In a completely unrelated development, I had bought a CD alarm clock some time ago which I rhapsodized here, but for a long time now the CD slot in it has yawned empty while I yawned awake to sterile, unimaginative beeping. This morning I realized, as I awoke at 6:45 AM... the sunniest moment by some devilish chance in my apartment ... that music was a void (among others) that needed to be filled and I shook off my flannel duvet and stumbled over my ironing board towards my laptop/jukebox and put on "Rufus Wainwright," the debut album of Rufus Wainwright. Particularly I wanted to hear a couple harmonies in the song "Sally Ann," the harmonies for the line:
You realize you've been there before.
There is a little minor key Schubertian inflection in there that seems to me totally top-notch, especially combined with the country-western crooning of the whole. I put it on repeat, and standing there in my underwear in the wreckage of my bedroom I realized I was very very happy, even in the morning. I declined to analyze the various reasons. But it definitely had something to do with that sad, beautiful harmony. And the harmony kept running through my head while my faulty Starbucks cup dripped scalding French Roast onto my hand in the subway, while I clung for dear life to the nearest pole, and the train lurched spastically, and I gymnastically revolved--drippingly--to allow everyone their circuitous, irritable routes into the sardine can labelled #2. A little circle of spots on the floor of the train ephemerally marked my place, and I licked brown caffeine from my aching tingling fingers. Still, I was happy. Even amid the commuter chaos of Penn Station, that one bittersweet harmony seemed triumphant. The QuikTrak machine did not pose an obstacle either, it spit out my ticket obediently. It was only when I came to order my bagel that a serious problem arose, thus:
Me: "Poppy bagel."
Europan Employee: [harshly] "No poppy."
Me: "OK, onion bagel."
[10 second pause]
Europan Employee [Even more harshly] "No poppy."
Me: [Screaming] "OK, onion bagel, toasted, with cream cheese."
[10 second pause]
Europan Employee: "Yes we have onion."
[9 second pause]
Europan Employee: "Toasted?"
Me: "Yes, with cream cheese."
[Employee slices bagel; various other employees and customers intervene; orders fly overhead; chaotic commuters everywhere; I am at the intersection of a thousand journeys; I notice the employee is spreading cream cheese on an untoasted onion bagel.]
Me: "Umm, i wanted it toasted."
Europan Employee: [Smug, wronged.] "Well, you should have told me."
Happiness is an evanescent thing. I lost it, but recovered some while contemplating a hypothetical Arts Section headline: "Pianist arrested for assault with untoasted bagel." Or perhaps in NY Post: "Pianist testy over toasting."