short circuit are so obvious I won't even bother pointing them out.

The second, and no doubt larger, creativity diversion has been the act of writing other things. I have only so much will power, and often none at all, so I generally don't spread it out like the scrapings of an empty jam jar on toast but rather focus it on what's most interesting to me at that moment. This won't change, but by occasionally un-diverting my creative sap flow, say during periods of writer's block for instance, into frivolous blog posts I might just be able to revive this baby. It will make for some horrendously boring posts, no doubt. But hey. What else is new?

That's enough pontificating. Let's get the blog ball rolling. Hmm... what's happened here in Iowa since we last talked? Oh yeah. The skies opened up and pissed forth a deluge of historic proportions. This was definitely a blog-worthy event and my shame is great for not writing some shit about it.

So, dear readers, for those of you who may have wondered about my current state of saturation in this currently saturated State, let me assure you I've been high and dry in NL. Though for a time I was cut off from the rest of civilization, or what passes for it here, by the unprecedented stages of the two rivers betwixt which I reside. Eventually I was able to escape through a rather round about route and played a shit gig with the MSO, but as a result of the flooding much of the local summer work has dried up around here, to ironically invert a pun. However, I never expect to make a dime in the summer anyway so it's all good. *(Note to AN: Yes. I am recycling my note to you. So sue me. But not for plagiarism. You haven't a case. Try Breach of Exclusivity or something like that.)

Continuing with the myopic theme of how the natural disaster affects yours truly, the CRSO has been handed a big bowl of river silt, complete with nitrate runoff, rail trestle rivets and carp carcasses, and everyone in the organization should expect to spend this upcoming season with spoon in hand practicing their Oliver Twist impressions. Normally the CRSO is a rock; always rehearsing and concertizing in the same place: The Paramount, which was submerged in the swollen Cedar River for days. I'm not sure about the future of the Paramount beyond the fact that nobody will be playing there this season. It was a lovely old theater. Yes, maybe a bit small and, okay, it had some disconcerting echoes. But it will be sorely missed this year, a year with Beethoven 9 on the docket, as we will now no doubt be shuffling between even smaller college and high school auditoriums. If there never was a need for a chamber orchestra/barbershop quartet arrangement of the Choral Symphony before, there is now.

The other orchestras of this fine state are likely only impacted by the flooding through the ripples of their shared personnel with CRSO and the current fluidity of its season schedule. One can only hope that some amount of accommodation will be granted in regards to this. In freelancing, conflicts are the killer. There are enough weeks in the season to make a great living, if you can fill them with work. And there's enough work in the area to make a good living, if only you can schedule it. But conflicts whittle it all down to just a plain old living.

Well, that's all for now my dear fellows. Time to get ready for ecstasy or ignominy. But probably something in between. More to come...

Not your Mom

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Press from the petals of the lotus flower something of this to keep, the essence of the hour..."

All the seasons are finally wrapping up. My last set is with DM this weekend playing Sibelius 7, Saint-Saens 3. Fourth horn seems to be simply an organ pedal to Sibelius but the piece is powerful and wonderful and all that. I've also got a little show with the CR muni band, usually a summer-only group, playing for the IBA conference in the Hotel Fort DM though we haven't altered our city park repertoire one bit so it'll be 45 minutes of show tune medleys and marches. Boy are all those bandmasters in for a treat!

I'm reading F. Scott Fitzgerald right now, This Side of Paradise on now and that usually shakes things up a bit so we'll see. I like it enough to want to read all the rest of his stuff so . I'm down to the last hundred pages and still waiting for something to transform the protagonist from a pretentious asshole into... anything else. Not that it's a boring book. I enjoy the detail with which Fitzgerald portrays the personal growth of the central character, Amory, the egotist. And the early 20th century commentary on social class is interesting, too. But every time something happens that I'd expect to be cathartic and life-changing, such as the death of a friend/idol, near collapse of his college career, creepy 'hallucinations' (were they?) of the devil in pointed yellow moccasins stalking him for crying out loud, they don't seem to resonate beyond more than a page or two. Perhaps it's all being repressed and will spill out in the climax. Anyway, a war's on now and that usually shakes things up a bit so we'll see. I like it enough to want to read all the rest of his stuff so that'll be a summer occupation.

This week is the last week of classes at ISU. Since there are DM rehearsals too, I'll be staying there for most of the week and probably spend one day engaged in vineyard work. It's good stuff in small doses. Sorta like a day laborer fantasy camp. And it can be a decent workout if you get creative (push-ups at one end of a row, sit-ups at the other). But I don't know how I'd manage if I had to do that kind of work for an extended period. I have great respect for the immigrant crews whom I occasionally work along side. They're faster, do a better job and by-and-large get paid less. They're away from family for extremely long periods, live in cramped quarters, and have virtually no chance for a better life than this. But then I suppose that's why they are here. To try and find a better life or create one back home for those they left behind.

Well I had better go mow the yard, even though we might get snow! Such is this time of year and place on earth.


Monday, March 17, 2008

"I can't think, I can't think, I can't think..."

I'm in the middle of late winter doldrums now. Spring break at ISU means no teaching or commuting for a week and conflicting late season orchestra schedules mean weeks at a time with nary a rehearsal in sight. So there's time to blog, but nothing much happening to blog about.

One sure way to lose readers for good is by greeting their hopeful visits in search of new content with the ever-present image of a creepy-looking, hunch-backed clown in stage makeup. For a month.

Sorry about that. But what to write now? I could write about new experiences which have happened to me since my last post. Such as donating blood and having both antecubital veins poked to perdition in the process.

Or being forced by my youngest sister to create a profile on a popular singles website under extreme duress, and thus having to endure the double digital indignity of active and passive rejection by scores of women, even though most are touted as over 80% compatible with me.

Or even of walking the rails. I'm not talking about becoming a hobo or just ambling along the tracks but of literally balancing on the rail. My record is 140 steps, with hands in pockets, into a stiff wind and I encourage you all to try and break it.

But I think I'll save those for a rainy day. Instead, I give you...

Nicky and Dick
(The End of June)

-On a bluff in Northern California, late May, 1961-

[laying on the hood of a car, smoking, looking at the stars]

Nicky: Hey Dick.

Dick: What?

N: What would an eclipse look like from the moon?

D: What?

N: An eclipse. What would it look like from the moon?

D: That doesn't make any sense, Nick.

N: What? How come?

D: There's no air on the moon, Nick. Why would you bother looking at an eclipse if you couldn't even breath?

N: I don't know? Just say you held your breath during it. What would it look like, Dick?

D: It's more than just air, Nicky. [flicks ashes] There ain't no atmosphere at all. You'd explode if you were on the moon.

N: Aw c'mon, Dick. Say you had a space suit. Whatever. What would an eclipse look like from there?

D: You'd never notice it, Nick.

N: What? Why not?

D: You're on the moon in a space suit, right?

N: Yeah.

D: Well someone must have sent you there and it probably took a lot of money, right?

N: Yeah. I suppose.

D: I mean you can't just buy a space suit at Sears.

N: No. I suppose not.

D: So for that kind of money whoever sent you to the moon probably wants certain things to get done. You've got to stay focused on your job, Nick. You can't be stargazing.

N: Aw, c'mon Dick. I just mean imagine you're on the moon. What would an eclipse look like from there?

D: Nick. What's the point? You ever goin' to the moon?

N: Course not.

D: So you'll never know for sure then?

N: I guess not.

D: Then why bother asking? That's science, Nicky. Why bother asking something you know you'll never know for sure.

N: That's science?

D: Yup. [flicks ashes] Partly.

N: Hm.

D: So, you wanna go to Fubar's tonight?

N: [not listening] Huh? Sure, okay.

D: [teasing] Tammy's gonna be there.

N: Huh? Sure okay.

D: You okay Nicky? What's the matter?

N: Huh? Oh nothin.

D: C'mon. [flicks cigarette away] Let's go to Fubar's.

N: Hey Dick?

D: Yeah Nick?

N: That's really science?

D: Yup. Sure as shit, Nicky.

-At Fubar's: smokey, loud, crowded-

[everyone talking over each other]

Tammy: Where you guys been all night?

Janice: We were here an hour ago. Where were you guys?

Dick: You jealous?

J: Oh, what? Of farm animals?

T: Yeah, I can't compete with a sheep.

J: Baaaah!

T: Baaaaaah!

Nick: We were smokin' at the bluff.

T: Aw! Without us?

J: C'mon. Let's go to the bluff!

T: Yeah!

D: We were just there, Jay. Let us get warmed up at least. [goes to bar]

N: It's a nice night for it. We were lookin' at the stars.

T: That sounds nice. Let's go back later.

N: If Dick wants. It's his car.

J: He'll want. [smiling] Just let's get him warmed up first. [follows D. to bar]

T: [dragging N. to empty booth] What's your sign, Nicky?

N: I don't know.

T: Well, you were born in October, right?

N: October 10th.

T: October 10th... so you're a Libra.

N: Libra?

T: Do you know where Libra is?

N: It's scales, right?

T: Not what. Where. The constellation.

N: It's a 'W' looking thing. Someone showed me once. In the northeast.

T: That sounds more like Cassiopeia. Who showed you?

N: Cassio-what? You're making stuff up now?

T: No. I'm serious. Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia was Andromeda's mother. A queen. Her daughter was saved from a sea monster by Perseus. [suddenly slightly embarrassed] Or something like that.

N: How do you know all that?

T: My dad used to read Greek myths to us when we were little. [changing subject back] But Libra. That's nowhere near Cassiopeia. Libra's in the south.

N: I don't know if I've ever seen it then.

T: We'll look for it at the bluff.

N: What are you, Tam?

D: [back with J. and beers, loudly] What'r you two turds talkin about?!

J: [just as loud] Richard! Do you plan on kissin' me with that mouth! Now leave them alone, will ya.

N: We were just talkin' about constellations. What'r you Dick?

D: Again with that shit? C'mon Nick. Summer's just started and last I checked you ain't goin to college. [slides beer over] Drink.

T: No really. What's your sign Dick?

J: [joking] I'll bet he's a Cancer.

D: [to J.] And you're a Virgo.

J: [slaps his shoulder, offended] Whada you know?

T: You were born in August, right Dick? You're probably a Leo, then.

D: Sure. So what?

T: We'll find our constellations tonight when we go back to the bluff.

D: [sarcastic] That's sounds like a helluva plan. [sliding out of booth] Nick. Darts?

N: [following] Hey Dick. What's Virgo mean?

-Back at bluff-

[N. & T. laying on hood, D. & J. in back seat.]

T: [pointing] So that's Libra, low over the city lights. And, right there, that's mine, that line with the curl at the end.

N: What is it? A snake?

T: No. A scorpion. Scorpio chases Libra across the sky but he can never catch her.

N: I don't suppose she would want him too, either.


N: Do you think the Sun is part of any constellation, Tam?

T: The Sun moves during the year so it can't...

N: No, I mean for other planets. Do people around other stars see the Sun as part of any constellation, do you think?

T: I suppose they probably do.

N: What constellation do you think the Sun is part of?

T: Well... it would be different for each star. The Sun's position would change.

N: That one, then. [pointing] That bright one in Scorpio.

T: Well, let's see. What other ones would be nearby? [looks over her shoulder behind her] Could be just about anything I suppose.

N: [slowly turns and stares at T. while she's facing away from him] But you could never go there. [T. turns back, N. quickly looks back at sky] I mean, to see if the constellation looked like you thought it would.

T: No way. Too far. But you wouldn't need to do that. It's just a matter of imagination. Putting yourself in another place in your mind. You know? That's something people are very good at doing. One of the things that makes us different than all other animals. It's what let's us understand and empathize with others. And it's why we can lie to each other.

[long silence]

N: When do you leave for school, Tam?

T: [looks at feet] End of June.

N: [stares beyond stars] End of June.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hibernatory Hiatus

My blog has been in extended cryogeny while I've worked on this (any comments, criticism or contributions are desired so long as you don't make me cry) and gotten back to the business of scraping out a symphonic subsistence. Okay fine. A certain amount of laziness may have been involved in my hiatus. So sue me. As for this latest lull, you're extremely welcome but your good fortune, like my posting procrastination, has come to an end. God save you. Here's some hibernation highlights...

Hide-n-Seek Hindemith
Recently I performed Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis for the third of five times and with the second of three orchestras this season (for those counting). In a neat little coincidence I was even issued the same German rental part that I used in orchestra #1 last fall, complete with my mysteriously missing Star Spangled Banner tucked inside the cover. The prodigal Banner part has returned from halfway 'round the world, penniless and destitute having no doubt spent its advanced allotment of my freelance fortune on decadence and debauchery! Still, I accepted it with open arms, casting aside the faded, photocopied foreigner holding its place. This, much to the chagrin of parts one, three and four who've stayed dutifully put in their player's possession lo these many months. Or whatever.

“I musicisti e mobile...”
Some time ago I was embroiled in tragic yet tuneful treachery involving lust, love, power and passion which exposed the true tension of bonds of family, bindings of social class and heart strings of... um, the heart... through the cursed life of a hubristic, hunchbacked humorist. No, I'm not talking about my Second Life avatar, Fran. It is Verdi's Rigoletto of which I speak, dear friends.

(Note to self: Give up alliteration for lent. You're addicted and it's a clichéd creative crutch. Doh! Starting NOW!)

While performing opera can be rather exciting, rehearsing opera I usually find to be quite the opposite. Playing Verdi without singers is only mildly more enjoyable than death-by-shoehorn. Hold that rehearsal in a high school band room after an hour-long commute through freezing rain and the balance tips slightly in favor of the shoehorn. The performances, however, almost always make it worthwhile in the end. Despite crowd sizes dwarfed by the number of performers, a skimpy and skittery string section and a weak, intonationally-challenged chorus humming directly behind my skull I again found this to be true: Opera is fun to perform.

Opera singers have always amazed me. They perform hours of music, lyrics (in a foreign language!), dramatic expression and stage direction intricately timed with an unwieldy orchestra... from memory! I can't imagine a more complete performance artist. Even mediocre opera singers inspire me. Should they really? I don't know, but they do.

This latest foray did lift a bit of my veil of ignorant admiration because the orchestra in our zero-scenery production was situated on stage behind the action rather than in front of the stage with our backs to the performers (or, more commonly, under the stage completely hidden from view). Since we faced the action and the audience we were privy to each singer's most vulnerable moments, such as when Rigoletto once lost his place during the second act, looking back toward the conductor with exasperated confusion for a scene-saving vocal cue.

Of course this setup also requires us musicians to remain focused while particularly compelling and/or attractive performers are doin' their fine thang right in front of us and behind the conductor. Long story short, Maddalena had it goin' on in both her make-out scene with il duca and the storm/murder scene which follows. To paraphrase Kosmo Kramer, “Yeah I see you maestro but she's really showin' me something!”

“Vy ju alvays callink me like zis?”
For the past couple of months I've been getting calls from a number in Mass. from someone of Slavic origin. At least the voice mail messages seem to be in a Slavic language of some sort. And googling the number leads to a person in Boston with a Russian-looking name.

The calls come, on average, twice a day with messages of a consistently calm and matter-of-fact tone left every few days. I'm not sure how someone could leave dozens of messages for someone who never calls back and not sound more and more peeved with each iteration.

I've been practicing the accent and will answer some day to see how long I can keep the conversation going. I'm shooting for twenty seconds because my high school math teacher taught all of his students a little Polish which I'm banking will be temporarily, albeit confusingly, convincing. “Strovach mario, Vaski pelna, pon stobon buogo stravia naski, menza nemia stami, owot jawota foiegu Jesus.


Sunday, December 16, 2007


Dear frozen friends,

The fire is starting to catch and crackle, the California Cabernet is open and breathing, Neil Young's plaintive falsetto is shimmering, and my synapses are simmering. The fourth and final Nutcracker is behind me and I survived. Chops intact. That wasn't a foregone conclusion. I've never done the ballet, and this was a reduced winds version which has some history of injuring players. Because of this I played it as safe as possible, 8-va-basso-ing and dropping out entirely here and there. It also certainly helped that this was a ballet school production. Not exactly the same pressure as the touring Joffrey version but ya still gotta play the notes.

In between the pages of face smashing syncopation one thing struck me. Ballet dancers have amazing bodies. (I'm talkin' about the ladies now. The guys are all identical. Even their junk. It must be a union thing: “And if the dancer is male he is allowed not more than two socks stuffage...” so on and so forth.) Most women dancers are lithe and willowy but a few are just ripped. Each individual back muscle popping and quads and calves of steel. On one dancer I could see that main artery on the inside of her upper arm between the biceps and the triceps. I think the last time I saw that bit of circulatory anatomy was on Stallone in Rambo II. But she could do a brisé. My goodness gracious!

Most precious Nutcracker moment: During the second show on Saturday immediately after the nutcracker is dropped and broken the stunned silence in the hall is punctured by a little girl's voice in the audience uttering worriedly, “Uh-oh.”

Winter has finally come to Iowa and it looks like it's here to stay. I know this because I tried to remove a solid inch of it from my front walk earlier this week with minor success and major carpal tunnel trauma. The whole task became a sort of zen thing. The focus was not on the ice but on my chipping technique. The preparation ceremony involved in raising, aiming and orienting the implement for a precise downward blow. Then the release and thrust. Allowing yourself to work with gravity for maximum effect. Many small, attainable goals over time leading to success and, ultimately, rapture. If not rapture then at least a front walk clear of litigation inducing ice.

Now let me be. I have five holiday shows in three days starting this afternoon. Fair thee well.


P.S. This is all. There is no more.