Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Of Camels, Conclusions and Cabral

The Toll Free Camel called again today.  I ignored it, as usual. 

Of course, it's not really a camel (I don't think.)  It's the result of the stilted robot voice with which my telephone announces callers. While I can usually figure out the name with little effort, it took a glance at the display to realize that my automated phone attendant was announcing an unidentified 1-800 number. A "toll-free caller".

As such callers tend to be telemarketers, political survey-takers, and such, I tend to conclude that we have nothing intelligent to discuss and ignore the call.

I think I'm safe in that conclusion, but there have been times in life when my conclusions have landed me in hot water.  At the very least, they have made me the butt of a self-inflicted joke.  Let me invite you to join in and laugh with me at the latest.  

It all started because my nephew is getting married on Saturday and wants to read a special poem to his lovely bride.  He asked me to check his translation of the poem; flattered (and pleased that I have some skills to offer the younger generation), I quickly agreed.

Late last night I sat down to review his translation.  The English and the Spanish were interspersed; all I had to do was make sure each translated line matched the original meaning.  The poem had a comfortable, familiar feel but I didn't let that distract me. Armed with my most critical eye, it seemed that some conjugations were a little off.  To be fair, Spanish verbs are more complex than English ones. 

I adjusted the Spanish text to better match the English.  I reworked a few lines of the Spanish to improve the flow.  I adjusted the meter in a place or two.  And finally, I was content.  The poem was good (I even made a suggestion for changing one of the English lines.)  After an hour or two of editing work, it seemed nothing more should be done. 

Feeling rather pleased with myself, I went to bed.

It wasn't until tonight that my nephew gently let me know that I had once more jumped to a conclusion. The Spanish was not the translation: it was the original. 

In fact, I had just spent two hours editing a poem by the incomparable Argentine poet and songwriter, Facundo Cabral.  

No wonder it seemed so comfortable, so known. For those of you unfamiliar with the great Cabral, it was as if I had dared to tweak the immortal words of Robert Frost.

After laughing long and hard at myself, I emailed the groom and promised to redo my review.  It almost seemed I could hear my father laughing with me.  When I was a little girl and jumped to conclusions (which was often), Dad would tell me a little story:

"Do you remember the story about August?" Dad would ask. 

"No", I always answered, because I wanted him to tell it again.

"Well, once there was little boy named August, and he was always jumping to conclusions.  One day, August jumped to a mule's conclusion... and the next day was the first of September."

Life lessons from my pun-loving dad who wanted me to know that conclusions often have a price.

In the process, he helped me learn to laugh at my own propensities. So tonight I will spend more time reviewing the English translation of the poem and leave Facundo's work unsullied by my meddling. Tomorrow or the next day, I'm sure I'll laugh again at my absurdities.  And some day, I may even learn that jumping to conclusions takes a toll.

Until then, I have it on good authority that camels are toll-free.