Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Rio | Lefsetz Letter

Well they tell me it’s only a dream in Rio
Nothing could be as sweet as it seems
On this very first day down

You land and you get inspired. Happened to James Taylor, it’s happening to me.

Back when car stereo was a thing, before automobiles had multiple speakers, never mind USB ports, you upgraded the system in your car. In 1985 I drove my new BMW directly to Auto Stereo Warehouse for installation of an Alpine head unit, ADS speakers in the doors and rear deck, and two giant ADS amplifiers in the trunk.

It sounded incredible. I guess you could get something better, but only if you were a competitor and dropped twenty grand, not that my system was cheap, it was the best a reasonable person could purchase. I’d hesitated, but then my shrink said that driving around in my car listening to music is what I liked to do most, for another person it was an extravagance, but for me it was a necessity!

And this was before CDs in cars, although a few years later I bought a changer for the trunk, at this point you made tapes, and my Nakamichis didn’t sound right so I went to Adray’s and bought an Aiwa and started duplicating from my vinyl. And one of the albums I copied was James Taylor’s “That’s Why I’m Here,” his last reasonable statement.

That’s right, artists burn out, I’ve got my theories. Mostly I think they believe their success will solve all their problems and when it doesn’t they can’t do it anymore. Furthermore, the more your world broadens the less your work means, it gets you out of your neighborhood and you get caught up in the trappings and it’s impossible to get back to the garden.

At the time I was out of work. I was playing golf and driving my new car. And I vividly remember driving on San Vicente, east, towards 26th, and hearing “Only A Dream In Rio.”

More than a distant land over a shining sea
More than the steaming green

These flights are not long enough. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I use their length to catch up on my reading and I got hooked on this book “The Immortalists.” If you start it don’t get turned off by the gay narrative…it expires. You see people put books down, when I buy them I finish them, I made that deal with my Kindle. And you can’t say anything without fear of backlash these days, and my point is there are still people squeamish about homosexuality and my point is don’t let it turn you off to this book.

And it’s funny how story triumphs. Too many highbrow books put plot in the rear seat. The intelligentsia pooh-pooh the fare the masses pore over, but sometimes the crowd is right.

And after typing in the lounge in Miami I walked to the plane.

And that’s when I was confronted with confusion, people disregarding the group numbers, boarding at will, bantering in Portuguese. I was just about to leave our shores.

And then the in-flight map told me I was over Key Largo and soon we were in uncharted territory. Americans go to Europe, maybe Mexico and the Caribbean, but South America is a no-no.

But the best place I’ve been in the past decade was Bogota, I felt so ALIVE!

And as the plane descended I was confronted with jungle and mountains, not what one expects when going to a city.

And the jaunt from the plane to customs was the equivalent of a 10k, but when I emerged into the sunshine it was warm and…


Tons of traffic.

And an ice cream vendor in the middle of the freeway.

And another person walking in the breakdown lane.

And rows and rows of concrete blocks that housed the poor.

And I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

Actually, I’ve been to Kansas. Back when they still paid for schools.

And I’m stunned at the news on my phone. Between the teacher protests and the swooning stock market it appears we are headed for an Arab Spring of our own. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, supposedly everybody had a flat screen and was satiated, but that turned out to be untrue. First the poor and uneducated revolted and now those with more, who can see the landscape, students and teachers, are picking up the torch. Meanwhile, government and business are in free-fall, they’ve got no idea what’s going on, they thought they ruled and now they don’t.

But I’m in a foreign country where there are millions of people unconcerned with the goings-on in the United States.

And I’m always worried how I’ll be treated.

But they sent me a driver and gave me a suite. And now I’m looking out at the water, elated and confused. How can you still be so far away and be the same person?

But maybe not.

Travel changes you. In unexpected ways. You meet people, see how others live, and your world is enlarged. You thought you knew everything, now it’s apparent how little you do know. And the more you learn the more you realize you’ll never know.

But knowledge is power.

And experience leads to power.

And at the end of the day the trappings fall away and it’s just about what’s inside, who you are and where you’ve been, your ability to opine on this mystery called life.

“Only A Dream In Rio”




No comments: