|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Nov. 08, 2003 - 2:58 p.m.
I don't know what's wrong with me. I just haven't felt like writing anything for the past week. It's not like I have a pressing social calendar (I work in radio, 'nuff said) or a monstrous work load or anything. It just seems like a general malaise settled on me and shut down all will to move anything other than my thumbs. My Playstation thumbs.
But I figure I'm stuck here at work for 8 hours, so I might as well rise above myself and actually expend an effort. For once.
So yeah, last weekend we went to the Accordian Hoe-Down. What a hoot! First of all, the drive down the New Jersey Turnpike reaffirmed all I love about America. I set the cruise control to 95 and people in SUV's were flying by me. I cheered every one of them. I would have gone faster myself, but I was eating breakfast and steering with my knees most of the way. Triple digit speeds would have spilled my cereal.
Suprisingly, when we got there my Dad seemed less than excited.
"What?" you say. "Someone could be less than excited about attending a day-long accordian festival??
Shut up, you calloused sophisticate, you. If you go back and read my witty, brilliant preamble to this event (two entries ago) you'll see how much we were looking forward to this. I'm really a very sensitive man, non-judgemental about all expressions of human creativity. So fuck you.
As I say, my dad was not smiling, and we found out why. Turns out he had heard the local orchestra the night before in their final rehearsal. And they, in a word, sucked. The conductor is a nice old man, but "nice + old" is not a good combination in a conductor. Instead of instilling the fear of flayings for missed notes, he just shrugged them off. Same with people playing several beats ahead or behind. But what really irked my Dad was that for some reason all orchestra members were told to play using only their right hand! The base would be handled by two members who would only use their left hand. Sacrilege!!
I decided to keep an open mind despite my father's frothing disapproval.
It only took 5 minutes for my mind to close again. The home team was up first, and I could see immediately why dad was so incensed. Cutting out half of each instrument produced a thin, wheezing sound that wasn't far removed from the whine of a dentist's drill. On top of that, the bass players were run through an amp to a pair of 4 foot high stadium speakers! What the...? Leaving aside the lunacy of single handed playing for a moment, the accordian is a damn loud instrument all on its own. Pumped through a stack of Marshals, they would make Marlee Maitlin cover her ears.
Now, amplification might make sense if they'd rented out, say, Yankee Stadium or the Grand Canyon. But in a back room of The Acme Accordian School of Haddon New Jersey (established 1949) it was painful overkill. Like giving Ron Jeremy hourly Viagra injections. And as if that weren't enough, the amp wasn't grounded properly and sent out a 60 Hz hum that lasted the entire concert.
Let me just describe the venue, since I touched on the subect. As noted above, the school was founded some 54 years ago. I think that was also the last time it was fumigated. It's not that we were expecting a grand stage, with crushed velvet seats and art deco sconces. But I really wasn't ready when were ushered into pre-Revolution Bastille Prison. Really, the place was dank, musty, and cramped. The concrete cinderblock walls were painted mold-green...although I'm sure not all of it was paint. For some reason they had seen fit to place a number of shrivelling apples on all the window sills. Maybe they thought the constant stream of methane would mask the moldy odors, like Nature's Fabreeze. And did I mention that the room was small? Since we arrived a little late we had to sit in the front row, and the front row held the least desired seats. That's because they butted right up against the orchestra. I sat sideways the entire concert to avoid getting a constant handjob from the 2nd viola section.
Well, after the local crew got done with their one-handed, bass booming, out-of-time-with-each-other cacophony, they cleared out and made way for the kids' orchestra.
The kids, at least, made up for their lack of musical prowess by being excessively cute. I mean, I hate children. But watching one little girl, looking all of 6, struggle mightily to work a sqeezebox that probably outweighed her by a factor of two, all the while counting out loud "1-2-3, 1-2-3..."...well, it almost made me regret the boo's I started up even before the performance ended. BTW, one of their more rousing numbers was the "Vegetables Are Good For You Polka". It confirmed my suspicion that everything about vegetables is bad.
Now here's the funny thing. While the performances done en masse were an exercise in pain and indignation, the solo performances were another animal altogether. Unfettered from the insane demands of their senile conductor, individuals from the orchestra put on displays of musical acrobatics that were dazzling. Free to use both hands, and not encumbered by trying to keep in synch with anyone else, these guys and gals let loose with blasts of musicianship that reminded me (finally) of why I was so enthralled by the accordian as a kid.
The most impressive performances were put on by the large contingent of Eastern European immigrants in attendance who played traditional and wildly exhuberant selections. Not only were the exotic melodies and strange time signatures refreshingly different, but they were often preceded by a lecture from the soloist. It was fascinating hearing Gypsy tales, and folklore from Hungary, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and more, all being expressed musically. Sometimes their compatriots, waiting in the "wings" (behind some folding chairs four feet away) would start playing along, or singing in those gutteral non-Indo European phonemes that express so much even if you can't understand them. I sat rapt, sometimes just inches away from the pumping bellows. All the pain of the previous two hour's futility was erased.
Two quick, unbiased generalizations regarding all accordian players:
1. All American accordian players over the age of 17 are ugly and expressionless.
2. All Eastern European accordian players are startlingly handsome and effervescent.
It was NewWifey(tm) who first pointed this out after scanning the assembled performers. She had a theory about it too, which I defy anyone to disprove.
"You see, the accordian is held in such low regard in the U.S. that anyone who admits to playing it immediately gives up any hope of getting laid. So only people who are ugly enough that they won't get laid to begin with stick with it. Everybody else has better things to do with their weekends. Meanwhile, the Europeans hold the accordian in high esteem. It's been a part of their culture since the Neanderthals first fashioned them from flint and bone in the caves of Lascaux. So the best looking, most socially desireable people take it up, knowing it will help them get laid. It's that simple."
She got no argument from me. She also amused herself immensely when she noticed that the accordian of choice for most performers was a model called the "TITANO". She started referring to them as "Tit-Anus", as that was approximately the stretch that these massive black boxes covered on each musician. As the players waddled up and down the narrow corridor to and from the stage, looking for all the world like they were 8 1/2 months pregnant with a washing machine, she would nudge me and whisper "Hey, check out the Tit-Anus on this one." or "Look, here comes a Tit-Anus!"
Unfortunately, NewWifey(tm) being NewWifey(tm), her whispers tend to be clearly intelligable from 2 blocks away, through traffic. Finally a dessicated older woman with bright pink lipstick, a pink poodle skirt and blue-and-yellow sweater top with a green brocaded vest over the whole thing, tapped her on the shoulder.
"Young lady, it's pronounced 'Tie-tanno'. Jerk."
NewWifey(tm) stared at her. Finally she said "Wow! A virgin!
No one bothered her the remainder of the concert.
This was the highlight of the day for me:
Midway through the concert they took an intermission so all the performers could gather in front of the building for a group photo. The building fronts Haddon Ave, one of the local main drags. Folding chairs were dragged onto the sidewalk, and someone got up on the roof and spelled out "25th Annual Accordian Day" in shaving cream over the awning. The photographer stood across the street and snapped his pics during gaps in the traffic. The performers sat, and the rest of us stood off to the side and yawned.
Then the director of the operation addressed the audience:
"We'd like all the audience members to sit for the picture also so it looks like we had an even greater attendance! Please, grab a folding chair or plop down on the curb, and we'll give each of you your own accordian."
How cool is that? Dissembling! From squeeky clean accordian dorks! Who would have thought they were that devious?
NewWifey(tm) wasn't thrilled with the prospect of having her visage included in the picture. What if someone were to recognise her in it and assume therefore that she couldn't get laid? I had no such compunction and sprinted for the seat at the very front, dead center. NewWifey(tm) grudgingly sat on one side of me, my dad on the other. Sure enough, spare accordians were produced and we were all set to perpetrate the fraud.
The best thing? The pics are being made into a glossy poster, and anyone can order one! I've got dibs on 10 of them. One to be framed and grace our mantle (over NewWifey(tm)'s protestations) and the other 9 to be sent to family and friends around the world, none of whom thought I'd ever ammount to anything. Hah! This'll show them.
After the break the proceedings continued for a few more hours. There were one or two guest orchestras, each as bad as the next. (One did a medley of Tom Jones' hits, which we didn't realize til after the performance was over and we checked the program. How the hell do you screw up "Delilah" to the point of being unrecognisable??) But again, the soloists were amazing. Including, as the grand finale, an Austrian viruoso who'd invented a device to run an accordian through a Midi synthesiser, and could get the thing to imitate hundreds of different instruments. It was pretty impressive.
At 4:30 they announced the formal portion of the concert was over, but everyone was welcome to stay for a jam session til midnight or later.
We hightailed it out of there.
So there you go. An overly lengthy description that still doesn't do the experience justice. But I had to kill time at work somehow. Otherwise I would have had to work. If you made it this far, you're a better man than I. I always bail on the longer diaries, personally.
Oh - on the ride home we stopped at a little restaurant I'd spotted on the way down. It said "Austrian Cafe" on the awning. I told NewWifey(tm) "Hey, let's stop there and have some Linzertorte and Cafe mit Schlagge. It'll be in keeping with the theme!" So we pulled up, walked in, and...it turned into an Italian restaurant! Turns out the Austrian place wasn't making money, so the owner converted it to Wop. But he didn't want to spend the money making a new sign for the awning or door. So we had Italian food. Very exotic for me, a Sicilian. Oh well, NewWifey(tm) was happy anyway.
Even if she can't get laid anymore.
Play on, kids!
Work's over - Ciao