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Face the Music…and Dance!

September 14, 2018

If you ever come over to our house, you’ll notice we’ve got music on. I mean ALL THE TIME.

“It’s like you people have your own soundtrack that follows you around,” a friend once told me.

Now, I love music. I always have. But my husband takes it to a whole other level. Jack seeks out rare finds from eclectic artists and enjoys everything from classical piano and violin concertos to the twangiest, most Hee Haw country music you’ve ever heard in your life. He loves 80s British New Wave and Cole Porter equally. You never know if he’s going to put on a Gregorian chant or an Irish jig. And he really loves Jazz. So much so that it takes up the lion’s share of our collection of tunes, one comprised of some seven thousand songs.

His joy over that little known clarinet solo or quirky folk gem can range from infectious to tyrannical, depending on who you talk to in our household. There are simply some genres of music that won’t get play on his fancy stereo, and if you dare put them on, you’ll never hear the end of it.

Death metal, for instance, which our teenage son and his friends have developed a strange affinity for. You might be right there with him on that one, but Jack’s also got a lyrical jihad against rap, anything by Madonna, songs and artists featured on yoga class playlists, electronically enhanced voices, The Who, but not Pete Townsend, most Simon and Garfunkel songs – except for the five or so he thinks are great, and well…you get the picture.

band taking groufie picture on brown sofaI won’t. I CAN’T listen to that sh*t,” my husband says.

But his particular brand of fascism can be forgiven for the unique aura of enchantment it has brought into our lives. Jack’s become famous for choosing just the right songs for the playlists he makes for friends, and knows how to strike exactly the proper mood for romance, the birth of a child, a new job, a gloomy afternoon, the arrival of a dear friend. It’s thanks to him that our children (death metal aside) have a broad repertoire and are highly attuned to quality musicianship.

Our daughter Charlotte can sing Corcovado in Portuguese.

Our son Eamon knows the words to every IRA fight song that’s ever been recorded.

Our youngest, Josephine, is just nuts about Bing Crosby.

Music is the one area of balls-out snobbery that we indulge in unapologetically and actually encourage.1103On a constitutional level, my husband’s obsession with music has been as elemental to our survival during the worst of times as hope. It’s been a method of prayer that’s not only connected us to the greater world and kept us from feeling sorry for ourselves, but kept us bound to each other.

No small thing.

A few years ago, we went through a violent storm of events that lasted about five solid years. I’m talking unrelenting stress that started when we learned our third and youngest child was going to be born catastrophically ill. In what seemed like a New York minute, this head-spinning health crisis was compounded by an economy that crashed and burned, sending our business into a tailspin that cut our income by about eighty percent. It dragged us so far into a black hole that we honestly thought we might end up having to feed our children through Catholic Charities if something didn’t give. It was that bad. And all while our daughter was fighting for her life and we were trying to pretend that things were relatively normal for the sake of our two older children.

It was right in the middle of this personal Waterloo that Jack brought Herb Alpert and Lani Hall into our lives.Lani Hall Alpert & Herb AlpertThis married duo was a part of my husband’s early childhood, as his introduction to music came mostly from his seven (yes, seven) older sisters. Herb and Lani’s respective 1960s bands, Tijuana Brass and Brasil 66, were to the non-hippie set what The Doors and Jefferson Airplane were for the “tune in, tune out, drop out” crowd in those days. Aspirational, fun, optimistic and sophisticated, they offered a wholly uncynical groove during a time when everything seemed to be up for grabs and the whole world felt like it was on fire.

And suddenly, our world was on fire.

On our darkest days, Jack and I swayed in our kitchen to Herb and Lani’s cover of Irving Berlin’s Depression Era hit Let’s Face the Music and Dance. We clung to each other, swinging like a single hanging rope, not knowing if our little girl would survive or if we’d get to keep our house. But we knew we had each other. That had to count for something.

We’d blast Tijuana Brass, clapping and jumping around with our healthy son and daughter, dissolving into giggles at the end of every long day spent pushing our proverbial boulder up our proverbial mountain. We couldn’t afford to the leave the house that we were probably going to have to give back to the bank, but with Herb and Lani’s help, we made a daily party inside those four tentative walls.virginia-46And then one day, when we were still neck-deep in trouble, our avatars announced they were coming to Washington DC for an intimate concert at Blues Alley – a time-honored red brick and linen tablecloth jazz and supper club.

Not only could we not afford the tickets, but DC was anywhere between a 2/1/2 and 5 hour drive away from our home – depending on traffic. So, we’d have no choice but to spend the night.

“We’re going,” my husband told me.

“We can’t,” I said.

“We have to. This is about our future, and we need an infusion of magic.”

Music has magic and my husband and I believe in the voodoo of such hidden, natural forces. People who believe in magic believe in destiny. And Herb and Lani, despite the fact that we had medical bills up the wazoo and barely any clients who could afford to pay us, that we were charging our groceries and unable to pay our mortgage, felt like they were written in our stars.

“Have a little faith,” my husband said.

So, with our kid having just finished some pretty grueling medical treatments, and our business bleeding money like a slit throat, my husband and I got dressed up, packed our overnight bags and road-tripped to Washington DC. We blasted Spanish Flea and Zorba the Greek from our car stereo, shaking our butts in our seats. We pantomimed to Casino Royale, as if we were in an Aston Martin on the hills of Monte Carlo. Jack crooned up a damned fine This Guys in Love With You, just for me. It was the closest I’d felt to being nineteen since I was nineteen.

As for the show, it gave us a window into our best selves.

Not only did Herb and Lani sing and play with the joy and exuberance of their youth, but showed us what love could look like for us thirty or so years down the line. It helped  remind us that our parents had survived wars, deaths and penniless moves to distant countries.

This is nothing,” we said to ourselves and each other. “It shall pass.”

In the meantime, we got to enjoy two artists who made us feel as if our recovery – emotional, financial – was an inevitability.Throughout the show, Herb Alpert looked at his wife, Lani Hall, like they’d just met. “Imagine getting to listen to this voice every morning in the shower,” he told us.

Then, as if on cue, Lani sang what had become for us what John Williams’ Indiana Jones theme was to that franchise.

There may be trouble ahead
But while there’s music and moonlight and love and romance
Let’s face the music and dance

Before the fiddlers have fled                                                                                                     

Before they ask us to pay the bill and while we still have the chance

Let’s face the music and dance
Soon we’ll be without the moon, humming a different tune and then
There may be teardrops to shed
So while there’s moonlight and music and love and romance
Let’s face the music and dance!

“You’re my knight in shining armor,” Lani said, nestling her curly hair right under her husband’s chin.

I feel the same way about my guy.

There was a palpable feeling of love and a common core of humanity that floated through the club the way rich tobacco used to. Evident in the tapping of fingers on the nightclub tables, spontaneous laughter at Herb Alpert’s signature trumpet blare, and dreamy smiles at the couple’s naked joie de vivre.

Republican Jack Kemp was in the audience, and Herb, a die-hard democrat welcomed him as a dear friend, asked him to stand up and take a bow for his service in our government. Those were the days, right?

When the show ended and we walked to our hotel room that night, we didn’t give a single thought to how much we’d had to shell out for our indulgence. We put our daughter’s precarious health in a mental lockbox and placed it on a high shelf, far away from where we could see it.

“Tonight was divine providence,” Jack told me.

Indeed, that night was the start of a creep upward for us and our sick little girl. One that wouldn’t take off into a run for a couple of more years, but that we felt as deeply and as surely as we did a desire to make a life together on our very first date. We were right on both counts.

New Love at First Write! When asked about the secret to their happy marriage of some forty plus years, Lani Hall said, “Communication. Great conversations.” Apropos of today’s post, I’ve got an LAFW for you about Dialogue and the Art of Conversation. Hope you enjoy it.

 

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From → faith, family, love

10 Comments
  1. I’ve never understood how people live their lives without a soundtrack. One of the things I love about the internet music services is discovering new artists. That’s where i first heard Takuya Kuroda. groovy, groovy, jazzy, funky (a little Canteloop reference for you there) Thanks for the perfect Friday morning story.

  2. I spent a week this summer in Moravia where my family lived before WW2 and we got to listen to some of the local singers. It was absolutely great and I often imagined you in similar locations, Jazz, Blues and cheese.
    Great post, as always ❤

    • Thanks, Christoph. I love that Jazz is still popular in Easter Europe. I went to Jazz clubs all the time when I lived in Prague.

  3. Ohmygosh what a fabulous post, Victoria. I have tears in my eyes and love how music has been (and will forever be) an integral part of your lives. So beautiful.

  4. Thank you, Dale. So glad you found meaning in it 🙂

  5. Hey Victoria, that was warm, humble, emotional and just full of love! I appreciate so much when you share from your heart because it feels like I’m reading a letter from an old friend! Jack is awesome, but so are you! I can only imagine the fear, the stress, and angst y’all were feeling throughout such devastating times!

    My oldest son, Kelsey, who moved home from Austin four years ago to take care of me, also loves music almost to that degree. He grew up on my love for The Marshall Tucker Band, found his own groove in the ‘80’s and now listens to everything from Hank Williams, Sr. to obscure indie tunes. Music gets him through the day while sitting in front of his MAC creating, inking, coloring comic book covers to his own creations! It’s comforting to see his head phones bobbing as it signals to me that he’s “in his creative groove!”

    Thank you for sharing so much love ❤️ Peggy

  6. I love The Marshall Tucker Band! In fact, I was just listening to them this morning on the treadmill 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and sharing, Peggy!

  7. Music all the time here at my house too. I’ve always said there’s a song for everything.

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