The blog of the wandering douche

For recognition of the inhumane, thoughtless, greedy, and the negligent. And douchebags.

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I feel suddenly like my surroundings are an ill fit for this message, but still, here we are together.

I was told today by a sympathetic colleague, that it is hard to find a good friend – and it is harder still to lose one. She is entirely correct. Years ago, I met an unlikely man, and I will not forget meeting him. He cut a distinctly unkempt, baggy figure, bald and with big pleasing eyes. He had large but delicate hands, with the long thick fingernails you’d expect to see on a homeless man. And that was a good word to use to summarise his appearance – he looked at first glance a little like a derelict, on second glance a glint of dash could be evidenced – perhaps it was the white silk scarf. On longer inspection he was an older bachelor, who had loved incandescent divas with all of his fiery heart, and burned his sense of grooming between their arms. He also had the most fierce haliotosis when I first met him – it was like a wall, a blow to the gut, it would have killed any bloodhounds within miles around. He approached me with a question, as a cloud of breath like a bow-wave swept past him toward me, and I gagged.

“I need some-sing with rrreally goot qvuality ow-dee-oh…” he said in his german accent, one eye narrowed behind his glasses and one hand with fingers grasping at the precise idea he was trying to emphasise. And from that moment, I knew he was someone special, distinct. I helped him design a computer specifically for listening to high-fidelity sound, and he placed faith in me to provide him with just that. I quickly learned that he was into classical music (what an understatement!), and he quickly learned that I liked to write, perform, and document non-traditional music. We bonded, and became friends. I would visit his house on occasional saturday afternoons, drink a glass of red wine, fix his computer, and listen to his stupendous music collection. He had a keen mind for new knowledge, and a most charming grace in his voice and manners – he was clearly a student of the old world, of another time and place – not a creature of Wellington, New Zealand, 2003. Beneath the grace could be found an intense love of music and performance – it seemed to an outsider to be almost a possession. Which it was, of course, with him. He introduced me to Stravinsky, whose Petrouchka (Burlesque en quatre tableaux 1911) is playing through my stereo as I write this. In return I introduced him to Miles Davis, who wore his Stravinsky fan-club badges on the inside of his sharp suits. Bela Bartok he knew I would like. John Coltrane I impressed upon him back, and told him to listen for the crazy transient notes of wild improvisational insight. Wagner he played for me, and I had no comeback.

He gave my son and I tickets to a dress-rehearsal performance of Parsifal, his production in the 2006 Festival of the Arts at the Michael Fowler Centre. It was an absolute triumph, a production of beautiful understated modernist design and featuring the most excellent performances of Sir Donald McIntyre and Margaret Medlyn. I was absolutely floored by it as a spectacle, as a performance, and as an event. After the gig, Bernd took me to a quiet little for-those-in-the-know club with a few friends and we spent the evening high on the endorphins of performance. Very shortly afterward, Bernd shifted to back Sydney; he was clearly very much enjoying the company of “Baar-bar-a”, and it was wonderful to pick up on the intensity of the mans’ feelings for that situation. He lent me Rex’s copies of the Ring Cycle on dvd before he left, which I held on to as long as I could before Rex’s “Oi!” emails started coming thru. I never saw Bernd Bendhaak again. Today I was telling a colleague of my friend, and of his passion, his brilliance, and his drive to bring performance forth living, breathing and bleeding, into the distant corners of the world. I quickly googled for him, and the first hit was alt.obituaries.something.something….

“Oh, shit…” I said, and I cried at my desk immobile as I read that he had died of lymphoma in Sydney at “Baar-bar-a’s” place.

The really good people in this world need to be celebrated, and Bernd was one of those people, and I am really honoured to have known him. I miss him very much. I wish I could conjure for him a word-set worthy of his memory, and I know I don’t have such language right now. I will remember Bernd and what he was, and I will not forget him before I have brought forth words of him that make people know what a wonderful man he was.

Salut, Bernd!

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Written by thewanderingdouche

August 5, 2010 at 10:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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