Thursday, December 04, 2003

The Memorial Nutcracker Polka

It's that time of year again, when every time I turn on the radio I hear excerpts from the Nutcracker (I listen to very little radio, and only the classical station). The piece I always enjoy hearing is The Russian Dance, which has a particularly amusing memory associated with it for me. So: storytime!

This was about four years ago now, and Miriam and I had just left Phil 80, the class of gouty toes, tadpole stick figures, and an Irish, tango-dancing TA (I remember nothing of the actual philosophy taught there). We were walking through the quad past MemChu, which for the non-Stanford members of my audience I will explain is Memorial Church. The Stanford population has an amusing speech impediment affecting the names of buildings.

So anyway, there we are, outside MemChu, and we hear organ music. The doors are locked and it's the middle of the afternoon, so it's probably just someone practicing. Not to be put off from the possibility of a free organ concert, we head around the building until we find a door left (unintentionally, it turned out) open. We happen to slip through the back office when no one was looking and make it into the church itself.

It's completely empty of people, but filled with music from the largest organ high up in a balcony. After a few moments of reverence, musical on the organist's part, thoughtful on ours, the mood changes abruptly. The music explodes with a burst of energy -- it's the Russian Dance! Miriam and I look at each other, our eyes light up, and those of you who know us well probably know our immediate reaction: Polka! The backpacks drop, and we start zipping up and down the aisle, filling the empty pews with polkas. We just fly along, carried by the exhilarating music and the absolute hilarity of doing a polka in a church.

That polka will always have a place of honor in my personal list of very awesome dances, but unfortunately, it's a short piece of music. The organist stopped, and so did we. Just in time for a lady to come in and ask us how we got there. She hadn't seen us dancing, but apparently we weren't supposed to have snuck in the back door, so we apologized and left politely, smiling to ourselves.

Hearing the Russian Dance now always makes me happy.

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