Wednesday, March 27, 2013

#ROW80 - Young Person's Guide to the Opera



Young Person's Guide to the OPERA

Young persons today have lost sight of the fact that opera used to be the 19th century's version of “Jersey Shore.” Well, kind of. Persons in operas did all sorts of outlandish things that just were not done in polite company. Actually, this analogy doesn't play out well, because all of the shit that goes on in “Jersey Shore” pretty much goes on in real life. Never mind.

Anyway, opera was THE form of entertainment back in the days before television and iPods and all of that, so composers and librettists were hell-bent on coming up with some pretty outrageous stuff to keep the hoi-polloi amused. In Italy, Puccini ruled and he wrote some beautiful stuff. Between Puccini and Guiseppe Verdi, Italian opera was well represented.

The Germans on the other hand, had a few problems. One of them was the Kaiser. Kaiser Wilhelm was a bit odd. He, uh decided, much like Stalin did in Russia several decades later, that he would decide what was acceptable for German audiences. Never mind that the Germans had been raised on the Aesir and Ragnarok and were already of a Berserker mentality. There was a problem with his favorite composer, who later became Hitler's favorite composer. Herr Richard Strauss lived long enough to achieve this dubious distinction, but Strauss really didn't give a fig what Wilhelm, or Hitler or Göebbels thought and went on to compose operas that were, ah, indeed in questionable taste. 

The other is that for sheer crazy, German opera just can't be beat. Before Richard Strauss, we had Richard Wagner, whose magnum opus is the “Ring Cycle,” 20 hours of mayhem. Incest, death, destruction, war, 20 questions with dragons, trolls, witches, stupid but good looking heroes, Brünhilde, Rheinmaidens, Välkyrie, Valhalla, topped off by Götterdammerüng. A very happy batch of operas indeed, called "Das Ringen der Nibelungen," or "The Ring Cycle." I'll let Anna Russell describe it for us.




This set the stage for Richard Strauss who thought wholesome stuff like Salome would be perfect for operatic treatment. Herr Strauss was an awesome composer, but he had not clue one about anything socio-political during his long life. He thought it was a swell idea to collaborate with Stefan Zweig as his librettist during his stint as Reichsminister of musik for the Third Reich under Josef Goebbels. Herr Zweig was Jewish and living in London. Herr Goebbels was pissed about it and Strauss was lucky not to get a one-way ticket to Dachau.

Well, during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm, who was a notorious blue-stocking, Strauss thought it would be a hella idea to do an operatic treatment of “Salome.” D'you remember this story? Antipas marries Herodias so he can get at her daughter Salome. John the Baptist is locked up in Antipas' prison under the palace. Salome gets a gander at John, as he squabbles over theology with some pharisees and goes all googly-eyed over him, but John spurns her for the harlot-in-training that she is. Antipas wants to see Salome dance, but she's all like, “Ewwww.” Herodias is rather annoyed at both Antipas and John (must be PMS) and she tells Salome to dance for Antipas, because Antipas will give her whatever Salome asks for, and she should ask for John's head.

Herodias is sick and tired of Antipas mooning over both Salome and John the Baptist. Antipas is afraid of John, as John is a man of God and keeps saying all this scary stuff from his cistern. So, Salome says, “Okay, A, I'll hip-hop for ya” and does the “Dance of the 7 Veils.”


This is a more modern treatment, but the staging is so well-done, I chose this.

Once done, she asks for the head of John the Baptist and the evil deed is done. Next comes perhaps the most unbelievably hellish passage in music imaginable, as a huge hand rises out of the cistern bearing the head of John the Baptist.



Antipas is horrified, but the nightmare is not yet ended. Salome proceeds to roll around on stage with the severed head of John the Baptist and sings the most glorious song of love that is also horrifying.



So, Antipas has her put to death by the Roman guards. Curtain falls.

Great stuff! Seriously, this is music I grew up listening to and played, so even though my ears are by no means jaded, one can see why I am pretty tolerant of today's Rammstein-like groups and less than thrilled with precious music like Mozart. I love Haydn. Haydn took chances and is wonderful. Enough digression.

Strauss went ahead and debuted this opera without the Kaiser's approval. The Kaiser's favorite minister later died wearing a pink tutu at some function or another. So much for propriety; the Kaiser had a really bad year.

I played in Opera Tampa for 12 seasons, so I have plenty of rich material to draw from. We did mostly Italian opera. Maestro Coppola (the same family that produced Francis and Nic Cage) summed it up this way: “Anyone can play a Goddamned German opera. It's just 1, 2, 3, 4.  In Italian opera there are so many rubatos and tempi changes it requires so much artistry. You are all here because you were hand-picked. Be proud.” Tyrant. I miss it. Maestro wasn't necessarily wrong, although in his waltzes, Richard Strauss affords lots of rubatos in the Viennese style. You may have picked that out in the "7 Veils." For the record, I LOVE playing Richard Strauss; supremely challenging and he pushes orchestras to the limits. In "Ein Heldenleben," (A Hero's Life" with him as the hero) during it's debut, one of the first violinists complained to him that a certain passage is unplayable. He casually looked over the score and said, "Don't worry, it's unplayable in the flutes, too." It is in the violas as well. Let's end this with one of the funniest Bugs Bunny cartoons ever.



Probably one of the best Wagner treatments I've ever seen.

Monday, March 25, 2013

#ROW 80 1st QTR – POST 28 – WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, OR MUSICAL TASTES OVER THE CENTURIES


I have been roaming this planet for nigh on 60 years and have yet to feel that anything is really too much, or I am too old to grasp the latest in culture or technology. My parents were very much into trying out with somewhat middling success, old stone-age computer games, PONG, or TANK, or whatever the current game was at the time on BETA Max and all sorts of horrible stuff.

I am currently having a good run of luck, telling those idiots on Twitter, something like "@Microsoft will pick your PC". I keep sending them messages like, “Thanks for the advice, I'll be sure to get that Commodore 64, you assholes. It sure beats the blue screen of death.” Some idiot actually answered that. I also told them I was thrilled for the quick response regarding the Atari that I should purchase. Microsoft. Motto: We can accommodate any level of stupid.

Same thing with music. I follow 2 shows pretty religiously; "Grimm" and "The Following." Imagine my glee when they both used some Rammstein which is a hugely popular death-metal band out of Germany and employs very traditional old world (read Beethoven and mostly, 2nd Viennese school types of song-writing.) I find them to be most distinctive, not only in sound, but they are one of the only bands since Pink Floyd and the Police who compose and perform songs in odd meters, like 7/4. That really thrills me when bands are so willing to take a chance like that. They will be remembered years from now. Some of my younger friends don't get it.

But Mary,” they'll say. “You're eleventy-billion years old, how can you like this stuff?” 3 words. I've played it. And much more. One thing about most musicians, we're always scratching around for good contemporary music that pushes that envelope. Cutting edge, but not shit. There are those who think that Alban Berg is horrid, and Arnold Schoenberg is terrible, and that's fine. I do like them. But, please God, no Anton Bruckner. We had a rehearsal one night, and for some half-assed reason, the conductor decided the violinists weren't putting enough whatever into their tremolo. He spent an hour and a half on that shit and 4 wind players fell asleep and out of their chairs. I fall asleep playing Bruckner. He's glacial, but I don't hate him like I hate Mozart, but still, he runs a close second. I have yet to run into any neo-Romantic, or really contemporary music that wasn't pretty awesome.

Well, actually, I take that back. I had to listen to some total shit in college. I remember 2 pieces (mercifully, only 2) by student composers; always a crap-shoot in my opinion. I can't write music worth a shit. I took Composition and wisely decided to hang up my feathered quill after the “sure-fire method” provided me ever so kindly, by Mr. John Hathaway, provoked him to comment, “God, that's terrible!” And, it truly was. I never tried to conduct either, as that would be akin to cows trying to drive; a force against nature. Leave me to my true talent; the viola. I just pretend to play violin and I don't even pretend that I do. I come right out and tell people that I can't play the fucking violin. Yet, for some reason, people insist on hiring me to play the damned thing. I guess they feel the need for some random stupid, especially if it's in the 1st violin section.

Anyway, these 2 student composer pieces were going to change the face of modern classical music I am sure. To what I am not sure. One was for 2 upright pianos, and a celesta, a sort of tinkly little drawing-room sort of keyboard-y contraption. This piece was as much about the placement of the instruments as the performance, which tells you something about the quality of the music right there. It was a giant fail on both counts. The pianos were set very close together, with the celesta jammed in between the 2 pianos. The players sat with their backs to the audience and proceeded to beat in a very clamorous and monotonous manner for 3 movements. There were no changes in tempi, dynamics, just a bunch of clanging around, then stop. More wild clamorous clanging. Caesura. Repeat clanging. And so forth. Finally, the people stood up and faced the audience. Wild applause at the end, because at last, this abortion was over and done with. The players took their bows. I didn't have any tomatoes or rocks to throw, so I was rather put out. And no shots rang out; the firing squad having fallen asleep.

The next opus, was by some guy named Duckworth. His piece was called something asinine like “4 for 440.” He had 4 oboe players in every corner of the concert hall and all they did was play a 440 A for about a zillion years. The gimmick here was that they did the same A in different meters, different lengths, triplets, 16th notes, yada yada yada. It sucked. About 5 minutes into it I was already calling it “that piece by Duckshit.” 45 minutes later, this snore-fest was still going on, as these asshat oboe players were flinging this same A all over the hall. The atmosphere was funereal. You couldn't hear any breathing; I think the patrons had died. Death by double-reed boredom.

I hate gimmicky music like this. We had to go to these concerts in college and I think we were made to, because our Professors did and so, we were made to suffer, because I sure didn't get anything out of any of it, except what not to do, should I ever write music (yeah, that was gonna happen) and a passing grade. I actually got stuck playing in one; a god-forsaken trombone and viola duet. The stupidest pairing of two instruments ever and “complete” with interpretive dancing, another stupid art form that is usually performed by 70-year old women in church, to some avant-garde mass, written by a music minister who flunked 1st and 2nd year composition, but insists he was just “misunderstood." Balls. He sucked as a composer.

These dancers, in leotard unis and hoods, snaked their ways over the theater seats, towards us, the hapless musicians. Maybe there was a point to be made there, but I was edging my way to stage-left, on the chance they were carnivorous. I didn't want to be some sort of low-rent “Le Sacre du Printemps,” by Igor Stravinsky. Low-rent, hell. This would have had to come from e-Bay, or half.com, were they around in the '70s, it was that bad. I can't remember how the damn thing ended. It just sort of stopped, as if the “composer,” who was also the trombone player lost interest in the whole enterprise and called it a day.

To the riotous applause of 3 people, 2 of whom were the trombonist's parents, I packed up Wolf, beat feet and got the Hell out of there. The piece was like this: 20 minutes of me playing staccato, and the trombone was farting and here are the Snake people coming at us from the audience. I didn't even want my name in the program. Come to think of it, I don't think there was a program, thank God. So, I was safely anonymous.

So, yeah, I love contemporary music, but good stuff, and none of that was it. Give me some “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Dust in the Wind” or Pink Floyd's “The Wall” or Styx's “Domo Arigato,” or Alan Parson's Project, “Psychobabble Rap” or “Eye in The Sky” all of which I've played. Along with Mahler, Smokey Robinson and all the rest. But, I am eclectic; I cut my teeth on Richard Strauss, Beethoven, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. Throw in some Rimsky-Korsakov and Ipolitov-Ivanov to keep it interesting. As long as it's good.

Next up: The Young Person's Guide to Opera

Thursday, March 21, 2013

#ROW 80 1st QTR – POST 27 – WHY PLAYING CHICKEN WITH A WALLACE IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA


This has been one of the stranger weeks in an already strange life. Odd dreams and what not. The latest odd dream was earlier this week. I was restless and dreaming that JC and I had been kidnapped and taken from our house by some old bat and her young ward. We had been separated, and I was trying to find JC. In the middle of of the night. I awoke to this strange boy in bermuda shorts and t-shirt climbing out of bed from beside me.

I jumped from the bed and was running around our real house, when JC came out of the bathroom. “What on earth are you doing?” I, with hair flying and eyes rolling was wielding a very heavy level that would have beheaded anyone I didn't know. “Don't go in the kitchen! There's a strange boy in there. He jumped out of our bed and ran off in there!” JC had a hell of a time convincing me that the “strange boy” was him. The bathroom is in the general direction of the kitchen. Still, one never knows. Hilarity ensued. The next day. I was not really convinced that he wasn't one of Chthuhlu's buddy's, but “C” as he is affectionately known now, pretty much knocked all that stuff off, when I out-crazied him last March.


Maybe he's hiding in the stove?

I have always had very bad sleep disturbances and they have been much worse of late. Blame it on my good pal, PD, yada yada yada. The primary has canceled me until May. I have a dermatology appointment in April for some suspiciously odd-looking barnacles. I got all of my blood work done, but for the 2nd time in less than 2 months, I'm coming down with another dose of craptosis. Yay.

Of course, my disposition, never great around people I know and downright bellicose when confronted with total strangers, got one hell of a workout today. I needed to go to the MetroPCS store to purchase a phone. I missed the store and was carried several miles past my destination. I got off the bus on a main thoroughfare, Hillsborough Avenue. 6 lanes of come-drunk Floridians, who are either all bat-shit crazy, or have consumed way more than their ration of raw meat. Aggressive bastards. The speed limit is 50 mph, but they go 70. There are no pedestrian crosswalks and there is construction with the ever-popular yellow cones, barrels and at least one closed lane, with about 12 inches to siphon down from 3 to 2 on both sides of the boulevard, so everybody is pissed off.
I had to somehow get across this river of death to the other side so that I could travel back the way I came. There were some lulls on the east-bound side, and I made that easily to the median, which seemed about 2 feet tall and 2 inches wide. So, I'm balancing on top of this mother, hoping I don't fall into the turn lane. Blindness and some kind of neuromuscular disorder are not going to help me on the Balance Beam. I get a 0 for execution and style. I teeter there, and my arms don't really pinwheel; this is spasmosis at it's best. I kind of lurch back and forth a couple of times. I know I must look drunk. And I'm getting pissed now. Never a good thing.


It was mostly like this, like every construction zone in the world, except worse, 'cause I had to get stuck in it.

Now, for the west-bound traffic. These assholes are undoubtedly the worst. Had I been able to even find a crosswalk, that would have been my option, but no. So, I waited and waited and waited. And they are truly psychotic; dodge 'em cars, spastic lane changes, some kind of pretend NASCAR, swappin' paint, honking, finger-gestures, everything. When I drove, I loved being out here with these assholes. Now, I just want to get across the street without becoming people jam. After what seemed like a 20 minute wait, the traffic thinned somewhat. But there's not a huge hiatus, because the lights are timed to keep this thing running almost like an expressway, so I have to time it right. Bear in mind, the crossing lights are more than a mile apart and I'm midway, so everyone has had time to work up a good head of steam. Hell, you could be driving a Model-T and hit 30 by the time you got to me.

These cars could see me, see my cane and glasses and the 4 or 5 cars that were there were slowing, I had gotten to the middle lane, and there was this one car, a sedan. This bastard SPEEDS up. So, somewhere in my reptilian brain, I channeled Sir William Wallace and all the people who've been blind or been hurt because of these assholes and I stopped. I stopped right in front of this nutsack and as a Matador faces a bull, side on, I pointed my cane at him, like some kind of “Bull Fight of the Damned.”

I hollered out, “That's right bitch, bring it on! How about a nice little stay in prison, along with that giant-ass law suit that you'll lose! Stop! You see this? This will put you in jay-al!” Taunting now. Of course, I didn't mention that it would probably would put me in the morgue; I wasn't thinking that way. I never do.

That dumb fuck stopped 30 feet from me. I never even flinched. I didn't feel relief or scared afterward. I felt vindicated. For Ivan Roberson, for anyone who has ever been hurt by careless and stupid and bad driving. No more. I felt my blood stir, Sir William yelling “Freedom.” as he fights to free his country and his circumstances. Well, not quite like that, but you know what I mean.

I stood there and looked around for a minute; nobody had moved. I finished crossing the street and never looked back. I bet that nutsack is still cussing me out. Fuck him.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

#ROW 80 1st QTR – POST 26 – WHAT AND WHO DEFINE US AND SHOULD WE CARE?


Short answer; hell, no. But as with everything else, it's a lot more complicated. It gets even more complex when you start throwing in an ex-husband or 3, some interesting careers and times and some health issues that in another century would have landed me in an asylum (well, I've been there, sort of) or a Freak show.

The cool thing about getting up into your young-middle-age, or whatever the hell they call it these days, is I can say anything I please, and not give a good Goddamned about any of it. I used to care. I really did. Now I save my care for stuff that really matters. Like Bingo or Runescape. No, I save it for people who are too weak to defend themselves and there are loads of those. I care about writing and creating a good product and hanging around people who have the same standards. The usual stuff.

I'm not unique, but I am finding the world to become more and more slip-shod in quality. Maybe it's just old fart-ism setting in. I've just spent the day fighting with my HP printer, which seems fine, MS Office which is a giant zone of suck and it's little brother MS Works Suite, which managed to suck up any of the suck MS Office left behind. Another, not 1, but 2, count 'em! Microsoft products down the drain!


Don't forget Service Pack 4! New Bugs for all your .dll files!

I found a perfectly good little Office Suite online and put it through it's paces, databases; relational with pivot tables, spread sheets with formulae, and some kind of Power Pointy type thing, which I'll never use. Price? Free. It also doesn't take up 80 gazillion gigs and needs no java, which needs to be banned from the universe, anyway.

I told JC, I was taking all of my Microsoft shit and putting it on Nebraska Ave and let the hot rods run it over 8 or 10 times. He said, “Well, from all the bitching and hollering, it'll probably work just as well.” But that's what I mean by quality products. We had idiots at Verizon who were becoming MS Certified Engineers, who would format the C drives. If you can do that and be an MS Engineer, I don't want to do that. It's kinda like Mark Twain says, “I am no member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.” A left-landed compliment if ever there was.

And of course my music and my viola! It's always been all viola, all the time. My folks must have just shaken their heads. They could not understand the obsession, but it's been lifelong. I'm a violist; was born one, and I shall die one. All this is sort of leading up to this whole “Parkinson's Disease, not-Parkinson's Disease, that is the question.” I got some really good advice from a Twitter buddy, when I cracked wise about the drooling. 
@dbsDad said, “Don't let yourself be defined by the disease. You take control.” (dbsdad is a very wise, cool and fun guy; I suggest following him!)


I know it's 3:30 in the fucking a.m., Ma! I have to play this stupid "Scratch Frantically at Solo Ensemble tomorrow!

Damned good advice. I'm still drooling; it took me 25 fucking minutes to type this stupid title, but so what. This is not who I am. I am someone who was not a very good girl child; a better boy than a girl. I love music, computers, mathematics and I'm a gamer. I'm trying to be a writer. I'm a friend.

Monday, March 18, 2013

#ROW 80 1st QTR – POST 25 – CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Okay, enough high art, and fiddles, which in my eyes and after my treatment usually becomes low comedy. By the way, in the world of strings, we do call them fiddles, or axes. Unbelievable, but there it is. Although treated with the reverence they deserve, they are our kith and kin. Enough.

I got my crime report for 33605 this morning via email. I’ve been receiving it for several months. I signed up for it and when I received it and had a hilarious time with it, I decided to let them keep sending it to me. This is not the 33605 I know. I know for damned sure it’s not my wee ma’s 33605, nor is it a Wallace 33605. I’ll let you all look at this ferocious crime wave. I am sure Dostoevsky would have written something like “Crime and Scones” had he lived here:


Some laddies made off with Mrs. McGuires' pig, near Pentreath Ln. BOLO

So, I went and hunted up my own 33605. I don’t really need it. We have the Nebraska grapevine and it is pretty right on. We often know who got picked up on a parole violation before the igmo gets put back in the system. Sometimes, I’m not sure if I’m in “Guys and Dolls” or in “Clockers.”

We’ve got a batch of folks (I can’t bring myself to say posse, we might be a crew, loosely inferred) who were all in the homeless shelter together and some of us are still there and some of us are out here, but close by. There are about 5 houses that shelter near one another in this area. Our neighborhood association President, knows everyone. These shelters have a mix of everyone, homeless who are part of homeless recovery, felons who are on parole, sex offenders, B and E specialists, a murderer or two, mental cases. There are habitual offenders who steal everything that isn’t nailed down. I was there because I was homeless and a “victim” in a domestic dispute. I say “victim,” in quotes, because the guy I was with, looked a hell of a lot worse than I did.

Anyway, here’s the deal. Whatever happened is in the past. You’d be amazed at how far that gets you in the good will department. Some people do get violated. There’s one guy who’s been running around and I suspect he had something to do with the death of a friend of mine over the summer. I hated him on sight, because he is so very cold and a sociopath, and when I was still kind of frail, I fell between the washer and the dryer and hurt myself, badly. A drug users and one of the sexual offenders were beside themselves. They couldn’t pick me up fast enough. One was running around, getting manager to help me. They were still connected enough to people to respond. The sociopath just stood there and looked. That kind of guy.

I have to say something about sex offenders, or s.o. as they’re called. 90% of these guys are what they call “Romeo and Juliet” people. 18 year old guys with a 15 year old girl. Daddy finds out and bam! They’re in jail. There are some truly creepy ones and when I was there, they were singled out. Everyone knew and you can tell. They’re just fucked up in the head. The others? I lived there for 11 months and never a problem. That is just my opinion, but they are all stigmatized and labeled and their lives ruined and it sucks. I hold my hand out to every one of them. Their gratitude is overwhelming. They work hard to regain some kind of legitimacy in society. As I said our Neighborhood Association Prez knows they’re here. She said no NIMBY here.


This is just part of 33605. Red ellipse shows Nebraska Ave. Of course, some of the crimes include crap like the famous calling TPD because 6'4" tall Mr. C wouldn't do his dishes, so 4'11" D swore at him. Mr. C called cops 'cause she swore. TPD took one look at the 2 of them, told Mr. C to do his dishes and D to stop swearing. Me? I'd have arrested 'em both, just for yuks.

Anyway, we all keep each other informed about what’s going on. The socio-psychopath has no peace, because we’re all on the phones to each other telling one another where he is. He’s scheduled to go back to court for a Grand Theft charge anyway. Hopefully, the judge will stick him in the pen, where he belongs. He’s the Brainiac who ran from the TPD, after he’d made a deal of some sort with the FBI. Dumbass; I heard this WHOOP! And feet running south on Nebraska and Einstein went to Prisneyland for a while.

We are a little community; one of ours died recently. I was on the phone with Jason who still lives in the shelter. He was on the phone with Dana who was at the bedside of Jeff who was dying. Mike was beside Jason. We were all there when Jeff died. It was strange, but oddly fitting. We’ve all been through this hell of being in the system, somehow and landing in the shelter. Dana came to the shelter when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She and Jeff struck up a relationship; he was there because he was homeless and an alcoholic. They cared for one another. Dana and I talked about it later, crying on the phone together. We’re family and like any family, we squabble and we’re rather more dysfunctional than other families.

I had another little epiphany recently. One of the guys, Rick, who still lives at the shelter, works at one of the convenience stores in the area. He can be a pain in the ass, but, who isn’t? I’m horrible. He was the one who cleaned my knee, elbow and head when I fell. JC had had to go to school that day and wasn’t around at the shelter. Anyway, I said something in my stupid callous way; it hurt Rick’s feelings. This big, rough and tough guy. He proceeded to haunt JC for about 3 weeks and kept asking him if he’d done anything. I had noticed that Rick had been sullen and I hadn’t spoken to him. I just assumed he was going through one of his moods. I thought for a moment, after JC mentioned this for the 3rd or 4th time. He never did anything like that; this was just not like Rick. Big bear of a guy; I’ve seen him throw some punches. He’s the enforcer at the shelter.

Oh my God. Rick actually looks up to me. He does respect me and cares what I think about him. I would never have expected that because this is such a rough environment. You just let it fly. I can’t ever do that to people I’ve bonded with so closely. It’s like war. We’re foxhole mates. I told JC, “I have to make this right.” I went to the store and apologized and got him some YooHoos, his favorite drink. I told him, “Don’t you ever think I don’t care. We’ve been through some shit. You’re my friend. We can talk. If I say something. Tell me, okay? Are we okay, now?” Big grin. Aw shucks smile. All was right on Nebraska, or as right as it gets.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

#ROW 80 1st QTR SUNDAY CHECK IN – POST 23 – WHAT STRANGE CRITTERS THESE NON-FRETTED INSTRUMENTS BE


He was born in 1837, only ten years after the death of Beethoven. Born on the same continent, but in another country, born in another time. He probably thinks himself as a child of the Enlightenment, because that is surely when his kind began to achieve the finest of their voices. Their voices are many and they are powerful and fine. They soar and growl, sing and weep. They are the family of strings.

All things considered, he is one of the minor nobility. Being born in Bologna in 1837 (although there is dispute and it is thought he is older,) he is a poor cousin to the Cremona family of Amati, Stradivarius, Guarnieri, Storioni and Guadagnini. He is a Guidantus. Italian and a pure snob, even against the Strad violas. Only twelve Strad violas are still around and they were not his finest. Violas and violins have different ratios in terms of their sizes, just as cellos do. Wonderful violin makers don't always make wonderful violas and vice versa. Wolf holds his own against all comers and seems strangely oblivious and insouciant, much like his current partner.


His scroll and serif are unique. Seen head on, his scroll is off-center; a hallmark of Guidantus.


Meet Wolf. Sorry I don't have a picture of his front. My PD was too bad. This is from the Strad school.
The striping down the back is unique as well. Matched maple, called "tiger striping." I do not think it a formal term. I think Peter used that. Peter Psarianos, who cared for him, had great affection for Wolf. But, Peter loves all  the instruments under his care.

Wolf slept for a long time and his memory is vague regarding his earlier years. He’s not even sure when he came from Italy to San Francisco. He just knows he ended up there and in the hands of a young woman who played briefly in the San Francisco Symphony. His mistress fell ill with a peculiar muscular wasting disease. He went back to sleep for a long period of time. He awoke to find himself in a room with lots of others of his kind.

He ended up in my hands in 1974; bought by a maker/dealer in San Jose, California, by my mother. I was off to college and she wanted to be sure I had something nice-er to play than the hideous brick I had been fighting with for the last 3 years. I took him around in his beat up old case and played him for my new Viola professor and friends. The consensus? Not bad, probably a keeper. He hadn’t been played in a long time and he sounded… kinda pinchy, but that faded over time, as he regained his voice.

And boy, howdy, did he! He just wanted to be played; he was a teenage viola (137 years) in viol years by this time and he was tired of all this hanging about! Lots and lots of playing commenced and his voice grew and grew and grew. Smallish, but deep, the proportions are perfect for this instrument. It’s really easy to think in terms of a great big violin, but that just sounds horrible.

A whole bunch of instrument makers have tried a lot of stupid things to make violas better. Instead, they just made them into the butt of jokes: Q: Why are violas bigger than violins? A: They aren’t, the violinists heads are bigger. Q: Have you heard about the latest form of urban violence? A: Drive-by Viola solos.


Otto Erdesz viola, circa 1974. I almost unreservedly do not like modern instruments, either. They are too raw-sounding. It takes at least 50 years before they start to behave.
Welcome to strange and tubby. Try to shift positions on this bastard. Good luck. We'll see you in the ER when you yank a finger out of joint or bust an elbow. It got worse. See below.

Anyway, these loons, the instrument makers, like Otto Erdesz who makes beautiful viola bows made a bunch of violas that look like their asses are on steroids. I worked for a guy once, selling fine instruments and got to play some Amatis and Strads, which was awesome! Then, when I found their true worth or provenance, I hastily gave them back to the shop owner, Peter. He loved that game. "Here, Mary. Play this viola that just came in for sale on a commission." I'd play along. Beautiful tone; played like butter, I'd run up and down the finger board, play a bunch of double stops. "What is it?" I'd ask. He'd say, "Whadda ya think?" Smartass me, "Stanley Steemer. Italian, Cremona school. Guarneri?" He'd grin. "Storioni." I'd gawk. "O Holy Mother of God, take it back NOW!"

 And, I got to play some Erdesz violas. They go for about 14k. They’re beautiful to look at, but the C string, lower notes are just muddy, no clarity, no gruffness and if you play in upper positions on the C string, like I love to do for that intense sound, it sounds very weak. My Guidantus, which was bought for 1,500.00 in 1974 is much, much, much more expensive today. I had to have Wolf certified and insured when I had all of his pegs, chin rest, tailpin and everything refit. Wolf has bling-bling. Actually, I have bling-bling just being around him. The odd thing about him is his dating. Supposedly, he was born in 1837, there are some Guidantus violas around that time, but the school was thriving a century earlier and there are some Guidantus viol da gambas from 1737, but buttloads of actual violas. Another mystery, but Wolf has been certified by an appraiser due to provenance and that is damn hard to fake and why would anyone go to the trouble.



Musicians are a cruel lot. I would never walk into a rehearsal with this. This shouts, "I can't PLAY. Put me in the handicapped section!" Oh, wait, I'm a violist; I'm already IN the handicapped section. Joke, I play viola like a violinist. This was so it would make it "easier to shift positions." If you have to make it easier to do something that the rest of the "human" race and I use that term politely, 'cause musicians, you're on the wrong track. What's next? A stick and a washtub with twine. They tried that. It sucked.

So, working in the shop was fun. I got to play a bunch of different violins and violas. It turns out that Wolf, my first viola I ever played when I went looking was the one. Violins? Feh. I’ve played some killer violins. They make me sound great. They still suck. It’s a violin. The only thing that would make that worse is playing Mozart on one.

So, when Wolf and I aren’t out terrorizing viola sections, or hamming it up in the Tampa Bay Chamber Orchestra, we were off playing Styx’s “Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto,” or Alan Parsons Project or Moody Blues stuff. Turns out I had way more fun playing Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story.” Man, does that cook.

But back to these here instruments. Turns out the damn things have personalities. Makes sense. The wood is alive. There was this guy who wasn’t a professional violinist, but could easily have been; he was a dentist, but prided himself on his musicianship and was in a few of the local groups, around Detroit. He bought himself a Strad. He was happy with it for a while, then I noticed he didn’t talk about it much. I asked him what the problem was. “The damn thing hates lights. I can only play in a dark room.” I nodded sagely. “I can relate. Wolf hates the cold. He loves Florida.” The dentist looked at me. “And this is a problem?”  I said, “Well, yeah, every time I have to tour up north, we fight.” I got the impression the dentist thought I was making this up. So, I said, "It's complicated." I got an even stranger look. "We've been together longer than I've been with any of my husbands." Dentist laughed uneasily. "Ha ha, good thing I'm married." M'kay, I'm shutting up now.

I had to explain that Wolf found a way to make 2 strings go out of tune precisely at the down beat. Pain. In. My. Ass. So, I remembered Nathan Gordon’s old trick of the warm-up to the warm-up. No more sliding in under the down beat. It worked, but honestly, Wolf loves Florida, but does NOT like ceiling fans. His 440 A becomes like 441. Don’t ask. How we suffer for our art. So, it’s basically turn off the fan in the room I practice in. No biggie. 

What was a biggie was this asinine German violin I bought and a damn nice one. Beautiful tone and easy to play. Made in 1845. No real wars going on, so I figured they could spare a few years and make fiddles without screwing that up. The violin was for gigs and I was playing with Manhattan Transfer at the time. Well, this violin had a serious eating disorder. It ate E strings Iike I eat string cheese. Strings aren't cheap. At the rate this thing was going, I was replacing 2 E strings a month, at 10 bucks a pop.  During our Manhattan Transfer tour, the conductor who was a hell of a pianist and I were improvising on Rachmaninoff's "Variations on a Theme by Paganini" just goofing. There's a lot of down time on tours. I improved all the time with people. Anne Murray's side men and I played a killer "Ashokan Farewell" riffing it. 


These evil bastards are everywhere, dreaming of Mozart.

Anyway, I guess my stupid violin didn't want to play Rocky, so during one of the Transfer tunes that damned violin ate his E string. I was playing 1st violin, which I hate. I improvised by playing all that high shit on the A string. I was pissed. After that tune and while the Transfer schmoozed with the audience, I was off that stage, changed the string, tuned it and back in my chair in time for the next tune. Conductor Yaron Gershovsky told me later, he'd never seen that in all his years of conducting. I asked him if he wanted to buy a violin.


I have a friend who owns a Gofriller cello. It is magnificent. Their scrolls are unique. So are their value. 1 million US the last time I heard. Since I don't play cello, I just look. I tried once, it just sounded like "Singapore's Greatest Hits." Everything was quarter-tones.

My favorite story is the guy who brought in his cello for repair. It had a perfectly round hole through the front. His son threw a fast ball in the house and it went right through the front. The cello was a Gofriller. Ouch. That was several thousand dollars and months to repair. I’ve had exactly one repair done to Wolf and Peter had to remove Wolf’s front, or his face. There was a viola-shaped dust bunny in there, that’s how long it had been. He sounded much better without his “pal” the viola-shaped dust bunny. Peter asked me if I wanted to see him without his face. I passed on that one. How strange, but it’s just too… something. Wolf is my alter ego, husband, friend. Peter asked me if I wanted his dust bunny. I said no to that, too. Just reunite me with Wolf.  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

#ROW80 1ST QTR POST 23 – SCHOOL DAZE


I’m not sure why, but sometimes the damnedest memories apropos of nothing pop into my head. I know this happens to everyone. Some are funny, or sad, or blah and then there are the special ones, the ones that just defy classification. You may think you know who you were at the time this one certain event occurred.

You may have labored under the illusion that you did indeed have all your shit together. You also may have been stone-cold sober and actually operating at peak efficiency and rockin’ it in the house, pulling straight A’s in college. You may also have been cruising through English Lit, Western Civ, Calculus, Statistics and maybe this was part of the problem.


Another thing; I hardly ever opened a computer text book, seriously.

The fact is, when I majored in Music Performance, I got to skip all that boring 101 stuff. No such luck when I went back for Computer Science, so I got stuck with all this horrendous nonsense. I sucked so bad in Mathematics, I was supposed to take pre-Algebra. But I CLEPped out of that, thank God.

So, I went back to school because my idiot husband of the moment, who was a violist and who I had met on a gig, was shocked when the Zither or Flute fairy didn’t show up and turn me into something other than a violist. Dumbass. So, I went back to school and picked Comp Sci, ‘cause I thought I was picking something completely different than music. My mistake. Dumbass.

Anyway, off to school. My first comp sci 101 class was taught by a retired Army Colonel who had been head of the IT group in Europe for NATO. He and his family defected from Cuba and he was a riot. He would tell us all what NOT to do with those old 5 ½ “ floppy disks and then he’d demonstrate by folding the disk and dunking it in his coffee cup.

He told us all about bits and bytes, and how 8 bits equals 1 byte. Some girl in my class pops up and says, “and that’s how we have 3 bits equals a group of data.” Dead silence as the class comes to a screeching halt. This has never been said or thought of by anyone before or since and this was 20 years ago. I’m still waiting for that “group of data.” So is Colonel Defector.

Meanwhile, over in Western Civ, we’re talking about the brothers Gracchi. With all of their land reform and granting rights to the plebeians, they’re sounding an awful lot like the brothers JFK and Bobby Kennedy, Jr. They sound like them even more when they both get assassinated. There’s a dude in my class who sits in the back and is one of these cats who doesn’t say much, but he chimes in with this:

“Did the Gracchi Brothers have another brother named Theodorus who drove his chariot into the Tiber river while he was drunk?” I howled. The Prof was like, “What?” Dude says, “never mind.” Everyone else in the class was too young to make the connection and they sit there like rocks.


 Theodorius Kennedy?

Those were early days, however. By year two, I was deep into calculus with a Professor of Mathematics I had pretty much hand-picked for me on recommendation of the Dean of the Math department. The Dean had been my first college Algebra teacher and she was wonderful, but she wasn’t teaching the 2nd semester. So, she sent me to Professor Gingrich, who was hard on everyone. I had him for Algebra II and just stuck with him, because I liked him so much. He apparently thought I was okay too, for a computer sci major. He had worked as a cryptographer during the Korean conflict for the Navy.

They all sat offshore on some boat out of range of the gun batteries and decoded all of the morse code, or whatever was coming through over the airwaves. He described it to us and we made simple codexes and decrypted them, so we could feel like real spies, I guess, in my concrete math class I took with him after calculus. I was a real glutton for punishment. We also made simplex matrices for airplanes. I think my planes all ran into each other and everyone died.

But in calculus we started really tearing into imaginary numbers and Fibonacci sequences. This is about the time I started seeing God. First, I remember asking Dr. Gingrich, “so, these pretend numbers actually exist?” After he picked his jaw up off the floor, he said, “why yes, they do. They use them in HVAC.” I didn’t want to know what that was. Then we had to go through the whole 32 + 42 = 52, or 9 + 16 = 25. Perfect. Pythagoras and all that. So, I freak and start babbling about supernatural, or voodoo or the face of God, or what the fuck? Dr. Gingrich just laughs it off. Tells me to calm down, it’ll be okay. Just then, some girl in the class screams and there’s a tiny snake in the hall. Dr. Gingrich and I go and rescue it and put it in the grass; no one else would help him. I told him I wasn't afraid of snakes, but I sure was still kinda iffy on those number doodads. I did well in his class, in spite of my shenanigans.



Sorry, these bastards still creep me the hell out. Perfection.

I pledged Phi Theta Kappa on invite, but didn’t get to the ceremony. I had a concert that night. Thank God; I hear those things are boring beyond belief. I was also paying my way by playing in the school orchestra, as well as keeping my symphony gig. Anyway, still burning the candle at both ends, staying up all kinds of weird hours, mostly doing math over and over and over again.

English Lit was awesome. I’ve always loved it. Now, I not only got to read it, I got to do lots and lots of writing and was winning awards for my rhetorical writing. I had a great professor, who was no pushover and it was hard to get good grades from her. I wrote papers on D.H. Lawrence, who I was fascinated with at the time. We read the required amount of Shakespeare and then we turned to poetry.

Poetry was never one of my stronger suits. I’m pretty linear and logical and when people start throwing allegory and symbology at me, I tend to come back with some pretty stupid shit. We were all supposed to pick a poem and read it in class. At least we didn't have to talk about what It All Meant, thank God. For some reason, I picked “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold. Here’s where the WTF? comes in. When it was my turn to recite this poem, I channeled a cross between Michael Buffer (Let’s Get Ready To Rumble! In a boxing match) and Heap Big Running Bear. I shouted my way through this entire poem, but part of me was aghast. Just “AAAAHHH, what the fuck are you doing?” To this day, I have never been able to come up with a coherent answer. It’s just one of those things. The class didn’t even seem to notice. Maybe they were afraid to say anything.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

#ROW80 1ST QTR WEDNESDAY CHECK IN - POST 22 – WE ARE NOT ALWAYS AS ADVERTISED


Goals, schmoals once again. My goals are this: Type one damn word without extra letters or some kinda goddamned type. Let’s not have a killing rage at idiots. Non-tangible, but right now, that’ll do! Oh yeah, and not sleeping 45 hours a day would work too; not one blue-eyed thing is getting done. Surprised I pooped this out, to quote Andi-Roo, courtesy of the world4realz.com.

I have had a good run, mood-wise lately. I’ve refrained from street-brawls and was never one to start a bitch-kitty of a fight. I generally let fights come to me. No less than the Military Strategist Von Clausewitz and Bruce Lee advise that strategy. That almost changed yesterday and the target was someone who did not help her cause.


I Wonder if he takes Medicare...

Two days ago, I received a call from my primary health clinic, telling him I could get my full spectrum of tests there at 11:30. I asked them 3 times, if I could come to their clinic, rather than busing all over the city. This is really hell for someone who has PD or non-pd and is legally blind to boot. The trip involves transfers and the weather has been cold, damp and nasty. My PD symptoms are still not good and I am still on edge. I am fine with my usual buddies, but not strangers (not that I ever am.)


This is a tip of the ice berg as to how I REALLY felt; bitches called ME. Next time leave me the fuck alone, or find your ass before calling, m'kay.

So, upon receiving this call from the Clinic, with my newly acquired Medicare, I asked these assholes on the phone, 3 times, if I would be able to come to them, rather then going to Quest. I was assured that I would. I set my alarm, thereby cutting off my much-needed sleep for my PD or non-Pd, and got up hella early and made it to the Clinic in plenty of time. Lo and  behold, if I wasn’t told that I would have to go to Quest anyway, because my Clinic does NOT accept my supplemental health insurance, yet these Bozos are my primary care physicians. I still have to set up my mammo and bone density on the same day at the hospital, not a biggie; they have the orders.

I am pissed beyond belief. I did fire grapeshot across the bow and reminded the front office that they called ME. I am postponing my doc’s appointment, because, bitch am I. The stupid girl helpfully pointed out the 2 different last names and said it would be a problem, in  an attempt to... make my day better? I rather unhelpfully and in a fairly hostile manner pointed out that “I knew all that and didn’t want to go there, and if she read further, she would see identical SSN#s. I am a hyphenate, but as I choose to use “Wallace” and Medicare chooses to use “Nunnally” there have been no problems. Then, I said, “Been there, and stop, please stop. You are one sentence from a swift beheading." She shut her piehole. NEVER try to patronize me, or tell me something I so patently know.


My mood helps not one whit. Calls are in process. I am not your average “person in the system.” I am not without resources. I am unfailingly kind. I have 3 rules that are sacrosanct. 1) Don't ever let me catch you hurting someone in any way, who is defenseless. You will get hurt. 2) DO NOT ever, tell me one thing and do a switcheroo upon my arrival. You had better have your shit together, and you had better be prepared to tell me the truth. It’s always dangerous for me out in the world. I don’t appreciate that treatment and other then seeing someone bullied, this is the most likely scenario to see someone who will have to go to the Laughing Academy in restraints, and carnage in my wake. And please, Dear God, don’t talk down to me and tell me shit I know. I’m smarter than you. There’s shit you don’t know, but I do. Rule 3 is stupid, but even at my advanced age it happens. Do not attempt to approach me and try to "pick me up." I will humiliate you, and do it loudly. I would never do that to you and just because I am a woman, this does not give you the right to act like a man in heat. I have a rapier with and you are easy prey. Trust me. Leave me the hell alone.

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Spot

Unfortunately, I possess overtones of both. Throw in a little Spock; my parents had no idea what they created.

I can’t replace my ID now, because my certified birth certificate is in Michigan. My Florida DL is expired. My parents were not born here. There is a chance I will be deported. I know all this. As long as I exist as Wallace-Nunnally, or Wallace or Nunnally, I will be left alone. Enuf said. Tomorrow, I go to Quest Diagnostics, and all-day trip, with my voter’s registration card (it is too funny) some kind of bill with my name on it, as my "ID" and voilá! Blood work done. That will do. I have other chores to do as well. Would that my tremors in my center being would cease, that my heart rate would go down. The latest manifestation is typing the same letter many times, and staggering. This is just great for blind people.



Some great-geat-great- ancestor or 'nother. My dad used to bore me about him with our story. I've got a bunch or our stuff, replete with rust 'n' plaid. But do I wanna live in Glasgow? Plus, I didn't know old Sir William looked like Mel Gibson.

Terrific here in this neighborhood. On a cheap drunk? On Nebraska, 33602 and 33605. Who'da thunk it?


Monday, March 11, 2013

#ROW80 1ST QTR SUNDAY CHECK IN - POST 21 – THE MEDIUM AND THE MESSAGE

Our regularly scheduled #ROW80 post will begin in a moment, after this update on goals or status or whatever we're calling it. Firstly, I'm so behind, my behind is behind. This is only Post 21 and I've done precisely 1/4 of mediocreness and that is being kind. What with pneumonia, JC falling, JC having cat-scratch fever or something, me having had some kind of horrid, awful part of my "Parkinson's Disease, or not Parkinson's Disease, that is STILL the question" the part where you are on the verge of tears, but just being on the verge of tears causes worsening tremors, choking, blinking lights, horrible sounds and this unrelenting black, black depression where all is lost, and what not, until I finally gave in with 2 tears and a squeak in the shower, then the angels sang, well, you can see not much has gotten done. I have all of the parts from when I was homeless pulled down and am trying to edit. This shit is hard and I've never done it, so there we are.



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In something akin to a cold open in a movie or a television series, I find myself in the midst of a scene of confusion and hellish sound. The air is heated and smells of diesel and metal. I seem to be near an industrial district and close by a bunch of underpasses. I know I’m on or near the West Coast, far from Tampa. I also know this is another dream, but not like the previous couple of dreams, which I am starting to think were dress rehearsals for something. Or were the dreams priming, much in the way, water used to be used, a cup or two sluiced through a kitchen pump to prime it for use.

Anyway, for some reason, I know that our country’s networked systems have been compromised and disabled over time. Much in the way a Trojan will replicate and replace 8 bits of data at a time over many thousands of iterations to slowly cripple the innards of an entire operating system as it morphs, this works with networking as well. In my dream, I have like this instant knowledge of time, place and the situation I'm in; none of which are really germane to the particulars; I just know what is coming.

Once the usual culprits (CIA, NSA, Pentagon and other Military Ops) have been disabled on the ground, I begin to see broader scope of the devastation; planes begin to fall from the sky (dream imagery in the Islamic world refers to illness, plague, smallpox, pleurisy. An aside; I’ve had death falling from the skies dreams all of my life, even as a small child and both of my parents were pilots.)

All planes are falling; big commercial ones, small private jets and as they fall, great plumes of fire and smoke billow from their wings and the backs of their fuselages. The newer ones fail first. They come down with huge, tearing impacts and grind the earth beside and slightly ahead of the underpass I am trying to shelter beneath. The noise is ferocious and jarring. The tempo of the falling planes increases, as more and more of them fail. You can see by the motions of the planes that some of their pilots are valiantly trying to “deadstick” them as they augur in. The heat and noise becomes too intense for us (who in the hell is in this car with me, driving?) to stay. Traffic is at a standstill on the expressway anyway. We are all sitting ducks. People are abandoning their cars and run for the underpass. We join the exodus.

We ( I still have this shadowy person tagging along and he's still unknown; amazingly, I am still blind and toting whackamole with me) run up under the cement abutment, because now, the newer vehicles are starting to falter and then explode. We both look at our phones. They are dead as doornails. Whatever is going through every computer system is acting like two things I know of, but was unaware they could be done together, although it was probably just a matter of time. The first part of this seems to be like a typical Trojan worm and just causes havoc as it cripples systems. The 2nd part seems to more like an EMP, an electromagnetic pulse disrupter, which once detonated, fries every piece of circuitry in its perimeter; it makes ATMs, gas pumps, phones, everything dependent upon electronics unusable. I wasn’t aware that such things could be bundled together and maybe they aren't here, either. Maybe it's just me and my slap-happy, paranoid imagination. Me and shadowy guy just look at one another. Fade to black.

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 › › › › › › ›

 I’m sitting in a movie theater for one. Up on the screen, Nosferatu, the 1928 version is giving a spirited rendition of… something. Not sure what it is. He does some sleight of hand nonsense and one of his legs falls off and goes down a chute to the laundry room, I guess. He’s babbling away up there on the stage, but I’m not really paying attention. I’m too busy trying to decipher what in the hell was going on on the West Coast a few minutes ago and why it didn’t really happen and why it was just a message and why was it told to me.

Nosferatu does some other sorry shit and loses an arm this go-round. If this is a magic act, he needs to step up his game. Back to what happened-didn’t happen-happened only in my head. Trying to decipher all of this dream-within-a-dream crap. This hasn’t happened yet. But, I need to tell someone, but who and how. Prince of Lies loses his other 2 limbs. That is so sad. Hang it up, there, Count.

He promptly folds up into one of those little popcorn boxes, all foldy-like and falls to the floor. Curious, I get up out of my seat of one and go to pick up the box. The paper carton looks familiar. That widow’s peak hair and white visage. I turn the box over and it’s Nicolas Cage. Great. This is either going to be the greatest dream ever, or it’s going to go down in history as the suckiest thing ever, alá “Wicker Man.” I’m relieved when Nic plays it straight, well for Nic, and just gives me one eye roll and says “You must tell the Pandas, they will know, but you must be the one to save their souls! You must tell Panda 1 and 2 and Burkholder Panda, the Sensitive one.” I look at Nic, and shake my head. “That’s Sensei, Nic, m’kay?” Now, he goes all eye-rolling and crazed.

“You fool! IT has not happened yet! Tell them! Tell the Pandas! Tell them all!” He’s jumping around, his little cardboard tantrum is ridiculous. I put him on the seat. “Okay, okay. I’ll tell them. I promise.”

I have some vague impression, more like a sense of relief. I told Panda 1 and Panda 2, actually, I am telling them now. Lois, too. Panda Burkholder as well, although he does not really understand. But then, neither do I, with the exception that I have some work to do.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

#ROW80 1ST QTR POST 20 – I’M DREAMING ABOUT WHAT EXACTLY?


For as far back as people have put chisel to rock and even earlier I’d wager, we’ve wondered about dreams and what they mean. For millennia, people have spent lots and lots of time and brain power analyzing and trying to interpret the meaning of dreams. The meanings vary from time, civilizations and continents and I wonder if there isn’t just a lot of wheel-spinning going on.

This was before the psychologists got involved and I’m sure there we also have the neuro-psycho spin, guaranteed to be verbose, obtuse and farther removed from day to day conversation, as we get closer to the ivy-covered towers of academia, before losing contact with the every day common sense approach altogether and just call it horse shit.

Of course, everyone now, thinks it’s as easy as looking it up on www.dreammoods.com, and for what it’s worth, maybe that’s just as well. The last I heard, our U.S. Congress wasn’t into slaughtering fatted calves or reading entrails, although our current economic policies, or at least the HuffPo headlines argue against that.

No, I’m talking about these everyday dreams. Of late, I’ve had a few memorable ones, and I’m sure they mean something. Just what that something is, though is arguable. I don’t usually remember my dreams, but earlier in the week, my med was changed and after a few nights of very vivid, incoherent, almost psychedelic and very beautiful dreams, I started having dreams like this:

I am on a beach, in Mexico. How I know this, I do not know, I just do. Several people have been warning me that I must be sure and remember to do this one thing and I must not fail. It is a very complicated task. It involves me going from place to place and making sure my secret assignations are met. There is surreptitious dialing of phones. Men and women in dark glasses and trench coats watch up and down streets, as I complete each not-completely-understood task, complete with coded message (“I am a ham”) at each stop.

There is a growing sense of urgency as this mission progresses and time grows short. The feeling of being watched. I fumble with the phone. It is a cheaply made Soviet-era model phone and plays the old pre-WWII Anthem “The Internationale” when it rings (this odd specificity is something always featured in my dreams.) Anyway, it rings like, every 10 minutes, or so, and it’s horrid. I keep trying to dial out on it, but the numbers are hard to punch and they jump around.  As I miss more and more of my assigned tasks, which I still have no idea of what they are supposed to really be, just pawn-type stuff (“Go to the statue of Zapata. There is a pooping pigeon and a newspaper in a trashcan. Talk to the leetle boy with the kite.) The leetle boy with the kite says (“Bite me, ya got the wrong kid, and that’s not Zapata, that’s Lindbergh. Go across the lago, you old bat.”)

So, I’ve messed that up. Eventually, after getting these phone calls, I keep passing this guy who is sort of Salvador Dali-ish, but not really. He is sitting in one of these chairs that lifeguards sit in. He’s got on his little Dali beret, with his stupid Dali mustache, and he’s laughing up a storm. I’m feeling this horrific sense of dread, one I’ve been feeling throughout this whole thing. Why am I here? I think I recognize some of these people, but am really not sure, but there’s a familiarity about this that is haunting me; the phone dialing for one thing. 

I’ve had that frustrating recurring dream for years, where nothing will sit where it’s supposed to be, coupled with the dread that I've forgotten to do something, or study. Not very long ago, I had that horrible dream where I was supposed to take a test in some kind of higher mathematics. I've forgotten to study, and not just for one night, but the whole semester. Sickest feeling. Ever. The fact that I NEVER did that in real life makes not one bit of difference.

An aside. Interestingly, since dealing with “Parkinson’s Disease or non-Parkinson’s Disease, that is the question,” this kind of thing does not frustrate me in real life any more. Well, for the most part. Dialing the phone, no. Trying to type? A whole ‘nother animal. I can get royally pissed if I have to correct. Typically in Chats and that includes Facebook and Twitter it’s stet.

The other frustrating, no, downright terrifying thing in this dream? I wasn’t able to complete this task. Faux-Dali was happy to tell me so. “You’re a failure. You should have just made the Payment when you had the chance. It’s too late now. What will happen if harm comes to them, hmm?” I stand there, head hung in shame. I am miserable.

“It will go worse for you too, if you do not make the Payment before they return home.” Hope. I lift my head and in that instant, understanding comes. I know what I must do. Only, will I have enough time? Will I have the courage to win the day and complete my mission and buck the odds. There’s just one way to find out! I absolutely must pay Andi-Roo’s car insurance, before the Roo family complete with kids drive home from Atlanta, Georgia! Then, I woke up. Thank God. Per dreammoods.com I feel I have let people down, or fell short of my expectations. Thanks, Einsteins.


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This other dream is more like a typical snapshot and I awoke chortling and talking. In this one, I get the impression that I’m back in the Homeless shelter and it feels like it; chaotic and a lot of mouthy people. The usual. I know I’ve mentioned this, but homelessness isn’t exactly going to hone your Charm School manners, if you possessed any prior to finding yourself in that particular predicament. It doesn’t give you leave to be a complete asshole, although assholery does come in handy and I myself, have employed. I know, it is hard to believe I could ever act like that.

Well, it won’t take a soothsayer, dream interpreter, or any of that other babble to figure this one out and believe me this is not how it works in the real world. It would have been a lot calmer if it did in the Homeless shelter, but hey, you can’t have everything. Apparently, we’d all taken the Bus to the same head doctor at the same time and loaded up on our psychotropic meds for the month. Only in my dream, it looked like everyone had gotten at least one backpack’s worth of happy pills.

Back at the shelter, or our shelter, which is really an old converted Victorian-era house, they were all playing “Can You Swap 4 Xantax for 8 Ativans?” in a loud and exuberant fashion. For some reason, everyone was actually getting along! No fighting or anything, just the usual 24-hour, non-stop, par-tay, replete with blunts, malt liquor and I’m sure the crack-doers were there somewhere, along with the other drug-of-choicers. They were getting so loud however, I couldn’t concentrate on the instructions for some new stupid drug I’m supposed to start (something that’s always a problem, with my bipolar and Parkinson’s “features”) so, I hollered out finally, “WOULD YOU ALL SHUT THE HELL UP! IT’S GETTING SO A PERSON CAN’T THINK! Lo and behold, they DID. You could have knocked me over with a feather. This is all sheer fantasy. I don’t need to look at any guide about dreams to know what this represents.