India 2016: Goodbye Epic Month. Hello Beethoven.

I was just at the airport saying goodbye to Philadelphia. Wheels up, and my bird was bound for Chicago before another bird would bid the Windy City farewell bringing me home to San Francisco. Finally.

Just now, I said goodbye to my cousin Kevin. Earlier this morning, I said goodbye to my parents. Yesterday, I said goodbye to my brother and my sister and their families, their adorable kiddies. The night before, I said goodbye to my cousins and their families and to my uncles and aunties. Peel back another two days, I said goodbye to Dubai and two of my best pals; and the day before that, to India and some new friends. I also said goodbye to an old friend who I had not seen in quite some time. He was a young man who’d just passed away, sadly leaving behind a beautiful wife and a beautiful young son. The day before that, I said goodbye to a stranger I saw in the middle of the highway, who had just been run over by a truck.

I’ve been saying goodbye to a lot of people this past week. When you live your life the way I do, goodbye tends to be a word used quite often in your vocabulary. Of course, so is hello.

And so it was that I was feeling a bit down when I texted a dear friend who always does a great job knocking me out of my melancholy doldrums (as if there are any other kinds), suspecting that she may be on a snickers break from teaching her next class. She’s one of those extraordinary people that takes something ordinary and makes it fascinating. She’s fun; and everything she touches becomes fun. Teaching English as a second language for many is the opposite of fun, and yet you never get that sense with her. (Technically speaking, English is a second language for me, so I feel quite qualified to make these claims.) She emailed me a learning module she was introducing to her class – learning English through reading about and listening to Beethoven.

Now that brought a smile to my face. As I have been doing a lot of late, I let my mind wander memory lane to when I first started listening to Ludwig. And even though I was a diehard of diehards’ fan of Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, the Doors and countless other classic rock bands, it was a foregone conclusion that I would love classical music, especially Beethoven. My first experience was during the opening of the vault scenes blasting “Ode to Joy” in one of the greatest Christmas movies of all-time – Diehard – though I didn’t quite realize that it was Beethoven at the time. Of course, there were also certain church hymns at Sunday Mass set to Beethoven’s 5th and (aforementioned) 9th symphonies, but again I didn’t know or care about the composer. Finally, when I was 19, I took a music appreciation class at Purdue and the professor made the classical artists cool rebels and I started taking notice. Soon after, I was interning at Kimberly-Clark in Neenah, WI, everyone around me significantly older and (in my mind) more mature twenty-something year-olds. At parties, I was the youngest, and I would tell them how much I loved Pink Floyd and in my sophistication easily migrated my interests to Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, etc.

I sounded like an idiot.

But I kept listening, as my tastes expanded to all sorts of musical genres and artists. I remembered on my long drives home and back how I would crank Beethoven’s 5th enjoying its frenetic energy, fall in love with his 9th and cheerfully scream pretending to say the foreign words during its fourth movement “Ode to Joy” (masking the homesickness I would feel increasingly with each trip back and forth). I would relish in the serenity of his 6th symphony floating in a sea of green, and I would envision driving my car fast and ever faster with each note of “The Egmont Overture”, only to drive faster still this time again with his9th, but this time its third movement “molto vivace”. I would play “Fur Elise” thinking that someday I would play that for the person I was meant to be with. Each of his pieces would evoke such emotion within me, and to this day, continues to do so.

The next few days will be tough. They always are after epic moments, these past five weeks among the most epic I’ve ever lived; but I’ve a feeling, I’ll be fine. I’ve got it on good authority. My friend is quite wise. She said I “experienced so much in a month! [I] will be just fine:)”

Cue the music….


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