may, 2002

rachel, oliver, and me

rachel, oliver, and me

Last night, Quintett concert. This is what I've been putting most of my available mental energy into for the past umpteen weeks, certainly the most recent week (which, of course, happened to be crunch week, during which everything else and its mother was also due). Instead of writing my long-overdue Music 48 paper, which Lex has since agreed to let me "talk" on Monday, I wrote program notes for the Schumann (Oliver did the ones for the Dvorák). (Alexis screeches, my sister is starting to write like an intellectual *musician!* ARG! I think that's a compliment, heh.) In a last-minute rush to get the program to the printers Tuesday afternoon, which they subsequently fucked up beyond belief -- twice! (we asked Tony not only to tell the audience to turn off their cell phones, but also to inform them that we were playing a Piano Trio and Piano Quintet, not just the 'no' as chopped by the incompetent printers), compile program notes and get bios ready, Medieval-Renaissance Music got a miss. (Oops, but this late in the semester, Michael's been comparing Palestrina to Bach settings of the same text, saying "this is how he meant to do it!")

I have been from time to time this past week working also on other things -- I worked with some cool freshmen on my last CS22 assignment, and remembered (a) that group work in a good group is preferable to doing a large assignment by yourself, and (b) freshmen are people, too! Which is not an amazing statement in and of itself, but returning from abroad, I've met about six freshmen this semester, so it's cool to meet and work with more.

In keeping with my compositional modus operandi of freshman year, I scrapped the awful piece I'd been writing for Music 15 on Tuesday and, suddenly inspired, started setting Celan's Lob der Ferne for soprano, viola, and cello (getting Emily and Oliver to play with me). Only short two violins and I'd have had the instrumentation of my freshman Corbeau et Renard, which Cristina sang, but this one's a darker text (both languages here), and requires a darker instrumentation, not to mention tonality. Or lack thereof. I'm rather pleased with the vocal line, and even with most of the harmonies I've sketched in, but the orchestration is coming so slowly, and at this point I have to go with what I've got, and finish the parts in some café in Philly today between the PYO rehearsal and concert so it can be performed tomorrow.

Finished my math paper, revised it, and turned it in two days early so the prof can have a crack at it before it's graded. The title alone should indicate how ridiculous it is: Graph Theory Meets the Twelve-Tone Method: an Algorithmic Approach to Serialism -- that and the three hundred or so lines of code I included in an Appendix, the twelve-tone method programmed in Perl. I had better get an A on this paper.

So not quite everything has been pushed to the wayside. But I didn't go in to work at all this week, and I moved a viola lesson to play in Joel-O's Music 12 concert (his Le Baiser for string quartet was lovely! and I got to play with Tom Whitman, his cello strung with gut strings). It is, as I said, the height of crunch time. We're all feeling it. Yesterday in afternoon rehearsal Lisa broke down unexpectedly, first being belligerent about a ritard into the recapitulation, and then dissolving into sudden stress-related tears. This morning, the adrenaline and post-concert quartet-celebration alcohol both worn off and gearing up for a long day rehearsing and performing in Philly to be followed by more rehearsal and orchestration, upon receipt of an apology from someone who hadn't come to the concert whom I'd really wanted to see there, I sobbed senselessly for about a minute, the sustained fever pitch of the week distressingly manifesting itself in my emotional respones. I came home this evening, physically drained from the Schubert "Great" C Major with PYO in the Kimmel Center (we took all the repeats; it was grueling!) and schlepping around the city with heavy Chinatown purchases (we needed the rice), so tired I collapsed on Rebecca's shoulder briefly before grabbing a red-bean mochi, cup of green tea, and around midnight heading Langwards with my viola for more.

Suffice it to say that there has not been so much extracurricular effort going on that hasn't been directly Quintett-related. We rehearsed a fair amount this week, recording ourselves and listening to it.

And, I am happy to report, all the effort paid off. The concert last night was easily the best I've ever given at Swarthmore, and the best the Quintett has done. Rachel, Lisa, and Oliver played Dvorák's "Dumky" trio in the first half of the program, during which Camilla and I sat in the upper part of the house, me telling myself I wasn't nervous (which I was, a little). They didn't seem too happy with it afterwards, but it sounded great from where I was sitting. The Schumann in the second half, however -- plus violin II and viola -- came together like nothing I've played really ever has. Everything we did in rehearsal and more was there. All the breaths, all the phrasings, all the perfect tempi, all the communication between players (which was visible to the audience! Caitlin commented especially on that), all the articulation ... Tony had nothing but glowing praise afterwards, said we "made his evening," and coming from him that really means something. We came offstage riding the biggest adrenaline rush I've had in a long time, and returned twice to a standing ovation. Damn but we worked for that! I'm so pleased; I hope the recording came out well!

The turnout was good, too. Likely a 2/3rds house, 250 or so people, and I saw many faces I'd asked to come. There was also a fair amount of people I would have liked to have seen there that weren't, some whose absence I was frankly rather hurt by. This was the only concert this spring that I was really fully invested in, into which I've been pouring my energy for a long time, and it's the only one that really shows off what I do here extracurricularly. That many of my friends and people who said they'd go then didn't come feels harsh. On the other hand, thank you very much to those of you who did come -- your presence and support were truly appreciated! -- and for those who didn't for whatever reason, I know it wasn't malicious, and at this point in the semester, it's all people can do to stay on top of their own work, let alone come to their friends' concerts, art openings, shows, &c. We were also triply scheduled against, over Ellipsis and Allan's wine tasting, the bastards, so I'm sure we lost audience to both. Worthstock (which Ross declare he was renaming "Raestock" because she'd given him a ride into the city for the Belle and Sebastian concert the previous night) had also been that day, and the joint CS/SCCS sysadmin [1] barbeque, which I had to give a miss (tequila before concert = no good; plus we were running movements at 5:00), and the ruggers' and Margaritaville drinking started at 2 PM. Perhaps a different weekend next year ...

... for which concert I'm increasingly getting my heart set on playing Schönberg's Fourth String Quartet and the Bruno Walter piano quintet. I heard the latter performed in Vienna in October, and apparently it only exists there -- in manuscript at the Universität für Darstellende Kunst und Musik -- so Oliver and I are going to write them and ask for the rights and the score. The Walter is very fin-de-sičcle and still tonal, but the Schönberg is definitely not. Now I just have to get a quartet excited about twelve-tone ...

[1] I now have root to merlin! Be nice to me or I will read all your email and then delete your account, heh heh.

orange clunkers

I have new orange shoes.

These are the shoes (well, not the exact pair) that my mom has had for as long as I can remember -- really, I think her pair is older than I am -- that she never used to wear around the house when Alexis and I were little, afraid she would crunch our small fingers and toes on the carpet under her heavy wooden soles. They weren't that big, as I recall later, having tried on her pair late in high school and clomped around in them for a few days. But I realized what she meant last night as I was walking around Lang in my new pair after Dan's senior composition recital (my last of the season! Gott sei fucking dank), and navigated around a toddling one-year-old whose fingers were precariously splayed on the steps leading into the atrium.

My pair are of course orange, not the beige she used to have. She remarked in December that she's never found as good a shoe as her plain Dr. Scholl's wooden clogs, and that she hasn't seen them in stores for the past ten years or so. I suggested she check online, and, just as she found a vial of her discontinued Laura Bagiotti Venezia from some obscure Italian e-parfumier, we found her belovčd shoes from the intuitive She got black, an orange pair for me (both in size 7, which I think is about a European 37 -- a 38 would have been ideal, but these fit just fine), and mailed me mine along with poppyseed bagels from the Madison bakery Bagels Forever. The best ever.

So of course I put them on immediately, and ignored the "how to walk in these shoes" directions, painted my toenails orange, and clomped all over campus in them. Trying to break them in by brute force, ignoring also my mom's warning that I should wear them for short periods of time, I immediately got blisters. They've mostly gone away now, and I'm banking on the orange leather uppers being broken in, as I intend to clump all over Manhattan this afternoon and evening in them.

My viola teacher from Vienna, Elena Denisova, is playing in New York this evening. I've known this since December, but of course haven't thought to get in touch with her beforehand. I have a math final tomorrow from 2-5 PM, but I have my math text and a notebook (a Viennese one, actually) with me, and I'm going to study on the train ride up and back. Both of which I'm doing today, in addition to meeting up with Julie Russo, whom I haven't seen since graduation last spring, visiting the H&M right next to the Austrian Cultural Forum, and studying math on the train. All in my orange shoes -- sure hope they're broken in.

I have tried to be a polymath. It's utterly failing. The more I do of Swarthmore and my Viola, the less well I do both of those. That's not true at all, actually, but it may as well be for all I seem to be accomplishing towards either end. My jury on Wednesday, frustrating as it was, turned out okay, but no better or worse than I knew it would. No Garrigues (as usual) and universal comments on inconsistent intonation, but also comments from John and Tom saying that they heard markčd improvement, and that they thought this was my best jury yet. I don't perform solo almost ever, and somehow when I do I don't get myself psyched up enough about it as I do in auditions and juries, so I can almost never replicate the experience in practice.

Playing Dan's concert the other night, for example -- David January and played I all forty minutes of his "Survivor Suite." This was the twelve-tone piece for viola and piano Dan had written for the Music 15 midterm earlier this semester. He'd suggested it (along with the Appatrionata Sonata, closely resembling both the Beethoven and the national anthem) as a Dan-ish joke, similar to his proposed "Bagels and Plagals" music breakfast study group, or this year's winning (only?) Music Department t-shirt submission: a list of music dork pick-up lines, the tenth one trailing off with the footnote "the writer died before completing his tenth." I didn't realize he'd actually execute the idea -- his performance directions dictated that after each 2- or 3-minute long performance, the audience got to vote one tone of the twelve "off the island." It had yet to receive a full performance, though (we only ostracized three tones at the midterm concert), so we spent the better part of an hour Thursday night with a pretty decent audience playing through the piece a full twelve times. It was hilarious, and I got many appreciative comments on the crook-of-arm bowing, and the silent cues David and I threw each other during the four to fourteen measures of rest we ended up having when we got down to just B-flat. The last few iterations were eerily John Cagey, the music more dependent on what David and I could do to extract laughs from the audience and the small tonal thuds of fingertips on wound steel against wood of me fingering my notes I was no longer playing.

For that stuff, I do not get nervous. Yes, it was solo playing. Yes, it was for a good 30 or 40 people. Yes, music faculty were there. But there were no bad nerves involved, no sense of urgency. At my jury, aside from the fact that the stage temperature was about thirty below (and I mean Celsius!) on the stage, my Bach (prelude to the second Suite) went rather poorly. I haven't had time to practice it enough to get it to the point where I'd have needed it to sustain the paring-down that nervousness inflicts upon whatever I play. Comments, as noted above, were consistent -- good tone, very musical, bad intonation.

A lesson this morning with Judy -- my last this semester, and perhaps ever, as she's likely moving -- confirmed that. Before we even started playing today she somehow talked around to pointing out that I really need to practice more than I do if I don't want to be doing this "just for pleasure," and she asked something like, "do you study very much at Swarthmore?" not implying that I don't, but rather betraying a complete lack of a grasp of what Swarthmore -- what a liberal arts education, for that matter, and especially an intense one -- is, means, makes you. The woman is so right-brained it hurts sometimes. Words come very secondarily to her, her primary modes of expression being an ongoing battle between paints and her viola. When we get in a groove we can have good lessons, but today was the second time she made me cry through unfortunate choices of words and implications, along with a general modus operandi of treating me as if I've never played a scale, let alone spent at least a year of high school playing all forty-eight scales (twelve keys, four modes) in three octaves at every possible speed at all bowings and rhythms, treating me as if I have to learn what intonation is, as if things I've been told by previous teachers are not just instruction that runs counter to her methods but wrong instincts on my part that have to be stamped out. It frustrates me no end, and apparently twice to tears. Which makes things worse, because then she -- she, who tells me at least once per lesson not to "intellectualize too much" -- starts intellectualizing why I'm crying, tells me to let it out, which of course I don't want to -- I want to continue the goddamned lesson and play through it -- that it's "okay to cry here." That place is the least okay-to-cry place ever. But before we even started playing this morning, she told me in essence that I was wasting her time by not being more prepared. She admitted while I was sniffling later that her education was the barest-bones possible, that she took the easiest classes she could find to fulfill requirements to get her Master's in viola performance -- admitted, essentially, that she'd had no education (as I have come to define the term for myself, that is, academically) past high school, and had focused monomaniacally on music and art.

To have that luxury! And by that luxury, I do not mean the time to spend solely playing viola -- I mean the desire to do it, more specifically, to be happy without any other intellectual stimuli. My first viola teacher told me once that if one can be happy doing anything else but playing music, to do it -- the path of a musician was a bitch. But that statement has an inverse, too, which is that in order to do music, it seems one would have to be happy doing nothing but music. Is this true?? Where are the polymaths, where are the counterexamples? Do you have to be phenomenally talented in both areas you are pursuing in order to accomplish anything of note in both? Because if I were to, say, drop out of Swarthmore at this point and play viola six hours a day (I'm not going to; chill, mom -- one year to go and a Swat B.A. on the line is nontrivial), would I go absolutely crazy with no one to talk to, no cross-disciplinary papers to slave over and revise three times to finally get an A with the comment "Not perfect, but I've pestered you enough about a very serious effort," no homework, no foreign languages, no computer languages, no books? I am exaggerating but the world of academia is ridiculously unique, and I'm unwilling to forsake it for a nebulous cloud of Time To Practice and Auditions and whatevernot else it entails to be the professional-caliber violist which I want to be able to be.

I see no good way out, but perhaps a rational balance can be reached for next year. I think I'll call Tony and get his professional opinion on this -- as both an intellectual and a fucking awesome pianist, who knows the rigors of both Swarthmore (albeit from an instructor's perspective, but that's enough as far as he's concerned) and the music world, he'd at least sympathize. I'll drop PYO in the fall -- have been considering it anyhow, as Primavera has gotten worse and worse this year, his rantings only magnifying his normal misogynistic racist nasty self, and the great conductor I've seen in past years is these days barely showing himself at concerts. I've had enough of the old man's vitriol, and I don't need the verbal abuse, and I do need my Saturday mornings -- not only for sleep time, but for the practice time that not having more orchestra music to learn will afford me. I'd drop the Swat orchestra if it didn't mean that I'd be gutting the viola section (don't want to leave poor Abram on his ass trying to hold up the section singlehandedly) and the fact that we're doing Tchaik 5 and the Dvorák cello concerto with Oliver in the fall. (Though that would be a nice concert to hear, and not play ...). It appears that I have to take five credits in the fall -- just got an email from the head of the music department, informing their majors (all four of us my year, me, David, Hollis, and J.) that we will be taking Conducting / Orchestration in the fall, as it's now an all-out course and no longer just some nebulous requirement we need to fulfill. If I can have time to practice, I can take lessons with Geoffrey on campus (this will be my sixth teacher in seven semesters, please note!), and maybe accomplish something. So frustrating. How do I combine Swat and music? Oil and water.

So, I spent the morning frustrated as fuck, and bought myself Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories as a consolation prize at the bookstore in 30th Street, half of which I've already devoured. I'd forgotten train reading, and didn't feel like buying an overpriced Saveur, and Jeanne's misplaced article on fairy tales in Spike recently (I liked it, but thought it didn't fit the recent issue's whole "funniness" thing -- unlike the masterful polemic against veganism, heh heh) bubbled Haroun up to the top of my Books I've Been Meaning To Read list. Found it, smelling fresh-baked-bread heavenly of new paper, and am trying to make myself go slower so I have train reading for tomorrow, too.

Train reading for Friday consisted of my math book. I had a final Saturday (note, dear reader, that this is in addition to the final paper I submitted, above, and the take-home final for the same class -- and Math 9 is a PDC!), so I tucked the ten-pound Discrete Algorithmic Mathematics into my lovely orange bag and took about sixteen trains into New York. Stocked up on perfect underwear at the only H&M I've seen outside of Europe -- two locations, actually, that happened to be directly on my route form Penn Station to the Austrian Cultural Forum -- and even found Julie Russo inside the modernist building and its cute recital hall. I ran into Jack and Lisl, in from Vienna visiting their kids and grandkids in the city, and got to chit-chat in German and English with them and Elena and Alexei after the program, who hadn't known I was coming. She played a twentieth-century Viennese program, from Kreisler through Schönberg and Webern to some stuff from the past decade, all gorgeously, cute in her sparkly hair. She told me, "zo, next time you are in Wien, we drink redwine, no praxis!" The cutest. I hope I get back to Vienna to study with her at some point. Fulbright? The schlepp was incredible, but Ross and Rae et al. picked me up at the train station in Philly at 1:15 AM (they'd been seeing Cornershop at the Trocadero) whereupon we managed to drive to Camden and back in the process of returning an incompetent Mawrtyr to her campus. This girl incredibly knew absolutely nothing about the geography around Bryn Mawr, despite being a senior. Utterly useless and an utterly fatiguing detour, but I got to New York and back in a day, and the final the next day didn't suck as much as it could have. I was glad to have gone.

Pain au chocolat and coffee this afternoon chez Gabe was lovely. Too much sugar and caffeine in my system after a second round of both, but what is bakery for if not indulgence? The chocolate croissants and Rushdie have soothed the day's aggravations, at least for the time being. Now to find an extra forty-eight hours per day, and the ability to lead a double life ...

red teapot I should be doing this take-home math final, but my study aids -- the Bartók Piano Quintet; a small pot of tea out of a small chinese teacup -- are more distracting than they are a help. The Bartók is at Dan's suggestion, who wants Midnight to play it in the fall; the tea is my own fault. Dinner, a vegan gado-gado over steamed spinach, is two hours past, and the urge for a postprandial drink has begun to make itself felt in this Pavlovian oral fixation I seem to be developing for hot liquids. Last night, coffee with Tia Maria, I interrupted Joel's seminar paper he's writing on Lob der Ferne and requested a lesson on steaming milk, using Adrian's donated Giapetto to make myself a spiked latte to go with the last of the cookies in the tin and the beginnings of a Delillo; often as with the visiting Julie last weekend it's chai (two lumps plus half-and-half, which, in the creamer without a lid in the fridge, is disappointingly atomizing in the brown tea, not marbleizing in swirls but pixellating into cream-specks) with whatever dessertish thing I've managed to keep around.

Tonight, I went for the green tea in a cylindrical tin that takes hours to steep, some of the better I've had, but distracted myself with the scent of my open drawer. I had been rummaging for clothespins with which to hang skirts so they didn't develop points at the hips, harvested from my viola case from when I'd needed them to pin down the pages of Aďda along the windy Tiber, and sequestered in the drawer with my Phillipine mango slices and Czech red coconut Tygr tea.

It was, of course, this tea that did the calling. Joel had been so taken by the smell that he wanted to smoke it. I'd never heard of a red tea before the second Dobrá Cajovna Olivia and I found, this one in Prague off the main boulevard down towards the Staré Mesto. On the left, in a courtyard, tucked back under a few low passageways and a dark entrance that was morphologically universal enough for me and my meager Czech to decipher -- the Good Tea Room. This one had no hookahs like the one in Cesky Krumlow, but had low glass-topped tables, maybe beaded curtains, pillows, dark-lit, indigo walls? an occultly cozy place with a world of tea. This time, knowing there was an option and having given up on the image we were trying to pass off of German tourist (rather than American), we got the English menu.

I came back there a day or two later, and got the same thing both times: Malayan Tiger, written "TYGR" on the 100g bag I got to take home. Red coconut tea. Whoever asks how a tea can be full-bodied has obviously never been kissed. I have no coconut to eat with it at present (all was sacrificed to the gods of Veganism into a pie of Rebecca's last night) but the tea makes you feel as if there was some just a minute ago in your mouth, or maybe as if you're craving some, and the more you drink the more you can't decide if you've had some or not, what you've been eating. It is not filling but leaves you satisfied and quiet, vocalizing a small syllable of satisfaction and aligning your back against the wall of the tearoom, feeling the pressed-glass edge of the tabletop, wet where the tea has spilled from the hexagonal cups, tilting your head back and pressing it into a comfortable shape in the wall. There must be five languages around you in the middle of Central Europe, in a this small tearoom pushing out the tourism and beer (no matter how good U Fleku) and bumbling English, and compressing all languages into this red coconut hue. Another sliver of coconut (have you had any yet?). The tea smells so red. Are you drinking or eating? The cups are so small that the tea is always warm, and there is always more in the pot.

Who could study math with a red tea?

an overfull xbuffy
an empty xbuffy

With the semester ended and a quick tar command, the debian-user mailbox in xbuffy again shows empty. I haven't seen that whitespace all year. Of course I'm now filling it up with my own queries, re-delving into my computer and grappling with updated versions of mp3 encoders, cryptic help pages, and shell scripting. It would be so easy and so useful to learn bash -- on the list of Things To Do This Summer I hope I don't actually write this down, as I do every summer, as it always becomes far too long and I never accomplish more than two or three things on it. On the other hand, I kind of need to, as it actually matters this summer. In addition to

  • become fluent in bash
  • read those six books in music / math / linguistics / CS on your shelf
  • read debian-user regularly

there are matters like

  • decide where/if to apply to grad school
  • figure out when to take GREs??!
  • apply for a Fulbright / Watson?
  • prepare conservatory auditions?

Perhaps there should be another category:

  • stop smoking crack

That might facilitate things like my simultaneous perusal of the graduate CS and Linguistics departments at UC Berkeley this afternoon and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where Diedre went. The former was prompted by the latter, actually, as while looking through an attractive admissions booklet on the table in the music library today got me excited about a Master's in Chamber Music, so did it depress me about the quality of academics there, or rather (since it's a music school), the probable intellectual interest of 99% of the students there. And that's if I can get accepted at any of these places (they want a 3.6 GPA -- at Swarthmore?!).

This has been a Larger Picture Week, in that while I'm not quite done with exams (an essay on Gesualdo is currently gestating, and I will learn to tell the difference between Josquin, Monteverdi, and Palestrina by tomorrow, when I'm going to complete the listening part of this take-home, damn it all), I've also got a lot of leisure on my hands. I find that sleeping in isn't as luxurious as it used to be, and instead of restfulness brings overwrought psychological nightmares. While I still hate the process of getting up, I love being up before ten, drinking the morning Lady Grey and eating granola and strawberries in yogurt or a bagel ... and oddly enough, sometimes it's better if I don't have the leisure to do even that, if I'm obliged to wrap it up or put it in Tupperware, bringing my lovely new travel mug with a flying Twinings tag down the Barn steps and through the dew in the President's Lawn to an Underhill sub shift, or to a final, or on the train. If left to my own devices I will fetch the paper, spend a few hours reading the front section and (if $day =~ /[Monday-Wednesday]/) doing what I can on the crossword, perusing the magazines that come into this apartment (Paper, The New Yorker, Bitch, and Wired, to name one for each of Ross, Joel, Rebecca, and me respectively), and then discover that it's already time for lunch, at which point I guilt-trip myself out of the house and end up missing afternoon food, being hungry until dinner. During the semester I got plenty of wear out of my mug, but it has been sitting in the cupboard for the past two weeks or so since classes ended.

Perhaps it's the endofsemesterism, existentialism (hey, they even sound alike), prompted by the perspective granted by blank date book pages scrawled lightly with entries like "ross party evening", "quintett dinner chez Lisa", or "gabe martini 9ish", but no implicit classes or work schedule; prompted perhaps by a realization reifying vaguely into the idea that this is my last collegiate summer ahead; prompted by watching Woody Allen (Annie Hall -- almost Kundera with its lobsters/bowler hat, its epic lovers) with some of 2S last night. This afternoon by the purple couches in Lang I had Dufay headphones on studying a Gesualdo text, thinking (as I often have in this class), I could learn Latin, that might be fun and/or profitable (a subject which Claire has recently given up in favor of Bio, not that I blame her given the circumstances). I could learn Latin with about as much effort as it would take for me to become fluent in shell scripting, reading a few man pages or grammars, and scripting a few cron jobs or translating a few odes.

Why not? After all (and seeing the large picture does not make it easy to avoid penning aphorism after sweeping aphorism, let me tell you), the older I get the greater the angle of incidence of me to the Grand Timeline, and thusly the more perspective I get on weeks, semesters, and even years. I really visualize it like that -- the year is a circle, December at around six o'clock, and I currently see the wheel from the vernal vantage point of roughly two o'clock (nothing's at the top, though June should be; the sixth and seventh months share the eleventh and twelfth hours' spaces) -- and, well, I can't avoid uttering the l-word, Life, I see on a line, with my view on it affording literal perspective, the higher I get the more I see and more I can see down the road. I'm in school because I love it, and a B.A. from Swat (ever closer! at this point next year I will be fucking graduating, which is rather sobering, but if I'm looking at grad schools I suppose it should come as no shock) will likely help me do something lucrative enough to stay afloat that I also like. But there's so much of that out there that it's difficult to feel the need to devote my life to something in an immediate now. Given the right circumstances with any of the following, I could be happy:

  1. Practicing my ass off, getting a Master's in Viola Performance from San Francisco or Some Other Conservatory (never mind that music programs cost $20,000ish per annum at the grad level!), performing with a wonderful group all over the country and Europe for ages;
  2. Working my way ever more steadily into the computational linguistics and cognitive science I've begun to explore, coding a bit, researching a bit, a little grad school here or there, picking up a few more degrees, and generally staying around academia;
  3. Apprenticing myself to a master Italian luthier (or a Belgian one -- I can read Dutch, I just now found out, so why not?), learn to build sonorous instruments, and sip cappucino or Leffe for a good long while.

It makes no difference, given a lot of external circumstances. All cities have their appeal -- Vienna, Philadelphia, Chicago, Paris, New York (less the latter, but it grows slowly on me) ... given a teapot, my viola, and friends and lovers, what do the trappings matter?

But this is ridiculous endofsemesterism, and I need to degenerate fast into something petty to avoid this perspective floating too high and losing not only your interest but provoking my own bile. Leaving, frankly, sucks. There is none of the neurotic angstiness of last spring, but now Joel's hunting for disappearing duct tape (randomly itinerant like the cookie dough that later turned up in the freezer, like the avocado pit that never came back) and packing up boxes of books; Ross and Alyssa are in Baltimore for the duration; almost all the underclassmen are taking off today or tomorrow. I'm here for another good two weeks in the Barn Third South -- the one on the top right with the narrowest hallway (the roof slopes in on this floor, and the hall makes up the difference), the one with the leaky ceiling, the one in which you can tell that your tea water is done boiling not because you hear the teakettle shut itself off, but because the light above the table becomes immediately one notch brighter, the one with a peach dining room and a light violet hall, whose walls pale and look almost grey-blue to my very darkly violet room. I'm finally starting to really groove and feel at home in this room, and, as happened in Vienna, I of course now have to leave it. Fritz's dragontree plant and Eve's sewing machine were the completing domestic touches it needed, and now with the purple Daunendecke below Bach (Dancing and Dynamite from summer of 2000), with the dragontree and silverfaced clock, green pillowcase and Mahler and Hawelka on the walls, I don't want to leave. Yesterday morning in a fit of vitamin B-12 deficiency I rattled off a list of scapegoats, people to hold responsible for me losing my wonderful apartment. I'm quite bitter about this. I officially signed up for the fourteen meal plan for the fall, and am very very unhappy about having to return to my archnemesis, the hideously awful Sharples (and don't tell me it's not that bad, Alana; you're the one who's in effect kicking me out of here). It has been suggested that if we as a foursome of roommates had gotten our shit together sooner, we might have been in a better position to keep the place. But that didn't happen, as I always need time to settle into large living decisions like this, and now I'm quite the nomad of an undergrad, in the middle of a series of moves, which have and will take me through at least if not more: Madison, Swarthmore (ad infinitum between those two), Vienna, Madison, Swarthmore, Philadelphia, Swarthmore ... and the great beyond. I am relatively happy about living in all of these places (except for the horrendous meal plan! ye gods, spare me!) but, just as I hate waking up in the morning, do not at all want to go through the process of moving there.

So it goes. As long as I'm round this point in my quest through the ranks of B.A.s, Masters of Music, and Geigenbaumeisters, I may as well suck it up and learn to love to move, and to pack light. But what will I do with my teapot?

Behind the orange desk in Underhill, color of my new skirt and of McCabe's rapidly disappearing carpets, the ones that used to cast an orange glow upwards and make the building hum red at night, midnight oil illuminated by vibrant carpets, the machicolation window-slits of studying students during finals tinged red-umber. Mozart loudly through the speakers on the desk computer. Listening here is never guilt-free -- last week during my shifts, I cycled through Dufay, Josquin, Palestrina, Monteverdi, and Gesualdo, not actively studying for the Medieval-Renaissance listening identification final but not willing to reject all pretense and put on Tchaikovsky. That completed yesterday afternoon, and with it all of my scholastic obligations of the semester, I am now going through the Concerto rep test material one by one, beginning with the only thing I can sustain right now -- Mozart, his d minor Piano Concerto no. 20, and the Clarinet Concert in A. Both dark enough, classical enough, to buoy me up. I slept till eleven this morning, my brain veering off after about 9:45 AM to regions that could have been avoided had I gotten up when I'd decided to the night before. Even though I am not in the throes of last spring, I'm being dragged along through as my heart repeats a perennial, similar cycle in miniature, echoing subconsciously through the same pattern. I will perhaps need two years' distance or more to view everything with equanimity. Let the Mozart sustain me. Just don't listen to Beethoven yet.

It is a mark of my geekage, I've heard it said, that I check my email first thing upon arising, that it's the last thing I do before I go to bed at night, and that when moving, it's the first thing I really set up. These traits have all changed a little since last spring when a fellow geek made the accusation -- I usually can shower before I check my email in the morning, and sometimes get off to class or work, too (but there have been times when that's meant I've gone places I didn't have to because I missed a message); perhaps I still actually check my email right before going to bed. And now certainly it's not the first thing I set up. Orange has been down for about two days now, languishing in various bits and pieces somewhere within the Delaware Valley. It has taken until tonight, ostensibly June first (I should have been dipping, but I was instead prowling the misty Crumhenge with Abby, Melanie, and Loring around midnight, looking for a pig roast but finding only dew) but I am still awake on the last day in May, when I'm fully in Philadelphia, to get this baby up and running.

But it's still true. My bed isn't made, in fact, I'm half unpacked all over it. Bookends are still in the Barn and The Vegetarian Epicure, The Ambient Century -- from Mahler to Trance, and Gödel, Escher, Bach are all lying sideways among pounds and pounds of other next to a plant or three that need to be re-potted, two of them, and may well die in this light-less room. Jenny and I had flipped a coin for the room facing Chestnut Street, which we both preferred to this room that faces another building, and I won ... a week or so later I get a call from her, upset that she has to have the smaller room and reneging. Not wanting either to switch halfway through the summer or to engage in a power struggle, I just moved into the smaller one. I'm rather bitter but I'll get over it, especially once I've unpacked more. Plus this room comes with a stereo, hehe, which is currently blasting out Temple Public Radio late-nite jazz.

The past ten days have been off and on, business and indolence, Schubert quintets in the belltower, liquid intake consisting almost exclusively of tea (a last-hurrah darjeeling, New York Times, and cheese & crackers this afternoon) and beer (Yale house barbeque later in the evening). Significant exceptions have been made for water as the season heats up, into the nineties today as we were moving. Lisa and I have been running and working out as the spirit moves us (in addition to making crčme brűlée and butter, simply because we could), and it's been good for me, as the multiple treks up and down the stairs of both the Barn and Hamilton Court (the complex of apartments of UPenn students in which Eve, Jenny and I are for the summer) felt like just a nice afternoon, not the unappreciated sweat can be if I'm out of shape.

The more I move apartments the more I get a better sense of what I'm looking for in one. Light, kitchen space, a good bathroom/shower, and the ability to paint the walls. Here I have sort of the first two, and not the third or fourth. The Barn, decrepit as it was, gave me all four, and I'm very sad to leave it. More expounding on that later, however, as I ought to get the purple bed clothed and my ass to sleep, so I can finish the schlepp into the city for the summer tomorrow.

all this ©nori heikkinen, May 2002

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