Hunting for something evocative on the FM radio in the car as we made our way through this beautiful state, I said wryly to the Beloved that it was ironic that the “Utah Jazz” was a famous sports team . . . but that so far I hadn’t heard any jazz in Utah except for those moments of Jack Purvis and Bobby Hackett I had provided myself through the iPod.
Serendipity was at work, though. Tonight, in a Hampton Inn in Provo (very nice — although with the modern perversity of a wall-mounted television set in the bathroom, for the multi-taskers among us) I went in search of a cup of Earl Grey. As I walked towards the lobby, I heard two distinct strains of sound. One, rather harsh, I could identify as the huge flat-screen television in the “breakfast room.” Predictable and reasonably easy to block out. The other, sweeter strain, was familiar — and startling in its familiarity. Had you been able to shadow me, you would have found me standing in the middle of a deserted hall of rooms, a hall of locked doors, with my face turned towards the little white plastic speaker in the ceiling. Reverent. Rapt.
What was I hearing? Nothing less than Louis Armstrong, circa 1956, from the Decca MUSICAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY, singing and playing GEORGIA ON MY MIND. I stood there, surprised by joy (to recall C.S. Lewis) until the last high note died out. Ashley, the young woman on duty at the desk, told me that corporate headquarters makes up a new “playlist,” hours long, and sends the Inn a new version regularly. What forces were at work to get me in the hall at the moment Louis was singing and playing I cannot tell, but I’m grateful to what or whomever they might be. “The road leads back to you,” indeed!