Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Is There Winter in Hell?

Last winter during the long, dark, cold Northeastern winter that is about to rear its ugly head yet again,  I remember making myself leave the house to venture off into the frostbitten air to walk down the street and grab a cup of coffee, some fresh air, and humanly interactions with the fine folks at my favorite coffee joint.  On my way to Dunkin Donuts a homeless man says to me "Hey, nice hat!"  It was the first conversation I had had in weeks (besides Trevor) and I remember feeling a spark of excitement like "Hey someones talking to me!  This is a great way to meet people, all I have to do is leave the house and people will talk to me!" Then I remembered thinking...this man is homeless.  He is not exactly new-best-friend material.  And he likes my hat...now what does that say about my fashion sense? ...  I am never leaving the house again.

It was a rough winter.  At the end of the winter I visited Brooklyn to see my Uncle who is a Roman Catholic priest.   He had had a bad winter too.  In the aftermath of one of our weekly snow storms, he slipped on the ice and tore all sorts of things in his knee which required major surgery, casting, and crutches.

A month or two later he is healing, but not 100% walking yet.  Springtime has arrived and my Uncle is hosting a party for my Grandma's 91st birthday.  The whole family is hanging out around his apartment when we decide we should go for a walk around the neighborhood to enjoy the lovely weather.  Because he still cannot walk very far, we rent my uncle a wheel chair from the local pharmacy around the corner.  Big, strong, coordinated me offers to push him first.  We cautiously make our way through the awfully uneven sidewalks of Cobble Hill.  I was pretty nervous (like usual) and attentive at first, but about a block or two into it I started picking up my confidence and we start picking up speed.  I enjoy my new found strength, fearlessness, and pride for about 10 more feet... Right as I am thinking about how all the people passing us on the streets must think I am such a saint for helping this poor, injured priest, we hit the mother load of all cracks.

As the front wheels hit the six inch divot in the sidewalk at cruising speed, we abruptly stop dead in our tracks.  I nearly throw my wounded uncle out of the wheel chair from behind.  My poor, Catholic priest uncle gasps in pain and grabs at his knee as I responsibly hold back from screaming  "oh sh*t" or  "what the f@%#" or "holy cr@p."  I mentally remind myself not to cuss using the word "holy" in front of a priest as I move on to my next line of exclamation words which I deem safe and appropriate and cannot help from blurting out a big ol'  "Jeeezus Christ!!!"

Before I even finish pronouncing the "t" in "Christ,"  I remember who I am talking to (doh!) and follow up with a sincere "Oh my God!  I am so sorry!"  (double doh!)

I am going to hell.  At least the winter will be warmer...

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Absolute Beginner

Last spring, I decided to take a violin class called "The ABCs of Violin for the Absolute Beginner" because why the heck not?  I have a violin.  And I would consider myself an absolute beginner, as I have absolutely no idea how to play the darn thing. The adult education center down the street offered a relatively affordable class, so I signed up.  Unfortunately the day I thought 'I should take violin lessons' was the day after the first class.  I emailed the instructor to see if it was ok that I missed the first class.  She said "of course it is fine, give me your money and show up!" 

Turns out the first class of any lesson is absolutely critical.  I show up to the second lesson.  I remind the teacher that I missed the first class and I take a seat in the very back.  The instructor starts off the class asking everyone to show her how they hold the bow and violin (i.e. what they learned in the first class).  I cheat off the person next me.  Then the teacher says "Ok, let's turn to page 5...and a 1 and a 2 and ready and a go!"  Everyone starts playing an awful version of Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Try as I might, it is impossible to cheat.  Are you kidding me?!   I move my bow (without actually touching the bow to the strings) in a motion that would make an unintelligent child believe I was playing the violin.   I cannot even guess at a note.  Realizing I am not fooling anyone, I stop and sit still like a dumb-dumb. I wait for the embarrassment to end as my face pools up with blood and my lunch starts climbing towards my throat.  I should have made it to the first class...

This is what adult beginner violin class sounds like:

My first homework assignment for violin class was to buy a shoulder rest and come back properly equipped.  The instructor recommended a music shop in Boston... someone she knows personally.  My teacher is a professional violin player, and this music shop she suggested is a store for super professional symphony players.  I show up in my hobo clothes and K-mart coat with my mediocre pawn shop violin which the smug little man tactfully insinuates is a piece of garbage.

The pompous violin guy proceeds to give me a tour of his grandiose violin factory and repair shop, showing off his $5,000 bows and symphonic accomplishments.  He casually reminisces about this one time when he was talking to some mathematical genius guy who makes violin strings and asked him about his business and then explained how this MIT wizard went on and on about how he figured out exactly how the angle of the string should be when it is pressed down and how that is related to the tension in the string which is determined based on the ...angle... frequency...waves...emittance...  sin. or..... cos sin of the angle between the bridge and the string when you press the string down ....

At the end of his story, the chubby store owner exclaims, "Isn't that soooooo SEXyyyyy?!"

 No.  No, it is not.  You're an idiot.  And you need to find yourself some normal friends that will call you out on this non-stop, persistent pompous ranting.  Of course I do not say that.  I give him an awkward, uncertain, "yeaaa, that's great," buy my shoulder rest, and get out of there.

In the meantime on the walk home, I can't help but wonder where is the violin shop for the absolute beginners?  For violin-ers who just want to know how to play a little bit and not be a total presumptuous jerk about it, where do we go?  We should not have to be subjected to such abject snobbery.

After my second lesson, my violin teacher told me I was the most improved from last week.  As the saying goes.... when you are an absolute beginner, you are at rock bottom, and the only place to go, is closer to the mediocre beginners.