I had decided to take a weekend break from my dual role of struggling graduate student and dashing Air Force officer with a cultural jaunt. Admittedly, a rather low brow foray.
There were two theater tickets in my waistcoat. The first was for Friday night's performance of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. The second was for Saturday -- a new musical revue (Cole) at the Mermaid theater. Or so I thought.
When I found my seat on Friday at St. Martin's theater, a young woman was sitting in it. No matter. There were plenty of available seats in this the longest-running play in modern history.
Saturday night was a reprise. I arrived early, but another couple soon arrived to claim my seat.
After a bit of nervous British discomfort, I discovered the error was mine. I had reversed my nights. And Cole was a fully-booked show.
The usher took pity on me (probably concerned that someone with my spatial difficulties might not be able to find his way home), and let me sit on her jump seat at the back of the auditorium. Through that little mishap, I was launched on the path to a brief stage romance. But that is a story for another day.
The story today is what caused me to indulge in that cascade of memories. Earlier in the week I ran across a very bad re-re-recording of the original cast album of Cole on Youtube. I had tossed out my copy of the recording, along with over a thousand other LPs, when I sold my Salem house.
Listening to it was like finding an old friend. I mentioned the other day that I am not prone to listen to the same music over and over -- with the exception of a few rare masterpieces. Cole Porter falls within the exception.
He was a master of the 32-bar song. Almost all of his tunes and lyrics are inevitable, but fresh. He added those little surprises that kept his work interesting.
What often looks like a simple AABA form (the standard 32-bar structure) turns out to be A,A prime,B,A double prime. Unlike cookie cutter composers, he does not exactly repeat the A section.
Do you need to be able to understand and articulate the form to appreciate what he wrote? Certainly not. But your ear will pick up the nuance -- noticing that something different, something fresh, is happening. That is one reason Porter's music is such a treasure trove for jazz artists.
Our local message board was recently ablaze with a rather reductionist semi-civil war started by people who had decided they were going to abandon our beachy region -- and felt compelled to announce their pending absence. Rather than paraphrase, let me share one example with you. (I will avoid the [sic]s for obvious reasons.)
I don't know if it is because there were unseasonable rainstorms this year, or if things are just heading down, but the pollution in the bay is beyond belief. It's so bad, one can see it and smell it - no need for chemical testing to know it's vastly unhealthy. I have heard so many stories of bladder infections and skin rashes and respiratory issues from people who have been in the water - it is so sad and alrming. I don't think this beautiful area can support the number of people who are here, whether Mexican and Canadian or US.Other posters responded with well-reasoned arguments why they have chosen this bay as their home. I did not see any reason to add to the list -- though I would have been in the here-I-stand-I-can-do-no-other camp.
Maybe it's always been this way - maybe it's because of the growth of the coastal towns, - I don't have that answer - but I am done. There are lots of places on this planet where there is stewardship and caring about the ocean and rivers ... that's where I will go from now on. I am so sad for this beautiful bay and the people who live here.
But the exchange caused me to analyze why I have chosen to live here. Barra de Navidad certainly has its sewer and water problems. The place is no paradise. But, then, there is no such earthly place.
When I started voicing my reasons, I realized Cole Porter had already written my response in a paean to Paris -- "You Don't Know Paree."
You come to Paris, you come to play.Visitors to this area may be turned off by our often murky waters and the fears of invisible pestilence waiting to toll their final bell. But, if that is all they see, they will never see the place that holds me here.
You have a wonderful time. You go away.
And from then on, you talk of Paris knowingly.
You may know Paris, you don't know Paree.
Though you've been around a lot,
And danced a lot, and laughed a lot,
You don't know Paree.
You may say you've seen a lot,
And heard a lot, and learned a lot --
You don't know Paree.
Paree will still be laughing after ev'ry one of us disappears,
But never once forget, her laughter is the laughter that hides the tears.
And until you've lived a lot, and loved a lot, and lost a lot,
You don't know Paree,
You don't know Paree.
They have simply not lost enough to know why Barra is our home.
* -- If you would like to hear the song as it was performed on my visit to see Cole forty years ago,you can find it by moving the indicator to 21:20.