Monday, September 26, 2011

This Mysterious Thing Called Romance

Romance is like pornography. We can't define it but we know it when we see it.

Or do we? Romance isn't one of those things that flaps in the wind like a flag. It isn't a frozen frame in a movie that shows two people walking in the park, holding hands, and kissing. That's a movie. It is a fantasy.

Maybe that's what romance is. A fantasy created by an invisible scriptwriter in the sky.

Some dictionaries define romance as a mysterious feeling of of excitement associated with love.

Well, okay, what is love? What is excitement? What is mysterious?

Are you beginning to get the message? Defining romance isn't easy. Maybe in the final analysis, romance is what we decide individually for ourselves.

We know what excitement is. There's that giddy, shaky feeling when we are near or when we touch someone we feel attracted to. We begin to breathe a little faster and a little heavier when we are near enough to feel the warmth of someone. Our heart rate increases when we touch lips.

What more do we need to know? Certainly, a complete and full understanding of the chemical analysis of love would not enhance our feelings. In fact, it might fix our minds on minute details to such an extent that we can't or don't want to, have fun.

Just imagine, you're lips have just touched your partner's. Suddenly, you visualize molecules increasing in heat intensity and jiggling around like Mexican jumping beans. You say to your partner, "Dear, did you know that the chemical composition of lip skin is 41 percent boric acid?"

Imagine the reaction. "Yeah, yeah. What's on Channel 69 tonight?"

I'm keeping my options open and defining it any way I want to. I don't give a rat's bun about Channel 69.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Is Romantic Music Still Alive?

This morning as I was driving to McDonald’s for breakfast, I started fooling around with the radio dial, wondering if the airwaves might be by some miracle carrying an easy listening station or two since I am usually not in the mood for screech and yowl music too early in the day.

Imagine my surprise when I came across the voice of Frank Sinatra crooning something, That Old Black Magic or Jeepers Creepers. I don’t remember at the moment. As a general rule, Frank is not one of my preferred balladeers. About the only song of his that I like enough to tolerate more than once is Once Upon a Time.

But this morning he seemed to strike a chord with me—in a quirky sort of roundabout way. Let me explain. Last night I tuned in to Larry King’s show for the specific purpose of watching Willie Nelson. During one of the breaks, Willie’s version of Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain filled some air time. I immediately thought of another cut on the same album, Remember Me When the Candlelight is Gleaming. That was one of my mother’s favorite songs and she hummed it incessant.

Then at the program’s end, Larry and Willie launched into a croaking duet of Stardust. This made for quite a mix. When Willie reaches for a high note, the result can often be a little ear-burn on the part of a listener, especially if his voice is amped up a little. Larry, on the other hand, can out basso any bull frog I’ve ever heard. The result was actually quite pleasant.

So, here we have a guy, Larry, a New Yorker who as far as I know, isn’t a singer, paired with the original Texas Outlaw, Willie, crooning one of the most romantic songs ever. And they did justice to it in an oddly masculine, beer drinking, campfire hugging male bonding event that only men can appreciate. Men are romantic after all.

At any rate, within this tangled skein of blood and tissue we call brain, I began to wonder about romantic songs in the various musical genres. There are all kinds and sorts of music—Classical, Traditional, Popular, Blues, Country, Western, Heavy metal, Hip hop, Jazz, Reggae, Rock, and probably some I’ve never heard of. Can we find a romantic song in each of these? Which genre or genres is regarded as the most romantic?

I have my own ideas, but those ideas will spring from my cultural background and fail to include thoughts about genres I am vaguely familiar with. Probably the most obvious example from my perspective is Rap. I have little if any knowledge about this genre. On the other side, the proponents of Rap will undoubtedly identify one or perhaps many rap tunes as romantic and omit tunes from the generation of Frank Sinatra.

What are your ideas and thoughts on this subject? What is your favorite romantic genre? Yes, Valentine’s Day is past but romance is alive and well year round.

p.s. I am not of Frankie’s generation. I’m a little further into the 20th Century. From my point of view, Elvis is a better male singer of romantic ballads than anyone I’ve listened to. But for sheer hotness, you need to listen to Kiss of Fire by Georgia Gibbs. Are hotness and

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Bad Year for Romance

This hasn't been a good year for thinking about romance. Since my wife passed away, the furthest thing from my mind has been romance. I joined a Facebook support group about widows and widowers, and I notices that a lot of people in the group seem to be looking for someone to fill the void of a spouse's death. I established a Facebook friendship with several members but not for the purpose of locating a mate. I just wanted to see how others cope with the death of a spouse.

Occasionally, as I drive around, I'll listen to an oldies station that plays predominantly romantic music of my and my wife's early years and marriage. And the songs remind me how much I love her and the movies we often went to, like Love is a Many Splendored Thing, but sometimes my thoughts of the two of us together would remind me that she is gone forever from my Earthly life.

It has been ten months now. In the beginning, I spent my time with my family elsewhere. That helped a little to keep my mind away from myself. Perhaps eventually I'll think about romance, but for now, it's the furthest thing from my mind.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Can't Help Falling in Love

I saw Elvis Presley yesterday. At the Coco Palms Hotel on the Island of Kauai. That’s where the wedding scene at the conclusion of the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii was filmed.

My wife and I stayed at the Coco Palms for three days once upon a time. We weren’t there on a romantic sojourn. I happened to have a business conference in the Coco Palms and we decided that we’d spend some time looking around the island when no conference sessions were scheduled.

At check in, we were given a room on the second floor overlooking a moat and a grove of coconut palms. At first, I didn’t make a connection between the moat and the movie. I did mention to my wife that the place seemed oddly familiar, although I couldn’t imagine how I might have thought so. This was our first visit to Kauai and it was more than thirty-years after the movie was filmed.

I continued to worry about the moat’s familiarity until just by chance I opened a desk drawer beside the bed and saw a postcard with a picture of Elvis and his bride on a (for lack of a better description) moat boat surrounded by the wedding party, all dressed in the baroque wedding splendor of the times.

Fast forward to yesterday when the air and radio waves saturated us with stories about Elvis’s 75th birthday accompanied by many of his greatest musical hits. I had an immediate flashback to Elvis standing regally next to his soon-to-be-bride with his rendition of the Hawaiian Wedding Song playing as the moat boat glided softly to the end of the moat where the two embraced.

This may well have been one of the more romantic moments in film history. Certainly, it made the Hawaiian Wedding Song one of the more popular songs at weddings in Hawaii and beyond. And in my mind, it reinforced my perception of Elvis as one of the best singers of romantic ballads in American popular music. He may have been the King of Rock and Roll but the versatility of his voice was something to marvel at, and in no song was that versatility illustrated more prominently than in the Hawaiian Wedding Song.

I like Can’t Help Falling in Love (With You), too, which I used to sing in my raspy, atonal, tuneless voice to my wife.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Holiday Season Will be Lonely This Year

Without my wife, who passed away six months ago, the holiday season doesn't hold the meaning for me of past seasons. This is an empty time, devoid of happiness, filled with sadness. Certainly, there are no thoughts of romance in my mind and no feelings in my heart.

Yes, I have family, but, still, my beloved gave me courage and optimism. She was my courage and my heart. Without her, I am indecisive, hesitant, and fearful.

There were better times. My memories are filled with this beautiful young girl smiling as she walked toward me or caught my eye from a distance when we were separated by several aisles in a large department store.

We loved shopping for gifts for our children, taking great care to have an equal number and quality of Christmas presents for each on Christmas morning.

We enjoyed sitting across from one another in a booth in our favorite restaurant, having breakfast, drinking coffee, and talking.

There are so many more memories. I'll leave now. Remembering brings tears and sadness.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I'm (not) in the Mood for Love

If you've lost your loved one, you'll understand how difficult it is to feel romantic. Even when you're thinking about your life together, about how beautiful she was, how her eyes shone with starlight, and how her smile pulled you to her, the memories soon give way to reality. She is gone and she will never return.

How can a person move beyond the malaise of loss? I don't know. I've never experienced it before so there's nothing in my background to guide me. But I think about it a lot and I wondered today about goodbyes.

As I visualized scenes of past goodbyes, I began to formulate an idea. I finally phrased it this way:

Goodbyes are moments of revelation or illusion. In a reflective moment, we may wonder if the goodbye is permanent or if we may meet again someday.

Revelation occurs when we know with certainty that a reunification will never occur. Death is a prime example of revelation, although the revelation may not occur immediately.

Illusion is a state of mind dominated by fantasies and daydreams of an eventual reunification. When I think of this, I am reminded of an old song with a line or two that goes something like this:

We'll meet again, don't know where don't know when
but I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

When we say goodbye to a living person we can always hold out the hope that the person may return or we may go to them. But when we say our goodbyes to a departed individual, we know intellectually that unless we believe in an eventual reunification in heaven or in our version of heaven, we are in the realm of a very realistic revelation.

Sometime, if we are unable to separate the real (death) from the ideal (together forever in Heaven), we may exist in a twilight zone between revelation and illusion, alternating between states, existing in one state for a moment and then the other. I find myself in that twilight zone.

I don't know if we consciously choose these states or if the mind has a mind of its own. Those are matters for philosophers.

I don't even know if I will ever regain a sense of romanticism. The thought that I might look at another woman and feel the existence of a sense of romantic possibility, seems somehow unfaithful.

Maybe it's too soon after her departure. Only time and my moods will tell.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

We Belong Together

I'm sitting around clicking my clicker up and down the hi def channels. It's one of my bad habits.

But tonight, a couple of programs filled with romantic music are drawing me. One is the movie La Bamba with Lou Diamond Phillips as fifties rock and roll phenom Ritchie Valens. Even though rock and roll was his basic style, Valens is also noted for a couple of romantic ballads.

One is Donna, a song he wrote for his high school sweetheart whose real name was Donna. The second is one of my all time favorites, We Belong Together. I still remember a couple of lines:

You're mine and we belong together
Yes, we belong together for eternity.

Tonight as I listened to it once again, I could feel the goose bumps rising. This has got to be one of the really all-time romantic ballads. I first heart the song in 1986 when the movie La Bamba was released. My wife and I saw it in a Kahala Shopping Center movie theater in Honolulu. We both loved it, and when I hear it, I think of her. If you've never heard the song, get it and listen. I think you'll like it.

The other program is a PBS Special about Italian-American singers and their music. Most of the songs are from the fifties, and oddly, most of the Italian Singers have Anglicized names. It seems that back in those days, the custom for anyone without a good old Americanized name was to adopt one for business purposes.

You may or may not know the following names, but all of them belong to Italian-Americans: Bobby Darin, Frankie Laine, Bobby Rydell, Connie Francis, Tony Bennett, Jerry Vale, Dean Martin, the list goes on.

Not all of the singers succumbed to Americanization, at least as far as names go. Some of the more popular singers retained their birth names in whole or in part. These included Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Juliis La Rosa, and a host of others.

But one thing is clear. Whether the Italian-American entertainers changed their names or not, they were universally top flight singers who produced some of the most romantic music ever. We'll never roll back the nusical clock. Music evolves, and each generation has its own version of romance and romantic music.

Still, you just can't beat the sentiments in We Belong Together. Let your mind and memories drift away for a moment and imagine you're in another era.

You're mine and we belong together
Yes, we belong together for eternity

You're mine, your lips belong to me
Yes, they belong to only me for eternity

I'm willing to bet you have a special person in your past or present who is that one special love you want to spend an eternity with. Am I right?