january, 2009

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 22:10:27 -0800

New year's day, my kitchen was so dirty (bottles and bottles of champagne empties, including the Veuve magnum and the Dom whose cracking cork I'd carefully undone the night before; my stash of IKEA flutes both broken and intact) that, too daunted to even attempt breakfast at home, I decamped in the sunny morning to Café du Soleil up Fillmore. I edited photos; while my latte was soy, I started 2009 off with a very unvegan sticky bun.

Julie met me there just as my MacBook battery was running out; hungry again but still not ready to clean my apartment, I ordered an open-face sandwich involving both pesto (Parmesan) and goat cheese.

Goat cheese.

Julie had been saying something, I realized, for at least 30 seconds. Meanwhile, my brain had been swooning, my mouth swept off its feet, my inner monologue left speechless by the first bite of sandwich. I had to ask her to repeat whatever had been drowned out by the cheese, the first such I'd had in about five years.

Why yes, I am vegan. Why do you ask?

And so it was, almost, last night at Classical Revolution at the cafe of the same name. Squeezed in among hipsters and cityfolk, glasses of beer and Apple laptops, a standing quartet read a cute Mozart as I began to thrum with the evening: Heatlamps and a not-yet-summer breeze; various kinds of smoke drifted in from the street; the Leffe in my glass; the pretty I-V-I of the high strings.

But then they began the clarinet quintet, the one we'd studied so ardently in Music 12 in college (ten years ago! Hollis posted back when I frantically pulled out my iPhone and posted on his Facebook wall). And then the Schumann! And if I'd been in the middle of some coherent-yet-didactic sentence about even temperament or perfect fifths directed at the ginger-haired boy sharing my chair and my beer, it sheared away from my tongue like an avalanche and I sat rapt, alternately yelping in remembrance or slack-jawed, confronted yet again with the knowledge of what it is to play these pieces.

Though the urgency has dimmed over the last five or six years; though I've contented myself, mostly, by accepting symphony invitations, by finagling free opera and then paying handsomely for proper tickets, even recently by singing in this lovely choir; though I've entertained ideas of masters' degrees in CS-related topics, thoughts that my studies were best spent on TCP/IP right now; I am left with the sense, upon waking the next morning, that I've veered too far. My current labels and narratives for myself involve the words "site reliability engineer," "geek," "left-brained," and "Python"; but they haven't managed to placate that 20-year-old bright-eyed musician who thrilled at Shostakovich and knew, very clearly and very early, that, despite what it said on her undergraduate diploma, she must play this music.

To consider this again is almost like reopening a wound, or going back to a relationship that's failed so many times -- I've done this thinking; I've written these rapturous words; I've made these plans and then not followed through on any of it. I have a laundry list of glib, cocktail-party excuses. I calculate the value of my almost-fully-vested stock options (in this economic climate, ha) and how far they might let me ride at the same time as I reflect that I've been burned by this before. I almost can't bring myself to write this all down again -- I mean, I haven't even chopped my fingernails off or opened my viola case since last night, so where could this sea of good intentions possibly go without the drastic action I'm unwilling to take?

At the very least, I now have two new year's resolutions:

  1. Figure out this whole eating-dairy thing;
  2. Think hard about those quartets. And maybe show up at Classical Revolution one night, viola in hand ...

Mon, 26 Jan 2008 18:34:50 -0800

At the end of most yoga classes, once the didgeridoo or show tunes or Jeff Buckley has dwindled softly to a close and we remember that we're breathing, we'll roll from shavasana onto our sides for a moment, and Les will tell us that "we pause for a moment in order to be a witness to the transition of the focus of the yoga." But last week, we all paused -- all of us: the yogis, the Americans, the world -- to be a witness to the transition of the presidency, and to the transition of the focus of the presidency. Election night back in November had been momentous -- we'd all watched in elated disbelief, drunk with joy and champagne and hope, as Obama spoke to the world from Grant Park in Chicago -- but I'd forgotten, almost, that this was going to become real soon, that the song and dance we went through every four years would soon result in an actual result. They kept saying "President Bush" on the radio, which seemed to undermine the victory.

But I realized it was actually happening perhaps on MLK Day last Monday (powerfully, the day before this Inauguration Day) when, since I was off work, I walked into that 9 AM yoga class I can never usually make it to, and not only did the first song Les played incorporate the words of the "I Have A Dream" speech, but the final one was an old tune whose chorus said simply, Change gon' come.

And somehow, it did -- on Tuesday, between those freezing on the National Mall clambering over the frozen reflecting pond, those watching on a jerky hulu.com from our wireless cards on the shuttle, those taking it in on the big screen in Charlie's Cafe at work; we millions watched as a horrible farce of a monkey who's been occupying the White House since my sophomore year (I remember thinking at the time, oh well, at least no lives are hanging in the balance of this election, or anything -- how bitter the retrospective irony!) was whisked away by helicopter from the capitol, defrocked, stripped of the scepter, which was passed without incident to a man whose very image with a hand on the Lincoln Bible choked up most people I know. Barack and Michelle glittered in loving photographs at inaugural ball after ball.

The hardware store down the street from me was selling "inauguration flags" for $2.99 a pop. The entire length of Bush Street in San Francisco, from the Presidio to its end at Market and Battery downtown, was renamed "Obama Street." Jaime reported spontaneous dancing outside the White House. Neighbors greeted each other with "Happy Obama Day!" I felt kinship to the word "patriotic" for the first time in my life.

This morning, I heard NPR refer to "President Obama," and my heart skipped a beat again. It's still true! No matter what may come, know that last week marked a momentous change, that the collective sense of history was palpable. Yes we did.

all this Šnori heikkinen, January 2009

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