Dear Excelsior, Manager of My Personal Household Affairs –
I have some requests to be considered and completed prior to this evening’s soiree. It is absolutely essential that this go smoothly and not degenerate into some sort of Dostoyevskian farce with people losing consciousness and having fits everywhere. Leave no stone unturned; you know parties are cess pools of excitement and germs and increased salivation, and that one’s libido runs high. Orgies of any kind are prohibited – we shall see to it that the foyer remains spotless and vacant of heaps of nakedness and rapture; see the ban on alcohol I have posted in the chef’s kitchen - water is, after all, the nectar of the gods.
- You must have a small piano program ready for tonight’s Guests as they arrive. You may choose pieces in addition, but you must include Bach’s Chomatic Fugue (I will see to it that the harpsichord is brought out of storage, and subsequently, that earplugs are provided for less cultured Guests who find the harpsichord’s propulsive timbre abrasive). Pay particular attention to the section in C Sharp minor, as you seem to be incapable of playing without monstrous issues in the right hand of the vivace passage After the Fugue, Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto in C minor, and conclude with Chopin’s Grande Ballade in G minor – a real crowd pleaser - which will remind everyone of the heartwarming scene in The Pianist when a rather haggard Adrian Brody performs it – abridged, damn that Roman Polanski - for the kindly Nazi officer in a bombed-out former manse. The version you play, of course, will not be abridged. Neither shall the Rachmaninoff, though it is an admittedly challenging work rumored to have literally killed performers or rendered them completely psychologically inept. I expect that you shall not suffer such devastating repercussions, but in the event that you feel you dizzy, alert a member of the staff with a subtle wink and water and aromatherapy will be promptly administered.
- To occupy Guests and keep their minds sharp, an hour and thirty minutes must be set aside for me to orate on topics which I consider to be relevant. Please set aside Edward Dowden’s The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (Library 1.3, shelf 22). I plan to discuss his formative years as a student at Eton and Oxford where he engaged in such roguish behavior as stabbing a fellow classmate with a fork and publishing a work on atheism (imagine!) that ultimately led to his expulsion. In the event that this does not sufficiently entertain Guests, as an emergency measure, please set aside my volume of Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit (Library 1.7, shelf 6) opened to chapter 4, from which I shall read on the topic of “Dasein and the Other” – first in the original German, and then in English for less worldly Guests.
- In the unexpected event that a Guest, or several Guests, suffer from tonic clonic or grand mal seizures, please have the restraints brought out of storage and a curtained area arranged in the parlor where the Guest can seize without an audience. As you take the Guest’s coats at the door, casually inquire whether they suffer from epilepsy. Note all epileptics in the Epileptics Log I shall provide, and keep an eye on those noted - ensure that they do not become too excited for any reason, and that they avoid the strobe light in the basement powder room. Administer Topomax if you sense suspicious seizure-like behavior in any Guest.
- Between the lamb shanks and sorbet, you must set a placecard at each table setting. This placecard shall read exactly as follows: “DO NOT MAKE ANY INQUIRIES REGARDING THE CAT.” The subject of the cat is to be avoided AT ALL COSTS. Any mention of the cat shall incur catastrophic results and I anticipate Guests will be more inclined to ask about the status of the cat between the lamb shanks and sorbet. If the cat is mentioned earlier than expected, we must immediately divert the offender with a detailed description of my recent sigmoidoscopy, which, as you may recall, was unpleasant. In the event that we must resort to it, please have the video of the sigmoid procedure (which the gastroenterologist provided for nostalgic viewing pleasure) ready in the VCR, cued to the precise moment in which the sigmoidoscope approaches my anus.
That is all.
Should you require further instruction, you may find me in my chambers. As always, you must ring your meditation bell and await the response of my meditation bell before you will be allowed entry.
Kristin M. Hayter