Austrian Love Songs on the Road

I was flying this morning on US Air from Syracuse to Philadelphia and for diversion I listened via iTunes to one of the all time sappy, cream puff albums in recording history, and no it’s not Bobby Sherman or Air Supply—but Placido Domingo’s “Vienna: City of My Dreams” with the Abrrosian Singers and the English Chamber Orchestra—a mix so vastly, happily mawkish that while listening you want to lie down, cover yourself with leaves, then throw them off in a giddy fit and startle strangers with your joy. Christ! The hyper orchestrations of Austrian wanderlust are utterly ridiculous! And Domingo’s voice, still in its prime, is so clear and ringing, the rising notes of dazzle so uplifting, you can’t help feeling like a dancing bird catcher in spring.

Yes. It’s the audible equivalent of dental gas. But I defy you to listen without breaking into a grin.

And now I’m in Allentown, Pennsylvania where I’ll speak tomorrow at Muhlenberg College and Lord! I want to burst on the scene dressed like Papageno with feathered green tights and a bird net.

I’ll bet that’s never happened at Muhlenberg. But then, you never know. Maybe some other visiting poet once arrived in town so deformed by Austrian piff he or she leapt onto the scene dressed like a bird fetishist. Such precedents are not impossible. Where is Judith Malina when you need her?

Forgive me, Judith, wherever you are. I reckon you’ll get the joke. The seriousness industry might kill us yet. More feathers. More sap!

One day many years ago, when I was still brand new at walking places with a guide dog, I entered Central Park in Manhattan with my dog Corky, a big yellow Labrador. We entered somewhere around 72nd Street at Fifth Avenue and made our way to the boat pond. I was walking with my eyes closed. I’d always suffered from tremendous eye pain, and Corky’s great skill allowed me to rest them, and to largely give up on the desperation of residual sight. It was a late March day and the scent of new grass was in the wind. And from a distance we heard boaters laughing on water.

We sat on a patch of lawn. Sometimes I thought of our respective hearts, man and dog, as being wrapped in delicate cloth—by walking and exploring we were unwrapping them. A boy raced past on a skateboard. I wondered if he was unwrapping his own heart. I felt wonderfully giddy beside the pond, imagining the whole city unwrapping hearts and letting little cloths fly away.

Austrian songs.

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