I was going to take a picture of Leonard Bernstein’s grave.
I biked to the cemetery and hiked up the hill.
I used my phone to divine where the grave is, like one of those sticks they used to find water. A divining rod? Dowser?
Holding my phone in front of me like a shining oracular stone.
A magic 8 ball which did yeah tell me where Leonard Bernstein is buried, and his grave, I dunno.
People had put stones all over it and then someone put an apple, and then someone had affixed a cutesy sticker, which gave me pause.
People were making his grave more about themselves than about Leonard Bernstein. I wanted to be the opposite of those people. So I demurred from taking a picture and instead turned around to look at the city in the distance
between the headstones,
The water shining in the harbor.
When I got home I watched some Leonard Bernstein online. First introducing Glenn Gould, the then-young piano prodigy, then accompanying Gould with an orchestra. Glenn was moving his mouth like a rock-and-roll guitarist and his fingers were spider legs waltzing a magic web out of Bach in D minor.
It was the 50’s. The online comments were full of fulsome praise for the musicians (all of whom were white) and for time gone by.
One commenter had a story:
Leonard Bernstein fell off his conductor’s stand one night, and later at a party when someone mentioned it, Lenny, swigging bourbon, said “did I wake the fuckers up?”
Heh. Irreverent and, troubled, and hm. Who wouldn’t want to swig bourbon with a swearing Lenny Bernstein? Such a chance would knock me off my sobriety.
I see Bernstein introducing schoolchildren to the William Tell Overture. And he’s playing melodies and asking the kids to identify what he’s playing. The 1958 kids all know the answers: “Blue Danube,” “Tales of the Vienna Woods.”
2018 Middle aged me doesn’t know the answers. I don’t know from Strauss. I feel the holes in my education, in my attention, in my accomplishments. What if I could go back in time and know more, do more.
Bernstein’s wearing a suit. Everyone is wearing a suit. One of the youtube comments says “Where are the black kids at though?”
Yeah really. Where? Such an obvious question that we forget to ask it.
I have a keyboard. I will never be as good at anything as Glenn Gould was at playing piano.
Except for being me, a voice says, louder than the voice which says “don’t write that down.”
I have one advantage and remedy which those in the video don’t have: Life, time, desire, who knows how much.
God woke me up today. He might not tomorrow.
I watch Bernstein and Gould and say hello to all those disembodied bodies of 1958 and thank them and praise them. Then I shut the computer and wander to the piano.
I practice my inversions, slow and unsteady.
A blind spider climbing steps.
Better than yesterday,
Not as good as tomorrow.