Day 149: Progress , Week 21

Projects

Confirmed the contents—and the title—of The Man Who Signed the City. Researching typography, book design, production software, publishing platforms. Provisional publication date still July 1, 2019.

In revision on article for Currents, a magazine for editors and writers engaged in university magazine publishing.

The weeks’ reading

  • Daemon Voices, Philip Pullman
  • An Essay on Typography, Eric Gill
  • APE: How to Publish a Book, Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
  • “Letter from Greenwich Village,” Vivian Gornick, The Paris Review
  • “In Defense of Disorder,” Alan Lightman, Aeon
  • “In Defense of Facts,” William Deresiewicz, The Atlantic
  • “Discovering the Expected,” Michael Tuts, Nautilus
  • “Chasing Coincidences,” Amir D. Aczel, Nautilus
  • “Armenian Journal,” Michael Arlen, The Nation

What I had to look up this week

  • Who was Logan Pearsall Smith?
  • Did Francis Bacon really die from pneumonia after experimenting with preserving the meat of fowl by stuffing them with snow?
  • The definition of “extenerate.”
  • The definition of “omphalos.”
  • Who is Richard Polt?
  • The definition of “murrain.”
  • What is the bicameral mind?
  • What does sortes Virgilianae mean, and what is the definition of “bibliomancy”?
  • How to pronounce “Trajan.”
  • Definition of “landgrave” and “margrave.”
  • Definition of coup de foudre.

Day 101: The first hundred days

lavalamp.jpg

A century of days into this project and I’m starting to sort out a few things: best use of this blog, how to structure a day when the work has no deadlines (for the moment), how to wall off hours for reading and writing, how much time I am allowed to stare at my lavalamp. I’m well into assembling Profilia, have my first assignments of the year (an essay on editing university magazines and a workshop I’ll be co-teaching in New Orleans in a few weeks), and am thinking about changing hosts for my photo gallery and store. Ah, and planning an October trip to Churchill, Manitoba to photograph polar bears.

So far this year, readers have come to 10,000 Days from 60 nations, including Azerbaijan, Nepal, Albania, Grenada, and the Seychelles. I am grateful to all of you, especially those who have subscribed to my newsletter. Thank you for reading.

Oh, look at the lavalamp now

Day 65: Work in progress—Profilia: Rosemary Mahoney

Another profile on the shortlist for inclusion in Profilia, the anthology of profiles what I will be publishing later this year. This time, writer Rosemary Mahoney, from 1992 on the appearance of her fine travel memoir of Ireland, Whoredom in Kimmage.

One of her more memorable Dublin experiences began in a women's bathroom at Trinity College, where she spent 20 minutes perched on a toilet, copying down a remarkable debate on lesbianism that had been scrawled, partly in eyeliner, on the stall. Included was a phone number, and later Mahoney dialed it. The number was for a lesbian hotline, which alerted her to J.J. Smythe's, one of Dublin's two lesbian pubs.

One night, Mahoney started to go there. She lost her nerve on the threshold and didn't enter, but on another night, she worked up the courage to walk in. What happened next is told in one of the funniest and most affecting chapters in Kimmage.

Her first stab at conversation goes like this:

"So what do you girls do?"

"Work in a prison."

"Prison! Nice!"

She then talks for a while with a gay woman named Freddy, who seems like one of the loneliest people in Ireland. Later that night, at closing time, Freddy says plaintively, "Can I ask you something, Rose? If you saw me again sometime, would you talk to me?"

It is Freddy who asks the question Mahoney has been dreading. "You're gay yourself, Rose?" Unsure what to say but afraid of appearing to be in the pub as a mere voyeur, Mahoney lies and says yes. Later, asked by someone else if she is bisexual, she says yes to that too. Before the night is over, she finds herself pulled onto the dance floor by a woman named Nora; as their slow-dance clinch becomes ever more intimate, Mahoney chastises herself: You deserve this.

Day 52: Work in progress — "Profilia"

I really have to find a better working title for this anthology collection. Profilia sounds too much like a psychologically troubling sexual practice.

That's something for later. Today an excerpt from one of the pieces that might make the cut, a profile of the self-proclaimed world's foremost solo timpanist, Jonathan Haas. Johnny H.

johnnyh.jpg

Jonathan Haas sits in a room back stage at Carnegie Hall, and with his hands bangs out the drum solo to "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" on a tabletop. Those who were teenagers in the 1960s will know what that means. For those who weren't, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" was a rock 'n' roll song, a 17-minute benchmark for all the young musicians who played high school dances in the late '60s. Only bands with real chops could play it. Haas was in that sort of band.

Now, in Carnegie Hall, he slaps the tom-tom rhythm on the table and sings the bass drum part. When he was a kid, he drove his parents nuts doing this; his sister once threatened to kill him if he didn't stop beating time on the furniture. Mom and Dad Haas finally gave up and bought him a drum set, no doubt to preserve the living room, and he's been drumming ever since. Drumming with the New York Pops. Frank Zappa. The American Symphony Orchestra. The Paul Taylor Dance Company. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. His own jazz band, Johnny H. & The Prisoners of Swing.

Haas has unearthed and recorded classical percussion concertos and jazz music for timpani by Duke Ellington. He's done a rock tour with Emerson Lake & Palmer. Recorded jingles for Budweiser and VISA. Drummed on a tribute album to Black Sabbath. Won a Grammy for a Frank Zappa record, Zappa's Universe.

And that's just some of what keeps him busy. Jonathan Haas is two parts musician, one part teacher, one part entrepreneur. He now estimates that he plays with 24 ensembles. As director of the Peabody Conservatory percussion program, he takes the train down from New York to spend two days a week teaching in Baltimore. Summers he teaches at the Aspen Music School & Festival in Colorado. From the house he shares with his wife and three kids in Westchester County, he runs a record company, an instrument rental business, and a musicians' contracting company. He seems ever in motion. A friend once said to him, "Man, you've always got two wheels off the track." Haas grins as he recalls this. It's an image he likes.

A few people around New York have begun to call him "Johnny H.," his jazz-band moniker, and he likes that, too. The nickname's overtones of brashness and street-hustle fit him. Haas has never been shy about promoting his career, and never much concerned about who might dislike him for that. Fresh out of the Juilliard School, he got so much press during a stint with the Charlotte Symphony that he alienated the conductor and some other members of the orchestra. He'll tell you that in 1980, after leaving North Carolina, "I hit New York like a load of bricks." He'll also tell you he considers himself "the foremost solo timpanist," presumably in the world. You could argue that such a claim places him atop a heap of one, but what of it? It's his spot, his turf, and how many little Grammy trophies do you have, smart guy?

The New York Times once wrote of him in a concert review, "Jonathan Haas is a ubiquitous presence in the New York musical world; wherever one finds a percussion instrument waiting to be rubbed, shook, struck or strummed, he is probably nearby, ready to fulfill his duties with consummate expertise." That same review called him a "masterful young percussionist." It also noted, "There was a hint of P.T. Barnum to this entire undertaking."

A Barnum with timpani mallets in his hands. "Hit drum, get check," Johnny H. says, grinning.