We’re Down to Our Last Roll – 16

Shelter-in-place observations. An ongoing chronicle of the plague.

Music is essential. For a month and a half now, everything’s been shut down exceept “essential services.” Essential services have been judged to include groceries, takeout restaurants, cannabis dispensaries, gun shops, landscaping, convenience stores, hardware stores, office supplies, pest control, hiking trails, banks, home sales, babysitters, auto body shops, breweries.

Music is also an essential service. My brain atrophies without music, just as my body atrophies without food. I hereby petition Governor Newsom to declare it so and to make musicians essential workers, enabling them to ply their trade during the pandemic. In person, never mind the online concerts they don’t make a dime off, never mind the streaming that pays them even less.

The music would have to be presented differently, of course, to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Some concerts are starting up even now, in venues filled to 20% capacity. You’re not paying the electric bill with that, never mind the bass player.

I envision an industry based on outdoor concerts and busking. Let them set up wherever they want. Desirable venues with plenty of room for audiences to spread out would vary by locality, of course, city parks and plazas, empty suburban malls. Here in Half Moon Bay, a band could spread out on the bluffs and play to the people below as they enjoy our newly reopened beaches. A box for collecting contributions would be placed at the foot of the bluff, guarded by an adorable urchin seated six feet away with a large dog, lest the tips be stolen by the newly unemployed.


Concert ads that make me glad it’s a virtual show: I got an email ad from something called Opéra Parallèle.

From an ad by Opera Parallele.


Weeds. Although landscaping services are considered essential, the local harbor town of Princeton is giving free rein to the weed population along its roads. The flower beds on the medians are overgrown, the lawns on the hillsides have all but disappeared. The weeds provide a perfect complement to the harbor, already down at the heels, and to the empty parking lots in front of the restaurants and hotels along Capistrano Drive.

We’re Down to Our Last Roll – 6

Shelter-in-place observations. An ongoing chronicle of the plague.

Chronological music Stuck at home with nothing to do, I am trying out chronological music listening. I put on a selection of music from different eras in the past, moving forward through time. Sometimes it’s modern popular music, and I might start with some Delta blues. Other times, like today, I concentrate on classical, and start in Medieval times.

Today I started with Hildegarde, moved on to the Renaissance with Dunstable, and right now I’m in Baroque Spain with a guy named Joan Cabanilles.

Cabanilles wrote battle music for the Iberian organ. At first, I thought this involved putting one on a wagon and hauling it around on the battlefield to enhearten the troops, like the Greek bards of ancient times. I was impressed with the cultivation of the Spanish nobility, or clergy, or whoever the hell was putting on the wars back then.

But, this turned out not to be the case. Instead, “battle pieces generally imitate the commotion of war with busy voicing, ostinato figures, lively rhythms, and percussive chords that simulate musket or cannon fire” (1). Trumpet sounds are big, too, as you can imagine. So the upper classes who attended these things could have all the fun of being in a battle without actually having to bleed. It was like Netflix.

(1) https://www.thediapason.com/content/baroque-iberian-battle-music-organ


Hand sanitizer Running short of hand sanitizer, I went out on the back deck and whipped up a test batch with the 170 proof alcohol I got at HMB Distillery. I found some aloe gel that had been in the bathroom cabinet forever, added a tablespoon to 100 milliliters of alcohol (just over a cup), and topped it off with a level squirt of lemon juice. Works out to just over 70% alcohol by volume.

So now I’m ready to compete with Purell. They claim their stuff kills 99.99% of bacteria, viruses, germs and everything. I don’t have that kind of data, but I can claim 100% of the flies that landed on the surface.