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Let there be light

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Work of Art

By Art Trujillo

I was 10 when I'd go to Marquez Grocery on Grand, a short distance from my house to buy a treat to enjoy on the way to Immaculate Conception School.

In the store, I saw a scruffy kid around 7, who asked the grocer, Orlando Marquez, for "a bag of George Gershwins."

What? Orlando obviously had no clue as to the child's request. I'd heard of George Gershwin, mainly from the LP album, "Rhapsody in Blue," that my Dad had bought.

The kid, embarrassed and impatient, kept pointing in the direction of nickel bags of sunflower seeds. Orlando finally handed the bag over to the kid, who plunked down a nickel and left.

Then, I noticed the culprits: My older brother, Severino, and his friend, Levi Martinez, rolled up in laughter behind the store's Coke machine. They'd purposely given the boy Gershwin's name to pass for the bag of sunflower seeds.

In the retelling of the story over several decades, all us Trujillos have christened that salty treat we still sometimes buy. I'm sure the original purchaser of the product still wonders why the seeds got such a name.

We still call them George Gershwins, and by now it's safe to assume the name of the American composer, who died two years before I was born, never got bandied around beyond Grand Avenue.

The connection between the sunflower seeds — and the composer of memorable tunes — however tenuous, came to mind Sunday as a large crowd packed Ilfeld Auditorium for a George Gershwin-Cole Porter performance by the Highlands University Concert Choir, directed by Andre Garcia-Nuthmann, with Em Krall at the piano.

The performance featured a number of soloists and a band. Too many individuals to mention here.

A unexpected event took place during the first intermission, a break that seemed longer than the announced 10 minutes. After buying treats, many of us fumbled through a darkened auditorium.

Usually, during breaks the stage managers dim the lights slightly, but in this case, the only illumination was from the "exit" signs throughout the hall.

After the crowd returned, Garcia-Nuthmann went to the mike to explain efforts to remedy an unexpected power outage, "and we'll be back in a few minutes. Welcome to Las Vegas."

Those "few minutes" never materialized. And ever the problem solver, Garcia-Nuthmann suggested audience members surrender their cell phones to shed light on the subjects.

Our young foreign exchange student, Kitty, and I yielded our phones to the performers, as did several others, and the concert continued, with some performers balancing the phones in their hands or on their laps.

The Ilfeld lights never went back on, giving the appearance of Easter pilgrims making a candle-light trek to the Chimayo Sanctuario on Easter Sunday.

As choir members walked downstage for solos, there was a passing off of the cell phones, as smoothly as if performed by a seasoned track team.

Although an outage such as this often leads to an outrage, people adjusted. The amplification was somewhat muted, as the high-powered instruments, run by electricity, were silent. Still — much to the delight of the audience — the group performed well, almost as if the power failure had been planned.

When Garcia-Nuthmann ended his explanation with "Welcome to Las Vegas," he hit all the right notes, and the show went on.

People wondered: Was it a planned outage? Definitely not, as some crew members opened doors and raised window shades to throw a bit of light on the subjects.

Still, some of us wondered: Is this a citywide blackout? Yes and no. We braced ourselves while crossing the erstwhile traffic light at Eighth and Douglas but noticed that the traffic lights just a block east, at Seventh, worked fine. At Eighth and National, they were off.

Many of us must have wondered how widespread, if not spotty, the outage had been, as some trafficked areas were illuminated, some were not.

As the program ended, to enthusiastic applause, the director reminded us to be sure to reclaim our cell phones. One of the choir members, Christie Baskett, returned Kitty's and my phone. I told Christie that the cell phone she handed me was of much better quality than the one I loaned for the cause.

Christie didn't fall for my fib. I must be losing my touch. I need to get back to my sunflower seeds.

 

• • •

 

A few days ago I received an email from a Pecos woman, Dolores Vigil, whose letter, headed "Baile de Cascarones," told that the custom of dancing amid a sea of confetti-filled eggs is alive and well — in Santa Fe.

I'd written a column in which I lamented the fact that such dances disappeared decades ago from the Las Vegas scene.

Dolores wrote, in part, "I just finished reading your column regarding cascarones. I am a member of a women's organization in Santa Fe named La Sociedad Folkorica whose mission is to preserve our cultural heritage.

To that end, we celebrate the cascaron tradition every year on the weekend following Easter. Our Baile de Cascarones is this Saturday night, April 7, 2018, at the Sweeney Convention Center from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. If you and friends would like to join us, the cost is $15/couple, $10/person and $2/children ages 6 to 17. We would love to have you attend."

Dolores would like to encourage Meadow City folk to wait a year and plan to attend such a dance. As to her invitation to me, personally, I told Dolores that if I were to go next year, I'd be a spectator, not a participant, as my efforts at "Tripping the Light Fantastic" would be more fantastic than light.

Should there be more communication on this subject, I'll keep you posted.