Friday, May 02, 2008



In the mid-seventies I was heading into my senior year at high school. My last campus tormentor had graduated in June, and I was looking forward to a year of not flinching and hiding. I watched my schoolmates coming out of band practice with their horns and drum gear, and looked down at my ukulele without a case. The Aragon High School jazz band had no use for a ukulele.

I was thinking about stealing a new last name, and imagining a future in journalism that was shaped more by romantic ideas of Herman Mankiewicz and H. L. Mencken than by anything possible in 1975. I had written for the school paper and now my oldest friend from first grade and two friends of his and I were starting an independent paper through school clubs. It was probably the apex of my being full of myself. Belated apologies to all who knew me.

Into this reflective time of stormy youth came illumination from the heart and soul of Leonard Bernstein, whose first ballet score, the jazzy, slangy Fancy Free, had been rattling around my head for a whole year. My local public tv station, KQED, was showing THE UNANSWERED QUESTION: Six Talks At Harvard on Saturdays in the second half of summer. I was not the same kid after the first talk, Musical Phonology.

The series is still available in hardcover, VHS, and DVD. It still turns me on, even in four minute chunks. One of those is below via YouTube.

3 comments:

Michele said...

Who were your high school tormentors? I think my only Aragon nemeses were Mr. DuCray and Mr. Silva.

Steven Strauss said...

I know you weren't made of Teflon when we went to high school, but it seemed that way to most of us attending alongside you. One got the impression that no mere student could get your goat, that the penalties leveraged against your freedom were pittances you could pay without getting down off your horse. You were one of the ten most powerful girls at our high school while you were there, by virtue of your superior self-possession. Things that scared most of us were ho hum to you, or so it seemed.

Steven Strauss said...

I missed answering your question. I'd have to get down El Tesoro to get the names of these guys. It wasn't personal; I don't think they gave me any more thought than they gave a line of ants coming in a crack in the wall. Except for my big sister's friend's friend, T. Barnes.