To Hell and Back Through Letters

Couldn’t help but share my experience in response to Robert Stokes Missive:
“Could not stop laughing at the Robert Stokes Letter.
I had a similar experience, but mine was a mere prelude to service, not an entire symphonic piece. Plus, my language was restrained. Last July the paper had published an opinion piece of mine, so I thought: Why not try again?
They thought about it for a couple of hours, and the editor got back to me and referenced the lovely language transitions, but the piece, she said, “is not quite right for our pages.”

I puzzled over that part of the response, as I had shared the piece with a friend and her response was: “Hilarious, terrifying, and insightful.” It reminded her of a British satirist, whose name she could not remember, and that she, too, had been to hell and back with Comcast. Others told me the reason they thought they had not published it was because Comcast is the King of the Internet in Baltimore, and the paper probably generated a lot of advertising revenue from the mouth of this King. There are more. However, they coexist in harmony, and support their territorial rights.

One comes from Saudi Arabia, for example, and though his influence appears to be essentially financial, it is remotely powered, for such a King would never actually set foot in Baltimore, unless absolutely necessary, and then would land here on a helipad.

Nonetheless, his influence cannot be ignored. An entire wing is dedicated to, and named after, him. In addition, it is impossible to ignore his presence, for upon entering one wing of this major medical institution (which similar to the Vatican, as in a city unto itself) one is overwhelmed by the godly dimensions and the size of his portrait. This act of vanity, however, would unleash the wrath of the Gods for its degree of hubris. Athena, for example, would pierce such a man with her gaze, alone, and thereby expose the hollow nature below the shell.

But I digress…
I cannot attest to the veracity of that conclusion, since I am still waiting for a response from the Editor-in-Chief of the paper, after composing, in a low key, my sense of bewilderment over that one phrase. In addition, I hinted how others had perceived the rejection, without ever revealing the seed of their conclusions. But most importantly, I asked him a simple question: What does that phrase actually mean?
It’s amazing how the most simple questions are often the most difficult to answer.”

“The Stokes Letter”
“Dear Cretins: 
I have been an NTL customer since 9th July 2001, when I signed up for your four-in-one deal for cable TV, cable modem, telephone, and alarm monitoring. During this three-month period I have encountered inadequacy of service which I had not previously considered possible, as well as ignorance and stupidity of monolithic proportions. Please allow me to provide specific details, so that you can either pursue your professional prerogative and seek to rectify these difficulties or more likely (I suspect) so that you can have some entertaining reading material as you while away the working day smoking B&H and drinking vendor-coffee on the bog in your office.

My initial installation was canceled without warning, resulting in my spending an entire Saturday sitting on my fat arse waiting for your technician to arrive. When he did not arrive, I spent a further 57 minutes listening to your infuriating hold music, and the even more annoying Scottish robot woman telling me to look at your helpful website.

The rescheduled installation then took place some two weeks later, although the technician did forget to bring a number of vital tools — such as a drill-bit and his cerebrum. Two weeks later, my cable modem had still not arrived. After 15 telephone calls over four weeks my modem arrived, six weeks after I had requested it — and begun to pay for it. I estimate your internet server’s downtime is roughly 35% — the hours between about 6 PM and midnight, Monday through Friday and most of the weekend. I am still waiting for my telephone connection.

I have made nine calls on my mobile to your no-help line and have been unhelpfully transferred to a variety of disinterested individuals who are, it seems, also highly skilled bollock jugglers. I have been informed that: a telephone line is available (and someone will call me back); that I will be transferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been cut off); that I will be transferred to someone (and then been redirected to an answering machine informing me that your office is closed); that I will be transferred to someone and then been redirected to the irritating Scottish robot woman, and several other variations on this theme.

Doubtless you are no longer reading this letter, as you have at least a thousand other dissatisfied customers to ignore. Frankly I don’t care. It’s far more satisfying as a customer to voice my frustrations in print than to shout them at your unending hold music. Forgive me, therefore, if I continue. I thought British Telecom was crap; that they had attained the holy-pot of god-awful customer relations; and that no one, anywhere, ever, could be more disinterested, less helpful or more obstructive to delivering service to their customers. That’s why I chose NT and because, well, there isn’t anyone else is there? How surprised I therefore was when I discovered to my considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment what a useless shower of bastards you truly are. You are sputum-filled pieces of distended rectum, incompetents of the highest order.

BT — wankers though they are — shine like brilliant beacons of success in the filthy mire of your seemingly limitless inadequacy. Suffice to say that I have now given up on my futile and foolhardy quest to receive any kind of service from you. I suggest that you cease any potential future attempts to extort payment from me for the services which you have so pointedly and catastrophically failed to deliver. Any such activity will be greeted initially with hilarity and disbelief and will quickly be replaced by derision and even perhaps bemused rage.
I enclose two small deposits, selected with great care from my cat’s litter tray, as an expression of my utter and complete contempt for both you and your pointless company. I sincerely hope that they have not become desiccated during transit — they were satisfyingly moist at the time of posting, and I would feel considerable disappointment if you did not experience both their rich aroma and delicate texture. Consider them the very embodiment of my feelings towards NTL and its worthless employees.

Have a nice day. May it be the last in your miserable short lives, you irritatingly incompetent and infuriatingly unhelpful bunch of twits. 
May you rot in Hell, 
Robert Stokes”

Music for the Soul to Dance to

When I first awaken, I head to my tiny kitchen and fill my French Press with coffee and boiling water. I press beyond the water level, and although the instructions say to leave it there for 5 minutes before you press it to the bottom of cylinder, I rarely make it to the 5 minute threshold.

It is the moment between wakefulness and sleep, and I need a nudge to push me through that door. I sit by the window, sipping my coffee in darkness and wait for the eastern light to appear through my window. And with the glow and warmth of the nuggets a salt rock lamp creates, I press the key for the music to begin playing the music for the soul to dance to. This, for me, is a sacred and necessary ritual.

The list is long, but I begin with Threshold, as it takes me through the range of experiences, from high to low, and low to high, sometimes hitting the middle note, but not often. Within this range, I surrender to the trance, without the corresponding human experiences associated with this spectrum of emotions, through the nuances of each note, until I am closer to wakefulness.

Then I move into Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor, K 397, for a taste of melancholy, which doesn’t quite satiate my appetite, but still, I cannot resist his movement, and prance with him into higher notes, guided by the nimble fingers of Gould’s interpretation.

And finally, Beethoven opens the door to a glorious version of flight. This, I am compelled to listen to more than once, for it loosens me from the stubborn chill of darkness, now moving into the first notes of dawn, whilst the night begins to fade, until it reaches a full eclipse of the black sky above me. And below the sun, I shift into the rhythm of a canter, absorbing endless rays of light. This, my friend, is Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #15 in D, Op. 28, “Pastoral” – 2, Andante.

Then I hit shuffle on a playlist, which I have named, Music for the Soul to Dance to. This list takes me through a historical journey expressed through music. The list below is according to recording artist.

However, before we advance into the set below, it is worth mentioning, this morning musical ritual is not rigid, but flexible. And so, some mornings, instead of adhering to the musical sequence noted above — patterns have shifted overnight, a new cycle has evolved, a new set of rhythms pound the keys. And so, I head straight to Bedbugs And Ballyhoos, for example, by Echo & The Bunnymen, and tumble and rock into a new day — for nothing is constant when you wake up dancing. 

Music For The Soul To Dance To
Let’s Stay Together, Take Me To The River, I’m Still in Love With You, I Can’t Get Next To You, Back Up Train, (Al Green)

Let The Good Times Roll, Thrill is Gone, Nobody Loves Me But My Mother, (B.B. King, Live At San Quentin, 1990)

No Reply, I’m A Loser, Baby’s In Black, Twist And Shout, Eleanor Rigby, When I’m Sixty-Four, (The Beatles, 1962-1967)

Blowin’ In The Wind, Forever Young, Things Have Changed, The Death of Emmitt Till, Desolation Row, (Bob Dylan, 1962…)

Is This Love, Get Up Stand Up, Stir It Up, I Shot The Sheriff, Jamming, (Bob Marley)

Know Your Rights, (The Clash)

Round Here, Raining In Baltimore, (Counting Crows)

Bedbugs And Ballyhoo, (Echo & The Bunnymen)

the boy with perpetual nervousness, moscow nights, (The Feelies)

Reach out I’ll be there, If I were a carpenter, It’s the same old song, I’m in a different world, Seven rooms of gloom, (The Four Tops)

Moon River, For Once in My Life, My Kind of Town, Fly Me To The Moon, It Was A Very Good Year, (Frank Sinatra)

Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head, (Gorillaz)

Night Train, (James Brown, Live at the Apollo, 1962)

Cry Baby, (Janis Joplin, 1973)

Manic Depression, (Jimi Hendrix)

Hurt, (Johnny Cash)

Joy Ride, Smile Like You Mean It, Somebody Told Me, Everything Will Be Alright, This River Is Wild, Why Do I Keep Counting?, Exitude, (The Killers, 2004-2008)

Bamboo Banga, Hussel, Mango Pickle Down Down River, Come Around, (M.I.A, Kala)

Leave Me Alone, Beat It, Billie Jean, (Guess who)

On The Run, Lingo With The Gringo, (OMC, How Bizarre, 1967)

(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, Let Me Come On Home, Tramp (With Carla Thomas), Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, (Otis Redding, The Dock Of The Bay, 1968)

Track 05, (Patti Smith, Horses)

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), (The Proclaimers, 1988)

I Never Came, Go With The Flow, (Queens Of The Stone Age, 2002-2005)

Oh, Pretty Woman, Only The Lonely, (Roy Orbison)

Send Me in My Way, Lost in a Crowd, Laugh as the Sun, (Rusted Root, When I Woke, 1994)

You Send Me, Sad Mood, Summertime, Twistin’ The Night Away, Shake, That’s Where It’s At, (Sam Cooke, 1957-1964)

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, (Santa Esmeralda)

All For You, (Sister Hazel, 1967)

Just My Imagination, I Wish It Would Rain, Cloud Nine, Run Away Child Running Wild, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, (The Temptations)

Moon Dance, Brown Eyed Girl, And It Stoned Me, Cleaning Windows, Whenever God Shines His Light, (Van Morrison)

One Headlight, (The Wallflowers)

Woman Smiling (Acrylic)

I painted this shortly after an unexpected and extended stay of exactly 40 days in Copenhagen in January through February of 2001. Personally, it’s my favorite, but when a friend saw it recently, she saw something entirely different from what I saw. I suppose that’s why it’s called Art. It’s title is based on what she saw.

Threshold

 

Piano Composition by Hood & Gudgalis (1984)

Musical Influences: Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven 

Art by BB Hood

 

One day, many years ago, not long before I would give birth to my first child, and then my second, I waited for the man I would later marry, who was editing a film at a studio in Chicago. Had I stayed put, I could have spent that time reading a heavy load of English Literature for my final quarter in college. Instead I wandered through the silent suites of the night and discovered another room. That’s where I remained long after the sun had set, for a period of three weeks, perhaps — alone in a room with a piano. That is where I conceived the theme of Threshold.

I shared that theme with a friend of mine, Judy, who was trained in Classical piano. And so I sat beside her, while she occupied centre stage, and together we inhaled and exhaled, until the piece fully came to life. At that stage, I was nothing more than a mere speculator, another ear, tuned into hers, but perfectly synchronised. The composition developed quickly, and within a couple of months, we recorded at a studio in Chicago. Her condition was that she would only do one take of the score she had stored in head.

The studio had a Yamaha Grand, which she immediately tested, and expressed her displeasure about. The instrument was significantly inferior to the Chickering she had. And I agreed. Later I also discovered there was a technical imperfection, a glitch, and which created much distress for me, especially — you can hear the pedal work. 

Judy has long since been gone, and what I lost when she left was not only a dear friend, but a musical collaborator, whose death I still mourn. 

And so here it is, the door below for all to open, a room to visit, however briefly, and listen to the imperfections of beauty.


Threshold-mp3-image