Friday, January 17, 2020


            Last week a young couple, unrelated to us, told us they were engaged to be married. Somehow, it makes a difference in my life.

            We live about two miles from a restaurant, where we eat about once a week. This past summer, under the direction of a Romanian-born manager, they hired about a dozen Romanian students for the summer, when we have a lot more residents and guests than we have now in January. Kim and I got to know a few of these kids, thanks largely to Kim’s warmth, curiosity, and talent for getting people to talk about themselves. We helped them with their English – for example, explaining what it means to serve a Manhattan “up.” Among the visitors was Ion, who was actually from Moldova, small country located between Romania and Ukraine. (No, I‘d never heard of it, either.) The students all left in September, visiting various parts of the United States (Chicago, Los Angeles, the Grand Canyon) before heading home. We miss their youthful energy.

            At dinner a few weeks after they departed, we were talking to Das, a young local waitress who had been hired that summer. Kim asked her if she missed the Romanians. She said yes, especially Ion, who is her boyfriend. Kim told her that she made a good choice in boyfriends.

            Fast forward to January, when Das escorted us to our table. We asked if she had heard from Ion, and she said, Yes, he is here, and they are engaged. He came to our table to take our order, and, this being a slow night, we got to talking about their plans. No date set. He’s seeking work as an electrical engineer doing environment-friendly work. She is training to teach math and physics. They are sweet kids, and we wish them well.

            Sweet, but so what?

            Iran. North Korea. Puerto Rican earthquakes. Australian fires. Impeachment. Another school shooting. Global warming. Tornadoes. Plane crash. Flu deaths. Jefferey Epstein, African drought. Extinctions. Racism. Hate.

            No, we do what we can, vote, sign petitions, write letters. And feel encouraged by sweet moments.

            Not quite on the same subject, but here’s a poem that found me:

by Louis Jenkins
In Sitka, because they are fond of them, people have
named the sea lions. Every sea lion is named Earl because
they are killed one after another by the orca, the killer
whale; sea lion bodies tossed left and right into the air.
"At least he didn't get Earl," someone says. And sure
enough, after a time, that same friendly, bewhiskered face
bobs to the surface. It's Earl again. Well, how else are
you to live except by denial, by some palatable fiction,
some little song to sing while the inevitable, the black
and white blindsiding fact, comes hurtling toward you
out of the deep?

Ion and Das are my “little song to sing,” at least this week. Maybe yours is a grandchild, a piece of music, a bird, a meal, a small kindness observed.

Paul Stern commented:
Your piece on music from two weeks ago remains on my mind.  I agree that rock music doesn’t carry a full range of human emotions.  But one important thing a lot of it does, which is not emotional in the usual sense, is that it makes you want to get up and dance.  There are innumerable songs like that—in my experience the best are in the rock-n-roll genre.  My personal favorite is Come Go with Me, a 1957 hit by the Dell-Vikings.

I hear a much greater range of emotional content in country music, especially of earlier vintage.  My absolute favorite of these is Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, which elicits more emotions than I can describe.  Hank Williams’ I Can’t Help It (if I’m still in love with you) is another favorite emotion-eliciter of mine.  In a slightly different vein and more of a crossover into pop, there is Silver Threads and Golden Needles by the Springfields (then covered by Linda Ronstadt).  And then there is gospel and blues, and work songs and civil rights songs, with other emotions.

1 comment:

  1. It is so important to have a "little song to sing" in these crazy times. Listening to Joe Pass & Herb Ellis on guitars. Music is my song. Love this story.