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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Proud Pride by John von Daler

                I've played in Denmark with quite a few famous people. Not that I am famous myself; my kind of renown makes people elbow each other on subways, trying to figure out where they've seen me.

                In the good old days concert tours took me around to almost every corner of this tiny country. People would flock around my partner asking for autographs. My only chance was to play well at the concerts; that could give the stray compliment or autograph now and then.
                I did well enough with that approach. People used to be very nice after they had heard us play. I would sit and write autographs and the odd compliment would fall in my direction. I could keep my ego afloat for an hour or two after most jobs.
                One time the after-concert compliment-cakewalk didn't turn out so well. A man of about sixty came backstage. He had been isolated on an island for some five years. His only cultural property had been some old records by my partner. These had more or less kept him alive. As he praised my friend, I sat and waited for my usual tail-end flourish, Never heard you before. Really good! Great partner for such a great singer, etc.
                Then this island guy turned toward me with the compliment smile still on his face. But it soon disappeared. A scowl emerged.
                "Your playing is the worst excuse for music I have ever heard. You don't deserve to play here. Hang up your violin to dry!"
                Today something happened that made me remember this irritating and almost forgotten episode. I went to our esoteric coffee bean store. I know the guy who owns it, because I've traded there for years: he sells green beans for roasting at home.
                Today he stopped me on the way out.
                "That name," he says. "Does it have anything to do with music?"
                I turned on my best I'm-great-but-humble attitude. Gave him a half smile.
                "Think I've heard some of your stuff. Really, really nice! Just incredible!"
                I'm a pensioner now, so the memory of my playing has to be guarded with care. I asked what he had heard.
                He thought a moment and then named two CD's that my son had made with his group, called von Daler & Low Pressure.
                When I left the store I held my head high, but it was a new kind of self-regard for a new kind of ego: Father of the Artist, the old lion, proud of his pride. I can always sign autographs at the pearly gates.

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