Some years ago I wrote about my bout with Parsifal. I had become Parsifal positive. I was only exposed once. Most people can listen to Parsifal many times without becoming positive. What bad luck. After years of treatment, I licked it and have been Parsifal negative for more than five years.

Obviously, I am not the only one to suffer from this problem, but I’ve never known anyone else who did. For many years I have subscribed to The Opera Quarterly. My subscription is current. As it’s a quarterly I don’t look for it when the mail comes, so when it arrived a few days ago I suddenly realized that it had been some since I had received an issue – much more than 3 months had elapsed. I let it stand in the magazine pile for a few days before I looked at it. It said “volume 22/number 2/ spring 2006.”

How did they get so far behind? At the bottom of the cover appeared “Richard Wagner – Parsifal.” The hair on the back of my neck stood. I suffered an all-out piloerector attack. It took a day to gather the courage to look at the table of contents. It was all about Parsifal – I think. I was not able to look at it for more than a few seconds for fear of becoming Parsifal positive again and losing all that it had taken me years to regain after my previous episode with the disorder – dare I say disease?

In addition to more “Parsifals” than have ever appeared on a single page, I glimpsed “The Talking Wound” and “Hexatonic Poles” and “Parsifal hystérique”. After the last, I had to avert my gaze. It was obvious that The Opera Quarterly had become Parsifal positive. I dropped the magazine and let it stay where it fell for fear of contagion. In passing I wondered whether a Hexatonic Pole was a person from some odd part of Eastern Europe or whether it was something you strung wires between. A quick trip to the Wikipedia told me that it was neither.

Now I understood why The Opera Quarterly was two years behind schedule. The editorial office had obviously been infected. How, despite being Parsifal positive, they had soldiered on and gotten the issue out seemed a feat Wagnerian or beyond. My hat is off to the staff who remained at their posts in the face of an epidemic.

The next untoward event was that I stopped getting mail. I called the Post Office. There was no local number. I had to use an 800 number. After indicating my language preference, my sexual orientation, my favorite color, if I was calling about employment, whether anything was troubling my conscience, if I was hearing impaired – that one threw me for a while and I didn’t respond in time so I was sent back to the start menu. When I eventually reached the point where I was asked again if I was hearing impaired I mistakenly punched 2 (yes) which turned the volume so loud I had to place the receiver in the next room. Next, the computer voice asked if I wanted my picture on a stamp and if so what denomination, then did I want to buy a building, would I like a throat lozenge, did I need customs help, did I wish to register to vote in the US Virgin Islands or Samoa, did I have a domestic partner, would I like a free (plus $20 shipping and handling) government issued picture ID, and finally would I like to make a donation to the Federal Employee’s Holiday Fund.

“To repeat this menu press…”


“Please hold for the next available agent.”

The Ride of the Valkyries was the ‘on hold’ music – for 12 minutes.

“How may I help you?” said a Spartan female voice.

“I live in…”

“There’s no need to shout sir.”

I stopped shouting. “I live in…”

“Sir, I can’t hear you. Would you like to return to the menu?”

“No, please, I need help,” I said in a finely modulated tone that I hoped would be just right.

“May I have your zip code please.”

I recited it.

“Do you subscribe to The Opera Quarterly?

I panicked, but said, “Yes.”

The line went dead.

I tried for days to get the American office of the journal – it’s in North Carolina – before finally getting through. A very pleasant young sounding lady answered the phone. I told her about my experience with the Parsifal issue. She said that the office was well aware of the Parsifal problem and that their email server had crashed as had their 800 number. After consulting their editorial board the quarterly had decided that their only way out was to publish eight issues devoted entirely to Rossini all on the same day. That, they hoped, would decontaminate their office, at least their American office. The young lady didn’t seem to be sure about their Japan branch.

I called the West Texas exorcist who came, shook his head, and left after seeing the magazine. Our local hazmat team disposed of the piece. I hope The Opera Quarterly is successful with its Rossini issues, but how will I know? I no longer have mail service.

My doctor says I’m still Parsifal negative.