Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Monday, June 08, 2015


Well, I'm back.” – Sam Gamgee
Sorry for the lengthy hiatus. For some of the time, I have a good excuse for not posting – I was away on sabbatical for a year – and for the rest of it, I have an even better one – general malaise, with a side of laziness.
Thanks to those kindly who inquired as to the fate of the blog, and even in a few rare instances, my own well-being. The requests to have the blog start up again were all greatly appreciated and truly touching. Any fellow creeping along a high ledge, hearing the crowd below encouraging him to 'jump!' would be so moved.
After rubbing elbows with the peculiar brand of paranoia extant in the orchestra for many years, I find it difficult to divulge my exact whereabouts during my time off. With the beginning and endpoints shrouded in secrecy, details of my travels to other points around the globe must remain necessarily vague. Flirting with treasonous candor, a few nuggets of information are more than I should provide.
My goal was to spend the entire year out of the zip code, in a different time zone, and for at least half the time, off the continent all-together. For four months, I sojourned in an American city, famous for its bridge, if not other things. During that time I prepared a possibly ill-advised (as if there was any other kind of) double bass recital, which I presented in my hometown.
The next four months were spent in an island nation, notable for the tendency of its inhabitants to drive on the left-hand side of the road. After that, the remainder of the year passed in a city on the European Continent, formerly a great naval power, now celebrated for its scenic canals, if not its cuisine.
I returned to work in September 2014, with every intention of starting up the old blog again. But, as I found out, it's hard to get on when the merry-go-round is already spinning. And after a year away, the orchestra can seem a bit overwhelming, like gazing at one of those Bruegel paintings of teeming village life. The longer you look, the more quirky and curious things you might see – there are always small scenes of cruelty or debauchery lurking at the corners.
The only incident worth recounting from my sabbatical happened right at the beginning.
A couple days drive from a Large Midwestern City will bring you to the congressional district of a former vice president, ironically the man most responsible for ushering the phrase 'undisclosed location' into common usage. When choosing a roadside motel, especially with a year's worth of belongings crammed into one's car, the often warring desires for cheapness or comfort are subsumed by the need to park as closely to the room as possible. Finding myself in this particular undisclosed part of the country, I had very low expectations.
The first surprise came at finding a cheap, clean motel, with parking right at the door to the room. Next was discovering the place had a happy hour with all the free beer you could drink. The bartender, who I vowed never to forget but whose name flew right out of my head after the second large plastic cupful, kept the tap flowing freely. Besides myself and the bartender, the place was deserted except for a group of four thickly bearded men in camouflage, and a bunch of animal heads bearing doleful witness through their glass eyes.
How about a little television? The friendly barman snapped on the set before supplying the room with another round.
Even with the set behind me, it wasn't long before the hairs on the back of my neck began standing up. That unmistakable sound – I can't bring myself to really call it music. I'll be damned if LOTR:TTT* wasn't on TV. Almost unbelievably, those were the last concerts I'd played with the {redacted}SO before my sabbatical began, a few days earlier.
One of the camouflaged gentlemen, and it struck me I had no idea whether they were dressed for an excursion of animal or human slaughter, was out of his seat, quick as a cat, heading for the TV. With a hand on the knob, and in a voice that left no doubt anyone in disagreement would likely find their head mounted on the wall among the glassy-eyed creatures, he asked rhetorically, nobody's watching this, are they?
My sabbatical went on for another 363 days, but I might as well have headed home the next morning. I didn't learn a more profound thing the entire time: You can find a kindred spirit in the most unlikely of places.
*Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


Lisa Hirsch said...

Welcome back! I'm so glad to see this posting, and especially glad that you were well and having some adventures.

radek-helgren said...

As long as Vice President {redacted} was not one of those guys in the bar, you were probably safe.

Unknown said...

Great to see you back. We missed you. And great to know your absence was for pleasurable activity

David Sanders said...

Welcome back Michael

CK Dexter Haven said...

A belated "welcome back" from me as well. Very happy to be reading your writing again.