211 FRIDAY 23 JANUARY 2015
More I Cannot Wish You – John Carpenter
Summer of 1992 has a special place in my memories. I had finished my masters in the spring, and the organisation I had been working for a few months had extended my contract for another six months. I had moved to a new place near DuPont Circle in DC. This was the early 1990s and it would take another four or five years for the area to become chic.
So, there I was in a small efficiency apartment at the Chastleton, at 16th and R, where as legend has it The Duke and Duchess of Windsor stayed for a while.
I wasn’t sure what was next. I had been a student all of my life. If it wasn’t formal education, it was some sort of training course, like scriptwriting, or English as a second language. I decided to take the Summer of 1992 off, no planning, no thinking of the future, just relaxing and coasting through life for a while.
I didn’t have anything at first in my tiny studio, just my clothes, my CDs, a few books and a boom box. My friend Martín, who was returning to Venezuela, sold me a futon, and my friend Sandra who was going back to Brazil sold me her 13” dial TV along with her pots and pans. I believe the card table with the two folding chairs and the Ikea TV stand came later.
Around that time I bought the “Guys and Dolls” CD where this version of More I Cannot Wish You comes from. A revival had been playing on Broadway for a couple of months, and I had been waiting for the CD to come out.
During those long days of the summer months of 1992, I developed a morning routine which I did for years. Around 5:30 AM the sunlight filtering through the blinds would wake me up. I’d open the window a little bit to let the fresh morning air invade my space. The coffee would brew while I’d go into the bathroom. By the time the coffee was ready I’d pour a cup, go back to the futon, put the “Today” show on mute, light up a cigarette, place the boom box on my lap, and start to listen to music. I used to listen to the new “Guys And Dolls” album a lot, and More I Cannot Wish You stuck in my head for no particular reason. I just thought there were so much care and wisdom in the lyrics, and the interpretation by John Carpenter was sublime.
The association with this song is sensorial, every time I listen to it I can feel the thick air of the humid summer of 1992 sneaking into my small efficiency apartment. Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel look uncomfortable as they try to be amicable on TV. Bill Clinton, Al Gore and their wives are getting on a bus to campaign throughout the country. “A League Of Their Own” is hitting it off the park at the box-office. In Barcelona, a Paralympic archer is shooting an arrow to light up the Olympic cauldron. A set of new tenants is moving into Melrose Place over at Fox.
It’s 1992, I’m a young man again.
Song Title: More I Cannot Wish You – 1950 Genre: Musical Artist: John Carpenter Composer: Frank Loesser Lyricist: Frank Loesser Album: Guys And Dolls
Favourite Lyrics: But More I Cannot Wish You / Than to wish you find your love / Your own true love this day
212 SATURDAY 24 JANUARY 2015
After Car – Orchestra
If you live in Washington, DC, sooner or later you will find yourself on the verge of breaking a political scandal or at the very least, you’ll fantasise about it.
On a slow Friday evening in the winter of 1998, Ronald, my partner, picked me up from work as he usually did on Friday nights. That was the day we’d do our weekly shopping. As we were driving up Constitution Avenue towards the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, Ronald noticed a briefcase lying in the middle of the road, near the corner of 22nd St. and Constitution. Ronald’s immediate reaction was to stop and pick it up. I advised him against it, common sense told me that you just don’t grab suspicious things lying around the U.S. State Department, of all places. However, faster than the U.S. funded the Contra, Ronald leapt out and grabbed the briefcase, held it against his chest and ran back to the car. He dropped the briefcase on my lap and quickly drove off.
“Open it,” Ronald asked.
“I’m not going to open it. You open it!”
“Okay, I will.”
Ronald parked on the side of the road, we quickly switch places, and I drove off. He opened it and went through some papers.
“John Arbogast. US State Department” Ronald read out a business card, “this must be the owner.”
“Make sure you put everything back the way it was. We don’t want him to know we’ve been through his stuff.”
“Let’s get home, so we can see what’s inside,” Ronald suggested. “We can go to Costco tomorrow.”
“How about dinner?”
“Carry out. We can still rent a movie, though. Maybe, we should rent ‘All The President’s Men’?” Ronald suggested.
“Sure, why not? For all we know, we may have another Watergate in our hands,” I said sarcastically, although Ronald was oblivious to it.
Now, if this were a film, this is the part where the camera would start to pull out to reveal our location, the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge with the Watergate Complex in the background. As many of you may know, Watergate is the place of the infamous break-in at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters that would eventually bring Richard Nixon’s presidency to an end. The film, ‘All The President’s Men’, tells the story of the two Washington Post reporters, Carl Bernstein, and Bob Woodward, who broke the story, and their source “Deep Throat”. Bernstein and Woodward wrote the book the movie is based on.
Once we arrived at our place on Capitol Hill, Ronald went through the briefcase again, but I don’t recall him finding anything interesting at all, it was mostly personal stuff. Just before we started to roll the videotape, Ronald called the number on the business card, the machine picked up and he left a message. “John Arbogast, I’ve found something that it may belong to you. So, if you’ve lost something tonight, please give me a call,” he left our phone number.
The next morning we received a phone call. Indeed, Arbogast was the rightful owner of the briefcase. Later in the morning, we met him at Mr. Henry’s on the Hill to return the briefcase. Arbogast seemed relieved to recover the briefcase; however, he asked if that was the only bag we had found, I believe he mentioned there were two more bags missing. It was a common oversight; he had put the bags on his car’s roof after leaving his work at the State Department and had just driven off. As it turned out, he was a legal counsel who worked very close to the then Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
“Wow. Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State?” Ronald seemed impressed. “Now, what’s with that girl’s hair?” He asked and chuckled at his own question. Arbogast ignored him.
After we finish our meal, Arbogast said he had to leave, a family commitment or something. He paid for the meal, shook our hands, and left. Ronald and I stayed behind finishing our coffees.
“Madeleine Albright’s hair? Really?” I snapped at Ronald after Arbogast had cleared the premises.
“Oh I was just joking,” he played it down.
You see, that was the thing with Ronald; his line of questioning could be unpredictable. True, poor Madeleine had a horrendous hairstyle, but at the time she was one of the most influential people in the world, you just don’t ask those things about her.
A week or so went by when a little blurb in Time Magazine caught our attention. In a security breach, a man had entered Albright’s office and had taken some documents from a ‘Sensitive Compartmented Information’ pouch and had put them in his briefcase.
His briefcase. You see where I’m going with this, right?
Naturally, Ronald’s first reaction was to call Time Magazine and tell them about our encounter with Arbogast.
“Could he be the man wearing the brown tweed jacket who took the sensitive documents?” Ronald wondered.
“Don’t be silly, he said he was a lawyer and that he worked closely with Madeleine Albright,” I dismissed his comment.
“Precisely, that’s why he was able to go into her office and take the documents without raising any suspicion.” Ronald sort of made a point. “I’ll give Time Magazine a call.”
“Just hold it right there, Debbie,” I said as he grabbed the phone. “You’re not doing Dallas, and I’m not Deep Throat. We’re not talking to any reporters about this.”
“Come on, this is how big scandals are uncovered. Think Watergate or Iran-Contra, or even that White House intern thing going on just a few blocks away.” At the time, the Monica Lewinsky saga was in its first weeks of existence.
Ronald ended up contacting Time Magazine, a reporter got interested in the story. I can’t remember his name, but I assume it must have been the reporter who initially wrote about it, Chris Taylor. Ronald met with him once or twice; I never met him, though. I only spoke to him on the phone, off the record, of course. I just told him my version of the events, and about our conversation with Arbogast. I didn’t want to be part of it, the Inter-American Development Bank, where I worked, had close ties with the State Department. Being a procrastinator by nature, I thought I could lose my job over it. Ronald, on the other hand, gave the reporter everything but the kitchen sink. In his mind, he already saw the entire movie play; okay we both did, I admit. I believe we also talked about casting possibilities, Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas.
A week later, a blurb appeared in Time Magazine. “Was It a Security Breach Or a Chevy Chase Movie?” the headline read, and it went on describe how State Department John Arbogast drove off one day with his briefcases on his car’s rooftop. Ronald is referred as the motorist who found the briefcase on the road; there was no mention of me being in the car. That was it, just a blurb, not even two paragraphs, just one.
Within days, the FBI showed up at our door. They just wanted to do a routine interview with Ronald, I was at work, so I didn’t meet them. The agents just asked him about the events of the evening when we found the briefcase. However, it seems they were more interested in playing with our cats Milhous and Hampton, than the actual interview. At least, that’s what Ronald remembered when I called him recently to see what his memories of the briefcase saga were.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Informant!” you can understand why its theme reminds me of that episode in DC in the winter of 1998.
Song Title: After Car – 2009 Genre: Soundtrack Artist: Orchestra Composer: Marvin Hamlisch Album: The Informant! (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
213 SUNDAY 25 JANUARY 2015
Battle Hymn of the Republic – Judy Garland
I grew up singing the Spanish version of this beautiful song. It was a required hymn whenever we had to attend Mass at school. We sang it so frequently that we didn’t need to look at the songbook at all. Even to this day, I believe I could sing it, I haven’t forgotten the lyrics. I didn’t know at the time it was an American hymn from the Civil War era.
This version was recorded for the “Judy Garland Show” in late 1963 after President Kennedy was assassinated. Judy wanted to do the entire show with patriotic songs and dedicate it to him.
Judy Garland was probably the only real friend Kennedy had among all the Hollywood glitterati that surrounded him. Stories of Judy singing “Over The Rainbow” on the phone for him were not an exaggeration.
CBS nixed the idea of an all patriotic songs tribute. They didn’t want the entire show to be a tribute to Kennedy. Regardless of CBS’s decision, she went ahead and sang Battle Hymn Of The Republic for her dear dead friend. However, she wasn’t able to publically dedicate her performance to Kennedy. To this day, her interpretation remains one of the highlights of her short-lived variety show.
Song Title: Battle Hymn of the Republic – 1861 Genre: Classic Artist: Judy Garland Composer: William Steffe Lyricist: Julia Ward Howe Album: The Judy Garland Show: The Show That Got Away
Favourite Lyrics: Glory, glory, hallelujah / Glory, glory, hallelujah / Glory, glory, hallelujah / Our God is marching on
214 MONDAY 26 JANUARY 2015
King’s Fate – Prince’s Future – Kralahome’s Demise – Anna’s Surprise – Philharmonia Orchestra & William Kidd
Two years ago, as I was giving the final touches to my novel “The Return Of The Army Of Light”, this medley from “The King And I” helped me set the mood for a passage of the book. In an attempt to overcome the pain of his partner’s untimely death, Lucas asks a video editor, Ariel, to create a small tribute. Lucas, who couldn’t have a funeral or organised a memorial service for Anwaar, is now trying to come to terms with his loss, and move on.
You can read the passage here: KING’S FATE
Song Title: King’s Fate – Prince’s Future – Kralahome’s Demise – Anna’s Surprise – 1951 Genre: Musical Artist: Philharmonia Orchestra & William Kidd Composer: Richard Rodgers Album: The King and I (Original Animated Feature Soundtrack)
215 TUESDAY 27 JANUARY 2015
Sheik of Araby – Café Accordion Orchestra
Another song I never knew existed until I heard it featured on “Boardwalk Empire”, the TV show. As I usually do with songs I like, I searched for other versions. I thought this one from the “Café Accordion Orchestra” was a lot of fun.
Song Title: Sheik of Araby – 1921 Genre: Jazz Artist: Café Accordion Orchestra Composer: Ted Snyder Lyricists: Harry B. Smith, Francis Wheeler Album: Le Disque Francais
Favourite Lyrics: I’m the Sheik of Araby and your love belongs to me / At night when you’re asleep, into your tent I’ll creep / And the stars that shine above, they’ll light our way to love / You’ll rule this land with me, I’m the Sheik of Araby
216 WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY 2015
Easy Money – Bellamy Young, Sam Harris, Kevin Ramsey
“The Life” is one of those shows which premise you may not find appealing, but once you watch it, you start to see its merits. It is a look back to Times Squares in the 1970s, way before Disney invaded the 42nd St. area, a place populated with pimps, hookers, and dealers. Among the characters, there’s Mary, a runaway who, after making lots of dough as a go-go dancer, realises how easy it is to make money. Fans of the TV show “Scandal” will recognise Bellamy Young, she plays the first lady on the show.
There’s nothing special about the song, it is just a fun song to listen to.
Song Title: Easy Money – 1996 Genre: Musical Artist: Bellamy Young, Sam Harris, Kevin Ramsey Composer: Cy Coleman Lyricists: Ira Gasman Album: The Life
Favourite Lyrics: Easy Money / I’m learning how to make it, / Easy Money, / You just reach out and take it, / Ain’t it funny, how things can change, / My take home really was low, I never knew it was so / Easy Honey.
217 THURSDAY 29 JANUARY 2015
Mambembe – Soledad Bravo
I got acquainted with the great Chico Buarque’s work mostly through the Spanish versions of his songs. Mambembe is one of those songs.
There’s no direct translation of the word ‘mambembe’ to either Spanish or English. The song is a love letter to street performers, the gypsies who carry their art around the city. It is a very sweet song; I’ve always loved it.
Song Title: Mambembe – 1977 Genre: Latin Artist: Soledad Bravo Composer: Chico Buarque Lyricists: Chico Buarque Album: Lo Mejor Vol. 2
Favourite Lyrics: Mambembe, Gitano / Debajo del puente, cantando / Bajo de la tierra, cantando / En boca del pueblo, cantando
Artist, Gypsy / Under a bridge, singing / beneath the eart, singing / In people’s mouths, singing