Sunday, September 19, 2004


If I might bore you again, my dear audience, with the terrifically dull minutia of my life I would like to digress on careers.

First, a little known fact about myself: when growing up I always wanted to be a marine biologist. But for a few semesters when I was in my mid-teens I wanted to do a double major in math and music. However, when I considered the possibilities of a B.A. in math and music compared to one in biology, my choice was biology. Do I regret it? Sometimes, like today, yes. I look at the verdant hills on the other side of the divide of my life and think perhaps I should have made my choice otherwise and fuck it all.

So if I might, I give you an ode to my musical and mathematical life.

I started playing the flute when I was 5. Perhaps this is unknown to the general public but flutes aren't made to fit the arm span of a 5 year old child. So I had a curved headjoint. I still have it I think, somewhere in my parent's house tarnished with the spit of a thousand renditions of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Bach's minuets.

My first flute teacher was Elize, a young pretty mother with long hair and flowing skirts. She moved after about a year and I started with Delia. She was overweight, lived on Miami Beach, wore a lot of black and kept her dark hair cut short and stylish. She absolutely won my heart but unfortunately she dated drug addicts and ended up pregnant by one. She moved back to her family in North Carolina and left me with a pale, boring ex-band member. Despondent at the loss of my adored teacher, I took a three year sabbatical. Then I started again with a graduate student at the University, I can't even remember her name. Her main function was leaving at the end of the spring semester and giving me the number of Suzanne.

Suddenly I got serious. I started playing in flute ensemble and concert band. I was up until 2 a.m. handwriting painfully neat scores for my arrangement of The Swiss Shepard and practiced the solo part for two hours a day. When I write the letter "f" it still looks like a forte.

Around this time I was taking math classes. Math has always come easily to me, but for a long time I harbored a pure, burning hatred of it. I would spend math class drawing patterns on my arms, study the day before the test and score a perfect 100. When I went to my pre-calculus teacher for a recommendation note he told me that of course he remembered me, I did extremely well on all his tests. But he also remembered me because I never asked questions in class, appeared uninterested in his lectures and sat in the middle rows. I stared at him in disbelief, my jaw dropped. Was it my fault that I didn't need to ask about the equation for a parabola?

But then there was calculus. At 7 a.m. with Professor Steed, a man who had been unfavorably compared to Satan. And for me, it all came together. Suddenly I was fascinated by my problem sets. Class was still boring but homework was fun. I continued to do well on tests and homework and Professor Steed developed a fondness for me.

At the same time I was working as a peer tutor on campus and after explaining the problem sets in the algebra text book roughly 600 times, I developed an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. I giggled and flirted and sweet-talked the stoner business calculus student and the stay at home mom algebra student. They learned to find the minimums of functions and how to do word problems. I spread the love and on the side I made $15 an hour tutoring privately. Life was good.

But I want to travel to the tropics, peer under rotting wood and climb to the top of the rainforest canopy. So I study biology. And life is still good but sometimes when I sit in a cafe studying, above the murmur of the patrons I hear the Queen of the Night's aria from Mozart's Magic Flute and think about the pleasure of slipping my notes into the weave of the tempo, the technical precision I used to have as my fingers ran up and down scales and the feeling of knowing I'd made my teacher proud, whether by completing a technically tricky etude or standing in front of an audience in concert black.

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