The Virtuoso

 

photo credit: alexanderward12 CC BY-SA 2.0                           

   The young virtuoso began with Chopin’s first etude as the audience sat in reverence. A ceremony had been initiated, and the pianist communicated sublime genius with appregiated chords. Tens of thousands of hours of practice and tens of thousands of dollars in lessons had yielded flawless technique. It was now demonstrated at the young virtuoso’s debut concert.

   The marquee outside the theatre advertised Chopin’s Opus 25, twelve etudes performed by Andrew Michaels. The event was well attended and among those in the crowd were Andrews friends and family, his peers and mentors, aficionados of every sort, and of course music critics. The young pianist embraced the enormous pressure with supernatural calm, and a mystical transedence was achieved as he performed. Every technical complexity of each etude was demonstrated with ease.  The pianist fearlessly attached chromatics and parallel octaves while dynamic staccato notes enraptured the audience.The critics wrote, “The evening was enchanted with magic.”  

   The slow movement, the 7th etude was performed with absolute delicacy. The pianist’s touch was inspiring, and each key stroke produced perfect clarity of tone. Those in attendance testified to the prophetic gifts of the young virtuoso. The nuances of the music were interpreted with great imagination, and the crowd was on the edge of their seats. One of the critics in attendance had already wrote a raving review and left early. A respected career certainly was in the future of the young pianist, but then the virtuoso reached the eleventh etude. Maybe the most difficult, with its distinctive monstrous right hand passages and marching left hand stride counterpoint.  Every ounce of the painist spirit would be challeged for the 11th etude required more than finger dexterity.

   Andrew looked deep into his soul, and tackled the modulations of the 11th etude with unwavering ambition. In the critical moment, he teetered on brilliance, but doubt crept into his conscious. A wrong note, the rhythm was off, his left hand stubbled, then the unthinkable, the blossoming virtuoso stopped and for an instant there was complete silence. Andrew’s hands where frozen; his body was paralyzed, and a low murmur came from the audience. Then laughter erupted and some of those in attendance rose from there seats and headed towards the door. The lights came on in the concert hall and the mood became sterile. This is a bad dream Andrew thought to himself. He held his hands before his face. They had failed him. Then he looked into the dispersing crowd and saw his humiliated mother starring back at him. This was not a dream. Crushed, Andrew violently through himself from the piano bench. Then rushed backstage, exited through the service door, and disappeared into the cruel night.

   6 months later an article was written in the arts and culture section of the L.A. Times. 

Music:

   Extradionary pianist tonight-the mood of the Malibu Restaurant was that of a Parisian cafe. The little know jazz artist Andrew Michaels consumed those gathered with lucid improvisations. The pianist was reminincent of the great Bill Evans. Every idea was expressed with absolute emmotional connection and the control of a Vientiane virtuoso. We hope to see much more of you in L.A. Andrew!

Written By: Brett Wiley

The Death of a Poet

  

   I had lived 81 years, three months, 20 days, and when the morning sun peaked through the bedroom curtains, I told my wife it is time. Sadness formed on her face, but it came as no surprise. The winter had put a cold in my lungs and chill in my bones. I had lived long enough. It was time.

   My sweet wife threw open the curtains, and I pulled myself up in bed. Two pillows propped up my back as I sat upright.

   “Darling, will you bring my poems?” I said.

   She moved quickly towards the den not saying a word. I took a deep breath and found peace. Then shortly after she returned with the old briefcase, I had bought at the thrift store so many years ago. I opened it and found envelopes labeled by the decade. Inside was my life’s work.

   I poured over the hundreds of poems I had written paying attention to the nuance of each line. I made very few changes. However, I was affirmed by the themes that ran throughout the collection: love, the beauty in nature, immortality of the soul. My wife brought me earl grey tea in the afternoon and warm chicken broth in the evening.

   Then the sun set on my final day, and I shut my eyes for that long sleep. My breathing became slow, my flesh became cold, and a vision came upon me. I walked through the nature preserve with the strength of youth. It was Spring. The woods were green and lush. I followed the gravel path around the rusted water tower and up the gentle hill. The setting sun was perched at the summit of the short climb. I was overpowered by God’s love. I had lived well. My reward was near.

   Then out from the light came a small animal, and as it drew near, I recognized that it was my little poodle that had passed when I was still young. She leapt towards me, and I knelt to pet her.

   “Have you been waiting on me buddy”, I said with tears in my eyes.

   She howled like she did when I used to play the blues on the piano, and I picked her up into my arms and rubbed her belly and ears. Then after a short reunion, together we walked into the light. There we were transformed into perfection for all eternity!

Written by: Brett Wiley

Race to Fairmount

  

    Left of center on a country road, autumn in Indiana had come. The marvelous colors: red, orange, and yellow speckled the farm land at harvest time. A hawk on a telephone wire watched over the straight and narrow road. Cumulus clouds hung on a pure blue sky. The car was a Chevy Camaro Rally Sport with a 350 V8 motor that ran like a band of stallions. The speed limit was 45 mph, and I was doing at least 60. My tires fiercely gripped the pavement. Do you remember what it feels like to be young and alive?

   I raced towards Fairmount, IN. to the annual James Dean Festival and car show. It was all backroads from Anderson to Fairmount. I flew past farms, corn fields, and dilapidated barns. James Dean knew these roads. He raced his motorcycle past these same farms. The only difference was then the barns were new. I drove like I was running a race, and found myself lost in the tranquility of sunshine and speed. I fell into a opiate like daydream. However, my only intoxicant was youth. As I approached 70mph, I looked in the rearview mirror at the dust and gravel that flew from the back of my car, and though, I was distracted for only a moment, I did not notice an oncoming truck. It had turned discretely from a side road and now straddled the center line. The Chevy raced faster and faster. A head-on collision was eminent. Then déjà vu, I had lived this before. This time would fate be on my side? At the last moment, I saw the oncoming truck and maneuvered the Chevy off the road. 

   “Stupid drunk.” I uttered under me breath.  

   A solemn moment passed. Then I gathered myself, and got my car back on course to Fairmount. The Chevy hit 70 mph again. I remembered Dean and that fatal crash in 1955. The immortal ones always die young, I thought. The speedometer hit 75, then 80, and the car hugged the cracked and crumbling asphalt. Filled with adrenaline I shouted.

    “I am going to live forever!” 

Written by: Brett Wiley

A Cheap Pair of Shoes

 

 

   When I was a kid the first versions of Nike Air tennis shoes were released. It was paradigm shifting. Actual pockets of air were in the sole of the shoes. Man, they were they slick, and everybody wanted a pair.

   Of course, I did not expect to get Nike Air when my dad took me shoe shopping. However, when we reached the sporting goods store, I found a pair of high tops that had air pockets like the Nike’s. Much to my surprise, my dad agreed that I could get them. I was the happiest kid on the block.

   I couldn’t wait to get home. We pulled the car into the garage, I burst out with shoes in hand, and ran into the house.

   “Brother, Brother. Look at my new shoes”, I said, “They have air pockets just like the Nike’s!” My older brother approached skeptically and took a shoe from the box.

   “You idiot”, he said, “these aren’t air bubbles. It’s just plastic. Those are just cheap L.A. Gear’s. Stupid!”

   My heart was broken, but only for the moment. Once I put on my high-top tennis shoes, it didn’t matter they weren’t Nike’s. My dad had bought them for me, and I loved them.

   The following summer, I went on a father son Y.M.C.A. trip to Colorado. I wore my L.A. Gear tennis shoes and was filled with the spirit of adventure. Take in mind, I was only nine years old, very much a fragile child. However, I did not hesitate to sign up for the climb to the Keyhole on Long’s Peak. It was 10 mile hike up an incredible elevation. It was not a novice ascent, but I welcomed the challenge.

   We started the climb just after daybreak. We had a group of six. Four of which were grown men. The other kid, Jacob, was older, a teenager.

   We were delighted as we hiked through the evergreens. However, as we passed above the tree line the sun became a menace, and we stopped to apply sunscreen. Resting for only a moment, we then continued to zig-zag up the mountain, ground hogs kept us company.

   By the time we reached the bolder field, I was quit weary. I did not know if I could make it. However, I could see our destination in the distance and pushed forward. I leaped from boulder to boulder. My mother would not have been pleased if she knew what I was doing. After I passed the boulder field, we came to a 200-foot vertical cliff.

   I was nervous to make the climb but did not hesitate. The Keyhole was just above the cliff. I reached high pulling myself on to each ledge, and before I knew it, I was on top of the world. I looked down of the opposite side of the mountain. The cliff face dropped thousands of feet into a valley. I had made it.

   We lingered for a short time. Then began our decent. We climbed down the ledges and crossed back over the boulder field. I was out front setting the pace. The group followed-quiet and tired. As we hiked, the glory of nature permeated our spirits, but we kept hearing a squishing sound.

   “What is that?” one of the dad’s asked. Jacob, who was having trouble keeping up, spoke with embarrassment.

   “My shoes. The air bubbles popped.” The men laughed, and I couldn’t help smiling.

   I had never been so tired in my life, but I made it to the bottom and back to camp. As I sat in the lodge that night, I pried my shoes from my feet. My ankles were swollen, and my arches ached. I looked at the soles. The tread was completely worn off, but they had held up. They had brought me to the mountain top and safely back home. They were the best shoes I ever owned!

Written by: Brett Wiley

The Mystic Road

   It was an ideal summer Sunday. Cumulus clouds climbed into a baby blue sky.  And as my wife slept the afternoon away, I drove lost country roads-north to south, east to west-through the Indiana corn. That old jam played on the radio, “Crazy, I’m  thinking, just knowing how the world is round. And here I am dancing on the ground.” I was insignificant yet infinite; no one could find me if they tried. And like a beggar eating his supper meal, the last morsel of freedom in this sick old world was found in my Chevy coupe: on a deserted road, beneath the sweltering sun, amidst the sprawling farmland and dilapidated barns. I was alive but once, free, knowing that I would die . And as I drove, that old song echoed through me, “Am I right side up or upside down. And is this real or I’m dreaming.”

   “Ding, Ding, Ding,” my cars computer interrupted my lucid mind state. I slowed down and looked at the display console. “Oh, Crap,” I said aloud. The car was overheating. I pulled to the side of the road, stopped, got out, and popped the hood. I looked at the engine and noticed steam escaping the coolant container. I took off my t-shirt, wrapped it around my hand, and unscrewed the container lid-steam hissed as scalding droplets of water exploded out. When I looked in the container, I found what I expected-bone dry. I assessed the situation. I had no water to add as coolant or to drink. I had no phone. There were no houses around. There was no one to ask for help, and the nearest sub-division was approximately five miles southward. So, I did the only thing I could do. I started walking.

   I soon found a rhythm-inhale, step, step, step, exhale, step. So, I  let my thoughts wander as I fell into a trance. The sun is terribly hot and the humidity makes it worse-inhale, step, step, step, exhale, step. Suffering is always rewarded with inspiration-inhale, step, step, step, exhale, step. My wife must wonder where I am-inhale, step, step, step, exhale, step. Maybe someone will pass by and pick me up-inhale, step, step, step, exhale, step. I stopped and looked back. My car in the distance seemed lonely and safe. I wanted to return to it, but I had already come so far and the Spirit was kind. I turned around and continued to walk. No one knows where I am-inhale, step, step, step, exhale, step. I wish I had something to drink-inhale, step, step, step, exhale, step.

   The mind is a nautilus shell. A Fibonacci spiral circling down to infinity, circling down to the center of our being. And at the limit where life ceases to be material resides the universe-within our minds, bound in space, not in time. We are in the universe and the universe is within us. All the secrets of mathematics and science are within us. They will come forth and we will know everything. We have always known everything. All the mysteries of the universe are ours. The keys to life are hidden in the memory of our ancestors, and the doors to the unseen have already been unlocked. Oh, the depths of the riches of the neglected parts of ours souls… Mystic forces guided me safely home, and that night I lay on the couch trying to remember my entire life. My wife sat by my side reading. I was weak and slightly nausous, but I clung to the waking world. “Jenny,” I said. “The greatest gift God ever gave me was you.”

Written by: Brett Wiley