From Costa Rica and beyond

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Really Fine Night

The following comes from an evening about three weeks ago. I took notes as it was happening. I realize that some of the likenesses drawn in this journal-style entry will mean nothing to those who don´t know the persons referenced. But it is my blog after all :)

It has been a tough day. I left my debit card in an ATM about a week ago and just realized it yesterday. Today was spent scrambling in order to get money flowing to me as soon as possible. Thank goodness Stafford was able to spot me some cash to tie me over.

So I was feeling a bit brain-dead and hungry too as I approached the corner cafe on the way back to my apartment. Since it is cold now, the windows were closed and I heard next to nothing, but there were lots of people inside and a number of smokers just outside the entrance. The big crowd and the warm light reflecting off wood trim and antique cameras beckoned. It was tempting to pass it all by and return to one thing that was a sure thing on this marathon day (that being my apartment and the salad nicoise whose fixings I was carrying with me). But why not escape for a while into a charming, bustling porteƱo cafe?

I stepped in and found a white haired jazz band playing It Had To Be You. One last table remained free. I took my place and ordered a beer which came with a tiny bowl of peanuts. Beer and protein - a good combo! Particularly the beer in my empty tummy had an almost immediate effect and added to the fun and the free flow of writing ideas as I scribbled in my notebook. It became abundantly clear to me why Christopher Hitchens prefered to write while drinking whiskey.

Whether it was the beer, a bit of nostalgia or just coincidence, the white-haired virtuosos of the Musicos Cabildo Norte Jazz Club almost all reminded me of someone.

The trombonist with his generous round belly and simple button-up shirt reminded me of my Grandpa Ehrean. If he had stopped and stuck his false teeth out at any of the kids present, the illusion would have been complete.

The keyboardist was a diminutive (and aged) version of my friend Jim Webber who I once helped schlep a vintage electric keyboard into the back of his Subaru.

The guitarist looked like a Gunter Grass without the burdens of a self-anointed moralizer.

The saxophonist reminded me of Saint Johnsbury Academy´s now retired automotive teacher, Tom Moore, as one might see him all dressed up at the Academy´s Christmas Party.

The drummer was a shorter version of former US Director of Intelligence, John Negroponte. The drummer did not miss a beat, so unlike his doppelganger who spoke unintelligently at graduation a few years back about Saint Johnsbury´s namesake (His assumption was wrong - the city is not named for Saint John.).

As they advanced from one jazz standard to another, the performers rotated, giving a slightly more literal meaning to musical chairs. There were a lot more musicians present than I thought...maybe even more performers than audience members.

The shortest and perhaps oldest of the performers, occasionally picking his guitar, occasionally joining other vocalists, reminded me paradoxically of Herman Munster with his box-like head and very prominent chin. His face, however, was as white and wrinkled as Herman´s was green and taut.

Another guitarist, perhaps the most elegant of the men bore a resemblance to my great grandfather from Sweden...perhaps crossed with post-war Germany´s chancellor, Adenauer.

There was a clarinetist too. A Benny Goodman with an incredible comb-over.

Of all these men, there was only one dark-haired interloper. I think I would have bleached my hair if I were him.

The elder musikmeisters, the tunes from the golden age of jazz, the b & w photos in this cafe cum photography museum all carried me away from the day´s worries. I was struck by how many amazing musicians there are in Buenos Aires and by how such quintessentially American music has become a part of the world´s musical heritage. This American felt really lucky and even a bit proud to be enjoying one of his country´s great and truly appreciated cultural gifts performed masterfully by men who may never have set foot on US soil. It was a really fine night.

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