My Songs of Now and Then: A Memoir

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Alberto said rich Americans were always asking to buy the house. We walked down to the sea, picking our way across black volcanic rocks. Alberto picked up a handful of seashells. Alberto and Dona Maria lived twenty-five years in Canada, raising their children there. He had his guitar with him in Canada, but he said he never played it because he had no free time or friends who had free time to play music with him. We ate our meal cooked in the old stone oven in the main house, which had a modern kitchen with a microwave and an ice maker.

There was bread straight from the fire and pumpkins from the garden sliced in half and sprinkled with brown sugar and transformed into something intense by their stone-and-fire roasting. He drank at least a liter of red wine by himself and kept filling up my glass from another bottle. Alberto had made his first Portuguese guitar twenty years before he learned how to play it. I had seen it danced at festas in California. Alberto danced me around, showing the steps. Then he sat back down to his guitar. Martha Lee was an old-school ballerina.

She stood as straight as a pole and was just as slender. She wore her eternally jet-black hair pulled back in a bun.

She had a toy poodle that she carried under one arm. Martha Lee was no fan of jazz dance, but that was what the kids wanted, so she had begrudgingly added me, a mediocre-at-best dancer with minimal ballet training to the roster. I had one class of ten-year-olds, who were particularly klutzy even for ten-year-olds. On the day in question, we were going through a jazz warm-up, which involved isolating different body parts. The idea was that the whole class would move the same body part at the same time, keeping the beat.

This was not happening. I kept trying slower and slower music until I settled on a thudding Prince song that even uncoordinated children could follow. We moved down from our heads to our ribs to isolating our hips, which involved thrusting out one hip to the far corner of the room, then the other hip in the other direction, and then swiveling our pelvises: right-center-left-center-and- arooooooound.

I was fired on the spot. There was Prince.

The Hozier High - read an extract from Johnny Lappin's memoir

I danced around the kitchen a bit as ordered. They each thought the other was a terrible dancer. We danced until we were flushed and breathless. On one song, Luisa and Dona Maria sang along, and they all wept. It was a song by Amalia Rodrigues, the Queen of Fado. The words resist a different language. I cry my own nostalgia I weep in pity for myself I cry, absorbed in my own longing.