Tomorrow is the day I will make my violin-shopping debut in Seattle. After days of googling, emails, cell-phone coverage, mapquest, and interviews with experienced and informative locals, I have choreographed the ultimate itinerary. The lineup consists of the top six violin dealers and makers, all of which I have personally hand-selected for maximum quality. The final six shops are (in no particular order--no, in alphabetical order): Bischofberger, Carrabba, Hammond Ashley, Lasley and Russ, David Stone, and David Van Zandt.
Tomorrow and Thursday, over fifty violins in my targeted price range await my personal critique. Accompanied by my scrutinizing colleague "CB", who has impeccable and discriminating musical taste, we will set the standard and slice through the competition, carefully sifting the wheat from the chaff. The lone standing victor wins a permanent vacation in Alaska.
Someone make a reality show. My razor-like wit and sarcastic critical eye would put Simon to shame. And I'm definitely not compensating for my complete lack of experience and the fact that I may not have a clue what I'm doing.
It's like a cross between American Idol and Blind Date.
Equinox finally brought the temperatures above freezing the past two days, and no sooner had the ice in the streets begun to slush into potholes, the snowmen were out picketing against the onslaught of spring. A dozen of them stood on the side of the highway, their brightly colored signs fluttering protests to the passing traffic: “Say NO to SPRING!” “THE END IS NEAR!” “The PLOWS are HERE!”
Their sentiments, no doubt, are vastly in the minority, as protesters usually are. Likewise, all their efforts will not change the tide of meltage that is to come. I have forseen it; I saw fate stamped on their gaunt figures and drooping heads. It’s inevitable. It will be done. Let the breakup begin!
Meanwhile, the local Fred Meyer store put its bin of $1.99 stretch-gloves back in storage and brought out the flip flops and sunscreen. I think I'll buy a pair while they’re on sale. Who’s antsy for spring around here, anyway?
It’s a go. I got the official word today, after a week of skepticism and doubt. In April, I will be performing Clara Schumann’s trio in G minor for violin, cello, and piano. We weren’t sure if the funding would present itself, but it came through after all. We’re flying our cellist, Andrew Cook, in from California to perform three concerts in Soldotna, Homer, and Anchorage. I can’t wait to meet him.
But before that, I must fly to Seattle to go violin shopping. Yeah, I’m pretty excited. Actually, I’m trying not think about that much right now. I still have four days to go.
Well, what would you think if your new student showed up with pink hair held back by a black cat-ear headband? I was pretty excited, myself. Taylor is also the only student I’ve had so far who could carry on an entire conversation while playing through her piano assignments.
She is also the only student with an affinity for japanimation and theater, and she prefers the music of Danny Elfman over Alfred’s Basic Piano Curriculum. I don’t blame her, either. As she pointed out herself while struggling through the third measure, the oom-pah-pah’s of the left hand in “Blow the Man Down” sound a bit like circus music. “I hate circus music,” she remarked, while coordinating her dotted quarter note. “Watch out, or I’ll give you a monkey sticker for that!” I threatened. I have a wide assortment of silly stickers, mostly in the form of smilies, which I place on all performed literature that meets my approval. Some kids prefer yellow smileys, and some are pink fanatics. The monkeys are a bit frightening to most, though, and I bought them mostly for my own entertainment, to see how each student would respond to the idea of earning a monkey or a banana. Yeah, I admit, it sounds a bit degrading. But I guarantee it brings at least a chuckle into the lesson.
Taylor continued with her oom-pah-pah’s. “You know, every time I miss this part right here, God kills a kitten. At least, that’s what I tell myself to help me concentrate on getting it right.” ...Okay, whatever helps you focus. I personally couldn’t focus if I was picturing the slaughter of small innocent animals as the direct consequence of my failure. I’d be laughing too hard. “Hey, Taylor, here’s some further motivation: how about, every time you get this line right, God kills a clown.” By now, we were laughing more than anything else. But she got the line right, so who’s to say I’m such an awful teacher? I handed her a blue smiley instead of the juggling monkey. I’ll save the juggling monkey for Amari’s lesson tomorrow. She loves yellow bananas.
...Ooh, I just discovered two sheets of froggie stickers hidden behind the monkey sheets. Holy cow, Jonathan is going to be ecstatic about that! He’s been asking for frogs for a year and a half now, and Soldotna seems to be perpetually depleted of frogs, for whatever reason.
Now, if anyone could point me in the right direction to find a beginner arrangement of something from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, I would greatly appreciate it. Taylor insists on nothing else.
Last week, I finally got up the nerve to call a highly recommended teacher in Anchorage to inquire about lessons. The first time I called, I nervously waited as the message machine explained which button to push to leave a message for the person I wished to contact. Clearing my throat, I began to stammer to the beep, stumbling over the explanation of my situation, my desires, my willingness to travel, only to be intercepted by a small, incoherent voice. ...Hmm, must be a very young daughter. She hung up on me.
I called again. This time, I thought perhaps I would get the teacher. Instead, I was funneled to her personal mailbox to leave yet another message. I began my explanation again, only to be disconnected by the machine before I could leave my number. My nerves were frazzled, my courage gone, but I had to give it one last try, if only to get my number on her machine. Otherwise, she would never call me back.
I mentally prepared my concise sentence that would effectively get the point across in the least amount of time: "Hello, This is Emily Grossman, my number is--" This time, the older son picked up the phone. "Can I take a message?" he asked. I gave him my name, a brief message, and phone number, making sure he spelled it all correctly, and letting him know she could call me any time. He promised to let her know.
She never even returned my call.
Every month, like clockwork, I find myself up all night, as if by the workings of a gravitational pull. The hours whisk along and I enter a quiet pensive trance. Then, in the same way that one would crave a hot drink or a bit of chocolate, I get the familiar urge to listen to my favorite late night muse: Debussy's Suite Bergamasque.
Could it be? Is it that time? I peek out the window and view the bright blue glitter, the snow glowing as though electrified. Hello once again, my waxing friend, my late-night companion. Claire de Lune is playing now.
Some people howl at the full moon. The midnight brilliance stirs the blood to a frenzy, and for a phase, carnal drive overwhelms sanity. Wild animals form packs and thrash the woods for vulnerably exposed prey. Will wolves not rest until they draw blood?
I, too, am driven from sleep, but not for blood; beauty rises, ever beckoning and taunting, and ever out of reach. The way the moon seeps right into my very yard, settling right there on those branches and even intruding my bedroom through the curtains... Sometimes, it seems like if the timing is right, I might just find a piece of that for myself, if I can catch its scent and follow its tracks through the trees, quickly, before the moment passes.
My teeth ache. My fingers itch. I can’t rest. I want the moon, and I can’t stop reaching.
I can't write. I have sunspot on my brain, make like speaking from deep cavern. When the static clears and the waves regain normal frequencies, the writing will resume. Meanwhile, I will update you as to any alien encounters or the like.
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