Ports of Call

by Jay Nordlinger

Miami’s airport code is MIA — which is slightly jarring to me. I guess those initials will always mean “missing in action,” to me. But the airport is a much nicer connotation.

In that airport, I hear a young woman’s voice, over the PA. She is speaking in both English and Spanish. And her voice reminds me of something.

It is this video. I linked to it last summer, I think, after a visit to Miami. It was recommended to me by a friend — a Miami resident. The video spoofs a Miami way of speaking. It does so affectionately, and delightfully.

There is profanity in this video. But then, it reflects life. (There was no profanity in the airport, I should add — just delightfulness!)

Okay, this is politically incorrect: I was thinking about why I like Miami so much, and one of the reasons is this: I like Latin America, very much; and I like America America — the United States — very much.

In Latin America, there is often the sense that the rule of law is not quite in force. The law is arbitrary, unreliable. Miami gives you a Latin American ambience but under proper, “Anglo” rule of law.

Isn’t that a terrible thing to say? But I say it because I think it’s true.

You know Tony Daniels, Anthony Daniels, a.k.a. Theodore Dalrymple — the British doctor-writer. He has said, for many years, that popular music is better all over the world than it is in our countries: in Britain and the U.S.

I have long seen the truth of this, wherever I’ve been — heard it, rather. And I think of this as I drive up to Palm Beach. I’m listening to a “Latin” radio station. And each song is, if not good, listenable. Recognizable as music.

Chris Ruddy hosts a few of us National Review types. He is the CEO of Newsmax, a growing colossus of a media company. Chris is an amazing thing: a journalist with major entrepreneurial talent. He is also exceptionally generous.

But back to entrepreneurship: Funny how some of us aren’t even able to open lemonade stands as kids . . .

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine, knowing I was going to see Rush Limbaugh, asked, “What’s it like to be with Rush?” “Great,” I said. “A shot in the arm. A rush — no pun intended.”

And so it proves again. We have a leisurely visit with Rush, during which we talk over some issues (not least the health of America). Rush is warm, exuberant, smart, humane, funny — himself. And then there is that mysterious ingredient of charisma.

You know, if he ever went into radio or television, he could probably do well . . .

What’s it like being with Rush Limbaugh? Well, like getting a blast of sunshine. You leave beaming, lighter, grinning, happier. At least I do.

Dinner is at Mar-A-Lago — the onetime home of Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post. Funny, I think I lived near her home in D.C., when I lived in our fair capital. Mar-A-Lago has for many years been owned by Donald Trump.

I meet a family that lives next-door — literally next-door. One of the daughters says, “We thought about just walking through the hedge, but Mom said, no, we had to come through the front door, like civilized people.”

I meet a man who tells me a bit of his story. “My dad died when I was eleven. I started working at 15. At 18, I bought my first house.” He also took care of his mother, of course. And he became one of the most successful businessmen in South Florida.

He says, “I could never have done this in any country but this. And I don’t want to lose that. I want other people to have the same opportunities I did.”

His favorite politician, I gather, is Paul Ryan.

I meet a young woman who is Cuban American. One of the things she says is, “I love to vote. It’s an honor to vote. Why don’t more people take advantage of it?”

It was in September, one year, that she became a U.S. citizen — September 21. She’ll never forget the date. In October, she turned 18. In November, she cast her first ballot — for George W. Bush. That was a great autumn for her.

Her two most emotional days, she says, were these: that September 21st, when she became a citizen; and the first time she returned to the United States, as a citizen, from a trip abroad. She presented her passport and the officer said, “Welcome home.”

She has considerable worries about the way things are going. “I found a free country here in the United States. I don’t want to have to look elsewhere.”

There is a store in Palm Beach that sells chandeliers. The sign says “Chandaliers.”

In Bloomington, Ind., where I have come next, a sign says “Pizzaria” (rather than “Pizzeria”).

These misspellings are perfectly understandable. In English, we have this problem of the schwa — the vowel sound in “the.” The “uh” sound.

It comes up in a million words — and is represented by who knows what letter? (In “the,” it is “e.” In “sofa,” it is “a.”)

In Bloomington, I see a man put a big ol’ rifle in the back of his Jeep. I think, “I’m not on the Upper West Side anymore.”

The birds are singing their hineys off. Lots of cardinals. And a hawk is making lazy circles in the sky. Shouldn’t that be Oklahoma?

At IU — Indiana University — Matthew Polenzani, the tenor, and Kevin Murphy, the pianist, perform Die schöne Müllerin, the Schubert song-cycle. This is as good as it gets (the performance and the music). I will have more to say at a later date.

Stick with music, but go to Philadelphia. Yannick Nézet-Séguin is the new conductor of the orchestra. The publicity machine works in overdrive for him. I notice something about the signs bearing his name: “Yannick” is in big letters; “Nézet-Séguin” is in much smaller letters.

A good move — he will be “Yannick,” as Cher is Cher, and Newt is Newt.

In New York, outside the U.N., people are screaming, “Russian invaders out! Russian invaders out!” The people are Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans, I gather. Of course, they will scream in vain.

You know, my fourth-grade teacher was a Ukrainian immigrant. We called him “Mr. K.,” because his last name was judged unpronounceable.

He had lived through the terror-famine, I believe, and the war, of course. He was determined that the Ukrainian culture should survive, be remembered.

I will never forget the look on his face when he spoke of what the Soviet government had done. (I’d asked him about these things, privately.) Never.

Back out on the streets of New York, I spot a sign I’ve never seen before: “Nelson & Winnie Mandela Corner.” Funny how the sign keeps those two linked, in perpetuity. And what about Winnie’s participation in the murder of innocents? Should that be just kind of . . . glossed over?

Got a confession for you: I never much liked the horse-drawn carriages in New York. For one thing, when it’s summer, the horses make a terrible stink on Central Park South.

But now that we have a mayor intent on banning them — I feel sort of defensive about them.

I just didn’t like ’em; I didn’t want ’em banned.

Throw a little music at you? For my latest “New York Chronicle,” in The New Criterion, go here.

And here are some links to posts at TNC’s blog, Armavirumque: a musical grab-bag (with an emphasis on audience noises and nuisances); a review of La sonnambula, the Bellini opera, at the Met; and a review of Evgeny Kissin, the pianist.

That oughta hold you.

The train had just arrived at Penn Station (New York). A husband and wife were discussing where to go for dinner. The wife said, “There’s a topless place.” I thought, “Well, there’s an interesting couple.” Turns out she’d said “tapas.”

I’ll see you.

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