Pen Ultimate / Trio of Trysts

Anyway, I fell in love with the theater at first sight, at the tender (make it in my case 'medium rare') age of six.

"Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all; / What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?" writes the Bard. And thus I decided to count my loves - at least those having to do with culture. I'm not going to enumerate my other ones here, as that is something one does not do unless a good lawyer is present.

Anyway, I fell in love with the theater at first sight, at the tender (make it in my case "medium rare") age of six. It was during a performance for children. He was a clown in a purple costume, with a pointed hat. He raised a finger and said: "Ooooh, ooooh" - the first sound on a high note, the second one shorter, and on a very low note. I found out soon enough that this was to be an addiction, and realized that there would not be much chance of my passion ever being requited. I became a forlorn lover, the object of my affections ever out of reach, but for occasional evening trysts of limited duration.

I have grown accustomed to this relationship, with me being the ever-ardent admirer, always with some part of the "consummation devoutly to be wished," but out of my reach. With the passage of time, I acquired a "clinical" approach to our encounters, comparing performances, analyzing emotions, becoming somewhat distanced from my own love for the theater. But I remained faithful, and being in the hall when the curtain goes up became second nature to me. There is always hope for ecstasy, and I just have to kiss and tell.

My love of books is something that I acquired through a process of osmosis. Such love was in the air in our home. Indeed, from my elders I learned that in books one can find answers, solace, shelter, salves for the soul's abrasions, as well as infinite variety and an open invitation to a wonderful adventure. When I enrolled in Tel Aviv University, I discovered that one could not study just theater, so I went for comparative literature as well.

The world of books provided me with a life of stability and steered me on a career path that led me to many great places. The partnership I managed to establish with books gave me a lot of satisfaction, and allowed me to attain various professional and personal "heights" (editing the literary supplement of Haaretz undoubtedly being one of them). It also made me a fulfilled and mature (relatively, of course) adult. It is a marriage for life, a real companionship, with fluctuating intensity levels, but with absolute and undeniable underlying, mutual loyalty.

On another note

My third love is an unfulfilled dream, tempting and embodying a vision of true happiness: music. I don't know where this fantasy stems from. It's possible the seed was planted one evening, sometime at the end of the 1950s, in our new-immigrant apartment in what is now called Ramat Eliahu. We had no electricity yet, and our only gaslight was burning in the little dining room.

My father had studied music and piano in pre-World War II Warsaw, had perfect pitch and was an accomplished pianist and aspiring composer. I did not know at the time that he had worked part-time as a music reviewer for Warsaw's biggest daily before we left for Israel in 1957. In our immigrant neighborhood he was the local GP, the only one around, a sort of local elite. That evening, he finished his day work at the clinic, made his round of house calls and was sitting, in only a sleeveless undershirt (it was hot even then, believe it or not), on the stool next to the upright piano that emigrated with us (we left the grand behind; too heavy to schlep).

My sister and I were perched on either side, in the semi-darkness, and he was playing, sort of absentmindedly, Brahms' Lullaby. Maybe because we asked, he told us that his parents had made him study medicine, as they did not think music would provide him with sufficient financial means for life. With a candor very uncharacteristic for him, he said that in his opinion, he would have been much happier as a second violinist in any orchestra.

I am not blessed with even a minuscule part of his musical talent, and lack the perseverance that music demands of its practitioners. But I loved and still love it passionately. Music sets my body in motion on its own, and when it is classical music, I'm seized with an uncontrollable urge to conduct it, to mark the beat, to give the cues to the winds and brass and strings, and to "wrap up" the sound when the piece ends.

In my mind I do this very discreetly, especially in public. And that was what I was doing when I was lucky enough to be invited by a good friend to be her escort, in the first row on the balcony of the Mann Auditorium, for one of the 70th anniversary celebratory concerts of the Israel Philharmonic. Radu Lupu was the soloist and Daniel Barenboim conducted, and they were playing Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, a piece I love and know quite well. Next to us sat a couple in their best Philharmonic attire. She had on her wrist a cluster of bracelets that looked like ivory, a very impressive trinket indeed. There was only one slight problem: Every time she needed to smooth her hair, or just move the braceleted hand - and that happened very often - it sounded like castanets. My angry stare must have made an impression, and in the short break between movements, while the audience was busy coughing, she changed seats with her husband. But she kept on moving the contrapuntal castanets.

In the intermission I leaned toward her, apologized in advance, explained the nature of the problem of the bracelet sound being distracting, and asked if she could, please, refrain from moving her hand - or, alternatively, take the cluster of bangles off. She accepted my remarks with an understanding smile, conferred briefly with a friend who was seated behind us, then leaned toward me and with victorious smile said: "As we are already exchanging critical remarks, you should know that I asked my husband to switch seats with me because of your gestures during the performance, which distracted me." Her husband, seated between us, then hastened to add: "But I don't mind them at all."

I have to admit that I racked my brains through the rest of the evening (Lupu and Barenboim performed Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos, and I refrained from cueing them in, yet somehow they managed to perform satisfactorily) to find a way to explain why sound is more distracting than movement at a concert. Somehow, although I'm pretty sure that Beethoven did not write a part for castanets in his orchestra score for the third piano concerto, I completely sympathized with her. No one should be distracted while loving.