Conversations with Dead Geniuses: Mozart, Part 2

Part 1 is Here

Mozart Part 2 - "Los Angeles"

By the time we got to Victorville, Mozart had stopped cowering behind his wig. Probably because the sun had gone down. Thank God for that, because I didn't know how I was going to explain L.A. in daylight to him. "It's more or less like a giant suburban strip mall that goes on forever" only makes sense if you know what a strip mall is.

Still, the sights along the edge of the desert highway, the intermittent Taco Bells and Chevrons scrolling past his window at speeds no man or bird could imagine in 1790, were having a profound effect on Mozart. He stayed silent and his mouth hung a little open.  His face already had a distinctly angelic quality, now he looked kind of like an infant staring at the mobile above his crib.

The Japanese have a special word for Los Angeles, which they, like a lot of people, prefer to see at night. I don't remember how to say it, but I remember what it means.  It describes a handful of diamonds tossed by a jeweler onto a swath of black velvet.

We went right through downtown on the 10. A million white lights passing by us on the left, a million red lights blinking on and off in front of us, stretching all the way to the black horizon. Outside Mozart's window, the skyscrapers were all lit up and the klieg lights from a Lakers game swept the cloudless Southern California Sky.

You try explaining this...
Pygmy warriors often range far from their village. I've heard that when one of these warriors - someone who has spent his entire life beneath the deepest jungle canopy - accidentally comes to the edge of the trees for the very first time and sees the plains stretching out for miles and miles, he doesn't know what's happening. Pygmies have no concept of a "Horizon." Their field of vision is bordered by trees and dense foliage in every direction.  Their world is measured in feet. There is no concept of "miles." So stepping out of the jungle might as well be stepping through a wormhole. They'll reach out to a giraffe a thousand yards away like they're going to pick him up and hold him in the palm of their hand.

For the first time, Mozart looked like he was starting to enjoy himself. Something like a smile, a big bewildered grin had appeared on his face and stayed there. After thinking the desert North of Baker was Hell, he might have thought we were pulling into Heaven.  

"Hey, Mozart?"

He turned from the window and looked at me.

"I need to call my wife to let her know I'm bringing you home for dinner."


See what I mean about talking to pre-electricty people?  Such a pain.

"Yeah.  Listen, I'm going to have to turn off... I mean stop the music for a minute to talk to her. Don't freak out, okay?"

He had no idea what I was talking about. But he nodded his consent.

I thumbed the bluetooth button on the wheel. The radio went suddenly quiet as that rather stiff sounding female voice interrupted.  "Speak a command."

Mozart's eyes darted between me and the speaker on the dashboard. I started laughing but tried to hide it.

"Call home." I said through a clenched smile.  

The phone rang a couple of times and then Christie answered.

"Where are you?" She asked in a happy-it-was-me voice.

"Here!" Mozart answered like he was playing Marco Polo with all the different people in the dashboard.

I couldn't help it any more and just started laughing hard.  

"Honey, I've got someone with me. I'm bringing him home, probably just for tonight."

There was a brief pause, then "Again?" The disappointment in her voice was not lost on me.

Christie is an excellent hostess and can really roll with surprises like this better than most, but this is not a new problem for us. She's never been with me for the plasma flashes in the desert. All of the evidence she has that these people I keep bringing home are actually long dead geniuses who have apparently travelled through time is purely anecdotal, based on what they're wearing and my telling of the tale. It's all pretty hard to believe.

In fact, it's much worse than that. It's impossible to believe. So from her point of view, it seems like her husband is not only lying, but also going to really elaborate lengths to hire actors to show up for dinner in costume strictly for her benefit, to perpetuate an outrageous story which seems designed for no other purpose than to make her look foolish. You can see how this would be frustrating to both of us.

We've had the conversation a few times and I always end up feeling like a dick. Although one time Thomas Edison fixed a ton of stuff around the house that I was supposed to do but had no clue about.  Anyway, bottom line, she knew right away that I would be bringing home a very strange person and that she was about to have another evening of this really complicated joke with no punchline. Like being on "Candid Camera" but no one ever jumps out to tell you.

"Yeah.  It's..."  I suddenly became sheepish about it.  "...Mozart."


"Mozart!"  Mozart shouted.  "Where are you?"

Christie sighed audibly into the phone. Then she pressed gamely ahead, planning out an evening for us.

"Mozart liked wine a lot, right?" That ability to roll with stuff can be really great sometimes.

"Yes, I believe that's true." I smiled.

"I do!" Mozart chimed in. "I adore wine."

Christie knew that these nights were always at least pretty entertaining. "I'll pick out a good bottle."

We were about 30 minutes from home if the traffic thinned a little.  Mozart was feeling more himself and I knew from experience that he was about to start asking a lot of questions.  I was starting to look forward to the rest of the night.

To be Continued...

Part 3, the stunning conclusion, is HERE


  1. Wow, Christie never mentioned anything about this to Wendy!

    But I like where this is going so far. To be honest, I'm now much more interested in Edison's reaction to the experience. I'd imagine that, unlike Mozart, he'd want to experience every sight and sound (well, maybe not sound--he was mostly deaf by adulthood).

    I'm enjoying the almost-bored, matter-of-fact writing style. It's fun, and it's got me thinking quite a bit. I'm wondering how recently someone could be plucked out of time and still freak out about our world. For example, Einstein lived until 1955. He saw television invented, but not personal computers. He would have had a cow faced with String Theory. What about Jim Morrison? He died before CDs and long before mp3s. What would his remaining brain cells have thought about iPods and the Internet? Carl Sagan might wonder why we haven't progressed more in the 15 years since he died. Or maybe he'd be fascinated by how quickly after his death scientists mapped out the entire human genome.

    And of course, I'm imagining myself taken out of the late 1970s and put into today. I could never have conceived of fax machines, cell phones, and the time-suck that is the Internet. 500 channels on TV??? Actually, my Dish receiver goes well into the thousands on channel numbers. Cameras on portable phones? Heck, global maps that can tell you exactly where you are, what the weather will be, and where the nearest In'n'Out Burger is located--sheesh, even Captain Kirk's communicator couldn't do that (and it would probably have been a challenge even for his tricorder).

    On the other hand, I'd probably wonder why we still don't have flying cars and why the moon is still in earth orbit. :-)

  2. Thanks John. And yes, you've got the idea. These first two were setting up the premise. But once that's established, we'll finally get to talk with Mozart about music. Then, there no end to it. How about watching the nightly news with Julius Caesar? Flying across the country with Marco Polo?

  3. I'm really enjoying this story. Thanks for sharing it! :)

  4. Thanks Jami! And thanks for tweeting it too! That really helps a lot.

  5. Good stuff. What a fun subject to write about.

  6. Very fun. I'm hooked.

  7. Terrific story. I'll be back for more!!! : )

  8. Thanks L.G., Debra and Louise. Appreciate the comments!

  9. Part III please!