60%

You know when nothing in your life is going right, and so you feel justified in lying around and feeling sorry for yourself, maybe eating ice cream and drinking beer before noon?  (I once saw a guy in Vienna order that for breakfast, and I was in complete awe of him.)  Well, sometimes I think that might be better than when things in your life are going decently––like, it’s 60% cool––so you have no real reason to complain, but also nothing spectacular or even mildly weird is going on, so you’re a little… bored, maybe?  And you know it’s good––better to be bored than putting out fires left and right––but you can’t help but want to shake things up a little?  Maybe by accepting an invite to smoke opium and head on over to a world music fest at the apartment of dark, deranged Dorian Gray.

“At another time he devoted himself entirely to music, and in a long latticed room, with a vermilion-and-gold ceiling and walls of olive-green lacquer, he used to give curious concerts, in which mad gypsies tore wild music from little zithers, or grave yellow-shawled Tunisians plucked at the strained strings of monstrous lutes, while grinning negroes beat monotonously upon copper drums, and, crouching upon upon scarlet mats, slim turbaned Indians blew through long pipes of reed or brass, and charmed, or feigned to charm, great hooded snakes and horrible horned adders.  The harsh intervals and shrill discords of barbaric music stirred him at times when Schubert’s grace, and Chopin’s beautiful sorrows, and the mighty harmonies of Beethoven himself, fell unheeded on his ear.  He collected together from all parts of the world the strangest instruments that could be found, either in the tombs of dead nations or among the few savage tribes that have survived contact with Western civilizations, and loved to touch and try them.  He had the mysterious juruparis of the Rio Negro Indians, that women are not allowed to look at, and that even youths may not see till they have been subjected to fasting and scourging, and the earthen jars of the Peruvians that have the shrill cries of birds, and flutes of human bones such as Alfonso de Ovalle heard in Chili, and the sonorous green jaspers that are found near Cuzco and give forth a note of singular sweetness.  He had painted gourds filled with pebbles that rattled when they were shaken; the long clarin of the Mexicans, into which the performer does not blow but through which he inhales the air; the harsh ture of the Amazon tribes, that is sounded by the sentinels who sit all day long in high trees, and can be heard, it is said, at a distance of three leagues; the teponaztli, that has two vibrating tongues of wood, and is beaten with sticks that are smeared with an elastic gum obtained from the milky juice of plants; the yotl-bells of the Aztecs, that are hung in clusters like grapes; and a huge cylindrical drum, covered with the skins of great serpents, like the one that Bernal Diaz saw when he went with Cortes into the Mexican temple, and of whose doleful sound he has left us so vivid a description.  The fantastic character of these instruments fascinating him, and he felt a curious delight in the thought that Art, like Nature, has her monsters, things of bestial shape and with hideous voices.  Yet, after some time, he wearied of them, and would sit in his box at the Opera, either alone or with Lord Henry, listening to rapt pleasure to Tannhauser, and seeing in the prelude to that great work of art a presentation of the tragedy of his own soul.”

This reminds me of the scene in I Heart Huckabees when that Spanish woman is singing a song about the drought that ravaged her community.  Or about the time seven years ago when I wanted to ask a friend of a friend if her boyfriend, who was a Hare Krishna, could hold a be-in at our apartment.  Now that friend of a friend is dead of a heroin overdose.  Ain’t life absurd?

Postscript: Is it just me, or was Oscar Wilde crushing up pages of A Rebours and snorting them while writing The Picture of Dorian Gray?

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