strung out
my life as an amateur violist

   on tour:  down and out in vienna / poco a poco disastre  |   # n

  Still with me? No? Perhaps a visit to Stupid Things I Have Done will freshen you up a bit.  O.k., everyone else please follow me on the sad last leg of this European jaunt.  

Remember the days before college sophomores had credit cards? Oh, I do. Painfully. Five hours on the bus brought us to Vienna for a whole six hours of recreation in one of the great cities of the world.  Everybody scrambled off the bus to museums, coffee houses, and shops.  I’m counting my schillings and I figure I got about US$3.00.  Shit.  I’ve already taken money from a friend. I was too proud and stubborn to glom onto a group and risk the shame of not being able to pay my way.  

So I set out on foot figuring, to hell with money.  I’ll see the entire city as a pedestrian.  I walked for about a half mile and remembering my Linz experience, started to get nervous.  And hungry.  I headed back towards our buses into a very old section of Vienna.  And, of course, around the corner I see a McDonald’s.  

I’m ashamed to say it, but given my wretched state, that McDonald’s was like a beacon (and crutch) to me.  I knew I’d be able to get a bite without losing face.  With very subtle differences it was not too different from the McDonald’s I grew up with in Longview, Washington.  Big Mac is German for Big Mac. (I can’t remember if a Quarter Pounder is Royale though. Pulp Fiction is about 11 years out.)  It tasted different though. The secret sauce tasted more mayonaisse-y and the meat was way more rare than one might care for, but it was a burger and I was gonna salvage an experience out of this.  

I meandered over to an immense parkway, the name of which I should know, but cannot recall.  Turning to my right, a plaque beneath the window of a second story corner apartment window caught my eye.  Beethoven!  Old Ludwig van himself had lived in the very room 20 feet above me!  We featured his famous Fifth on our November concert back home.  I made my way under an arch into a small courtyard.  A simple unassuming tape across a stairway up into his apartment made it clear that the historic site was being renovated.  I got a few feet past the tape and a glimpse into the small bare room when a kind official person came and pointed the way back behind the tape.  In spite of the setback, I felt a small thrill at having gotten that close to where the temperamental genius had eaten his meals, banged on his piano and cranked out Symphonies Three and Four.  

Years later I found out that Beethoven lived in thirty different locations in and around Vienna in as many years.  Did that compromise the pleasure of the memory?  Nah.  

I whiled away another hour or two in the park and trundled back into the bus.  That’s my sad little Vienna story.  How about a collective “aaaaaaaahhhhhhh” for the pity party? (One day I’ll get back to that town and when I do I’m going to every museum, every pastry shop and every concert, if not for the enjoyment, then to utterly eradicate the memory of the first visit.)  

I wish I had a more triumphant ending for the tour, but as is often the case in reality-land, it wasn’t meant to be.  Musically, we rocked the beautiful little Rijeka Opera House back in Yugoslavia, but at this point most of us were bone tired from the intense performance schedule and bus travel.  

JAL flew us back to New York out of Belgrade on a tiny, ancient Boeing 707.  As we descended on our northern Atlantic flight path, frost was visible around the air vents above my head. Pressurization was poor.  I felt the worst ear ache of my life over Newfoundland as several of the younger orchestra members were in tears from the pain.  We were on the milk run home from JFK to St. Louis to Seattle FINALLY back to the Rose City 36 hours after leaving Belgrade.  In a complete stupor I deplaned without the Zagreb concert poster I had carried for two weeks and more than 10,000 miles.  

I was just happy to be met by my dear Grandmother Eades with whom I was living.  Unfortunately (or “unFORT-unately” as she liked to kid sometimes), she forgot where she had parked the old Ford Grenada.  Aaaagggghhhh!!!!!  Forty five minutes later we were on the road home to a well deserved rest.  

It was a helluva time, memorable for both its highs and lows


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