I was only six in 1949 when South Pacific, the musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (with help from Joshua Logan), was the hottest ticket on Broadway. My life partner, Herself, was a mere negative-12. But she is genuine show-folk, so it’s no surprise that she’s familiar with Nellie Forbush and Emile de Becque, not to mention Bloody Mary’s habit of chewing betel nuts without deploying Pepsodent to offset tooth decay.
She’s also a piano player of sorts, although – by her own admission (and that of anyone who’s ever heard her) – at least a few months away from her Carnegie Hall debut. Be that as it may. Practising gives her pleasure and relaxation. For me, having music in the house rekindles warm childhood memories of a musical family.
Among the many books that sit on the studio piano she recently bought for $0 (plus $300 for transportation and $125 for tuning) one containing half a hundred classic Broadway showtunes. Alas, the piano recently stood silent for eight weeks, while Herself recovered from a broken wrist. It is hard to play scales, chords and arpeggios, let alone basic melodies, while one’s dominant hand and forearm are swathed in plaster of Paris.
Every day for eight weeks, I observed that Broadway songbook, permanently opened to “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.” While Herself was at work, I secretly taught myself to plunk out the first nine bars with my right hand.
Please don’t breathe a word. I’m many years farther from a Carnegie debut than Herself will ever be.
The point is that, seeing her songbook permanently opened to page 75 caused a considerable amount of existential angst.
Was this a passive-aggressive signal of trouble in marital paradise? Couldn’t she have chosen “Some Enchanted Evening,” or “Bali Ha’i” instead? Why – given how short she wears her hair – would she pick a tune guaranteed to stoke a Geezer’s insecurity that he’s about to be rinsed down the drain?
“Don’t try to patch it up, tear it up, tear it up! Wash him out, dry him out, push him out, fly him out, cancel him and let him go!”
With characteristic cowardice, I said nothing. I asked nothing. But all came clear on the weekend, when Herself – unprompted and out the blue – said, “I want to learn all the lyrics of ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.’”
My inside voice said, “If you want a divorce, just say so.” My outside voice timidly asked, “Oh, why’s that?”
“It’s a great tune to hum while I’m disinfecting the kitchen counters,” she replied.
Works for both COVID-19 and ant infestations, it seems.
Bullet dodged. Marriage intact.