Saturday Jun 07, 2008
Surprise in the Box
Recently, I had to locate an official paper.
I was sure I knew where it was, but not so. I searched, rifled through draws, closets, boxes, and so on with no success. Where could it be? True, I had been a rolling stone for some time, and it could have ended up who knows where. Eventually, I did find the paper in a small box stored in my sister’s attic.
The big surprise in the box, however, was my discovery of a 90-minute TDK audio cassette labeled “January 23, 1983: to Maxwell from Hal.” What’s this? Over the years, the box had been exposed to the heat of the desert, the humidity of Florida, the cold of the Northeast, and the arctic and equator temperatures of an attic. Could a tape survive this long and in such extreme environments?
When I got home, I popped the cassette in and hit the play button.
The voice came on, a ghost from a quarter century ago. The tape had survived and the sound quality was clear. Hal spoke. He told me he had felt compelled to make this tape expressly for me—we had met on that very day in the afternoon, he goes on to say. I did recollect meeting him when I was living in Santa Monica, California. My mother had invited a few friends, including him, over for lunch, and that was about it. I didn’t remember the tape.
Now, I listened to a magical stream of consciousness—original piano compositions, a cappella, and, during the interludes, he told me how he came to create such wondrous music. I was slack jawed. He excused the piano, which was a slightly out of tune and had a bad pedal; and he had a bit of a cold. But none of that mattered. The feeling of the music and words wove their magic; it flowed through him with intensity, spontaneity, gentleness, and off the cuff wisdom.
Here was the art I am talking and writing about, art beyond the technical, practiced, or rehearsed. Here was art from the soul, unique, captivating, honest, and in competition with no one.
I don’t think I saw Hal again after that initial meeting twenty five years ago. Providence, however, had other plans to reunite us. I am grateful to the bureaucrat who needed my official paper. I am also grateful that this marvelous and profound gift on a cassette reached out across time and space to come back to me—a time traveler in art, life, and loving.
This is quite a remarkable story, and I would sure like to hear what was on that tape. I sense a strong connection here with your previous post.
Was this planned?
In response to your query: 1) not planned, and 2) yes, a definite connection between these two posts.
As some have learned, it is rare to connect with another person; I hadn’t realized this particular connection until I listened to the tape—what Hal said to me 25 years ago is as relevant for me today. The source of all great art is the Creator.
A great experience. It reminded me that after my mother died, I packed away her things, including her stereo. Years later I dragged the thing out, and inside the tape deck was, indeed, a TDK tape. After a hesitation, I hit play. Out came the music of George Winston’s Winter. This I realized was the last music my mom had listened to, and I was starting where she had left off.
I was both amazingly happy and sad.
Thank you for your beautiful and serendipitous thread to this aural sensation of memory, time, space—and connection.