2 experiences


An unpleasant experience

Image result for holland area arts concert

Amy and I played for a retirement party on Thursday. It was odd how ignored we were even though we were in the middle of the main art gallery at Holland Area Arts Council. I have always seen the Arts Council as an extension of local people politics. I haven’t had much to do with it. I haven’t been asked to and that’s fine with me. Once in a while I have darkened the doors to look at some art or listen to some live music.

Image result for holland area arts concert

It puzzles me that I haven’t been called on more to be part of it, but it reinforces my position as outsider here in Holland.


You may think I’m being unreasonable or bitter, but the current director of the Arts Council used to my next door neighbor. My daily practice wafted into their house in the summer. When they moved away, she and her husband remarked on how pleasant listening to me play had been. And that was that. No matter.

But this Thursday was a part for the retirement of the director of the Community Action House. Once again, although these people do lots of good locally, it seems entrenched in local people politics. As the crowd stood around talk loudly and drinking and eating refreshments, I noticed the sameness of the people there. For the most part, white and well dressed, restrained.

I remember my first impressions of Holland in 1987. I was startled by the overwhelming number of white people everywhere. This has changed a bit since then, but there is definitely a class system functioning here which reaches deep into the community and seems to stifle authenticity, thinking, and true dissent.

Pondering my recent exposure to some of the local upper crust (the Mayor was there and there was a proclamation from the governor of Michigan presented in honor of the retiring director), pondering Holland, I have to say that the place still feels sterile after all these years.

I did get paid the entire amount promised ($175). But even my violinist who is younger than me was exhausted by the constant noise.

A pleasant experience

Image result for talking to my shrink

My meeting with Dr. Birky, my therapist, went well yesterday. I enjoy chatting with him. I feel slightly embarrassed when I can’t give him a presenting problem for our session. Instead I end up describing my life for him and the solutions I come up with for dealing with people and situations.

It is helpful to chat with him. For example, yesterday he responded to my struggle to not intimidate people by simply pointing out that I was “bright.” “O go on,” I sheepishly responded, but then immediately told him that I knew that I was.

Birky helps me by teaching me the science behind how peoples emotions work. When I described my attempts to help people who are distressed by the election of Donald Trump, he helps me see how if they respond, they engage a different part of the brain which is not involved in anxiety, anger, and hysteria. There is a physical move to engage another part of the brain when we turn to music, ideas, and beauty. I had never thought of that.


An added bonus for me is the plethora of wild birds gathering at Birky’s feeder just outside the window of the room where we talk. He lives not far from Lake Michigan and his house sits in the woods. The feeding birds are splashes of color in the new snow. Beautiful.

Image result for birds in the snow

3 thoughts on “2 experiences

  1. Hello Stephen,

    I just wanted to say thanks again for letting me play alongside you during the retirement party last Thursday. Its been a loooong time (if you couldn’t tell) since I’ve played in that capacity. Your musicianship is breathtaking! Thanks for helping to make the evening a bit more memorable.

    Be well,

    David Lee (the viola guy)

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