"This Sweet Life"
SUNNYSIDE UP MOMENT - MAY 1, 2020
DAY FORTY-SIX OF THE CORONAVIRUS QUARANTINE FOR US AT STACK 'EM HIGH PANCAKES AND SO FORTH
At the beginning of March we were in Ohio to celebrate my dad’s 75th birthday. It felt like we were sliding in under the wire at every turn. We enjoyed a perfectly splendid day touring the Cleveland Museum of Art. Eleni insisted we spend a little more time in the Tiffany stained glass exhibit. Theo was sincerely mesmerized by the collections of Byzantine art and artifacts. The following day, they closed to visitors. We soaked up the humid air and dazzling displays at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. It was pure magic to be surrounded by exotic blooms, remarkable butterflies and the tentacles and vines of fascinating plants so full of energy you would swear they were about to reach out and touch you. The following day, they closed to visitors. We met my college roommate at Great Lakes Brewing Company for a spirited happy hour. Nothing makes kids happier than being allowed to demolish an order of fried cheese while the parents aren’t completely aware of how little of your broccoli you ate. The following day, DeWine issued the executive order to close dine-in restaurants and bars.
The last item on our itinerary was supposed to be an evening at the symphony. We had reserved four excellent seats in one of the world’s most beautiful concert halls, to experience one of life’s most beautiful achievements. One hundred men and women precisely executing synchronized movements. One hundred instruments meticulously harnessing harmonies and melodies. In an exceptional and expansive chamber one hundred years old. I was thrilled at the prospect of introducing our children to the orchestra. But at this point the writing was spreading across the wall. It was quickly becoming clear that large gatherings were dangerous. The morning of I called to cancel. The piece de resistance of our trip was not going to happen. The man at the box office answered, “Good morning. Tonight's performance has been cancelled. You are first in line to handle your claim.” Well, we had slid into home plate again, but this time we didn’t score.
Embarrassingly, I was a little pouty as we started altering all of our other arrangements. Later that afternoon my phone rang and Severance Hall’s number appeared on the screen. Before the woman could go into her spiel, I told her we had already spoken with someone but thank you for calling. She interrupted me asking, “did you mention to the operator that you are from North Carolina?” “Yes, ma’am.” She went on to introduce herself as one of the directors of the symphony. “We are closing the building in three hours. If you can make it here quickly, I’d be happy to give you a private tour of the hall. We feel terrible you came all this way.” Uh, score.
The lovely and charming Megan escorted us around every room, every practice space, every nook and cranny of the century old building. And then she ushered us into the performance arena, the magnificent Severance Hall. The stage was lit up in all its glory. The stands were perfectly arranged on the hardwood floor with sheets of the evening’s music centered exactly on each one. It was breathtaking to be surrounded by quiet in a room designed to embrace and to elevate superior sound. It was the experience of a lifetime.
We didn’t see the Cleveland Orchestra perform Schubert’s Symphony in C Major. We didn’t get dressed up in our fancy clothes. We didn’t eat dinner in a sophisticated restaurant. But we were the recipients of a random act of kindness which created a memory we will never forget. Dante wrote, “Oh, the experience of this sweet life.” Yes. Yes, indeed.