Sunday, December 30, 2012

Showering with Barbra


C. Neuroticus Absolutus

My oldest and dearest friend used to tell acquaintances that he “showered with Barbra Streisand every morning,” adding a chuckle and a mischievous smile that underscored his charming character.

Upon retirement, I took up pen and joined myriad writers working on the Great American Novel. Under merciless critique, I endeavor to choose appropriate verbs and nouns to best described the object, emotions and actions of my protagonist and antagonist and to do so with an economy of words. In addition, my mentors incessantly warp my mind with the latest affectation of the pundits of the trade: “Don't tell, show.”

These things merged in my mind this year as I listened to Streisand rip through her hectic version of Jingle Bells, waiting for, begging for her to take a breath. The feverish musical arrangement beautifully reinforces the tone of the lyric, especially the verse, which begins with, “Dashing through the snow...”

You see? There it is! A single word: Dashing! I began to wonder if composer James Lord Pierpont realized in 1857, when he wrote the song, how precisely he captured the substance of the scene, the actions and emotions in that single word. I considered possible alternatives. Running through the snow? Sliding? Flying? Gliding? Racing? Sprinting? Crashing? No, those wouldn’t do. Dashing, the first word of the phrase, captures the essence of the entire song.

Dashing expresses exhilaration. Exuberance. It illustrates a youthful, reckless regard for life and limb. And fun. “Oh, what fun it is to ride. . .”

I’ve heard Jingle Bells hundreds of times, the first time over seventy years ago as a child in our living room, my father playing the piano, my mother singing along. But each Christmas season, it is always my old friend's remark that comes to mind each time I hear Barbra sing Jingle Bells. I remember his chuckle, the impish glint in his eye and the upturned corner of his mouth as he says, “I shower with Barbra Streisand every morning.”

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