This Shouldn’t Be Happening

Ralf Schmid and I are playing one of Chick Corea’s Children’s Songs. I am lucky to be playing with such a great jazz pianist. We’ve arranged three of these pieces for cello and piano with improv solos. It’s my opening concert at the Music University of Freiburg. It’s a Freiburgish audience: studenty, academic, intellectual, alternative, old and young. It’s an ambitious, experimental, sort of wacky program I’ve thought up around the theme of “American Visionaries” involving my ensemble (Unquiet Thoughts Collective: a singer, a guitarist, a percussionist, a dancer and myself), 4 additional singers, 7 of my cello students, and poetry/prose readings by myself in English and German. It’s been a rocky road getting everyone together to rehearse my homemade arrangements of Ives songs and finding enough time in the hall to even place everyone where they’re supposed to be. The dress rehearsal has not only required a play-through of everything; I’ve also had to play stage director and lighting consultant and make sure I placed all my rolled-up, bound-with-golden-cord texts in the right hidden places. When the evening arrives, I’m exhausted. I can barely keep my eyes open during my own concert.

We get to the part in the A section of the third Children’s Song where I’m supposed to go here and instead I go there. I’m so convinced I’m supposed to be going there, I don’t even look at the music. When I arrive there, Ralf has arrived here. But only for an eighth note. Then he twirls on his heel, does some kind of totally logical syncopation thing, and brings us from here to there as if that was exactly what we meant to do. He literally does not miss a beat. There is no time for the thought. It just flows and is over and is right.

Weeks later, I arrive in Berlin at Schönefeld Airport which should have closed two years ago to make way for the new international airport which still does not exist. It is an intensely crowded Easyjet flight and I have endured it in a middle seat with my belongings sandwiched between my feet and on my lap. The wallet I took out to buy a paper cup of tea is clamped between my thighs. The doors open, I cram my stuff into my bag, walk briskly to the train station and hop right onto a waiting express train to town. I enter a health food shop at Alexanderplatz and put my prospective purchases on the counter. I search my bag for my wallet. There are several things that feel like my wallet but turn out to be my glasses case, my makeup bag, my Kindle cover. After an extensive search no wallet is uncovered. I surmise that it is either still on seat 30B of the orange Airbus or in the hands of someone who has passed by seat 30B. I’m here, it is there.

It is happening and this is where I am. The faster I can rewrite the script that was unfolding for the next half hour, the next day, the next week, the faster I can find those syncopations that dance and do not hobble along after reality’s unexpected chord changes.

Lucky for me, fate and a few honest people helped me back to my wallet after another trip to the airport that’s not supposed to be one anymore.

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