"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Sep 28, 2014

Road to Tahoe

Elizabeth Pitcairn with
Conductor James Rawie

I recently came back from a working holiday in Lake Tahoe.  Not too shabby.  Good friends founded Toccata, the Symphony and Chorus of Tahoe, in 2005, and their 9/11 anniversary concert series featured ElizabethPitcairn, owner of the famous “Red” Mendelssohn Stradivarius (inspiration for the 1998 movie, The Red Violin, with Samuel L. Jackson).

It’s a terrific movie (quite untrue) which prompts similar queries from children and adults alike:

#1 Q:  “Is blood the real reason it’s red?”
A:  No, it’s the original varnish, which proves that whoever owned the violin during its missing years (where the movie stepped in) took exceptional care of the instrument.

Q: “Is it worth a lot of money?”  Some kid asked this during a school demonstration, but everyone really wants to know.

A:  (sic) "Let's just say I could buy a really nice house on Lakeshore Drive.  (Pauses and contemplates the instrument.)  "Why do I have a violin?"

Q: “Did you ever meet Stradivarius?”

Elizabeth acquired the violin at age 16 (“Whisked out of school and off to London, I had 20 minutes to see if I liked it (at Christie’s Auction).  Sounded OK to me, but what would a 16 year old know?”) After discovering the true owner of now-nicknamed Felix, The Red Violin was re-released in a 10th anniversary edition including the featurette, The Auction Block, recounting, as Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story.”

Ms. Pitcairn performed my favorite classical piece:  Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, which I heard in its entirety during four performances; bits and pieces during rehearsals and sound-checks; and off stage while she warmed-up in a private room.

Don’t I sound hoytie-toytie?   But everyone knows I’ll work for food, so I womanned the table selling Elizabeth’s CD’s, and played assistant while she graciously signed autographs during the ‘meet and greets’.  Once I got over my initial nervousness it felt just like art shows, and I quickly fell into my routine, bantering away while folks stood in line for tickets; getting a second chance at “How many violinists does it take…” while they waited for her afterwards.  I kept using the wrong phrase:  “Yes, I’ll be selling these during half-time and at the end of the…?”  

Game? (chuckle, chuckle while I fumbled for intermission and performance)   We know what you mean.”

Go Ducks!  My friends have a home in Incline Village with a usually gorgeous view of the lake, unless I’m visiting.  Both times Tahoe got hit with smoke from California fires, but every once and awhile it cleared enough for a peek.  Something about the great outdoors plus everyone in town being thin caused me to take them up on a short hike with BC while they marathon-biked.

“Anything I need to look out for?  Bears, snakes, wolves?”  One of the first things pointed out upon my arrival were the claw marks on their garage door.   A smarty-bear had opened it up to get at the garbage, but when he came back for seconds and found it locked, he was ticked.

“No wolves around here.”  Hell no; the bears ‘n snakes scare ‘em off.  Going along just fine, photographing nature and only mildly huffing-and-puffing when I stopped dead-in-my-own; contemplating the pawprint I’d just passed.  If it was a dog it was the Hound of the Baskervilles, so I about-faced like in marching band and headed back to the car.

On day 5 or 6 I went out to the truck and found the back doors to the canopy open.  It looked odd; you know how you just stare when you’ve been ransacked; unable to comprehend what’s happened.   I understood immediately that while I’d turned and locked the handle it hadn’t actually caught (it’s happened in the past), so it would open to the touch.  My soft Coleman cooler was gone, but they left other stuff more valuable.  Damn crooks; stupid, too.

Next morning, walking BC, I spotted something down the hill from where I was parked.  Squeezing my eyes, it looked familiar; climbing down I retrieved my plastic container with snap-tight handles which held a spare bag of BC’s food.  Something had torn open the lid (couldn’t un-snap the handles) and BC’s now-empty bag of food ripped to shreds.  Not a kibble left.
Sure enough, a short distance away was my cooler; the zippered lid ripped open and my sample packs of dog treat mixes a mess of flour.  He seemed to enjoy the Vegan variety the  best.  Go figure.

“Didn’t we tell you NOT to leave food in the car?”

People food, I was thinkin’, which is why I brought my Vienna Sausages inside the first load.

1 comment:

  1. Fun to re-live that week through your eyes!!


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