Thursday, March 11, 2010

Holding Down Ft. Blog, Sort Of

So I believe I am in the minority of my immediate family that is not currently in south Florida for the Pirates' spring training -- Jack's in Bradenton or Tampa or something with the parents and I believe Pete is about to join them, or just has. Mike is, I'm pretty sure, back in Shanghai, but my ability to pinpoint the hemisphere containing my youngest sibling has dipped over the past couple of years.

I'm at home in Portland, slightly jealous that I can't sensibly fit the pre-baseball season fun into my annual vacation sort-of-planning that already includes a bunch of jaunts back East -- Portland, as I was complaining to Kyle the other day, is a beautiful city, but I wish it could be relocated with its environs, with no other changes, to suburban Philadelphia or something. But -- unlike the titular Atlas of Ayn Rand's hateful brick of a pop-philosophy novel, which I finally finished reading-for-the-sake-of-reading-it a little while ago -- I will not shrug off my responsibility to keep the mild interest flowing here, lest it freeze and burst the tubes. At least until Thursday night! Then I fly to New York for a long weekend.

The trip allows a mutual birthday gift between Jack and me -- thirty in a couple weeks! -- of going to see the Metropolitan Opera's production of Shostakovich's The Nose. Besides looking forward to the show for musical reasons, the occasion feels pleasingly apt to me: Age 30 marks almost exactly a half-lifetime of unseemly Shostakovich fanboydom (fanboyishness?) for me, which I date to early 10th grade. Also, I undertook my very first visit to New York for Shostakovich-related reasons something like a decade ago, when I roped my college chum Clinton into taking the train there over spring break (with a pleasant stopover at Swarthmore), mostly so I could see the composer's other opera Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk in performance for the first time (also at the Met, also Valery Gergiev conducting), and as a bonus catch the Philadelphia Orchestra under David Robertson at Carnegie Hall, playing Shostakovich's sixth symphony (along with Weill's Threepenny Opera suite, the actual highlight of that program, and if memory serves Prokofiev's second violin concerto, played unmemorably by someone).

This time around Jack and I will also spend Sunday evening at (Le) Poisson Rouge, apparently the place for the hip kids of classical music these days, to hear some John Luther Adams and what looks like maybe some European minimalist-ish art pop. And Kyle will be along too, though not for the musical stuff, to visit with a couple of her friends, which is nice because we can put up the armrest between us on the airplane. Too, we can go to museums together during business hours on Friday and Monday and add to our literally gillions of hours of entertaining conversation together, but the airplane armrest thing seriously is a major value-added of traveling with her. Good times will be had!

I bring up the fact of Pretty Woman-ing myself across the country for operatic purposes in part because, though I haven't been dwelling on the milestone birthday, it does have me thinking (along with Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers) about the rule of thumb that to master any task or craft you need to do it for 10,000 hours, or 10 years or whatever it is. Because, I guess, 10,000, 10, 30, all big round numbers. And if I try to think of the things I've been doing enough of to get really good at in the past decade, it's a pretty uninspiring list. I haven't had a lot of sustained hobbies; I've gone the pretty common route of former creative writing majors in that I don't actually write in a structured way; I've parlayed a pretty top-shelf undergraduate computer science education (if one I executed without much direction or enthusiasm) into a badly unspectacular software engineering career. But I have been reading a lot of books and listening to a lot of music... Shostakovich's body of work in particular is unique for me in that I've consistently listened my way more deeply into it over my entire adult life. And I certainly don't perform it, and "interpret" would be the wrong word, but I do respond to it in my idiosyncratic way and roll it up into my concept of the world. (Really, it's kind of foundational at this point; it was kind of neat a few years back to realize that reading about gross political malfeasance could get the opening fanfare of his Michelangelo Suite, a work very much concerned with the misdoings of the state, stuck in my head.) In that way and others, if nothing else, I've gotten reasonably expert at being me.


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