If you like to read, and enjoy quirky, welcome. There are about 30 random things here for you. After you read a short story you may even find some personal comments/insights! The main purpose of creating this blog is for writers. I see so much written about writer's block, and honestly, I don't have it. Occasionally, I write short stories, longer stories, books, plays, one act plays, monologues, and sometimes I even think one is good enough to submit somewhere. Of course, when you submit a story to a magazine that receives 200 stories a month and publishes five, you'd better enjoy the process of writing. I'm not suggesting that I'm a good writer, merely that I can sit down and just start writing.

It is important to write, to constantly be working on your art. If you are constantly plagued by writer's block, perhaps you are being too selective in what you write about. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some examples of my writing, from someone who can write all the time. Occasionally the topics are a bit strange, but I don't let that slow me down, I love to write and get to a finished product. Hopefully, by looking at some examples, you will say to yourself that phrase that all artists who visit MOMA in NYC say: "Well, I can do this!" That would be good, because you can! One of my posts is about a talking tomato. (You have to be able to do better than that!)

In part I'm trying to get some of my stuff in one place, so keep in mind I never claimed it was going to be an incredible read. You can decide that. I will tell you that occasionally I have a story in me that seems to fit the goal of a publication, and I try to write specifically with that goal in mind. Lately I've been considering publications that publish nonfiction memoirs, so some of the entries you'll find here will have that flavor. Perhaps this is a way to get past writer's block - find a publication looking for something that you'd like to write. It seems like memoir-based publications may be a good place to start, because we're all experts in our own families. I'm using a blog here to share some of the things I've written; the blog format is not ideal, so you need to poke around a little at old posts, to see if you can find a story or something else that may interest you.

Two last items. None of these are finished products. I usually get to a point where I have something written, and then stop. If it is something I may decide to submit for some reason, I'll finish formatting, following the specific rules of the magazine or organization (the rules are alwaysdifferent). If you do see something in here that you may be interested in using, don't hesitate to contact me.

So welcome to my blog. Welcome to my writing. Write, people, write! It feels good.

Please also consider getting a copy of my first book, Saturday Night at Sarah Joy's. All Royalties go to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund. Please check out the book's blog at:

Thank you!

© 2012 John Allison

Monday, August 5, 2013

My Maestro

The New City Orchestra (NCO) – the words had a nice ring but meant nothing.  It was exciting that a new Orchestra was being formed in town, but with no information, it will either be a great opportunity or a colossal waste of time.  It was announced that the world-renowned conductor Maestro Samuel Genesis would be presiding.  I could find no one who recognized the name.  Still, I was young and desperate to make a name for myself as an emerging violinist, so I auditioned.  Maestro did not attend the auditions but his personal assistant Jacob was a full participant on the panel.  He was excited to tell us that our funding was coming from the National Science Foundation.  Peculiar indeed.  I made the short list, was called back twice, and was selected as a second chair violinist. 

‘Life is good’, a sticker on my violin case declared.

With two day's notice a practice schedule was announced with a list of orchestra members.  We would first be working on Gustav Hoist’s seven movement orchestral suite THE PLANETS.  An interesting list of Maestro quirks verbally circulated through the membership. A timpani player filled me in, suggesting I pass the word along. 

“We all need to be aware that the Maestro is painfully introverted,” he explained.  “If you want to stay, don’t try to interact with him.  Also, he hates tardiness and is always the first to arrive, the last to leave.” 

These were all traits that I related to, understood, and admired.  The last detail was that any and all communications would pass through assistant Jacob. I shared the facts with two viola players I knew.

I arrived 45 minutes early on Day One and quietly seated myself.  The practice stage was empty except for Maestro, who slowly paged through the score.  He looked ready to go, behind his podium center stage, standing on a small round stage/platform that gave him a good view of every chair.  I felt obligated to say something, so I cleared my throat.

“Good day, Maestro Genesis,” I quietly said.  “I’m one of your second chair violinists.  My name is Roberta.”

He slowly raised his head, turned and flashed his gorgeous green eyes my way, and cracked an eighth note’s worth of a smile.

“I am Maestro Genesis,” he said, then pulled out a pen and started to annotate the score.

I sat in silence as the chairs around me filled, spellbound by his deliberate, exacting motions-each executed with precision.  Efficiency personified.  Oh, to have a mind as highly trained as his!  Within 30 seconds of the published start time the house lights dimmed, his baton was raised high, and without a word we began to play the music that was sitting on the stands before each of us.

Eight measures in, a bassoonist’s hand slipped.  It was the audio equivalent of a well-fed pigeon decorating a new Mercedes Benz.  Maestro stopped, did not look up, pointed in the direction of the violation, then he raised his baton.  Most of us, unsure but desperate to do something, started over.  After 32 measures, he raised his head as he lowered his hands.  We stopped.  His gaze ratcheted around the room from seat to seat, engaging each and every one of us.  

“Very good,” he slowly said with a smile.  “I’m proud of each of you.”

We played for two hours.  Each audible error resulted in a full stop and start over, with accompanying groans.  It was a very effective way to encourage flawless playing – peer pressure (in addition to disappointing our Maestro).

At the end of the two hours Maestro, with a flourish, put his baton away in its case and resumed jotting notes on the score.  We sat, lacking instruction.  At the urging of the other strings, I made the first move.  I packed up, awkwardly stood up and started to walk out. 

“Goodnight Roberta,” he said, not looking up.

“Goodnight, sir,” I replied, setting the procedure for all.

Everyone followed my lead, each getting the same, surprisingly personal salutation, each responding as did I.  He knew all of our names.

I stopped and stood under the red glowing exit sign, watching Maestro as everyone filed out.  He remained in the place I’d found him. 

“Good evening, Roberta,” he repeated, as the house lights went dark.  As I walked out the door, exterior lights briefly cast a few photons on him, still at the podium, writing notes in the dark.

After a few practices I noted that roughly one hour into each session he would proudly look at each of us as he skillfully lead us through an especially challenging and difficult passage.  I loved watching him, loved contemplating how he chose to do this with the hardest sections.  His gaze moved from musician to musician in time with the piece!  It was, to me, just adorable.  He was a beautiful man.

I loved looking into his eyes with each and every opportunity that I was given.  I swear his gaze rested on me for just an instant longer than the others.  I must admit I was a bit obsessed with him, enough so that I risked quite a lot to pay him a visit 20 minutes after a Friday rehearsal.

As I’d been told, Jacob sat in the outer office.  Maestro could not be disturbed, and since I actually had no questions, I begged forgiveness.  Jacob smiled, opened his desk drawer, and handed me a small white box. 

“Maestro wanted you to have this,” Jacob said. 

Inside was an NCO paperweight with Genesis’ signature burned across the brass plate that was affixed to the marble base.  Nice!

There was no advertising for our first concert.  We didn’t understand why, but agreed as a group to not tell our friends that it was coming up.  The first thing we noticed when we finally walked on stage was that every seat was occupied.  People lined the back walls.  We were told to plan on a long night, suggesting a major post-concert gala.  I was up for that.

That evening I swear there were 96 flawless performances.  The crowd seriously went nuts as we ended, and Maestro took several well-deserved bows before the appreciative audience.

As the endless applause continued, three well-dressed people approached and surrounded Maestro.  He was unfazed.  With simple power tools they unscrewed the small circular platform, on which he stood, from the stage, tilting it and him back. Under the platform they disconnected many dozens of wire cable connections.  The arms on his tilted body relaxed to his sides as his head slowly dropped back.  Applause swelled. They picked him up and laid him in a long packing box that had appeared.  As he was carried to the edge of the performance area, audience members swarmed the stage asking questions about our experience.  It took us awhile to appreciate what had just happened.

Emotions were mixed to say the least.  I was furious.  I hopped off the stage and jogged to Jacob’s office.  He was in his office with three people.  He introduced me to them as the inventors of the first viable robot conductor  - a musician, an engineer, and a computer scientist from City University.  Jacob vigorously expressed his appreciation on their behalf for my participation in a fascinating and unique experiment.  Jacob opened his desk and presented me with a very nice white box with a paperweight inside.

“Maestro wanted you to have this,” he explained.

I noted tools on his desk, and surprised myself by asking if I might have a few minutes alone to speak with him.  The scientists enthusiastically cooperated.  As soon as the door closed I stepped behind Jacob, rolling his chair back from the desk.  His head and torso were strapped onto the chair.  He had no legs. There must have been 30 thick cables that fed into him.  I methodically disconnected them all, watching his body go limp and his green eyes point to the ceiling.  I stuffed the ends of a few cables down his throat, placed a very nice white box atop his manicured head, the box looking rather like a funny hat, and peeled the skin down from his lower lip, stretching it till it was anchored below his chin.  I poked through his desk, found a permanent marker in a lower drawer, and wrote “fuck you” across his forehead.

In the days that followed many of our musicians had their 15 minutes of fame, discussing Maestro’s precision, their shock at being unwilling guinea pigs, and everything in between.  No one wanted to hear what I had to say (my thoughts were clear) and I wasn’t about to confess how real my crush had become on the assembly of motors, microprocessors, gears and wires.

As quietly as it had appeared, the NCO disappeared from our view, into the academic journals; it was touted as a successful experiment, with so many options on where to go next.

life after orchestra

Three weeks later I bought a cup of coffee that I couldn’t afford at my old haunt, Beaners Coffee Shop.  It was surprisingly crowded there so I headed for the door. Mike the owner grabbed my elbow and guided me to a singly occupied table.  He introduced me to a beautiful blonde guy named Edward.  He actually kissed my hand as I sat with him, and I liked it. I looked into his eyes - such beautiful green eyes.  I leaned back in my chair, pushing my napkin onto the floor.  Under the table I looked. No wires.  He was completely self- contained.  I loved the way he said “Roberta”, which he often did.  I told him how beautiful he was, reached for his hand and could practically feel his body working, as calculations were being made to intertwine his fingers with mine.

“Oh, what the hell,” I murmured to myself as my other hand rested on his thigh under the table.  Time for me to make my contribution to science.  I was, after all, clearly selected for a reason!  While it was probably too soon to make a final decision, I was optimistic that he was going to be a much more satisfying gift than a marble paperweight.

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