You may have heard the joke, now enshrined upon an Acorn TV t-shirt:
Not a very nice sentiment, but, sadly, this is often true of hard-core history fans.
This is the 29th, which is two days past the birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which took place on January 27, 1756. Traditionally, it is supposed to have been a gray, bitter day. Wolfgang's mother, typically for the 18th Century European women, lost most of her children. Wolfgang was her last child,
born frail, and lucky to have survived his first hasty transport to the cathedral on the Domplatz of Salzburg. His full name was Johannes Crysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus. In German translation "Theophilus" becomes "Gottlieb" which in time, after a visit to Italy by the young prodigy, became the now familiar "Amadeus."
Wolfgang A.M. got well and truly into my head. My vinyl + CD collections, dominated by Mozart and Haydn testify to this. Upon hearing just a few notes of almost anything he wrote and I can win at a game of "name that composer". Maybe not the exact title of the composition, but I certainly known the Maestro when I hear him. I have a long history with this guy.
Here are pictures from the local Lebanon, PA newspaper taken in the early 2000's.
A nice newspaperman (some of them aren't) came to the house, took pictures and asked lots of questions. To my surprise, much of my somewhat embarrassed chatter made it into the paper. It was a bit strange to have gone public with my mad obsession.
That day, though, even my orange tiger cat "Hamilton" got into the act, as you can see, doing his "cute kitty" bit to the hilt. You can see how long ago it was by the size of that monitor. And you may also readily guess what book I was working on while these pictures of me and my favorite cat were taken.
Back then, I had a party for Wolfgang every year, with a top notch bakery cake from a now defunct bakery. How pleased I was when I went into the back of the shop to speak to the chef and found a young German expert in residence! He was sympathetic; he knew exactly what I wanted. The first cake he made had musical notes as well as a host of lovely little white flowers with purple hearts. One of the last cakes from this talented pastry cook is pictured below.
I had one experience that mirrors this image at the very height of my mania. One Halloween, Mozart appeared to me in my PA kitchen. I was making spinach lasagna while playing Don Giovanni at full rock'n'roll volume. Mozart's appearance led to a leap from one side of the room to the other, those pink high top sneakers I loved apparently giving me wings.
This date, I knew, had special significance. Don Giovanni had premiered in Prague on that same date in 1787.
Poor Wolfgang! He was terribly pale and he looked ill, too. Just a flash--and then he was gone, but I was -- once I got over the shock of what I'd experienced -- deeply honored by that hallucinatory visit.
Around this time, there was an active local writing group in the area to which I belonged as well as to the RWA, one of the few writer's associations that accepted the humble unpublished. This various group of writer friends from Maryland and Pennsylvania had talent; we were all going to conquer the world.
The idea to have a birthday party in the dark days of January appealed to everyone in the group. An example of the invitation follows: