Llamas, Gryffindor, and a Gramophone

by adriscoll /
adriscoll's picture
Jun 04, 2012 / 0 comments

At the moment I’m living with some family friends in California. It’s a rather large house, tucked away in a canyon a half hour away from any major roads. The house is hidden behind ancient eucalyptus trees and giant rhododendron bushes.  From the outside the house seems neglected; it looks like nature is taking over. The back of the house has been consumed by vines, ivy, climbing hydrangea, morning glory - all twirling around the house, getting a good grip so they can pull it into the forest. But the ruthless nature of the vines makes them gorgeous - in spring they go from grasping intruders to beautiful adornments of pink, lilac, and white.


The interior of the house can’t seem to decide what style it wants to be. In the living room alone, there’s a strange selection of items sprinkled about the house; a scale model dollhouse, a three foot tall wooden sculpture of a horse, bits of chocolate stashed in strange places, and a cabinet full of porcelain dolls with pale white skin.


At the heart of the house, there’s a old room that’s hardly ever ventured into. Everything there is covered with a layer of dust, there’s a smell of mothballs, dog fur on the floor, and the air is stale. As my feet tread across the dulled beige carpet, it’s just like plowing through sand; dust stirs up all around my feet. Besides the layer of dust, this room is just like the rest of the house: a collection of seemingly unrelated items strewn about. There’s a coffee table covered with Star Trek DVDs, a 1992 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica covering two shelves of a bookshelf, and a Harry Potter figurine complete with a uniform in Gryffindor colors.


Gryffyndor, courtesy of flickr creative commons flickr.com/photos/thalita-carvalho/7324229616/


But on second glance, there’s much more to this room. It’s a treasure trove of musical history, from the 1900's to today. There’s an ancient player piano in the corner, a miraculous show of mechanical engineering over 100 years old. Its' insides are full of tubes, vacuums, gears, and bellows. It’s a strange and complicated contraption, an automaton, if you will, but at a glance it’s magical. I pop in roll of parchment, and the piano starts to play itself. The keys press themselves down, as if a ghost were playing. Dancing music comes on, the Maple Leaf Rag. I imagine a crowd dancing around the room, Zelda Fitzgerald jauntily bouncing around the room, heralding the glorious return of a more sophisticated era. The dust they’re kicking up is almost visible, until I realize that it’s actually the dogs bounding into the room. The dogs, the cat, the birds, and the tortoise travel in a pack, and it seems that they’ve got a sudden interest in this room. Thank goodness the ponies can’t get into the house. After they’ve sneezed their fair share, the pets realize they would probably have more fun outside in the sun, and leave me to my exploration.


In the corner, far from the light tentatively streaming in the sky lights, next to the Feynman lectures on physics, sits a gramophone along with a box full of records. There’s one already on the turn table, so I wind it up, blow the dust away, and start it playing. It’s the same type of music. I take a step to the right, and there’s a reel to reel tape player hiding underneath a pile of stuffed llamas. I press the button, and it plays, too. The piano, the records, and the tape are all going. It’s a jumble of noise, no longer one coherent song, but it’s still beautiful.


Technically this is the media room, so there’s two bookshelves filled with cassettes, VHS tapes, CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray disks. They’re arranged by degree of outdatedness. The cassettes and VHS are on top, then CDs, DVD’s, and Blu-ray all the way at the bottom.


Despite the fact that I’m not wearing a dress, I don’t know how to dance, and my feet shuffling across the carpet keep building up static electricity, I feel the need to dance to this strange combination of sounds. I can imagine Scott Joplin playing at the piano, and can feel the energy of my invisible glamorous friends dancing along with me. Just as I’m getting into it, the Star Wars theme song blasts into my ears. In the next room, someone’s sitting on the couch with dinner and has already started a movie. They laugh at me as I set down down my gracious dance partner, the mop, and try to pile the stuffed llamas back on top of reel to reel player. I hope they understood that this shall never be spoken of.


Anne Driscoll is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.






Photo of Gryffyndor colors, courtesy of flickr creative commons flickr.com/photos/thalita-carvalho/7324229616/