Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Taxi To Everywhere

Michael had searched weeks for a seldom-performed recording of Beethoven’s string quintet, opus,104. He was elated when he tracked it down in a dusty London record shop. He took a seat on a bus headed home, filled with anticipation. When traffic stopped on Oxford St. he glanced over at a bus going in the opposite direction and spotted a woman he’d been in love with ten years before.

At this point I put the book down and found myself with Peggy on Oxford St. hesitant to disembark from the back of a bus as it came to a stop. We jumped out as it started to move and fell on top of each other, two bodies splattered on the busiest street in London. Maybe, in a parallel universe, we were run over and killed that day. If so the past twenty five years have been our after-life. I’d settle for that.

Michael, our protagonist dashed off the bus and started running after the other. He finally hailed a cab. Traffic was thick. He didn’t say, follow that bus and step on it. When he thought he’d do better on foot he bolted from the taxi, chased the bus and boarded it to no avail. Julia was gone and to his dismay so was the Beethoven.

And so was my cashmere sweater left in the back seat of a taxi in Vienna. We had just come from the only two blocks in that moribund city we found to be vibrant. It was the neighborhood of buildings designed by Hundertwasser. The architecture looks something like Gaudi after a three-martini lunch. The floors are wavy, the colors playful and some tops have minarets. He must have been inspired to do the opposite of the ponderous oversized grey structures of Vienna built as the capital of the Austro-Hungary Empire. My sweater was an homage to Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

Julia would be lost by page 70 but she is to be found twenty-five pages later in Vikram Seth’s novel, An Equal Music. In real life my sweater stayed in Vienna just as my camera left in a taxi in New Orleans would be my gift to that great city. Maybe I was a bit tipsy from a spiked Slurpy or just intoxicated by the parties, parades and Dixieland sounds coming out of Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz nightspot.

Michael is elated, a few days and a dozen pages later, when the taxi driver returns the recording. How he found our protagonist is yet to be revealed. At this point all we know is that Michael is a serious musician who plays the violin in a string quartet. His instrument is older than Beethoven and the plot is older than that but I’m caught in the whole affair of chamber music and lost love.

Today is my 79th birthday. Hummingbirds are humming. Our kitchen clock is tweeting. The garbage truck is beeping. Meryl is streeping. Car alarms are singing with the only voice they’ve been given. I’m hearing music from imagined larks. My love has been found. The coral tree outside our patio is ignited with its red lanterns. I can hear swollen bulbs bursting. Today I’m allowed to be a little delusional.

Every story is still in progress. My life feels like fiction. I think I’ll linger a while on this page.

1 comment:

  1. One of your best, Norm! I guess birthdays must bring out the best in writers. Happy, happy.