Benjamin, Jazz & Science FictionTuesday, January 03, 2012
I wonder how many people have any record of their first book collection. I do. It seems that sometime in 1962 or 1963 I photographed my book shelf. I display it here in a vertical position so some of the titles can be seen. At the time I was crazy about three things. I was vocal about two of them. These were jazz and science fiction. My third interest was a pretty girl but this I kept to myself. I would have been too embarrassed to even admit my interest.
In fact in spite of all those pictures that I have taken all these years of the undraped female and all the glamour shots the ex wife of a good friend of mine had her suspicions. She thought I was gay.
It is with amazement that I watch my granddaughter Rebecca’s (14) current involvement with a boy her age. They constantly text. He apparently does not have a plan that allows him to use his phone in that old-fashioned way, voice to voice.
When I was 14 all I dared do was to stare at my love interest until a stare back made me swing away as quickly as I could.
But everything happened in its good time and by 1968 when I was with my Rosemary an ex girlfriend had sent me a letter from England that she was ready to see me in Mexico if I were ready for her. Another young girl, a very beautiful one who resided in Xalapa (George Bowering’s favourite Mexican city because of its winter baseball league) sent a message through a friend that she was heartbroken because I was going to get married soon.
It seems that by age 26 I had recuperated for all that lost time as a full time bashful nerd.
I remember that when I was 15 and living with my mother and grandmother on Avenida Tamaulipas in a Mexico City apartment I would play my Dave Brubecks as loud as I could to impress the young girl who lived below. I don’t think she ever noticed and had she she would not have been impressed in the least. My brand of sophistication, science fiction and jazz was not the kind of sophistication any intelligent young lady would be attracted to.
A sultry Sephardic young girl lived nearby and I would always arrange to be walking near her house when her orange/red school bus (Colegio Sefardita) would deposit her on her doorstep. I never managed to even approach her to say hello.
When I finally had enough guts (it was 1968) I invited Rosemary to visit Veracruz and meet my mother. I remember Rosemary in the front seat of my VW, her lovely legs up on the seat (in those days cars did not have seat belts). Driving on the outskirts of Mexico City Rosemary began to use a word I had never heard before uttered by any woman. The scary word was relationship.
I was as scared to hear that word as I had been in 1966 when I had attended a live concert of Astor Piazzolla with one of my first real girls, Susy. The concert was at the Teatro Florida in Buenos Aires. After the concert, it was a very warm Buenos Aires November we walked hand in hand. Across the street there was an appliance store. Susy pointed (quite a few years later when I saw her again she seemed to have no memory of the fridge!) at a refrigerator and said to me, “It would look so nice in our kitchen.” At the time I had no money, no profession and no prospect of any immediate work.
It had been just two years before that I had been sipping espresso in a Mexico City café with a young girl who happened to be an American from Chicago. She was black and had recently become a Jew. When I had first met her she had told me, “Hi I am Benjamin but you can call me Benji.” I will never forget as she leaned forward over the table and told me, “I never go out with a man who is not husband potential.” She further told me that her interest in me had come from my passion for jazz and science fiction. A few years later when I was doing my military service in Buenos Aires I started getting issues of Downbeat. It was a paid subscription that came from Chicago. I knew it was from Benji.
I hope that in these accelerated times that my Rebecca finds the time to take things slowly and that a refrigerator in her future will appear just at the right time.