There are tympani in the living room — as in more than one. Not even two, but three. So many bells in every which way and cranny that no matter what you do an angel gets her wings. I think we had to start giving wings to fallen angels in the mid 90s.
I can go on about the instruments — double bass, electric bass, bass clarinet, bass flute, bass drums, and that of course is just a selection of the basses. Find also a full set of vibes (marimba and glockenspiel too), an upright piano and a handful of electric pianos, several saxophones (soprano, alto (2), baritone), guitars (electric (3), acoustic (2), classical (2), fretless, gourd), trumpets (silver, brass, coronet), enough drum gear to outfit L.A. at night, and on I could go, reaching crawlspaces, the broadside of the exterior, and yard trees widely adorned.
Perhaps most in keeping with the general character of the place are the pieces from all abroad and antique. Hand drums, shakers, noisemakers, and bells. Oddities dominate certain areas, steeping what’s nearby with a global potpourri only otherwise experienced in the hard-to-find room of an urban museum. One of the biggest spaces wears a Native American motif, drawn from time on the reservation. There are things I still don’t know how they make sound — you pick them up, fiddle with some moving part, put them up to your mouth and then your ear as if they’ll just talk to you, turn them around and put them up to your mouth again, look into them closely with one eye, hold them at arm’s length for another gander, then set them down and shake your head indefeat. The house is laden with these small mysteries.
Clocks ring out from various rooms on and off the hour. Most cannot accurately keep time, a fact which to this day flavors the family with a distinct temporal patina. For any timepiece requiring a key to wind the gears, a search must be made for it. There are clues scrawled on scraps of paper pulled from the warped drawers of a desk near where the telephone used to be. (I just heard a cuckoo break in through the night, and it’s 11:41 PM.)
There is the debris of childhoods more numerous than average, then and now. Figurines crowd every tabletop, mantel and shelf. Prints and paintings cover the walls. Prisms and chimes hang from the ceilings, casting rainbows and tone over the whole of it. A library monastic can be traced from bedsides to its source in a den. Candles, all of which if lit would cinch the eyes. Jars of obscure candies ruin appetites happily.
There is a stylized fatigue that locates the place precisely in time and space, people and things. My mother and father, and at least half of their children at any given point in time, still call it home.