An Excuse to Use the Word Flabbergasted

So many of my infrequent blogposts begin with the illusion of action, like “I was just settling down to … when …” or “I was innocently insulting my local barista when …” or perhaps:

I was just getting myself comfortable on an 8 AM Amtrak.  You know how it is.  You have your suitcase packed the night before, and you dream all night of things you haven’t packed or will never pack, subconscious toiletries.  Then, you wake up a little bit before your alarm, because your brain is so perversely prepared for unwanted events.  You stumble out of bed, realizing you’re wearing underwear and a sweater which really wasn’t meant for sleeping.  Coffee is made, at least there’s that.  By no means are you cursing yourself and God for ever agreeing to teach a masterclass in Boston at 1 PM.  You wander about the apartment combing it for things and you have everything, absolutely everything, and at last it is simply time, you really must leave, and at that moment of absolute deadline you realize you can’t find your keys.

Hilarity on the subway.  Running over people’s feet with your suitcase, and not really caring that much after the glares they give you.  Leaving the subway at Penn Station, I’m the last one off due to self-evident un-maneuverability, and luckily there’s some nice people mostly blocking the exit wearing their headphones so there’s only that little gate of space between them to squeeze through, while outside on the platform there’s a sea of humanity newly arrived from New Jersey or wherever the hell.  I have only that moment to flee before they all come (nay, barge) in and as I sprint out sensing the desperation of my situation a complete jerk is waiting there, saying contemptuously to his jerk friend “rush hour and THEY bring suitcases.”

We theys won’t be stopped.  I took the sneaky back way into the train past the depressing soup and wrap place and sat down before everyone else.  My mood could only be described as 7:52 AM.  A woman tried to take my seat while I was putting away my suitcase and I explained to her that that was not going to happen.  A cup of decaf and some instant oatmeal later, after some disagreement with the endlessly positive but not really that positive cafe guy, since his positivity is just a mask for deep distrust of the stream of customers and therefore all of humanity, I am opening up my laptop on the train and there it is, a new email:

To Whom It May Concern:

The United States Library of Congress has selected your website for inclusion in the historic collection of Internet materials related to the Performing Arts Web Archive. We consider your website to be an important part of this collection and the historical record.

The Library of Congress preserves the Nation’s cultural artifacts and provides enduring access to them. The Library’s traditional functions, acquiring, cataloging, preserving and serving collection materials of historical importance to the Congress and the American people to foster education and scholarship, extend to digital materials, including websites.

The following URL has been selected for archiving:

My seat partner was probably mystified by my bark of laughter.  Dear Readers of Think Denk, can you believe this?  I could not decide if this turn of events gave me hope, or the darkest despair.  “Of historical importance to the Congress and the American people”!!!  At that moment the very crust in the corner of my eyes felt crustier.  Think like an artifact, I thought.  A cultural artifact would drink some more decaf and think things over.  An artifact procrastinates.  
In the meantime, I forwarded this email to a few select persons, fishing for snark.  Friend L’s reply was quite excellent:

Next up, your box of Captain Crunch and your Isserlis-annoying coffee apparatus to be acquired for the Smithsonian.

An hour later, friend A:

If any offspring of mine wants to write the thesis “Trill, baby, trill: Jeremy Denk and the American Way” in 20 years, I will leave this world by my own hand.

And last but not least, my mother:

Sounds impressive.

Which is a miraculously concise piece of parental ambiguous screw-with-your-accomplishments genius!  Just two words!  “Impressive” or even “Wow” would have supportively sufficed, but the addition of the unassuming word “sounds” carries the deliciously unavoidable implication of it being much much less impressive than the word impressive would suggest.
As I gathered all these responses, I laughed to myself in the train, a great therapeutic laugh, as though the universe and all its numberless stars and empty spaces were laughing along with me.  I had to think of my legacy now, like a second-term president.  What will I leave the children?  

And yes, yet another blogpost has gone by without me discussing music in any substantive fashion whatsoever.

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  1. Jim Basler
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    I’m still enjoying your blog posts, Jeremy, and I’m looking forward to your performance with the Las Cruces Symphony the first weekend of April.

    How are your parents doing? I haven’t crossed paths with them in awhile.

  2. jean
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    You’re not really discussing music in any substantive fashion whatsoever; but you made me think of a piece of music without keys, which you can’t find those invisible keys but you (Jeremy) still can play it beautifully. Not just series of random noise, but now wondering what the no-keys song sounds like? And has anybody ever composed such one? Yeah, there’s Songs without Words, but it has keys, of course….

    I don’t lose my keys. I have a special plate for keys. When I’m out, I wear them on my neck.

  3. Leslie
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I bless the day I first heard you play, and now these delicious posts on your blog.
    You make the sun shine…..
    even on this snowy gray day…

  4. Alison Leslie
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I made a similarly earth-bound journey up to Boston specifically to hear you play at Jordan Hall on Saturday night and soared again that evening, entirely thanks to you (just because the L. of C. thinks you’re remarkable doesn’t automatically mean you’re not, after all. For some of us, you make all the difference!).

  5. Matty
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I first heard you play on the Cape the two summers you stayed with us for a few nights, and Allen and I have followed you these past dozen years. Saturday night’s concert at Jordan Hall was superb! There were moments when I hardly dared breathe for fear of breaking the spell you were casting. In addition to your brilliant playing there was, I thought, a program that was perfect. No war horses, no hum drum – only music that pulled at every emotion and miraculously wove these emotions together. And your encore, a tease, that has me scanning the papers looking for your Goldberg Variations –

  6. Janet
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    It is possible that you are the only person ever to have used the delicious phrase “subconscious toiletries.” Which I guess would prove the Library of Congress correct.

  7. Bill Rogers
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Discuss music substantively. The Library of Congress is counting on it.

  8. anna martina sodari
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    awesome, my confidence in the library of congress is restored.

  9. Justus Schlichting
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I knew you were arty. Less certain about factual. But Congress knows best.

  10. Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  11. jean
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    Have not personally used the word before, but a bit earlier I turned on the TV and heard someone in the Congress said that he’s just so “flabbergasted”. Now this word is sticking in my mind, maybe I will eventually use it sometime….Oh. just realized I haven’t tell you about the Charles Ives’ album yet. I’m going to listen to that again tomorrow.

  12. anna martina sodari
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    hi, jeremy, this is a song that goes with the 482-pg manuscript, ‘the legend of the perfect eternals’. i sent it to jon lomber a little while back after he sent me his prints. when i did, i realized that there is a wormhole in the song! he sent me prints of the boards for carl sagan’s movie ‘contact’, including the one of the wormhole. also, i must have been channeling the persian poet rumi, who i just found out about last year . . . . . .

    micaela’s wedding song

    into a place of joyful overwhelming will i come.
    here on this earth, my Lord will place a heaven i will know.
    and, when you come to me, all time will stop.
    and in your eyes will be the face of God.

    circles round the sun we’ll be dancing.
    legends never dreamt of will come true.
    you have brought me here to this new world.
    let us show them they can have it, too

    please take my hand. together we will
    fly around the moon.
    with joyous heart, the Milky Way will
    be ours before noon.
    and, in that space and time,
    i’ll come to know. just who you are to me,
    i love you so!

    you will be with me for forever,
    one touch of your hand has told me so.
    with my trembling heart, i have felt you.
    with you, gifts of miracles will flow.

    let’s walk this path. i found it when i
    opened up my door.
    the dew of morn winked brightly on those
    flowers i did not know.
    and when i stepped onto that radiant path,
    my heart was lost onto my Lord, my God.

    nowhere have i known such a message.
    Thy will be done has brought such joy to me.
    you have come on wings of the Almighty,
    a gift so that true happiness can be!

    i guess there’s an african-american spiritual called ‘take my hand, precious Lord’ that was sung at martin luther king’s funeral, one of his favorite hymns. one of those theys and thems must have dropped a “job” on me when they flipped me with the crazy bi-polar in 1990, but i always work with a higher power. two brains are better than one! awhile ago i told jon lomberg about the painting i did in 1996 or 1997, for our ‘art in the park’ in little sierra vista, that i realized last spring or so was a rendering of a trinary star system with one star supernovaed. the vase of flowers, make-believe flowers, have two tall bulb blooms of yellow petals lined with pale violet and the vase looks like an abstract cracked glaze in page violet, orange and blue filaments. single star solar systems are not the norm, trinary systems are. around that timeframe i also did a painting of our world with another giant planet hovering in the horizon. years later, i saw an artist’s rendering of a trinary star system on the astronomy picture of the day, and there was my painting. what we have in our squirrelly little brains is amazing! i must have a past life in the time before! i wonder who destroyed the time before . . . . . . a finite universe. that must be the Game. turning a finite universe into an infinite universe. i think we’re in the home stretch! 60 years is jubilee, freedom from all kinds of things in the bible, and i am 57.

    i can’t believe you are coming to tucson to play with the tucson symphony and i can’t get to tucson with my sickly clutch. it’s okay for tooling around s.v. plus, my focus and attention is such that doing the drive to tucson on the highway would not be a good thing. but i will be thinking of you!

  13. Posted April 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Hello! I read your New Yorker tale today. Liked it very much! I really got into it. The only times I came close to surfacing were right before a page turn, when I hoped it wasn’t ending. I was a music major too, in college. Spot on!

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