Bobby and the Pathétique Symphony

The Projects


Sam was tall and skinny and smart.

And I thought: knowing how to act smart would be cool to know.

One night I sneaked into the bar.

Sam was alone, sipping a bourbon and water.

It wasn’t my style to go right up to people, but since I was trying to be more butch, I figured I had a right to be forward.

Sam gave me a drop dead look, when I said hi, so I scared up something to say:

“That’s a mighty nice ring you got on!”

“Yes…It’s a cat’s eye,” Sam said. “People who wear them are witches.”

I wanted to roll my eyes but instead I said, “Geeee…You’re a witch!?”

“I most certainly am!” Sam said, “That’s how I knew that you were going to traipse over here to disturb my peace!”

I grinned: “You knew I was gonna do that!?”

Sam stuck the finger with the cat’s eye on it into his drink and stirred: “Absolutely.”

It took weeks of persistent niceness on my part to convince Sam that I could use some teaching, but eventually he took me up as a student.

One day Sam sat me down and made me listen to a Symphony.

He said it was by this dude man named Tchaikovsky and that it was called The Pathétique .

It so happened that a movie about this dude was on the classics channel that night.

It was called “The Music Lovers.”

This Tchaikovsky was a miserable little closet queen!

His miserable music was used as the background for scenes of total misery in the movie, and the most miserable: the last movement of the Pathétique Symphony, was saved for the end.

In that scene Tchaikovsky is dying from cholera while his wife gets tied up in a loony bin.

The scene shifts from Tchaikovsky to his wife. Tchaikovsky gets deader, the music gets louder, and his wife gets locked up in a dungeon

I realized that in a way, they both had died, and all of it was timed to the music.

This was the first time I’d ever noticed anything about how a movie was made.

I read the credits and rushed off to tell Sam what I learned.

He stopped me just as I was getting to the part about the dungeon and said: “Superficial! You’ve missed the point of the film, Bobby!”

Then he looked at me as if I’d broken something. “Would you like me to tell you the point of that film?”

I nodded.

“The film is about life’s tragedies. And do you know what the greatest of those tragedies is?”

I shook my head no and watched as Paul placed a record on the turntable and took a swig of bourbon. “It is the destruction of genius by mediocrity.”

And the Pathétique Symphony began.