Old fingers

Last night we went to watch Paul Badura-Skoda play piano, but not before we continued our streak of not seeing the Lipizzaner Stallions. He’s 89. I don’t know how you bang out two hours’ worth of Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and a couple of encores when you’re 89. When I’m his age I’ll have been dead for ten years.

Even though there were only four of us, we had six front row tickets. The ticket lady said I’d ordered six tickets which is kind of preposterous since they were $50 a pop, and me throwing away $100 is about as likely as finding a LLBOMC who can surf. In other words, zero chance.

We also got there late and had to sit out the first boxing round with Bach. When they let us in we went up to Row 2 and had to kick the lady out of our seats who had let herself hope against hope that she was going to get the best seats in the house instead of the ones she had bought 82 rows back.

Mr. Badura-Skoda looks like your great-grandfather but he is spry and charming and an amazing pianist. He flubbed a few notes in the Mozart piece but when you’re 89 and playing a sellout crowd and have over 200 recordings and are the only person to have every recorded all piano sonatas by Mozart, Bach, and Schubert, I guess YOU CAN PLAY HOWEVER THE HELL YOU WANT.

Before the Schumann piece, Carnaval op.9, he gave a quick talk and sample from each of the 21 sections that make up the piece. He was so funny and warm and smart and composed and natural that, with his lilting Viennese German, he kind of summed up the whole city with an extraordinary combination of wit, charm, and musical genius.

So that got me to thinking about Vienna and about how ignorant I was before getting here, kind of like when I went to Japan the first time in 1987 and thought it was “next to China.” Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Japan isn’t next to China.
  2. Austria isn’t Germany.
  3. Austrian German isn’t German German.
  4. Viennese are quiet.
  5. Vienna is a warm city.
  6. Viennese shopkeepers fill their display windows with weird shit.
  7. Viennese cyclists ride any old thing.
  8. Carbon is not a “thing.”
  9. Vienna coffee puts the rest of planet earth in the shade, so to speak.
  10. A 300-year-old coffee shop with tattered couches is better than Sckubrats.
  11. Vienna is cheap.
  12. Vienna is music.
  13. Bookstores here are almost as good as the coffee shops. Almost.
  14. Vienna is totally walkable, from one end to the other.
  15. Vienna is safe.
  16. Viennese are friendly but reserved.
  17. Everyone doesn’t speak English except as compared to your German.
  18. Restaurants are sooooo good.
  19. Viennese schnitzel is the shitzel.
  20. People here are very fashionable compared to, say, Hermosa.
  21. There are no bike-hating NIMBYs here.
  22. All of the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch who aren’t on the couch are in Torrance taking surfing lessons on Costco Kirkland surfboards, or they are shopping another 3-suits-for-$100 sale at Men’s Wearhouse. They are not in Vienna.
  23. When it comes to Viennese breakfast buffets thronged by hungry Norwegians … GO TO THE FRONT.


8 thoughts on “Old fingers”

  1. Once again, living travel vicariously through you, WM! Really enjoying your travelogue.

    I know that you’re going to cap off your trip by seeing the Lippizaners, at least I hope you do, and you should know it’s totally worth seeing. They’re as good as the coffee!

  2. 24. Vienna is, in a word, charming! Thanks for bringing back warm memories of Strauss Park with the fountain and music and Ferris wheel

    1. Yes–and even more amazing when you have no expectations and are blown away by its awesomeness.

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