Sue Hassel, a Creative Life

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The January 23, 2016 Blizzard / The Ambulance

I had hustled to get my house set up for the presumed upcoming blizzard on the Thursday and Friday before the storm came in late Friday night.

So, I was set. On Saturday I just had to run to the post office early to pick up a package and get home fast. At 9:30 am when I got home from my post office trip, I noted that visibility was less than half a block, and the wind was picking up.

I drank some hot chocolate and settled in with a day of Law and Order reruns and calling my family and friends at a distance. Normally I do that Sunday, but I had a rehearsal in town Sunday and it was anyone’s guess how mobile I would be after the snow hit, so I started calling family and friends Saturday to keep Sunday open.

I looked out my kitchen window and noticed an ambulance mired in the snow. Two guys were trying to unearth the vehicle, and there were two Eastern Indians trying to dig out in front of the ambulance to get it going.

I made another phone call, and figured if four men couldn’t figure a way out, well then, when I went to the train station to see if there would be any service the next morning, I would see if I could help. I made one more phone call, then I bundled up and went outside. I walked over to the ambulance and asked one of the men digging if they knew how to “rock a car”. One thought he might know how.

I asked them if they wanted some help, explaining that I had grown up on a farm in Wisconsin and had dug my way out far worse messes than their ambulance was in. The two Eastern Indians had stopped digging and decided to watch. I walked to the back of the vehicle and noticed there was another Eastern Indian on a guerney inside the ambulance, and calculated that they had run the medical equipment for a solid hour + gas for that hour, and had gotten the ambulance tires really hot from all the tire spinning, so they could run out of gas unless someone helped them out of their mess.

So I noticed that they had dug out in back of the ambulance and in front of the ambulance, and there was a lump of iced over packed up snow just in back of the right front wheel. I asked “Which way do you want to go, forward or backward?” They replied “forward”. And I said, “You will never make the grade from a dead start with a vehicle whose center of weight is so high. 1st gear is the most powerful gear, but REVERSE beats all the gears for slow power.”

So they readjusted mentally, and I noticed that they were willing to listen to me. I said, “everybody except the driver up front to the nose of the vehicle.” The two Eastern Indians who had been digging kept watching. I explained to the more eager of the two paramedics (yellow jacket), that the driver had to precisely apply the speed and keep it very steady and stable in reverse, and the three of us would push like crazy upon the driver actually engaging the accelerator. I told yellow jacket that Crescent was a one-way street going south, and he replied “We can go the wrong way with an ambulance if we run our flashing lights.” So I had a good idea how it would work the best.

We backed the ambulance over the frozen lump of snow and kept going in reverse…….. and yelled at the driver to keep going and not stop until we were in the middle of Crescent Street where it had been plowed clear – there was no traffic – so we were good to go. Then I yelled to stop immediately half way through the move since the driver was right on edge of going off the roadbed and off the asphalt. If we got stuck there we would need a tow truck to get us out!

I ran to the back of the ambulance and jumped across a 3 foot snowbank to the other side of the vehicle to see where the right rear wheel was. We were safe. I talked to yellow jacket and explained that the driver should carefully feed in first gear but NOT turn the front wheels until we were going, and once we got going he could gradually turn left onto Crescent. The three of us pushed hard after yellow jacket yelled at the driver to “go”.

We stopped in the middle of a clear road 2 blocks from the hospital and it was all down hill to get there. Everyone except the patient and the two Eastern Indians who were leaning on their snow shovel handles watching us jumped out of the ambulance and hugged me. I explained that I had had a cardiac arrest in June, but I had a defibrillator embedded in my chest in case my heart stopped. There was no damage to my heart. Yellow jacket freaked out. “Can we drive you someplace”, and I said “no – I have to see if I will have to walk into Manhattan tomorrow morning so I have to get to the train station.” The other paramedic stood before me and said, “You have performed an incredible mitzvah tonight. How can we ever thank you enough.” “Maybe it’s time for me to reciprocate for the wonderful medical attention I got to save my life. We’re even. Have a good life.”

They drove off, and I walked between the two Eastern Indians who had begun to shovel again and wished them a good night on my way to the train station.

I probably should have gone out earlier to bail them out, but I figured they would assume if I had gone earlier that this was an easy fix, and anyone could have done it. I chocked this up to women power and having had a wonderful father who never ever limited me as I grew up.

Susan J. Hassel

MORNING 3/2008 sjhassel  
Waking to the birds morning chatter,
Blue light filtering through the blinds, Gentle, cool morning air,
refreshing to the skin,Calm, clear quiet time;
gentle breeze embracing my skin, 
Total stillness in my mind, but yet a Beethoven Sonata
surfacing from my memory – A dream perhaps –
a lovely soulful second movement. 
Free floating remembrance of an intrusive phone call from a friend
of a past life wishing to connect, fearful of being alone – running hard. 
Facing the day of reality ahead with the mundane day-do-day
happenings of big business,Of the business of life,
the business of survival – the very grist of life that propels us
forward - the very stimulus that makes us dream, strive, create
and live now. Cool lovely morning to reflect, ramble through
our thoughts, process our lives, integrate our sensibilities. 
Before the noise of the day creeps in, before the demands are made,
Before the very things we try to block out and rise above
bring us crashing to earth to ground us in the human struggle, 
The few clear moments before the roar of the vast waking city
silences the pristine song of the lovely birds,  
Like the loud drone of a vast threshing machine that we unsuccessfully tune out.    

Why did I become a pianist?  As a pianist I am self-taught. I had four years of preliminary piano as a child.  By 4th grade I was accompanying at school for sing-alongs. The children would call out a page number and I would sight-read it.  I was an outdoor farm girl who adored horses and did farm chores like any kid who lives on a farm in Wisconsin.  At age 9 I lost the first digit of my left index finger tip. During the same year I ran to mount a horse from the side and went over the top breaking my right thumb (only we all thought it was a sprain – so it healed badly).  Fast-forward to college: (after 2 years to make my proficiency, I was told to take a double major in piano and voice.  Singing was first so I said “no”).  I was considered a dramatic soprano, and to save coaching fees I played well enough to learn Ballo in Maschera (raved in OPERA NEWS), Bruenhilde’s trilogy, Isolde, Elektra, Salome, Lady Macbeth. By the time Europe called and I began auditioning, I realized that most accompanists did NOT know this repertoire and could NOT play it musically – so I played for myself. 

 

In the last eight years I have performed as “Sue Hassel, Soprano & Piano”, and I have performed two all Liszt recitals and one all Busoni recital – solo piano.  Six years ago I began planning for the end of my singing voice (which has not happened yet! – Smile), so I knew I would always play piano for my pleasure and I was lucky enough to be seen by a  hand specialist (a miracle worker of a doctor) who finally repaired my right thumb and wrist injury.  I had the cast on 13 days.  The day it came off I played the first 8 Chopin preludes.  To my utter joy the pain was gone.  Two years ago I was hit by a bicyclist and dislocated my left little finger. I clicked it back in place as I lay in the street bleeding from my jaw – and the same doctor did an x-ray & some therapy….. it works solidly. 

 

How I plan a piano recital.  I am constantly sight-reading for fun, and if I run across something that moves me emotionally I try it out – and in a couple of months I see if it “has legs”.  So today’s program is the end result of that artistic process pianistically. I gravitate to music with a wide hand-span – and profound artistic contrasts. ”

 

I was lucky enough to have studied with a tremendous teacher at the Art Student’s League who made an enormous impact on the way I do my art – whether it’s painting, drawing, writing, playing piano, developing a singing voice or dance.  It is all of a piece. It all has a sweep and follow through and an in-the-moment freedom to create something and to allow it to bloom and to trust that it will bloom given enough space and time.

 

I am most interested in WHY people do things, WHY composers write music, and HOW they go about it, develop and expand through the various stages of their lives. Mussogsky’s Pictures grabbed me by throat on the first hearing. Then I read the WHY of how he composed, the descriptions of each movement and the pictures that inspired him to compose the incredible textures and sounds in the iconic musical set.

 

I love playing piano for the sheer joy of it; for the orchestral colors that I can pull out of the instrument – and the fabulous variety of musical composition that compels me to keep on keeping on. There are varying levels of competence and success among all musicians – including me. What we share with the great masters is the NEED TO CREATE and DEVELOP.  It’ addictive and it is a life force.

 

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