Harpoon Sniffles

Cough cough sniffle sniffle and I’m ignoring even my vibrating iPhone these days in order to concentrate on not stopping … not stopping what, I can’t really say, but if I just keep going maybe it will pass.

I get up, look in the mirror and say, wow, you look terrible. I’m a rumpled portrait of puffy-eyed congestion. A purple-coated cuplet of former Nyquil sits by the riotous bed, remnant of last evening’s binge. I’m a wildman who, sad to say, in the wee hours enjoyed the first hour or so of that Ben Affleck Sandra Bullock debacle before finally the script killed me and most of my charitable intentions towards the universe. Let the scriptwriters go on strike, I say. Let us meditate on all the drivel they have brought us so far. A Tao Te Ching of mediocrity, an endlessly unwrapping scroll which only prevents nausea by pouring more of the same down our throats.

Whoa! Clearly I don’t deal well with a cold, I must be part Martian. Which reminds me, some interesting enigmas regarding my identity surfaced recently on the internet. (Segue awards, anyone?) A young blogger who does not like to capitalize his “i”’s writes the following:

pps – Doesn’t Denk kinda look like the pilot from Firefly? Think about it – have you ever seen them in the same place at once?

The mirror never really tells me what I look like, in my opinion (just like a recording never seems to tell me “the truth” about a piece), and thus I am fascinated to know what people think I look like. (They must know?) A string of adjectives or statistics never really works, but resemblances do: other people are powerful signifiers. I can then transfer, perversely, what I think about them to what I might think about myself.

So, in search of self-knowledge, I followed a link to Wikipedia, the world’s attempt to communally know itself. (I haven’t watched “Firefly.”) The pilot is Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Gender: Male, Born: Late 25th Century, Homeworld: Unknown), and as I read his “life story” I began to have prickles down the back of my neck, symmetrizing the sniffles coming down the front of my face… For instance, Wash is:

A laid-back guy with a dry and occasionally laconic sense of humor …

Hmmm. I read on:

As a pilot, Wash’s flying style oscillates between near panic and a Zen-like calm.

My God, I’m a space pilot, I thought! The piano, perhaps, is merely the spaceship I must be contented with in this lifetime. More:

The two have a passionate and strong relationship, despite Wash’s occasional concern over Zoe’s strong personality and her tendency to assume the more aggressive, traditionally male role in the marriage…

(No comment.) And get this:

His mantra, which he quietly recited in the movie Serenity during a highly stressful situation — “I am a leaf on the wind; watch how I soar” — has become a favorite quotation among fans, although Wash apparently does not know what it means.

Well, the mantra is not great–definitely not what I would choose–but I think it is admirable to have an idiotic, obvious Hallmark Card mantra which you choose deliberately not to understand (ironies upon ironies!). Wash is played by Alan Tudyk, and I couldn’t help looking into him:

Tudyk … was born in El Paso, Texas …. Tudyk studied drama at Lon Morris College (winning the Academic Excellence award for Drama) and Juilliard. While in college, he played Beaver Smith in an eastern New Mexico summer stock theater production of “Billy the Kid.”

If you didn’t already know, I spent many of my “formative” years just down the road from El Paso in southern New Mexico (!) and ate many meals at a Billy the Kid restaurant (!) and I also went to that music school that begins with a J (?). Here’s the clincher:

In the 2005 film Serenity, Wash dies near the end of the film when a harpoon launched by a Reaver ship impales him, killing him instantly.

Sad, sad, sad. As soon as I got over my own death, I scrolled quickly back to the earliest archives of Think Denk. The first entry is March 2005 …

The case is closed, for me. I am “Wash,” a space pilot, and also Jeremy, a pianist, and I shall now live from this moment in cognizance of my dual identity. I will embrace it. I shall, however, be on the lookout for harpoons as I walk my four blocks of center city Philadelphia over to Curtis. Speaking of harpoons, death, and such matters, may I address the following comment to Thomas Ades: 2/7 + 1/10 + 1/24 is NOT an acceptable time signature, EVER.

[If you are in Philly tomorrow, Friday evening, come and hear a sniffly me and some Curtis students have a go at Ades’ Piano Quintet, at Curtis’ Field Hall.]

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  1. Posted November 8, 2007 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    “The mirror never really tells me what I look like, in my opinion (just like a recording never seems to tell me “the truth” about a piece) …”

    That’s because the analogy, and your definition of “truth,” might need some investigation. Assuming that you equate “truth” with “authenticity,” a mirror is a representation that covers a momentary performance of “you,” sniffles and all. A recording is a mechanically assembled reproduction of one (or many) performance(s) spanning multiple moments–which makes the only moment of “truth” aka “authenticity” the act of assembling the recording, but not the act of performing whatever piece goes into the recording.

    Hiya, by the way. Found your blog a couple of days ago and am thoroughly enjoying it!

  2. Posted November 8, 2007 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    And check this out: “pianist” starts with the letter “p” and ends with the letter “t” — exactly the same as the word “pilot.”

    It’s truly eerie.

  3. dan lee
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    you look like jack bauer to me.

  4. dw
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Also from Wikipedia on “Wash” Washburne:

    “Wash then travelled widely, visiting odd worlds where, for example, juggling goslings was the principal form of entertainment.”

    I know where you went to college. Say no more.

  5. wtf
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Wait a minute, I thought you were Yo Yo Ma…

  6. Posted November 12, 2007 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Jeremy have you heard of the lovely little poem of W.H. Auden when he looks in the mirror, like you are doing and says “My face looks like an unmade bed” !

  7. Posted November 12, 2007 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Try some Versed. It will make you feel better.

  8. Posted November 13, 2007 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    The similarity between yourself and Wash was, I thought, a stretch, intended only to amuse my geeky friends. I was wrong. In my humble opinion, the proper authorities should be alerted to this cosmic continuity – physicists, psychics, etc.

    Thanks for the unfailingly luminous writing.


    (For the record, one of my guest bloggers prefers her “i”‘s to be lowercase. She feels it is slimming.)

  9. Posted November 13, 2007 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    PS – The fans were extremely unhappy that Firefly’s creator, Joss Whedon, chose to kill Wash/you, and that Wash’s/your death by harpoon was unnecessary and tragic. I hope that you/Wash find some solace in this.


  10. Posted November 13, 2007 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    wish i could have been in philly. feel better. *hug*

  11. Laura
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Alan Tudyk also plays “Steve the Pirate” in Dodgeball.
    Therefore Jeremy Denk=The triple P threat of Pianist, Pilot, and Pirate.
    That’s pretty sweet.

  12. John Perkins
    Posted November 17, 2007 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    “Speaking of harpoons, death, and such matters, may I address the following comment to Thomas Ades: 2/7 1/10 1/24 is NOT an acceptable time signature, EVER.”

    Yes! School him!!!

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