From the Devine to the Ridiculous….Another Tale from the Pit
It all began so well. I got up early and went up to the top deck to enjoy the view and find some “green peace” in the blowing trees and birdsong. Whenever I feel stressed or just need to have an infusion of beauty and nature, the top deck is my go-to place. I think I must be part billy goat, as I’ve always gravitated to being up high, whether it be on mountains, or enjoying the city views from our top deck.
Kasey came with me, staring out at the city for a while in the way that the dogs like to do, and then bouncing downstairs to her food bowl. She is a good, calm companion.
The day was productive after my peaceful beginning, and I was thankful to have time to be home before opening night of the opera I’m playing. While I was taking care of some work emails, there was a loud ‘bam’ in the sunroom. I know the sound all too well, and Dan and I rushed out to look for the bird that flew into the window. It was a beautiful Robin, and I held it for several minutes, stroking it and talking to it. The colors and intricacies of his feathers were truly a work of art, and it was a gift to get to hold and study him. Often when this happens, the birds are just stunned and will suddenly come to and fly away. I gently placed him on a fern in the garden and checked on him a bit later. Sadly, he didn’t make it. I sent him peace, thanked him for his beauty, and Dan buried him.
Two hours before my concert, I decided to take the girls for a walk. My new healthy eating and exercise plan is going well, and I wanted to get some exercise before heading to work. I harnessed up Coops and Sophie, and we headed out into the neighborhood. About eight minutes into our walk, I looked down to see long black tail feathers sticking out of Cooper’s mouth- she had inhaled an entire dead bird in true part-Lab fashion. Unfortunately, I never did a good job of teaching her the “drop” command, and this time she was having none of it, thrilled as she was with her tasty prize. This is were I made a fatal mistake….I reached down to pry open her jaws and tried to wrestle the bird out of her mouth. In the commotion, I saw that my hand was covered in blood, and it was dripping everywhere- I didn’t even feel It happen. Coops hadn’t bitten me- she was just holding tight to the bird, and I caught her canine on my index finger…at the exact place where it needs to cover the first tone hole on my clarinet….and I had to perform in two hours.
I got the bird into a plastic bag and dragged the girls home as fast as I could, dripping blood everywhere. People stared at me, but no one said a word. I told Dan that in our neighborhood, you could have an axe in your head and people would just walk on by.
I got to our house, out of breath and starting to feel the pain of the puncture. Dan helped me clean the wound and get the bleeding under control. He wanted me to go to the ER, especially because of the dead bird that I had handled, but I knew there was no time. I couldn’t miss a performance- I was the only clarinetist in the opera and had tons of solos. I tried to play with a bandaid on, and that didn’t work at all, because I couldn’t feel the tone hole to know if it was covered or not….uncovered tone holes on clarinet equal squeaks. It also hurt to put any pressure on it at all….I started to panic- what could I do?
A friend suggested Liquid Skin, and so Dan and I raced to the drugstore to pick some up on the way to the opera. I put together my instruments, the bass clarinet for the first opera, and the Bb clarinet for the second. The Liquid Skin wasn’t perfect, and it hurt a lot to play. I kept a tissue to periodically wipe blood off of my instruments. Somehow, some way, I made it through, and it actually went really well. My guardian angels were working over time to get me through this one, as I never though I’d be able to get through the performance without squeaks and squawks. The conductor didn’t even know there was an issue until afterwards when I told him, and I felt such relief.
As soon as the performance ended, I packed up and Dan took me to the ER just down the hill from our house. The ER was packed, just what I expected on a Friday night in Southside Birmingham. I talked Dan into going on home to rest, as there wasn’t even a chair for him and he had to be up at dawn for his Saturday yoga class. I promised to call him when I was done so that he could come rescue me. I was in concert black, and the looks I received were priceless as I walked to the intake desk in my flowy black pants. I started to panic as I realized that if they thought Coops had bitten me, they would take her away, and I almost left. I thought carefully about how to word what happened to make sure they knew that it was my fault and Coops wasn’t being aggressive at all. Thankfully, the kind-but -harried man at the desk listed my issue as a laceration and sent me to sit with the crowd in the waiting room.
For three hours I sat there, seeing all sorts of crazy things that you might expect to see on a Friday night in a city’s ER. An old man in a wheel chair started to have a stroke, sounding like he was choking, as his family screamed for the ER staff to help him. A young man came in with a police officer, smelling strongly of smoke. He was wearing a hospital wrist ID…but it wasn’t from UAB Highlands. The officer escorted him back out. People of all kinds came and went, including a sweet old black woman in a wheelchair, accompanied by her daughter. I couldn’t help but think of Mom and all of our trips to the ER last year. She and I had way more fun in hospitals than we ever should have, giggling over the silliest things to release some of the tension and fear. I was on my own, so I just focused on reading on my phone and messaging friends. I learned long ago that it isn’t a good idea to make eye contact in a city ER.
Several people became angry that it was taking so long to be seen, with families exchanging harsh words…the room crackled with tension. I almost wept with relief when after three hours my name was finally called. The doctor saw me right away, and I was thrilled to find it wasn’t the terrible doctor who “treated” me when my back was out in December. The doctor loved that I was a musician and was amazed that I had been able to play when he examined my finger. Once he knew that Coops was my dog and that she was up to date on all her shots, he didn’t mention her again…I was so relieved. He gave me a tetanus shot, a round of antibiotics, had the nurse clean and re-bandage my finger and sent me on my way. What a night- by the time I got home, it was almost 1am, and I crawled gratefully into bed.
Lesson learned- no more dog walks right before performances. Of all the whacky things that have happened to me on stage- a conductor’s baton flying out of his hand and hitting me in the mouth, severe food poison on a crowded stage where I couldn’t escape, playing with a big cast on my leg when I broke my ankle weeks before a big Masterworks series with the symphony….I can now add blood and gore to the list…well, maybe just blood. It’s all part of the job, and I found- as with the other times- that I made it through. Heavy D didn’t raise any weanies, thankfully. And, hey- it made for a story that I can tell my students about professionalism. The show must go on!
Sophie and Cujo….I mean, Cooper. :))