Commission Music

Commission Music
Bespoke Noise!!

Tuesday, 26 August 2003

Gone Daddy, Gone, My Love is Gone Away

So what's new? The phone number, for starters: 1-860-301-2508. And the local bank account is new. and . . .

The president of the grad student government had a party for all the new grad students. Christi, Xena and I went. There were oreos and fruit salad and water balloons, but since nobody knew anyone, they were tossed very politely from person to person. I became acquainted with two ethnomusicology (aka: musical anthropology) MFAs. Deborah plays the hammer dulcimer. She's well-traveled and lived in Egypt for a while among the Coptics and studied Arabic music while she was there. She had a book coming out shortly of Arabic music adapted for hammer dulcimer. She is tri-lingual. Angela plays clarinet. She already has an MFA in clarinet performance and won an award for being the best performer of the Artie Shaw Clarinet Concerto. She went to "klez camp" to study Klezmer performance and her own Klezmer band has toured the east coast. She speaks German and Russian and is learning Yiddish.

I'm in way over my head, here, I think.

Saturday, the four of us (Deborah, Angela, Christi and I) drove the bug to Concord, Mass. This is where Concord grapes came from. Angela wanted to go to Walden Pond. First, we went to the cemetery and located the graves of Louisa May Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, and another writer who - I'm ashamed to admit- I can't recall the name of, but who is also high prestige. Anyway, Then we went by the home of Louisa May Allcott, where she lived when she wrote Little Women and the home of Emerson. Walden pond is actually a very short jaunt from Emerson�s house. Thoreau wrote that if you preach a better sermon or build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. This is especially true if your door is conviently located. We did not actually see Walden Pond. Because more than 600K visitors come every year, Mass has made it a state reservation and outlawed all dogs. There was a long list of prohibited items and, alas, Xena was on it. Apparently, many years ago, E.B. White wrote that the touristy Walden Pond sucked. While I can't say if it does or doesn't, I can say that I savored the irony of a state official telling me I couldn't take my dog there.

Since we couldn't get to Walden Pond, we went further down the road to Salem. We went to the Witch Museum there and perused the semi-informative exhibits. Actually, there were pretty uninformative, but the staff let us in free, so I can't complain too much. And the gift shop was highly amusing. We walked around the town and saw a very spooky looking statue of the first colonial resident. Spoooooky! Spooooky! Pagan stores were everywhere. One could buy tarot cards, have her palm read, visit the "Official Witch of Salem," who we saw, but did not visit. It was late so all the pagan shops were closed or closing. I peeked in the windows looking for Polly's CDs, but didn't see any in the gloom. We walked to the House of Seven Gables, which is another literary sight, but not one that I know the story about.

On Sunday (our world is soooo exciting), Angela, Christi and I went to New York City and left Xena at home with Deborah. We went to the hippest record story in the whole city (according to Bernard), called Other Music. It was very hip, but very small. Then we went to Strand Books, which calls itself the world's biggest used bookstore. It should perhaps be reclassified as the world's most disorganized bookstore. You�d think that if I looked in the photography section of the world's biggest used bookstore, I ought to be able to find a book by Judy Dater. Well, maybe they had one and maybe they didn't. The store could have been the very institution that inspired Dewey. They had a big shelf of music books, but my bank balance was safe because they were completely disorganized. Opera was intermingled with pop and jazz. Biographies lurked next to theory. Christi pulled out a book about thirteenth century French motets. French motets from the time of Joan of Arc! But it turned out to be about texts and not musical at all. It didn't even belong in the section. Powells Books is bigger, has more titles and you can actually find what you're looking for.

People kept telling me about east coast / west coast differences and told me that I'm very mellow by East Coast standards. Everything out here takes a long time. It took two hours to get my new cell phone number. Everything is super-slow. Finding anything at that bookstore would have taken days because of its disorganization. I find myself often frustrated, wishing things would hurry up. I'm trying to become mellower. So if East Coasters are in a hurry all the time, maybe it's because everything will take at least twice as long as it ought to. I feel frustrated just thinking about it.

What we did find at Strand was a children's book by Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick Cheney. As far as I can tell, the book is not a joke. It�s the American ABCs. 'D' is not for Democracy. 'E' is not for Elections. I didn't memorize the text or buy it, so the highlights here are from memory. 'E' is for Equality. But E gets less than one full page, because 'F' for flag spills over on to its neighbor. 'G' is for God in whom we trust and whom doesn�t have to share a page with anyone since G gets two pages. 'H' is for heroes, who include fire fighters, police, the American military (but not anyone else's) and elected officials. Another letter has role models. The two non-white historical figures were African American. There was a woman tennis player and Louis Armstrong, a musician. The whites (who may have all been men) were inventors, statesmen, industrialists, etc. 'X' doesn�t have anything. Neither does 'Z'. 'Y' is for You, which included illustrations of mostly white kids that had future occupations written under them. One of them was future agribusiness CEO. The whole thing had a very rough quality, as if it was hastily scribbled on a cocktail napkin and then turned over from that to an illustrator. ('P' is for Patriotism!) It is unsubtle. It is an anachronism. It is alarming. It does not appear to be a joke.

After looking aghast at Cheney's book, we escaped the frustrating bookstore and rode the subway. The subway is a lot more like the London Underground than it is like BART or even MUNI. It�s amazing. We went to Central Park and saw the spot there Lennon was shot and where Yoko Ono still lives, according to Angela. We walked across to Strawberry fields. There is a big mosaic on the ground that says "Imagine." It has flowers on it. We ate ice cream bars and then got back on the subway and walked back to where we had parked. It�s a neighborhood that is really a whole lot like the Mission, but instead of Mexican flags, there are Puerto Rican ones. We dropped Christi off at the JFK airport. I am very sad.

It took more than 4 hours to get back to my empty house

Today was grad student orientation. The recurring theme was that if one has a problem, she should call the grad student office, since the people working there know all. That look a decidedly Orwellian turn during the public safety presentation when the grad official explained that they would be called if we had any noise complaints and that we would be talked to. "We know everything that goes on." one of the women explained. Great. You could feel resentment emanating from the assembled masters and PhD people.

My stuff is supposed to arrive tomorrow. Classes start Tuesday.


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