Write it down. Pick what works best for you, but be sure to make that decision and then get it onto paper. Noncommittal behavior leads to insecurity, leads to hesitation, leads to embarrassment on a stage. Write it down. Make up your mind. One note at a time, one phrase at a time, decide the plot and choose the corresponding bowings. Decisions, decisions, dissect the shifts and reorganize the fingerings. All scales must be folded neatly and put away before bedtime.
My wallet is missing. It happened in Homer, and who’s to blame is still a mystery. Was it the gas station hoodlums, the dawdling shoppers, or the moose?
Losing my wallet has always been a habit. I hit bad spells every so often, and keys, schedules, phone numbers, wallets--everything disappears for a while. It kind of reminds me of sunspots or weather patterns. I'm not certain of the cause, but bouts of forgetfulness pass through my life in distinct, unpredictable phases. I don’t know about "successions of three" or other laws of happenstance, but I could have correctly concluded before I even awoke from my rabid-dog-flying-nightmare this morning that the entire day was to be ill-fated.
I even had a chance to back out of it. I wasn’t even supposed to be in Homer. It wasn’t my day to work after all. Homer was next week, only I forgot what day I signed up to volunteer at the art co-op. I drove 79 miles, saw four moose, and then was promptly greeted by the "real" scheduled worker at the gallery. Even though I offered to drive home again and come next Saturday like I was supposed to do, she insisted on trading work days so that I wouldn't be making the drive for nothing. Oh well, at least I could get it over with.
The day was slow, with only two sales in seven hours. Usually, I bring my violin along and practice when I’m alone, but it seemed as though one or two people were always poking around, trying to waste time themselves. I busied myself with a book instead, from cover to cover in one sitting, all 220 pages.
It couldn’t have been the couple who jump-started my car after I left the headlights on. I know it wasn’t them because I used my wallet to buy an americano after that. I had it then. I also had it on the counter when the last meandering bunch entered at a quarter to closing time. At this time, I deliberately placed the wallet in my coat pocket. I remember because I was proud of myself for being so prudent. Was it possible one of them could have lifted it out of my jacket while another distracted me with chit-chat? That would be extremely clever and deceptive for such a friendly elderly group.
I was so incredibly mindful in closing the shop. I turned off all fifteen light switches, collected my cd’s, turned the thermostat back to 60, counted out all $44.23 in sales, and placed all keys in their proper hiding places. I was meticulous. I even took out the trash.
The twist of fate may have lay in the washer fluid. I couldn’t make the drive back in the dark without it, and that is the only reason I stopped at that gas station. They didn’t even have any fluid left on the shelves, so I left in a small huff. Perhaps that’s why I don’t remember if I had the wallet in my hand, or what the two grimy figures were doing as I left my car unlocked. Did they help themselves while I was gone? Honestly, I didn’t pay them any attention because they looked just like about 80% of the Homer population. George says I should always carry some means of protection when I go there, and I know he’s right. I can’t help but want to trust people, though.
I even trusted that grizzly bearded man who came in off the streets last time I worked. He was huge, and I was alone with my violin, which had lured him inside in the first place. “Play me something!” He ordered. I sheepishly gave him a courtesy fiddle lick and began to pack up. “Show me how to play it. Can I hold it?” Submissively, I found myself handing my fiddle and bow over to him, attempting to explain a basic bow hold. What was I thinking? Well, he seemed friendly enough during the small talk--that is, until I mentioned Oklahoma and his eyes lit up. “You from there? I did some time there, back in McAlester, in the state pen.” He began as though he would tell the whole story, but then abruptly changed his mind, and also the subject. The thought occurred to me that no one could hear me if I screamed.
Shady characters seem to be run-of-the-mill in Homer. I couldn’t even tell you what kind of car those gas station boys were driving. I just didn’t really think twice about them. But why would they think to look inside my humble ‘94 Civic for valuables? And while they were at it, why didn’t they take my violin and my purse with the digital camera in it? (My wallet only had $2.50 in it.) But they didn’t; they may not have taken the wallet, either.
I continued my quest for washer fluid. Safeway was the next option. It was only a block away, and yet a long line of cars made for a slow trip. What was the holdup?
A moose, perhaps a yearling calf, was sauntering straight down the middle of the road as vehicles followed in line, reminding me of a trail ride. “Oh this is funny.” I wished I could capture the scene to share with folks down south a taste of northern living. Wait! My camera... I pulled into the parking lot and frantically dug around in my bag. My search took too long; the moment had passed. At this time, I stepped out of the car and into the snowbank to record eight seconds of rough footage that would perhaps be my only evidence of the true fate of my wallet.
By the time the camera started rolling, the calf had moved to the right of the highway and over the snow berm on the opposite side of the road. I moved toward the road to get a better view and immediately discovered why the moose had been using the highway in the first place. Although the snow looked firm and harmless, it was actually three feet deep and soft. I took two steps atop the crust before post-holing up over my knees.
With boots now filled with snow, I skipped into Safeway for the washer fluid. It was at this time that I first noticed the absent wallet. I wrote a check for $2.33 for my washer fluid, and then began the search.
I checked my pockets. I looked beside the seat. I emptied my bag. I looked in my food stash. I drove by the snowbank. I went to the gas station and asked the cashier. I drove back to the shop and walked through the closing procedure again. Nothing.
I dug under the seat. I checked my pockets. I replaced the contents of my bag one item at a time, noting that each item was not a wallet. I looked in my food stash. I drove back to Safeway, asked the cashier, bought a flashlight since it was now dark, and continued.
I dug at every crater in the snowbank. I walked around in the parking lot. I drove back to the gas station. I checked the seats. I checked my pockets. I looked in my food stash. I drove back to the gallery and walked through the closing procedure. I dug through the trash. I opened the cash bag. I checked in the microwave. I looked in the toilet (hey, it fell in there once). Nothing.
It was raining now; the washer fluid was a mute point. Pools of melted snow gathered in the toes of my boots. Not a single person would offer a lead as to the whereabouts of my wallet, my longest-lived wallet of four years. This would be the first time it didn’t show up somewhere, somehow. Heck, once I even lost a wallet on my honeymoon, and it still showed up again last year when we sold our truck. The new owners called to tell us they’d found it behind the seat. Everything was still in it, even the red-tipped arrowhead I'd found with my dad. (Speaking of which, where in the heck is that arrowhead, anyway?)
Conceding in tears, I finally broke down and drove away from Homer.
Was it the moose? I’m enclosing the footage, all eight seconds of it, just in case any of you can find any clues. The moose is a moving shape in the middle ("Aw, how boring."), followed by a scuffle, which is me falling through the snow.
I’m going to be up all night thinking about that wallet.
Paul Rosenthal, a "real" violinist, came to Soldotna and played three violin sonatas, Beethoven #1, Janacek #1, and Saint Saens #1. A student of DeLay, Galamian, Heifetz, and Gingold, Rosenthal has reason to be considered for an eyebrow-raising. He's only been playing the violin for 61 years, after all! Considering the fact that I can't even think of another violinist I've heard with a resume that sturdy, I felt privileged to be sitting on the front row in the Lutheran chapel, only feet away from the action.
...That is, until he entered and moved his stand so that he was facing the other row of pews, angling the stand so that it deflected most of the sound that rang from his glorious Guarneri del Jesu. I suspected as much when the piano immediately overpowered him at the opening of the Beethoven.
It wasn't until we demanded his encore that he pushed the stand down and began Bach's Air in G; then I realised what I had missed. It was all there. That old-school, rich singing tone finally reached my ears. Wow, I don't know that I've ever heard a sound that was 300 years old before. All I can say is, thank God for musicians like Paul Rosenthal who could have done anything in the world, and chose above all to live in Alaska and give concerts for the locals. Thanks to him, I've been treated like royalty this week.
Something was different today. As I settled the monthly scheduling and billing with the mother, the little girl spun around the room like a drum roll, clutching her piano books with glee. I’ve seen enthusiasm in students, but this ranked equal to something you’d see on Christmas day. She stopped just long enough to display her piece for me, pages open high, hiding her gleaming face. I read the title, “Song of Joy.” Yes, that’s nice.
Hmm? Song of Joy? ...Oh! Silly me, I hadn’t even caught it. My little Veftoken girl had finally achieved the fabled Ode to Joy. Well, now I’ve done it, I’ve gone and introduced her to Beethoven.
We’ve been at the piano together for months now. Every week was a struggle to make sense of A-B-C, left hand, right hand, half note, quarter-quarter, one-two-three-four. Her energy made it difficult to maintain focus some days, but her explosive creativity was like gold to me. If only we could channel it for good use, we would have a great adventure.
Can you see the black notes moving up and down? Do you hear the notes going higher and lower? Can you feel the count to four as you play? Every week, the questions repeated, the battle began anew, and I watched and waited, hoping for the breakthrough.
This was the week that it finally came, and it came in the form of Beethoven. With drama, she pushed her sleeves out of the way and began, singing along as each finger landed. Before, her hands had wondered philosophically, searching for a reason to commit and seeking to make sense of the commands. But now, they had purpose! The left hand was singing Ode to Joy, and each finger had a note to contribute to the cause.
I joined her with simple chords, but felt more like dancing around the room. Lightbulb? Sometimes, these experiences to me are more like a blinding revelation on the road to Damascus. She plays music now. She didn’t before, and now she does.
Enter to win Leonidas Kavakos' recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto.
Emily Grossman is from Soldotna, Alaska. Biography
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