In which music, glorious music, which hath the power to soothe the savage beast, only manages to muster in Ted's wicked little soul yet another pathetic round of Catholic guilt.
"How's your day going?" I asked Corb, on the way to work Tuesday morning.
On the other end of the phone line, I could hear the phone ringing, the voices behind him asking a million questions, and the stress in his voice, so the answer was pretty obvious. "Don't ask," he said, anyways.
A few hours later, it was his turn to call me. "How's your day going?" he asked.
I thought of the phone calls I had received, the assignments I had to finish. The stress in my voice told HIM all he needed to know.
Which is why, I think, both of us were looking forward to the end of work. Not just because it was a break from the stress, and furthermore, an evening without the kidlets. But even better, about a month ago, Corb had picked up tickets to the Boston Pops, so we were traveling into the city with his mother and grandmother, for a nice meal, a martini or two, and then, a night spent with one of the finest orchestras in the country.
Seeing the Pops is something of a tradition with Corb's family. For years, he would go in the spring with his mother and grandmother. One time, they actually shared an elevator with the current conductor, Keith Lockhart. They found him quite charming.
I have to be honest, though, I've never actually been...to any concerts anywhere, really. Despite the fact that I was the geekiest of band geeks all through high school--hey, I played clarinet, you can't get much geekier than that--I've never really seen much of anything involving classical music. What can I say? I took a hard left toward theater in college, and never really looked back.
So yes, I was looking forward to taking in a new adventure. And we did go to a wonderful Italian restaurant, where I pigged out on shrimp with fettucini alfredo and a blue Hawaii martini. After that, we made our way to the Pops concert, in the heart of Boston. Jim, the boyfriend of Corb's mother, dropped us off at the front of the building, and we mound of way through the opulant building to our seats, which were in the first balcony, stage right. Front rows of seats, so it was a wonderful view.
How nice was the atmosphere? Picture sitting there, waiting for the show to begin, and looking up at the ceiling and seeing this:
And then, the orchestra members make their way to the stage. They tune up, the lights go down. Keith Lockhart makes a frilly entrance. He taps his baton, the music starts up. I close my eyes, ready to be transported. The evening starts with two short pieces from movie soundtracks, and then the first special guest of the evening is brought on--Maya Beiser, a lovely cellist with long flowing raven hair and a long frame draped in a willowy red flowing gown. She has the look of a movie star, and starts into a moody version of LKed Zepplin's Kashmir that was fascinating to listen to. I sit back, close my eyes, start to feel one with the music, and suddenly...I'm...
Consumed by an overpowering sense of guilt.
No, seriously. Guilt. Who woulda thunk, me feeling guilty? And yet, there I was, feeling pooped at the Pops.
Here's the deal: earlier that day at work, I had received a call from a pleasant enough sounding gentleman. He said he had something that he could offer my company, and would I care to hear about it? Which I did, politely, for a few minutes, but a) he wasn't really telling me what it was he offered and b) I knew I sure as hell wasn't going to be buying it from him.
Usually, in those situations, I just tell the salespeople to send me an email outlining what it is they offer, and I'd forward it on to the right person. However, this guy seemed so nice, and he said he lived near a friend of mine who lives in New Jersey, who I thought mioght actually want what it is to offer, so I made the mistake of giving him her number.
Two hours later, I received a call from my friend, Laura.
"Ted," she said, with her tough New Jersey accent. "What the hell did you do to me? I've got this guy who's called me five times in a row! He won't stop calling me!"
I knew immediately who it was. "Oh, no..."
"And then, I meant to call someone else, and accidently called him by mistake, and when I realized what I had done, I hung up on him. And now, he's calling me like, every five minutes! He's driving me nuts, Ted! And it's all your fault!" Well, maybe she didn't say that last line. But she may as well have.
Oh, Jesus. I felt awful. And, irritated that he was being such a pest. So, I took in a deep breath and said, "What's his phone number, Laura?"
She stopped, and laughed. "Ted, you're not gonna--"
"Oh yes, I most certainly am," I said. And then I took down the number and called the guy back.
He picked up on the first ring.
"Listen," I said, hardly giving him a chance to say hello. "Out of the goodness of my heart, I give you someone's number, something I very rarely do. I thought you'd just call and leave her your number, if she wasn't there. I didn't expect you were going to call her ten times in a row! You do realize that that may have already soured your relationship with our company, right?"
I didn't give the guy a chance to respond. "So, here's what I'm going to do for you. Here';s the only chance you really have of even getting any business from us. send me an email telling me what it is you're offering. Be short and specific. Do NOT call Laura back. I promise to forward it along, and if she's interested--and only if she's interested--she'll call you. All right?"
"All right," said the man, quietly. That was the end of the conversation.
Okay, maybe he deserved it, for being so persistent. But as I sat there, with this beautiful eerie music swelling around me, with the mournful ebb and flows of Kashmir filling the concert hall, the only music I could hear was the tone of his sad little voice at the end. Suddenly, in a wave of the conductor's baton, all I could think about was him, him, him. It had seemed amusing at the time, but what if he wasn't doing so well, financially? What if he had a wife and kids to support? What if he suffered from lumbago? Maybe the guy was somebody's mother!
Why couldn't I have just been a little nicer to him?
Poor man. I wanted to run out of the concert hall, call him up. Buy whatever crappy thing he was selling. The feeling was unbearable.
It took me all of Kashmir to get over it, I tell you. But fortunately, I was over it by the end of the first section. During intermission, at the concession window (or whatever the hell you'd call it, there), I loudly told Corb all about my period of mourning. He just looked at me and rolled my eyes.
But why do I get like that? Some people can be mean all day long, seven days a week, and it doesn't bother them one bit. Just look at Leona Helmsley. There was a meanie. George Steinbrenner. Meanie. Murphy Brown. Horrible! Me, I freak out, and I beat myself up about it for the rest of the day. I'm a meanie with a conscience, I am. Why was I programmed with the capability of being mean, if I'm incapable of actually enjoying the experience? Better not to be able to be mean at all, if you ask me.
I tell you, THAT SALESMAN RUINED A PERFECTLY GOOD SONG, DAMMIT!
Oh. The rest of the show? Very nice. The second half was all jazz--Rogers and Hart standards by a four piece jazz band and the orchestra. A version of "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught," sung slick. Maya Beiser came back for one more song, this time with the jazz quartet and the orchestra. It kind of reminded me of a seventies variety show, in some ways. And then, Stars and Stripes, done only as the Boston Pops can do it.
By the end, I was completely relaxed, but then, jazz always does that to me. I was even able to close my eyes and feel a woosh of relief, a couple of times.
A wonderful evening, certainly. I just wish it hadn't come complete with a dose of guilt. Or maybe, I just wish that I hadn't come complete with that dose of guilt.