“When the flip of your coin leads you to a bench, sit down on it and close your eyes. Listen to the sounds around you as if you were listening to a symphony playing faintly in the distance. Feel free to move your head or tap your feet or sway back and forth with your body. Sit there for a long time, or lie down and look up at the sky.”
—Ruth Ozeki Prompt #11 in Preface to Choices (Borderline Press, 2016)
I chose not to flip any pennies, nickels or dimes because an abundance of available benches dotted the approach to the Pismo Pier and a cold wind was blowing. My wife Amory and I sat down on a smooth wooden bench, wind-protected by the nearby Pismo Plaza building. The sun produced warmth on my right side while the wind whipped at me from the left.
In preparation for this prompt, I listened to George Antheil’s revolutionary composition called A Jazz Symphony (1925). Antheil, born in 1900, interests me because during his time in Paris from his early twenties to his early thirties, he hung out with literary people like Joyce, Yeats and Pound. Pound even commissioned him to write two violin sonatas.
A Jazz Symphony is discordant, energy-filled and rollicking. Antheil inserts unusual sounds like a glockenspiel and a steamboat whistle. In his earlier, more famous work Ballet Mecanique (1924) instrumentation included player pianos, sirens, airplane propellers, anvils, bells, horns and buzzsaws.
When I sat down on that bench and closed my eyes, I heard this symphony of sounds and imagined a jazz piano in the background and the scratch of drums:
Pant in my ear by a scary dog. Flap of the U.S. flag. Buzz of a distant airplane. Bump bump of baby buggy wheels. Thump of amped up car speakers. Warning beeps, a car backing up. Words of whiny kid–“Waiting tables, like, I can’t do it.” Fragments of conversation in Spanish, Hindu, German & Skateboard. “Nice Ollie, man.” Sandals scuffing. Flip flops flopping. Eighties music from an ocean sports shop. Squeal of seagulls. Swish of palm fronds. Happy roar of the ocean muffling all.