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Post details: Balooney Tunes

Balooney Tunes

At midnight on the New Year's Eve, I gazed at hundreds of colorful balloons snowing down from the ceiling of the Kennedy Center's majestic foyer. It was in perfect sync with the spirit of the evening, for the last concert of the year featured a symphonic version of Britney Spears extravaganza. The conductor obviously didn't want to burden the blurry consciousness of his congregation with any inexplicable harmonies of Rachmaninov, let alone Stravinski. So while we held on to the funny paper hats we found on our seats, easily digestible pieces by Rossini, Suppe and Johann Strauss bounced lightheartedly between the auditorium walls and their carbonated melodies fizzed effortlessly into our minds like garlands of an expensive champagne that were being poured into slim wineglasses just minutes before midnight.

As the motley aerial parade descended upon the buzzing crowd, I saw in each balloon one floating memory of the year that had just passed. Of the year that had suddenly been confiscated by eternity. But I was grateful that we humans can reflect upon our past and see cheerful balloons in the restless wake of our lifeboat. Imagine how dreadful a New Year's Eve must be for computers: at midnight they look eagerly back and all they see in their memory are long sequences of 0s and 1s. Yikes!

Having been pleasantly eased by the champagne, I decided then and there that every year I would choose one among the flitting balloons as my favorite memory, one especially mirthful souvenir of the mind: (drum roll) ...and for this inaugural year 2006, the Balooney Tune Award goes to: The Trip to Sloane's Wedding.

Here it is.

In March I took a flight to San Francisco to attend a wedding of my friend Sloane. The ceremony took place on the Muir Beach, about 90 minutes northwest from the Oakland Airport. I arrived there at 1am (4am of my biological time) and rented a car. I was staying at a small hotel whose office closed at midnight, so Sloane checked me in herself and arranged for the key to be left under a stone in front of the room. As I hit the coastal highway, I encountered some mist, which was soon upgraded to a fog, then to a dense fog and before I knew it, I was plowing through an Extra Thick Double Cheese Hand Skimmed Superfog that must have been imported from a heathery moor around some Scottish castle. Guessing which way the road would turn was lots of fun and I also noticed that the reflective markers in the middle of the road were spaced out so you could just barely see the next one. After about ten minutes of testing the stamina of my car's second gear, I decided to pull over, step outside and enjoy the outlandishness of the moment.

So there I was, a stranger on the West Coast, thrown upon a narrowish road precariously perching over the ever-hungry Pacific Ocean. In the headlights of my car, I could see a moist pavement, occasionally decorated with fallen boulders and hastily mended with splats of asphalt, attempting to patch up the bites inflicted by frequent landslides. The ocean itself was distinctly unpacific and its grumbling stomach was bellowing nutritional innuendos so voraciously that I got an impression that it hadn't had a freshly tumbled compact sized car with some meaty stuffing in it for days, if not weeks. It felt like being on a different planet. There wasn't a living soul for miles around, not a car in sight, not a bird in the air, only the hardworking fog and me, wondering what exactly was I doing there at such wee hour and whether the key to my bed was still lying under the stone.

So that was the most surreal moment of 2006. The balooniest tune of my year. But 2007 is already taking its coat off in the hallway, and I am sure it will have many balooney tunes of its own. Days filled with amazement and adventures. After all, it will be the Year of Bond. James Bond.

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