Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Yes, but what was he clapping not unenthusiastically for, young Lance?

There are plenty of joys to be had from keeping a notebook, but there are frustrations too, and one of them is reading something you wrote 18 years ago and discovering that the young you didn't bother to write down information the present-day you is most interested in knowing.

My non-Hoosier friends didn't believe it when I used to tell them that life in Indiana wasn't all corndogs and prayer meetings. Fort Wayne had good restaurants and what many famous visiting musicians, like Emanuel Ax and Nigel Kennedy, said was a first-rate symphony orchestra. Nancy Nall will vouch for this, glad as she is to have finally said goodbye to the City of Churches and its all-night euchre tournaments. A high school senior's lifetime ago the blonde and I and a friend attended a performance by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and I forgot to write down who the guest soloist was and what they played. Too busy pretending to be a fashion critic and spying on the guy sitting next to us, I guess.

Another frustration of notebooking keeping is discovering that your young self was fond of rhetorical flourishes that set the present day you's teeth on edge.

His "clapping was not the least bit unenthusiastic"?

Cold, crisp, and snowy tonight. The women’s committee of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic served mulled wine and cider at intermission, steaming in silver punchbowls and steaming in ladles and steaming in cups. Crowds of people in winter are a cheery sight to me. Though they come mostly dressed in grays and browns and navy blues, and the colors of their scarves and sweaters are muted, their clothes seem brighter to me, the textures more interesting, and their shapes more eccentric and expressive of a person not a body. In spring and summer, stripped to a single layer of clothes, people’s silhouettes are only what Nature has given or denied them and what time has left or health spared them. In summer in these climes clothing serves only for ornamentation and is chosen and worn by and to serve vanity and ego. Terrible mistakes are made. For those for whom Vanity is not a weakness, it is worse because then clothing is only a nod to modesty and so we get spandex, Sansabelt slacks, and polka dot short sleeve shirts. In winter, clothing requires clear thought and common sense. It is practical, its ornamental side is subordinate, expressed in accessories, and often accidental—sweaters, scarves, gloves, and hats are rarely bought for ourselves, they come to us as gifts from people who choose them with little interest in flattering our vanity; they want to keep us warm. Accidental splashes of color, surprising and friendly and brave against the weather. A bright red scarf or sweater is instantly endearing because it might have been given by a child or a mother at Christmas and it says, Sure it’s cold and dreary, but I’m warm because I was given out of love and do my job for love. Cheer up, some one loves us all and wants us all to be warm.

Sitting beside us in the auditorium was a man who listened to the entire concert leaning forward with his eyes closed. He was middle-aged, his mustache was going gray, his skin taut but caving in under his jaw and on his cheeks, his forehead bald. His nose seemed to have been flattened in a fight, but that did not make him look less intellectual. He seemed serene as he listened, perhaps conducting or playing in his head. He smiled the whole time, but it wasn’t an altogether pleasant smile. Perhaps this was due to the wry shape on his mustache, but his smile bordered on a smirk. He had an arrogant air, it seemed to me, as though he enjoyed the music for the music’s sake not for this particular performance’s, which he judged to be less than stellar. I suspect him of being a musician himself and fancying himself more capable than the musicians on stage. His eyes opened once, and then he laughed. At what I don’t know. To tell you the truth, the horns sounded tinny to me, but what do I know? Our neighbor seemed to aim his laugh at the conductor, so perhaps the conductor had committed a comical error. Our neighbor closed his eyes and did not open them again, as far as I know, until the end. As everyone else began their ovation, he leaned over to his female companion and whispered a critical remark. Then he joined in the applause and his clapping was not the least bit unethusiastic.


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