Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The loss of innocence

El Firulete
The Argentine Tango Magazine
July 1999


A fictional vignette in the tango key of life

El Taita had been lying in a ditch by the side of the road of life for more than he cared to remember. Surrounded by weeds and the alluring webs of black widow spiders, he seemed to be rehearsing the final of act of lying to eternal rest. At age twenty seven he had already planted a garden, but the thorns had bled his heart. He had written a book, but the pages were blank.

The sun had sunk for its daily swim into the Pacific ocean on that hot July evening. The bougainvillea fluttered with the westerly breeze. From the humanoid shaped boughs a white winged butterfly took to the air and for three minutes danced with the lift that the hot air created under its wings. Then after a graceful glide it landed on his chest.

His eyes opened and the vision of dark clouds in the sky stiffened his spine with the icy feeling of an ominous presage. His eyes focused on the dancing butterfly resting on his chest. "Pugliese is dead," she said, "we have to dance forever and make his death the meaning of our lives.”

The notes of Recuerdo ripped through the silence of the night and riding on the wings of the white winged dancing butterfly El Taita saw the world from high above for the first time.

"Promise me that you’ll play Recuerdo the day of my funeral," she whispered. "Yes," he couldn't hold a sob, "and La mariposa too." How tangoish to plan for the unavoidable at the pinnacle of happiness and joy. Pugliese had transformed Celedonio Flores's bitterly poignant lyrics into the philharmonic masterpiece that Pedro Maffia meant to write. "I don’t regret to have loved you so much."

The flight of fancy and innocence continued and one day she brought a man she said was going to be good. She said, "we must open our hearts and our lives to welcome the tango men and women from Argentina and help them succeed and open doors for their craft and skills to be shown."

For an instant, the blank pages of Taita’s book filled with words of wisdom and caution, but there was something compelling and remarkable about the notion of giving without asking, and so they gave.

The man was good and he succeeded. The communities where he traveled loved him and admired him, and he was generous in recognizing the friendship and respect he had been given.

But this is a tango story, and as tango stories go, there was also a dark side. For a while, the back door visits to the bedroom were handled with the discretion that personal matters should be handled. After all, it also takes two or at least two per indiscretion to do the horizontal tango.

Taita realized that the denial of the addiction bred a nauseating sense of impotence. The need for an ever constant feeding of the addiction blurred the boundaries between personal and public image, bringing to life Discepolo’s allegoric view of life from the windows of a cambalache, a surreal pawn shop where bibles lay next to water heaters, and wives, daughters, friends and lovers pile up on the shelves of moral decay.

Taita gave the man the best possible advice a friend and business partner could have given. The reaction was hostile and it reached a point of no return when angry and vindictive, the man reached to crush the wings of the dancing butterfly.

The landing was perilous but safe. Standing up on his feet for the first time Taita pointed to the door and the man, with tears in his eyes, slowly walked away. Suddenly, El Taita realized that he was standing tall on the road of life, far from the spider infected ditch. Pugliese’s right hand fell on the center of the keyboard, his left hand tapped the keys next to his right hand on one beat, and dug deeply on the farthest keys to the left on the next beat. Yum-bah, yum-bah, yum-bah, yum-bah!

El Taita embraced the butterfly and bringing his head next to her face, he marked a side step and they began to dance.

To the memory of Osvaldo Pugliese, who died on July 25, 1995

Alberto Paz
Copyright (c) 2000, Planet Tango. All Rights Reserved

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