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Bach and Climate Change

by Dr. David, Editor / Publisher

I was in a relationship with a violinist, A., for seven years, before I came to SMA. While we were together, A.'s friend, B., asked her to come and accompany him on a couple of his pieces at a composers' symposium at Yale, where B. taught music theory.

This composers' symposium was attended by a certain "Mr. Alfred," who was the head of Lincoln Center. When this august individual heard A. play, he told B. that Ashe must come and perform for Yitzchak Perlman and his guests at one of the master's Saturday night soirées. This A. did, making quite an impression on that greatest violinist in the world. When I asked A. what it was that so wowed Mr. Perlman (and indeed he was wowed), she replied, "It was my sensitivity."

I've wondered now and again what life would have been like if instead of choosing to move to Mexico I had followed A. to California. But memory is so unreliable. My recordances of Connecticut all involve the sun-filled days of late spring and summer. So, thinking back on A., I blot from my mind, the overcast and storms, stark late autumn and winter's cold. Her impressive sensitivity did not confine itself to the realm of harmony and meter, but ran wild in many, less musical regards.

Alyssa was a raw food vegan. She'd make delicious pates, combining: onions, almond butter, spinach, garlic... and cayenne pepper, in a food processor. She'd scoop up these lethally hot creations with a fat carrot instead of a fork or spoon. Now and then, biting off a piece of the organic, orange utensil.

I like it hot. But I learned quickly to spread out what A. offered; her pates over rice or pasta or some other slower burning alimentation, and her passions over a physical and emotional distance. I made my own contributions to our conflagrations, but that woman was forever going up in flames. Like diesel fuel under a little pressure, she was liable to explode without a spark.

I usually arrived towards end of her massive practice sessions, 12 hours channeling Bach, joking more than once, "I get a private concert and I get to have sex with the violinist." A., herself an ardent environmentalist, once paid me the compliment, "You are the most ecological person I know."

I am "Mr. Ecology." I don't have "kitchen waste." I have organic matter which I feed to my worm farm, and harvest as soil. I reuse everything, until the thing is no longer good for use, washing out plastic bags multiple times. I throw away so little that I only have to go out and meet the garbage truck once a month, and then only with a small (five) pail.

Recently, Veronica's friend helped her reorganize her kitchen. Unfortunately, this included throwing out a collection of my plastic bags, including zip locks and some oversized beauties. I'm always schlepping food up to Vero's from my house or the market.

I was distressed. Vero's assurances that she would get me new plastic bags were of no use. They were contrary to my environmental ethic. I didn't want to unnecessarily add something to the landfill, something that will last 10,000 years. I didn't want new plastic bags, with the environmental impact that their manufacture would entail. I wanted my good, old, reliable plastic bags.

There I stood, distressed, violated, until, eureka! I marched out to the bodega, took the top off the barrel and, reaching in, recovered my babies, all as I had left them, stuffed inside one outer bag that had shielded them from the real garbage.

As my story about A. proves, by association, my sensitivity, I trust that the bag tale demonstrates my environmental bona fide. When it comes to non-recyclables, I add a fourth R to "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"... Refuse.

Browsing the Civil List (as a publisher, it's one of my ways of staying in touch with our community), I came across a post entitled, "Need advice on Installing a Ductless mini split air conditioner". A woman wanted to install a 1.5-ton unit: "Hola Listeros, this is my first time in SMA in the month of May. And as you all know, it's very hot..."

I wrote back suggesting an evaporative cooling device. Another person replied, cautioning, "I would also look into how much electricity they use. I think you will be surprised at how much you will pay. Once you hit a certain usage, your bill stays high for months...even when your ductless is not in use. It is why so many of us use fans."

The month of May is brutal in SMA, even indoors, depending on how your home catches the sun. "The sun beats down like a heat-lamp gone ape." Woody Allen. My study is particularly exposed, which is why its door is closed, and I am on its other side, with a fan blowing on me across the dining room table as I write this.

Virtue signaling costs you nothing. Defunding the city police makes little difference to those living in suburbia. I don't want to be unkind, but I wonder, worried as I imagine she is about climate change, does this woman, about to install a 1.5-ton air conditioning system so that she can sleep in absolute comfort in May, consider the carbon footprint of her actions?

The best thing you can personally do for the planet, is to refrain from buying a new car. Yet, how many of us forgo that pleasure?

A friend of mine has rightly pointed out that it is industrial, not personal, consumption of resources that are ruining the planet, that people adopting a green lifestyle makes precious little difference. But I respond that this is my personal choice.

A., wherever she may be, is another, Don Quixote, living in her own world, communing with the spirit of Bach, bowing away on her fiddle. But from the genius of her mad sensibilities comes a sound that makes Yitzchak Perlman kvell.

No virtuoso I, there may yet emerge some method from my environmental madness, my mono-maniacal sustainability. The rabbis advise us to live as though the whole world were in the balance, and that one good deed could tip the scales. I don't know about the whole world, but my life is leaning in that direction.

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