By: Pamela Ross
One Sunday a few months ago I was happily flouncing around lower Manhattan (as I am known to do on a Sunday when it's warmish and the sun is shining and the flea markets are in full bloom), when out of the corner of my left eye, just as I was casually Reebokking my way across Grand Street and Broadway, I caught sight of a glaringly lopsided sign placed dead center in a parking lot flea market, advertising "CLASSICAL CD's, ONE DOLLAR EACH."
My colleagues and I, after years of musical toil, subjected to the humiliation of being sold for a dollar apiece? Over my dead piano.
I pushed my way through racks of T-shirts and sweat pants, past tables piled high with knickknacks and incense and Grandma's old *silverplated spoons, stomped up to the bin of CD's and, yes, there they were, classical CD's for a buck apiece, Pavarotti and Horowitz and Perlman lying dead and defenseless as doornails on top of the heap, in broad daylight.
I reached down and plucked Pavarotti out of the bin and felt, incredulously, the still UNOPENED shrink wrap crinkling under my fingers, a virgin Pavarotti CD!
"Nice assortment, eh?" breathed a deep voice into my right ear.
"Nice?!?" I snapped, "NICE?!?!? You think Pavarotti singing Puccini opera arias for a dollar is NICE?! No one, but NO ONE sings opera arias for a dollar anymore, let alone Luciano Pavarotti!"
"That's what happens with 'resale'," he replied testily.
"Yeah, resale! Sometimes things do better resale! Like classical music!"
Feeling murderous, I started rifling savagely through the bin. What other classical musicians were down there suffocating with Vladimir and Luciano and Itzhak?
"It's not like I STOLE them, or anything," said the voice, over my left shoulder.
I squinted at him over my sunglasses. He was tall and plaid and vaguely middle-aged, with a long greyish ponytail protruding from the back of his black fedora, a half-eaten cigar dangling rakishly from his mouth.
A classical CD criminal.
"These ALL classical?" I asked, trying to regain some composure.
"Yup. Brought 'em down here from the UPPER EAST SIDE myself!"
"They were sitting there."
"On the, uh, sidewalk."
"You STOLE them!"
"They were in the garbage!"
I waved Vlad's CD in the air like a fly swatter.
"You shouldn't be selling these CD's for a dollar! Do you know how much WORK Vladimir Horowitz put into this?!?"
Mr. Plaid Ponytail took a handkerchief out of his shirt pocket and dabbed at his forehead.
"Look, lady, tell you what. I'll give you a real bargain. Two for the price of one. Here." He pushed Vlad and Luciano into my hand.
"I'll take Itzhak, too," I said. "It's not fair to leave him sitting in there like that."
I snatched Itzhak, handed the vendor two dollars.
"Keep the change," I snarled.
"No, wait." He reached into the bin, pulled out another CD, looked it over, and handed it to me. "Here's another one of some lady playing the piano with her arms flying up in the air. Wouldja just look at that! Got THIS one on East 89th in front of a ...."
A trickle of cold sweat ran down my left armpit. I grabbed the CD and started to shovel my way back through the crowd.
"Hey, lady!" the vendor raised his voice. "That piano player on the CD, she looks like YOU!"
"Impossible!" I shouted back. "I'm a LAWYER!"
Of course, the lady with the flying arms playing the piano on the CD was ... me.
So what, you say. Look at the company you were in. Luciano. Vladimir. Itzhak.
Fine. Except that MY shrink-wrap was GONE. That meant that someone had ALREADY listened to me and had thrown me out! I had been violated and then discarded on the Upper East Side!
I had to get away from that flea market. Fast. I couldn't let the vendor of a CD bin at a FLEA market in lower Manhattan know that I ...
Head down, I slinked back through the incense, the T-shirts, the jogging pants, past Grandma's silverplated spoons, back across Grand Street, south on Broadway, back home.
Home, where I could put my shrink-wraps magnum opus in my CD rack, next to Vlad and Luciano and Itzhak.
Where at least I was still... SOMEBODY.
Pamela Ross was born in Louisiana and has roots in Spain and South America. She studied music at Juilliard and holds a B.A. degree from Queens College, NYC, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude. Graduate studies were pursued at Yale University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she received a Master of Music degree. Miss Ross has taught at Yale University, Johns Hopkins University and at Emory University.
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