Friday, September 09, 2005

Life Along the Quai (modified)

Wednesday, September 7

Up at 6:30, another great breakfast with the ebulliant Maria. It is another perfect day; temperature in the 70s, clear and sunny. Our only planned activity today is to meet Chris at 6:00 to have a fondue dinner, a very touristy thing to do, but then we never pretended not to be tourists.

I am sitting on a bench on the quai beside Lake Lucerne, letting my feet rest and enjoying the passing parade. Mark Twain describes this area in "A Tramp Abroad" much better than I can. He says:

"Lucerne is a charming place. It begins at the water`s edge, with a fringe of hotels, and scrambles up and spreads itself over two or three sharp hills in a crowded, disorderly but picturesque way, offering to the eye a heaped up confusion of red roofs, quaint gables, dormer windows, toothpick steeples, with here and there a bit of ancient embattled wall bending itself over the ridges, worm-fashion, and here and there an old square tower of heavy masonry.

"Between the curving line of hotels and the lake is a broad avenue with lamps and a double rank of low shade trees. The lake front is walled with masonry like a pier, and has a railing to keep people from walking overboard (The railing is no longer there.) . . . . (N)urses, children and tourists sit in the shade of the trees, or lean on the railing andwatch the schools of fishes darting about in the clear water or gaze over the lake at the stately border of snow-hooded mountain peaks. (The peaks do not have snow on them this time of year.)

Here are some notes I made along the quai:

10:30 a.m. Just sitting here on a bench being mooned by a swan. This swan has had its head under the water and its ass aimed at me for at least 30 seconds. I presume its fishing, not insulting me.

11:15 a.m. I see a head in the water, way across the Lake. Apparently, a swimmer is swimming across the lake. Seems rather dangerous with no one else around to help him if he gets into trouble. Swimming has never had much attraction for me since my cousin tried to drown me while purportedly teaching me how to float in his gravel pit. That episode deserve more exposition some other time.

11:30 a.m. Young mothers on roller blades gracefully gliding this way and that, pushing their baby carriages along the quai. Old woman in a wheelchair, head lolling, being pushed by a young man -- nurse? Grandson? He is talking to her, but I hear no responses from her. He must be a grandson; hired help would not bother with the conversation.

11:45 a.m. Frail-looking woman in her mid-80s, with a club foot sits down on the bench next to me and starts jabbering in German. I tell her that I do not speak German. She asks me, "Do you speeek Anglisch?" "Some," I admit. She then switches to Anglisch and tells me she is going to sveeeem in dur lake. It is very gut for you." I agree (that it is good for her, not so good for me.) She wishes me a good holiday and hobbles off to enter a small building where I had earlier noticed attractive young women going. Must be some sort of sveeeming place.

12:20 p.m. A blimp floats out of the mountain range and heads across the lake. I try to take a picture of it, but I am sitting in the shade, aiming into the sun, and my viewfinder shows no blimp. The sound of the engine gradually gets louder as the blimp flies almost directly overhead. It is not the Goodyear blimp. The name on the side says "Girsberger. Sitting Smart." I am sitting, but I assume the sign is not meant personally for me. The blimp keeps circling over the lake, about 1,000 to 1,500 feet up, for about 15 minutes then flies off.

1:00 p.m. Sitting on a bench beside the lake, eating a sandwich and salad Rosalee has picked up at a grocery store. Chris and Kevin happen by. They are on their way swimming. This is their day off. No rehearsals; no practices; no performances. I tell them that sveeeeming is good for them. Rosalee insists that Chris put on some of the sun screen she has brought along. Nothing to bring an achieving young man down to earth like having his mother show up and make him put on sun screen.

Rosalee goes back to shower and change for the evening concert while I go back to the internet cafe to update my blog.

At 6:00, we meet Chris for dinner at a touristy place that serves fondue. We can not go to Switzerland and not have fondue, even though Maria has told us that the Swiss usually just have it in the winter months. We order a plain cheese fondue and wait and wait. And wait. And wait. There are only six tables occupied. I do not know what could possibly take so long to melt some cheese. When it finally comes, it is tasty, but Chris has to gobble because he has to go back to his place and change clothes.

It turns out Chris and Kevin wound up not going sveeeeming after all. They ran into some friends who wanted to "read" through music. (Meaning that they just play through some pieces that they have not practiced, for their own pleasure.) So that is what they did all afternoon.

Chris is feeling nervous about the Friday night orchestra performance. He says he does not like the pressure of being concert master. This is different. Chris has performed with many different orchestras, been concertmaster many times before, been in competitions and auditions, and I have never known him to admit to any nervousness. We ask him why he feels nervous, and he does not have any answers. I suggest to him that it might be because he had nothing to do with selecting the musicians or the music, but is held responsible, to some extent, for how the string section performs. He does not think that it it. He says the musicians are very excellent musicians. So I cannot help him with his nervousness. I ask him how he likes Boulez as conductor. There was apparently some kind of controversy when he was conductor of the Chicago Symphony. Chris thinks he is great. He said when he really gets into a piece, he can be brilliant.

Later, we meet Chris and Kevin at the concert. The concert tonight is by an ensemble of Academy players. Boulez is conducting. This is another lesson performance. The featured composer talks a while, then has the ensemble play selections which he explains. This goes on for an hour, then there is a 20-minute intermission, after which we hear the piece in its entirety. The piece is called "Fragments of a Portrait," by a french composer, Phillipe Mancoury. They also do an early Stockhausen piece, "Kontra-Pierskte No. 1," and "Octandre" by Edgard Varese.

It is another long day, but not so much walking, so my feet are happy. My blisters look to be healing. I am in bed by 11:45, and have the alarm set for 6:00 a.m. because we want to catch an early train to see the Alps.

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