TRAVEL PORTRAIT 93: February 2, 2022

Out of the Wilderness [listen]
[one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | nine | ten | part eleven | twelve | thirteen]

A pre-Covid continuation of a fictional story.

Frank lifted his coat that was tucked in the folded theater seat cushions (back and bottom). He sat down wondering what made him leave the garment during intermission.

"Was I dislocated by the Cante Gitano, or caught up in the audience vibe."

Frank thought that he might have been engrossed with Brian and Celia, with work and play. However, after the brief consideration of the course of events, he decided none of the above as he placed the coat on the adjacent no-show empty seat.

Frank sighed. His eyes glazed over while he glared at a chair and footstool center stage. The buzz of people returning to the auditorium neutralized his temperament. Receding into his mind, Frank heard a rhythmic hollow thumping. His neck flexed when his head pivoted to adjust his ears to better discern, locate the sound, the source of a melodious background beat.

"Loose something? Did you loose something," a sturdy gray-haired man reiterated, infecting the timbre of his words as if English was a second language of the person to whom he spoke. "Searching for someone, maybe?"

Aware, Frank pretended not to hear.

"I reserved this seat."

A dark-blue cotton windbreaker draped his forearm, sleeved by a light-blue button down shirt, covered by a tan merino vest, which also concealed the belt that prevented his over-sized chinos from falling down. The man pointed to Frank's coat, then retracted the unspoken accusation.

Frank winced. He grabbed and wedged the bulky fabric between his outer thigh and armrest on the opposite side after begging pardon from the person sitting on his left. Having removed the impediment, Frank gestured to the complainant.

The ticket holder signaled the rapidly approaching usher to return to his post. The man's voice became more congenial after he rested his feet.

"That's the advantage of being a season ticket holder--and providing a twenty dollar tip on occasion. I prefer to sit along the aisle so I can sneak in with little disruption. Fortunately. I arrived before the intermission was over."

"Sorry that I wasn't paying attention; I was trying to figure out where the music was coming from."

"I get that way too, when I drink a few pods in an hour."

Frank looked puzzled.

"Coffee, caffeine!" The senior citizen became amicably agitated. "The speakers, if any, are hidden. Been that way to for decades, for all I know. The side balcony acoustics, phenomenal." He crooked his neck, made eye contact with Frank, and took a beat before asking, "Say, are you a writer?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean what I said," he responded, waving a playbill in his right hand. "Here you are visibly confused, deep in thought. From my perspective, looks like to me--you're a writer." He chuckled. "I mean, I can see you're from out of town, but you're not a tourist. Here on assignment?"

"I'm visiting friends who are sitting there, somewhere on a lower level."

Frank motioned with his hand fussily as if shooing a mosquito.

The man chuckled again.

After a quick glance, "Let me guess, a guy and a girl. You've got the hots for the girl, and he's your friend."

Wishing that he had not reacted, Frank tried, "I'm in town on business with a prospective employer and his niece." He took pause, and scowled at the tawdry implication.

"Yeah well, I'm a retired journalist. I tend to ask a lot of questions--and I have plenty of experience wheedling misconstrued answers out of people. Occupational gotchas, I love them. But you are a writer of sorts."

"An essay, an interview, art reviews--I'm trying to break into the 'scene'."

"Scene?! There is no scene. That is if you want to write for the Arts. There are figments of imagination that need to be maintained as facts, of which there are plenty samplings that can turn into major examples, indicators of the Time, with a capital 'T'. I heard Simpaticas play once, on several occasions actually, a long while ago before he came to the city. I'm on assignment to write his backstory. I'm starting with this performance."

"But I thought you said you were retired."

"I am. I was forced into retirement. I got shelved on a grandfather clause: too much explaining, not enough professional exposition (i.e. expert opinion). I'm covering tonight's show for my neighborhood paper. Thank goodness this paper doesn't have a budget; experienced writers my age with a descent pension can still work, gratis. Given your youthfulness, you could work at a 'hood weekly to build your resume and gather references. Where have you published? Anything notable?"

Frank did not like where the conversation was going.

Are you looking to intern or do you have a day job?"

"Like I said, I'm here on business."

"Right. And I had to agree to also serve as a mentor. I negotiated with the editor. I told her I needed a street cred' with the youth. Samplings as opposed to a scene. I'm going to have to turn these kids into examples--that's the expectation anyway. Street cred zeitgeist," he mumbled.

"So, what's the backstory?"

"In the day when music was fun--by fun, I mean rowdy, nothing like mosh pit, rowdy fun, like the early days of Rap (Hip Hop): very charismatic. Um,.."

The retiree's hands, in small ovals, gyrated away from his mouth.


Frank was put off by the racial cue. Skeptical, he continued to listen, after giving a subtle warning.

"Shouldn't be much longer before the show starts. So, were you a music critic or something?"

The journalist grimaced and replied, "A critic of sorts. I was more about the music event."

Frank intonated teasingly, "The scene?!"

"Alright, you got me," he admitted, while trying to suppress his grin. "Look, the show will start when the artist wants the show to start. He admonished, wagging his finger, "Don't allow the surroundings let you think different. That's why the barely audible music is being piped in, to keep the mind engaged while we wait," the journalist opined, trying to lessen his harsh attitude.

Offended, Frank leaded forwards, placing his forearms on his thighs, and looked away momentarily before scooting in the opposite direction, arching his spine to stretch his vertebrae.

"Early on, Rap was about visceral lyrics. Prior to that, a Rock concert was a jam session, was about guitar licks and drum solos--visceral. Stuff that made the crowds go wild. Simpaticas, a flamenco guitarist, could make the crowds go wild.

"Granted the setting then, fifty years ago…. It's not like he fell off the radar, but c'mon--the decades of daily grind: carpel tunnel, arthritis. That's what I'm here to check out tonight: Time with a capital 'T'. You're very fortunate to be here to witness an Age defined. I'm going to write the backstory--and leave the accuracy to the historians."

"Are you expecting the crowd to go wild?"

"Not for me to say."

Frank attempted to seize the opportunity to gain some career insight, receive mentoring.

"Would you say that I'm where you were when you got started?"

"Tough to say. I don't know you. Who are you? And what are you doing here? You're here by chance, right? In town on business. What's your business? What are you willing to admit, admit about yourself? I'm willing to admit, not afraid to admit, when I was like you, I was trying to be Ernest, perfectly Ernest."

"Do you mean honest," corrected Frank, believing he heard a speech affectation.

"No, Ernest--Hemingway; heard of him? I was an Ernest Hemingway wannabe. There. I finally said it, admitted to you only because I don't know who you are, and you don't know my name. I've been hiding this for like ever. But to write this article about this great Andalusian musician, I had to admit this to myself. That's what's necessary. Consider yourself lucky. You are where I am today. …I feel prepared! …Been a while."

Frank wondered who the journalist is/was.

"So, have you written anything notable?"

"Ha, ha," his grin returned. "Anyway, what made Simpaticas wasn't his technical precision, fretting and phrasing. No. Simpaticas played for the people what suits, not the suits.

"What suits, not suits? What's that, if not that?"

"Even though I wasn't here for the opening act, I suspect that the performance was technically correct, but heartless, thus unsuitable. What do you think?"

"I'm not familiar enough to say. What makes you qualified to think the performance was unsuitable?"

The journalist opened the program and turned to the bio page.

"See… here, the guitarist and vocalist are both recent conservatory graduates with honors. Honor students tend to be competitive, have to be competitive, at what? Emotiveness? No, skill! They're highly trained and skilled to meet 'professorial expectations', for lack of better words. These two young astute graduates might, if they don't burnout first, find their aesthetic prowess."

"Aesthetic prowess."

"What I'm trying to say is that for Simpaticas, he wasn't/isn't about being a virtuoso."

Sparked by the idea, the journalist snapped his fingers.

"But he could and did play in a style virtuosos envy, covet. And now, he is here at the Hall! What is he going to play; to whom is he going to play?!"

"What suits," recognized Frank.

"Exactly, but there are a lot of people here. That's why I like being at this vantage. I can get a pretty clear overview of the audience."

The elder revealed the field glasses.

"I get to see the players up close. Here. Look at the front row and tell me what you see."

Frank did not budge.

"Even without the binoculars I can see a woman with a bouquet of roses. What's her story? Next to her, men in suits. Did the men, possibly investors, put Simpaticas on stage with her support? Look around at the audience--what is their fashion sense? The point is, there is a there within the there surrounding the story."

He pointed at the woman, then the men, then gyrated his wrist to symbolize the rest of the audience as he spoke.

"Generations are here. How does Simpaticas imbue viscerally, placate rowdiness on this layered scale? How am I going to articulate what his music says to my memory of him, from my first encounter when I was in my twenties, and presumably his too, of and around the same Age. Is this folk existentialism, nostalgia capital, legacy angst, or something else," he thought aloud to himself. His wrinkly face was scrawled with anticipation.

Peeking from the corner of his eye, Frank watched the journalist jot down notes in the margin of a page from the playbill. The words were slightly comprehensible; the phrases were in Spanglish. Frank regretted that his vocabulary only allowed him to understand the sung lyric "No comprendo". Feeling woefully inarticulado, he wondered what Brian wanted. Frank worried whether or not he would be able to expound upon thoughts, formulate ideas, compile research, if need be.

Frank placed his elbow on the armrest; the limb buttressed his head with the palm cradling his chin, fingers massaging the side of his face.

"Getting bored," asked the reporter in a hushed stern voice. He quietly announced and advised strongly, "The recital is about to begin. You're gonna want to pay attention. Gosh, I feel like I'm in my twenties again."

With that stated, the elderly man stood erect, cupped his hands around his mouth, and went completely gonzo.


The reporter recoiled and ducked his body, hid behind Frank's mortification.

There was a fervorous murmur throughout the auditorium. The woman with the bouquet raised the flowers to conceal her astonished visage; the men beside her looked around trying to figure out who the culprit was. Angry words were expressed idiomatically above the escalating din, "¡'Ga cabeza!"

The audience gasped. The men in suits regained their composure; one combed his hair with his fingers. The woman lowered the flowers, shielding her thumping heart.

Hushed silence.

The stage barren, a floorboard creaked.

Frank leaned and whispered, "the acoustics are phenomenal."

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Copyright © 2022 by Edward K. Brown II, All Rights Reserved.