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Koloman (Kolo) Moser: Woman’s Head with Roses (1899)

"That sweet scent sure seems familiar …"

In the 1959 Broadway musical Gypsy, songwriter Jule Styne and lyricist Stephen Sondheim created a song they intended to sound as if it had been a common idiom for ages. They succeeded with a repurposed melody and Sondheim's remarkable turn of the phrase, creating what would become star Ethel Merman's signature song, Everything's Coming Up Roses. When first introduced to the tune, show director Jerome Robbins asked, "Everything's coming up Rose's what?" Fortunately, Sondheim accurately predicted that nobody would be asking that question after hearing the song, which has since become one of the standard soundtracks accompanying success, so when The Muse appeared to win her election for Port Commissioner, this
melody popped into my head and hasn't yet left. It's become the earworm for what promises to be a new age here.

Some days, everything shifts. Something of actual consequence happens, and whatever remnants of any odd old status quo cannot make the shift.
Burdens tumble aside. A free ride doesn't follow, but a sense of freedom emerges, even if the fresh context promises considerable challenges. Until last night, when the county Auditor finally released the first ballot count, she had no clue what the voters would do. Her campaign consultant called mid-afternoon to share his projection, which suggested the first count would find her with forty-nine percent of the vote and that subsequent ballots would put her over the top. Instead, the first count showed her at sixty-three percent with her opponent at thirty-six, a probably overwhelming margin even given that far fewer than twenty percent of the registered voters had been counted. Being an off-year election, the vast majority of the electorate neglects to exercise their franchise. Further, with mail-in ballots, one cannot always know the results on election night. The Muse told the reporter who called that she was feeling "cautiously optimistic." She never counts eggs as chickens.

When she entered the election night festivities, the place erupted in cheers. "You'll be swell, you'll be great, gonna have the whole world on a plate! … Startin' here, startin' now, Honey, Everything's Coming Up Roses!" She spoke to or through the crowd, eliciting more cheers as she voiced her appreciations. She had apparently decisively broken through this county's tenaciously insidious Red Wall, a barrier that had vanquished some terrific progressive candidates in the past. True to her usual tactic, she somehow managed to slip right through, though it's really no mystery how. She's the one I follow when trying to board an overloaded subway car after a game. She somehow finds the way through even the most immovable barriers. She creates her own futures.

Still, as we catered to the houseful of campaign helpers, feeding them an appreciation supper, we didn't know whether we'd be celebrating by the end of the evening. She ran a clean campaign. She was, as usual, fearless, or so I will insist. She was not always brave when facing another performance, and she did sometimes grow weary of being so damned noteworthy. The audacity of mailing pictures of herself to thousands of voters, the boldness required to drop fliers on stranger's front porches, and the expectation that she'll ask another of her signature disarming questions in every meeting she attends might wear down anybody. She stood up better than most might have.

One consultant called before the count to counsel her not to concede anything on election night. Just wait until all the votes are in, she insisted. The local paper quoted The Muse's opponent shortly after the initial votes were counted. "Amy will make a terrific Port Commissioner,” she said. When I read that statement, the prior week's haze lifted. The orchestra began holding that primitive quivering note, and Merman started belting to beat that band. "Curtain up, light the lights. You've got nothing to hit but the heights! … Honey, everything's Coming Up Roses!" That sweet scent sure seems familiar, as if emanating from The Muse's own rose garden here at The Villa. Perhaps it is. We welcomed each other home.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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