Tuesday, October 06, 2015

killing me softly

Last week I succumbed to the travel bug.

Unlike many retirees, I never saw myself as a traveler when I retired.  Mind you, I traveled often with my Air Force duties.  And I loved it.  But that was for business.  Just traveling aimlessly did not register on my retire-o-meter.

However, travel has been a central theme of my retirement as most of you know reading these pages.  That is, until last May.  When I returned to Barra de Navidad following my China trip, I decamped to my bedroom where I have generally spent each night -- with the exception of those six hospital nights last month.

Last Wednesday I decided a trip to Costco was in order.  I needed a few things for the house.  Nothing that even approached a necessity.  What I really needed was to get away from my usual surroundings for a couple of days.

I am not very fond of Puerto Vallarta.  It was once my preferred tourist stop in Mexico.  When I looked at retiring there, though, I quickly learned it offered me very little of what I was seeking in Mexico.

What it does have is tourist hotels.  To rest my leg, I decided to avoid a rushed trip.  Instead, I would stay for two days at an all-inclusive hotel on the beach.  Something I have never done.

It turned out to be a good choice.  But not for the mediocre food and indifferent service.  Living in an air-conditioned suite for two days on the ninth floor of a beachfront hotel was almost as recuperative as a week in Madrid -- without the culture, of course.  I could feel the patina layers of "stay-at-home flu" sloughing off.

When I returned to the house, I felt as if I had been away for at least seven days.  I have learned a lesson.  Mini-vacations in Mexico may replace my longer stays overseas.

But I already know that about short get-aways.  I was reminded of that when I opened my most recent shipment from Amazon -- the complete works of Gilbert and Sullivan on CD.

I came to Gilbert and Sullivan at a late age.  Most people were exposed to the operetta magicians in high school.  I was in my early 20s when I first met up with the pair.

It was the winter of 1974.  I was studying for a joint university master's degree in International Relations at Oxford.  An Air Force friend told me the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company was in town to present its repertoire of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.  My college adviser insisted I attend.  After all, the
D'Oyly Carte company was the original production company of the pieces.

I still remember the eerie echo of strings and woodwinds in the opening bars of the overture.  The piece was Iolanthe.  Somewhere between the overture and the opening number, I was won over as an aficionado of the company.  I attended each of their performances.

And through the company, I met one of the dancers, who I dated briefly.  I have not talked with her in years, but I can still close my eyes and imagine her gracefulness.  I continue to look for that same love of dance in women I date.  That may be why I have long been infatuated with Karen Ziemba.

All of those memories came tumbling back through my nostalgia hall as I listened to the Iolanthe CD.  With those same few notes from the overture, I was back in the Oxford Playhouse.  With its plush velvet seats.  The guardsman lamenting the inanity of British politics.  Julia's graceful fairy pirouettes.  And especially Gilbert's witty lyrics that still make me chuckle a century after they were conceived.

Music has the power to magically do that.  To transport us back to where we have been -- or to places we have yet to see.  Making our lives a bit richer.  Renewing our souls.  Plucking the harp strings of relationship.

At 66 I am re-learning lessons I have long ago been taught.  Enjoy the moment.  Look for small pleasures that happen every day.  And travel the world step by step with music as your traveling partner.

It was worth succumbing to that travel bug to be reminded that life truly is a joyous trek.


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