Everyone had always told her being a younger looking female had its perks. She’d begged to differ.
Until about three years earlier the two, most precious sub-groups still occasionally hit: 29 year old post-graduates, and freshly-pensioned senior citizens. Only problem being, when the former found out she represented the decade of their birth, immediate assumptions were therefore made: this creature had to be a mere Cougar girl, ready to offer all manner of superficial and otherwise meaningless gestures intended to satisfy the most mindless automaton’s coupling potential. Likewise, the seniors, that grey pallor of disinterest wafting across their already waning faces, like a cheap Venetian blind shutting out the late day glare of the sun.
When either of the above encounters transpired, awkward attempts to extract from the scene ensued and, that, by all parties – staring vacantly off, as if not a one of them had, in fact, been stripped entirely of their clothes.
Then, there were the administrators. Ever vigilant, always on their soapboxes of entitled authority, each homily usually dribbling in one of her ears and shooting out the other. She tired easily at the expectation that a.) anything she hadn’t already learned the hard way could be taught by these people, and b.) she should completely and utterly care about a single thing they were saying. What? Was somebody important talking?
Somewhere in the middle lay her place in the chronology of being. Only trouble was: she’d spent a lifetime, already, trying to find it – and, time was truly a-wasting.
And, now, enter yet another herald of the missing link that would heretofore have connected her to the class of social insiders: the Art of “Slap Bass” – otherwise known, in the world of the classically persuaded, as “Snap Pizz.” (pronounced: “Snahp Pitz.” )
(Pizz, short for Pizzicato, pronounced: Pitzy-kotto.)
Those who occupied her realm of professional music-making had all secured their positions via the conventional route. Trained by the best, mentored by the select, they’d covered all the necessary terrain dutifully and with all the appropriate gravitas. Hardly a one of them had arrived on the scene without either their skills, or their lexicon, soundly defined.
She, on the other hand, had sailed into the room across rather choppy seas. Starting, then stopping, the usual weekly sessions known as “private lessons”, then jumping back into the water in college for an interim of electives in another field of study, she’d managed to eke out college tenure in the student symphony and its various corollaries: the studio, area, and departmental recitals. And, along the way, she’d met all sorts of creative lovers of the art, formulating their futures out of any number of genre. But, somehow, while covering the body of simplest symphonies, one recycled Howard Hansen, American Salute, Sibelius’ Finlandia, Richard Strauss’ Sonata in F, and even the Don Quixote solo excerpt, she’d managed to blow right past, you got it, Slap Pizzicato.
So, imagine the delight. One casual first rehearsal, a read through for most. The piece? a beast – calling for numerous meter shifts, twelve-tone “harmonies”, and three, select, carefully placed moments for that distinct, silver wound tungsten on ebony. At first, everybody’d giggled when she said it. (“I can’t do it. I don’t know how.”) Nobody does that. Standing rule: never admit culpability. Look askance. Look aloof. But, never c.o.n.f.e.s.s.
Most just enjoyed the rush across the thymus provided by her willingness to take the weak slot. A single other offered actual assistance, comfortable in her own skin, her own shoes, and her own accomplishments. It went like this: grab the string; hook the finger all the way around beneath; and, let go. Mystery solved. No matter that, on rare occasion, the string might break. Important just to go for it; the effect was paramount.
Childhood is so brief. Most of us remember highlights. Ecstatic realizations. Crushing defeats. But, everyone recalls easily the moment of accomplishment, no matter how miniscule or unimportant in the grand scheme. When the two wheeler stayed upright, and we kept pedaling. When our body stayed on the top of the water. When we swallowed the pill, without choking up the jello.
And so it was that she, approaching the onset of her twilight years, heading off greying temples and crown with some resounding henna, mastered slap pizzicato without breaking either a string or a sweat. Finally, qualifying for the strata of the elite. Or, at least, the highest observable level reached by the body of her regional population.
There’d be no New York debut. No Chicago premiere. No golden opportunity in a candy store on the West coast, or fifteen minutes on E.T. None of that. There’d just be one glorious niche, carved out especially for the truly acceptable, that finally bore her name. And, in honor of every musical segue ever conceived between scenes in an episode of Seinfeld, this would almost do it. One, lone moment, perfectly placed on the landscape of the American dream – just right.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 7/4/15
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