As faithful readers know, they must suffer through the annual what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation exercise. Meaning the details of the yearly brain transplant on my Pacific island. It is a compulsory ordeal, mandatory masochism for those addicted to turning to the back page first.
Coleman Hawkins is wailing away through the speakers on I Surrender Dear. Out beyond the deck, a graceful boat with technicolor sails oozes into the sunset.
Miss Peggy Lee is now singing Bewitched, as a tugboat chugs by. This is not, we must realize, CD futurism. Not tapes. This is the real stuff. Huge 33XA authentics that the children laugh at. What do children know? They’ve never heard Earl (Fatha) Hines noodling his way through Honeysuckle Rose.
On the mountain range opposite, is The Sleeping de Gaulle. This is a mountain peak that delineates, quite clearly, the magnificent beak and visage of the haughty genius who inspired Churchill to complain, at war’s height, that his greatest cross was the Cross of Lorraine.
Art Tatum and Ben Webster, doing Have You Met Miss Jones? provide background while a cigarette boat manned by some local hotshot sends plumes of spray skyward.
The deck on the cottage sits high on a cliff overlooking desperate and confused Japanese tourists, far too many to a boat, tangling their lines and hooking themselves in the ear while practising to lure a magical 40pound sockeye. George Shearing, with Roses of Picardy, is the perfect background while they are watched.
A rainbow, in the only moisture observed in two weeks, bounces off the mountains some miles distant while Count Basie is Jumpin’ at the Woodside. It is a rather good match.
Children, whining about the moldy fig father, are placated temporarily by giving them a quick fix of Cowboy Junkies, with a small injection of Neil Young on Harvest Moon. Anything to please. With neither Jean Campbell nor Kim Chrétien on the tube to intrude on the solitude, why could one complain?
From the deck, one contemplates the ponderous movements of never-ending log booms, towed by tiny tugboats that travel at the max three miles per hour. What, the proprietor on the deck on cliffside ponders, does a tugboat captain think about all day as he plies his boring way through the flat sea?
Existential thoughts of the meaning of life? Does he have the advantage of listening to Fats Waller, vintage 1934, singing Serenade for a Wealthy Widow— Woman, they tell me, you’re flooded with currency”?
Children, satiated with the philosophical musings, claim tugboat captains gaze at unemployed columnists sitting on decks with a small glass of gin and wonder: ‘Wot do columnists think about?” You can’t get any respect.
Noel Coward is now on. His celebrated concert in Las Vegas. Singing his own version of Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It: “Ernest Hemingway can just do it. . . Liberace, we assume, does it....” Below the deck the sea is awash with yachts, cabin cruisers, reckless speedboats. There is a recession in this country?
There is the world-famous birthday party. One senator, a few failed cabinet ministers, the usual quota of divorcées, 61 suspects in all, plus Charlie Mingus and Quincy Jones. Mother, as usual, looks on proudly, quite aware that she has produced all this bliss.
While the salmon is devoured, there is a remarkable collaboration going on—Yehudi Menuhin and Stephane Grappelli romancing over George Gershwin’s Nice Work if You Can Get It. It is an appropriate international mix: the concert genius and the European legend decorating the backdrop for the finest view in the world on my Pacific island. Stars shine above like ice cubes.
In the dull moments, a father-in-law-to-be rehearses the Saskatchewan Dip with a future bride, a ballroom trick that Gene Kelly would envy. Duke Ellington is into Creole Love Call while in the sunset a fat white ferry, like a large water bug, slips through the sea with the dignity of Queen Victoria, who would not be amused at the reference.
Tommy Dorsey is into On the Sunny Side of the Street as the wake of boats beneath the cliff makes one wonder again where the recession went to. Are there yachts sailing down Bloor Street? Nope, they’re all here.
On the tennis court, the ladies who lunch still say “sorry” when they make a clever winning shot. It’s why women will never run 8 the world. I instructed I them years ago never to g say “sorry” but they don’t “ listen. Disraeli had it right: “Never complain, never explain.” Bobby Kennedy extended it: “Just get even.”
Errol Garner is into I’ll Remember April as a boat approximately the size of P.E.I. serenes past with a gaggle of stockbrokers. Children, whining again, are stifled with a short shot of Leonard Cohen. One of them complains: “Who is Leonard Cohen?” Mordecai Richler, where are you when we don’t need you?
The sun, in the morning, bounces off the deck as Artie Shaw performs, along with Chick Webb, and Charlie Barnet zips through Cherokee. The sun, in the afternoon, reflects off the mountain range opposite, revealing the naked dear-cuts that detail the ravages of the robber barons who grew rich on the forests. Stan Kenton is playing Artistry in Rhythm.
This is a lot better—and more useful— than covering politics.
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