Follow the progression

Yesterday's post reminded me of a bit of trivia that has always stayed in my head. Did you know that three great Pablos died in the same year? I'm speaking of Pablo Picasso, Pablo Neruda and Pablo Casals. Casals I mentioned previously because I was telling you that his recordings of the Bach Cello Concertos are at the top of my musical love list. Well, all three died in 1973 in the months of April, September and October respectively. See? Now you too know a bit of useless information that will probably stay with you the same way that this bit has stayed with me. The strangeness of the mind - we remember the least helpful stuff sometimes.

Thinking of Casals also reminded me of one of the most romantic stories I can ever relate having happened to me. Unfortunately, it didn't include my husband but that is neither here nor there. What makes it romantic is the interrupted and one-time aspect of the encounter I'm about to relate. Think of Andersen's fairytale the Little Mermaid. Would the story be as memorable if the Mermaid and the Prince had lived happily ever after? Of course not. That's what makes the tale poignant. She dies (gulp), he marries another. Not that my story is anything as long-winded and tragic as this at all.

Anyway, I'm getting off track here. What I wanted to tell you was that in 2000, a long time after I had left the choir I used to sing with, I found out that they were traveling to France to participate in the Nancy International Chorale Competition and they very kindly extended me an invitation to travel with them though, not as a singer because I hadn't trained with them for years but, more as a translator as I happen to get by in French. I was up for vacation at work and I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with my old singing mates so I accepted and found myself in Paris where they were to start their concerts before traveling on to Nancy.

Two of my good friends in the choir were the tall and good looking twins, Elsie and Esther. They'd never been to Paris before and being young and curious they wanted to take advantage of their free time to explore. I got roped into giving them a mini tour of what I knew, as I'd been to Paris a couple of times before with my family. After indulging in some wonderful crêpes in the Quartier Latin, we went for a walk and crossing the street, I see an extremely good-looking man about to cross from the other side. He was Robert Beltran. For all you non-Star Trek fans out there, Beltran played the first officer character Chakotay in Star Trek Voyager. I was and still am, a great Star Trek The Next Generation fan and later, became an equally great Voyager fan. Needless to say, I recognized him immediately and totally lost it.

As my two friends described it later, one minute I was next to them about to cross the street and then, I was accosting a man on the other side of it. I remember repeatedly pointing at him almost to his face and saying (as if he didn't know already) "you're Chakotay, you're Chakotay!" To his credit he was very calm about the whole experience of having a midget-sized woman (I'm short) jumping him excitedly and blocking his way.

He very clearly said to me, "Actually, my name is Robert Beltran" to which I replied that of course I knew that this was his real name, and that I had an uncle whose first name is Beltran (which is totally true, I swear, he's my mother's brother) and I also told him, though I should have stopped right there and then, that I used to have an advanced calculus professor whose last name was, of all things - Beltran! Professor Beltran! I'm sure he was just dying to know all that. I sounded addled but, in my defense, he was the addling type of handsome.

While I babbled and made an absolute cake of myself, I noticed that he had the nicest kind of crooked smile on his face and his gaze, conveyed the indulgence a well-known actor might show a rabid fan for no reason other than him being personally kind. He handled me with the aplomb that only having experienced encounters with people like me can possibly afford someone like him.

That is surely the only explanation for why he heard my incoherent rambling through and then politely replied how nice that must be for me as he took a hold of my elbow and pulled me onto the sidewalk next to him. Cars had been waiting to move on while I'd been talking.

Am I conveying to you how simply moronic I must have looked? There's no other way to describe it really. Silly, gauche, inarticulate. In plainer words, dumb, dumb, dumb. I'm probably blushing as I write for you what I remember of that moment. In an extremely short span of time, I went from being the poised woman I believed myself to be and morphed into some crazy stalker bothering someone famous on a Paris street no less!

By this time, my friends had crossed over and they had no idea who this man was. Having grown up in Latin America, they'd never watched a single Star Trek or Star Trek franchise episode in their lives and so, to prolong the awkwardness of this encounter I found myself introducing them to Mr. Beltran and explaining what he did for a living. Caught in between us, he played the graciously recognized actor, and asked us what we were doing in Paris addressing the question to all three of us. I bulldozed my friends and piped in that we were singing in Paris though, as you well know, I was doing nothing of the sort. At this, he looked a mite more interested and asked us what type of singing, to which I again replied for my friends and told him that our repertoire included madrigals, and music by Monteverdi and Scarlatti and so on and so forth.

In an attempt to assuage my later guilt at sidelining them, my friends told me that it was clear from the start that he was addressing his questions mostly to me and that they enjoyed their roles as spectators in our verbal tennis match too much, to take umbrage at my monopolization of the encounter.

So, Mr. Beltran said, we were there to sing were we? Well, he was himself a great lover of Medieval and Baroque music. At this point I felt compelled to clarify that I used to sing and at his somewhat crestfallen look I further explained that I loved music so much that this was the reason I found myself in Paris even though I wasn't going to be doing any singing. Looking at me (I remember this quite clearly) while generally addressing the question to the three of us, he then said that some friends of his had left him high and dry for a Classical music concert he was supposed to attend that very evening and would we be interested in joining him in their stead. What do you think I did?

Had I shown a little bit more enthusiasm, I would have ended up knocking the man to the ground. Of course I said YES! The twins mumbled something about how sick they were of all the music and how they'd rather explore some more so thank you very much, but they'd pass. At which point, Robert Beltran and I went on to exchange hotel names and he promised to call mine to tell me at what time he would pick me up for the concert that evening and we parted ways after my friends took the requisite photograph and he had signed an autograph for them.

When we started walking again, my friends peppered me with all kinds of questions and I was just in a stupor. Robert Beltran had asked ME out. My friends were really kind when they agreed that they could tell he had asked the question of joining him for the concert specifically for my benefit. And that their decision to forgo the experience was not in any way a loss for them as they'd be listening to more Classical music than anybody would care to in the upcoming weeks of their tour plus, they said, they had NO CLUE who he was so there was no excitement factor in it for them and that they couldn't be more pleased for me about my having accepted. Did I deserve such good friends?

Walking back to the hotel I started to have some misgivings about the whole thing. What if, I thought, the invitation was not as above board as it seemed. I had no intention of acting like a groupie if that is what was really behind the asking and I expressed my already growing concerns to my friends. Esther's answer to this was: "He likes Monteverdi, what kind of ax-murderer does?"

Now I know what you are thinking because I was thinking it too -- ah... Hannibal Lecter would. I had visions of Chianti served with dinner and a Monteverdi madrigal in the background let me tell you. But really, excitement at the prospect of going to a concert with Robert Beltran was foremost in my mind and I tried to temper that by admitting that the odds were that he had forgotten about me the moment he had turned around and, that there would be no call to our hotel to cement plans for the evening. The twins agreed gravely that this might be the case and concluded that I was probably right in thinking that he was just acting politely. Nevertheless, should he truly call they said, I just had to go through with it because I'd regret it otherwise, Hannibal Lecter or not. When we arrived at the hotel about an hour later there was already a message awaiting me.

Sorry to interrupt but my fingers are getting really tired plus I've been neglecting my son to write this much so, I will continue with this tomorrow but, before I go, I hope you join me in wishing Mr. Robert Beltran a Happy Birthday. While looking up the link for his name when I mentioned him above, the official Star Trek website mentioned that today, of ALL DAYS, was his actual birthday. Could anything be more coincidental and apropos? You see why I tell you that I believe in things like serendipity and destiny? I had no idea that I would write about this man, whom I once had the pleasure to meet, in my newly minted Blog on the day of his birthday but, there you have it. It was meant to be, like so many other things in my life have also.

Until tomorrow then.

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