As previously mentioned in Part Two, I sat in post-concert glow, finally venturing over to the catering spread top have a little cheese and continue revelling in the wonderful music still running through my mind. I love Metamorphosis #2, and to have heard it played by its composer is still to this day a very treasured memory.
The catering (by Dining In) was great, and I chose this fact to be my opening line. I was going to introduce myself to Philip Glass, and well, food is always a common interest. Hopefully I wouldn’t stutter and gush, as my heart was racing and my mind filled with what was probably effusive hyperbole. So I walked up to Philip in a moment when he was alone and introduced myself. We talked about the catering, and I praised his playing. He thanked me politely and went off to talk with a few others. It was wonderful…mission accomplished. I could go home and sleep well. I had seen Philip Glass play Metamorphisis #2 live. Life well spent that night.
I lingered by the piano, eating cheese and being really happy. As I left it just so happened Philip was leaving at the same time so I asked him if I could walk with him to the subway. One last little bit of glory, and he agreed. We walked and chatted, and suddenly he reminded himself that he had to go visit a friend that night…BUT…he felt like getting a little late supper first…and then he asked me if I wanted to join him…
Did I just hear that? Am I hallucinating? Did Philip Glass ask me to go have supper with him? Holy (expletive), this is real, this is happening, this is going down right now and I am going to go have supper with Philip “Einstein On The Beach” Glass!! I said yes, then fell mute as he recommended a Chinese restaurant on West 11th St, of which I have forgotten the name (it had neon tubing all over which made the food glow DayGlo, if that rings a bell with anyone….).
We sat down and I was till in shock. He ordered something with a side of potatoes, and I stumbled through ordering (still can’t remember what it was as I was still in shock), watching PHILIP GLASS, the composer of the opera Satyagraha (!!) across the table from me, jovially ordering. The waiter brought our food, and I tentatively started to eat, preparing to try to find something interesting to talk about so I don’t sound like a babbling fool, such was my shock and joy. “Satyagraha,” the ‘insistence on truth’…OK, so I would be honest and just talk to him about what I thought might be common ground between us as fellow composers, although the very fact I would call myself a composer in his presence seemed extremely presumptive. i.e. I write weird little tunes in 5/16, he wrote Koyaanisqatsi !!
But to my surprise he began asking me about my training, and how I write. He was really interested in what I had learnt from my (Pulitzer Prize winning) saxophone teacher Ornette Coleman, who I had just began studying with a couple of weeks earlier, and so we began discussing improvisation. Although my friends know me as an incessant talker in general, I did indeed do a lot of talking that night but at the behest of Philip, who kept on asking me all sorts of interesting questions. It was kind of odd, eating Chinese food and being “interviewed” by Philip Glass! Then we talked about the weather in Nova Scotia, where he keeps a cottage for the occasional vacation.
Then he decided he had had enough of his potatoes (dyed pink, which glowed eerily in the neon light) and scooped them onto my plate so I could finish them off! That act is why I love telling this story over and over to my friends. Philip Glass, like a favorite uncle, made sure I had enough to eat and gave me the potatoes right off his plate! I just laughed and shook my head. This is my life…I study with Uncle Ornette, eat Uncle Philip’s potatoes, and hang out backstage at Late Night With David Letterman with Norm MacDonald (…but that is another story, just as odd, and twice as hilariously improbable…but honest to goodness true!).
Philip then had to go visit his friend so he bid me adieu and before I could off to pick up the tab as a way of thanking him for this supremely generous evening, he dropped the tab on the table, threw in a very generous tip that made the waitress gasp, and told me to get in touch sometime after his vacation if I wanted to talk. Since I was leaving New York before he was to return from the cottage, I wasn’t able to meet him again.
It has been 16 years…and I am thinking of dialling him up to see if the number and his assistant are still the same, if he remembers me, and if we could go have another supper next time I am in New York… the idea both excites and kind of scares me…I don’t know why…for now it remains a delicious little dream…
But after all is said and done…16 years ago I wandered into a church…and ended up waltzing home hours later with Philip Glass’s music in my head, and the memory of a great dinner with a kind and loveable genius.