The usually clean and orderly house is a disaster area. Something big, fast, and tornado-ish definitely came through here. Clothes strewn all over the place, pillows in the wrong rooms, shoes and socks scattered along a path leading from the bedroom to the front door. What the hell was it? A twister? Evidence of mad, passionate sex? Was I robbed?

Not exactly. Let me back up and explain.

It’s Thursday, mid-morning. My muse is a five year old, and it’s screaming at me.

No, it’s not a child. It is, however, a five year old black “classic” Motorola pager. You know the kind. They don’t have all the bells and whistles of modern pagers, no sir. No CNN headline news, alphanumeric, two-way messaging, friendly or melodic audio alerts on this bad boy. It has only one mode: I’m-going-to-pierce-your-freaking-eardrum loud. I have to give Motorola credit. They must have done a lot of research, because they found a pitch so grating that even the deaf can hear it. If you could synthesize the sound of running ten long fingernails across a rusted blackboard, this would be it.

When you’re tired and it’s early, the sound can seem even louder than it really is. That was the case this morning. I had already ignored a telephone call, because hey, sometimes it’s just not convenient to answer the damn phone. I thought to myself, “Watch, they’re gonna page me.” Sure enough, not 30 seconds later, the Little Black Pager That Could does its thing (it’s “thing”, by the way, is to simply tell me I have to call in to pick up the actual message). I call in and am greeted by a voice touched with concern. Stress, even.

“Ron, it’s Jean. We’re all at the school for the 10:30 a.m. performance. Where are you? I hope you’re on your way.”

042999-sos.gifTime stops. Whoa. Obviously there’s been some mistake. The other seven members of Sound-on-Site, a educational outreach octet from the Pacific Chorale that I sing with, must have gotten the day mixed up. I mean, c’mon. It’s not Friday! And it’s not possible that I wrote down the date wrong in my… awww, shit. Okay, don’t panic don’t panic DON’T PANIC!! The performance is at 10:30, how much time do I have? Look at the clock.

It’s 10:28.

Okay, now you can panic. I instantly transform into the Tasmanian Devil from the Bugs Bunny cartoons of old, complete with a look that says “ACME”–as if it were a four-letter word–written all over my face. Chuck Jones, who lives down the road from me, would have been proud.

The speed limit on Jeffrey is 45 m.p.h., but I just don’t care. Besides, my mind is preoccupied with weather or not I ran over my neighbor on the way out of my condo. I’m doing close to 90, and I realize that I left my wallet at home. Que sera sera. And yeah, that light I just blew through was technically red, but I just don’t care. Thank God for cell phones. I can just call the school and tell them that I’m on my way! Except the number I have for the school has been changed, and is it just me or do those “The number you are calling has been changed” messages get slower when you’re in desperate straits?

Finally I get the right digits and string ’em all together, but then my cellphone decides it’s can’t get a signal. I drive with one hand while contemplating how far I can throw the phone out the window with the other. Technology sucks. But I just don’t care.

After what seems like hours, I arrive at the elementary school and manage to perform one of the worst parking jobs in the history of the horseless carriage. “Askew” doesn’t even begin to do it justice. But I just don’t care. The Tasmanian Devil whirls into the school, and though there are two hundred kids waiting to see our performance of “Around the World in Song”, the stage is still empty. I say the world’s shortest, yet somehow wildly intense prayer of thanks, and zoom backstage. Of course I try to walk in like I’ve got some semblance of control, but they just don’t care. They’re glad I made it at all. Sure, I’m hyped up as though I’ve inhaled a box of No-Doze, my clothes and hair are all disheveled, and I haven’t warmed up. Unless you count yelling obscenities at yourself warming up. But I’m there. The official Movado museum watch time is 10:34 a.m.

“Glad you could join us!”

042999-kids.gifAhhh, the beauty of live performance. I’m not sure if Terpsichore, the muse of choral music and dance, is helping me or torturing me. But he/she sure keeps my days exciting. This particular show is a look at the world through the music of ten different cultures. It’s a satisfying and uplifting thing, singing for all those kids. Teaching them about music, and seeing their eyes light up. They don’t get much of that anymore, you know. It’s the first thing to be cut when money is tight. And when is it not?

There’s a bond between performer and audience in a live performance, a palpable exchange of energy that many adults don’t seem to be comfortable with. I think it’s because today, live performance has been replaced with staring at a television or movie screen. You owe the screen nothing, and most of America has been weaned on that. There is no obligation to give anything or be involved in what’s happening on a screen. And that’s too bad. Only the kids seem to understand that relationship, that it’s related to playing, that it requires using your imagination and even your brain on occasion. So what Sound-on-Site is doing is, in a small way, to ensure that educated and interested audiences are there in the future. To make sure the performing arts are alive to enhance the human experience for generations to come.

And about that, I really do care.

Note: This entry was also used as part of an Illumine collaborative project on the Seven Muses.


Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: