The New York Times crossword puzzle took up 70% of my laptop battery as it sat idle this morning, so you can blame the shitty essay you are about to read on my recent obsession with this idle pastime. I could have used this time to work out some difficulties I’m having with a Scarlatti sonata. I could have worked out at the gym a few minutes more in a vain attempt to hold off my almost-certain heart failure as a result of a life spent in the pork aisle of the butcher shop. They say that an addiction is anything you can’t stop doing. Tomorrow I will not do the crossword puzzle to prove how strong and addiction-free I am.
But I did the damn puzzle again today and I can’t get that time back. I can go home and recharge my laptop but those 30-40 minutes of puzzle solving are gone forever and all that I have to show for it is some red ink on a bit of newsprint—and I’m still three clues short of finishing. Some people justify doing crossword puzzles because they say that they are exercising their brains. If that is true then puzzles are the moral equivalent of wearing spandex tights with leg warmers and doing some retarded jazzercise class instead of just going out for a bike ride—which is the physical fitness moral equivalent of reading a Shakespeare play.
I can picture Domenico Scarlatti sitting down at his piano every morning with a cup of coffee and some staff paper cranking out sonatas like other people do crossword puzzles. He wrote over 500 sonatas for piano. Every one of his works that I have heard or learned to play has been a delight. Almost all of Scarlatti’s sonatas are written in one or two movements and vary in difficulty from those suited for novices to the musical equivalent of the Sunday Times crossword puzzle.
These essays that I write take about the same amount of time to compose as it takes me to do the crossword. The same amount of time it takes me to drink a cup of coffee. As much as I love music I'm not compelled to write music. This may be due to the fact that I am a late-comer to the world of music. I would like to have more training but I personally know many professional musicians who have less formal training than I and who have never let that get in the way of their pursuit of what they love.
For the past several months my piano and I haven’t exactly been on speaking terms. We live in the same apartment but we haven’t had much interaction. I think that I get discouraged because I’m not a very good player which makes about as much sense as not studying French because I don’t speak it perfectly. I have recently turned over yet another new leaf and I have started practicing diligently. Whenever I do sit down at my piano to play I can never understand why I ever stop playing. I love playing and I’m not that bad.
In the time it takes me to do a crossword puzzle I can dust off a Bach Goldberg Variation that I learned before and return that piece to my repertoire. A Scarlatti sonata in A Major is one of my favorite pieces to play and even after many months of neglect my fingers find the right keys—most of the right keys. Sometimes I lapse on this point but I have always felt that what I lack in musical talent I can make up for in determination.