Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lost in Russia

Today's NY Times has a strange article about how in Russia mushroom hunters often get lost and need rescuing because they space out and loose their bearings. There's a nice picture of a group of Boletes (Boletus Edulis)
Here's the link:

I got to thinking about John Cage because he once, famously, got lost in a haze while hunting mushrooms in some remore unfamiliar location--I think it was in upper Michigan.He spent the night in a tree fearing that bears might be about. A search party found him in the morning. (If this story if apocryphal, please let me know)
The above picture showing Cage in high spirits after a successful foray, reminds me of an encounter with him in Paris at the Cenre Pompidou sometime in the late seventies.
I was sitting in the bleachers watching the Merce Cunningham Dancers rehearsing--it was an open to the public event-- and I wondered if Cage was around as he often was on Cunningham tours. Just as I was about to leave through a side door, who should walk in but John himself with a nice looking, large basket in hand--much like the above pictured one. After a polite exchange of greetings, I looked down at the basket, which was covered with a white napkin, and said to him, rather knowingly, "How was the hunt? Have you found cepes? girolles?. In the Bois de Boulogne? He looked a bit puzzled and then broke into a smile and said in his familiar lilting voice,"Oh no, this is our lunch I get from the nearby "Biodynamique"--I'm afraid I don't eat mushrooms anymore--they're too "Yang" you know." Or was it "Yin"? I forget but it doesn't matter. The point is that he and Merce had been following a strict macrobiotic diet wherein mushrooms were proscribed.
A year later I ran into him in San Francisco and he told me that he had been out foraging, but I didn't ask him if he had eaten any.