No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.
If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
– Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without Country (2005: 66).
1. A Trip to the Supermarket.
Drink up, before it gets cold! It’s not as nice when it gets cold.
You know, I was at the supermarket, picking up this and that for the house when I saw it. It was on sale. So drink on up!
The thing about the supermarket, though, dear, you know. All the supermarkets today. They play songs. Fast songs, radio songs, saxophone songs.
And the people.
The People, the people say, you know, that even if they don’t particularly like them – or at all – that the songs don’t bother them. Not at all. They say to me all the time, dear, people say they can’t even hear those songs. Can you believe that?
But meanwhile, you know, there’s other people. People like me who can’t just stand there and not hear the songs. Clattering around in your brain like rats in a bone heap.
Have another. There’s plenty. Don’t be shy; it does no good.
So, you know, now, it’s like, OK. When people don’t mind the songs, when they don’t even hear them anymore, then why, why, why, why play them?? I can’t stand it. It’s like, well, you know? It’s like…
[bangs fists softly but rapidly on table top, abruptly stops]
It’s. Like. It. Makes. Me. Want. To. Take. A. Gun.
A gun, dear.
It makes me want to take a gun, put it in my tote, drive to the supermarket and then take out my gun from my tote and stand there in the supermarket and shoot out all the speakers. Every last one of them. Such a rush! And I’d shoot them one by one so that they’ll see and learn and know what those songs can do to a person.
Honestly, it’s enough to drive one mad.
Have another sip, dear.
That’s a girl.
2. Radio in E-flat Major.
Whoa. Wait, wait, wait! One moment…
Ah! I knew it. Concerto No.5! Beethoven. No. 5, E-flat Major, Op. 73. To be eggs-act. Sorry, guys, I need to turn this up!
The Emperor Concerto. “C’est l’empereur de concerti!” Beethoven’s last and best, if you ask me. Forget your Rachmaninoffs and your Brahms and Tchaikovskys!
You can keep Mozart.
HEY. Did I ever tell you guys about Charlie? Charlie H. Now, there was a good man. Good man, Charlie! Tough and mean as bloody hell, but a true and loyal friend if you were lucky enough to get on his good side. Which few ever did. He’d mess you up.
Charlie, Charlie, Charlie…
They must play more of this kind of thing on the radio, all the time.
But good old Charlie. God, you shoulda seen him! Head like an anvil; gigantic, immovable! Legs so bow-legged he looked ready to pounce soon as you looked at him. But his hands. My god, but his hands were a thing of absolute beauty. You wouldn’t think they could be his, but they were. Delicate, yet firm. Strong, yet elegant. Luminous in the day and night.
Charlie could play piano. Self-taught. He was, believe you me, one of the greatest pianists around, ever. Period. Charlie could play Beethoven’s No. 5, E-flat Major and he knew it and only played it very, very rarely. I used to go over to his house and he’d try to teach me but I never did get the hang of it. Mind you, I’d go over all the same, just to watch him play that fearless piano. The 2nd movement is where it got me every time. Gets me.
I like to imagine him, lying there that night, listening to the radio to No. 5, E-flat Major when his cabin burned down. Lit up like you wouldn’t goddamn believe, and with poor old Charlie inside.
Just like that. Log cabin in the middle of the woods, there was nothing left but ashes.
Nothing left of Charlie. Nothing left you could call Charlie.
HA, HA! The Gods themselves had to take good old Charlie down!
That was years and years ago, see, but it wasn’t properly writ up in the papers. They got wrong what happened, is what.
November 28th, 1811. Leipzig. I would give anything to have been there at the Gewandhaus. But what can you do?
What can you do?
His bed was right there, next to that old piano. Almost at it should have been.
Shit. I think we missed our exit.
3. Soundtrack of Our Lives.
My brother? The usual. He’s taken over the entire basement now – threw out all my old workout stuff and videos. I dunno. He’s, like, dwelling down there with god-knows-who. Different fucking people all the time. Fucking different people.
Why not? Because where is he supposed to go, that’s why not. He barely works. He’s bad with money. He’s broke. She knows that.
He’s the youngest too, which helps his case. I couldn’t get away with half of his fucking goddamn bullshit.
All kinds of people!
OK. Look. OK.
He’s got sheets and, like, lights up on the walls. He’s got cameras, CAMERAS, pointed at them.
Because I went down there to find it. I know! He asked me to come and see.
So we go down there and he’s got these white sheets up on the wall and there’s his laptop and he opens it and turns it on. I’m like, “OK. Where is it?” And he’s like, “just wait, man. You have got to see this.”
And it smells down there. It fucking reeks and I just want to get it and leave and, I dunno, get on with my life. OK? I mean, there’s garbage and furry plates and dirty underwear, like, fucking, everywhere. And…there’s a fucking mattress in front of the white sheets. Like, an extra, additional mattress in the middle of the room in addition to the one he sleeps on. And I look at the screen as I’m, you know, taking this all in and there’s that fucking mattress again.
On the screen! On his fucking dirty-ass laptop. And then, fuck me, these two ladies come on and they are rough as fucking hell and they start making out on the mattress on the screen and, you know, the one starts pawing at the other’s Sears underwear and ripping off her sports bra and I’m sure, I am like fucking goddamn sure, that I recognize one of them, she worked at the high school or some shit, like, holy fuck, is that lady from the admin office? Dylan’s mom? Is that Dylan’s fucking mom sinking into that dirty-ass mattress in the middle of the room, on the screen?
I am so, fucking, enraptured by this that I don’t even notice it at first. But it’s there. It was there from the instant when he clicked on the video. To play it, right? I realize that now.
My music. The stuff from back in the day. He found it when he was throwing out the rest of my shit. And, and, he cued it up. He looped it to make it last. He made it happen. OK?
Ever? No. Not ever. How do I, I can’t even. And it’s, like, he made it work. Finally. Which means, in a way, I made it for him.
It was always for him.
“Back to music. It makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it” (Vonnegut 2005: 67).
Vonnegut, Kurt. A Man Without Country. (2005). Random House Trade Paperbacks: New York.