(Sound of reaching for chips in a plastic bag, a match being lit, and a smoker taking puffs. Barasaus opens door, home from a vacation, the Dad doesn't get up to greet him.)
Barasaus: I'm home! Mom and Da... (Dad coughs on the weed from startlement) Dad are you OK?
Juliana: (recovered but out of breath) He's fine, we just didn't think you'd be home so early.
Barasaus: Wait, are you?... You're just eating falafel balls out of a bag!
Elagabulus: (about finished his cough) Anything wrong with that?
Barasaus: No... But can you open a window at least? The house wreaks of pot!
Juliana: This is the fourth century son, there are no windows.
Juliana: I know we talked about not smoking weed in the house.
Elegabalus: We thought you wouldn't be home until prima noctis hora.
Juliana: We figured there was time to air out the house.
Elegabalus: And don't you Christians preach all that forgiveness stuff?
Barasaus: Father Theodosius says I need to work on forgiving you more.
Juliana: Oh wow!
Elagabalus: Y'know, until now he always seemed to me like an idiot.
Barasaus: You should listen to what he has to say sometime. You might find it helpful.
Elagabalus: What would be really helpful is if you got some more falafel from the cabinet.
Barasaus: Which cabinet?
Juliana: (annoyed) It's next to the hayat (balcony) underneath the chamber pot.
Barasaus: You really shouldn't keep it there.
Elagabalus: It's all going to the same place eventually.
Barasaus: Shammai says that if the place were more hygenic you'd be alot healthi...
Elagabalus: Shammai can suck it!
Barasaus: He's just trying to help.
Elagabalus: That sheeny can help by getting the hell out of my business.
Juliana: Shammai's the reason we still have a business!
Elagabalus: It's his business, not mine.
Barasaus: He's just trying to help you get on your feet again!
Elagabalus: With interest...
Juliana: I don't know why you're always so down on a guy who helped you stay open during seventeen different drought seasons.
Elagabalus: He didn't help us out of kindness.
Barasaus: What'd he do it for then?
Juliana: Don't say it.
Elagabalus: He wants to know.
Juliana: Alright Barasaus, get your father's shit falafels. (Barasaus goes into the other room)
(Elagabalus takes opportunity to smoke more pot)
Barasaus: (returning to the room) Do you want to hear about Antioch?!
Elagabalus: You'd tell us all about it anyway.
Juliana: We should hear about it.
Barasaus: It was so amazing!
Juliana: (indulgently) Of course it was...
Barasaus: So our youth group leader took us to the oldest cathedral in the Byzantine Empire! It was, like, fifty years old!
Juliana: That really is amazing.
Barasaus: It had a painting of Jesus healing the paralytic at Capaernum.
Juliana: Healing the what?
Barasaus: I told you about that! Jesus made a crippled man walk!
Juliana: Oh! That's right...
Elagabalus: And I suppose this guy turns water into wine too...
Barasaus: (interrupting) And a painting of the Three Marys at the Tomb of Jesus!
Elagabalus: Three what?
Barasaus: Three Mary's!
Juliana: Three Mary's?
Juliana: Three women? All named Mary?
Juliana: (interrupting, confused) You told us about two Mary's...
Elagabalus: The one who's the mother and the one who's the whore.
Barasaus: She's not a whore!
Elagabalus: Yeah but in a thousand year's they're gonna think so...
Elagabalus: Never mind.
Juliana: Of course we remember the conversation! You told us there are two Marys. We just wondered how the two most important women in your book can both be named Mary. So all your father did was ask if people ever got to thinking that maybe there was only one Mary, and people got confused because the story got told so many times.
Barasaus: It's not a story! If God says that Mary mother of God is not the same person as Mary Magdalene, then they're not the same person.
Juliana: Alright, if you say it's true it's true.
Elagabalus: And now you're telling us there's three!
Barasaus: Well,... actually...
Juliana: (low enough that only Elagabalus can hear it) Oh no...
Barasaus: There's five.
Barasaus: The Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus...
Elagabalus: (quasi-interrupting) Yeah, that's not weird....
Juliana: There's Mary Magdalene, who you both think is a whore, Mary of Jacob, mother of James the Less...
Elagabalus: And that's not a distinction you wanna have!....
Juliana: What is?
Elagabalus: Who wants to be known as the less of something?
Barasaus: Well, the other James was the brother of Jesus.
Elagabalus: So the virgin had another child?
Barasaus: She had at least four more: James, Joses, Jude, and Simon.
Elagabalus: So she didn't stay a virgin...
Juliana: He's just saying that mothering the son of God seems like it would be a full time job.
Elagabalus: And he wasn't even the son of God until pretty recently.
Juliana: That's true. Your avus (grandfather) remembered when it happened! For three hundred years, people said he might be the son of God, he might just be the Messiah, isn't it enough to be the Messiah? Then, the Nicean Council happens.
Elagabalus: Two months and BAM! Christ the Messiah!
Barasaus: Is it too much to ask for you to be a little respectful of my beliefs?
Juliana: I'm just telling you how things used to be!
Elagabalus: Anyway, come on, I wanna hear more about these Marys.
Barasaus: OK. There's the Virgin Mary, there's Mary Magdalene... who you think is a whore, there's Mary of Jacob, mother of James the Less, then there's Mary of Cleopas.
Elagabalus: ...That's a stupid name.
Barasaus: Dad! Respect!
Juliana: Is Cleopas the town she's from?
Barasaus: No. Cleophas was either her husband or her father.
Elagabalus: Probably both. Those fucking Jews, they're all goddamn hicks.
Barasaus: Don't swear Dad!
Juliana: So what's Mary of Cleopas's claim to fame?
Barasaus: She doesn't really have one. She might just be Mary of Jacob.
Elagabalus: Oh, what a surprise.
Barasaus: What do you mean?
Juliana: Don't mind him. I'd like to know who the fifth Mary is.
Barasaus: Mary of Bethany.
Elagabalus: Was she married to Bethany?
Barasaus: Please stop this Dad.
Juliana: That can happen! You remember those two wives who left to live in Lesbos!
Barasaus: (suddenly angry) Women shouldn't marry other women!
Elagabalus: And I suppose my Christian son doesn't think men should lie with other men either. Typical liberal bullshit.
Barasaus: I can't deal with this!
Juliana: Son, your father has a reason for being mad. Remember when you told us that monogamy is what human beings are biologically programmed for?
Barasaus: Look, I just think you both should respect my choices.
Elagabalus: (really angry) We didn't throw you out when you told me you practice that thing, what did he call it? Ethical monogamy?
Juliana: It's alright. So our son only wants to marry one woman and thinks that sexuality and gender isn't fluid, it's not the end of the world. It's just that the world's changing and we're too old to understand it. Anyway, I want you to tell us about this Mary of Bethany.
Barasaus: I told you about Mary of Bethany!
Juliana: You didn't tell me what she did!
Barasaus: She's the sister of Lazarus.
Juliana: That's it?
Barasaus: No, that's not it.
Juliana: Good, I was beginning to worry that this religion of yours doesn't le women do anything at all....
Barasaus: Why is it so hard for you to be respectful!?
Juliana: I'm sorry son, you told me about Lazarus, he's the guy who rises from the dead.
Barasaus: He's the one which Jesus... (annoyedly sighs) Alright, yeah that's the one....
Elagabalus: (a little insistently) So what did she do?
Barasaus: She washed Jesus's feet with nard.
Elagabalus: The perfume???
Elagabalus: That's the most expensive perfume there is! She could have lived on that for a year!
Barasaus: (Angry) Alright that's it, I'm leaving.
Juliana: Son, don't leave.
Barasaus: (furious) Taat's exactly what Judas said!
Elagabalus: Judas must have had a good head for business.
Barasaus: (enraged) This is what I'm talking about! You always do this!
Juliana: What's he doing?
Barasaus: You always ask me questions about my religion just so you can make fun of the answers!
Juliana: What's wrong with fun?!?
Barasaus: I don't want to say any more about it because I'm really trying to respect you now.
Elagabalus: What's the point of showing respect?! All we're trying to do is have a good time and all you're tryin'a do is ruin it!
Barasaus: I don't want to have a good time!
Elagabalus: Well what the fuck do you want then?
Barasaus: I want your respect!
Juliana: But son, you have our respect!
Barasaus: Then why can't you show it?
Juliana: Barasaus Brutus Iovivus! You know perfectly well that your father wouldn't try to have fun with anybody he doesn't respect.
Barasaus: Mom, please forgive me for what I'm about to say.
Juliana: When have we ever stopped you from saying whatever you like?
Barasaus: (takes a beat to formulate his thought) What has having fun ever done for you? What did it ever do for avus or pro-avus (great-grandfather) or generations of the Iovivuses? For as long as anyone can remember, all you've done is gone around smoking hash, never farming enough to sell anything to anybody else, always cutting the work day short so you can take me down to the caupona (tavern) to listen whatever new Bouzouki jam band you love. You and Mom always picked up a different woman and had a threesome in the middle of your magic mushroom crops.
Elagabalus: Yeah, but that was a lot of fun?
Barasaus: I shouldn't have seen that!
Elagabalus: You should try that sometime! You might see what you're missing!
Barasaus: Alright, I'm going over to Shammai's.
Juliana: Come on Barasaus, stop this.... (tries to figure out what to say) What happened to you?! You were such a fun loving kid!
Barasaus: I'm sorry Mom! There's gotta be more than this! I want to believe that my life has a purpose. Well we can't all get satisfaction out of going a million pedes (Latin for footsteps) out of our way to Antioch for every music festival! Didn't you go to one last year where they burned some guy alive?
Elagabalus: (to Juliana) Well, we had to go to Burning Man at least once. (Juliana chuckles)
Barasaus: That's hardly the only time you've been at something like that. Think about how that guy felt! He was a living being, and now he's not one, some part of his spirit is divine too.
Juliana: Come on, son, you remember your solstice school teachings. Our sensations are how we know we're partly divine.
Barasaus: If the senses are how we're divine, then why do they feel pain?
Elagabalus: That's why we always give the sacrifices opium before we do them in!
Barasaus: Can't you hear the screaming? They're in agony!
Juliana: Sometimes, but a lot of people think that's part of the fun!
Barasaus: Dad, you remember that public mass execution you took me to when I was eleven and how I was crying the whole time? How could you sit there and enjoy that?
Elagabalus: (sigh) Yeah, he never did like sports.
Juliana: Come on, prisoners aren't like us. That would never be you.
Barasaus: They have souls just like we do!
Juliana: Alright, you were probably too young for that. I told your father that at the time. He's sorry about that. Really. Aren't you Elagabalus?... Aren't you? (hits his elbow)
Elagabalus: Alright, I'm sorry.
Juliana: He is, and I was sorry at the time, but is that enough reason to turn your back on everything your family believes in?
Barasaus: What do you believe in?!?
Juliana: ...Y'know, I know you never met your avia (grandmother), but she was a great lady. And she had this great saying that I don't think I ever told you about. It was so poetic. She would say: "And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine, let us eat...:
Barasaus: ..."let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Isaiah 22:13
Elagabaus: Oh my god he knows that!?
Barasaus: It's from the Christian Bible! And the verse before that is - 'And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth!' You were supposed to do the opposite!
Elagabalus: So your God wants us to be miserable? What kind of miserable God would allow that!
Barasaus: The real one!
Elagabalus: If this God is such an asshole, why don't you just worship a different God?
Barasaus: Well, if you must know, it's because of something Shammai said to me.
Juliana: (sighs, under her breath) Oh can that Heeb keep his big nose out of anything at all?!?
(Eastern Orthodox plainchant sung in the background, or possibly Greek pipes - the ambience must have echo. Shammai and Barasaus are sitting in the pews of a church)
Shammai: (whispering to Barasaus): I just can't wait to hear John Crysostom, I hear he has a mouth of gold. (Barasaus doesn't respond) ...that's a joke... (Barasaus still doesn't respond) ...did you get it?... (no response from Barasaus) ...you didn't get it... (Barasaus is unresponsive) ...see, Chrysostomos means 'golden mouth' in Greek!... (Barasaus is silent) ...did you get it?... (without response) ...alright, be like that... (unresponsive) ...I can see you don't want to talk... (without response) ...it's OK... (still unresponsive) ...I understand this is an important day for you... (still no response from Barasaus) ...I felt this way too the first time I was in an enormous cathedral... (still Barasaus is silent) ...they're so enormous they inspire respect in you... ...it's amazing how they build temples forty feet high?... ...still, eventually you see so many that they all look the same... ...You should see the one in Palmyra... ...They have these arches that somehow go all the way around the door like a circle without falling down... ...Do you know where Palmyra is?... It's a week's walk from Damascus... ...It wasn't an easy walk but the Bedouin we hired knew what he was doing... ...unfortunately we all got diarrhea on the way there because the meat wasn't buried one night... ...(to himself) Where's the beef?... ...(to Barasaus) But the cathedral in Damascus was so inspiring that I almost had a Damascus Conversion... ...that's another joke... ...see, when Paul saw Je...
Barasaus: Shammai, hush. Chrysostom's about to speak!
(St. John Chrysostom is heard mounting the pulpit in the distance, and then speaks in a clarion voice that can carry through a huge space)
Chrysostom: It's all theater! It's all theater for them! Synagogue is no different than theater or brothel.
Shammai: (still whispering) I'll say....
Chrysostom: They LIVE for their bellies.
Shammai: ...well I don't know about that... I'm not that fa....
Chrysostom: ....They only know how to fill their bellies and be drunk!
Shammai: Wait I've never been drunk in my life!... at least I don't think I have...
Chrysostom: When have you ever been frightened in a synagogue?
Shammai: He's never had to deal with Mrs. Schorr...
Chrysostom: That's because God's presence makes a place filled with fear. He has power over life and death. You go into a church and you remember the rivers of fire, the venomous worm, the bonds that cannot be burst. There is no room for welcoming in God's sanctuary!
Shammai: Gee, thanks a fuckton.
Chrysostom: Their synagogues are ridiculous, they're the churches of people who've been dishonored and condemned!
Shammai: Wait A MINUTE THIS IS ANTISEMITIC! (twenty people around Shammai shush him)
Chrysostom: Look at the way they dress, look at how they look. Doesn't it frighten you?
Shammai: Didn't he just say that there's nothing frightening about us?
Chrysostom: Lack of fear is how the devils and hobgoblins find you, at the moments when you lack fear!
Shammai: This asshole just said that he's never afraid of us!
Chrysostom: Are you a friend to Jews then? Maybe you should do as they do, take off your shoes in this marketplace, and let people laugh at your indecency.
Shammai: Your loss assclown, walking barefoot is orthotic support for your feet!
Chrysostom: But you don't choose to do this because you're ashamed to share their outward appearance but not in their impiety. You who are only half a Christian.
Shammai: But I'm half a Christian! What the hell is wrong with that?
Barasaus: (whisper yelling) Shammai! Don't curse in a Church!
Chrysostom: The Jews sacrifice their children to Satan!
Shammai: Well that's just not true.
Chrysostom: The synagogue is a brothel, a den of scoundrels, the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults, a criminal assembly of Jews, a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ, a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, a gulf and abyss of perdition....
Shammai: There we go, another half-truth!
Chrysostom: The Jews have fallen into a condition lower than the vilest animals. Debauchery and drunkenness have brought them to the level of the lusty goat and the pig. They only know one thing: to satisfy their stomachs, to get drunk, to kill and beat each other up like stage villains and coachmen... I hate the Jews, because they violate the Law. I hate the Synagogue because it hates the Law and the Prophets. It is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews.
Shammai: Alright I've had enough. When you're done here I'll be at the kebob stand across the street. (gets up to leave sounds of shifting around) Excuse me,... pardon me... I'm very sorry... Just trying to get to the chamber pot... terribly sorry... FUCKING ANTISEMITE! (slams side door)
Barasaus (to neighbor): I'm sure he didn't mean that.
In immediate retrospect, it seemed as inevitable as it was unexpected at first glance. But there's something about this that feels wrong. Not just that they barely know each other, but that Salonen is going to be expected to top what he did in LA, and there's no way he can. He was thirty when he took over in LA, he'll be sixty-three. We know exactly what Salonen can do, and as much as he's injected new life into music, he's as much the establishment as Michael Tilson Thomas. This is a 'continuity' pick. It'll be a good time for SF, better than we get elsewhere, but we're going to have to look elsewhere for the real innovations. There were lots of OK tenures recently: Gilbert in NY, Alsop here in Baltimore, Robertson in St. Louis, Spano in Atlanta. But ultimately it was all little league stuff, and even Alsop now looks to be winding down here in Baltimore. Nobody, not even Gilbert in NYC, found the money to really shake things up. Except for the now slightly diminished returns of left coast, the best place now for new innovations in America may soon be, of all places... Gianandrea Noseda in DC, Osmo Vanska in Minnesota, and (oy) Franz Welser-Most and Jaap van Zweden and Riccardo Muti in Cleveland and New York and Chicago, and clearly none of them are setting the bar high at all...
There are American orchestras who play trad rep better, but America's West Coast Orchestras are the places you go for revelations - completely unexpected concert experiences, new and forgotten music. In terms of who provides real and new revelations, nobody even comes close to LA and San Francisco. But things are already getting a little stale. For all the talk about how innovative the LA centennary season was, Dudamel is still doing mostly trad rep and Susanna Malkki is the conductor doing the heavy lifting as Principal Guest. From the little I've heard, she is well thought of in San Francisco too. She, not Salonen, was clearly the best candidate to take the next step in innovation. We need someone here who can make an entirely new mark. We have young 'trad' conductors like Dudamel and Nelsons and Nezet-Seguin. Nezet-Seguin is in his early 40's and already a dinosaur, clearly never interested in challenging anybody with anything he programs. At least the other two stars are doing some serious new music, but in terms of actual ideas, the organizations around them are clearly coming up with the ideas, and for them, contemporary music is purely a matter of career climbing.
And if not Malkki, there were tons of others who could make a real and entirely original mark if anybody gave them a chance. Did they even consider other modernists whose careers have been stymied by insisting on playing plenty of new music? They all can clearly make enough time in their schedules for this appointment should they be asked? Pablo Heras-Casado, Daniel Harding, Francois-Xavier Roth, Markus Stenz, Marc Albrecht, Ingo Metzmacher, Xian Zhang, Joanne Faletta, John Storgards, Hannu Lintu, Mikko Franck, Lodivic Morlot, Andrey Boreyko, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Michael Francis, Thierry Fischer, and so many others more interested in music than a celebrity career. If you're looking for them, the list is practically endless. And even now-veteran Americans like Gilbert and Robertson and Alsop and Spano. None of them ever got the chances or the budget they should have, and might be able to run rings with them. Every one of these names would have been an unprecedented opportunity to do something that's never been done before. Every one has different composers they champion, every one has different ideas. Insofar as anybody's paying attention, Europe is snapping up 90% of the most forward thinkers and we're getting stuck with the leavings. It's a feather in our cap to get Salonen back here, but it's nowhere near enough.