Friday, March 13, 2009
I have two cats, Mookey and Dooley, mother and daughter. While Mookey is a more intelligent cat, the little one Dooley is much more simpler, a good cat, but of a kind that seems to never grow up. She's a very affectionate cat and follows me wherever I go around the apartment. She's also very curious. Whenever I take a bath, Dooley will accompany me into the bathrrooom and take a peek at what I'm doing. You can literally see the question mark on her face.
Recently I let the bath water in. Since our water runs very slow, I went back into my room and did some work on the computer. After a few minutes I heard something splashing in the bathroom and Dooley was darting past me into the dining room so fast I could hardly see her. I checked the bath water, everything was OK. Then I checked Dooley.
She was soaking wet. It took her quite a while to get herself cleaned up again.
When Xenia and I came to New York from
Chicago, we arrived in the bus station
with about twenty-five cents.
We were expecting to stay for a while with
Peggy Guggenheim and Max Ernst.
Max Ernst had met us in Chicago and had
said, “Whenever you come to New York,
come and stay with us. We have
a big house on the East River.” I went
to the phone booth in the bus station,
put in a nickel, and dialed.
Max Ernst answered. He didn’t
recognize my voice. Finally he
said, “Are you thirsty?” I said,
“Yes.” He said, “Well, come
over tomorrow for cocktails.”
I went back to Xenia and told her what had
happened. She said,
“Call him back. We have
everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
I did. He said, “Oh!
It’s you. We’ve
been waiting for you for weeks.
Your room’s ready. Come right over.”
- John Cage
Thursday, March 12, 2009
This summer I’m going to give a class in mushroom
identification at the New School for Social
Research. Actually, it’s five field trips, not
really a class at all. However, when I proposed it
to Dean Clara Mayer, though she was delighted with
the idea, she said, “I’ll have to let you know later
whether or not we’ll give it.” So she spoke to the
president who couldn’t see why there should be a
class in mushrooms at the New School. Next she spoke
to Professor MacIvor who lives in Piermont. She
said, “What do you think about our having a mushroom
class at the New School?” He said, “Fine idea.
Nothing more than mushroom identification develops
the powers of observation.” This remark was relayed
both to the president and to me. It served to get
the class into the catalogue and to verbalize for
me my present attitude towards music: it isn’t
useful, music isn’t, unless it develops our powers
of audition. But most musicians can’t hear a single
sound, they listen only to the relationship between
two or more sounds. Music for them has nothing to
do with their powers of audition, but only to do
with their powers of observing relationships. In
order to do this, they have to ignore all the crying
babies, fire engines, telephone bells, coughs, that
happen to occur during their auditions. Actually,
if you run into people who are really interested in
hearing sounds, you’re apt to find them fascinated
by the quiet ones. “Did you hear that?” they will
- John Cage
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
My pal Gerhard and I meet each week at the pub for a few pints and a chat. We have been doing this on a very regular basis for more than 2 decades. Over the years we had to change the pubs we would meet at. The current pub is called Büro ('office'), and we have been going there for 6 years ever since it has opened.
About 10-15 years ago we used to meet at a late night pub called Milljöh ('milieu') which - besides the usual drinks - also served food till 3am. It doesn't exist anymore. One night at this pub, it must have been around 2am, the pub owner Edith came to our table and said: "You guys better get out of here, the house is on fire!" At first we were dumbstruck, inside the pub you didn't notice that anything was going on.
As requested we left the pub. Once outside we were in the midst of an apocalyptic scenery. The medieval streets were all fogged in by very dark smoke, and there were hundreds of burning flakes dropping from above, which was probably quite dangerous as they could cause burns and also set other buildings on fire. We stepped up the street, and there we saw at the top of the row of buildings that one house's roof was fully ablaze, and the flames were sparking burning debris and ashes all over the place. Although the pub's house was not on fire, it was clearly in danger of getting set on fire as well. Since we didn't want to disturb the fire department's work and for our own safety we left very soon and went on home.
Later in the local news I learnt that the fire went on most of the night and that the firemen were able to stop the fire and save the actual house (but not the roof) and the neighbouring buildings.
The burning house is the one I live in today.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Years ago in Chicago I was asked to accompany two
dancers who were providing entertainment at a
business women’s dance party given in a hall of the
YWCA. After the entertainment, the
juke box was turned on so everybody could dance:
there was no orchestra (they were saving
money). However, the goings-on
became very expensive. One of the arms in
the juke box moved a selected record on to the
turntable. The playing arm moved to an
extraordinarily elevated position. After
a slight pause it came down rapidly and heavily
on the record, smashing it.
Another arm came into the situation and removed the
debris. The first arm moved another
selected record on to the turntable.
The playing arm moved up again,
paused, came down quickly,
smashing the record. The debris was
removed by the third arm. And so
on. And meanwhile all
the flashing colored lights associated with
juke boxes worked perfectly, making
the whole scene glamorous.
- John Cage
At my cinema I had a regular visitor. He didn't watch the movies, he came to visit and have a few beers on one of his irregular drinking sprees. His real name was Rudolf, but everybody called him the Wiper, a name he got for the job he used to have cleaning up in my competitor's cinema. He was small and a bit stumpy and had a club foot. Neverthless he appeared to be quite burly and always made a fierce impression to anyone who crossed his way.
He very much annoyed guests and was always ready for an argument, therefore well-known in town and banned from most premises. His standard introduction was to make a threatening Maori warrior face, gnash loudly with his teeth and proclaim: "I'm a true Apache!" (He actually was of gypsy descent.) Most people were afraid of him, and since he'd otherwise scare my guests at the cinema away, I'd take him with me to the projection room and keep him there till he went off for home. For this reason he considered me to be his best (and only) friend. In reality he was quite harmless, if you didn't count him being a nuisance and stealing your time.
When Walter Hill's movie Geronimo got a German theatrical release I had the luck to get it as a first run. Till then I had managed to avoid having the Wiper inside my cinema, but with his infatuation for the Apaches I knew this time I had to allow him watch the movie. So I told him he could go in for free on the condition that he watch the movie on an afternoon screening when less people were there and that he stay quiet and not bother any other guests. He promised, of course.
One or two weeks later one of my projectionists told me that the Wiper had been to the movie in the afternoon, had been quiet for two thirds of the movie, but then broke out shouting and screaming at the screen, so my friend had to ask him to leave, which he did without arguing.
The next time he visited me I scolded him for not keeping his promise. His face turned into a red anger and he shouted: "William, Geronimo surrendered! He was a complete coward!" He spat on the floor. "I am no more an Apache!"
And he never again introduced himself as an Apache, and henceforth we avoided mentioning Apaches in his presence.
Each one of us has his own stomach; it is not the stomach of
another. Lois Long likes lamb chops. Esther Dam doesn’t. Ralph
Ferrara prefers the way his aunt cooks mushrooms to the way
anybody else does, to wit in olive oil with garlic. As far as I’m
concerned they’re cooked in butter, salt, and pepper and that’s
that. (Now and then with the addition of some cream, sometimes
sweet, sometimes sour, and less often a little lemon juice.)
Once I followed a recipe for stuffed morels under glass. When
we got around to eating them we couldn’t tell what we were
tasting. The dish suggested fancy restaurant food. ¶ Henry
Cowell told me that years ago in Palo Alto two Stanford botany
professors assured him that a mushroom he had found was edible.
He ate it and was very ill. Realizing he had eaten other things
at the same meal and believing that the teachers knew what they
were talking about, he tried the mushroom not once but twice
again, becoming seriously sick each time. ¶ Charles McIlvaine
was able to eat almost anything, providing it was a fungus.
People say he had an iron stomach. We take his remarks about
edibility with some skepticism, but his spirit spurs us on.
Alexander Smith, obliged as a scientist to taste each new
mushroom he finds, is made ill by almost every one of them.
Mushroom poisoning is nothing to laugh about. Nancy Wilson Ross
told me of a gardener on Long Island who had always eaten
mushrooms he collected, who made a mistake, nearly killing
himself by eating one of the amanitas. He recovered and lives
but has never been the same since. He is more or less permanently
debilitated. I went out in the woods in northern Vermont without
any breakfast. (This was about eight years ago.) I began to eat
several species raw. Among them was Boletus piperatus, which is
said to be edible even though it has pores with red mouths, a
danger sign according to many authorities. By noon I was ill,
wretchedly so. I was sick for twelve hours. Every now and then
I managed to tell the Lippolds, whose guest I was, not to worry,
that I wasn’t going to die.
- John Cage