Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Rock Me, Franz Schubert

schubert.jpg

I enjoy Beethoven, Mozart, and Bartok, but there is some classical music that knocks me out faster than a twelve pack of codeine. Like Schubert. I wasn’t pleased to go the Philharmonic this weekend and see his infamous name in the program: Mr. Sandman himself, Franz Peter Schubert.

“Well, no problem,” I said to myself as we entered the symphony hall. “Since I’m such a cheapskate, I got tickets in Row X of the orchestra, so no one will even notice when I’m snoring and drooling all over the button-down shirt Sophia bought me at Ross Dress-for-Less.”

Unfortunately, Sophia had plans of her own. Yes, I’ve mentioned this several hundred times on this very blog: Sophia does not like sitting in the crappy seats I buy.

“It’s going to be half empty,” she said. “Let’s wait in the back until five minutes before the performance, and then take some empty seats near the front.”

“But it’s Schubert!” I protested. Why didn’t you tell me they were playing Schubert?!”

“Don’t worry. I’ll kick you in the shin if you snore.”

We had ten minutes to kill before the concert. An attractive blond stood next to us in the back of the auditorium. She had the same idea as we did — to wait for better seats. Sophia struck up a conversation with her, seeing that they were soulmates. The woman turned out to be the newly-married wife of one of the symphony’s cellists, and her seat was at the end of row S, giving her a mere glimpse of her beloved husband’s back.  She wanted to see the expression on his face as he played.  How romantic.

When Sophia noticed the ushers closing the doors, we picked out two center seats with our eyes, then grabbed them greedily.  Finders Keepers.  I’m much better at switching seats than I was when I first met Sophia. I used to be terribly anxious about doing this, fearful that the real ticket-holders will come in late and make an angry scene, the performance would end abruptly, the conductor would walk out in protest, a spotlight would shine on me, and then the disgusted mob would belt me with opera glasses.  However, after ten years of the “real” ticket-holders NEVER showing up, I’ve grown into a hardened criminal.  I’m only anxious for the first five minutes of our stealing the seats, rather than the rest of the week.

Today my anxiety was not about the seats.  It would come from another source.  You see, there wasn’t just two open seats in this row. There were THREE.  As I settled in my seat, the cellist’s wife slid right next to me. The cellist’s wife!

“Oh no,” I thought. “How can I fall asleep during Schubert when one of the orchestra member’s WIVES was sitting next to me.  It would be as if I’m insulting his musical talent!”

“This is his first performance with the orchestra,” she told Sophia.

Ugh.  Sophia kicked me… and I wasn’t even sleeping yet.

I don’t remember who the first piece was by, but it was sufficiently bombastic to keep me awake.  I never have problems with musical pieces about cannon fire, like the 1812 Overture.

Then, there was a hush over the land.  The condutor lifted his baton, and the orchestra started to play Schubert, the early 18th Century’s equivalent of John Tesh.  I could feel my eyes start to close.

(sidenote – I promised myself that I wasn’t going to write about sex this week, since I went a little overboard last week, but I’m going to break that promise.  You’ll see where I’m going in a second)

Men, remember when you were first starting have sex? And just seeing a bra strap was enough to send you over the edge, and the girl would be all disappointed because you lasted about three seconds? And your friend who knew everything from reading his father’s Penthouse magazines told you to think about something boring, like Geometry, while you were with a girl, so then you can last three hours, like the guys do in those sex movies that you used to try to watch, even though they were scrambled on your parents’ cable?

I thought about the good ol’ days while I was sitting there listening to Schubert. It was so boring and my eyes were closing. I just didn’t want to hurt this woman’s feeling.  Disappointing a woman in sex is one thing, but to make her feel bad about her husband’s cello playing — that’s just cruel.  I would distract myself like I had done so many times before, not to keep the love going, but to keep myself awake!  I tried to remember some Geometry.  I stepped on my own foot.  I tried writing a blog post in my head.  I pushed my thumbnail into my arm.  I bit my tongue.  I even thought of poking myself in the eyes. When the Schubert was over, I patted myself on the back, proud of my restraint and accomplishment.

It was then when Sophia woke me up, shaking her head in embarrassment, telling me that it was time for intermission. I  noticed that the cellist’s wife had just darted off, not saying good-bye.  Apparently, my head was bobbing up and down during the whole piece, the snoring only beginning during the cello solos.

The cellist’s wife sat elsewhere for the rest of the concert.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: “If I Did It,” by John Wilkes Booth

50 Comments

  1. i wouldn’t have even gone, i’m not into classical at all, i prefer to stay home and sleep in the comfort of my own sofa.

  2. Well…it’s the thought that counts, right? Berlioz has the same soporific effect on me. And thinking about sex. 😉

  3. That poor woman needed to learn the truth eventually–Schubert is boring.

  4. Laughing out loud. What a great start to my writing day. Thanks, Neil!

  5. If it’s boring, I go to sleep too.

  6. This is one of my all-time favorite Neil posts. 🙂

  7. It could have been worse. You could have (accidentally) really insulted a disabled kid … like I usually do in theatres.

  8. My friend Peter had tickets to the first performance in the newly renovated opera house in Antwerp. A very big deal.

    He got sick but did not want to miss the opera performance, so he arrived at the opera house all drugged up on cold meds and painkillers. Promptly fell asleep in the lovely red velvet seats and emitted “a loud noise” (from where?), just as the soprano was beginning her big solo. What’s worse than this experience? Realizing the event had been FILMED.

  9. At least you didn’t drool on the blonde…

  10. Sassy — We’re not too sure of that…

    Tamar — did you see my Facebook notice on top? But it doesn’t mean you won the last scrabble game by default!

  11. This post brought a little morning smile to my face. Okay who am I kidding? I totally giggled!

    You tried, right? Maybe you should have just thought of naked women!

  12. if you had thought of naked women, you’d likely have fallen to sleep WITH an erection- double embarrassment! 😉 i am fond of schubert but yeah, it’s sleep-inducing.

    i get anxious about seat switching. i need to come take lessons from sophia!

  13. Also, you dumped Facebook?! You’re undoubtedly forging new paths in adulthood, but how’s that again about pledging allegiance to the internet? 😛

  14. Normally the harder you try not to fall asleep the faster you do…
    If it makes you feel better I’m able to fall asleep almost everywhere, and then my head does this sink and rearange thing and I slaver… Its normally the laughters around me that wake me up again. I’m still trying to get used to it. 😀
    Sorry for my poor english!

    ps: I prefer dance to classic music (it mantains your eyes occupied!)

  15. My favorite part of this post: “the early 18th Century’s equivalent of John Tesh.”

    That is so funny!

  16. Haha! And I always wondered why the boys in my class were so good at Geometry!

  17. As an orchestral musician myself, you have offended me to the core! (I am completely and utterly kidding.)

    Seriously, Schubert’s orchestral music is a snoozer. You might, however, want to check out some of the songs, like “Erlkonig.” That piece is AMAZING. The worst, however, is Schumann. Holy crap, if I ever have to play another Schumann symphony, it will be too soon. Granted, the likelihood that I will be forced to do so is basically 100%. So that’s super.

    People fall asleep in concerts all the time. It’s actually kind of fun to look out and catch them when you’re onstage. Just think of yourself as the orchestra’s entertainment. 😉

  18. Abbersnail — Musicians are hot. What do you play?

  19. I feel for you — I’ve gone to concerts of Brahms’ German Requiem three separate times, and have yet to hear the end.

    It’s not just classical music — it took four tries before I was awake at the end of Blade Runner. I wonder what the two have in common that triggers my sleep mechanism.

  20. I’m just proud that you stayed. I totally would have flown the coop, found a pancake house, and read blogs on my iPhone while waiting for my spouse (inside, enjoying the concert).

    But then Jeff would never go to anything Schubert on purpose. I believe we are a tad unrefined.

  21. Laughter. Lots of it.

    (still laughing)

  22. Giggling … you paint beautiful word pictures, Neil.

    The story was grand, grand beyond any old dime a dozen concert.

  23. Truth quotient – 80%.
    A) It wasn’t just any boring Schubert, it was his “Great” C Major Symphony, long, but hardly sleep-inducing.

    B) Neilochka falls asleep at any classical concert, including “Beethoven, Mozart, and Bartok” that he “enjoys.”

    C) The cello was a Bass.

  24. I feel for Sophia. You’re not a very good date. If I were her, I’d find some other guy to take the next time. 😉

  25. uh oh.. the drool happen too? yea. why does she take you to schubert if she knows you are going to pass out? keep the snoring and drooling at home. words to live by.

  26. Melanie — if she didn’t drag me out, she would never get me out. Better I sleep at a concert than at home.

  27. How about the double sleep inducer – ballet and classical music together. Yep! Just can’t attend without falling asleep 5 minutes in to the performance.

  28. How could you not like Schubert? What about his Unfinished Symphony? Also known as “Gargamel’s theme from the Smurfs.”

  29. Teahouseblossom — I was waiting for you. That was the piece. He should have stayed unfinished.

  30. At least the musicians that you heard were professionals. Try staying awake during semi-annual middle school band concerts that last two hours each. Having your kid in the band doesn’t make it any less boring or less painful; it just makes attendance mandatory.

  31. Yeah, it’s all about the Russians anyway.

  32. I don’t like Schubert. Ice cream is totally worth the extra calories.

  33. Neil:

    First off, my cat runs accross the piano frequently while the dog is chasing her. Bartok sounds no different.

    Second, Shubert is a BORE!!! I don’t know how you stayed awake as long as you did. Surely as the wife of the cellist this woman should know a thing or two about the BO-RING composers. I applaud you for your effort. Good man.

  34. This very much reminds me of when I went to Carmen in Prague. I was quite annoyed that my date fell asleep until I found myself waking from dreams to “Bullfighter, Bullfigher” nell’italiano. It wasn’t a pleasant opera experience.

  35. “And your friend who knew everything from reading his father’s Penthouse magazines told you to think about something boring, like Geometry, while you were with a girl, so then you can last three hours, like the guys do in those sex movies that you used to try to watch, even though they were scrambled on your parents’ cable?”

    I spit coffe when I read this – you just described my husband!! Only, he thinks about mowing the lawn. Sad, sad little men.

    Great blog, look forward to reading often.

  36. I think I’m an uncultured swine; I’d rather go to a rock concert than symphony, ballet, or opera. 🙂

  37. Bravo! Bravo! I linked a writer-friend of mine to this entry and the John Wilkes-Booth entry. He said, “Wow. I wish I wrote that.”

    Kudos, Neil! 🙂 Ochin Horosho! (That’s phonetic Russian for I like lamp)

  38. I totally get the boredom of classical concerts. If you are ‘required’ to attend, try and prevent Sophia from taking you until there is a pianist playing selections from Rachmaninoff. Everything is loud, booming, and crashy… the man was crazy and had huge hands. Makes for as entertaining as classical music can get.

    I liked the bit about the ‘stealing seats.’ I had friends living in Hollywood that found ‘Hollywood Bowl’ sweaters at a second hand store. They used to go to the concerts that they wanted to see, seat people for about half an hour before the show, and then race down to the empty seats at the front. Worked like a charm.

  39. i love Schubert – but only his Lieder. Could be the singer in me.

  40. I fell asleep at the Opera Alcina – not because it was boring but I had a bad combination of wine and no sleep. I had the best dreams ever. It is kind of a gorgeous thing to nap in such a beautiful surrounding…but maybe not to snore

  41. that’s funny. maybe you should take an ipod and listen to the news or something next time. I wonder if that would be less embarrassing. Probably more noticeable though.

  42. Next time bring your iPod and blast your beloved Britney during the Schubert dip. You may bare your midriff and shake those hips, but at least you won’t fall asleep again.

  43. At last, something we have in common. I’d be snoring right alongside you.

    I know what you’re thinking. Stop it.

  44. Also, I am honored to be your first blog crush of the day.

  45. So actually having sex during the concert wasn’t an option? Bummer …

  46. Cookiebith, it’s been a long time!

  47. He he. At least you tried to stay awake, that was very nice of you.

  48. I think you were a prince for trying. With the sex and the Schubert, both.

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