11 July 2013

I Think It Was Puccini

Remember Wally? The guy who played the Mendelssohn at my wedding on the contra-bass clarinet? And who once jumped up and down on a peanut butter sandwich?And who wore an oak toilet seat with panache?

Wally just had his 80th birthday, and his family threw a big wonderful party for him. I got tapped to stand up and say something about him, so I told the story about the day he'd taken me to the opera.

I was in graduate school, without two nickels to rub together, and Wally called me up one morning. He'd just gotten out of a gig with the contractor for the Met Orchestra, and the guy had given him a pair of tickets to that night's performance. I said sure, and asked him what I should wear. Wally told me he was wearing his usual, which was (and still is) some variation on East German army surplus: head to toe drab with a lot of pockets. So I put on a black turtleneck and a pair of jeans - my usual - and met him for dinner at a restaurant near Lincoln Center. After dinner, at which he produced his own traveling peppermill out of one of his many pockets because you never know when you're going to need freshly ground pepper, we headed over to the opera house. We handed our tickets to the usher, we set off down the aisle, we got closer and closer to the stage. Ta da! Two seats in the third row of the orchestra. On a Monday night. Let that sink in - Monday night at the opera. Dress up night. Everyone around us was in tuxedos and sequins. We were ... not.

You know what? It really doesn't matter what you wear. The opera was divine even though the adjacent people thought we were déclassé infiltrators.


Carol Steel said...

What a great Wally story; he is gold.

Anonymous said...

Great story. Performers need an audience, it is dark during the concert!


Unknown said...

Love this story.

Catherine said...

The traveling peppermill is a wonderful detail! Great story.

Elissa said...

Lovely Maggie - thank you for writing about my Dad - he was so pleased to have you all at the party!