Lovely, eh.

I'll explain all these pictures tomorrow. This one was going down, I think, but plans may have changed, and now we have CAB, or Community-Assisted Blight.

Well, another day in this strange week of sun and slowly settling temperatures and bad news elsewhere and people saying horrible things with bitter certainty. There was one remark from a Yale professor justifying Grandma Burning, and that remined me how YALE was once the intellectual gold-standard, as well as a locker for your gym, and you had a certain reflexive respect for YALE and HARVARD, because we all knew by breathing in the cultural atmosphere of the country that they were Top Institutions that required lots of brains and took things seriously. Now I regard them as asylums where anti-Western narratives and students whose anger is matched only by their privilege are the norm, and they have no connection, none, with the culture of the country. Well, most of the country. Half. Or what used to be most of it, up until the Sixties.

Probably not fair.

Let us leave these matters aside and go back in time to learn about the time that guy who wrote the huge big music decided he's pack a pistol and plug his fiancee. And her mother, just for good measure.

  How do we get from here . . .
  To there?

Usually it's the other way around.

I was listening to Mahler's 1st the other night, having gotten into an online conversation about how a conductor's interpretation shapes your initial reactions to a piece of music. Specifically, how Bernstein downplayed the klezmer segments in the 3rd movement. What I didn't go on to say, because I was already becoming tiresome, was how you wondered whether amping up the Jewishness of the third movement would have contrasted with the Christian triumphalism of the 4th. (With the Handel quote and all that.) Then I heard the melody. Blumine.

It was the movement he removed from the First. You hear it intersect with the “awakening” themes of the first movement, and marvel at what these sounds meant to him - and how he would stand on the podium decades later and summon from the assemblage the sounds his young heart.

Blumine translates to "floral", or "flower", and some believe this movement was written for Johanna Richter, with whom Mahler was infatuated at the time.

What exactly happened?

This painful relationship lasted until Mahler left Kassel and seems never to have transgressed the bounds of formal, polite behaviour, for all that Mahler would have liked it to have done so.

In the only surviving letter that Johanna wrote to Mahler after he had already left for Praag, she addresses him as her ‘dear good friend’ and uses the respect for pronoun ‘Sie’. Mahler spent his final hours in Kessel with Johanna in June 1885, but neither party was capable of finding a way out of the hopeless crisis of their unrequited love.

Oh just get on with it.

It sounds like one of those 19th century relationships in which everyone just moons, tragically. Reminds you of Berlioz, swooning over that actress. . . Harriet? Come on, brain. Harriet Smithson?

Yes. Berlioz was smitten, and wrote music about her. She was ignorant of his existence. Then he fell in love with someone else.

The process of composing the Symphony Fantastique apparently had served as a kind of psychological therapy, as Berlioz fell in love with the 19-year old pianist Marie-Félicité-Denise Moke. Marie and her mother were all in favor of the relationship and the couple planned to be married, just as soon as Berlioz would return from his two-years studies in Italy.

However, only three weeks after having arrived in Italy, Berlioz found out that Marie had broken off their engagement and was to marry an older and richer suitor, Camille Pleyel, the heir to the Pleyel piano company.

If you say “Pleyel piano” now people think you’re mispronouncing the auto-play machines.

Now it gets hot.

Berlioz was outraged, and concocted an elaborate plan to kill them both, together with her mother. He actually went as far as to purchase poisons, pistols and an elaborate disguise. But by the time the train had reached Nice on his journey to Paris, he luckily changed his mind and returned to Rome.

Disguise, you say. Berlioz wrote a delightful biography of his life, from which this incident is taken.

The first time I was able to go out, I fetched my letters from the post. Among them was one of such unparalleled impudence that I fairly took leave of my senses. Needless to say, it was from Camilla’s mother. In it, after accusing me of "bringing annoyance" into her household, she announced the marriage of my fiancée to M. Pleyel.

In two minutes my plans were laid. I must hurry to Paris to kill two guilty women and one innocent man; for, this act of justice done, I, too, must die!

They would expect me, therefore I must go disguised. I hurried to Schlick and showed him the letter.

“It is scandalous,” he said. “What will you do?”

I thought it best to deceive him so as to be absolutely free.

“Do? Why, return to France. But I will go to my father’s, not to Paris.”

“Right!” he replied. “Your own home will best soothe your wounded
heart. Keep up your spirits.”

“I will; but I must go at once.”

“You can easily go this evening. I know the official people here, and will get your passport and a seat for you in the mail. Go and pack.”

Instead of packing, I went to a milliner in the Lung ‘Arno.

“Madame,” I said, “I want a lady’s-maid’s outfit by five
o’clock--dress, hat, green veil, everything. Money is no object. Can you do it?”

She agreed, and leaving a deposit, I went back to the hotel.

He was going to go in dressed as a maid, guns blazing.


On our arrival at Genoa (I having tasted nothing but the juice of an orange, to the astonishment of the courier, who could not make out whether I belonged to this world or the next), I found that, in changing carriages at Pietra Santa, my finery had been left behind.

“Confound it all!” I thought; “this looks as if some cursed good angel stood in the way of my plan.”

Again I hunted up a dressmaker, and after trying three, succeeded in getting a new outfit.

So, behold me on my way to Nice, going over and over my little Parisian drama.

Disguised as the Countess de M.’s lady’s-maid, I would go to the house about nine o’clock with an important letter. While it was being read, I would pull out my double-barrelled pistols, kill number one and number two, seize number three by the hair and finish her off likewise; after which, if this vocal and instrumental concert had gathered an audience, I would turn the fourth barrel upon myself. Should it miss fire (such things happen occasionally), I had a final resource in my little bottles.

Grand climax! It seems rather a pity it never came off.

I love this guy.

As for Harriet, once she got wind that she was the inspiration for this up-and-coming composer, she decided to meet him.

They were married the next year.

Went well, too - at first. Hector’s star was ascending; hers was declining. The old Star Is Born story, reversed. He would leave her and remarry, although they’re buried next to each other. The end of his biography is a plaintive attempt to renew his friendship with his first love - he was 12, she was 18 and no doubt amused by the silly moon-struck boy. It’s as fervid and overwritten as the rest of his autobiography, but endearing.

We really haven't strayed too far from the original point today, I know.











Welcome to Tifton. I’ll be your guide for the next two weeks.

Well, this is a hell of a place to start.

I like they way the bricked-up windows are balanced, though. Except for the new bay door blasted through the building.

Surely this is an anomaly; let’s move on, and -


One of those towns, it seems. Note the brick planter: urban renewal, downtown beautification! Those shoppers just streamed back.

I’m not criticizing the beautification effort, but it never works. What works are useful shops, low rents, interesting signage, and restored buildings.

The Google car dropped by a few years later.

So, yeah.

This is part of the same building. Different color.

Two garage doors. So . . . something automotive. Doesn’t look like a showroom.

Much better. Like a nice glass of warm water.

The side of the building is a big f-u, though.

Annnnd we all know what this. Or was.

The friendly city!

It looks old, which it is, but it still looks modern to me. The square windows, that absurd triangle jutting out of the front, the brick planter on the side.

Wonder what it was. An office, perhaps. A bank?

Ah: I should look ahead. Yes, a bank.

Imagine a small town where all these windows are filled with useful, attractive goods.

The display windows might be coincident with construction; looks as if it could be a product of the 20s.

HOLY Jeezum Crow, I love this.

That’s not a rehab of an old classical palace. Cinematreasures:

Opened in February 1937 with “Pennies From Heaven”, the Tift Theatre originally had seating for 1,400 and was designed in Art Moderne style, complete with a multicolored tile facade and neon-lit vertical sign and marquee. The interior of the Tift Theatre had an unusual theme to its decor, the circus. The theatre lasted exactly half a century before it went dark.

Doesn’t look too circusy. Now a performing arts house.


Why am I unstrung by sights like this? It’s just a style. But it’s the stuff of dreams.

More next week. Much more.


Now two ways to chip in!

That will suffice, I hope. Motels await.




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