Monday, May 28, 2007

A Book Break: Reading on Vacation

The vacation’s now taken a recuperative turn, it seems: the challenges of the move and working on the house were put on hold at the beginning of the month with the advent of what turned out to be a “Pulled Muscle” and the consequent discovery of two hernias. While I’m still getting around, I’m not doing that much (and that fairly gingerly) but then there’s nothing wrong with a vacation that’s simply “resting.” The piano isn’t here yet, so it’s not a writing vacation, allowing me time off from work so I can concentrate on composing (which is how I normally spend my spring vacation-time), and the intention of making one last assault on the move has been put off yet a little further.

In fact, it was May 1st – the day the “Pulled Muscle” finalized itself into something needing immediate attention – I began reading Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. I’d seen this when it came out in hardback but decided to wait, considering all the other things on my To Read List, but I couldn’t resist once I saw it in paperback. Last year, I read his much-talked-about “Cloud Atlas” and wrote about it here and here. While that is a rich and complex novel, this one passes on a much simpler level.

But I don’t think it’s possible for David Mitchell to tell a story simply. Given the richness of the allusions in “Cloud Atlas,” there are numerous similar but more subtle allusions in “Black Swan Green” (the title comes from the town, built around a green or park which not only has no black swans but not even any white swans). Many of these might be more self-evident to a wider-read reader than myself who’s never even read “Catcher in the Rye” (how is that possible?!) much less Henri Alain-Fournier’s Les grand Meaulnes (available here in French or in this English translation as ‘The Lost Estate’ in December 2007) which figures in one of the more fantastic chapters as a writing assignment dropped, unfortunately, after the disappearance of the delightfully eccentric character who might otherwise become his mentor.

But I’ve read “Cloud Atlas” and immediately recognized this eccentric would-be mentor, an old aristocratic Belgian woman, her imaginative English filtered through her native French, who in Mitchell’s previous novel had been a not very sympathetic would-be love interest, Mme. Eva van Outreyve de Crommelynck, for the young composer whose music also figures prominently in this chapter, Robert Frobisher and his “Cloud Atlas Sextet.” I suspect, given other references that might slip under my imperceptive radar, there must be many more from other works with at least some nodding reference just as Mitchell pastiched his way through the nesting-doll novel “Cloud Atlas” with overt references to numerous styles and plot-lines to create a world-ranging tapestry spanning centuries but here, in “Black Swan Green,” spanning a mere year in an otherwise unremarkable village in the life of a potentially remarkable adolescent who, judging from his exterior life and the perceptions of those around him, would be considered just another unremarkable 13-year-old named Jason Taylor.

Part of the boy’s problem is, he wants to write poetry but he can hardly let the bullies at school know he does this because they’d beat him up for sure. He can’t tell his parents because they’d tell someone else in the village, maybe some kid would overhear them and then tell another kid at school and pretty soon the bullies would find out and it’s all over, so he signs himself “Eliot Bolivar” and publishes them in the parish magazine.

There is a fine line between the boy’s fantasy world and the reality he lives in yet frequently, discursively and usually considerably later do we discover what seemed a fantasy was in fact reality. Since I chose to read it as if it were all reality – in the sense it was all real to the boy as so much of my own life as a 13-year-old was real to me, fantasy or not – I probably missed some of the magic these transitions took.

Like many children, he has several interior personalities – the Unborn Twin (like Evil Twin) who retorts to situations the way he’d want to but knows if he did he’d get the crap beat out of him; Maggot, his image of low self-esteem; and most strikingly, Hangman, the character who lays in wait for him whenever he is about to say a word that would make him stutter. For his biggest shame is being a stutterer which he tries to control by outwitting Hangman, realizing a stutter-word is about to come up so that he can replace it with a better word. This awareness of words – not to mention thinking ahead – plays into his writing poetry. The novel veers back and forth between typically inscrutable teen-age slang and pseudo-Proustian aphorisms, some of which are very poetic and others make you stop and wonder “what 13-year-old would come up with that?” While many of his experiences – like the meetings with Mme. Crommeylinck – go beyond the usual aesthetics of most 13-year-olds, they’re also left incomplete: perhaps, like Mme. Crommeylinck, Jason Taylor will end up in a future novel as a successful (or failed) poet, an adult where these early influences will now be realized.

(By the way, Neal Brose, one of the other school kids and something of a nasty piece of work with a certain gift for financial projects, was introduced as a divorced, failing financier in “Ghostwritten,” one of Mitchell’s earlier novels: if we continue Eva Crommelynck forward in time from “Cloud Atlas,” here we take Neal Brose backward in time.)

There are thirteen unnumbered chapters in “Black Swan Green.” The Golden Section of the book (always difficult to calculate according to numbers of pages or estimated numbers of words) occurs during the 8th chapter, ‘Souvenirs,’ a neatly spanned chapter that begins with his experiences on holiday with his dad in the first part and then with his mum in the second part (the only sections of the book that place Jason outside the claustrophobic village of Black Swan Green). There are seven chapters before ‘Souvenirs’ and five chapters after it. While Jason has numerous interior personalities, the one least typical of a 13-year-old boy is the would-be poet, Eliot Bolivar (5 letters + 7 letters). One of the souvenirs he buys is a series of 13 postcards, each with a different dinosaur "but if you put them end to end in order, the background landscape joins up and forms a frieze." Though the various chapters of the book are self-contained, they do, in the end, form a very neatly done frieze.

And there’s also a bit of a palindrome in the construction here, less overt than the one organizing the various chapters of “Cloud Atlas”: many events in the first segment are referenced or completed (or realized) in the second. The first and last chapters are both called “January Man” and the final line is “That’s because it’s not the end.”

– Dr. Dick

Saturday, May 26, 2007

On the Naming of Cats

It has been a quiet vacation so far at Das Hofkathaus. I’ve been scribbling down some ideas for a new piece but not sure what kind of piece it will be – I’d thought of a short choral piece or collection of pieces; other tidbits could turn into an orchestra piece – too soon to tell. I finished reading a book Wednesday night which I highly recommend (and I’ll mention it later). And a great deal of time was spent watching the kittens.

So far, the kittens have explored the bathroom and the immediate periphery of the neighboring bedroom, much to their amazement and delight. As of yet, I have not seen Frieda herself outside the confines of the corner behind the toilet, though I know she must venture forth when she feels it’s safe to eat and use the litter box. Here she is, last week, imparting the Wisdom of the Ages to the three orange tabbies, Abel, Baker and Charlie. “Tales from Behind the Toilet” might not rank up there with, say, “The Silmarillion” but it seems to be helping her kittens make the adjustment to the next stage of their lives.

Already, they have figured out the mysteries of the litter box – theirs, at least (an old baking dish, now retired, pressed like many retirees into new and unusual service). Three of them, so far, have demonstrated they know how to use it and, even better, how to flush. Every now and then, they try to climb into Mamma's and find it a bit of a challenge.

Equally curiously, three of them are already eating adult food, passing up the watered down supposedly kitty-suitable food I’d been putting down for them, soggy-soaked dry bits and watered down canned food. Guy Noir is even eating the adult dry food which surprised me even more, figuring they wouldn’t be ready to eat something like that just yet. Reading all the recipes for post-weaning food, it just seemed like it’d be weeks till they’d get around to real adult food.

Of the five kittens, I have now held all of them, even if only briefly, without any retribution from their mother. Abel, Baker & Charlie are all males, it turns out, but it looks like Blanche and Guy Noir will be undergoing Name Changes soon since I’ve discovered Blanche is a male and Guy is a female and it would just be too confusing to keep explaining that... And since the tortoise-shell isn’t really black-black, maybe I’ll save Guy Noir for some future all-black cat. How many chances are there of having a black and a white cat from the same litter I could call Blanc et Noir? Perhaps I could call these two Alban (which means White or Pale) and Nora (from Noir, meaning Black) – more poetic than the literal German of Weiss und Schwarz...

Hmmm, Blake could mean either light or dark and is considered a non-gender-specific name. Theoretically, I could name them BOTH Blake... but that would just be too confusing, period. Oh wait, how about Alban Blake and his lovely sister, Norah Blake?

In the naming of cats, ordinarily I shy away from actual human names. When I was living in Connecticut, it bothered me to hear my neighbor call after Susie like she was a dog – until I realized Susie actually was a dog (I never did find out what his wife’s name was). I did have one cat named Denise – rescued as a stray kitten probably barely two months old – but that was because one of my other cats was Pastiche and from the same litter as, no doubt, Denise’s mother which then made Pastiche her aunt and Denise logically the, er... uhm, well... you get it...

It’s possible Guy Noir may end up being a non-gender-specific pet name like Gremlin and the angelic-looking Blanche something like... Angel (not that there’s anything especially demonic about the tortoise-shell: she’s so innocent looking, it would be an illogical choice of name – then, too, aside from the fact how many cats have I known named Gizmo, I’d need to keep referencing that 1984 film and I hate having to explain out-dated Pop Culture to the next generation.

A friend had once named his ex-stray “Mephistopheles” except he was pronouncing it “meh-FIST-o’-fleas” which was just too much to explain to people who, like me, felt it needed correcting. An actor friend of mine who had just played Macbeth in college had taken in a stray kitten he named Fleance.

I’d already gotten into trouble with past cats’ names, having to spell Chaumleigh for disbelievers or explain how Roquefort got his name. It was plain to see the blind one who could find her way around a room after one exploration should be named Radar.

Of course, like composers coming up with titles for their more abstract pieces, I suppose I could just call them Cat No. 12 & Cat No. 13...

So, as Abel, Baker & Charlie all begin to grow into something less distinct from each other, I watch them all scrambling around the floor and wonder if they will soon earn their names? Until then, I guess, these two’re still Blanche and Guy. And “One of the Orange Tabbies” (or perhaps Larry, Darryl and the other brother, Darryl)... Though of course, Blake & Gaia Noir... has a ring to it...

For everything else, there’s LOLCats...

Dr. Dick

Thursday, May 24, 2007

One Small Step for a Cat, One Giant Step for Kittenhood

The kittens have reached the Month Milestone – actually, today was Day 32. So far, they’ve been shambling and shuffling around their bathroom world for the last few days, getting their sea-legs ready and practicing their wrestling moves (which also means wrestling with anything that moves, including my foot). But last night another milestone was reached: I had left the door open to the master bedroom and turned around to capture the moment from perhaps the wrong angle, rather than capturing what might be thought of as the wonder in their eyes:

Here’s one of the orange tabbies (Baker, I think) looking out at this whole new world they’ve just discovered. For a while, they stayed fairly close to Mom – in fact, one time when she hissed (presumably at me), they all went shuffling back to her as if she’d said “Get back here, NOW!” This time, their sense of adventure won out.

But it was another of the orange tabbies – Charlie (left) – who actually crossed over the threshold and was the first to explore the carpet in the bedroom. He went about two feet, then turned and ran back into the safe and familiar bathroom. His eyes were big like he couldn’t wait to tell everybody else: “you won’t believe what’s out there!” Huge, to those who’s spent all their lives so far underneath a toilet tank...

In a way, I feel a bit of that same excitement and uncertainty, moving back into the house I grew up in, getting my childhood bedroom ready to be my composer’s studio.

There are many reasons I’m glad to be leaving midtown Harrisburg behind me, after 24½ years of living in the same neighborhood – certainly before Break-In Season has gotten underway – but I’m not keen on Suburbia, myself, never was even when I was a kid. Still, the older I get and the more reclusive I become – especially when I want to compose – it’s preferable to the noise and inconsiderateness of city living. It’s not ideally quiet, here: the kids across the street have some fairly noisy motorcycles but they’re not bad; more of a problem is the constant whine of the highway 1/4-mile away which never seems to let up, 24/7. The traffic around the mall is absurd and at times it’s like Christmas Shopping even in April, but I’m used to shopping after work, doing my groceries around midnight even if I detest those self-scanning aisles you have to use then (“please put the item back in the bag...”)

I’m not sorry to no longer be renting, after my latest experience with landlords – the hole in my bathroom ceiling from last December still has the plywood patch over it and the pipes upstairs still leak; the back yard has been mowed once since LAST May – but I have concerns about being a home-owner, now, the financial responsibilities aside.

So, like the kittens, I tend to look around with a sense of awe, especially moving from a small apartment into a house three times as big. I wonder what big changes will be happening in my life, now, two hours before I turn another year older, experiencing my first birthday without my mother here to remind me that I had kept her awake that night until 2am.

There’s a tiny remnant of a red peony in the back yard, the only plant left from the ones that she had brought to the new house from the old one when we moved in 1960. I know those peonies existed in the back yard when I was a year old because I’ve seen them in old photographs. The story has it they were originally my grandmother’s peonies and Mother had transplanted these from her parents’ old house when they moved after World War II because they had been an important part of her own childhood back yard. That could make this plant, at least originally, almost 88 years old if my grandparents planted them when they bought their first house in 1919, the year my mother was born. There had been three plants – the pink one and the white one died over the years, but the red one is still hanging in there. One flower opened this afternoon, so tomorrow I will cut it and put it on her grave.

Change does not have to mean better, nor does it have to imply it could be worse: it just means things will be different. And the challenge is to accept it with the sense of wonder as if you’re discovering it all for the first time, and contemplating the possibilities.

Dr. Dick

Friday, May 18, 2007

One of those Epiphanies

This is a picture I’ve known for a while, perhaps years ago when I didn’t really think too much about it. This is my dad playing the Hammond Organ in the living room of the house I was born in, before I was born. I knew the organ was one that belonged to a friend of the family’s, Jack M, who after the War was building a house in Lemoyne and who’d ordered a Hammond organ from J.H. Troup, the best known music store in town, located on the south end of the square opposite the church.

Also part of the legend was how the organ was supposed to be delivered but Jack’s house wasn’t ready yet, so he asked my dad if he’d be willing to “give it a temporary home” because if Jack said no, the organ would go to the next person on the list and Jack would be moved to the bottom.
My dad, who’d learned to play the piano when he was a kid by watching a player piano and figuring out where to put his fingers when the keys went down, was delighted to help out. During the war, he had had a chance to play a Hammond in the base’s chapel and fell in love with it.

What I didn’t know until I was going through one of my mother’s ubiquitous calendars which she kept like a diary, was when the organ arrived and when it left for Jack’s now-completed house. I would have assumed months but it was only a short time – weeks, really – which puts a more definitive time on when this picture was taken.

Friday: April 18th – Organ [underlined several times] delivered in morning
Thursday: May 8th – Organ being taken to Jack’s

But in the week’s following this brief 3-week visit, there are about fifteen references to my dad going over to Jack’s, several times specifically “to play the organ.”

Then there was a week’s vacation in early August – on Monday, “Jack’s for supper – ball game... appt 8:00 to see Wayne Wiegle at Pueblo - organ” followed by a blank Tuesday and then, on Wednesday, “Jack’s at 12:30 - Wayne to audition Curly [my dad’s family nickname] at organ & sign papers for rental” [presumably for an organ at the Pueblo]. The next day, after my mother canned pickles during the afternoon and took my brother (then almost 6) down to my dad’s folks who were going to babysit him, my folks went to the Pueblo at 9:00 for my dad’s “debut at the organ.”

The first time he played as a “professional” musician. She added this note on the opposite page: August 7th, 1947, Norm had his debut playing the organ at the new night club “Pueblo” [then mentioning a friend who stopped in as a customer]. August 8, 1947 – went over much better. Received his first tip ($1.00) from a gentleman who requested ‘Trees.’”

And so my dad’s second career began: he would play at several clubs and restaurants in the area for the next 17 years or so, before the rheumatoid arthritis made it impossible for him to play. When he would go into the hospital for frequent treatments, he talked J.H. Troup’s into bringing in a Hammond so he could play every night for the other patients after dinner, leading them in sing-alongs and playing requests. It was as much therapy for him as it was for them and the room was always packed.

Today, my dad’s birthday, I looked at this picture of him playing Jack’s Hammond in our living room – a defining moment in his life – and realized, if it was taken between April 18th and May 8th, 1947, a month or less before he turned 29, that next week I will turn twice the age my father was in this picture.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Happy Mother's Day from Frieda's Five

Mother’s Day, last week, had been a little more difficult than I’d thought even though much of the day was spent trying to get two short posts up on “Dr. Dick’s [Other] Blog,” thanks to major issues logging in (and staying in) to blogger... There were lots of things I wanted to do that day but just didn’t get around to any of it, given the blogging frustrations. Finally, after several hours of foiled and failed attempts, I managed to get them posted but I also wanted to do a quick one here: who has that kind of time? It’s not been completely resolved and it seems to be an issue with THIS computer (which is where I do most of my blogging, anyway). The next day, I tried again to post some pictures of the kittens, but even though by then I was able to log in (and stay in) alright, the photo up-loader kept saying “sorry, loser...” So forgive me if I haven’t been posting a lot here.

One of these days, I’m going to get back to composing again, but I have to get my piano out here and that just hasn’t been in the cards: though it turns out the hernia is really two hernias (herniae? hernii?), the problem basically is a pulled muscle in my weakened abdominable wall which is keeping the packing and moving down to – well, nothing, at this point.

Meanwhile, some of Mother’s Day was spent with the new mother in my mom’s house: Frieda the Ex-Stray whom I’ve started calling Frieda Farrell with her five kittens. As of May 14th, they were 3 weeks old. So here are a bunch of pictures I took this past week.

This is a typical group shot. Frieda had them in the right corner behind the toilet of the “turquoise bathroom,” one of 2½ bathrooms in the house, then more recently moved them to the left corner which seems a little more spacious. She still hasn’t gotten used to me and hisses if I get too close to them. After all, not only is she a stray, she’s a new mother, defending her babies. Here they are, lined up (from left to right) Abel, Baker, Guy Noir (the dark one) and Blanche (the cream tabby) and Charlie.

Here they are, trying to get a meeting organized to wish Frieda a happy Mother’s Day, but Baker seems to be having a little trouble getting them called to order. Guy Noir & Blanche are wondering what’s going on with the guy and the camera and Abel is just easily distracted. That’s Charlie hiding under Guy Noir, trying to pretend he’s AWOL...

Here’s a close-up of Guy Noir: who, more and more, is beginning to look like those gremlins you’re not supposed to feed after midnight... Originally, I thought this one was solid black but in the first week or so, all you saw were butts and back legs while they body-surfed into nursing positions. It was only later that, after the eyes opened up, he (or she) began showing more specific signs of orange tabbiness mixed in among the black -- and dig the white bib! Technically, I imagine this is a tortoise-shell which means, like calicos, most likely a female and hence not likely a Guy, and not really Noir enough, either. But for now, it works...

Abel and Charlie (left) have begun working on their wrasslin’ moves... Originally, the three orange tabbies looked identical but even now, as their personalities start surfacing, it's sometimes difficult to tell them apart. Abel is paler with more prominent stripes; Charlie is darker, generally, and more subdued.

Baker, right, probably wondering about life beyond the toilet bowl... This one probably has the greatest sense of curiosity and not surprisingly, a few days later, was the first one to be seen testing her sea-legs in the vast space in front of the toilet! But she soon scampered back into the corner and Mother's protective presence. It's a big, scary world out there.

Apparenly, Blanche has doubts about the wider world, too. She and Charlie are the quietest of the litter. And I'm not sure who wins the Cutest Face Award, Blanche or Baker...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Beethoven Writes a Gut-Wrenching Chord

Another in a series of somewhat surreal stories from the collection, Stravinsky's Tavern.
*** ***** ******** ***** ***

Ludwig van Beethoven sat at his desk, surrounded by papers and pens, the rug underneath (much to his landlord’s dismay) stained by spilled ink. If only he could figure out how to use one of the computer programs all his colleagues talked about using.

The way they explained how it works, you could write a passage, then sequence it in a different key just by hitting a button – it could even play it back to you so you could hear what it sounded like. Beethoven thought this was a cop out: what composer worth his salt needed to have a machine play it back to him? If he couldn’t hear it in his head, should he be composing in the first place? And if he needed to work it out on a “machine,” wasn’t a piano good enough?

No, he shook his head, this new-fangled technology only made it possible for people of little talent to fancy themselves “composers.” It made it too easy. Why, if Vivaldi didn’t have that cut-and-paste function available to him, he might come up with something more interesting than all those endlessly repeated figures in his accompaniments. And that Glass guy – Philip or whatever his name was – it’s just copy-paste paste paste paste paste paste paste...

He turned to his piano and took a typical Glass figure, singing “dah-doo-dee, dah-doo-dee” over and over while he played:
But then he heard, in his inner ear (the true test of anyone’s creative genius), this:

“Hmmm,” he reconsidered, “I should put that aside, that might come in handy some time...”

But today he was supposed to be working on the last movement of his 9th Symphony and it had been giving him an immense amount of trouble, not just figuring out how to begin but where it should go. He had given up the light-hearted finales of his teacher Haydn – too “lah-dee-dah” for him: Mozart had seen to that. A finale needed to be a summing-up, not a cutesy kind of waving bye-bye. He shuddered at the thought, after these first three intense movements he’d struggled with for so long.

No, this needed to start... to start with... uhm... he pondered a while. He wracked his brain a while longer. He sipped his coffee in between ponderings and wrackings. He paced the floor in between sippings. He looked out the window onto the street below in between pacings. After this long, gorgeous, luxuriously unfolding slow movement, he needed to get the listener’s attention, but how?

He sat down heavily at the piano – his poor battered, long-suffering Broadwood piano given to him by a London piano-maker – and crashed his hands down onto the keys in exasperation.

If his downstairs neighbor had been in, she would’ve thought Herr Beethoven had completely lost it, perhaps even passed out, falling across the keyboard, dead on the spot. “Ja ja, I heard it – he collapsed just like that – bang – like a body-slam in wrestling, ja!” She was always watching wrestling on TV – a big fan of Hulk Hoffmeister, she was, too – one of those times Beethoven didn’t mind being deaf, he thought, not having to listen to that racket seeping up through the floor of his music room. People pitied poor Beethoven who couldn’t hear the roar of the traffic outside his apartment or listen to those rock-star wannabees crooning on TV without an ounce of self-respect. The guy next door, who watched every episode of “Austrian Idol,” often wondered what Beethoven had to talk about with his friends if he couldn’t hear what was going on on TV. Pity, that...

But Beethoven felt something. He tried to play that same chord again, just bringing his hands down without really thinking about what they were playing. Yes, he thought, yes! Something deep inside him stirred from the discovery: this was IT – the chord he was looking for!

When he hurried over to his desk to write it down, he felt something else stirring deep inside him: something that snapped and hurt just a little, at first. He hurriedly scribbled down this chord
then felt along the right side of his abdomen... there, just above the belt. Damn... it felt like... well, he’d never had one before, but he figured it had to be one.

A hernia!

He tried to keep working on this chord but the pain in his side distracted him. He was used to being ill but he always hated it. Worse was going to the doctor’s – they’re always bleeding you for something or other, but he figured “what if I just pulled a muscle? What if it’s actually a badly timed attack of appendicitis?” One of his neighbors had a friend who thought he’d had a little gas but when the pain got worse, he went to the hospital only to discover that his appendix was about to explode. Such a silly little thing, an appendix, yet it could kill you if you weren’t observant.

Beethoven kept feeling his side. It hurt when he pressed on it, it hurt when he tried walking but not so bad when he sat down. So it wasn’t continuous – hmm, probably not the appendix. But just in case, he grabbed his coat and shuffled off toward his doctor whose office was a couple streets over, just by the post-office, and he had some things to drop off there, anyway. Off he went, annoyed by the interruption when he was on the cusp of inspiration...

Unfortunately, the nurse he disliked the most was on-duty. Brunnhilde Waffenschlagen had no time for patients and she let them know it. It was her job to keep the office in line with all the government regulations and she did it with the heartlessness and precision of a Prussian field-marshall.

“Ach, Herr Beethoven,” she preened with barely disguised contempt, “vhat zeemz to be bozzering you today, ja?”

“I must see the doctor – I hurt myself... uhm, here,” he said, putting his hand gingerly against his side, “and I’m not sure if it’s a hernia or perhaps appendicitis. Could he take just a few moments to check this out for me?” He hesitated adding “please” for fear it would sound more like he were begging. And Beethoven didn’t beg.

“Und zis pain, ja,” she said, looking down over the glasses resting near the tip of her otherworldly nose, refusing even to glance where Beethoven had placed his hand, “zis happened vhile you vere vorking, ja?”

“Ja,” and he began telling her how he was composing and came up with this incredible chord – well, he wasn’t even sure it was a real chord, because it sounded like a pile-up of dissonances and he hadn’t had a chance to work out how it would all resolve just yet.

Nurse Waffenschlagen’s eyes glazed over. She hated when he started going all technical on her. She would remember to use as much medical jargon on him as her training would allow.

“Zo, zis did not happen vhen you vere valking along ze shtreet or doingk ze dishess – but vhile you vere... compozingk?”

Annoyed to have to explain it all over again, he simply shouted, “Ja!” Then mumbled something he hoped was sufficiently under his breath. Judging from the arch suddenly appearing in Nurse Waffenschlagen’s right eyebrow, it was not.

“Zen, in zat case, ze doctor cannot zee you yet because zis vill be a Vorkman’s Composer Insurance Claim und zat vill reqvire a whole different series of protocols vhich must be followed TO ZE LETTER und zo you must contact your composer’s union representative” – she tapped this out syllable by syllable as if marked staccato molto, her voice becoming more and more shrill – “in order to obtain ze appropriate claim account number for ze file, und zen, ja – und ZEN... ve can talk about setting up ze appointment.” She was clearly enjoying every minute of this.

“But I just want to find out if this is indeed a hernia or something more serious like appendicitis!” Beethoven was close to roaring.

“If zis turns out to be a... khhhhhernia” – she spat this out with a rolling, guttural “h” so thick Beethoven would need to clean his glasses – “zen it vill be covered under ze Vorkman’s Composer Insurance Regulations. If not, zen your own insurances vill cover it, but zat, I am afrrrraidt, vill be a different processss completely, do you underschtand mich?” By now, she had traversed her full range from below the staff to several lines above.

With that she slammed the window shut, stood up to her full 5'2" height and turned toward the photocopier to continue processing insurance forms from last month’s patients.

Beethoven was simply furious. It was not a good start to his day.

- - - - - - -
Dr. Dick
© 2007

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Just a Moment in Time

At three minutes and four seconds past 2:00am today, it will be

02:03:04 05/06/07

which will never happen again in our lifetimes unless you plan on being around in a hundred years.

At the moment, however, a quick glimpse into an important moment in the life of a kitten: Day 13 and the eyes are beginning to open. And in this photograph, the first time I really get to glimpse some faces! Mother and the Mighty Handful are doing well -- tentatively Frieda's kittens are named Abel, Baker and Charlie (for the three orange tabbies; though one is darker than the other two, they're basically so far indestinguishable), and, pending gender identifications, Blanche and Guy Noir for the cream-colored tabby and the black one (which may, I think, turn out to be a tortiseshell and therefore likely a female).

Meanwhile plans for completing the move have been put on hold by the arrival of my new side-kick, Hermie the Hernia, who will preclude a great deal of packing much less anything else: I think there may be a new comic short-story in the making dealing with workman's comp insurance regulations, perhaps something Wagnerian...

As we approach Mother's Day next week, I find myself reading Joyce Carol Oates' Missing Mom which I figured would prove cathartic rather than just purely entertaining, now that I find myself living alone in the same house my mom lived alone in, reading her 1,000-plus mysteries, for the past nearly 22 years. More on the book, later.

Moving back to the house I grew up in, I have to admit some of the things I've been finding, sifting through my own stuff that has been stored here (either by me or by my mother) have been surprising to unearth: an interview with me about my compositions when I was having works played by the Harrisburg Symphony in my mid-teens, talking about creativity issues and finding myself almost the exact opposite, now; and what may well be the first piece of my music I ever tried to write down, embarrassingly infantile considering I was just learning the basics of theory and notation, but hey, I was 8 years old... But that's for a later post, too.

But it's now closing in on 02:03:04 05/06/07 and I doubt I'll be around in 2107 to note its passing once again: perhaps a toast from me, the cats... and Hermie... Then we can all gather 'round and do this again next year in June -- at 3:04:05, 06/07/08! (But without Hermie...)

Dr. Dick