Friday, May 18, 2007

Suffering For My Health And Their Art

So the allergies became intolerable around three days ago, enough for me to swallow what little self-esteem I had left from the weekend and demand an appointment with Doc Rubberglove. It meant taking an hour and a half off work but what the heck. I was falling asleep at work due to not getting any in bed1.

The doctor listened to my complaints while fondling a box of extra-heavy duty latex gloves and agreed that maybe a shot was in order. I was initially dubious about allergy shots, but my allergies have gotten progressively worse as the years have gone by and now I get a variety of disabling symptoms including:

a)"cobblestones" under my eyelids that cause my eyes to leak a superglue-like gunge while itching to the point I want to claw them out of my head
2)Sneezing to no effect as far as the itching sinuses are concerned
γ)An athsmatic-like wheeze that eventually develops into a bronchial cough

One year I bowed to the doctor's wisdom2 and accepted a shot, which cleared up my symptoms like magic. Ever since, I've gone that route when it all becomes too much to bear.

The doctor filled his hypodermic with medicine of allergy curage and shot about 2ccs into my left bicep. It may have been my quadricep. What do I know? I just use my arms I have no idea how they work. I remarked that it was unusual for an intramuscular shot to be that painless. Doc Rubberglove just smiled enigmatically and said "give it time", before prescribing a bunch of other stuff for me on his pocket computer and submitting the 'scrips to my pharmacy via wireless networking. Gotta love technology.

On the drive home I suddenly became fully cognisant of the doctor's sense of humour, when the injected muscle let out a howl of protest. Actually, I let out the howl. The muscle just hurt like I'd been kicked by a bad-tempered horse. Perhaps this was a way of hinting that I have made more than my fair share of visits to Rubberglove Medical Associates Inc. of late.

Anyway, after that I went to watch the Stevieling perform in her choral group at school (the visit to the doctor meant that for once I was actually home in time to catch her part of the evening musicfest). School music evenings, especially the end of term ones, involve the full monty with each musical organised gang getting to do three (usually) pieces. A typical program involves the Seventh grade orchestra, the Choir, the Eighth Grade orchestra and last of all, The Band.

For the uninitiated or for those who went through the English equivalent of this sort of thing I will provide the following clarifications. An orchestra in this context is not a full orchestra, but just the string section. The Choir sings accompanied by a pianist. Sometimes the members of the choir, being small in stature and light of voice get occluded by the piano (which for reasons that I've never understood must be positioned right in front of the Stevieling wherever she stands) and generally drowned out by the damned pianist who is usually so dense that he doesn't "get" that a concert grand is designed to be heard from a distance and therefore can be played more softly than by emulating a ton of iron being dropped from twenty feet onto a metal rail gondola. I know this because I've confronted the gentleman on one occasion. Not only that, he seemed oblivious on that occasion to the fact that we were there to see the kids and not him. I digress. The band is the missing bits of the orchestra, and performs march-style because, well, they are also a marching band during sports events.

Now I have sat on the other side of this social equation as a youngster (when I was first French Horn player in the St John Backsides Comprehensive School Orchestra) and as a consequence I cut these young musicians-in-training a lot of slack. That said, I've been listening to them perform for three years and can make some observations on account of I'm due.

The strings suffer greatly from the wild swings of heat and humidity New York goes through in a given year. My own autoharp will slide a full semitone out of tune in the higher registers from one season to the next if I don't play (and tune) it regularly. That, combined with the lack of frets on the instruments, conspires to render the sound in a manner that needs some sympathetic interpretation on the part of the listener to fully equate with the composer's vision of whatever piece is being vivisected performed. There is something about massed violins played by people who cannot agree on an exact tuning or fingering for a specific note that defies description. The experience has improved over the years, but it is still sometimes an effort, and I don't like music I have to work for as my first choice in entertainment. This evening they rearranged the program so that both orchestras played consecutively. I'm thinking it was to get it over with at the moment, but no doubt time will mellow that thought and render it more charitably.

The Choir were superb, despite the choice of material by the boob in charge. The Chorus (to give it its proper title) is taught by a woman with some very definite ideas on how to do the job. Ideas that can be summed up as "unfathomable". The Stevieling has been marked down every semester in Chorus (despite being a prize-winning vocalist) because she does not show "appropriate enthusiasm" for the teacher's mandatory pre-singing calisthenics. I've been tempted in the past to point out that if the music teacher is teaching P.T. (UK P.E.), maybe the head of the sports department should be teaching the singing. Moving on.

The band were, unexpectedly, superb too. They were good last year, and appear to have gone from strength to strength. Now this could be truthfully said to be my least favourite part of the evening's offerings normally, but these kids blew my socks off. Whatever the teacher is doing, they need more of him to do it in the other departments. The Band wound up by playing that awful Celine Dion thing from Titanic with vocal support from the Choir (whom we could almost hear above the brass section) and then came a surprise. The part where we got to go home had been replaced with a performance of three pieces by the school jazz band.

I've often said that had I been exposed to more musical forms than just classical, I might still be playing the French Horn. I heartilly approve of this innovation in the music program, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that these kids (who ranged over all grades, from sixth to eighth) were bloody good at what they were doing. Not Charlie Parker good, but good nevertheless. It was a great way to finish the night and I enjoyed it immensely.

Except for the fact that the bloody parents sitting in the audience would not shut up.

Why these idiots even bother coming is beyond me. They clearly don't enjoy what their child is trying to show them or they would shut the **** up and listen to it. Band playing? No problem, just shout over it, and look mortally offended if anyone wanting to listen to the music tells you to belt up. Would it really kill these idiots to keep quiet for an hour and a half? I see more and more of this sort of thing. I honestly think people have forgotten how to behave in public. Gah!

The Stevieling and her mother decamped afterwards to a dance recital dress rehearsal, so I was dumped to fend for myself. I did this by accompanying my friend Lenny to Friendlies, a local burger and ice-cream parlour. Usually, it is a good choice when you have kids in tow (which Lenny had). This night, however, was Run the Restaurant Incompetently night and it took an hour and a half to get done. I wouldn't have minded but I only had an ice-cream sundae because it would be a "quick" meal. Gah!

I rounded off this evening of near-miss entertainment by getting a phone call from Mrs Stevie suspiciously demanding to know my whereabouts as I was walking up the path to our front door. It was well past 10pm by then and the rehearsal was over, blowing my "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" plan to matchwood.

  1. The asture reader will read volumes into this statement concerning the current state of affairs in my personal life. That reader would not be entirely wrong. Stress, the Stevieling's presence and Mrs Stevie's refusal to wear sensible, ventilated night attire have pretty much redefined the music of the night to inadvertantly setting the radio alarm four hours too early
  2. Not to mention about seven years of medical school (on a scholarship from Goodyear Medical Supplies) and years interning at various hospitals

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