The conductor waves furiously as I hunch over the fourth movement, but there are no notes to be read, only black lightning bolts.
"Let's try that section again slowly." Under the scrutiny of the spotlight, the singular motion that led us from point A to point B now reveals its intricate complexity, like a grasshopper caught on high speed film. Ungainly legs and wings unfurl to propel the strange beast forward. How does it manage? Suspended weightlessly by its own motion, it doesn't stop to think about placing the landing, only of keeping momentum. There is no time to consider the present moment, only the future. When viewed in slow motion, the context dissolves and all meaning of function is lost. This is no heavy-handed, cerebral game of chess; it is a chase between predator and prey, fueled solely by flight instinct and heart pumping adrenaline.
"Okay, now back up to speed." As we continue, the frenzied pace transports us into a new dimension, the one that happens when you obtain a high enough velocity that time itself becomes relative. We bounce through a worm hole of notes in an instant, then in the space of a fifteen measure break, we've enough time for coffee and a newspaper while french horns play their quarter notes, back over there in common time.
This is when it suddenly occurs to me that if I wrinkle the page just right, I can hop a tesseract to the end of the piece. At least then, I'll be sure to arrive on time.
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This note was left on all our stands before rehearsal this evening, written by our conductor, Tammy Vollum-Matturo:
-Snacks are mandatory.
-When bringing snacks, consider the CONDUCTOR, as she prefers chocolate and gummy bears/worms.
-Jokes are encouraged.
-Making the CONDUCTOR laugh is not mandatory, but when doing so, consider timing as not to interrupt the quiet sections during our rests. This could cause missed entrances, tears, and untimely trips to the bathroom.
-When arriving for performance, please situate snacks and drinks first, then prepare to warm up.
-Remember: many kids and adults view us from above, so any animal noises or zoo sounds are appropriate.
-Passing notes may seem a bit childish or immature, but is greatly encouraged in the pit.
-Watching the CONDUCTOR is optional.
-Napping during dialogue is acceptable. Please try not to snore. If you are sitting next to a snorer, please jab them with your elbow. If you are unwakeable, please snore in rhythm.
-When tossing candy/snacks, be sure your aim is accurate as to not damage instruments or cause head injuries to your fellow pit mates.
-Save the opening of your snack bags, such as chips, for the quietest part of the show so all audience members will be able to hear. Open slowly, thus drawing out the duration of all sound effects.
-Snacks with strong odors are encouraged, i.e. anchovies, pizza, Nacho Cheese Doritos, shrimp, etc.
-If it is too dark in the pit to see your music, don't worry, improvise.
-Making fun of Vern is mandatory.
-The CONDUCTOR is always right.
-When the CONDUCTOR is wrong, blame it on Vern.
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Conductor: Wait, what just happened there?
Clarinet: Do you have a fermata here, because we have a fermata.
Conductor: Oh, is that why you stopped?
Trumpet: Well, I have a railroad track.
Conductor: I don't have anything there in my score. Does anyone else have something?
Oboe: I got a fermata.
Flute: My part says G.P.
Cello: My part has railroad tracks.
Conductor: What about yours?
Violin: My part says "Coffee break."
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I'm pathologically honest (although I've been known to harbor a secret or two). You see, I gain security by being open with people, because then I can be sure to have the upper hand by telling them about my own flaws before they can find them out for themselves. This tendency will also amplify according to the amount of scrutiny that is being placed on me.
Perhaps that's why I was so worried about my dental appointment. Think about it. Unfamiliar hands open your mouth and begin poking around, observing. Then, an unfamiliar voice smugly remarks, "Oh, so you're a nail biter, are you? Tsk tsk..." "Yes," you hear yourself squeak, unable to shut your mouth, "And I filed my 2006 taxes late, too!" Who needs waterboards when you have dentists?
Ideally, my dental visit would occur in a different state, so that none of my dark dental confessions could leak out into the community. But since such out-of-state opportunities rarely present themselves, I actually haven't been to a dentist in years. I know, I'm a dental heathen, but to make up for it, I've carefully checked my teeth on a daily basis, monitoring changes and taking every precaution I can to avoid decay. I brush with enamelengthening toothpaste. I use ACT mouthwash. I even floss.
Nevertheless, I awoke at night with a mild ache behind one tooth. First thing in the morning, I pulled out my compact mirror and reflected it on the inside of my mouth. To my horror, a rotting, gaping hole glared at me from behind my front incisor. Alas, tooth decay! And it all had happened so quickly! What about the rest of my teeth--would they rot out overnight, too? Guilt shook in my fingers as I dialed the dental clinic in the next town over. Maybe no one would know me there. Maybe they would have a thick curtain between me and the dentist as I remorsefully pled, "Forgive me, Father, it's been twelve years since my last checkup." Perhaps they wouldn't recognise my name, and then I could pretend I was someone else as they dug up all sorts of dirty little secrets about my teeth. They probably wouldn't take me under a pseudonym, would they? But if I use cash, and if I borrow the neighbor's car, I might just be able to... No, better give 'em my real name.
By the time I hit the coffee shop, I'd chewed my nails to the quick. "What is wrong with me?" I reasoned with George, "People get cavities every day, don't they? Sometimes it's not even their fault. They do everything they can, and still they get them. I'm just so--paranoid--that some dentist will dig into my personal space and find things out about me, and then word'll spread all over town."
George looked up from his americano. "You know what the very definition of insanity is? It's me calling you insane. You are insane. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut, and don't start volunteering all kinds of information--you always do that. See, they don't care. And they certainly don't care enough to tell anyone else. Remember: you don't need to tell them anything."
I chuckled at his common sense reality check. Still, I couldn't resist sliding my tongue obsessively across that seemingly massive void that no one else could see. I tried not to smile at my friends, afraid that they would detect the darkness behind my grin. Instead, I began telling them about the time in fourth grade when I cheated off of Jocelyn Smith's social studies test.
After lunch, I headed back to the mirror to observe the reality of my sin once more. I drew back my lips in a grimace. A strand of salmon from lunch had lodged between my teeth, so I grabbed the dental floss and jiggled it into the gum line: ping. And sucked. And looked again. A piece of coarsely ground black peppercorn, roughly the size of a cavity, shone brightly on the tip of my tongue.
With no one present to share my joy, I jumped out of the bathroom and dialed the dentist's office again. "Yes, I'm scheduled for 2:30 tomorrow, and I'd like to cancel my appointment. That cavity I was telling you about? Well, I just flossed it out. Turns out, it was a piece of pepper!" We laughed and I hung up, relieved at my own good fortune. I couldn't wait to tell everyone the next day what funny thing had happened to me. The funniest thing is, if it hadn't been for my own paranoia, I probably would never have found that piece of pepper in the first place, and it would have eventually gone on its merry way without a second thought from me.
Mind you, up until this point, I told no one else of my misadventure. But that very evening, I checked my email and found a note from my dear friend Jim. It read:
"I came up with a wonderful song that the next time we get together we
can play. I thought I'd name it 'Pepper in My Teeth'. What do you
Well, what do you think?
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Winter's in full swing now
With temps at six below
But he said he saw his shadow
So we've just six weeks to go!
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More entries: January 2009
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