September 20th, 2015
Here is a second preview — Chapter 11 of my first short story entitled “Bad Magic”.
This chapter takes place around day 4 or 5 of the tour.
I don’t even know where we are right now. Took a long busride starting at 9 this morning (again, pitch black outside), stopped at a little truckstop in the middle of bleak Chinese nowhere; sky, air, and snow-covered ground all the same shade of milky grey, several huge nuclear silos pumping out unthinkable amounts of grey radioactive smoke into the surroundings. This really was a horrible, horrible corner of the world.
Maestro was on the same bus as us, though of course, with respect to protocol, cannot stoop low enough to talk to anyone in the orchestra, except, perhaps, the concertmaster (who is only allowed to agree, even when not on duty). He made a huge stink to our Chinese organiser about the frigid temperature of the bus. “We aren’t DOGS!” he kept on repeating, growing more and more aggressive, without letting the organiser finish a sentence. (To be fair to Maestro it was cold on the bus, but he was still being, for lack of better words, a total asshole.) It’s usually a certain type of man who is attracted to being a conductor, think about it — this burning desire to be the leader of a massive group of musicians playing the world’s most melodramatic and loud repertoire. Behind every conductor is a nit-picker, a control freak; and our Maestro was the kind who seemed to be fighting all of his demons with every single tiny battle he couldn’t stop himself from picking. I turned on my cattle-mode, my passive German mode, and watched him with simple curiosity, lazily, as if it were perhaps a theater piece. Because that’s all it was, really. All this drama, how embarrassing for them! Busride became absolute sauna in revenge for this altercation. I was okay with it, I had no choice but to be, the sweaty heat really mellowed me out. And in some weird way, it felt good to just submit to the ridiculousness of the situation. Who says every situation exists just so that you could form an opinion about it, who cares if what’s going on is right or wrong: the only thing more silly than this fight would be to get upset over it.
Arrived to massively grand hotel in Bumblefuck, China — all I really knew is that we were somewhere else between Kyrgystan and Mongolia — and took well-deserved sweaty shower. So far, all the bathrooms we’ve seen have a huge open windowpane to the rest of the room, with a curtain only on the outside, so effectively the person who’s left in the room has to decide whether or not they want to watch you shit and shower. So much for privacy. We are sharing hotel rooms on this tour which, ordinarily, isn’t so comfortable, but luckily this time around I was sharing with my real-life flatmate, one of the oboists. Though, when you think about it, never being alone for more than two weeks, even in your bedroom, and on top of that, with some stranger who is likely to be insane, an alcoholic, or at the very least as testy of an exhausted jerk as you are, can be a really stressful part of tour life. (Not to mention the difficulty of tour masturbation contributing greatly to the aggressivity of the hook-up game in the first few days of a new project.)
Ate very gemütlich lunch with Horn Player, who was drinking warm white wine furiously, two timid attractive Hungarians who I didn’t know existed, and two Russians, who were also indulging in a little afternoon pre-concert drinking. United by our common enemy, we make fun of our shitty Maestro for hours. I was alot of fun, and it was nice to see how everyone was mellowing out on tour. We all knew it was a godawful orchestra, and the best thing we could do was spend our paycheques, have a good laugh about it all, and try to enjoy being in China. Learned the Chinese word for Rice but when I said it to the waiter she brings giant bowl of greasy tripe soup. Hmmm.
Talk of mutiny continued since we hadn’t received our third installment of money. Dark stories spread about how others had not been paid from this orchestra in the past. I immediately felt stupid to have agreed to have the money bank-transferred instead of cash-in-hand, but hoped for the best.
Dinner came only after the concert yesterday, which took place in some kind of basketball stadium with communist flags everywhere, children in red, and soldiers sitting on children’s stools. It couldn’t have been more than 10 degrees on stage. Before the concert came several speeches, presumably from city officials, and some kind of kitschy movie about tourism in the area. We learned that we were being billed as the Berlin Philharmonic, which came as a huge surprise to everyone, conductor included (supposedly). I found it hysterical that we were being billed as one of the best orchestras in the world, though other, more serious types were not so amused.