February 13, 2024

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.