The Upside of Autumn

I grumble about the end of summer as much as any schoolkid (including my own), but one of its bonuses (at least for those of us who toil in the vineyards of civil service) is that, from September until February, there is at least one paid day off per month.  Monday will be such a day.  Tomorrow night, I will not set the alarm, but that tomorrow will still be a semi-work day for me.  My goal is to make some serious headway in making our new home look more like a home–we’ve hung up clothes, and the office is starting to take shape, but we still look like we’re in transit.

Susie turned 14 on Thursday, and she was quite happy with the Seventeen subscription I bought her, although the first issue has yet to arrive.  (I remember receiving a subscription to Mad for my 11th birthday, and feeling just as good.)  I bought her subscription through Amazon.com, and they sent her an email Thursday morning notifying her, so now she’ll haunt the mailbox until the first issue arrives.  Susie’s grandfather sent her a sketchbook and a pen, and her mom mailed her clothes.  Susie and I had chicken soup at home (the same chicken soup I made two weeks ago–freezers and Crock-Pots are wonderful inventions) and then I took her for dessert at Groovy Spoon, a frozen yogurt restaurant on N. High St. just south of Whetstone Park.
She had a sleepover last night with a girl from The Graham School, so I stayed up almost until dawn, but was awake again by 9.  Susie and I went to Studio 35 to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, although we declined the chance to dine with the Klingons.  (We ate lunch at Burger King beforehand.)  Between lunch and the movie, we went to a garage sale on E. Weber Rd.  Susie bought a purse and a scarf.  There was an entire rack of women’s clothes, but nothing she liked fitted her.  I bought a DVD of Kissing Jessica Stein and a two-disk set of Beethoven’s Favourite Piano Sonatas (I’m listening to the “Moonlight Sonata” as I type this, which is appropriate, because the moon is very bright tonight, although it’s not officially full until Tuesday).

Where Susie and I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

The downside of a three-day weekend is that my sleep schedule is now off track.  Since I didn’t get to bed until close to sunrise, and was awake again a mere four hours later, I crashed for an hour or two almost as soon as Susie left for dinner and a movie with her godmother.  Susie is singing at the 9:15 service at church, so we’ll be out of the gate sooner tomorrow morning than usual.  And I’m hardly leading by example!  It’s nearing midnight, and I’m sitting here typing this entry with a bottle of Coke Zero at my elbow.
As I was unpacking, I was scared to death that I had lost the manuscript of my memoir about my friendship with Cincinnati novelist Robert Lowry during the move.  (Most of the text was on the hard drive of the stolen laptop.)  I sent a panicked letter to my friend Robert Nedelkoff just outside D.C., since he has been my consultant and father confessor for much of the project.  (I sent a letter rather than emailing so he could have a hard copy of my new address.)  About two hours after I dropped the letter in the mailbox, I was unpacking one of the big Staples boxes (my packing lacks organization–it always has, it always will), and, voilà, there it was.  I heaved a huge sigh of relief.  A day or two ago, RobertNed sent me an email thanking me for notifying him of the change of address, and he attached the Word file of the Lowry manuscript, as well as other items.

Now that I have an extant copy of the hard copy, rewriting should head the “to do” list, since–as Robert has not so subtly pointed out–I am in the home stretch of finishing this book.  (Lowry died in December 1994, and the last time I added anything to the manuscript, I was describing the period between the spring of 1992 and the summer of 1993.)  However, it has been so long since I wrote anything, the voice has changed, I’ve fallen out of love with some of the prose I wrote, etc., so it’s best if I did the whole damn thing from the ground up.  Before she moved to Florida, Steph made some invaluable comments and edits in pen and ink on the manuscript, and I plan to incorporate some of these changes in the next incarnation.

An aside here–I changed the music while writing the last paragraph.  Currently, I’m listening to Vivaldi’s “Double Trumpet Concerto for Two Trumpets, Strings, and Continuo in C Major, RV 537 Allegro,” from the album Greatest Hits of 1721.  I love this piece.  What’s funny is that it first came to my attention when I saw All the President’s Men.  During the scene when Woodward and Bernstein suspect that Nixon’s people are wiretapping them, they sit at a typewriter and “converse” by typing, and Woodward blares this music on the stereo to drown out the sound of the typing.

As I was rereading the pages of the Lowry manuscript, I seem to mark the decline of my daily conduct with him to my return to gainful and stable employment, particularly my third-shift job at the main post office in Cincinnati.  I’ve often said that my conversations with him at the Bay Horse Café started off as resembling William Holden and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, since Lowry’s life and work fascinated me since I read about him in a 1989 Clifton magazine article.  Toward the end, as Lowry declined mentally, it more resembled Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

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A Question No One’s Ever Posed (at Least Not to Me)

“If you could only have one [this part varies] for the rest of your life, what would it be?” is a question and a what-if game that I’ve alternately enjoyed and dreaded over the years.  I had mixed feelings when it was immortalized on the Stand By Me poster:

If I could only have one food for the rest of my life?  That’s easy–Pez.  Cherry-flavored Pez.  No question about it.

I recently thought of something that hasn’t come up, not in let’s-go-around-the-circle-and-get-acquainted sessions, or camping-out-in-the-yard situations.  If you could only hear one piece of music the rest of your life, what would it be?

For me, two pieces of music are tied for first, and for me, I doubt it’s possible to break the tie.  The two choices are either Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or Sergei Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite.  The only way I can minimize these two choices is to say that if I could only hear one movement of the Ninth Symphony, it would be the second.

I’m not even sure if the Ninth Symphony would have made it onto the list–let alone vying for a spot at the top–if my parents had watched Walter Cronkite and The CBS Evening News.  Being a native of Wheeling, for a long time my dad insisted that he and Mother watch WTRF-TV (Channel 7) local news.  Channel 7 was the NBC affiliate at that time, and it was followed by The Huntley-Brinkley Report.  After 30 minutes of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley reading the news, the closing credits rolled, playing the second movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  I didn’t know how special it was until my dad played it for me from their multi-LP set of The Basic Library of the World’s Greatest Music.  (I was familiar with Beethoven, because I had seen his scowling profile on the bust that was atop Schroeder’s toy piano in Peanuts.)

I guess The Huntley-Brinkley Report is a much better introduction to the Ninth Symphony than A Clockwork Orange, although after seeing that film, I no longer associate “The William Tell Overture” exclusively with The Lone Ranger.  When I was in Boston, Sega released an arcade game called Pengo.  In between rounds, a row of penguins would march out onto the screen and dance to the “Ode to Joy.”  The game was popular enough that I could easily get the tune stuck in my head.  Later on, when hearing a professionally recorded version of it, if I’ve been unmedicated for awhile and the volume is high enough, the choral portion of the “Ode to Joy” triggers manic episodes for me that can last hours or days.

The other piece of music, The Lieutenant Kijé Suite, was the B side of the Peter and the Wolf album that my dad brought home for me when I was in kindergarten.  It was produced by Vanguard Everyman Classics, with Boris Karloff narrating Peter and the Wolf.  (It is available on CD, and well worth every cent, especially the way Karloff ends the narrative: “…because the wolf, in his hurry, had swallowed her [dramatic pause] alive!”, stretching out the final word over several seconds.)  I felt adventurous one day, and decided to play the “grown-up” part of the record, and found I liked it even better than Peter and the Wolf.  With an adult’s supervision, I could play it on our stereo, the big Magnavox console in the living room, but my parents finally let me play it on my orange and white General Electric monaural phonograph in my bedroom because I asked them to play it for me so often.

My mother told me that when I was in first grade, she had no idea that I was being physically and emotionally abused by my teacher.  She said that I would come home, eat my after-school snack, “then you’d go up to your bedroom and put on Vivaldi on your record player until it was time for dinner.”  I do love Vivaldi (enough to rip an entire five-CD set of it to this laptop), but my memory is a little fuzzy on playing Vivaldi.  (I did hear, several times, about my bringing The Four Seasons to Pioneer Nursery School when the teachers asked us to bring our favorite records to share.)

The other vivid Vivaldi memory was when I was preschool and kindergarten age.  We didn’t go to church on Sunday morning.  My mother usually slept late, and I would be awake to watch Tom and Jerry before the news and religious programming dominated the rest of Sunday morning television.  My dad was usually awake at the same time, reading the Sunday paper.  As far as remembering the Sabbath day and keeping it holy, we always played Vivaldi’s Gloria, and Dad would make pancakes or French toast, along with bacon and eggs, instead of pouring me my usual bowl of cold cereal.  (Neither of us said it aloud, and I only came to realize many years after Dad died in 2000, but part of what made the Sunday morning celebrations so special was that Mother was not with us.  She had yet to go fully nuts, but she had begun going down that path.)

First UU’s holiday concert last year included the Gloria, and I forgot how special that piece of music had been until I arrived at the church.  I arrived while the musicians were tuning and warming up, and the goose bumps rose all up and down my arm when I heard the French horn player practicing “Gloria in excelsis Deo” several times while preparing for the concert.

And what have I been listening to while I’ve been typing this entry?  Such erudite music as Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” and The Fortunes’ “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again.”