As I testified in my grand jury deposition, the last thing I remember before my third wife accidentally fell overboard is the two of us leaning over the railing and looking down at the churning whitecaps while syrupy music was piped over the cruise ship’s PA system.
“What is this puerile pap?” she asked, glancing up at the outdoor speaker.
“Sounds like the new Van Morrison album,” I replied.
“Huh? No wonder it’s so lame.”
“I thought you liked Van Morrison.”
“Sure, back when he was good,” she sneered. “So what’s the name of this limp wad? Astral Weak?”
“No, it’s called What’s Wrong With This Picture?”
“Oh, that’s perfect!” she roared with laughter. “How perfectly apropos for a passionless album that has nothing right going for it!”
“How can you say that?” I protested. “Just listen to his soulful singing … his adept wordplay on every ...”
“Soulful,” she snorted derisively. “I have been listening and I don’t hear anything that comes even remotely close to ‘Madame George’ or ‘Moondance.’ Just a dim, diluted echo of the past. I mean, what’s this we’re hearing right now? ‘Saint James Infirmary’?” She rolled her eyes.
“Hey, what’s wrong with “Saint James Infirmary’? It’s a great song.”
“You bet, especially when Cab Calloway does it. Remember that 1933 Betty Boop cartoon, Snow White, where Cab wails, ‘Hey boy! Hand me over another shot of that boooo-ze!’ and then empties a glass of hooch down his own severed neck stump? Why that one line’s got more moxie in it than this entire album does, and Cab recorded it exactly 70 years ago!”
I was about to retort when suddenly the ship pitched sharply to one side and she fell overboard. She was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance.
Now every time I hear it, What’s Wrong With This Picture? reminds me of that terrible night in the Arctic. Nevertheless, I still think it’s a fine effort, and I trust that my new wife will see fit to agree with me.
E-mail Jeffrey Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.