We thoroughly enjoyed the Las Cruces Symphony's “Pops under the Stars.”
Beforehand, I visited with several elected officials, with people I've fought beside or against over various issues, and with folks I've known nearly five decades. So many are damned decent people!
Then the music starts. Capturing us. Lonnie Klein is an animated conductor, and seems a skillful one. Visiting vocalist Diane Penning sounds even better than last year.
The evening is more than great music on a mild evening and the discovery that our new downtown plaza is made for this. There's a true feeling of community. Enjoying the music, surrounded by familiar faces, I reflect on lives and time.
Our host and hostess are friends who work tirelessly for the community, with a deep appreciation of its political needs and artistic promise.
Across our table sits a younger couple. I've seen them arguing legal points and passionately advocating for our environment. Tonight, entranced by the music, they're relaxed in each other's arms. All around, couples of all ages are holding hands, or leaning back against one another.
I see three gay couples, good friends. They seem happy. But not touching. I want a world where they feel free to demonstrate their affection publicly.
I see a woman whose husband died this year. Both were beloved in the community. As Ms. Penning sings “It's time to say good-bye,” our hostess goes to the widow and hugs her. We're glad. I cannot imagine her grief, her strength. When a quail died flying into our living-room window, the bereaved mate wailed for days. Humans have words, but no answers. Friends' sincere and loving support is a pale substitute.
During intermission, I speak with a young man whose father I've battled in court. We express appreciation for the evening and introduce our wives. “Watching Lonnie is half the show,” he marvels. I think again how great it is that at his father's law office, where he is a paralegal who will soon be a skilled lawyer, his grandfather is the receptionist. That's “family” – an endangered species these days.
I see two people I've known for nearly 50 years, since before they found each other. Married since the early 1970's. She stands behind him, hands on his shoulders. Still lovely. Still loving. They're proud of their daughter, an important player in the evening's events.
Several generals sit at a nearby table. When the Symphony plays a medley of songs of the five branches of U.S. military service, veterans stand when their songs play, and Lonnie salutes them. The vets clearly appreciate this respect. Each, if s/he served on a battlefield, also looks into a deep well of comradeship, shared dangers, and joys and tragedies far beyond our ken.
One general graduated from NMSU. Hispanic. Married a gal from Mesilla. Joined the Army. Decades of hard work and skill made him a brigadier general. Then he got to come home to command at White Sands.
Dimly I recall concerts in parks I attended as a small child. The people were happy and all knew each other. Later, for years, I'd have thought pops under the stars a bit corny, preferring symphony halls and clubs with edgy modern jazz.
Tonight, the fine music, a gentle breeze with a hint of rain, our restful postures, and a couple of glasses of wine fill me with love not only for my wife but for everyone around us. People's love for each other, their shared pleasure, and the sometimes twisted paths that brought us all here . . . seem almost tangible.
Under the stars, I'm home.
[The column above appeared this morning, Sunday, 17 September 2017, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and on KRWG's website. A spoken version will air during the week on both KRWG Radio and KTAL-LP (101.5 FM).]
[This is a personal sort of column, the kind -- unlike exposing political corruption or bad management in government entities, say -- with which it's particularly hard to know how close you've come to saying what you wanted to say. Or even quite defining what you wanted to say.
At some point during the last half of the concert I realized I wanted to write about the evening. I'm no music critic, so I can only say that I liked the music and it sounded very professionally played; but the feel of the evening -- the good music, the mild weather, the venue, and a series of encounters (or moments just looking around at people) started to seem to me very special. I really did feel a powerful wave of love for everyone there, which is a hard kind of thing to say without sounding sappy.
But music, while I'm enjoying it, also renders me sort of spacey, reflective. Time and change and the way lives intersect.in very different ways at different moments over the course of decades, are things I reflect on a lot. Not that I have anything profound to say, but . . . it's nice not to be always carping about someone's misconduct or the idiocies of some public officials.]
[Everything else aside, the evening convinced us to shell out for two season tickets. Season starts October 7, and looks great! Check out the symphony's website and think about a season ticket if you like that sort of thing!
Season or individual-performance tickets available at(575) 646-3709 or at www.lascrucessymphony.com ]
[Oh, and Lonnie Klein, the conductor, will be a guest on my radio show, "Speak Up, Las Cruces!", September 27 at 9, on KTAL LP, 101.5 FM, the new community radio station."]