Tag Archives: star trek

A Night at the Orchestra

17267869_230418650696729_6304749396227522560_n(1)Last week, my oldest daughter and I attended a concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, or as we sophisticated people call it, the LA Phil.  The specific concert was titled, “Tetzlaff Plays Dvorak,” which as it turned out, was not a tennis match after all.  

You may be surprised to learn that I did not attend orchestral performances growing up in Paragould, Arkansas.  We had our share of drama, sure, but not much orchestra.  The closest I came was purchasing the soundtrack to Close Encounters of the Third Kind on vinyl.  

But who knew, if you purchase a ticket and have a beautiful date, “LA Phil” will apparently let pretty much anyone into the crazy cool Walt Disney Concert Hall.

I really did enjoy (most of) the performance, but my cultural unsophistication did allow my mind to wander to less-than-cultured places from time to time.  Like whether the guest conductor also played Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  And how one particularly animated violinist looked like a marionette under the influence of a tipsy puppeteer.  And how two gentlemen with a remarkable resemblance to Stephen King and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy were playing an unidentifiable instrument that made them look as if they were smoking fancy grenade launchers.

But the best part of the evening came shortly after intermission when a woman in our general vicinity began to painfully unwrap a piece of candy, which in that hall of hushed reverence sounded like she had trapped a squirrel in a bag of potato chips.  The surrounding patrons were silently livid, which my daughter and I discovered to be the funniest kind of livid to watch.

Much more seriously, as we sat side by side listening to classical music in Walt Disney Concert Hall, it occurred to me how far Erica and I have come in our precious years together.  I did not feel smug in this thought–as this essay shows, I remain far too ignorant to feel arrogant.  And yet I did not feel out of place either, even though that was obviously the case.  Instead, I just felt happy .  Happy at the honor of allowing such beautiful music to wash across my soul in that spectacular venue in this magical city with such a lovely young lady that I have been privileged to walk alongside for all these years.

I never imagined an evening like that one.  I wonder what other evenings I have yet to imagine?

Down But Not Out

communicatorsinset

“We’ve sustained damage, but we’re still able
to maneuver.” Spock to Captain Kirk.
– Raymond Carver¹

I didn’t get all the cool toys growing up as a relatively poor kid in the 1970s, but I was the proud owner of a set of Star Trek Communicators (pictured above).  Those handy-dandy devices possessed a walkie-talkie feature that kids loved along with a piercing distress siren that brought special joy to the parents.  I credit these walkie-talkies with my natural coolness during the Flip Phone Craze at the end of the twentieth century.

The primary challenge with my Star Trek Communicators was that I had no childhood friends living nearby since we lived on a block primarily populated by widows, and lack of friends tends to lower the value of walkie-talkies.  I mean, there is a certain measure of fun in speaking into a device held in your right hand and hearing your crackly voice come out of a separate device held in your left hand, but to be honest, that level of fun is actually pretty low.

So despite my parents’ financial sacrifice and super cool gift, I am not a Trekkie.

But I think Mr. Spock’s statement to Captain Kirk that Ray Carver thought worth writing down on a scrap piece of paper and sticking in his bathrobe pocket is possibly one of the best life quotes ever: “We’ve sustained damage, but we’re still able to maneuver.”

The last few weeks have been rough for many people I know with death and disease landing severe body blows in this championship bout called life, not to mention an entire nation already a little punch-drunk pausing to remember the awful attacks by al-Qaeda fifteen years ago.  That we have sustained damage is sometimes more obvious than others.  But are we still able to maneuver?

Life is a teensy bit unpredictable, but the potential for damage is not, so the outstanding question is what to do afterward.  I suggest hiring a pointy-eared, human-Vulcan first officer to do a little once-over to determine what is still functional and then carry on your captivating adventure into the great unknown.  To live long and prosper, as best you can.

Or, if you want, give me a shout on the walkie-talkie.

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¹ Excerpted from His Bathrobe Pockets Stuffed with Notes by Raymond Carver, in A New Path to the Waterfall (1989).