A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


We've had two wimpy dustings of snow this season--one early in the winter, and another last week. Both melted within a few hours. The city and various area establishments seem determined to use up their yearly snow removal budget nevertheless. There's more salt on the sidewalks and roads than there ever was snow.

Rock salt and the recently-popular ice melt made from calcium chloride (CaCl2) and magnesium chloride (MgCl2) are hazardous to humans and to the environment. They harm or kill vegetation, and build up in the soil to inhibit new growth and the absorption of water and nutrients by existing plants. They harden soil, creating a layer impermeable to water. They attack the pavement surface and exacerbate the freeze-thaw cycle which cracks and pits pavements. Runoff from these chemicals contaminates our water supply.

Rock salt and ice melt damage cars by causing rust. Tracked into houses, they damage carpets. They're hazardous to humans, wildlife, and domestic animals.

I don't know where to walk my dog these days. Every few steps, she limps, stops, and tries to lick her paws. Nothing looks sillier than a dog wearing booties. But if the saltstorms don't abate, Taz might be sporting footwear on the street.



I got home from a necessary errand in the late afternoon with no thoughts besides cough medicine, flannel pajamas, hot tea and bed. And then neighbor Maggie called. She never knows if she'll have an escort to the symphony because husband Greg is an international pilot. A couple of musically-minded friends had made whiny noises about accepting a free ticket for a Sunday evening concert, so Maggie thought, Who could I call who'd be up for anything, even at the very last minute?

And of course I went. Maggie was under the weather, too, but not about to miss a performance of Lowell Lieberman's latest piece. It's not worth driving to Symphony Hall from where we live (well, we did see some other neighbors who had driven there, but it doesn't seem worth it to us). So we just bundled up against the Arctic cold, stuffed our pockets with tissues and lozenges, and strode over.

Maestro Kevin Rhodes was in fine form. He's a big ham and lots of fun to watch. I can't think of any activity nowadays, with the possible exception of belly dancing or Carnaval in Rio, that affords the opportunity to dress up and be as campy and theatrical as a symphony conductor.

It was a kind of funny program, to me. The opener, Rossini 's Overture to La Gazza Ladra, has been used in so many animation scores that I can't think of anything else but cartoons while listening to it. The Liebermann piece, his Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 95, premiered only last May, was astonishing--dissonant and lyrical by turns. It was a real workout for the pianist, Jeffrey Biegel, who was all over the piano throughout the concerto. Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36 seemed kind of tame by comparison. Biegel played one encore, Abram Chasins's Rush Hour in Hong Kong, a blisteringly fast minute and a half of giddy froth. Of it the composer once said, "Nobody seems to know whether or not Hong Kong has a rush hour. But if there is, or ever will be one, this is what it will sound like!... with all the assurance of one who has never been there...."

Biegel commissioned the Liebermann piece, and got 18 orchestras (including our own SSO) to go in on it. He's been going all over the country (and even overseas, I think) playing this new concerto at all the sponsoring orchestras. He really did sound as though he'd been practicing a lot. He got a standing ovation from almost the entire audience. Maggie and I only get up for the likes of Horowitz or Rubenstein.