december, 2003

Mon Dec 1 16:34:35 EST 2003

Oh, the bug just bit.

I spent the weekend telling Wendy et al. that I was happy enough in DC, that until one of the grad school, travel, or Europe bugs bit, I had no reason to go anywhere. I like my job, my surroundings, my friends, &c. ...

But turning on WCPE's ogg stream this morning, and hearing Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G minor, BWV 1058 come over the airwaves, a different bug sunk its pincers into my brain -- that of music school, and the specter of my viola.

(16:30:21) Jaime: so what prompted the music school fever?
(16:31:57) Nori: a bach keyboard concerto i heard this morning
(16:32:33) Nori: i heard it, and was like, shit. i can't be on the other side of this forever!
(16:32:58) Nori: it's just classic bach, classic counterpoint ... nothing mind-blowing on a novelty level, just a fantastic epitome of exactly what flows through my veins instead of blood.

Anna admitted this afternoon that she was surprised that I've seemingly come as far from music as I have. It does seem significant, I suppose, dropping the music major, signing on with StreamSage, and settling into the comfortable and totally fascinating world of computational linguistics.

But if that's what makes me get up in the morning, it's not a reason to live. Music is.

The Manhattan School of Music has an orchestral studies program. The New England Conservatory has Kim Kashkashian. The San Francisco Conservatory of Music has a chamber music program.

Date of Matriculation: Fall 2005
Instrument: Viola
Degree Sought: Master of Music (MM)

That gives me time to prepare, should I keep my nose to the grindstone, or the metronome, as the case may be.

Diedre (who went to SFCM, if I recall correctly) once told me -- I recall clearly -- that if I would be happy doing anything else in the world, but music, to do it. It ain't easy, she said. It's the archetypal starving artist lifestyle. But if you can't be happy doing anything but music, then you should go for it.

I'm happy enough here ... but there's a qualifier on the end of that. And mornings, drinking English Breakfast from my Brahms mug, and afternoons, listening to the allegro from Brahms' fourth symphony, I know that I could be happy without the qualifier. Yes, much less comfortable. Less well-off. But damn it, I have a passion. Jonny, of the Stanford a cappella group the Fleet Street Singers, noticed this immediately when I met him my freshman spring, and told me to keep playing. Daniel echoed that during an impromptu Brahms duet last spring. Russell this weekend, reading my smoothie book while waiting on red pepper pasta sauce, suggested you could just substitue me for the main ingredient in the passion fruit shake. Even Mark at work has noticed this, and didn't even know I played. If it's so apparent that everyone but me can see it, what's keeping me?

I've needed to explore my options, it's true. Swarthmore, and a non-music major, were necessary; I would have burst in the opposite direction without the intellectual coddling and ass-kicking I've received. But now I need to develop my other half, my right brain instead of my left.

Fri Dec 5 07:03:59 EST 2003

The first flakes yesterday, around four
just as we rounded the corner for hole-in-the-wall coffee

(a full espresso bar, set
flush with the side of a building

better coffee than for blocks around,
and now
(like the tiny Studentenkaffeehaus in Vienna
where husky-voiced Irene, lilting
Italian cadences into her fourth-year German
would eat Apfelstrudel

the rest of us,
    ein Melange, bitte

before the drug woke us up enough
to concentrate on Adjektivendungen)
we're regulars)

only then, sun disappeared in the afternoon sky
grey canopy portending the already-passed November

the Canadian pointed out a flash of white
and something small and crystallinely hexagonal dropped
onto Shachi's hair

(never seen snow! movies, yes
but never felt one melt on your eyebrow)

white on harsh black
she shivered
scarf tighter around her face
protested she'd rather watch.

That evening, running
up Embassy Row
three more flakes.

nothing until after asian
tapas, walking home:
entire macroscopic globules start to drift
the size of my whole eye, if it caught one
instead of my tongue

i don't remember sound;
lamplights on snow blot it out

i couldn't move
but for the wonder of it.

russell watched as it stopped me in
my tracks

(the pavement still too warm
to solidify into as much
where i stepped)


only Debussy understands

his Quartet cradling my heart
and occupying its core
exactly as the silent snow
to a Wisconsonite.

Wed Dec 10 21:22:51 EST 2003

Are my eyes that bad? I have to get reading glasses!

Answer: not really. I'm not obligated to get glasses (which, for the record, is not stunning in and of itself -- I've worn some form of optical corrective lenses since sixth grade, with a steadily increasing prescription. I remember putting on my new glasses for the first time and seeing the tree branches pop into minute detail; my mother remembers the wallpaper on her optometrist's wall when first she saw it clear); I could just continue on this primrose path of full-time computer work an concomitant eye-strain, and have my eyes degenerate ("change," euphemeized the doctor assertively) bit by bit. Or, I could get cool trapezoidalish purple and orange frames, and get them ground to wear over my newly -5.75 contacts, minimize eye strain, and perhaps also keep my eyes longer.

Guess which one I chose, almost three hundred dollars later. Jesus, the medical profession makes a killing off its patients!

My mom will flip. I remember her flipping when she had to get reading glasses, at age 45 or 50 ... but those, if I recall correctly (which I well may not), were just magnifiers. These are prescription, designed to take my eyesight down half a notch to my old level (the -5.25 that I've been wearing up until now), to which my eyes have adjusted for their most frequent activity -- reading a computer screen. They, plus my new haircut, will be cute. But I'll still feel old!

The haircut has been long in the coming. Ever since I let Claire chop it in half last January, the little voice urging me to chop has gotten louder and louder, stopping just short of allowing Russell to buzz-cut me ŕ la tenth grade. I placed myself under the knife of Connie, Jaime's stylist who pegged me as an intellectual as soon as I walked in the door in August, and gave me a haircut to match.

This one's much better than the last, though still a weird experience ... I wanted more off in the back; she said, no way; it's totally short already! and refused. Refused? Um, who was paying whom? But she's the artiste, which is why I paid to have it done instead of submitting my head to the shears of a friend ... and it's damn funky, with enough stuff ("product") in it; damn cute without.

Fri Dec 19 10:55:07 EST 2003

Streaming Hail to the Thief, following Kid A. Remembering how Hedda was so overcome by the release of the latter sophomore year that she claimed it made her menstruate early. The chillest moment of the past week or two, even ... waking up thick-headed from a martini for Jaime's birthday lat night, and from the heat having been at a tropical southern-gale sixty-eight overnight (the Texan roommate and I have agreed that we can't agree on the winter thermostat setting -- I just need to open my window, let in the twenty-odd chill, if I'm to sleep at all comfortably (gin or no)); staring at the kitchen, wanting scones to materialize. None did. No energy even for the small flight downstairs to retrieve the paper; no energy (or time) to read it if I had.

It's a whirlwind these days, city living. Time speeds by at a rate previously unknown -- melting months slip under the butter knife before I finish a scone; I look up and it's less than a week left till Christmas -- and me without any shopping done! Even as a stressed-out student, Time took enough time that I could look around me and focus on dates. Paper due at two; class at three; meeting at four; orchestra at seven ... with all the minutiae, I operated on such a microcosmic scale that time flowed with me, minute to minute.

Now, flying from place to place. Philly last weekend, after my ten (knee-hurting) miles (physical therapy today), hurried omelets, we rented a car (still the damn extra under-25 fee!) and blasted up the few hundred miles for Tchaikovsky 5 with the Swarthmore Orchestra (and surprising Daniel & Bruce), then into Northern Liberties with a handle of tequila, to sing Christmas carols in four parts with Amelia on soprano, Laurel & Alyssa on alto, me on tenor, plunking away with Collin on bass on the electric keyboard. Fly around admiring their house -- freestanding clawfooted tub; wood-panelled upper bathroom with jacuzzi; paying in rent what we are for our 2BR slice of a townhouse. Desire to move there for the rents, city vibe, and people. And music scene. Then (paid to make a bűche de noël for the) company party Tuesday (despite the gallon or so of rum in the ganache, it was universally lauded), I remembered that I actually do love my job -- which is why I'm in DC. Details.

It's funny how, doing less than I was in school -- using less brainpower, I suppose I mean -- I still look forward to this December vacation as a time to sleep, and chill. Stay at home. Sleep in. Make cookies. Four more days of madness, inclusive ...

Mon Dec 22 20:24:50 EST 2003

Measuring out my life in coffee spoons?

(This is why I love the Times -- in addition to the fact that it goes down so well with coffee -- on October photo caption of a fashion show described the models as "wearing [their] trousers rolled." New words from today's Op Ed page: undergird; signatory; milquetoast.)

Perhaps. This afternoon, taking the leisurely walk back from work while my wet clothes sat untumbling at home, I finally peeked into the recently gentrified row of U-Street-esque shops on 14th Street. Go Mama Go (which I'd been mentally smushing together into "Go Mango" all this time) had, in addition to tables upon tables of beautiful Japanese dishes, a line of "New Age" stainless cutlery by Amici. Each piece sold separately.

I remembered the spoon I accidentally stole from Rebecca -- beautiful silver; probably at least plated -- that I carried in the pocket of my orange bag for a few years, and which is now the only spoon I like in our drawers. With the original objet de cuillčre now stirring the cane sugar cubes on 9th Street, I felt justified in a replacement pocket-spoon.

Rather frivolous, it's true -- and though one's not supposed to buy one's self things in December, it's not as if I didn't use the StreamSage company card to buy the office a beautiful pump Gaggia (more things to stir sugar into with my new spoon!), or half of my quote holiday shopping unquote yesterday wasn't self-serving -- even though I bailed on the 19 miles Saturday morning after only eight, my iliotibial bands as willful as I am (I grow old ... I grow old ...), I mooned over the Patagonia capilene line, contenting myself and my credit card with a headband and running underwear, woo-hoo! And really, what are the odds that I'll get a spoon for Christmas?

(I could see a future in which that was all I got -- striped socks, orange things, and beautiful teaspoons. It's not an unpleasant vision ...)

The flight attendant comes by with pretzels, for-purchase meals (only the two soldiers, on leave for the holidays from Iraq get one (or two)), cookies, and then, what (having left work early) I'd been waiting for all day: coffee.

(Terror level orange (the only instance in which it's a suboptimal color), I wasn't sure my new implement would make it through the über-airport-security I was selected for.)

I christen my spoon.

Sun Dec 28 15:00:00 CST 2003

at several hundred miles per hour through the clouds
folding into them gently
like hand-beaten egg-whites,
underlining pleasing words in the New Yorker
improbable dresses)
I reach for my point-and-shoot
realizing, even as I do,
that all I'd get would be something out of National Geographic
(I should be so lucky)
and not what I meant at all.

all this Šnori heikkinen, December 2003

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