Of All De Gaulle
The fey steward has returned. This time, serving me before my seat mate Christopher. Christopher makes a word play: "Changer de Bord" (ou "virer de bord"). Chaud lapin! This man Kozely!
Jeu de mot. It also means: "You've come out of the closet." This'll be an interesting airborn conversation pit.
On the superior level, mais oui, of an Airfrance Airbus A 380. It's gonna lug 550 people in its Titanic shell from Paris to Los Angeles in no time at all. The tarmac directs the pilot with words "taxi only", reminding me that English is the lingua franca at any international airport control tower. A single linguistic code at aeronautical intersections reveals much about the elasticity of the English language. Even the French concede this point. Flaps up, we chase the sun west at 10:30 a.m. We'll arrive in LA at 1:10 p.m., in eleven hours of lapsed time. Sans pareil, this massive craft leaves the Hindenberg in the scrap heap of man's engineering chutzpah.***************
On Saturday night, the Barbican concert was fully attended, evidently in that Daniel Rossen (Grizzly Bear), and Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes) brought in the refreshment of their trans-generational audience. They'd flown over to London from New York. Thirty year old Gaby Moreno had flown in from Germany that very Saturday morning, to open the show. She's en route to Caracas, where she'll continue to nurture her Latino audience. The Spanglish tenor of her song set, beautiful to behold. She epitomizes the hot-button immigrant issue, with all its complexities.***************
After the concert, The Jugged Hare is a perfect pub crawl from the Barbican Theatre, where we all shelter from a typical London drizzle. This pub is a paeon to the taxidermist's art. Glass-encased specimens line the bar, studying the clientele below. A great snarling badger, cowering fox, pheasants, grouse, all as in a freeze-frame flight. Great unjugged hares hang ignominiously upended from hooked carousels, their judicious glass eyes weighing into the verdict. It's a study of a disemboweled hedge-row social order plucked from the English country-side. Copping a John Welborne, I'm not drinking too much. I'm simply "over- served". This recalls my dad's story, to wit: "A hunter walks into a taxidermist's studio with two dead rabbits on a string, a shot gun folded over his shoulder. The taxidermist looks up from his desk. 'Do you want those rabbits mounted?' 'No...', the hunter considers it. 'Shaking hands will suffice.'"***************
Lo and behold! It's The Believer's Andrew Leland on a bar stool, next to his talented mate Lily Gurton-Wechter. Andrew edits for great American author/publisher Dave Eggers ("A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.") in San Francisco. He's also a former classmate of our son Richard, boarding at Ojai's Thacher School. There's Robin, with his sister (manager Aja Pecknold), Daniel and wife (artist photographer Amelia Bauer), and my fab manager Ami Spishock. They're all in a circle of friends with our daughter Elizabeth. It's raucous and rockin' here in pubville. Smokers spill out the front doors with their drinks into the sodden street. Most of the patrons have just seen the show. I'm almost a hero. "Show me a hero; I'll show you a tragedy," I go on.
It hadn't been easy getting out of the Barbican. The lobby of the place is looking for a plumb line. As the floor slants irregularly, producing a pleasing trompe l'oeille, it's no place for a game of marbles. Its labyrinth will prove difficult to leave.
Bella Union is a Brit record company that's just released my first three Warner Brothers' albums. This concert with the Britten Sinfonia celebrates that bench mark. They played the repertory flawlessly.***************
Winning the esprit de corps of a group of schooled instrumentalists is pure luck of the draw. At the five hour rehearsal the day before, it takes patience, diplomacy, and high humor to wade through the paper on their stands. I'm a mixed bag, after all. So I compliment the French horns. (I've asked for three of them in this chamber orchestra). I make sure they know my brother Ben played horn with great eclat, that the now world-famous horn virtuoso Dale Clevenger was my classmate at Carnegie Tech, and that Philip Catelinet (Vaughn Williams' orchestrator) was my band instructor. I add that the LA Phil's first chair Horn player Bill Lane is a close friend. The Horns done. It's all about horn. Then, I let a clarinetist know it was my first instrument. She's impressed I used the Albert system of fingering. The woodwinds fall into line. I sidle up to Sally, inured to itinerant musicians' advances. I let her know the acronym for the harp pedal line up (D-C-B-E-F-G-A. "Did Captain Bligh ever fear God Almighty."). Concertmaster Thomas Gould eyes me with decidedly reserved judgement. (He had once compared 'The Unfinished Symphony' to a lobster: "It never ends!"). Slowly, this peculiar terribly British skepticism evaporates. By the concert downbeat, all are in flight formation. I acknowledge my collaborators and Entrepreneur Chris Sharp, who's brought me here. "What's in a name?" Evidently, much, in this case. After the third encore, I drop to my knee (my meniscal tears be damned) and leave the standing audience to their verdict, uplifted by the buoyant Britten Sinfonia, who've somehow heard it all before, and know it'll all soon end. It hadn't escaped me that Daniel and Robin (the two famous musicians whose gratis appearance indemnified the ticket sales) sat on their stools on-stage within and during the bows, despite my protest. They'd preferred to leave me this exclusive moment in their sun. Absolute Grace, these two. How can I reciprocate? It gives me pause.
So I rush around a side corridor, to sign merchandise at a desk, under the watchful eye of Bella Union's daring Simon Raymonde.***************
The concert had started about 20 minutes late. My percussionist Don Heffington (of Los Angeles) was in in bed in his room at the Montcalm Hotel, adjacent to the theater. Apparently his familiarity with "military time" was scant. The show call was for 19:30. Don misinterpreted that as 9:30 p.m. The phone call awakened him to his worst nightmare: "...where are you? The orchestra's on-stage!" (All this, once again giving resonance to Winston Churchill's observation that the only Anglo/American divide is a common language.) Don plunged outta bed, wove through the disjointed corridors of the Montcalm Hotel and hit the stage just before I entered it. He'll never live this one down! Yet, he played elegantly, and held us all in a unified field.***************
My exit from the Barbican was about as surreal as Don's entrance, for, after leaving the mined field of merchandise, I took my leave to go back to my dressing room to pick up my last few effects. I followed down the polished, slanted parquet floor, opened and shut a series of thick double fire doors, ending up in a concretized stairwell bunker echo chamber. No exit. Hitlerian associations played to my anxiety.
Pounding my loafer on one door, and screaming bloody murder, finally produced a muffled signal to a night watchman. He directed me to freedom. A half-hour incarceration scored an unnerving departure from the glorious aggrandizements that preceded it. Hero to zero indeed!***************
Good Grub on Air France Flight 8395: L'amuse-bouche (mini bol de foie gras aux figues; saumon fumé; Quasi de veau poêlé, sause crémée au citron, purée de carottes au cumin, asperges vertes à l'huile d'olive. Other stuff.***************
My seat mate Christopher lives in Tahiti, and having dropped his 13 year old son off on a Parisian grandmother, returns home via Los Angeles to his nine year old son and wife. He knows all about computers. I hip him to Anthropocene. It's a new word for him. I feel very aware, intelligent. Yet, he too is well aware of many complexities of oil and world power (Syrian atrocities are headline above the fold front page in today's Le Monde). And, he's keenly into ecologically-related issues. We hit it off. I cite my disdain for the deregulation of industry under such as George W. Bush, and particular concern about loosening controls on mercury chloride contaminates in streams, rivers aquifers, and sushi. He interjects: this can't compare with the long-range hazards of concentrated residues of plastics in all we eat in meat and fish. He cites Canadian study revealing anecdotal evidence that plastic contaminates in our food chain inhibit the "Y factor", threatening to produce a world of women-only, as it impacts sperm production and determinants on sexuality. We discuss our offspring and legacy. He's a thermo-mechanical engineer, specializing in the way we capture and manipulate energy. The mango sorbet arrives. When I tell him I'm a musician, he freely relates back past Beethoven and Bach. He inevitably lands on Louis XIV. So, I reflect on Lully and Couperin, my love for the roots and rhythms in 'Le Bougeoise Gentilhomme', etc. Yes, sixteenth century French madrigals are light years ahead of their English counterparts. Yes, he agrees. But no, he objects: Ice cream wasn't invented for "The Sun King", as I posit. He goes on: Arabs milked goats, and covered that product with wet cloth, allowing rapid wind to vaporize the water within, triggering a heat transfer... two aspects of which of which provide the drop in temperature: change of face; heating up of material (heat transfer).
A self-imposed darkness falls over the upper level. Christopher goes on: "...Grand Marnier '100'" he sez. "Once you discover this, you'll never go back (to the 150%)... no headache!... close to the French connection... triple sec... fine alcohol for digestive. It's hard-to-find... not at Trader Joe's. But worth the search." He and his wife have agreed to pull up stakes in Tahiti, and relocate to Coldwater Canyon. I recommend a few private schools and give him my card. We both get some sleep.***************
Heaven is home in Pasadena, in the arms of Sally, my Memphis Belle... of whom I speak too much on-stage. I await her, clothed in cotton, in an embrace, and those welcome words: "Ludwig... Take out le garbage!"
Home! My Sense of Place. Enfin!