Last weekend Andrew and I hosted our second LiYLR event. Live in Your Living Room is a Dutch organization, headed by Kees Jonkheer (which I avoid trying to pronounce in front of him … “keys yonk-ear”?), a charming and very tall fellow who works each year to bring Dutch bands into the homes of New Yorkers and vice versa. Their mission is simple:
bring bands into people’s homes. Invite friends over. Eat and drink while listening.
It’s a bit of a strange experience, because while I love to play hostess (I am perhaps a bit of a Mrs. Dalloway, so what), and I’m certainly comfortable having my house filled to the brim with friends, there are a lot of strangers who also attend these things. They end up coming in and treating it like a public venue, and not like our home, so Andrew and I always feel just slightly invaded afterwards. He more so than I. That aspect aside, it’s such a wonderful experience. The artists show up with their instruments in tow, and plug their European electronics into our American outlets, and then our apartment is full-up with live music. It’s quite a special thing, and something I feel so lucky to be a part of.
The flip side of the strangers-in-my-house thing is also a strangers-in-my-house thing: lots of wonderful strangers also come. This time, most notably, a composer and pianist named Sergei Dreznin blew in the door at around half past eight. I wasn’t able to snap a photo of him at the time, so I pulled one from life.com.
Last Friday he looked basically like this. He wore a white linen suit and a light summer oxford shirt open at the collar. His fro was even whiter and even more glorious than the picture, if you can imagine. He surprised the musician who he’d come to see – they hadn’t seen one another in nearly 25 years. He announced that he was, “Just in from Paris!” and I think I squealed inside, because who ever actually gets to say that? He is Russian and has an accent like an SNL character putting on a Russian accent. He wears his accent like a party hat, come to think of it.
I could spend some time describing him, and why his presence in my home was sort of wild and exceptional, but I think instead I’ll leave you with a little script of some (only some) of the things he said that have made him a bright point in my LiYLR experience, and perhaps one of my favorite party guests of all time.
As I sliced a cantaloupe in my kitchen, I handed him fresh cubes on the tip of my knife, and he took them and popped them in his mouth without really acknowledging me much, but not in an impolite way. More in an I’ve-always-known-you way. In an “of course I should be eating melon off the tip of your knife while the rest of the party will eat it from that bowl” way, which I found endearing. (Please remember the accent.)
Then he said: This is a very good melon.
Me: Thanks. I know how to choose a canteloupe.
Him: I don’t. Watermelons we do like this: <pantomiming a flick, a tap, a shake>. Then we squeeze.
Me: You can’t squeeze a watermelon!
Him (dead as the deadest dead pan): You can if you’re Russian.
Standing in front of my dining table replete with serving platters of frittata; arugula, artichoke and fiore di sardegna tostatas; tall candlesticks; napkins; olives and other snacks…
Him: Do you know what this table needs?!
Me: What’s that?
Him: A banana sculpture! <materializes a banana> Shall I arrange this banana?
Me: I was hoping you would.
Andrew came home from work just as the music was about to start. We took a moment to kanoodle in the kitchen. We kissed briefly, and then I stuck my face in his neck to shake off some of my pre-party getting-ready energy. From waaaay across the entire apartment, we heard Sergei. We still had not been introduced.
<loud applause, a whistle>
Him: DO IT AGAIN!
On what we are doing…
Sergei: And now I will ask you that New York question. <Closes his eyes and re-opens them to re-begin the conversation, as if he had not prepared us for the asking of the question> ….and what are you doooiiing? <then, self flagellating, eye rolling> This is such! a New York question, you know.
Andrew: I run a bar in midtown. <nods>
Sergei: Ah! I see.
Andrew: What are you doing?
Him: I am a pianist and a composer. As a pianist I am a romantic virtuoso. You know. As a composer, you know, I pat the necks of the elite.
Me: I am a writer.
Him: This is wonderful news! What are you writing?
Me: I’m working on my first novel. I’m having a hard time finishing it.
….sometime later, long after the bands have played and finished and packed away their instruments.
Him: …but you have to finish the novel. You must. The way you’ll feel about yourself when you’re done. It’s essential. You must finish it. As soon as possible. You know what you have to do? Go someplace terrible.
Me: I went there! It didn’t work.
Him: Oh. Well finish it. Because never mind about the book, but the way only you will feel about yourself, and about the book, and about everything. Really. It’s essential. You must finish it. <I was really getting into the sentiment now…> Because once you finish, you know, you’ll think of everything about the world and yourself in a different way and… <short wistful look away, then a reconsidering and stopping-short of that whole train of thought> But, you know, the second one is a big problem.
Me: <lots of head-back, mouth-open laughter>
Sergei to Andrew: <in a conspiratorial tone> Can I ask you something?
Sergei: As a kid, you were a fat? You were a fat fatty as a child?
Andrew: uhm– well, ye-, um…
Sergei: Were you massive then? Because, you know, you are a mountain now. You are a hurricane!
Sergei: And you are?
Tejal: Hello, I’m Tejal.
Sergei: <eyes bug out, raised eye brows, other looks of utter shock> WHAT?!
Tejal, attempting and succeeding at remaining polite: Te- It’s Tejal.
Sergei: <Further looks of surprise> How do you spell that? <in a tone of “that’s ridiculous, what you just said”>
Tejal: <spells her name…>
Tejal: No, J. T-E-J…
Sergei: …and what is this name?
Tejal: It’s Sanskrit.
Sergei: Ah, this makes sense. <turns to me> Because those people, you know, they use a lot of J’s.