American songbook

Certainly from the first time I melted to a frozen martini while reading a Jane Austen novel (or at least the same six paragraphs over and over), sitting in my large green leather chair, watching the logs ablaze in the Vermont casting reflected over the polished reclaimed pinewood floors – since then at least – the American songbook has been a stock complement to what was then my evening euphoria. The only thing that improved the transport was my little French bulldog Monroe curled upon the nearby couch, no doubt blissful after a tireless day at the law office greeting clients and deliverymen. In the early days I may have punctuated the intoxicating drama by trimming the mahogany side table with smoked oysters, squares of sharp cheddar cheese and whole wheat wafers. There may have been as well a cigarette and crystal ashtray!

Songs such as ‘Summertime’, ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, ‘My Funny Valentine’, ‘Let’s Face The Music And Dance’ and ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ are so familiar they seem to be part of America’s cultural fabric. They are just five masterpieces in a canon now widely known as The Great American Songbook. It is not a real book, rather a term that applies to tunes of Broadway musical theatre, Hollywood movie musicals and Tin Pan Alley (the hub of songwriting that was the music publishers’ row on New York’s West 28th Street). The songs became the core repertoire of jazz musicians during this period, which stretched roughly from 1920 to 1960.

Naturally the drawing room image – including snow, cigarettes and my little dog – is now completely off the radar. As I look atop my computer while writing I see the flat surface of Sarasota Bay, the colour of powder pink and blue, palm trees and yachts in the nearby boat slip. It’s early January and I have just returned from a swim in the pool before which I cycled about 15 kms to Bayfront Park and back. The music accompanying this project is Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in F major.

My meandering contemplations have not however changed much. I persist to amuse myself by what is before me, around me, within me. And naturally music. I can imagine no greater deprivation than to be deaf. The late L. C. Audette, QC OC once knowingly remarked that he would much prefer being blind rather than deaf; that being deaf is alike being emprisoned in a glass cage. As much as I like oriental rugs and thick oil paintings, I reluctantly concede.

Happily for me these necessities have not burdened me. In fact, considering what I have done today, nothing burdens me. We opened the day with the anticipated egg-in-the-hole venture which – as DJA accurately predicted – has pretty much exhausted the erstwhile passion. I have enough bread remaining to promote at least one further cooking infraction – mainly a composite of oil, rosemary, eggs, cheese and shaved ham. I won’t attempt to dignify it further! Like cigarettes and martinis, it wasn’t all I wistfully recalled.

That serious introduction to the day was almost immediately followed by an appearance at the local dentist’s office for a cleaning. The hygienist reported that a small anterior filling became dislodged and disappeared (presumably I swallowed the tiny piece of silver). This engendered a commotion of appointments for examination by the dentist and to enable him properly to characterize the appurtenant repair. In the meantime I arranged a subsequent cleaning attendance to complete the customary three-month cycle. DJA and I had as well visited the pertinent international exigencies upon reporting these expenses to the insurer and our accountant (with whom I also exchanged an email concerning the appropriateness of posting current accounts on the Portal before the conclusion of the previous calendar year). All very tarsome at first but ultimately relieving. The descent into these annoying details provoked a smattering of earnestness but we’ve managed to survive unscathed. Debate surrounding these trifling features is never without its repercussions. Part of the patina of partnership, I presume.