~ Virtuoso Shredding in Washington DC
I've been down at my parents' home outside DC this week, and have tried to spend some time cleaning out some old papers and junk that were forgotten in a bedroom closet. I had already disposed of my journals from college about a year ago, when I stumbled upon them and realized that I never, ever wanted anyone to read those, and could barely stomach reading them myself. Oh, the self-absorbed angst. I only hope that I had enough sense to keep it all to myself even then. Had a moment of hesitation when I started shredding the old journals from middle school and high school, just because they were marginally entertaining, with long-winded accounts of being embroiled in a variety of dramas involving people I can't remember. Like, who the heck was Marty and why did I care so much about what he or she thought? Seriously, this all happened in 9th grade, and I don't even know if Marty was a boy or a girl, someone I knew from church or rode my school bus, or what.
Even worse, sprinkled among the entries, in what was meant to be illustrative commentary, I suppose, were bits of poetry, mostly right-aligned, some written in purple ink. Thankfully, by junior year in high school, I had replaced those with pen and ink drawings, doodles, and weird introspective collages. But by then, the damage was done--I'm only thankful that this was all before Bridget Jones came out and every female under 30 started emulating that "Calories: 1,540. V. good" business in their journals and diaries. I look at the length of my entries and wonder how on earth I found the time to babble so endlessly and sappily into these notebooks. I suppose you can churn out a lot more volume when you don't feel the need to do any editing, which I certainly didn't.
After plowing through the stack of notebooks and cathartically feeding them to the industrial heavy duty shredder, the feeling of immense relief at not being a teenager anymore is replaced by the sudden horrifying realization that in a few short years, I'm going to have one in my house. Talk about the sword of Damocles, knowing that your adorable, babbling little bundle of joy will eventually grow to churn out reams of bad poetry. How come that's never mentioned in any of the "Are you ready to have a baby?" articles and pregnancy book chapters out there? Maybe "Are you physically/emotionally/fiscally prepared?" should still be questions 1, 2, and 3, but for sure #4 should be, "Are you willing to foster creativity, even when it comes in the form of prose so cheesy, it'll make your skin crawl?"
Over the weekend, my brother flew in from Chicago and we all went to see Papa play with his balalaika group. Having settled into our seats expecting a couple hours of fun and lighthearted (i.e., simple) folk tunes, we were instead treated to a virtuoso performance by the soloist, apparently Russia's leading 3-stringed domra player. Vincent and I couldn't help elbowing each other in astonishment as he played runs and arpeggios I would've thought impossible on that instrument, which before that night, I probably would've ranked just a few notches above the ukelele in terms of virtuosic possibility. Then on the repeat he'd play them in cut time (twice as fast). Best of all, he was so happy and relaxed onstage, clearly enjoying himself immensely. He was a great big bear of a man, too, and it was easy to picture him outside a couple pints of vodka, throwing down in a jam session in a Siberian pub. Definitely happy music, baby was dancing along.
We followed that with Porgy and Bess at the Kennedy Center on Monday night. I'm a huge fan of both the Washington Opera and Gershwin, so it was bound to be a good night for me, but I didn't expect to be so moved by the story--I had forgotten that it was so tragic. I had been kind of concerned at the outset because our seats were in the middle of center front orchestra (great seats, but no quick bathroom escapes) but I did OK even though it was the unabridged operatic version (3 hours plus, curtain to curtain). The timpani always seemed to get a response from the baby, which he/she could probably feel as much as hear, we were so close to the orchestra pit. Which led to a half-serious instant messenger conversation with Mik later that night about what to do if our kid decides to take up either the drums or the domra, lovely instruments but difficult to listen to a beginner practice and play. Come to think of it, the same applies to trumpets, trombones, and violins as well. Which leads me to add question #5 to the list, "Do you have sufficient self-control not to grimace as your kid squeaks his way through 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' on his chosen instrument for the 54th time?"
At this point, I was meaning to launch into a pithy conclusion about how all of the above, the Siberian domra player, the African-American Peabody Conservatory tenor, it all ties together and makes me ooze with anticipation about bringing a creative new life into this world. But to be honest, I'm afraid that when I find this entry another 30 years from now, when the kid's already (um, hopefully) out of the house, reading it will make me want to lug out the shredder again, so I'll just keep my cheesy thoughts to myself.
In between feeding the shredder and being fed by my mother, I managed to squeeze in a few trips in to DC and to enjoy the beautiful weather. Even when the temperature finally dropped late in the week, I still managed to squeeze out a couple more top-down days by turning the heat on my face and feet full blast, a trick that I used to pull with some frequency back when I first got that trusty little cabrio in February 1998. That is, before the threat of pneumonia finally made me quit. I was supposed to take the Amtrak back up to NYC/CT on Tuesday, but it's just too comfortable here, being looked after by my folks, so I'm going to stick around a little longer.