I Don’t Work Cats In Restaurants
As I was leaving the gym this morning, walking to my car right around dawn, I overheard a snatch of conversation. A guy about forty, looked like a firefighter perhaps, was talking with a young woman who was probably his daughter. I didn’t catch what she said that preceded his remarks, but I heard him quite clearly as they walked into the gym. He said, “I don’t work cats in restaurants, I don’t work dogs in restaurants–I’m sick of that shit! It’s crazy!”
Climbing into my car, I was struck by two simultaneous thoughts:
- What the hell was that about?
- Incomprehensible as it was, it was surprisingly melodic.
I continued my exploration of this short, enigmatic theme on the drive home, drumming on the steering wheel and singing my approximation of the melody he uttered. And when I got home, of course I had to pull out the flute and transcribe it.
Then I had to marvel at this small gift–this kernel of incomprehensible gibberish that nonetheless had fallen from the sky like a Zen koan and landed in my ear, stubbornly taking root. He only said it once, of course, but I decided an eternal repeat was in order–giving the illusion of a mixed meter phrase, when in fact it is not. I also discovered that I could not stop singing it. It was beginning to take on a quality between my ears not unlike Steve Reich’s seminal early tape work, Come Out. If this kept up, I would go mad. An exorcism was in order.
So I release it back into the wild. This being the Internet, it will probably just wash away in the oceans of ones and zeroes and never be heard from again. But there’s always a chance, however infinitesimal, that it will take stubborn root in another ear, and become something more than the germ it is now. I’m passing the aural baton, just in case, with absolutely no expectation of concentric ripples.
Don’t worry. If it becomes the basis of a major work that generates millions of dollars for you as composer or publisher, I won’t come after you. It came to me freely and that’s how I let it go. I finally figured out that the Native Americans are right–none of us own anything. The sun on our backs, the earth beneath our feet, the water we drink–all were here before us, and will remain long after we depart. At best, we can hope to give and receive some modicum of joy before it’s time to leave.
Plus, I’ve got much better ideas circulating the Internet that are already being ignored.