Monday Smiles – 6/3/2013
It was an odd weekend. It wouldn’t have been so odd for a forty-something Younger Eyes who worked full time. In the engineering business, proposals or final reports due almost always involved working through the weekend. But for a semi-retired, sixty-something Older Eyes, working through the weekend is odd. My opinions on a trade secret statement were due today and I’d let myself get way behind. It is a job that requires reviewing hundreds of pages of semi-technical lawyerise, and spot checking thousands of exhibits of white papers, drawing and computer code. For some reason, it’s a kind of work I’m very good at but that doesn’t mean a weekend of it … made more stressful by a deadline … doesn’t make me a bit crazy.
Yes, Muri and I still had date night. I’m fortunate to have a wife who knows the way I am when I’m buried in a job, and if she doesn’t especially like my state of mind, she knows how to put up with it. So we went to the Elephant Bar for dinner (tempura mahi-mahi sandwiches for both of us). I was alternately off in another universe (one where thousands of documents still flashed before my eyes) and talking to much, making not-so-funny jokes about everything or singing ancient songs with made up lyrics. She’s a good woman. Then, we went to see Now You See Me, a fantasy mystery about the exploits of The Four Horsemen, a team of magicians pulling off daring heists during their elaborate illusions. The film received poor reviews from critics (44% on the Tomatometer) but generally good ones from viewers, always a good sign. I’d put it in the Very-Entertaining-If-You Don’t-Think category. By the time we got home, I was almost myself again.
Sunday morning, I was buried in the document pile again and finished only shortly before we planned to go to the Laguna Playhouse with our theater friends, Ron and Kerry, to see The Pianist of Willesden Lane. The play is a one-woman performance by concert pianist, Mona Golabek, and tells the story of her mother’s escape from Vienna as the Nazi’s began to persecute Jews. Her parents, who had only a single ticket on the Kindertransport, a mission that carried 10,000 children to England before the war. They chose her mother, Lisa, instead of her two sisters because of her promise as a concert pianist, a promise Lisa is determined to keep. Golabek tells the story as a narrative, interspersed with selections from her favorite concert pieces played on a grand piano center stage. She tells of her life in a refugee hostel on Willesden Lane during the blitzkrieg of London, the friends she makes and the good people of London who help the children. She continues to practice her music on a piano in the basement for the hostel, eventually receiving an audition for a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. Scenes from the various stages of her life are shown on huge frames hanging on the stage. Although her parents perished at Auschwitz, her sisters eventually made it to England. The play, by the way, was adapted from Golabek’s book of the same name by Hershey Felder, whose one man show George Gershwin Alone was my Monday Smiles 2/1/2010.
The play was somber, in that it focused on one of our worst times as a species, yet there was inspiration in the power of the music to sustain young Lisa, in the good people of London, and as Golabek said at the end of Willesden Lane, the parents who saved their children’s lives by saying, Goodbye. And the music was glorious … Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, DeBussy … and the Grieg Piano Concerto, the piece Golabek plays in homage to her mother. Ms. Golabek is an accomplished pianist and the play’s themes resonated perfectly with the musical selections. Older Eyes had more than a few moist-eyed moments and Golabek recieved a standing ovation from the packed house.
It was a busy, sometimes crazy weekend. But it ended with good friends, great theater and amazing music. And I met my deadline. So, it’s Monday and I’m smiling.
P.S. – If The Pianist of Willesden Lane comes your way, don’t miss it.