You just never know

 

The last trimester of 2014 was such a busy time I neglected blogging. Sounds like the Philadelphia Eagles’ former head coach, Andy Reid, repeating to the press he had to do a better job of putting the team in a position to win… Excuses, excuses. It all started in October when my family came from Brazil for a 12-day visit. I could not write a word prior to that, so excited I was to have them here for nearly two weeks, and then I could not write a word again after they left, as the volume of work hit me in November and December, when a new busy season began in the office.

After a while, you start asking yourself why blogging? In a world constantly bombarded by news and novelty, what difference does it make whether I write another post or not? That’s mostly laziness talking but I listened to it anyway because it was very convenient. Instead of making an extra effort to write about something, a fact or a person that inspired me, I went on line looking for a Christmas present to send to my parents in Brazil.

It was already mid-November and still I did not have a clue. I just seemed uninspired altogether, just feeling exhausted at the end of the day as another busy season rode on. My dad would love anything related to books, shows/music and movies – he always did. I never run out of ideas to send him presents of that type as I know his taste and how he enjoys exploring new things. And yet, this huge blank slate took over my mind. It was Thanksgiving already. Black Friday. Cyber Monday came and went. I left laptop and tablet alone and turned to the TV, not exactly hoping for enlightenment.

As for books, I had been under the spell of rereading classics since July – stories I was first introduced to in Portuguese, when I was just too young to understand them. Crime and Punishment, Anna Karenina, The Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre… Those are titles already known to my parents; no original ideas were coming from my recent readings either. I kept pressing the remote. Very rarely does inspiration come to me from TV shows and the very few times it did, well, the show was either cancelled or not renewed for a new season. That tells me how in tune I am with the preferences of the majority of viewers…

I clicked the remote control again and another ten or twelve channels paraded. Still I could not find something to blog about; no ideas of a good Christmas present for my parents.

I thought of my conversations with Dad when he was here in October and how he even had sent me newspaper articles about Brazil’s love affair with the Cuban government – true love never dies – for decades now and some disastrous political events involving the two nations. I was so astonished at what Dad told me I said I planned to blog about it. But honestly, this stubborn South American admiration and reverence for the Cuban tyrant wore me out so thin in the past years I can’t find the energy to write about it… Maybe it will be my new year’s resolution now that America seems to have stepped on the same boat, inaugurating an era of friendship with that unfortunate island.

I clicked away. There was a rerun of Disney’s kiddy sitcom Jessie playing and I thought of how my seven year old nephew laughed at the trials and tribulations of this New York nanny and the four children she cares for (parents always absent). There was also a rerun of Boardwalk Empire going on at some HBO channel (I liked the series very much; they killed the main character and suspended the show, obviously) however, after ten seconds of careful consideration, I decided my parents were not the audience for Nucky Thompson’s adventures during probation years. It’s very New Jerseyish, too Atlantic-City oriented. I clicked backwards now, having left the HD channels behind me.

Somewhere between channels 20 and 30, a very strong voice and a face I recalled faintly made me stop. I had reached the Public Television area. Watch it at your own risk; they will drive you crazy with five minutes of show followed by fifteen of detailed instructions on how to send them money and how in exchange for your not-so-humble contribution they will forward you either a DVD or a CD for three or four times the price you would pay at retail, Black Friday, Cyber Monday or not. Against all odds and my best judgment, knowing all the risks, I stayed. The singer on my screen had an Irish accent and a fine tenor voice. He was singing Love Thee Dearest, a couple of strophes in Italian – I recognized the words and melody. Actually, I recognized him – Paul Byrom – now considered one of Ireland’s most representative tenors and a former member of the Celtic Thunder group whose shows I had watched (suffered through was more likely just because the group was so talented) on PBS.

As soon as Mr. Byrom was done, under a blast of celebratory shouts and clapping hands from the audience, now the entire group entered the stage, in their familiar formation: five guys walking briskly to predefined positions, singing all the time – delivering their performance of Ireland’s Call, in dark gray kilt. The audience roars when they go “Shoulder to shoulder we’ll answer Ireland’s call” and execute a few choreographed movements. It’s very compelling. There is not a single drop of Irish blood in my veins and yet I almost have tears in my eyes and feel like ordering a Rosetta Stone set to learn Gaelic in thirty lessons right away.

That was it! I emailed my sister instead. Did our parents know of the Irish group called The Celtic Thunder? No, she answered immediately; she was sure they had never heard of it just as she had not. I was so excited to have found something new and inspiring for them I instantly forgot about Gaelic lessons and went on line searching for the latest album by The Celtic Thunder. I could order the CD but the DVD would be best – I wanted my parents to see how the singers perform on stage, how the audience adores them, and perhaps pick their favorite, choosing among Paul Byrom’s powerful tenor voice, Keith Harkin and Ryan Kelly’s warm tones, Damian McGinty’s young rendition of classics and, my all-time favorite, George Donaldson and his crystal-clear interpretation of Irish and Scottish folk songs, always so touching, so heartfelt.

The choices were, in short, Voyage, Mythology and Heritage, the three shows that displayed my favorite songs. Or I could go with one of their Christmas performances – very appropriate for this time of the year. As I Googled their albums further, one hyperlink stopped me in my tracks. Celtic Thunder’s George Donaldson dead at the age of 46.

They had to be kidding. They must have been talking about another George Donaldson – that was in error. Someone hacked Google’s entries on Celtic Thunder just for fun. It’s curious how our minds come up with ridiculous explanations when we just don’t want to see the truth. Mr. Donaldson died of massive heart failure in his house in Glasgow, survived by wife Carolyn and thirteen year old daughter Sarah, in March of 2014, a few days after his birthday. The only Scotsman in the group.

At first I got so saddened by the news I no longer wanted to order the DVD for my parents. Gradually, though, I changed my mind and decided that sending them the disc was my way to make sure Mr. Donaldson’s beautiful voice will now have existed for more people in the world, who would be able to admire his talent as well.

The year that now ends took away a lot of good people; some famous like George Donaldson, others not so much, like my sister’s best friend Gabi, in Brazil. It’s always like this; it’s just that sometimes we feel it more intensely. And when I feel things this intensely is when I have to write. By the way, the good folks who manage my blog site, powered by WordPress, issued a report saying 540 viewers visited the blog in 2014. Most in Brazil, but followed closely by U.S. viewers as well, and Italy. The most popular post of 2014 was Tooth and Nail. I cannot thank each and every one of those 540 names so I leave my astonished and sincere thanks here. I will keep writing; the sequel to The Traveler’s [K] Night is ready to be released at some point in September or October and I will keep listening to Celtic Thunder songs to remind myself of the impermanence of all things – we just never know what lies ahead…

Have a healthy and prosperous 2015!

Slainte! (Gaelic for “to your health!”)

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