Thursday, January 28

What's your sign?

Question: Is learning the accordion without a teacher still learning?

I've taken a break this semester from accordion lessons in order to avoid driving in blizzards and parking in snowdrifts (naturally, there haven't been any this winter; you're welcome), so my practice has taken on a slightly discombobulated quality. Without any feedback, there's really no way of knowing if I'm going massively astray, or what.

There seems to have been a coup in my psyche, where the medley of confusing voices that habitually guide me has been drowned out, or prorogued or something. The voice that now wins is the increasingly panicky one that started out by muttering that I was possibly mistaken in my musical interpretations, and is now shouting YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING! YOU HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE! STOP THAT NOISE!

Accordion is not the same, I'm finding, without a teacher (Tiina, where are you?), just as doing yoga poses with a Richard Hittleman book propped open on the couch and a Steve Halpern CD is not the same as going to class.

With luck and time we internalize our good teachers, so that the voice we hear in our heads is theirs (instead of, say, the voice of our parents, or whoever those people were who bought us from the gypsies and told us we were hopeless, do you hear me? hopeless).

I would like to -- and sometimes do! -- hear Tiina's voice saying: "It's not rocket science, it's just moving your fingers."

And be comforted.

Today, driving up Fallingbrook after dropping Michael off for the Streetcar of Doom, I saw a tiny yet vivid sign on the east side, with print so small you had to squint, yet not resembling any other Toronto street sign. Slowing to read it, I could just make out: "Monolithic sidewalk begins."


In our periodic agonizings over what is the Canadian identity, so far as I know nobody has ever mentioned what I believe to be our main characteristic: being signage-challenged. I guess nobody likes to be identified mainly by their disability, but I think there's a case to be made. And I think that if Interpol ever wants to establish conclusively whether an international criminal is Canadian, they should sit them down with pen and paper and say, "You want people to know they can park between these two posts between 8 and 6, but not between 7 and 9 -- except on Tuesdays, when all bets are off. Design a sign."

So. "Monolithic sidewalk begins."

When I think monoliths, I tend to think
2001: A Space Odyssey, or else a statue of Ozymandias gathering dust in the desert.

What I tend not to think of is sidewalks. Shows you what I know.

Wikipedia says:
A monolith is a geological feature such as a mountain, consisting of a single massive stone or rock, or a single piece of rock placed as, or within, a monument. Erosion usually exposes the geological formations, which are most often made of very hard and solid metamorphic or igneous rock.

The word derives from the Latin word monolithus from the Greek word μονόλιθος (monolithos), derived from μόνος ("one" or "single") and λίθος ("stone").

or else:

A monolith is a monument or natural feature consisting of a single massive stone or rock.

Monolith or monolithic can also refer to:

  • Single crystal, unified crystal, also called monocrystal or monolithic
or else ... Well, a lot of things. Monoliths seem to hold a particular fascination for musicians, especially heavy metal or death metal bands: But I confess myself still perplexed by what they can possibly have to do with sidewalks. It just seems a little inflated. Is this the same thinking that made waste management engineers out of garbagemen? (Sorry, but I don't see a lot of women out there.)

And if I try very hard, I can manufacture Tiina's voice in my head: "It's not rocket science. It's just a sidewalk."

And am comforted.


Wikipedia contributors. "Monolith." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 28 Jan. 2010.

Wikipedia contributors. "Monolith (disambiguation)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Jan. 2010. Web. 28 Jan. 2010.

1 comment:

  1. A monolithic sidewalk is one where the sidewalk is right next to the roadway, without any form of boulevard between the two. The sign is there to alert snow plows so that the road plows do not pile up snow on the sidewalk making it difficult for people to walk. Sort of makes sense in why it's named as such.


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