We may seem just another sleepy little capital on a tropical gulf, but there's actually quite a lot going on in our city, and Mr. Muscato and I do our best to keep up. We didn't, it must be admitted, go to the year's Big Event, a concert by British boy-canary James Blunt...
...but I have to admit that that's at least in part because I didn't realize he looked like this, rather than simply knowing that he sounds likes like a peaky cat imitating John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig.
We did, however, make the mistake of trying to grab a cocktail at the bar of the hotel in which he appeared. Whatever else you can say about James Blunt fans, I can tell you this: those people drink.
Later that week, though, we headed an enormously long distance outside the city to see what was billed as an "Irish Ballet" troupe, played at a castle that's been converted, sort of, into a performance venue (the overall effect is a little too Medieval Tymes to be entirely successful).
They were well-meaning, if not particularly skilled, evoking a distinctly sub-Riverdance vibe with heavy overtones (mostly through the Wagnerian lighting) of a bargain-basement Cirque du Soleil, complemented by live music that recalled the very worst moments of folk/hip crossover on the old "Prairie Home Companion" (an NPR reference for all the folks back home).
My prime problem - or at least giggle-inducer - was that the dozen or so young ladies of the troupe wore a succession of costumes (a surprising number of them, in fact, for what was clearly not a high-budget evening) that less recalled the Gaelic splendours of Olde Eire than some kind of semi-demented tribute to Cocktail Waitresses of Many Nations.
I kept my composure - really I did - until just before the finale, when they appeared wearing spangly red velour one-shouldered, monosleeved, handkerchief-hemmed tunic tops over black leggings, and one image recalled itself unremoveably into my tattered mind:
Although, to be fair, their outfits did not include a built-in claw.*
Actually, part of my professional life in these parts is Being Social, which is at times something of a cross to bear. Although he is absolutely genius at it, Mr. Muscato has limited patience for the extended periods of Being Nice that are at times required as part of the necessary goings-on of Seeing and Being Seen.
As a result, I occasionally have to assay these things solo; at least, after more than a couple of years in a small place, one can be fairly certain of seeing familiar faces at the round of receptions (corporate, official, diplomatic, and artistic), exhibition openings, lectures, and other such entertainments as fill our agenda.
Such was the case one recent evening, when the siren call of a display of landscapes drew me to a local venue. One went, one was photographed by the various social columns (we really do lead a Truman-era life in many ways), one chatted (at least at these occasions one has the diversion of at times having to refer to someone as "Your Excellency," and more often than not the prospect of coming out with a "Good evening, Your Highness!" or two), and one desultorily ate rather wan cold spring rolls.
But this particular evening the weather was especially fine, and driving home, it struck me what an odd and really treasurable thing it is to live in a place that looks like this:
I rounded the circle that lies in front of our local sovereign's official residence and appreciated once more its unlikely combination of Space Age Bachelor architecture and Arabesque pomp:
I headed out toward the expat suburb that is home to the Villa Muscato and passed along the sweeping corniche that fronts the city's historic traditional market district...
And realized that, whatever else can be said, I'm certainly not in Kansas - or even points east and north of there - anymore. And I suppose that's just as well...
* He's on my mind a lot these days. What can it mean?