O Solo Mio. For some reason, my family used to sporadically break out in that opening operatic line. We thought it meant “oh lonely me.” Sometimes we went on to sing “O Solo You-o,” which is of course not the correct words. They’re “Sta ‘nfronte a te.” In fact, we had the whole thing wrong. The song lyric is actually “O sole mio,” loosely translated as “my sunshine,” about how with the sun shining on her, the singer’s lover is more beautiful than ever. It’s an 1898 Neapolitan love song, which my parents probably heard sung by Mario Lanza back in the 1940s, and I have heard sung by Luciano Pavarotti, The Three Tenors, and others. But we got it wrong.
Did you know the same tune was used with different lyrics for two popular songs, “There’s No Tomorrow,” recorded by Dean Martin, and “It’s Now or Never,” recorded by Elvis Presley? I’ll bet you’ve got it in your head now.
At our house, “O Solo Mio” was probably sung with sarcasm in the same way my mom said, “Oh, pobrecito,” poor little thing, or sometimes the Portuguese version, “pobrezinho,” when we kids complained. I grew up with a lot of sarcasm. But that’s between me and my shrink.
“O Solo Mio” ran through my head yesterday when I found myself alone at the South Beach community center, pacing its polished wood floor and sighing over the chairs in which no one was sitting. I threw a jam session and no one came. Story of my life. Luckily, I know how to amuse myself. I pulled out my guitar and played and sang, enjoying the fabulous acoustics. Then I played my mandolin, wishing I had memorized more than one whole song. I sounded wonderful. Who’s to say I didn’t?
The usual hosts of our monthly open mic/jam were on vacation. They gave me the key. Such power. We would do more folk and country and less rock under my watch. We would avoid songs I never learned by artists I never heard of because I stopped listening to the latest popular music in about 1980.
The day finally came. I stayed dressed in my church clothes, touched up my makeup and let myself into the magic kingdom of music.
Nobody came. I gave them an hour. I played and sang and played some more. Cars came and went, but the occupants crossed the street to tour the shops at Aquarium Village or to eat at Fishtails Cafe. A little after 4:00, I went home, walked the dog and went back to watching “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” on Netflix (silly story, marvelous singing and dancing).
The South Beach community center was the place where I held a book launch in 2012 to which only one person came. That was for Childless by Marriage (many copies still available). I went all out with food, decorations, and stacks of my books for people to buy. I arranged rows of chairs for the audience.
Show time came. I sat alone in a folding chair and practiced what I would say. One middle-aged woman wandered in. I sat with her in the front row and recited my speech. She bought a book—how could she not? And then I was alone again, packing up my books and food, putting away the chairs and tables, and walking lonely down those stairs.
After years of officiating at activities for writers and musicians, I have learned that it’s difficult to get people out of their houses and into your event. They have other things to do. They don’t want to deal with the weather in winter or tourist traffic in summer. They think I could go to this thing or I could stay home in my comfy clothes and watch Netflix, take a nap, or get the laundry done. Now that Covid is ramping up again, won’t most of us opt to stay home?
People are difficult to move. Like my dog Annie. Sometimes when she decides she doesn’t want to go where I’m trying to lead her, she sets her legs and refuses to budge. It’s like trying to move a building or a bus. People are like that, too, and you can’t put a harness on them.
As for the singers and pickers who didn’t come yesterday, no worries. It’s August, and the weather was glorious. Who wouldn’t rather be outside enjoying it? The South Beach open mic will happen again on Sept. 12, 3 to 5 p.m. at 3024 SE Ferry Slip Road. Come on down.
Question of the day: What motivates you to leave the house for activities you are not required to attend? Fun? Food? Company? Someone urging you to go? Fear that if you don’t show up, you’ll get assigned a task you don’t want? What makes you say, “I think I’ll stay home”?