Thursday, January 16, 2014

Elgar at El Cambur

Finally I went back to San Felipe today. And I drove past the murder site of Monica Spear.

Although nominally on vacation, it was not quite that. The country closes for more than a month in December and like many people we are thus forced at work to take a month, leaving us with little for the rest of the year. Taking a "vacation" in Caracas while I had to cater to a slowly recovering S.O. is not a piece of cake. Miscellaneous scarcities and closed medical offices make you apprehend any discomfort. But this week things are reopening and I could leave my better doing half and return to my San Felipe life for a few days. It is his family turn to pick up again the pace.

But I am not complaining. I did get plenty of sleep for starters. And better, we did spend a lot of quality time which is always precious when you have a 15 years relationship living in cities 4 hours apart, when traffic is fair. Also, free of debts, with what I need for taxes and scheduled payments in the bank, I had some money left to cruise around town to find ways to eat it, literally, before inflation ate it instead.

It is not that Caracas is a corn of plenty these days, but there are a few things left that even though expensive are worth indulging in. Yet, you need to look for them.  And there are not only about food even though La Praline is the must spend.  One good thing in Caracas is that there is still a few cultural items left. For example, in some bookstores you can still find books that nobody wants in a country where self help is the thing in books. And a little bit of literature and political writing to be fair. But serious books gather dust, such as the huge encyclopedia like book on geology, richly illustrated, that was waiting for me in a corner, untouched for along time, even raising an eyebrow from the sales clerk when I did not blink at the price when told. After all, at 70 a dollar, it was a true bargain and I will not have to pay excess baggage when I travel were I to buy it elsewhere.

Another bargain you may find, although everyday more difficult, are classical CD. Nobody buys them, they are limited to a tiny section in the rare record stores still operating in a country where the regime has allowed piracy to flourish since apparently copyright is an invention of the capitalist devil.  One of the last ones open had a few Gustavo Dudamel CD at high prices. Not of my concern as I am actively boycotting him since he sold his soul to Chavez. But at not even half the price I found a curious CD of a counter tenor with Handel arias. And a version of Elgar's cello concerto to add to my old version of Du Pré. Nothing else was worth considering, only Dudamel or pablum classical for the masses like El Divo.

I confess that I like Edward Elgar. His cello concerto is one of my favorites but so is his first symphony which I think I am the lone person I know that genuinely loves it. It is maybe a cliche to write that his music is so restrained, so British, but it works for me. One cannot listen all the time to more bombastic Germanic music and the British Germanic strain mercifully gave us at least two delicate but characterful musicians, Purcell and Elgar.

I only got around to unwrap them today and listen while driving back home. I listened first to the Handel arias and although superbly sung I will need to get used to a man's voice sounding exactly like a woman's Mezzo voice. Then I put the Elgar concerto. It has been a odd couple of days for the season, overcast, drizzly at time, cooler than normal. British if you like but with at least 10°C warmer.

Elgar accompanied me through Valencia. But going down to Puerto Cabello, a drive that requires your full attention, I was not going to change CD (I know, I should start putting all my music in a few pen drives for the car but I am lazy and there is something about the pleasure of choosing a CD among those you took along for the drive). So I kept the Elgar on.

What do you know? Just as I was driving past El Cambur the cello concerto first movement started again. I cannot think of a piece of music that translates so perfectly the sense of loss, of times passed than the opening bars of the concerto. A truly sad and yet not sorrowful melody. An acceptance, a resigned one for sure but acceptance nevertheless.

I was driving on the highway, sky overcast, plenty of cops now in the couple miles where the murder took place at 10 PM a week ago, kind of too late.  And Elgar playing the perfect symbol of loss, not only of Monica spear but of country, of a past life that Chavez robbed from us with nothing in exchange.

I am not going to explain the moment nor I could.


  1. Justin12:55 AM

    Thanks Daniel I really enjoy reading about everyday life in Venezuela. I'm sorry about the rough times you guys are dealing with but thanks for sharing your experience with the world. Always a good read.

  2. Great to hear about your life.

    I am a huge fan of Du Pre, and the Elgar piece cries musical tears.


  3. Dr. Faustus2:01 AM

    Thanks for posting that lovely piece. ( I am a Handel fan from way back) Your last two paragraphs were beautiful....

  4. A very beautifully written tragedy.

  5. Anonymous4:02 PM

    I was curious and looked up Elgar's cello concerto in YouTube (Du Pre playing), while reading your post. Thank you for making this possible: first time I've listened to the concerto.

    1. And? Do you agree with me on the timing?

  6. violinist5:33 PM

    Thank you very much for your blog. I've been reading it for a few years and I find it interesting because you write what's really happening, unlike the newspapers, and also you know and report on a lot of things even my family in Venezuela doesn't.... And it's nice to hear that you appreciate classical music (I'm a violinist in a major symphony orchestra). Elgar Cello Concerto is certainly appropriate. It's truly tragic how much Venezuela has deteriorated. Please keep up reporting. I always recommend your blog to people who want to find out more about what's really going on in Venezuela. So thank you very much and best of luck in 2014.

    1. I try to write as I see it, because, well, I am here. And I refrain to write much about music because I am afraid that it may be boring for most readers. After all, not everybody reacts to classical music the way I do .... Not everybody puts life's milestones around certain musical performances rather than books read.

      But I have done so in the past, mentioning stuff from Don Giovanni to Wagner, not forgetting South Pacific like staples :)

      Thanks for writing.

  7. Anonymous7:48 PM

    I want to thank you for your time and the effort that it takes to maintain this blog. It helps my mind and my heart to stay connected on a different level with family and friends still in Ven. I got to spend three weeks in Caracas with family over Christmas and New Years and was reminded by many things daily of why I love Ven. We did New Years at Hatillo and it was wonderful. Sadly, I was depressed by the steady downward spiral of the country. The infrastructure is failing, constant shortages of basic commodities (no cheese?? WTF??), but mostly by saddened by the criminal activity. Our family traveled in daylight. When the sun set, we needed to be where we were going to be for the night. Such a beautiful and culturally rich country........such a shame. One other comment about "life's milestones and certain musical performances". I have always tended to "tie" certain music to different locations. For example, in the wee dark hours of the morning I would take a driver from Damacus, Syria and head off toward the Iraqi border. We would stop on the outskirts of the city for gas and I would get my tape player, two cans of Coke, and a bottle of Jack Daniels out of the trunk and I would watch the sun come up over the desert listening to Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty". In Bangladesh I would take a train out of Dhaka toward the interior. The scenes of abject poverty and daily struggle for life would play out to the strains of Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms". Keep up the good work Daniel, your posts are read more than you know.

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