Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Big Shew

Friday, September 9

This is it; the day of the big show. The Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra will do its concert tonight at 7:30 p.m. We`ll see what all the excitement was about.

We are up at a leisurely hour. The blisters on my foot have almost completely disappeared, thanks to two days of light walking and a change of shoes.

Another perfect day, but then I repeat myself.

We take a leisurely stroll along the quai, by the lake, stopping at times to sit on a shaded bench and work on our journals or reading, and then moving on. We have limited goals today. We want to get some of the festival posters featuring Chris and we want to see the dying lion statue. (I have been a lawyer for so long, that it is almost impossible for me to write the word "statue." It always comes out "statute." I guess I need more vacations.

We sit and enjoy the passing parade and then stroll down the lake to the concert hall box office. The young lady at the ticket office says that we can pick up our free tickets to the concert tonight at 6 o´clock. Although not bearing the prices of the big orchestras that have been there this summer, this is not a free concert. Tickets run 30 francs (about $24) each. The orchestra members are all entitled to one free ticket each, and Chris and Kevin have reserved free ones for us. Boulez will give a pre-concert lecture tonight at 6:30. Hopefully, we will be spared the exercise of play a little and talk a lot before getting to actually hear the piece.

The ticket office cannot help us with getting the posters. The young lady directs us to the Festival offices several blocks away. On the way, we decide to stop at the train station to verify arrangements for our departure Sunday morning. The man at the international information office had told me several days ago that we could catch a train at 4:13 a.m. that would get us directly to the Zurich Airport by 5:30 a.m., plenty of time for our 7:00 a.m. departure. He had assured me that the buses run all night, even on Sunday´s, so there would be no problem getting to the train station early Sunday morning.

That was then. Now we have a different man helping us. No, no, no, no way, he tells us. There is no 4:13 a.m. train from Lucerne to the Zurich airport. The earliest is 5:13, which would not get us to the airport until 6:30, not enough time to catch an international flight. He told us if we wanted to take a chance, there was an office in the train station to which you could take your luggage for direct check-in, which might give us a chance, but would be risky. It turned out the airplane luggage check-in place would not take luggage for KLM. So, there is no alternative but to leave Lucerne on Saturday evening, stay at a hotel near the aiport Saturday night and take the hotel limousine over to the airport on Sunday morning. A travel agency next door makes all the arrangements, so it is no big deal, except that we had reserved seven nights from Maria, and we will be cancelling one night on very short notice. Also, I have gotten fond of Lucerne, and the thought of leaving a day earlier makes me sad.

Next stop, the Festival Academy offices, several blocks away. The office is on the fourth floor. There is an elevator-looking thing beside the stairs, but it looks like one of the old-fashioned elevator cages like you see in old French movies. After pushing the button to summon the elevator with no results, we huff up the stairs.

We are met by two very attractive young women at the Festival offices who try to be helpful. But the marketing director tells us all of the posters are in use until the end of the festival, which is not for another week. (Apparently, there is a piano part to the festival, which will run for another week.) They can have the pictures that we are interested in, blown up and printed on poster board, just like the ones we have seen in the Tourist Information office and shops around town, but the cost would be 280 francs, plus they would be difficult to take on the plane or to ship, because of the size. They offer to give us the pictures on a CD and we can take them to a print shop and have them printed up ourselves. That seems to be the only alternative short of trying to shoplift a 4x6 poster, so we accept.

Then we stop at Movenpick again for some food and ice cream. (An anonymous commentator on an earlier post chided me for misspelling Movenpick. I can only tell that autodidactic grammarian that I am just putting down what I see. No umlauts. No regrets.) We get a cute young waitress with a sunny smile who takes our orders and then, when Rosalee asks if there is a rest room inside that she can use, says with a straight face, "No!" We accept that with equanimity, having gotten used to the Swiss penchant for not giving our free amenities, when she says, "You have to pee on the floor!" and starts laughing. This was so un-Swiss-like and her accent was so perfect, I thought she must be an American. She was Swiss, but had studied for a year in high school in Georgia. When I press her on it, she can even belt a few yáll´s to prove her bona fides.

After lunch, we head for the Dying Lion sculpture. This is what Mark Twain had to say about it in "A Tramp Abroad:"

"The commerce of Lucerne consists mainly in gimcrackery of the souvenir sortö the shops are packed with Alpine crystals, photographs of scenery, and wooden and ivory carvings. I will not conceal the fact that miniature figures of the Lion of Lucerne are to be had in them. Millions of them. But they are libels upon him, every one of them. There is a subtle something about the majestic pathos of the original which the copyist cannot get. Even the sun fails to get it; both the photographer and the carver give you a dying lion, and that is all. The shape is right, the attitude is right, the proportions are right, but that indescribable something which makes the Lion of Lucerne the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world is wanting.

"The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low cliff, -- for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff. His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. His head is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder, his protecting paw rests upon the lillies of France. Vines hang down the cliff and wave in the wind and a clear stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base, and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored, among the water lilies. Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful, woondland nook, remote from the noise and stir and confusion -- and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is."

It is still exactly as Twain described it, except that the vines are mostly gone, replaced by moss. It is still true that no reproduction I have ever seen, including photographs do the statue justice. There is a heartbreaking expression on his face, caused partly by the downward shape of his mouth, and the look in his eyes. I think Twain´s use of the phrase "carved from the living rock of the cliff" is pure genius. Who would think to describe rock as "living" but that is exactly the right word in this context.

After spending quite some time in the shady repose of the park around the statue, Rosalee went off in hunt of the perfect souvenir and I came to the internet cafe to update my blog. We met at 5:30 for sandwiches and then took the bus back downtown to the concert hall to pick up our free tickets.

The concert merits its own posting, which I will do next.

1 comment:

Your mother-in-law's namesake said...

I just got back from a 10-day trip to Maine and had been wading through 106 emails when I got to Becky's with your Blog address. Foolishly, I went to it and was hooked for over an hour reading your gorgeous leather journal! Your writing is so entertaining! I often laughed outloud at your and Rosalie's observations--a bit irreverant at times for a former "crockhead". Does Rosalie call herself a "sinsifter head"? :) I was green with jealousy most of the time with all the great things you did and saw and I smiled broadly during your final concert description, thinking how supremely pleased Chris's Grandma Maust must be with her musical prodigy grandson! Ya'll done good!! It was nice visiting with you. I miss you both! Not many of my friends have the sense of humor that you two do and that my Mom and her twin did, and I miss those opportunities to laugh my head off! Thanks for the laughs and smiles!