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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Naughty New Year. By John von Daler

             You may have walked, as I have, through the shadier sections of Paris. The last time I visited the City of Love, I traversed a few blocks, I think St. Denis, full of shows in which one can see in detail exactly how we all got started. Strange, that we sequester one of the most central and common aspects of our lives and relegate it to the bad parts of a great city. Weird, that these acts can be sold to us clandestinely via our curiosity and longing.

Monday, December 30, 2013

#Vorms. By John von Daler

                 Grounded in #Narsarsuaq in #Greenland we spent our nights in the hotel and our days in the lonely airport. Our helicopter, the public conveyance that was to fly us to #Nuuk, sat in plain sight on the runway some one hundred meters from the picture window in the waiting room. This plane sight did not comfort us in any way, as we could clearly see the mechanic climb a small ladder up to the motor, raise the lid, peer inside, his left hand scratching his head as his right tinkered with the gadgets behind the thin, metal sheeting. Every once in a while he would close the lid, climb down the ladder, enter the cockpit and start the engine. He would coax the sputtering machine into the air, its lowest support reaching about as high as the head of the average man and then he would put it down again and retrace his steps up the ladder to the motor and resume scratching his head.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Storm Swallow. By John von Daler

                      I had composed a melody to accompany the poem that the great Danish poet, #Drachmann, had written about the brave little bird called the Storm #Petrel. Its name in Danish, the Storm Swallow, alliterates beautifully and the poet had written rhythmic romantic verses about the little creature that hardly ever is seen on land and seldom in calm weather.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A half-told tale. By John von Daler

                  Like a widespread tributary of sound, the streams and rivulets of clanks and groans and putterings from each vehicle trickled softly into the main wayfare, itself a half-dry river of ruts and pools and potholes. The mounting din, as yet muffled yet multifarious, as yet distinct in its parts, slowly evolved, revolved, puffing itself up to its first loose cacophony. There were horses and wagons on precipitous wheels, their open beds filled with produce, trucks puffing smoke through half-bent pipes, bicycles and motorbikes, helmeted and muddied, cars packed like motorized ants and pedestrians pulling carts all loaded with goods. This was the great, wide thoroughfare through the countryside of #Slovakia. It was five oclock in the morning of market day.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Apple Tree. By John von Daler

                 I have the same problem with Norman #Rockwell that I have with Thornton #Wilder (Our Town): not enough pepper and too much sugar in the stew. The small schoolhouses, the good people around a fire engine, the sweet policemen all tuckered out from duty do not portray life as I know it, only some ideal in which we desperately want to believe.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Christmas of the Grotesques. By John von Daler

                    The politicians came on board two by two, talking, laughing, tweeting, iphoning, texting and facebooking. Next to the gangplank stood the man everyone called "Dangerous Dan". He was the captain of a little ferry that plied the inland waters of Northen Denmark, way away from Copenhagen, New York and other news centers. Locally, the news reporting was about weather, harvests, tides and taxes.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Giving Hans a Chance. By John von Daler

                    I had taken a job playing my violin in a quartet in a televised variety show. The work was interesting with lots of shifts in style and mood; the pianist, bassist, drummer and I played jazz, classical, and musical numbers. One act, however, had no accompaniment.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Theory of Relativity. By John von Daler

                   My generation was the last one to have been punished fairly regularly. But even in our upbringing the concept of crime and punishment was on the way out. Often our parents found the lowest common denominator that could fulfill their requirements for justice.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Inconsequential #Waltz. By John von Daler

                   I had a friend who committed suicide. Evidently she found herself boxed into a corner with no exits and made her choice. I say "evidently" because she and I were not intimate friends, only acquaintances, colleagues who worked together occasionally and who always appreciated each other's presence. I did not have any insight into her way of thinking about herself and I was not aware of the process that led to her demise.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Low #Fashion. By John von Daler

                It has not escaped my notice that a lot of people blog about fashion. I, myself, just wear more or less the same clothes year after year. Is there something called low fashion? That's me.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Doubting #Thomas. By John von Daler

                 I remember hearing a professor at Princeton tell of his drinking sprees with #Dylan Thomas in New York in the 1950's when Thomas was recording, among other things, his beautiful prose poem, "A Child's Christmas in #Wales". (Still available, the poet reading, on CD's.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Tell-Tale Echo. By John von Daler

          The old man with the gray beard sat on the little fold-out chair on the grass in King's Garden in Copenhagen. He reached out for the small, bite-size sandwiches that his hosts had carefully cut up for him. His hands shook violently as he maneuvered them from the picnic plate on the ground to his mouth.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Time and Place. By John von Daler

                 Usually when the stern schoolteacher looks over the rims of her glasses and admonishes you with, There is a Time and a Place for Everything! she means that whatever you are doing should never, ever be done anywhere. So I often have abided by that pacifying annulment of my life's choices.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dreyer! by John von Daler

                When you have been writing as much as I have the last few years, you sometimes need to stop, turn off the words and just look. You know, the rest is silence.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

#Triptych. By John von Daler

                  Mostly I remember the hands from our drive on those mountain roads in #Mexico.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

#Sightreading and #Seduction. By John von Daler

               Most of my readers will know what seduction is. But sightreading? You take a piece you never have seen and play it as perfectly as possible in one sitting. Most musicians do this at recording sessions. A sexual angle however does not often come up. That's my idea. Let me make a comparison: sightreading is the musical equivalent of seduction as we know it from #Casanova and Co. Approach the score, size it up, play it and move on.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Shining Example. By John von Daler

                  Some call it craftsman or possibly artisan. I like #artisan, an artisan to my mind being a person who makes art out of a trade.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Win or Lose. By John von Daler

                Mr. Da Vinci, I find the young lady's smile unconvincing. Perhaps you should have made her think of something more pleasant while you were painting, said the third judge looking over his glasses at the notes he had taken.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Shades of #Ravello. By John von Daler

                  Walking down from the old cloister I could see the buildings of Ravello stuck precariously on the mountain top: the little market like a tongue hanging out on the edge, the square in front of the church with small cafes and kiosks and miniature people mostly meandering, the garden and balcony overlooking the bay with its magnificent view - purchased by Gore Vidal out of the proceeds from all that acerbic wit.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Boatswain Erroll. By John von Daler

                   I am thinking that his playing reminds me of an ancient galley. You have all the slaves below deck rowing vigorously and rhythmically - that is his left hand - and the warriors waiting to show off their individual prowess up on deck - that would be his right hand. The two halves of Erroll #Garner, warlike though they are not, could still be compared in a certain sense to that ancient vessel with its strict priorities and division of labor.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Savoir Faire. By John von Daler

                 I never had a problem, as some men do, with watching ballet. Football and dance are just two branches of the same tree - and I see both of them regularly. I have enjoyed Messi and Nureyev pretty much in the same way, if not at the same time.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A #Pearl. By John von Daler

                         The elderly former violinist sat in one corner of the antique sofa peeking over the edge of his journal at the dull December weather on the side street in #Frederiksberg, Denmark.  He had paused in his reading in order to ascertain the origin of a feeling. The origins of feelings are a topic dear to the hearts of former violinists.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Popping. By John von Daler

               The grass showed off its Kentucky green in the glare of the hundreds of lights from masts surrounding the baseball field. The soft dirt of the mound and base paths looked reddish, inviting, take a slide. Sounds of the hard balls on bats and mitts crystalized in the night air, crisp as the crack of fresh wood in a hot fireplace. Vendors tossed popcorn and peanuts in paper bags to the hungry fans. I was about nine and had gone to a minor league night baseball game in Tulsa with a friend of the family. We sat in the bleachers, together but not together, this man and I. He was doing for me what the father of any other kid might have been doing for his kid. But my father was an Austrian, so he did not go to baseball with his son.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

#Hierarchy. By John von Daler

                     Hierarchy comes to mind. A large room of light brown pine and white plaster, on two sides huge windows from the four-meter high ceiling to the oak floor. #Alps and other alps stretching away as far as one can see upwards. Everything from highest peak to lowest slat of wood has an order. These people are used to looking up and down more than back and forth, and so their lives also are constructed vertically.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Golem 2. By John von Daler

                    The #puppeteer was gay in most of the senses of that word, but not queer in any way. In that most discreet of cities, #Paris, he and his good friend rented a very cozy room in a small hotel on the left bank. They deposited their suitcases and then tucked their little feisty puppet into bed, his bishop's balding head resting on two pillows, his mischievous eye cocked at the room like some detail from a story by Edgar Allan #Poe. Then hand in hand they waltzed by the reception clerk, his polite gaze following them with a wink and an oo la la! and they disappeared into Paris for a glass of Chablis and the occasional oyster.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Golem 1. By John von Daler

                 After eating and drinking for three or four hours, our party giggled and bubbled with poetry, music, and shenanigans. The puppeteer had abruptly pulled out his alter-ego, a half-sized human figure dressed in the dark robe of a medieval bishop and brandishing in its only hand a wine glass, the foot of a chicken, and other startling forms of blasphemy. We yelled and howled and goaded the puppet; it never spoke, but in silent majesty acted out for us the most impious audacities. No innuendo was left unexplored, no twinkling of an eye left concealed.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A la Carte. By John von Daler

                     Now that you mention it, I probably am a little bit of a snob. I love strange and luxurious combinations. When the waiter lowers his voice and looks me in the eye while he describes the "lobster bisque with a pinch of saffron and a hint of Pernod, thickened with 38% sour cream and topped with fresh, wild, baby leaves of thyme", I lose all sense of proportion.

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