Did I ever tell you about the time I got dragged out of a cathedral?

It was when I was about 17. My aunt and uncle were visiting from Ohio. This was the trip where they rented a minivan so the five of us could all travel in one vehicle. The glove compartment had a three digit combination lock on it (by which I mean a permutation lock) and I spent the week trying to guess the code. After some days of this, I said “right ha ha I’ll try this” and scrolled in 666. It opened. Ha ha ha! True story. This minivan also came with a cassette of Achtung! Baby in the tape deck, which some previous renters had left behind and to which I gave a loving home.

So one day we drove up to Spokane to visit St. John the Evangelist, which is, for out west, a pretty swank cathedral. We were nosing around, and my aunt said to one of the vergers, “Oh you have a pipe organ! My niece plays the piano” and before I knew it, I found myself sitting on the organ stool. “Play something!” they encouraged.

Now, I had taken a few years of piano lessons when I was younger, but I’d never built a repertoire, and I certainly couldn’t remember anything. But pause to consider the situation laid out before me: I’m seventeen. I’m sitting in front of a beautiful keyboard. The keyboard of a pipe organ. In a big, vaulted building. In a church! What an opportunity.

So off I go, with gusto:

score of Chopsticks

I made it through one pass of the next section before the verger made me stop.

We weren’t thrown out, but I did get quite a telling off. I can’t remember now the particulars of what was said. Something something “inappropriate”, something something “disrespectful”, I don’t know. He was pretty angry.

In hindsight, I wish I’d been able to Michigan J. Frog it with a solid round of Hello! Ma Baby. But hey, that’s the nature of impromptu situations. You have to work with what you’ve got at the time.

Look For The Axis Label

For Colin @icecolbeveridge

Look for the axis label
When you are sketching relation or curve,
Abscissa ‘cross there, the ordinate’s growing,
Our numbers showing by ordered pairs the graphs they serve,
We maths hard, but who’s abstaining?
Thanks to M. RDC, we’re plotting away,
So always look for the axis label,
It says we’re able to function in the proper way!

with apologies to the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union

Everybody!

Once more with feeling (you in the back: pipe up)

Has Anybody Seen My Gal?

a poem by Zeke

this gal called E
is five foot three
approximately
to give fair due
she’s five foot two
and a half sans shoe
such crucial facts
her dad’s memory lacks
given half a chance
five foot two
eyes of blue
cootchie cootchie cootchie coo
and this is why
numbers ending in five
round up

although

a solid bet the E you’d get
should that era run on yet
she’d fit the lyrics of that tune

turned down hose spoon from nose
fringe and feathers from her clothes
she’d dance the charleson night till noon

Jumping in at the deep end

Sometimes I worry what you must think of me.

I made mention on Twitter the other day about once being sorely tempted to strip off and jump into the main pool at Bath. It was in the context of an upcoming fancy ball at the Roman Baths that I think would be a hell of a lot of fun to attend. The stark contrast between such an event and such a temptation is very funny to me and, as is my wont, I played to it.

I was serious, though, about wanting to go to the ball. And about needing a date. *

But I was also serious about having eyed up that pool. And when I reiterated as much, I began to wonder what you might think I’d actually do.

There’s a delicious delight in letting that just dangle there … holding a steady gaze at you, eyes sparkling. But there’s also a potential drawback in that I might never be asked out, for lack of trust, and that would just suck. Subversion for one is an incredibly lonely affair.

Ahhhhh … subversion.

Time and place, time and place. A major key to life is realizing What Is Important and What Is Not. I advise investing heavily in figuring out the distinctions.

Some years ago, a girlfriend and I were up on the North Antrim coast. We stopped at a beach in the late afternoon. It was hot, sunny, and we’d forgotten our swimsuits. We stood looking longingly at the sea for a while, watching others splash and laugh, and then 3, 2, 1 bang! I tore off my shirt, shimmied out of my shorts, and bee-lined for the water. She was two seconds on my heels.

That story isn’t about nudity, except for the obvious situation of having stripped off. It’s about making the most of a summer’s day. I honestly don’t know what our hesitation was, but we felt it until we came to our senses: “what are you doing?! you can’t take your clothes off in public! you can’t go in the sea like that!”

I can, and I did. **

The Bath baths story isn’t about nudity either. If the water hadn’t sported toxic bacteria, what would I have done? It would be awesome to swim in a real Roman bath. Who gets to do that these days?! The opportunity to be half starkers in the process is only a bonus. I was tickled by trying to estimate whether I could wiggle out of my clothes faster than the guards could react. It was a surprising thrill to realize I had a viable shot at it: “omg. I could do this.”

But would I have?

Here’s the thing. I don’t dismiss such opportunities straight out of hand. I think about it. Weigh it up. When I reach a decision, I know why I’m there.

How awesome would it be? How would it shake down? Would I embarrass or horrify the friend I’m with? Would their estimation of me take a nose dive? Would I ruin the event for others? Would I cause damage? Would I have regrets? In what ways could this go badly wrong? How bad is badly? ***

I do enjoy scandalizing prudishness, and (you might not have noticed but) I have a strong tendency to challenge what I’m told is “appropriate”. I am highly suspicious of what I see as arbitrary conformity. Mostly I think it’s intolerable to miss out on a great opportunity because of being on the stupid side of any of the above.

What is important and what is not?

What would you have done?


* Ahem. I can dance. Just sayin’.

** Ha ha ha!, maybe one of these days I’ll tell you my other beach story.

*** A&E? No. Just no. Escorted off the premises? Mmm … weigh it up carefully. Arrested? It better be something well worth it. Don’t do it unless you really mean it.

Well there’s something you don’t see every day

Once when I was a kid, I asked my dad whether he thought I was beautiful. He considered this for a moment and then told me, “You’re not beautiful, but you are pretty.” *

I took this pretty badly at the time, and I’m sure he got a telling-off courtesy my mother. I remember him trying to explain himself: he meant I wasn’t glamorous, all movie-star sleek like Grace Kelly. I suppose at the time beauty meant to him something stylish and lofty, but pretty meant something down-to-earth and affectionate.

This conversation has stayed with me, and I think about it often. Who do I think is beautiful? What is it about them that makes them so? Beauty is a broad term encompassing so much more than physical traits.

Ever notice how someone who’s initially good-looking can become way less so when you realize something unpleasant about them? (I became aware of this in the 3rd grade when a previously cute boy turned out to be a jerk.) It works the other way too: people become more physically attractive the more delight you find in them.

For example: Bill Murray.

He doesn’t have lush locks or a perfect complexion. But he has a beautiful face. It’s his eyes. His expressions. His half-smile. His laugh. His hair (it has his character).

His voice. How he delivers deadpan lines. The way he says “wow”. How he breaks into song. It’s his timing. The way he carries himself. His slapstick. He can bring me to tears with laughter.

It’s his thoughtful intelligence. His perception of himself. How he views life, purpose, people.

I would rather spend five minutes with him than an hour with Brad Pitt. I take huge delight in Bill Murray. In short, he is beautiful. ~Swoon and faint~

Bill Fucking Murray


* Oh my life, what an unfortunate thing for a parent to say. hahaha! It’s true, though: I’m neither glamorous nor sleek. My dad’s words I suppose went some way to free me from that expectation (at least, from him).

ADDENDUM

I’ve been writing this in my head for a while and finally started to type something out a few days ago, but I got distracted. Then I saw the following article in the Guardian today and it more or less says what I’m saying here.