- 8 October 2000
- Spirit Examiners
- Señor Wiles runs the wackiest compound Ive ever seen. It looks like a picked-over junk yard with pieces of broken machinery everywhere, kilometers of wires running from nowhere to nowhere and back again, shattered neon glass tubes in unlikely places, and moldy paper elsewhere. The spread, however, is not without aesthetic merit. Take, for example, the spirit examiners.
Señor Wiles, I asked, why did you plant all these glass bulbs against the south wall of your compound?
Its the damned spirits, he replied. They were always drifting around and annoying the hell out of me, so I had to do something about it.
Spirits? I wondered aloud.
Yeah, I guess a bunch of people must have died around here or something, Señor Wiles explained. Anyway, they keep coming out and really pissing me off, so I put all the glass bulbs back there to catch them when they come out of the ground.
Do the glass bulbs work? I inquired.
I guess so, Señor Wiles responded. They havent bothered me in months.
One more question, I continued, Why do you have the mirror between the bulbs and the compound wall?
Thats so that the damned spirits can see how ridiculous they look, he explained. I think thats really what did the trick.
I cant look at your field of glass bulbs without being reminded of Marcel Duchamps piece, Air de Paris, I concluded.
Duchamp played tenor saxophone in Glenn Millers orchestra, didnt he? queried Señor Wiles. I had no idea he had spirit problems too, although I suppose almost everyone did during the war. I bet thats why they never found the missing plane.
I think it is safe to conclude that Monsieur Duchamp and Señor Wiles arrived at their glass bulb pieces independently of each other.
- 9 October 2000
- Debatable Musical Progress
- I was surprised to see Bruce with a guitar around his neck tonight when I snuck backstage for another free dinner.
Wow!, I exclaimed, I havent heard you play in twenty-five years!
I hope Im playing better now, Bruce replied serenely. (Serene is the only language Bruce speaks.)
I thought about that brief exchange all night and all morning. There was something wrong with Bruces remark, but I couldnt figure what it was until I came across a relevant observation by Man Ray.
There is no progress in art. The artist may develop a more firm conviction as he goes along, but we are not doing anything better than was done in previous centuries. We are doing something different. And that is our only justification. If there need be a justification.
- I hypothesized that Bruce couldnt be playing better than he was a quarter century ago unless he was playing the same music he played in high school. To test my conjecture, I looked at my own work. Are my mind-numbingly boring conceptual pieces better than the lovely (if I do say so myself) portraits of my high school girlfriends? The pieces are unmistakably different, but I certainly wouldnt declare one set of prints to be better than another.
I also have no idea whether Bruce plays better than he did a quarter century ago. Who cares? He does good work; debates on aesthetic relativity are irrelevant.
- 10 October 2000
- Marc Coplands Impromptu Poetry
- Marc Copland ran out of words at his solo piano performance tonight when he was describing a piece he was about to play. He concluded his remarks by saying, Youll see it when you hear it.
I usually dislike poetry, but Ill make a rare exception for Marc.
- 11 October 2000
- Bongos à Go-go!
- Right now, David is driving from Santa Fe to Albuquerque. In a freezing deluge. On a motorcycle. With a set of bongo drums strapped to his back. In the year 2000.
How can this be?
In spite of all the empirical evidence, I still have great difficulty believing that someone even older than I am is driving from Santa Fe to Albuquerque in a freezing deluge on a motorcycle with a set of bongo drums strapped to his back in the year 2000.
- 12 October 2000
- Brilliant Advice, Unrecognized
- I played my last concert with the percussionist Peter Erskine in 1971. It turns out that the advice I gave him at one of our rehearsals was the catalyst for his subsequent musical successes.
Even as teenagers, I recognized his musical brilliance (and my lack of same), but there was something missing. And, when I finally figured out what it was, I told him.
Peter, man, let me lay some heavy advice on you, I said. (People really did talk that way three decades ago.) Youre great on the drums, but youre playing like youre taking tickets on this train, like youre fryin up eggs in the caboose of this train, like youre shovelin coal into this trains boiler. Man, you aint takin tickets, you aint fryin eggs, you aint even stokin the boiler. Youre drivin this train, and thats the way you gotta play it. Drive this train hard, man, and get us where we wanna be.
He may have said, You got it man, or he may have merely nodded in assent. I really cant remember exactly; that was a very long time ago.
After that exchange, Peter was never the same again. He drove the band, and we got where we were going harder, faster, and, somewhat paradoxically, we got there exactly on time.
Peter gave me a quizzical look when I reminded him about that exchange after his performance tonight. It was as if he didnt recognize me or consciously remember my brilliant advice! How very curious.
- 13 October 2000
- Schrödingers Last Night
- I heard Kate softly playing her viola at two this morning. That seemed odd, as well as bothersome, since I was trying to go to sleep.
After I gently tapped on her door, she whispered, Come in, but please be quiet. I silently closed the door behind me, then surveyed the scene.
There really wasnt much to see, especially since the room was only illuminated by a single candle. Kate was wrapped in a blanket, sitting on the floor in front of the wood-burning stove. She was holding her viola in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Her old cat was curled up on a blanket in front of the stove.
Its Schrödinger, she murmured, nodding at the thin cat by her feet. Hes dying.
The elderly cat certainly didnt look well. His fur was matted and oily, and he was breathing heavily, even though he was immobile. Old Schrödinger stared out into space with his mouth half open; I could barely see the tip of his dry tongue occasionally move, as if he was trying to taste or lick something.
Poor Schrödingers been ill for a long time, but now hes about to leave, she said in an almost inaudible voice.
How can you tell? I asked.
Schrödinger was sitting in a drafty corner of the bathroom on a wet towel, she explained. Cats always turn away from warmth and seek the cold when theyre ready to die. When that happens, theres nothing we can do except to make their last hours as pleasant as possible.
I didnt know what to say, so I poured myself a large glass of wine and gently stroked the cat as Kate went back to playing a pianissimo dirge. Schrödinger seemed oblivious to everything except whatever it was he saw outside the room. After what seemed like an hour or two, I couldnt keep my eyes open, so I silently went back to my bed in the greenhouse.
I didnt awake until after ten, then wandered into the kitchen for some coffee. Kate was sitting at the table in her pajamas, drinking tea.
Schrödinger died not long after you left, she announced matter-of-factly.
- 14 October 2000
- Deutschland über Albuquerque
- I got up at four in the morning last Saturday and drove to Albuquerque with crazy Alphonso to see hundreds of hot air balloons take part in the annual mass launch. I know thats what happened because I took photographs; thats the only practical way of remembering anything that happens that early in the morning.
It was amazing to walk among hundreds of balloons preparing to launch, but the atmosphere also had nauseating wafts of saccharine America. There were lots of huge macho trucks, although I suppose anything smaller couldnt carry a heavy balloon. (I was again reminded of an old Earth First! bumpersticker: Youd drive a big muscle truck too if your penis was as small as mine.) The event organizers broadcast wretched jingoistic songs from loudspeakers, with insipid lyrics like, I love to be free because Im an American, Im an American because Im free, and similar trite dreck.
Oh, the humanity!
The Germans redeemed the event for me when I looked up and saw a giant floating elephant the size of a blue whale! (It wasnt as large as the Hindenburg, but then it wasnt filled with hydrogen, either.) Within minutes, the forellenhof was followed by a mammoth pitcher of Frankfurter apfelwein.
For me, the mass balloon launch was a once-in-a-lifetime experience: Im glad I was there, but Ill never do it again. And I am most grateful that the Germans came to my aesthetic rescue, or else I think I would have regretted being immersed in an airborne sea of American commercial pap.
- 15 October 2000
- An Embarrassing Unnoticed Prejudice Exposed
- Misha told me that he didnt particularly enjoy the years he lived in Japan. He said ninety-nine percent of the people there play the Japanese game. They know the rules of being Japanese and they assiduously obey them. Misha described it as the Japanese tribal mindset, which dictates that everything Japanese is great and everything foreign is, at best, second rate.
That sounds like Japan to me, I agreed, even though Ive only spent a couple hours there going from one plane to another at Narita airport.
I dont think its a particularly a particularly Japanese phenomenon, Misha replied. You could say the same thing about the Unites States, China, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, or just about any other country you care to mention.
Misha was correct in gently pointing out that Iand perhaps most of my friendsare as blindly nationalistic as the Japanese. Or the Americans, the Chinese, the British, the French, the Germans, the Italians, or about any other country. I am all the more embarrassed since I failed to see such obvious prejudices.
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©2000 David Glenn Rinehart