Sitting in the Kohlberg coffee bar, before Claire gets here, which is
unusual -- I often find her perched (as only Claire can delicately
sprawl, long limbs just short of skewed on the overstuffed chair) on
one of the gigantic halfloveseats, having come from some unknown
class, and headed towards insect bio. My class was canceled this
morning, however -- Akira was geeking lonely in the lab at 8:34 a.m.,
looking at the homework posted online "due" today (usually just
reading, which is why I skim them early and then don't actually look
at them until a few days before the final one in a week-series of
three is due), which stated that the prof would be out of town. But
I'd already showered (last night, to wash the Crum off my body --
"whatever's between our toes probably has a short enough half-life
that it's died already," joked Abram last night after said
appendages had gained feeling enough to notice the grit between them,
hastily angezogen along with socks in a hurry to rewarm -- and
already breakfasted, the last of the waffles as per Allison's golden
raisin suggestion, with yesterday's New York Times, as even though I
would have liked to have had a crack at today's crossword, it was not
worth two floors down and up plus a cold interlude in my bathrobe.
So I was already up, and left the sunless Sunlab (blinds often drawn
all day long, the wonderful windows it affords are often ironically
blocked) in favor of a still-empty coffee bar. Shelled out a dollar
for Laurel's favorite tea, the purple Tazo with the ridiculous name
"passion," and I finished my math (handwritten this week), and am now
smelling last year in my tea and watching the college awake and
descend from their 8:30s -- bioethics midterm -- Claire and Phil;
muffins to feed the masses; chai and coffee in earthlust mugs wake up
a Friday-morning Swarthmore.
I'm forgetting my German.
-- I'm trying not to. Sibylle writes from time to time auf
Deutsch; Flo's emails often have words of it thrown in; I talk to
Oliver sporadically in one of his mother tongues. But it's not quite
the same as being immersed, and it's slipping.
-- I'm working on it. He popps into my mind at unexpected
moments, from the apple smoke to the
roses at the Rose Tattoo Cafe last night (of which I was last year the
beneficiary), and the Australian Rosemont half traminer half riesling
that was earlier that evening opened with dinner (this fall Muppets
fodder). I had the sense to give my glass to Claire and content
myself with occasional swirls-and-sniffs, but the roses got me later.
I called Mom a wreck and finally went to bed feeling a catharsis.
I can't be in German conversation this semester, what with the kicker
of the job at Penn which I'm actually making negative money (give it
up for SEPTA, boys and girls). I'm still planning to be in the intro
Lit class in the fall, but I think about returning to Vienna all the
time now. Woody Allen's piece Sing, You Sacher Tortes! in this
week's issue of The New Yorker was hilarious, loaded with
references to the "Fun-de-siècle" [sic and that was the point] Wien.
Günter and Leopold Hawelka drink coffee at me from above my desk.
And just now at Screw, the DJing Ross put on a Chemical Brothers
track that, granted, he wasn't mixing himself, and even though I knew
I wasn't somewhere in the innards of Kunstpark Ost in München, and
with the clientele present I couldn't even have been at one of last
year's almost-raves -- but I
suddenly stopped feeling the groove and wanted very much to be back in
my bed and unremembering. He doesn't even write back anymore.
So I'll read my Märchen and my biography of Alma Mahler that his
mother gave me ...
So I'll read my Märchen and my biography of Alma Mahler that his
mother gave me ...
... and I'll keep my German.
... and I'll forget my German.
When Sigur Ros electronically wraps his Icelandic arms around your
head you know you are decontextualizing quite well. The last place
for my sweet-smelling lollipop was on our well-referenced balcony in
early November Munich, a new MaNGo jacket and still a flicker left.
But Mike is here now helping me remove associations, beginning with
the Rosemont in the fridge, which is smoother and much more flavorful
chilled, and I was chill enough tonight to not let the associations
Joel, who's on his third bowl of mint chocolate chip, twirls the star
lantern and it throws its decagonal perforations onto the darkened
peach walls. Seated on the opposite couch, I watch the three-D graph
of the lamp's interior swirl the room around me, like stars on the
Autobahn in a yellow convertible, trance from its speakers. Joel-O
starts moving his arms in the manner of the motif we learned this
evening in African -- hands cupped, swirl your palms like S's, and
then bring them straight forward, stepping side to side in a
parallel-position plié, purple lapa swishing around my legs. Joel and
the French freshman who may not always get the moves but is always
smiling, told me I was the only one in the class today who actually
got the full-turn hungué ("you looked hot!") -- I was too
employed in pacing myself through the prep, the swan dives and
fish-grabbing, and then quarter- and half-turns to notice if anyone
around me had also succeeded in whipping full around in opposite
directions for four fast beats one after the other. And it felt like
the Górecki did this weekend, with 2001 -- the first few times, my arm
fell off after holding the viola there unmoving for the better part of
an hour; gradually it got easier and I learned to pace myself. By
last night's concert in Lang, it barely hurt at all. Joel was amazed
then ("so much so that he put his music theory homework down
halfway through the symphony," Ross noted), especially at the
cadence to the first movement, but I think he's more amazed now with
Kid A piping steady and slow through the kitchen speakers.
I had thought there was no way I would be able to take Mike up on his
offer, having met him around five in Lang -- I had been taking up a
practice room on the west side of the building, the big ones with the
most in-tune pianos, and the set of sixteen or more feet needed space
"because they were big and smelly," Mike said. But at 6:03 or so, I
put in the last notes to my zwölfton composition, or at least the last
sketches to remind me exactly how to fill in the last bars when I wake
up and when the whole system of twelve-tone would have less potential
of blowing my mind. Dashed off to dance but as usual five minutes
late meant ten early. And when Joel and I got home by quarter till
eight, Mike came over and the chinese marvels my roommate was making
began happening progressively slower, until I took the tofu-slicing
knife away from him so he wouldn't be too astounded by the texture of
It must have been my new purple shirt from Anthropologie. The whole
day. I got the shirt Saturday afternoon, on which day Lisa and Oliver
and I stayed in the city the entire day, moving from Tuscany Café to
PYO, the nasty maestro to Anthropologie, the generally overpriced but
with good sale racks store to Pietro's Coal Oven Pizzeria, the wannabe
European restaurant to the Kimmel Center, where we played a rehearsal,
twentieth-century Polish music to the Pastoral, a small Korean
restaurant on 13th, and from the resultant dinner scene (Rachel Kane
sitting next to Pat Dostal -- a lethal, or at least side-splitting,
combination) back to the hall. After all of this I managed to get to
Screw with punster Dan, and even have a nice time before the chill and
But today, as I said, must have been the lovely purple shirt, which I
wore with my purple pants, a veritable violet wunderliche Elfe.
Only one cup of green tea, and even though I can't have gotten more
than five hours of sleep last night, I've been mentally keen the
entire day, and physically awake, too. I found out on the path from
Insect Bio and in African, respectively, that two of my friends'
screws actualy did something along the lines they were supposed to,
one partially at my advice, and one at my (albeit accidentally tacit)
suggestion. Things have been accomplished and I've earned time to sit
around and mumble decontextualize ... decontextualizing ... for
a few hours while we consumed all the sautée, a few crackers, and
cinnamon cookies with Pfefferminztee just like at Aïda (though the
cookies are from Trader Joe's and vegan). Decontextualized the wine.
Decontextualized some of the elements of the early November Münchner
The only recent addition to my room I can think of that would make my
desk smell like it currently does is the new Beethoven quartets I took
out of the library, all three Rasumovsky and the op. 131, played by
the deities of Emerson. But I know Beethoven better than I do this
smell -- pungent, orange, and Eastern European. Under the quartets, I
realize, is the voluminous bag of Hungarian scharf paprika I
brought back from the Naschmarkt for my and Fanjul's
kitchens, opened two evenings ago so he could smell it (but not
yet take with, as he was on his way to Brazil for a month), and still
permeating the room forty-eight hours later. This flavor of the dark
red powder I have not found this side of the date line, and it was the
main ingredient in every goulash east of it.
I lead a colorful existence, I realize. Smells and sensations figure
prominently into my experiences, which are ridiculously rich and
varied. What would someone glean of me, whose only or primary
encounters with my world were through these selective online
codifications? Hopefully that the smells of a string quartet or the
music of bread baking touch me physically somewhere along the lines of
heartstrings and a Brahmsian Seele.
I remember thinking, the first week of my freshman year here at
Swarthmore, that while I knew none of the people surrounding me now,
within months there would be not only friendships but drama and
intrigue, stories which grew out of interpersonal dynamics, and
college would so begin to weave itself. And now this paprika; the
damn passable vegan cake I made the other night for Rebecca (all vegan
food I make is for her, and for my ego), boysenberryjammed and
confectionerssugared and fed to my roommates and the sailing-bound
Chris, with whom I always seem to fall back so easily into a lovely
dynamic; the concert hall this morning, a small fifth-semester music
class congregated to hear its one violist play five out of seven
twelve-tone pieces we'd written, including Dan's "Survivor Suite" in
which the audience votes out one tone at the end of every time
through; Joel-O's peach tea, orange Pims, scrabble, and New York Times
crosswords; the Ville bookstore this afternoon with Eve and Jenny at
its liquidation sale, the smell of old Hungarian dictionaries,
hymnals, and Fortran manuals perfumed in book dust like my
grandmother's shelves; --all these are in a day which was not during
the process uplifting and invigorating, but which was indeed
sixty-plus degrees out and celebrated in red and black ("the poster
girl for Orchestra 2001", Dan commented during the Schönbergian
quasirecital this morning, looking at my matching red socks (stolen
from Rebecca -- I'm out of laundry) which got more comments today from
people astounded at my similarly-clad feet). And more waiting in the
wings, but after I finish this math, the Beethoven to accompany me
auditorally, and the paprika olfactorally.
I've braided and scarved my hair in a paltry tip o' the plait to the
Countess Erdödi's coif last night in Jackie's Immortal Beloved,
a showing of which film we accidentally stumbled into when Ross decided
we (= barnies - Joel + Alyssa + Jesse, a friend of his from home and
NYU, down for the weekend) were going to watch all two hours of the
collected Beastie Boys music videos in the Cinema on campus. The
Viennese cult-musician film fanatics had beaten us there, however, so I
had a fun few hours of identifying a few buildings (though it was
mostly shot on location in Prague) and themes (Emperor; second movement of the Seventh; the
opening few bars of the kissing-in-the-park scene Erotica; Ross mocked
my less-than-instant apprehension of the Fifth) in a well done
Amadeus-genre flick I've been meaning to see for years. Decided
thereafter that I will (a) practice more and (b) wear huge earrings
like the slew of aurally-bedangled Countesses therein.
Reading the soft-porn mensual Paper this morning, a dip into
Anthropologie last weekend, the Sunday New York Times Style pages, all
make me want to "have the biggest creative dick" (as Orson Welles
mocked Cary Elwes last night in Cradle Will Rock, after the
Beethoven movie), and, instead of buying forty-dollar beaded-and-glass
lamps from overpriced wannabe French chic Philadelphian stores, make my
own, à la the creatively self-vesting Laura Cline. Where can I get
beads and hoops and odd pieces of material? I used to know this in
Madison, back in the day, and it's something I haven't rediscovered in
Philly and Umgebung.
Spring break is exactly what I needed: both of that (springish and a
break). While I think it's not really the season yet -- probably just
the ever-present threat of erratic global-warming just fucking
with my seasonal heliotropism? -- it has been warm enough for me to run
around in sandals and my leather jacket without freezing toes and tits
off (always a danger, and I'd like to keep all twelve) the main point
is that there is no school, and many fewer obligations. Sleeping as
late as I want and then taking time to leisurely drink tea and do the
Times crossword puzzle (I got down to about six clues left today --
Monday!! -- before I had to ask Rebecca, and then Ross, for help).
Two parties this past weekend -- one here, in honor of Ross and
Alyssa's first birthday (adorable), and one behind the flower shop, in
honor of Gabe's restocked bar. Both were quite fun, even if the
morning after the latter was not. My Guide has been pulled out
and thoroughly perused by everyone in the apartment and their friends;
exactly what I'd intended it for. Conversations provoked and plans
developed. Yesterday afternoon I lowered the stand (still stolen from
Lang -- I love having a lovely black Wenger music stand (stenciled
"L-A-N-G" in white on it) in my room, which is a necessity seeing as
how the administration somehow can't or won't humidify the building.
Adrian's cello has a foot-and-a-half-long rift up the face and through
the f-hole; both Lisa's and Alyson's violins have split open
along the seams; Oliver's cello's crack is reöpening. It's appalling
and unacceptable, and I only use my music locker this semester for
temporary storage -- one night per week, max.) -- and pulled it (the
aforementioned ganked music stand) into the sun, set my tattered cello
suites on it, and played through the third, then the second, C major
and D minor, in the afternoon light. My new strings will arrive soon,
which will revivify my viola's voice, long overdue. This afternoon I
walked around campus with Rebecca briefly, and then went
Cabaretunderwear shopping with her and Melanie. Acquired a wonderful
Sri Lankan orange cloth bag from the other, who sold it to me at
price, having had had no use for it since she purchased it abroad over
a year ago. Red squash curry is now on the stove, and Perl, viola,
and beer with Eve and Tim in the offing. Both spring and a break.
Spring's here and is being quite nonpsychotic about it, for which I am
profoundly grateful. Bunniness is breaking out slowly, and one of my
roommates has been bitten; the flower trees around are beginning to
bloom; the temperature is rising steadily to a radical sixty-plus
today, enough for sandals and no coat. But this is welcome
heliotropism, a far cry from the unconsciously masochistic
dark-seeking lunacy of last
March-April-May, of which I am really glad to be free. How is it that
I have such a concrete sense of the word 'metaphysical' -- a concept
which seemed abstract, high-flown, and academic until I stood beside
myself in the meta physical, out of my body and basking moonrays for
three months last spring? As I commented to Gabe while shooting pool
the other night (to make up for Saturday night, he teased me; and I
actually legitimately won a game!), the farther I get from the lunacy,
the more glad I am to be rid of it; the more I realize, Márquezesque,
how choleric it is, how it flips your sense of lightness and weight
and makes you covet that which oppresses you, how it removes you from
your body and makes you nocturnally love the darkling moon which
supplants the essence in your eyes.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
While breathing the rejuvenating air this afternoon, green grass along
the train tracks and even the young spring off the pavement in the
did not invigorate me like it usually does after a few months of cold
if not snow, did not imbue me with a new lust for life and love as it usually does this time of
year, and did not make my head soar skywards as it did Jenny's
last year (and then mine, albeit more metaphysically), it rather
grounded me nicely. The breath was fresh and yet my head stayed
beneath all nine levels of clouds, in a cathartic sequence of
spiration. That level of consuming psychosis, while astoundingly
wonderful and exquisitely enveloping at the time -- and not to be
belittled in retrospect! -- is absolutely unsustainable. And I am
glad it is spring, and that I am now back to my body.
Joel Alexander Blecher is my hero. Within fifteen minutes of his
return from the depths of Ohio, he has extricated the battery from
that which I thought was broken, the subject of my and Rebecca's
futile prowlings last Wednesday afternoon (we were, apparently,
looking for love in all the wrong places -- the internet proved a much
better and more varied merchant)!
* * *
Ross and company are off to watch Björk in the cinema, about the
timing of which he asserted "if that work was really so important,
you wouldn't have left it until the last minute, right?" and then
told me he wasn't joking. Well, some of us are not so morally
upstanding as to have completed all our spring break work over spring
break, and are swinging back into swattimode this evening. This is
also perhaps because some of us went grocery shopping this afternoon,
preceded by making some others of us breakfast this morning (which was
actually bad -- am I losing my touch? -- but I blame it ultimately on
the green food coloring).
The absence of getting much done could perhaps be blamed on the brief
trip to New York which I took with Eve this Friday-Saturday, a
twenty-four hour or so dip into the biggest city ever (is that true?).
It doesn't seem so much like a city to me in the same sense as the
ones with which I'm, to greater or lesser degrees, familiar:
Philadelphia, Chicago, Vienna, Paris, Munich, Barcelona -- all of
which seem so much more contained, identifiable, even small compared
to the, what, eighteen current millions only in the city proper? The
more I go there the more I like visiting, but I can't ever see myself
living there. There's too much that has already been done, said,
worn, performed, experienced there; not much is new in that huge
anonymous context. Grad school maybe (were there to be a school I
liked there) -- which is why Jerome and his friend Will are doing it
right, at NYU for the post-bachelor's' version of Swat.
Eve and I arrived in the city Friday afternoon, and chilled for a
while, dinner with her family in the lovely, Biedermeier-inspired but
more modern classicist apartment at 92nd and Park, at which Mary's
immaculate conception (by St. Anne) was brought into question -- turns
out her mother is only mentioned in the Apocrypha, though who would
have known it? certainly not Art History. After my mother was called
to determine the above and a session of brownies (from-a-box; the
proportions of which the 10-year-old Isabelle has memorized) and
coffee with a non-caffeinating, 17-year-old Philippe, went out in the
evening with Jerome and Will to my first bars in this country. While
I still enjoy getting carded, and my I.D. is completely legit, it's
almost a let-down sometimes, that I am without question admitted to
everything. An interesting paradox of sorts, as I really like being
able to buy a beer if I damn well feel like it, but I guess I just
missed the ritual six months ago (okay, minus three days -- my
half-birthday's on Wednesday). Josie Wood's, where Jerome knows the
bartenders, was quite chill, and Eve and I were glad we'd invited the
boys along. More off of which to to bounce banter and I like the way
Will winks, perhaps specifically because you wouldn't expect it from
him, and no one really ever does. Repaired a few blocks east to Café
Pick Me Up, where I shifted from Sam Adams to white (Pinot Grigot; J.
picked) and a shared piece of really excellent chocolate cake. I.D.s
around and this wasn't as anticlimactic, but I can see why they'd card
the two girls both under 5'4".
Ironic as it was that I went a near hundred miles northish just to
hang out with Swatties, Gabe, who was visiting Jerome and Will, came
by the next morning to lend his efforts to the best omelet I've ever
eaten (well, likely one of the only omelets I've ever eaten), with
mushrooms à la Mom (but
with medium instead of Fino sherry -- Amontillado, as in the Poe --
sweet and wonderful, with bouquet garni herbs which her father
translated for me when my flaccid French failed on sariette
(savory)), translucent onions, and red pepper braised in their juice.
He did the (fresh) eggs (from Eve's chickens), more than the lion's
share of work. From there we went downtown to Juilliard -- which
building was familiar from my audition; at which school I'm glad I'm
not -- where Philippe held a concert of four of his pieces. The
unfortunate cellists thankfully were in the high school division of
that institution, because had they been in the collegiate, they should
have been immediately expelled. But despite their (and the flutes')
collective flubs, the program went off quite well, a cute concert and a
wonderful project for a seventeen-year-old. Back uptown collected our
real clothes and then Eve's car, which drove us not quite to Swat but
veered off at the Bryn Mawr Bertucci's, where I ate a good half a head
of roasted garlic in addition to the rest of the meal. I should do
that more often. Back home, I dragged my full bag of dirty clothes
over to the nearest set of functional machines to do laundry at Willets
for the third year in a row, beginning the Scheile novel
I borrowed off Eve's shelf after I finished the academic reading left
(well, for one class). Ross and I watched a ridiculous Peter Sellers
flick -- but Alice B. Toklas never advocated just stirring the pot in,
o ye misguided hippies.
Today has been rainy and cold, but the trees don't seem to have
noticed, blooming pink along Harvard Ave. where marTin shook blossoms
onto my head a year ago, and wouldn't let me reciprocate on account of
his allergies. (Wow, how encompassingly symbolic was that last
sentence! Kick me; I should have seen it coming on so many levels.)
My roommates are all back from respective escapades and quintett
rehearsal canceled from a missing violinist, and I no longer have to
go out into the March sludge this evening. Duck umbrella or no, it is
tea and cookies and A Theory of Meter as Process for tonight.
The most (printable) viscerally pleasing thing I've done in the past
twenty-four hours has been to defenestrate a rotten pineapple and two
rotten pears over the rickety, painted-over fire escape of our
third-story apartment. This has not been a new concept ever since
seventeenth-century Prague, but I wonder what if the delight the
Bohemian nobles can have taken at the thudding of Wilhelm and Jaroslav
out the Hradcany window into the ditch could have possibly equaled that
given to me by the noise of burnt chick peas ricocheting gently into
the grass, or the solid squelch of half-liquefied pears, or the rattle
of the tree into whose boughs I cast the two-week-old Carmen Miranda,
rotten already when Alyssa cut into it at the beginning of spring
My roommates discourage this practice. I think they feel they are
protecting the beauty of the lawn behind the house, but I can think of
no better use for that soil than to make it as fertile as possible.
And really, what were you going to do with those pears?
This morning I was momentarily completely befuddled as to what a
grinning construction worker was staring at as I hurriedly made my way
to my math midterm. It was not the leer I might have expected under
certain circumstances, as I was properly clad for the cold rain, and
had no idea what he saw. It turned out to be exactly parallel to the
initial confusion I had while driving around my old car -- I
couldn't figure out why people stared and laughed until I remembered
that I was driving an orange, fingerpainted behemoth. I thought to
look down this morning as I headed, past the back of the Dupont, torn
up in preparation for the construction of the new science center, and
realized what must have made him staring so bemusedly: red gloves; the
yellow-and-orange scarf I got in a head shop around some dim corner in
the Stare Mesto in Prague a few months back; my new bright
orange Sri Lankan bag with the strap cutting a swath of colorful
diagonal across my yellow-vested torso; my pink duck umbrella casting
a rose glow across it all.
Joel-O ran across a line quoted in a Levinas reader for Philosophy the
other day, and asked me to translate. Ich bin du, wenn ich ich
bin. Several email exchanges with a native speaker or two later
about the implications of the indicative / environments and meanings
of the subjunctive as distinct or not from the Konjunktiv II or
the conditional, we have gleaned that Paul Celan knows how to write a
good line. He could have written it to me last May, and it wouldn't
have had to have been him.
I received a lovely newsy email from a friend four thousand plus miles
away this afternoon, long overdue but making up for the delay in
content. Makes me happy about the situation and realize that even if
the distance must be praised (but Celan didn't mean physical), there's
a communication to be kept up and a friendship to be maintained.
Ach, komm' mit mir, in die Bockzeit in die ausere Bezirke von Wien
wenn alles die letzte Grün der Jahreszeit ist (nothing Gold can stay),
geh' mit mir und trink' weißen Sturm; du wirst das lieben, und wenn
nicht, ich kann gern deine trinken ... (Scheiße, daß alles schon
Lob der Ferne|
~ Paul Celan
Im Quell deiner Augen
leben die Garne der Fischer der Irrsee.
Im Quell deiner Augen
hält das Meer sein Versprechen.
Hier werf ich,
ein Herz, das geweilt unter Menschen,
die Kleider von mir und den Glanz eines Schwures:
Schwärzer im Schwarz, bin ich nackter.
Abtrünnig erst bin ich treu.
Ich bin du, wenn ich ich bin.
Im Quell deiner Augen
treib ich und träume von Raub.
Ein Garn fing ein Garn ein:
wir scheiden umschlungen.
Im Quell deiner Augen
erwürgt ein Gehenkter den Strang.
I read about "meter as process" tonight, as Chris Hasty weaves
abstract terms into a surprisingly coherent picture of such a
psychological and philosophical twisting of perception! How can I
hear the three dissimilar eight notes in a Viennese waltz and count
them as the equal and periodic, even though the third hobbles
belatedly over the cobblestones durch die Straße above the
outlying wine cellars in avenues of the 21st district? Nothing gold
can stay but I think this green has potential. Even if Celan makes my
Augen quell a little in the retrospection.
Knowing I would kick myself later if I turned down the opportunity to
see Don Giovanni yesterday afternoon, I bought Rebecca's ticket
off her and joined the troop of kids going in Swat vans to the city.
Reminiscent, as so many things are, of last year, when the boy and I
threw on clothing and ran over to catch Porgy and Bess. I
remember feeling as if the simple black dress was just a sheath, and I
had my hair down, as did the woman of the older couple sharing the
parquet-level box we stole for the second act. The two men bantered
-- he told us we had a lot to look forward to -- and stroked their
respective partners' long hair: hers silver, mine brown with what my
grandmother calls a Scottish red glow.
So it was not without parallelism, but nothing I do these days is. It
was without maudlin parallelism, though, and should have been more
reminiscent of the recent operas
I've seen than that of a year ago, but sadly disproved itself.
I saw Don Giovanni in Paris at the Opéra Bastille with my
mother a year and a fraction ago. It was a fantastic production, even
if we had scalped nosebleeds and no operaglasses, but I was proud that
I understood the French supertitles, and thrilled to see my first (and
still only, as a matter of fact) Mozart opera. Plus the cast was
awesome, and the staging amazing. The Philly Opera, on the other
hand, was kind of lame. I went expecting it to be not quite up to Viennese standards, but with
something at least metropolitainwürdig in mind. Julian had said the
cast was "not spectacular," but Emily dismissed her voice teacher's
blasé condemnation as a snob's palate. But he was ... well ... right.
Richard Berenstein's Leporello was the only really good one there,
although David Pittsinger in the title rôle wasn't too shabby, either
(and had the body to pull off the unctuous cavalier he was supposed to
be). But the supporting rôles didn't even do that, not to mention
Zerlina swallowing the middle syllable of "sentilo bat(te)re"
and Don Ottavio utterly failing to be heard. I don't think my
impression of the whole production was ameliorated much by the fact
that the Commendatore's ghost was just a sophomoric special effect of
a large fireplace-for-maw face projected onto a scrim, and that the
misogynist cur's ultimate end was not, as in the Parisian staging,
dramatically pyrotechnic, but rather lame: after refusing to forswear
his evil ways, the Don was attacked by men in white lab coats, forced
into a straitjacket, strapped to a gurney, and wheeled away screaming.
Pretty anticlimactic and it was all I could do to keep from hooting.
But, as I said, my palate's been utterly pampered by now, and I guess
the only cure for me is to go back to Wien (where they were showing
Die Zauberflöte tonight! ::sob::). Or move to
New York, if they have Stehplätze.
With the valiant attempt at opera taking up most of Sunday, and PYO
and a viola lesson consuming Saturday, there wasn't much left of the
weekend that wasn't spent playing pool with Gabe and a bottle of
merlot (the latter won, I think) or at my first Tom Jones trip of the
semester. I coded half the CS assignment with amazing rapidity in
about thirty minutes that evening, astounded at my own relative
fluency and speed -- of course today I learn that I did it in O(n)
time, when the point was to do it in O(1). Fine print, I ask you.
Another math assignment set in TeX; another package
(\pstricks) like a new toy.
Talked to the burnt-out German today for the first time in months,
preparing (mentally, at least) for his Swiss emigration, and asked him
about an untranslateable in the Celan. --I'm not much of one for
poetry, he said. At which I laughed in his face: "I know." He
protested, how did I know; what was that supposed to mean? Just as I
would never get a response to something that wasn't one level of
abstraction up from reality or somehow belletristic or poetic from
Thomas, so would the elder brother never reply to a non
life-threatening email of mine that wasn't a Linux question.
African tonight was perfect. Not that I got all the moves, but I
started curving through my back in hyperextension (beautiful! Kemal
told me of my rolling through my spine in the warmup) in the downward
swoops of the hungué, and mostly got the circling hips across the
floor. Joel and I returned to the dance studio to (well, retrieve my
forgotten water bottle, and) tell Kemal how much we love his class.
It makes my fucking day, always, even if I am a big white girl in a
lapa. After a pretty damn together hashing-through of the Scherzo of
Schumann's Piano Quintet this evening and a brief culmination at Paces
with the kids (who will mostly be in Philly this summer, it looks like
-- quartet reading, anyone?), ran into Raf around the billiard tables
in Tarble, who asked how I was -- I think I said something like, it's
been a slow week so far, and then realized that it was only Monday.
Weeks don't begin around here, they just keep going.
Rapidly cooling in front of me is a warm oatmeal cookie -- the best
recipe I know, from Laurel (way surpasses Joy) -- and my second liquid
vice of the day, another cup of black tea with ridiculous spices,
half-and-half, and sugar. I'm trying to limit my caffeine intake,
what with the shelf and a half of black mango, earl grey, darjeeling,
excellent green, and so on that calls my name every time I pass by it
to open the refrigerator. The darjeeling has become incorporated into
my lunchtime ritual -- a sandwich, always two pieces of lightly
toasted oatnut bread, one half smeared with pesto, the other half with
whatever leftover peanut sauce (gado-gado; bahn thai; bottled) we have
lying around, perhaps a very thin layer of yellow miso under the
peanut sauce; jarlsberg and white cheddar; spinach; today I added
avocado to the mix. That and a mug of the purple-bag Twinings, sugar
for about a second (1.5 lumpsish), no more than a tablespoon ("half a
golf ball," insists Rebecca, always eyeballing it) of half-and-half.
Like my face and the gap in my teeth, I think I inherited the
half-and-half from my mother. Her theory about these kinds of things
tends to be, if you break the cookie in half then the calories fall
out, which means you're then justified in eating the two pieces. This
subconscious dieting is likely why she always keeps a pint of
half-and-half in the fridge -- never cream -- to drink with coffee, as
the skim milk she keeps around for her daughters (the elder of whom was
turned away from sogenannte "ghost
milk" to whole last spring, and has since found a happy medium in
2%) just doesn't cut it.
Cooking, too, I got from her. Perhaps it's not as congenital as the
half-and-half, but for some reason, though I refused to wear pink from
when I realized what I was doing until a good 16 years of age, I must
have managed to dangle for a good part of my early childhood from her
proverbial apron strings (perhaps I should consider wearing one -- it
would certainly save hundreds of quarters in the washing of black
shirts and pants in which I inevitably masochistically seem to like to
cook). Somehow by spending time around the kitchen she designed and
laid out herself -- still by far the best one I've see, though I've
seen lots, and many in more opulently architechtured houses than hers
-- I managed to absorb a sense of patience to wait as the onions turn
from sulfurous plangent white to an almost-caramelized translucence in
butter, a sense of what you can substitute and when, a sense of the
basic proportions of a cookie or curry powder recipe. Sherry, though
she's kept a bottle of Fino around for years, has been a recent
discovery on my end, as have her ridiculously wonderful mushrooms. Though I didn't
start baking bread in earnest until I went to college, and though she
can still kick my ass at braiding nisua, I do all right by quiche and
our improvised brandied apple tart.
Before I went off to the Barn this January, she warned me against
spending all my time in the kitchen. I don't, but the time I do spend
there reminds me how glad I am to be off the meal plan. Food that you
want, when you want it, at all hours, without leaving the premises,
and neighbors from which to borrow things (like the oatmeal tonight
-- I had the dough all made before I realized that there were no oats
in our pantry). And cooking always takes longer than one expects. I
left African tonight, physically drained as usual, but so satisfyingly
so. Had just spent the morning playing some Mozart clarinet quintet
for Tom's music 12 class, then at math; a quick sandwich-cum-avocado
and the requisite darjeeling; then to Underhill to hash slowly through
the isorhythmic movements of Machaut's Mass with Dan and David,
drawing charts of sectional similarities divided by taleae for
the Agnus Dei; followed by two hours of Schumann with my
Mitternachtkinder. With two hours of pelvic contractions (ba-dee
... ba-ya) on top of that, all I wanted to do was boil macaroni
and inject the calories directly into my bloodstream. But of course I
ended up heavily modifying a recipe I found online, and coming up with
a spiced red lentil
half-curry on the fly. Alyssa came over after she finished
drumming the second round of African and helped me eat the decidedly
un-macaronilike curry over rice, and then left before I could load her
down with oatmeal cookies to take to Paces. Second South went into
raptures over the plateful I brought down in return for their oats
("wow, wanna borrow something else from our kitchen?" "Oh no, I'm
Jewish!! well, maybe I'll pretend Passover hasn't started just yet
...") and after another dozen, I froze the rest of the dough for
when Ross and Joel-O can eat non matzoh meal in eight days.
Finishing this cookie and chai much later than I intended. But a full
and pleasantly-fed belly will make the graph theory go down easier.
this morning's grass
this morning's grass
(as the tips of my shoes show,
having been scuffed through it)
is still wet
with last night's dew.
all this ©nori heikkinen, March 2002