Monthly Archives: January 2006

APAP Performance 1: "A Series of Unfortunate Events"

Scanning my previous entries, I see I didn’t tell the full story of the first APAP performance. (APAP stands for “Asscoiation of Performing Arts Presenters.”) Robin Becker, my modern dancer colleague (on the faculty at Hofstra University) and I did short performances at this past weekend’s APAP convention in New York City. We were part of what was essentially a professional talent show; in a large studio at City Center in NY (just a block from Carnegie Hall), presenters were able to watch a series of 8-minute performances by numerous small dance companies represented by Robin’s agent.

In Robin’s 8 minute slot, she presented a trio (two men and a woman, all young professional dancers) called “Landing” and a newly-choreographed solo, “Leaving,” to music I composed. My piece is a set of variations over a continuously repeating set of chords. In classical music, we call this musical structure a “chaconne” or “passacaglia;” in more popular vernacular, the repeating part is called a “groove” or a “loop.” The term loop is used especially when the repeating portion is recorded and being played back.

“Loop” applies well to my piece. This fall I’ve been relearning to play with my cello amplified and using what is called a “looping pedal,” in this case a “JamMan.” A cord runs from the pickup mic attached to the bridge of my cello to the JamMan, and then another cord carries the signal from the JamMan to the amplifier/speaker. The signal can pass through the JamMan virtually unaltered. But if I press a footswitch (i.e., pedal), the JamMan begins to record what I am playing and continues to record until I push the switch again. Then the JamMan countinuously plays back the “loop” I’ve just created. By repeating the process, I can record additional layers, so that the loop can contain harmony, counterpoint, melody, etc.

The music for “Leaving,” (the piece itself has the current unimaginative working title of “the G major piece for Robin”) is based on such a loop. And the basic loop has been recorded, stored on a compact flash card in the JamMan itself, so that whenever we do the piece we know it will be the same exact speed (which is more important to Robin, the dancer, for the obvious reasons, than it is to me).

Once the original loop startes playing, I record (overdub) two additional layers, creating a nice, warm harmony. Then while all three layers continuously repeat, I play a set of melodic variations which grow in complexity to a climax, after which the music relaxes. Through a series of rehearsals in December and January, plus working from audio recordings and video tapes of sessions in which Robin and I improvised together, she worked out the choreography and I worked out the exact music. The work has evolved from free improvisation to a finished choreography done to fully-composed music.

All well and good. And when we performed it on January 17 at a private performance Robin held for donors to her dance company, Robin Becker dance, all was well.

At the APAP convention, there were additional challenges. First, doing two pieces in eight minutes made for a dangerously tight schedule. Second, the technical people at APAP were geared only to playing recorded music and running lights, and didn’t have the staff to help with things like setting up the cello amp and chair, and made it quite clear to Robin that they would not be of any assistance with this. Until we actually got to the APAP technical rehearsal (all of ten minutes!) we hadn’t even been told where there would be an outlet to plug in the cello amp.

Robin hired one of her Hofstra students, Greg, to help with the amp logisitics. What he and I worked out was that we would have the cello amp strapped on a portable luggage rack with wheels)\. The amp and the foot pedal would be plugged into a powerstrip on the back of the cart, in turn plugged into a 50-ft. orange extension cord (we bought a 50 footer since we didn’t know how far away the outlet would be). The JamMan would sit on top of the amp, with the cable from its output already plugged into the input on the amp.

Greg would wheel out the cart and plug the extension cord into the outlet (which turned out to be right behind the curtain at the side of the stage where we were setting up). I would bring out my cello and a folding chair. First I would set the cello down, then unfold the chair, and the first one of us free to do so would set the JamMan on the floor by the chair. Then we both had to scurry off the stage so that the trio could dance their number.

Then would come a brief period while the three dancers left the stage, and Robin and I took our places. I would pick up the cello, plug the cord from the JamMan into the pickup mic, and be ready to push the foot pedal to start the loop and begin the piece once the lights went up.

We seemed to have it all worked out well in the rehearsal.

But then came the first performance. As Jody, Robin’s agent, got up to introduce Robin, who would make a few remarks to the audience, Greg and began our tasks. But As Greg got halfway across the stage, the JamMan fell off the amp (which was being wheeled on the luggage cart). He picked it up. By the time he got it over to the side of the stage, I had the cello down and the chair positioned. But now the various cords were tangled to the point we couldn’t even set the JamMan on the floor! So I quickly unplugged everything to untangle and replug; it all went fairly smootlhly, in fact, and didn’t take all that long. We were off the stage in short order.

But then as the dancers for the trip were taking their places, the sound and light guy, evidently worried we were behind schedule, started the trio music and bringing up the lights before the dancers were fully in place. This was, well, less than optimal from a theatrical ppoint of view. They dealt with it beautifully, though, and the piece looked gorgeous nonetheless.

Then it was time for me to take my place (and Robin hers). The stage, though, was so black, and I was nervous and feeling a bit panicky, and I couldn’t see well enough to get the cord from the JamMan plugged into the pickup mic. I kept trying to shove it in, but it wasn’t working!

The lights started to come up on Robin, so I figured I’d go ahead and start the loop, and use the light on Robin to help me see what I was doing. (I might have taken a bit more time, but I had heard the tech guy making whispered complaints to Robin’s agent that we were taking too long, and I didn’t want him or Robin’s agent angry with us.) The first loop plays by itself in the piece, anyway, and this would give me plenty of time to plug in the cord and be ready to add the second layer.

I pushed the pedal. No sound came out of the amp!

A new wave of adrenaline surged through my body. My “inner critic” started yelling at me about what a screw-up I am. I told myself to stay calm. I realized the mute button on the amp, which is right next to the power button, had been inadvertently pushed. So I pushed it to disengage it, and voila! there was sound.

Except it was now in the middle of the loop.

Which, not surprisingly, caused Robin her own bit of internal discomfort. Being the professional, seasoned artist that she is, she looked totally unperturbed, but I knew that on the inside she was wondering what the heck was going on over on my side of the stage.

Meanwhile, I was back to plugging in the cord to the pickup, and still having troubles. Finally it went in, but now we were into the second or third pass of the loop. What to do?

Well, I did what musicians are trained to do if we are playing in an ensemble and get lost. Keep track of where the music is, and come back in as if you had already been playing. Sort of like when there is a news bulletin that interrupts a television program and the viewer is returned to said program, already in progress.

I assumed that Robin had done essentially the same thing: doing the choreography as if I was playing what I would have been playing had everything been playing smoothly.

Wrong assumption. Robin was improvising, pretty much waiting for me to start from the top. So she was now confused, too, but looking great, just as I was smiling and acting confident and delighted while I played. Finally Robin reached a point in the choreography which we have carefully worked out to be at the start of a particular musical variation. So I jumped to there in the music, and from then on we were totally in sync. She danced gorgeously, and I played the (rest of) piece the best I ever have. It was in tune, musical and flowing, I felt I was really in tune with her energy, that there was synergy happening, etc.

When we finished, I was on a good-performance high. Endorphins aplenty. I was actually delighted that we recovered so well from the minor disasters with the set up. I felt great.

We returned to the common dressing/warm-up area. Robin was as upset as I was happy. She was angry about the music and lights coming up too soon for the trio, and while she tried to ask in a nice and respectful way, she was clearly quite frustrated, to put it mildly, with the musical confusion at the start of her solo. She did as amazing a job as I’ve ever seen anyone do of not acting out her anger and fury. I couldn’t help imagining that she was reminding herself that she loves and respects me, when what she really wanted to do was throttle me.

My explanation about the pedal falling off, the cords getting tangled, the mute switch, the problems with the darkness, etc., she understood intellectually and was quite reasonable about, but clearly internally she was quite upset and feeling that the whole thing was a disaster.

I remained confident that while certain things may have felt like disasters to us, to the audience both pieces probably came off beautifully. And that given the lack of technical support, and difficult circumstances, the way we recovered and managed not to have an actual disaster were something to celebrate. And, egocentric musician that I am, I sounded great and so I was happy with myself.

So we learned from that experience what could go wrong in the next, and I worked out a new strategy for setting things up so that in the second performance we wouldn’t have those same problems.

And in that second, Monday, performance, those problems didn’t happen. But that doesn’t mean that all went smoothly . . .

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Second APAP

Monday evening’s performance at the APAP convention had a glitch of its own. This time, everything having to do with the music technology worked perfectly. Greg, Robin’s student who was there to help me with setting up the amp, and I worked out new task assignments to make sure that there’d be no tangled cords. I had a pocket flashlight so I could see in the dark.

When it came time to set up for the Robin/Eric performance, things went not just like clockwork, but in fast-motion. And when I took my place, things went smoothly and all was (seemingly) well.

Robin took her place. We were ready to start.

No lights came on. We waited.

What’s going on? Perhaps the light operator is waiting for the music to start, I deduced. So I started the loop going.

No light on Robin.

The loop looped a couple of times. Pizzicato arpeggios: G major, E minor, C major, D major. And again.

OK, maybe he’s waiting for me to start playing over the loop. I started the first variation.

No light on Robin. Well, now I couldn’t stop playing. So I keep going.

Finally the light comes up on Robin, who has started the dance. Once again, the choreography and the exact variations of the music, thr coordination of which Robin has so carefully worked out, are off until I recognize a certain movement and jump ahead a variation. From then on, we are fine.

It looks and sounds good, but I know Robin will be upset, and she was! Thank god, though, this time it is clearly not with anything to do with me. I’m figuring there’s some sort of passive-agressive thing going on with the light board guy.

I harbored unkind thoughts about him until Tuesday night, when Robin called about details of our Friday evening concert in Madision, Wisconsin, and I mentioned the lights. It turned out that somehow something had been disconnected and the guy was running around in the dark himself, trying to fix it. He was very apologetic.

Ha! A likely story. But I’ll believe it. It feels better that way.

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Carnegie Deli

Hmm. From blogging deprivation to two in one day.

While Kath’s home computer won’t let me post, there’s no problem at her office, where I am currently cooling my heels waiting for her to be ready to leave. A bit of inter-office drama is going on. An underling has left without giving Kath some important material needed for an equally important meeting first thing tommorrow. While Kath works to track down the missing work, stopping by to fume from time to time, I’m web surfing and cathcing up on email.

And getting hungrier by the minute!

I had a late lunch (around 4:00 PM) at the famous Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue. I hadn’t been there for years, partially because I’d heard it had gone downhill a bit, and also because the average sandwich price around $20. I was going to have lunch at the Brooklyn Diner on 57th Street, but because I was just me they wouldn’t put me in a window booth, most of which were empty like the rest of the tables in the place. While I like the food there very much, I am tired of being told I can’t sit in a booth, or a window booth, when a restuarant is virtually empty. So I walked down to the Carnegie for old time’s sake, even if it would mean spending $20 or more for a sandwich.,

Hey! I got a corned beef on rye for only $15. Seemed like a bargain, and it was great. Also had the best potato pancake of my life. OK, a potato pancake, a corned beef sandwich, a cup of coffe, and the free pickles came to about $25–but it was delicious, and fun, and I enjoyed the atmosphere.

Now Kath is ready to go and impatient with me. Ciao for now, and happy eating.

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A few more experiences to note. . . .

If you are a regular reader of this blog and haven’t seen anything new for a while, apologies. This (Monday 1/23) is the final day of this trip to NY. I’ve been staying with my “quasi-sister” Kath (may years ago I lived with her family). Her home computer, set up by a now ex-boyfriend who was hyper-vigilant about computer security, won’t let me make posts. I spent quite a while trying to figure out what needed to be reset, but to no avail. I’ve had some limited access to Robin’s computer, which has been going through a freezing-whenever-you-want-to-do-something-important period. Hopefully this post will post.

In addition to the Josh Bell/NY Phil concert I wrote about below (by the way, thanks for the encouragement to try the tight-black-jeans-and-open-black-shirt look myself, but with my current figure that is not adviseable), I’ve heard a wonderful concert of music by the South African composer Bongani Ndodana, and been to the new production of Sweeny Todd, in which each performers also plays at least one instrument. Two of them (the young lovers) play cello. Yesterday afternoon I heard the Greenwich Symphony in Connecticut, a very good semi-professional orchestra which includes some full-time professional free-lance players from NY. The orchestra’s principal cellist, Daniel Miller, did a fine job with the Strauss Don Quixote.

Most of my attention has been focused on developing the new work with Robin. We performed it at her backer’s showing at Lincoln Center on Tuesday 1/17, at the APAP book agent’s convention on Saturday, and do it one more time at APAP this evening. There was a bit of consternation at the first APAP showing as Robin’s student Greg and I worked to set up the amp, looping pedal, etc., in the dark, but in the end things went off well. The technical people for the APAP show, in which many dance companies are doing short performances, are 100% not interested in being of any help with the amp situation and clearly wish Robin was like everyone else, dancing to recorded music. From their point of view, I understand, and I also understand how working with less-than-highly-organized dancers could put on in a less-than-pleasant mood.

Ah, just one more challenge. It will be a great relief to have the last performance done.

The Greenwich Symphony concert, by the way, seemed to be to represent all that is good and all that isn’t working with classical music today. What’s great is that it is well supported, well-attended, and creates an opportunity for many people who are not full-time players (many of them music education professionals) to make music together. At 47, I felt like a kid, sitting in the audience; it seemed as if everyone was at least 5 or 10 years older than me. The concert was overly long, under-rehearsed (the two tend to go hand in hand), started late, had an overly-long (although engaging) set of remarks from the conductor, an overly long intermission, and took place in an overheated high-school auditorium with bad acoustics.

Despite all this, there was a good audience Sunday afternoon,. and a good audience the night before. I have a couple of friends in the orchestra, which is why I went, and speaking with them and other friends of theirs (including spouses of other orchestra memebers) at supper it seemed clear that there’s a loyal following, and great love for classical music, and so the audience continues. The “old guard” comes despite all the problematic aspects. But the orchestra sure doesn’t seem to be attracting a younger audience, and how could they? The performance lacked emotional intensity or precision, was too long, was visually and sonically unappealing. We can’t attract new audiences to classical music with this sort of event. And, nevertheless, it is great that the orchestra exists and is doing well, at least for now.

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Sleeping and Lugging

I haven’t been to a concert since the NY Phil on Thursday. There isn’t that much going on right now that I’m desperate to hear.

And the main purpose of this trip is not attending concerts but preparing performances with modern dancer Robin Becker. Catching up on SLEEP is also a high priority. I realized recently that I was genuinely sleep deprived. Staying up too late writing here and on the Internet Cello Society Web Forums, and often falling asleep without hooking myself up to the machine which squirts air in my nose to keep me breathing at night (I have that pesky obstructive sleep apnea).

Robin’s been creating a new solo, to my original music, which I’ve been creating along with her as her choreography evolves. A fascinating if frustrating and anxiety-provoking process!

I’m using a “looping pedal” (which enables one to record a background to be played back continuously while one plays over it) a pickup mic, and a amp. All this involves new logistical challenges. It’s hard enough getting around the big city with a cello. Add the 22-lb. amp and UGH! I now wish I were back in Indiana where I can drive and park everywhere.

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Josh Bell/NY Phil

I’m back in NY, since Thursday the 12th. Kath, my “quasi-sister” (I used to love with her family) and I went to the NY Phil Thursday night. Josh Bell played the “Red Violin Concerto” by Corigliano, and the second half was the R. Strauss “Alpine Symphony.” The excellent youngish conductor Jonathan Nott conducted. Josh Bell played fantastically–I’ve never heard him be anything but fantastic. The Corigliano work, which developed from his film score for “The Red Violin,” was genuinely enjoyable, and a great example of how new music can be accessible, imaginative, and engaging and exciting for an audience.

The concert was almost sold out. We ended up with third-row seats on the (audience) right aisle. We were essentially sitting in the back of the viola section. Since I’ve spent so much time sitting in orchestras, I kind of enjoyed this spot–rather what I’m used to. We were able to see Josh part of the time (sometimes he was obstructed by the conductor).

Josh Bell is 38 or 39, but looks like he is in his late twenties. Does he take some sort of potion? Is there an aging portrait hidden in a closet? And he’s so irritatingly skinny (at least to a man like me, whose figure, were I a woman, would prompt inquiries as to when the baby is due)! He wore rather tight black jeans (I think they were jeans) and a long-sleeved, untucked, black shirt open at the collar. Very hip. I thought it was a great look.

As classical music struggles to remain/become relevant, the white-tie-and-tales thing needs to go. A hundred years ago, people wore that sort of thing in real life. Now it looks artifical and anachronistic. And the sort of thing that says to younger people, “this music is formal, boring, stuffy, and not for you.” So good for Josh. I may try something like it for my next recital.

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Discussing Music Without Speaking

Claude Cymerman and I are playing a recital on Feb. 6, including the Debussy and Franck sonatas (and the Cassado solo suite). I’ll be out of town most of the time until January 28, and then DePauw classes start up again on January 31, and I have to make a short trip out of town between then and the concert. It doesn’t leave us much time to rehearse in February, so we’ve been working over the past week.

Today we played through the Debussy. We’ve both played it many times, he most recently this summer in France (or was it Germany?) with one of my former teachers, Gary Hoffman. He plays it incredibly well, and it went together as easily as I expected. Then we went back to the Franck. After a few rehearsals, it fits together nicely. The Franck, originally for violin, is a piece Claude has played many times, too, but this will be my first. I’ve always resisted playing it, because I love it so much on violin. But Claude twisted my arm, and here we go.

It was fascinating to observe the difference in myself playing a piece I know extremely well and is pretty much built into me, and one that is new. While the difference might not be all that great to a listener, the inner experience was quite dissimilar. Playing the Debussy, I was so aware of everything in the piano; we were able to do all sorts of nuances without discussing them. In the Franck, I have a lot of attention on just playing the cello part, including a lot of experimentation with sound colors, timing, when to slide and when not to, etc. Even when I try not to think as much about the cello part and listen more to the piano and how the two instruments interact, I get distracted by cello details.

I also know the Debussy piano part almost by heart myself; I know exactly what is going on and how my part interacts with Claude’s. In the Franck, although I’ve heard it all my musical life and have studied the score a good bit, I get a bit confused once in a while.

All of this is normal and quite to be expected. I just don’t remember every having the two experiences juxtaposed so together so closely and noticeably; it was fascinating to see the difference. And slightly frustrating. But I’ve been playing the Debussy for 30 years and the Franck for a couple of weeks–it wouldn’t be fair to expect the same sort of experience with them both.

Claude is such an incredible person to work with, too. An incredibly musical and sensitive collaborator as well as a virtuoso pianist. We talk about the music so little in rehearsals that one might think we weren’t communicating. In actuality, we are constantly discussing things, but not verbally, through our playing. He’ll vary his articulation, and I respond to it. I do a rubato, and he goes along with me. We try it a different way when a similar passage returns–one of us puts forth a new idea, the other listens and replies. I don’t think we talked at all in the Debussy, and a lot went on. In the Franck, we’ve had to stop and discuss some things. But they are much more practical than musical. I’ll be confused by the piano part and he’ll explain it to me, or he’ll point out that he wants to take time in a particular spot and I didn’t catch it (again, beause I’m more focused on playing the cello part). Many of the more important artistic details, though, materialize in the act of making music together.

It would actually be very interesting to record our rehearsals and analyze this. We are not unique in experiencing this phenomeon, of course, but it doesn’t happen with many people in one’s lifetime.

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If It Sounds Good . . .

Carter Brey, principal cellist of the New York Phil, and I are still hotly debating left-hand cello position via email. It’s fun, and we both agree that “if it sounds good, it is good,” (Ellington, so often quoted by Schickele) and we really don’t care what sort of hand position a good player uses.

That doesn’t make the debate any less intense, of course. An interesting thought has come up. As objective as we try to be, arguing from our own experience and that of others, perhaps much of what “works best” for an individual player is related to how (s)he first learned to play well., and that colors one’s view of what works best in general. So our attempts to be objective are limited by some very subjective experiences.

I play with a more “slanted” left hand, Carter a more “square” one. For me to really see if a square hand would work better for me than my current approach, I’d have to unlearn/relearn how to play the cello. And I’d really have to find some way to turn the clock back to being 14 or 15 or younger. Otherwise, when I try to play square-handed, it is with a brain and body highly programmed to use a different hand angle. And the same thing for him.

Interesting, too, is that after study (including some study with the same teacher), we each went through a period of trial and error and settled on a way to play that to each of us seemed perhaps the way to play. But ended up with opposite opinions on this issue. Obviously some of this must have to do with the differences in our hands and arms, as well as certain types of sound, etc., that we prefer. But at this point (me in my late 40s, he the old man in his early 50s), I don’t think either could change if we wanted to.

Part of the fun of this for me is I haven’t argued like this, especially over technique, with anyone since I was an undergraduate. Eventually one grows up and focuses less on how one should play and than on simply playing well. I feel like a teenager again!

I go back to NY Thursday. My “quasi sister” Katherine and I will go to the Philharmonic concert, with Josh Bell as soloist in Corigliano’s Red Violin Concerto, that night. Good way to start off this trip, which for the most part will be focused on work with my friend and colleague modern dancer Robin Becker. It seems inevitable that on this trip Carter and I will try to convert each other in person. Hopefully it will end up with just some duet playing. Or, failing that, drinking. Or, even better, both.

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Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of cello music, especially since I have a new DVD of Pierre Fournier playing concerti and sonatas, and a new CD of previously unreleased performances by Emanuel Feuermann. The latter includes a video clip of a film made of Feuermann in the late 1930s. Feuermann was the greatest cello player of his day, at least in terms of technical control, the next breakthrough after Casals. He died due to anesthesia complications in minor surgery. Feuermann, so precise, clean, and effortless. Fournier: warm, free-but-elegant, and slightly impulsive. If I could go back in time and hear just one in person, it would be hard to choose. I’d be really curious to hear and see Feuermann live. I’d be more excited to hear Fournier. Either one would be fine, of course, if you happen to have a time machine.

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I’m really hoping my son hasn’t found this blog. His mom and I have imposed new restrictions on the amount of time he and his girlfriend can spend together on school nights (it’s Draconian: nothing after dinner, except for play rehearsals, etc.). He’s taking it fine–he knows he needs to study and sleep more. She, though, is melting down. So they are on the phone so much she might as well be here. Surely this will calm down soon, won’t it? Someone tell me it will.

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Back in Time to Leave Again

Our Christmas trip was good, and I’m about to make my final sabbatical trip to NY. It will be nice to stay in one place for longer than a few weeks once I get back!

Meanwhile, since my 17-year-old son doesn’t read my blog, I can share that the only thing more tension-provoking than driving a car to Florida with two teenagers is riding in that car when one of them is driving.

Actually, he’s quite a good driver. So good that I fell asleep and woke up 30 miles after he didn’t spot the exit we needed for the next road. Every other parent I’ve told this story has been amazed that I was able to fall asleep!

My project of making videos on cello playing has turned out so nicely. I amazed by how many people I’m hearing from, and from how far away. Switzerland and England today!

Following up on the Christmas wars, my daughter’s best friend’s mother is our mayor. I was sitting next to Nancy at a swim meet Saturday (nothing is more boring than watching other people’s children, especially one’s you don’t know, swim) and we had plenty of time to chat. I asked her if it had come up in the discussion that the Pilgrims, for example, did not observe Christmas and that it used to be illegal in Massachusetts to celebrate it. She didn’t and didn’t even want to think about what she had been through.

So I thought of going up to one of our more conservative pastors, who was also looking bored during the long periods when his son was not swimming, either, and asking him about it. Christmas (which I love) is the absolutely least Biblical of Christian holidays; there’s nothing in the Christian (or Hebrew) scriptures, I understand, about holding ceremonies to celebrate the birth of important figures. It’s an important tradition, of course. I have nothing against it–my Christmas tree is still up. But pretty clearly Christmas was started as a way to Christianize the late-December “pagan” festivites. (No, Jesus is not “the reason for the season.”) And it’s this history, and the secular celebrating which surrounded Christmas even back then that had the Pilgrims so disgusted with it.

But I decided not to ask Alan where in the Bible it suggests we celebrate Christmas or why the original Christians didn’t themselves or why our Puritan forebearers used to put people in jail for celebrating it. But I just didn’t have the energy to pick a fight, I guess.

Splish, splash. Who are these kids in the pool? Everyone looks the same in the water; it’s hard to recognize even the kids I know. A neighbor and I chat about our cars. He says I should sell my 97 Town and Country, which I love because it is so comfortable, because at over 100K miles the transmission should die any minute now. Well, everything else has, so he’s probably right.

Vaugely familar kids are in the pool. Is that Gus in lane 3? No he’s in lane 5. Are you sure? It could be Nathan. We have to look at the program.

How can anyone do the breast stroke? Well, how can anyone play the double stop passages in the Dvorak concerto? I can do it, but it still beats me. The breast stroke looks worse. Or is it the butterfly? I get them confused. All tortures look alike.

My son came running up to the stands. His next event is going to start sooner than he had thought; his girlfriend is planning to come what may be 15 minutes too late, on her lunch break from the library. Can I go get her? Or call her? He’s panicked! The hold this girl has on him!

What’s her cell number? He doesn’t know–it’s programmed into his cell phone which is at home. I can’t drive to get her, because I’ve walked to the meet, and it would take too long to walk home and get the car.

So I call the library. We get the whole linrary staff, it seems, trying to find the girlfriend so she can get to the meet in time (some things about small-town life are great, such as the library staff recognizing this for the emergency it was). She has already left, it turns out, and materializes next to me while I’m on the phone. My son beats his previous best times by a considerable amount. He triumphs, she is there to watch.

It doesn’t bother me that all of a sudden this teenaged girl looms larger in his life than do I. It sure is a problem for his mother, though! What will it be like for me when my daughter gets her first serious boyfriend? Probably not pretty.

I think the swim meet may still be going on. The 500-meter events last for an eternity. Well, it is Tuesday morning and the thing started Saturday. Must be done by now.

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