About a month ago I went to see “Second Time Around,” a show at the San Francisco Marsh featuring the story telling of Charlie Varon and the cello playing of Joan Jeanrenaud. It was splendid, the conversation between Varon and Jeanrenaud exciting and unexpected. The music was all original, composed by Jeanrenaud, and it worked wonderfully with theme of the tale, which was about memory and communication and loss and death — not cheerful topics, but rendered with a light touch.
Full disclosure: I was an early investor in the project. I stress that this was not the kind of investment where the investor makes any money. I got opening night tickets, and I may get a T-shirt. Not anything that’s going to get into the Panama Papers.
I did it partially because I know Varon and like his work, and partly (I confess) because I’ve had a long distance lust relationship with Jeanrenaud for decades, dating back to her long tenure with the Kronos Quartet.
A lot of what the Kronos played was challenging to a person whose understanding of serious music kind of ended with Stravinsky. But when I was confused and weary during a concert, there was always her to look at. Although she was always remote and unapproachable on stage, she communicated a certain thrilling sexiness. Does it make me a bad person for thinking that way? Am I, perhaps, a sexist? It may be. Nevertheless, that’s what happened, and I am required to tell the truth, mostly.
I still haven’t met her; it’s best that my love remain pure.
Varon and Jeanrenaud worked for a long time on the piece. Both needed to learn a whole new way of being on the stage. I know that they were both excited by the work, and the result. And they were right. It’s really good.
Here’s the thing: In a couple of weeks, the show is going to close, and it ain’t going to reopen. No touring, no return engagement. It’s a damn shame, but there it is. Most of the remaining shows are sold out, but, according to the Marsh calendar, there are three performances with tickets still available: April 9, April 16 and April 17.
Really, go see it. All art is transient, one way or another, but this really will disappear in a blink.
I have a top drawer in my desk. It’s where I put important things. Alas, a lot of things have seemed important over the last 30 years. So the drawer is jammed full — you have to pat it down just to close it — and I have some hesitation about looking for anything; there could be uncashed checks and unanswered summonses in there. Or a snake.
I recently made an pathetic attempt to, uh, curate the drawer. I got no further than the large pile of business cards I had thrown in there over the years. A lot of them were entirely mysterious, people I had no memory of ever meeting. (I bet you have a similar stash of business cards somewhere; it might be amusing to try to cull them sometime).
It would be silly of me to write about the sundry people represented by the cards. Maybe there are some people I really should remember, but I am real bad at reconstructing lobby conversations or dinner party chat. There might even be people who are irritated that I don’t remember them — I have a terrible memory for names anyway. Or are, unbeknownst to me, hiding from the cops.
Still, there was grist:
At top right is a card for an interesting new attraction in Montreal. It’s not a maze at all; it’s an “escape game,” although racing through echoing sewers is not part of the deal. Rather, you’re presented with a scenario (ours concerned a crazed scientist with a bomb and a lost love) that you must solve by ransacking the room for clues. It’s like being inside a mystery story. It’s very cool.
There are escape games in many urban areas. Google is your friend.
Next is the business card of the director of a worthy charity. On the reverse side he wrote “Madagascar” — and I have no idea why. But I saved it, because someday I may wish information about lemurs. Below it is the card of Le Bar a Huitres, a restaurant in Paris I have no memory of entering. But I love the maps on the back, with appropriate landmarks and useful data, including Metro stops. I advocate maps on every business card; so functional, so lovely.
Center below is Alan A. Ayres, the “gentleman host” on a cruise ship we once taught on. We were all glorified help; we dined with the paying guests, but we were not of them. Ayres’ job was to dance with the unaccompanied ladies, of whom there were a plethora. He provided unthreatening companionship, loaded with buckets of British charm. And he was a wonderful dancer.
In his previous life, he and his partner had run a B&B in Dorset. Then the partner died, and he moped about for a bit, and then he decided to rejoin the carousel of life. Our last night aboard, he took Tracy for a sample dance. She looked fabulous; Alan was a gifted partner, and a gifted partner can make almost anyone glide enchantingly around the floor.
On the left we have, top to bottom, the best coffee place in Lone Pine (because I might need that data sometime), a Libby Schaaf business card from when she was working for Ignacio de la Fuente (and she helped save the trees on our block), and a business card from Tamim Ansary, author of the wonderful “Destiny Disrupted”, to whom I exhibited fanship, although where and when that gushing happened is currently unknown.
In the middle is an oversized card I picked up somewhere. It is for a company called Previously Owned by a Gay Man. They sell “openly good furniture.” You can read the pitch. Sometimes I am very happy living in the modern world.
Did I throw away any of the cards? Not yet. They could still prove useful, because life is complicated and often circular, and you never know. That’s my mantra; that’s why why my drawer is still full.
It took me only a few hours to read “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics,” but they were intense hours. Rovelli disposes with the familiar bits of science history (relativity theory, quantum theory) pretty quickly, and then settles into more speculative realms, the possible implications of the current views of how the universe works.
String theory? Sure, that’s there. But loop quantum gravity? Have you heard about that? Can your brain handle it? Planck stars? Integrated information theory? They’re all covered, complete with their attendant mysteries.
Because the chapters are so short, every sentence carries a lot of information, and slow reading is imperative. These sentences are marvels of clarity and grace, and I was happy to be drifting along with them, almost understanding things that are still mysterious, even to experts.
But I realized that Rovelli did not write those admirable sentences at all. He wrote in Italian, after the manner of Italian people. The actual prose was created by his translators, Simon Carnell and Erica Segre. Carnell is the author of “Hare,” a book about hares; Segre is a lecturer in gender studies at Cambridge. They’ve translated other stuff together. They’re really good. Hooray for them, and hooray for all translators who allow us to read Tolstoy, Voltaire, Aristophanes, Dante and Sei Shonagon. They work hard to embody great artists; for their efforts, they are granted obscurity and small paychecks.
Photography by Tracy Johnston
Useful help by Michelle “Anytime you’re ready” Mizera