Guitars, Poetry, and April

The cruelest month, beyond being Poetry Month, is also International Guitar Month. Who started this insanity? I think it might have been whoever was behind Black History Month, though I can’t even remember what month that is. February? Anyway, I know it’s Guitar Month because I stumbled on these lovely pictures, one of which is of the infinitely suave Compay Segundo, the great Cuban musician, singer, and composer, who came to everybody’s attention in Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club.

Compay claimed that the secret to longevity was rum, cigars, and mutton consomme. He started smoking at the age of five, lighting cigars for his grandmother. Though he boasted that he would live to be 115, all the hard living took a toll on him, and he made it only to 95, happy and sprightly to the end.

Helen and I saw Buena Vista Social Club at the right time. She had just had a miscarriage. Though the pregnancy had been unexpected, we both had embraced the prospect of parenthood and loving eternally whoever was swimming around inside her. The miscarriage was long and awkward, and we left the hospital without ceremony, into the warm Atlanta night, no clue what to think or do. Mourning seemed a little overboard. Not mourning seemed odd. We moped listlessly. The next day, lacking the gumption to do anything else, we went to the Midtown Cinema to see the Wim Wenders documentary. Somehow seeing those sunwashed Cuban colors, hearing that heartening jazz, listening to the life-affirming Compay and company: it was just what the doctor ordered (actually, what the doctors hadn’t ordered at all, but just what we needed). It gave us an opportunity both to mourn what that potential life was missing out on, and to go on. To go on happily. Sometimes I hear pessimists argue that it’s wrong to bring a child into this world. It’s hard to think that after listening to Eliades Ochoa strolling in his pale cowboy hat down the train tracks singing “El Carretero.”

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