How I screwed up the art above, I've no idea. I'll fix it tomorrow. We'll all muddle through somehow.

Outside at night in the yard-tent. A glass of placid red, a genial cheroot.

I’m cold.

I’m pushing this, I know. But I have to enjoy it as long as I can. It’s supposed to get brutal in a few days; rumors of snow abound. It’ll be that thin miserable needle-snow that blows around for a day, just to show you who’s the new boss in town. Maybe we can negotiate with it. Maybe we can convince it to hold off until March. And if it comes in December and doesn’t stop through May? Well, we bought ourselves a few months. You always have to exhaust the diplomatic route first. Of course, once we’re buried in drifts, there’s not much we can do, but we’ll jump off that burning bridge once we come to it.

Snow. It's the only form of precipitation that has "no" built right into it. We'd feel better about winter if we got nine inches of Syesw, I think. But there's no sense bitching. It’s time. There’s a skylight over the sink in the bathroom; I look up every day to see how the branches are dressed. When spring comes I see the leaves and smile, and of course get used to them and take them for granted. When they turn I admire the change. When they’re skeletal it’s depressing at first, but normal after a day. The snow comes and I don’t see the trees for a while. It’s like the window in “The Time Machine,” I suppose. Except without the time-acceleration part, thank God.

Good Monday. Got things done. Filed three pieces by two, then knocked off for a while, and amused myself with dusting wood and polishing marble. Nothing vents an overheated brainpan like housework. It doesn’t help if you have radios going on all over the house, so you can hear the news laid out like a frog on the dissection table, but these are the times that require attention. Except after the bus leaves. I make a point now of starting my Gnat-less days with something from the Classical (I use the term loosely, to describe the orchestra repetoire between Wolfie and Korngold) playlist; I read the paper and start the web trolling while listening to something I haven’t heard in a while. That’s the odd thing about knowing a piece of classical music; after a while you stop hearing it when you listen to it; you hear what you remember. Then you stop listening, because you remember the last time you heard it. Then you forget it – at least with the ones you didn’t listen to over and over again until they were seared (seared!) in your brain. Put a gun to my head, and I could probably write out Mahler’s entire first symphony for you. But the third movement of the Third or the fourth of the Fifth? Give me a moment.

More of the old embarrassment-of-riches theme -   we have so much to explore these days you feel abashed to walk the same streets and alleys. I make a point of not hitting the NEXT button some days; hearing something old, I might well hear something new. So the last few days it’s been Brahms.

Good, sturdy Brahms. It’s so decent. And my initial impressions hold: he bores me. Not all of it; some of it really hits the spot, but some of it makes me wish I could connect to what’s obviously there, but never quite makes it from head to heart. (You want to get specific? The third movement of the Third, with that great aching melody. It’s too perfect. It’s like the not-really-Ode-to-Joy melody in the fourth movement of the First. It’s utterly sincere, but that doesn’t matter. On one hand I admire the restraint, particularly when other guys were blatting and bleating all over the place, but Caution and Prudence hover over his work, and I have a certain history with those two. On the other hand: the Second Piano concerto spoke to me right away, when I first heard it at age 17. Piano concertos are the most effective means of resurrecting the dead, after all; whoever’s playing is channeling the hands, the fingers, the tendons and sweat and gristle and skin of the man who invented that very sequence of notes, and set them down for others to repeat. The Second Piano Concerto is an eloquent address. It is not, like the First, an Argument. The First has that I Am Filled With The Passions of Youth feel, all stormy and bothered. Okay! You’re moody and deep! We get it!

Oh, hell. Here. (1.6 MB MP3 file.) Here’s the opening of the First, and the opening of the Second. Compare and contrast. He was in his mid 20s when he did the former, and the latter came almost a quarter century later. In the difference between the two you can hear the weathering effects of time and experience.

I should also note that the Second, in its own way, is more vigorous and powerful than the First. What it lacks in thick hair and scowly brow it makes up for in gut. Young men lead with their hair. Old men lead with their guts.


I didn’t intend to go off on this, but at least it’s something, eh? Already today I filed a piece about home makeover pages in newspapers, a piece about coyote urine and tulip bulbs, a book review of “Weird Minnesota,” which isn’t; wrote a column about North Korea (barring the “nuke them from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure” option there’s not much we can do, and ain’t diplomacy grand?) and then sat down to apologize for a crappy short Bleat. Now I apologize for a crappy long one. See you tomorrow.

PS I also made spaghetti.



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c. 2006 j. lileks. Email, if you wish, may be sent to "first name at last name dot com."