Wednesday, April 28, 2010

U is for Umbrella

I am an owner and user of umbrellas.  No, more than that: I am fond of umbrellas.  A well-made umbrella is light but sturdy, mechanically stable and smooth in operation.  It is capable of protecting against rain, hail, sun, or — within reasonable limits of strength and velocity — wind. It may be used to hide from unwanted gazes or to disguise a private conversation. A umbrella can make both an excellent improvised directional sound reflector or a mute — this was a particular specialty of my days as a young trombonist — or, in a snap, it may be used as a foil to fend off attackers or to defend ones honor.  Erik Satie was said to have owned dozens of them. At one point in time, I owned more than twenty of them, and took great pride in keeping them all in good maintenance, cleaning them, lightly oiling the mechanism, straightening ribs gone askew and patiently sewing loose ends back onto their assigned ribeyes.  [Warning! Some umbrellas come with sharped tips and rib-ends; others may be sharpened by their owners.]  I once used the opening and closing of a large ensemble of umbrellas as a somewhat visually distracting musical accompaniment to a dance.  [Jo Kondo's early masterpiece of pseudo-repetition, Under the Umbrella, for five percussionists playing 25 cowbells and a gong, does not require an umbrella, but is clearly the work of a musicians who understands and appreciates the entire concept of an umbrella.]   Like a passion for this music or that, and the radical music in particular, an affection for umbrellas is not, however, universal. One of my oldest and best friends is a gifted writer who has long worked a day job in the Financial district in San Francisco. Being physically tall, he finds that he has to defend himself on rainy days against a sea of eye-level umbrella edges while attempting to go peacefully to his office.  Consequently, he is as much of the anti-umbrella party as I am a pro-bumpershootist. (As I am somewhat taller than Tom, it may be the case that I have a sufficient advantage in avoiding what, for him, would be eye-level umbrella edges, which demonstrates that some partisan differences are, indeed, more due to nature than nurture.)   To date, we have successfully avoiding scheduling our all-too-rare reunions on dates with a high likelihood of rain. When we do meet, I make a point of stashing my umbrella away from his view and we both take care to avoid talking about this controversy. Thus our friendship has remain unaffected despite the potential of these partisan differences to cause a serious rift. Many successful friendships, one supposes, are like that.  


Elaine Fine said...

umbrella bliss

Civic Center said...

Put me in the anti-umbrella camp for the exact same reason as your San Francisco Financial District friend, but what a lovely appreciation of the paraplu.