Death and the Trout

Franz Schubert (1797–1828) – I remember first hearing Schubert’s Death & the Maiden. It was love at first listen. I was sometime in the late 60’s. I had ordered it from Record Club Of Canada, which dealt with inexpensive reissues &, as it turns out, pirated cassettes. It was not the classical music I was accustomed to, that sweet, romantic Mozart stuff. This was strident, rhythmically challenging & almost rock’n’roll. Relentless & emotionally demanding.

In my collection I have a bunch of lp to cds that include Minutes/ Lieder/ Tanze; Lieder; Tanz/ Dances/ Valses; Waltzes/ Lieder; Waltzes/ Quartet/ Tanzes. The piano pieces were transfers of Vox box sets – sadly I didn’t note who played them. The lieder were sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. 

As stand-alones I have Wanderer Fantasy & over paint music; Trout Quintet & other chamber music; 12 German dances & other orchestral work; Complete Symphonies & overtures;  The Last Four Quartets (includes Death & The Maiden); Works for Violin & Piano; Auf den Strom & other vocal pieces.

No, this is not the complete works 🙂 But the bulk of it. The solo piano music is pretty to romantic. He wrote music for over 600 lieder! I only have a small selection of these – which I picked up only because of the Trout Quintet which was based on one of the lieder. I would love to hear a less concert set of the lieder – all version I have heard are too controlled & polished. Museum pieces.

His chamber music is delightful & comes from a time when people would host salons to listen to this music – or families would learn the pieces to play for themselves. The symphonies & melodic, sweeping & satisfying. Some of his work is surprisingly modern: songs for soprano, French horn & piano! 

If you are unfamiliar with Schubert I’d suggest the Trout Quintet to start as it is fun, the string quartets are good springboards to the rest of his work. He wrote an astonishing amount of amazing music & died at the age of 31 – 31! Did he write in his sleep?

This story goes back to mid 80’s. Dot-matrix print helped to date it, plus the subject matter. I was involved in the early days of ACT & some of it reflects the resistance of bar owners to become activists for safe sex. 

Cooler

“This beer isn’t cold.”

“Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!” Carl replied. “Hardly opened & already the queens are bitchin.”

“It tastes kind of weird too.”

“You should know.” Carl, standing on a stool in front of the upright cooler, turned to look down at George. The cooler was about seven feet high, & as wide as two refrigerators.

“Try it, if you’re so smart.”

Carl finished wiping the sign over his station & stepped down, pinning on a Play It Safe button he had found on top of the cooler. He was pleased, having worked at Matthew’s for only about a month, he already had a sign over his station. The pink-on-black sign read:

CARL’S COOLER

cooler than most

“Well,” he sighed stepping down. “What seems to be the problem George.”

George, usually his first sale every night, dropped in on his way home from work to unwind & unload. Carl had gotten used to life stories. He discovered that there was something about his size, a smidge over 5’4”, that made men want to confide in him. He sort felt like everyone’s little brother.

George handed him the beer. “You tell me.”

Carl took a sip & spit it out. “Jez! That’s piss.”

“You should know.” George joked.

Carl had never tasted piss, but the instant he held the bottle the word flashed in his mind. That flash was something he had gotten used to since he started working here, as the names of regulars he had never met, popped into his head, along with their favourite brands.

“Holy fuck.” Carl turned to his well-stocked cooler. “Has Jack been playing games with you babe? We’ll see about this.”

After giving George a fresh beer, he ducked through the entrance way under the bar & went looking for Jack, the manager & resident clown. If there was something funny happening, Jack’d be behind it. Of all the staff, Jack was the only one who rubbed him the wrong way, mainly because Carl wouldn’t rub him any way.

Jack was in his usual haunt, chatting up Barry, that week’s coat-check boy. 

“What’s up frost bite? Let’s not get political!” He ripped the Play It Safe pin off Carl’s t-shirt. “I had enough of that crap with Will, & now that he’s gone we’ll have no more politics, thank you.”

“Staying alive is more than politics.” Barry butted in.

Jack gave him a quick, dismissive glance. “We’re not going to discuss it. As I said, before I was so rudely interrupted.” He dropped the button into an ashtray. “What’s up, ice box?” He smiled pleasantly at Carl.

Carl handed him the bottle. “You tell me.”

Jack sniffed. “Well?”

“Piss. I guess.”

“Huh?”

“Some creep put a bottle of piss in my cooler.”

“You on the rag or what?” Jack replied.

“Full moon tonight.” Barry added cheerfully.

Carl was getting a bit steamed. He really liked working in gay bars, but sometimes these fucking queens got a bit too ditsy to tolerate. Even though this run-in with Jack had lasted less than five minutes, Carl knew he wasn’t going to be able to put up with any more if it.

“Just letting you know, boss,” He squealed to imitate Hervé Villechaize. “Don’t want any trouble on Fantasy Island.”

“Okay. I’ll check with the others. You get back to your cooler.”

Carl’s cooler, facing away from the dance floor, was in one of the darker corners of the bar. Being close to the men’s room it got a lot of traffic. George was waiting for another.

“Find out anything?” George asked.

“Yeah. Ghostbusters are on their way over.”

The first week at Matthew’s had been a bit rough, but once he got into the routine it wasn’t bad. One of the other staff had helped rearranged his cooler one night, so that the most popular stuff was always at hand. He discovered that stepping on the right spot on the floor the cooler would open for him. The beer he was reaching for was always the nearest. Tips were all right, & he did get to meet nearly every available man around. After two months he was comfortable there. Even Jack wasn’t hard to take, in small doses.

Other than the few regular early birds, things were quiet until after eleven. Carl was chatting with Dan, a somewhat intense blond, who didn’t drink but had a rare passion for tiny perfect men.

“Here’s my number.” Dan said encouragingly, giving Carl his number written on a corner torn from a page of the book he was reading. “You won’t regret it & I know I’ll enjoy myself.”

Carl was used to drunks hitting on him, looking for sympathy & to be humoured, but for someone sober to show an interest was unusual. Dan had been telling him about a play he had seen earlier, & Carl, for the first time, realized he was missing a big section of night life by being this part of it.

“I’m just a deep-in-the-sleazy-dark barmaid.” He laughed to Dan.

“You’re still alive, honey, so can’t have been all that sleazy,” Dan replied.

“I guess staying alive is more important to my sexual identity than sex.” Which was true. Despite the more than ample supply of available men, Carl had always been cautious. Even before AIDS, he hadn’t been one for sleeping with anyone just because they wanted him. He liked Dan, & felt his hormones beginning to hum. He folded the number & put it in his wallet.

“So give me a call. I’d like to see you in the daylight.”

“So would most of the guys here.” 

 part 2 next week

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 



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