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TRAVEL PORTRAIT 95: June 9, 2022

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

A pre-Covid continuation of a fictional story.

I

During the month prior to the concert, Simpaticas was busy promoting. He made a live appearance on morning television; he also taped a segment for a Saturday evening program that focused on the local New York art scene. Simpaticas was interviewed on a popular public radio talk show for the entire hour, combining guitar riffs with questions and answers that amounted to respectful banter; he kept to anecdotes, nothing too personal.

"That's why I play Flamenco," Simpaticas joked--the phrase the radio show host flipped back as a question later during the exchange.

Simpaticas agreed to tour the five boroughs, the public high schools. As a musician, he was proud to be a heritage ambassador. He was cautious when the teenagers tried to discuss polemical issues. Simpaticas kept to the day-in-the-life practical concerns; how the typical informed his artistic sensibilities: when he first picked up the guitar, when he found time to practice in between going to school and helping to supplement his hard-working parents' household. He mentioned the instructors who helped him along the way throughout the years as his career began to blossom.

"Find your audience. Make them listen--really listen. For they will encourage you to develop your talent."

Simpaticas concluded his guest lectures to the students who were fortunate to have a scheduled music class as part of their curriculum. At the close of an auditorium presentation flyers were distributed, offering a discount on the student rate for a limited block of tickets purchased through the school district. The solicitation was permitted due to the cultural/educational nature of the event that was taking place for one night only.

Even though he believed in the importance of community outreach and promoting the show to the general public, Simpaticas was glad that his daughter, Elena, was there for moral support. She, a marketing professional, coordinated the campaign. She coached him, provided him with memoir-ish key talking points. Some were written down on index cards to help him refresh his memory on the longer public speaking days. He jotted notes as well--all of which Elena would repurpose into brief paragraphs for the playbill. So dutiful Elena was that he nicknamed his daughter Simpatiquette.


II

The night of the concert, there was a meet-and-greet with the artist a few hours ahead of the performance. Simpaticas shook hands and took pictures with city officials and business VIPs. He mingled and took selfies with fans who won the various ticket giveaways. Throughout the gathering, Simpaticas was asked what songs he intended to play. Some requested their favorite; others amicably demanded.

"I have as much expectation as you," he responded with curious enthusiasm.

Simpaticas had gone over the song list with Elena; however, he secretly resented her formalized structure that was masked as feedback.

"You can become a spokesperson, if you play your cards right," she advised.

"I must play my toque sequences correctly," he insisted, "because I'm a musician, not a streaming algorithm/algorithmic profile!"

The dilemma, Simpaticas wanted to support his daughter's career, but not at the expense of his selfhood. Elena wanted her father to write his autobiography. There were plenty of articles about his recordings, but not much perspective from his point of view, his life view.

"This is what your people want most of all. You're meaningful."

 

III

Simpaticas, recounting the conversation in his mind, did not see himself as such a person. If so, writers would be approaching him, offering to write about his life. He feared Elena would ask him to tone down the events in his life, neutralize any commentary to be more appealing to the audience. He wanted strums of words that expressed the musical depths of his experiences, but for him, words from his mouth were an evisceration--cut guts with no soul.

Simpaticas was becoming agitated. Elena perceived this and encouraged the guests to locate their seats.

"Y tú, Simapatiquette."

 

IV

Simpaticas went to his dressing room. He contemplated on what he knew was going to be his final performance. What this night meant to him, he did not know. He started to mope. He noticed his clothes hanging on the valet stand. He stared at the starched white shirt, pressed black suit, black oxfords polished, and socks awaiting his enlivened corpse. Truth be told, he did not know what he wanted to play his flared nostrils' exhaust emphasized.

Beside the valet, his guitar rested peacefully encased, his spirit enclosed.

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