Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Lucky Luciano

My dad God rest his soul, was a remarkably predictable man. You could set your clock every June 21st, the official first day of summer, by him saying: "the days will now be getting shorter." Likewise at the other end of the year, on December 21st you could rest assured that he would pronounce the opposite. Three days later on the 24th, after the last present under the tree was unwrapped, (it was our family custom to follow the European tradition of celebrating on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas Day), he would say: "oh well, another Christmas is over." Never mind that at least according to the church in which we supposedly belonged, the feast of Christmas doesn't even begin until midnight on the 25th.

My father was a contrarian through and through. It was part of his charm as well as one of his most annoying traits. In the seventies, when everyone, and I mean everyone wore polyester flare legged pants with matching shirts and accessories, my father steadfastly stuck to wearing his old, threadbare cotton shirts and straight legged pants. It's funny because when you look at photographs from the time, my father looks remarkably stylish by today's standards while the rest of us in our flashy petroleum product  based shirts, platform shoes and ridiculous bell-bottoms look well, silly to put it kindly. You're probably ahead of me by now and can predict that the minute seventies' fashions went away, and thankfully for the most part never really came back, my dad gave up his straight legged pants for you guessed it. He dug out of the closet all those seventies threads he got as presents during that dreadful fashion era, but never wore when they were acceptable. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that my father was probably the last man on earth to wear a leisure suit.

One bit of contrarianism he practically took to his grave was his disdain for the famous opera star Luciano Pavarotti. whom as fate would have it, as I write these words, has just appeared on my Pandora radio station. Give me a minute to recover from that sudden shock of serendipity.

OK I'm better.

My love affair with opera, which I shared with my mother and to a lesser extent my father, began during my first year of college. The first opera I willfully attended was Puccini's Tosca with Pavarotti singing for the first time ever on stage, the role of Mario Cavaradossi. While he was in town, the tenor visited the record section of the old Marshall Field store on State Street to sign albums. If you didn't know that Marshall Fields at one time sold records, I can assure you this was a very long time ago, and if you don't know what a record album or for that matter what Marshall Fields is, ask your grandmother.

Anyway, I stood in line for about an hour while the Great Pavarotti was greeting his adoring fans and signing their purchases. For my part I selected a recording featuring a selection of famous arias, the first of many albums featuring opera that I would collect over the years. I'm not exaggerating to say that by the time I got to the table where the man of the hour was holding court, I must have been at least the two hundredth person he met, and there were probably the same number of folks behind me. As Pavarotti signed my album, he greeted me as if I were his best friend. I thanked him and with a huge smile on his face, looking me straight in the eye he said with gusto in his strong Modena accent,: "Eeeeseh my PLAYzhure."

Needless to say, from that moment on I was a huge fan of the huge man.

Now as anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm rather obsessive by nature and that album and those that followed got serious playtime at full volume around the house, (I still lived with my parents at the time). My mom was happy to indulge me as she took full credit for my new and to her, acceptable passion because as she liked to tell people, she used to play opera all the time when I was a small child.

On the other hand, while he didn't explicitly say anything, I can imagine all our fawning over Luciano Pavarotti must have gotten on my father's nerves. Very soon he took every chance he got to say that he liked this or that opera singer better than Pavarotti. In fact, his passion for dissing Pavarotti in this fashion, long outlived my passion for "Il Primo Tenore." More than twenty years after I bought my last Pavarotti album, any singer with classical aspirations whose voice would show up whenever my parents and I were together would like clockwork illicit these words from my old man:  "I like him (or her) better than Pavarotti."

I was reminded of this the other day when I read the following question posted to the Quora website:
Don't liberals realize that whenever they criticize the president it only make us in his base support him more?
At first I thought, with all the significant issues out there to cause one to support or not support a politician, how lame is it to base one's support as so many people do, for no other reason than to contradict the opinion of someone else?

Then it dawned on me, the constant drone of complaints against this president, no matter how valid, must sound to the base what playing Luciano Pavarotti four or five hours a day at close to full volume on our home stereo system must have sounded like to my father.

For exactly this reason, many folks who strongly oppose this president,  wisely refuse to publicly comment on him, out of angst over inciting the base.

And yet, this past week having exhibited particularly outrageous and unstable behavior...

DAMN there I go again, I just incited at least three more people who were on the brink of coming around, I simply have to be more careful. OK let me get my bearings...  OM...... deep breath..... 1, 2, 3, another deep breath,,, let it out...whew....good.

OK I have a great idea, it came to me in a dream the other night, here goes:

Each and every American you see, we're all in this really big house together and one group of people, for the sake of argument, let's call them the damn dirty snowflakes, REALLY loves opera, especially Luciano Pavarotti. The love him so much that they play his music at full volume in the house for hours on end. Then there is the other group, let's call them the Base. To them opera is OK in doses but let's get real, at least throw in some Merle every once in a while.

Well the two groups get to fighting over the record player and who should show up from the great beyond, but none other than the Okie from Muskogee himself, Merle Haggard. He tells them that up there in heaven he met this Pavarotti guy, and he's really full of himself, nothing but a big fat commie libtard. "You guys are right to fight those damn snowflakes down here every chance you get, putting them in their place by telling them that Johnny, Conway, Waylon, Hank and me are all better than that stupid Pavarotti."

"Yeah that'll really piss 'em off" cries the base. So whipped into a frenzy were they by their idols Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Janine Pirro, who mercilessly bash the singer left and right, they all got their panties into a bunch over Pavarotti. In fact that's all they could ever talk or think about anymore.

Once they all got to the point of carrying lit tiki torches in the night to protest all things Pavarotti, Merle Haggard shows up again. He tells them they're doing a great job and by the way, he's got a message from the Man upstairs. "He told me to tell you guys down here that Trump's an asshole, forget about him."

Which they do.

Problem solved. 

Thanks Merle.

Thanks Pop.

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