JAMES: Somebody on the radio recently, I forget who, was talking about James Thurber, to the effect that “nobody reads this great man anymore.” I had this book in my lap, open to page 171:
  “The woan, so-called because he woaned, was frequently seen, four or five hundred years ago, in larders and bureau drawers. Many people also saw him in their cups. Scarcely larger than a small blue cream pitcher, the woan had three buttons on the vest of his Sunday suit, and was given to fanning his paws at spindrift. He built his nest of gum wrappers and violin bows, which gave it rougly the shape of a gum-wrapped violin bow. The woan was capable of only one sound, a low, mournful ‘goodle-goodle.’ I miss him.”
JAY: There is a Norm’s at the head of my street; I go there often because it’s close. The food ranges from terrible to blah, but there’s an edible fish dish and a couple of salads I can cope with. I’ve struck up a friendship with one of the waiters. His name is Jay; it’s really Javkhlangere, or something like that, but that’s impossible. He’s from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Mongolia. He, his sister and their mother emigrated here five years ago; his sister also works at Norm’s, and I cannot pronounce her name, either. They’re both tall, strikingly handsome, extremely thin, and with a skull configuration – I looked it up – that is distinct to people from that region.
  Anyhow, Jay asked could he come over and have me look at his English writing and I said sure and then I offered to take him to a Hollywood Bowl concert and he said sure. His musical awareness was strictly hip-hop, about which he knew quite a lot; he played me some tapes that ween’t all THAT bad. A few nights ago, I packed a picnic pack including my one Chinese outdoor specialty, Pon-Pon Chicken (which does include some drops of Mongolian Hot Oil). Jay knew something about the Bowl, but when we stepped inside and caught the first view of the expanse he came close to collapse. I’ve escorted many blasé out-of-towners to their first Bowl experience; this was different.
The program that night was the more-or-less complete “Carmen,” Jay’s first encounter with classical music, certainly his  first opera. Total conquest; Bramwell Tovey’s glib plot summary may have done the job for the rest of 9,000-or-so attendees; within Box 1031, mine was the narration that prevailed. At the end – and yes, we stayed to the end – two things: 1)Jay thanked me in a way that sounded as if he really meant it and 2)he began plans to take his girl friend to the Bowl as soon as she returns from Mongolia.
   This, by the way, was a great night as well for Denyce Graves, a long way removed from the spook-infested “Carmen” that first brought her here  in 1992. Those who will proclaim her THE Carmen of our generation will find no argument here; her voice has developed the stride, the insinuation, the rich sexual power inherent in the role; even in the hampered setting on the Bowl stage hers was a Carmen of full drama. Not so Stuart Skelton,  alas, her Don José of the sliding scale, lending new meaning to the four-letter word known as “wimp.” As recompense there was the haunting, immensely touching Micaëla of Jessica Rivera, greatly illuminating what must still be the most useless role in all opera. Tovey’s version bled from many  cuts, some welcome some disgraceful. 
JABBERJABBER: There is a kind of writing, engaged in by people elevated to important jobs and  in need of sounding important – I think there’s a Thurber drawing somewhere of that species  —  that consists of showing up on the job with a large bag of words and not leaving until you’ve used them all. I got the sinking feeling after reading Mr. Schultz’s review of the Mozart concert at the Bowl last week that the Times had hatched a new practitioner of the art, so soon after cutting Mr. Pasles loose. Then I remembered that Mr. Schultz pals around with Mr. M-rm-lst-n, who is a very old practitioner, and that explains everything.

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