It’s been a dry time here re: the word production of we here at The Little Black Egg, but a totally super-exciting time in our actual lives. Now, there may be some seething pedants amongst my Dear Readers who are cocking their heads and waving their fingers all in my face and saying “Rick, shouldn’t your entire life center around word production? And if so, doesn’t this mean that your life is therefore all the poorer, since you’re not producing any words for The Little Black Egg?”
To you pedants, I say this: my life is none the poorer—it is your life, shitface, which is the poorer for my absence." And for this, I apologize. I am returned to you now, Dear Reader: the sun rises once again over this blighted land, so you can turn your eyes towards the truth and light.
Now, I didn’t have any of those year-end lists or anything like that, because I never really know what exactly is happening in time and space. We here at The Little Black Egg can’t be keeping abreast of everything in the world. Instead, with the New Year, I would like to mention something that I will be leaving behind. As the trees grow bare, as flowers wither, as eczema forms in the cold, I will steadfastly turn my back on this thing and walk away.
Now, saying arrivederci to something is never easy. For instance, it took years before I could make myself stop buying $1 exotica albums. I just no longer have the capacity to house these goddamn things. Like many people, I have been known to part with a buck for a record with some weird looking white dude shaking maracas with a parrot on his shoulder and foxy ladies reclining on flowers with title that says like “Tropical Organ Moods.” You know what though? Owning those records does not pay off. What happens is, you become this graying dude drinking beer alone, listening to a record of the Cincinnati Lutheran Ramblers play “Stardust” on steel guitar, and feeling sad about yourself. Those are the wages of lounge, my friend. At the end of the day, it’s best to stop trying to squeeze enjoyment out of things that you don’t like.
The thing that I’m turning my back on this year, is the opera. Now, you may be saying, “Jesus H., mister, we didn’t come to this here internet publication to read about the opera. If we wanted to read about the opera, we’d—wait, we’d never want to do that.” And I say to you, “listen pal, you’ll eat what you’re given and you’ll like it.”
Now, let’s begin at the beginning. For some time, my better half had a job with the Great Big Opera here in NYC. This job allowed her to get extremely discounted opera tickets. Therefore, we here at The Little Black Egg would attend the opera a whole lot. Often enough that some people had the mistaken impression that we were “opera buffs.”
There are many things I enjoyed about the opera, to tell you the truth. For instance, I liked having a seat right up front, so’s I could walk by all the fancy opera patrons and mutter under my breath: “Sorry you have such horrible seats, you revolting peasants.” Then I’d go sit up front with the agéd creatures who looked like dried apricots in evening finery and try to hear the music over the sound of them snuffling, dozing, and in one instance, listening to the Yankees game on what had to be the oldest goddamn walkman I ever saw, seriously, it was like the size of a carton of milk, and instead of headphones he had this flesh-colored ear plug thing.
Now, listen, I know opera is highly unpopular with a large swath of the population, but you know, it was kind of interesting. Like many people who latched on to le punk rock in my youth, I was accustomed to existing in a very small Musical Comfort Zone. So when I finally decided to branch out and explore the teeming wilds of audioville, it was like being dropped into enemy territory with no compass, survival knowledge, tools, etc. However, it did build my character and make me strong like bull. So I bravely started listening to all sorts of boring, go-nowhere musical things that I hated for years until my brain gave up and began grudgingly liking it. And after many years of striving, I learned to like weird, atonal operas like Wozzeck and Lulu. Then, before you know it, I’m having conversations with opera people.
Despite having seen dozens of these things, I really didn’t know doodly about opera. In fact, I don’t know anything, at all, about music. I had gotten in too deep, and developed a terror of the Lincoln Center creatures who hovered around during intermission. The joke had gone too far
Or had it? Maybe the joke had not gone far enough. Maybe if I’d put my nose to the grindstone and really done the homework, I could be walking in two worlds. Sometimes I’d be sitting around, listening to the kind of stuff I do now (i.e., audio of three Polish dudes whacking on metal in 1982 that was recorded on a wobbly dictaphone and sourced from a tenth-generation tape), and other times I’d be dressed all natty in a three piece suit, sipping a glass of shitty white wine while I held forth on why Luigiani Fotzabini was an inferior tenor compared to Francesco Fettucini.
That would be good, right? Old ladies and assorted waspy-looking old palsied dudes would cluster around me. They'd hanging on my every word while, half-concealed behind a pillar, New Yorker critic Alex Ross would surreptitiously record every word I wrote, like some creepy Salieri-type feller. He would have espied me in the orchestra seats and followed me out, hoping to soak up my nuggets of expertise. So there he'd be, furiously scribbling in his notebook as he snatched my insights from the air and retooled them for an awesome New Yorker article (with lots of umlauts over words like “reëxamine" and "coöperate"). I will catch a glimpse of Alex Ross’ loafer poking out from behind the pillar, and I will smile quietly to myself, because you know, I’m not desirous of the limelight.
Then, right, there will be the sound of chimes—the ushers signaling everyone back to their seats—and I will blend in with the seething mass of evening wear-bedecked Skeksis as they hobble back into the orchestra sections. There, enjoying the sonic advantages of row L, I will look at the wood veneer of the opera house (made from a single rosewood tree, should you be wondering) and think, oh opera house wood veneer, thanks to Alex Ross recording my intermission chatter with his fancy Marantz recorder thing, and then utilizing it in an article that will be read by the smartest of the smarties, my thoughts on this opera will echo through space and time long after its final notes have reverberated through your wood-grainy woodness. Then the chandeliers would rise towards the ceiling, the Skeksis would cease their chatter, and I would half-close my eyes as I soaked up the first mercurial notes of the 4.5 hour act as they wafted through the room, alighting on my ear like velveteen butterflies of the dawn.
That would be pretty nice, wouldn't it? Velveteen butterflies of the dawn and all. I'm serious about that! It would be nice, but unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. Now that I don’t have a ticket hookup anymore, though, I find that I don’t think about opera whatsoever, not even a little bit. However, once in a while I think about What Could Have Been. The last opera I went to, I was sitting about six rows behind Alex Ross. (I didn’t know it was him until a musician friend of mine pointed him out.) A whole bunch of people talked to Alex Ross between acts.
The opera was about Oppenheimer and the first nuclear bomb—I thought it stunk and was ridiculous. Alex Ross gave it a really good review in the New Yorker. During intermission, I spent $5 on a coffee because I felt like I was going to fall asleep, and drank it while everyone I was with analyzed what they were seeing and hearing. I just never got it. I guess it’s like how you can lead a horse to water but you can’t etcetera. Cold comfort.
For a while there, I really wanted to have this stuff figured out. I was like a guy looking at a map of a strange, impossible continent, and dreaming about exploring it; but when I got there, I was just lost and desperate to leave. Today, when I want ornate, overwrought Italian music, I’ll listen to proggy horror movie soundtracks. Thusly I turn my back on opera in 2010; not as a hero, but as a failure. Arrivederci.