It all began in September 2009. Antonio, band leader of the Alabama Dixieland Jazz Band, gave me a call, as usual very frenzied and in a super fast Spanish, telling me that I had to go to an “important” meeting, a meeting in the harbour of Santa Cruz, the head of the “Fundación Correíllo La Palma” was expecting me, …
A jumble of words was all I could hear, it was all Greek to me. He himself, Antonio, unfortunately couldn’t come, he was prevented for some reason at short notice – and that’s how our conversation ended. All I got was a text message shortly thereafter, informing me about the time of the meeting. And that was it. I have to admit that Antonio is a dreamer just like me, and both of us strongly hold on to our utopias and their realizations. So we have a few things in common – talking isn’t the only one.
In the short time I had left, I tried to do some research on “??? La Palma”, and could only just come to find out that it had to be a vessel. In short: I didn’t have a clue what to expect and burst into the meeting all fancied up, on my own, set up my laptop, showcased the pictures while some Dixieland music played in the background, and delivered my lecture by guess and by gosh. Of course I incorporated the ship under the impulse of the moment, given the fact that it would spice up the DIXIEMANIA…
“But have you already seen the ship?”, asked Juan Pedro Morales, the head of the foundation. After delivering my passionate speech, all I could do was whisper a gentle “No, but I would love to see it!”
Two days later, I found myself in Santa Cruz harbour in front of this gigantic old steamer from 1912, with the warm summer breeze blowing history through my hair. I felt my heartbeat go faster and faster as I walked up the gangway a little light-headed, my hand gripping the old ropes, and with the feeling that I was now leaving solid ground. The Titanic immediately crossed my mind. Remember? The passenger ship that collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic during her maiden voyage! That then sank around 11:40 p.m., two hours and 40 minutes after the collision on the night of the 14th. /15th. of April 1912! The thought was not all that strange. The Correíllo La Palma was also built in England. With the only difference that it was a mail ship, setting sail for the Canary Islands on its first voyage on April 12th, 1912, just two days prior to the catastrophe of the Titanic. Transportation between the islands, the Atlantic, people, letters, packages, animals, joy, tears, farewells, the harbour of Santa Cruz… In my mind’s eye I was seeing entire scenarios, as if I were looking as far as Louisiana – well, almost.
They gave me a tour of the ship, first class, second class, bilges… my imagination ran riot. The old iron doors, the hatches, the rail, the chimney, the slightly befogging feeling of the moving ship… It was as if I had travelled through time.
“The ship isn’t fully renovated yet“, said Juan Pedro and jolted me out of my dream with the typical hand gesture that explained the lack of necessary wherewithal. “I hope we’ll have it roadworthy by 2011. A floating museum.”
“Why only in 2011?”, I asked stammering. “I mean, you can already make use of it now! A floating theatre?! It’s impossible to find a more authentic stage setting! Louisiana, people emigrating from this very place, the Santa Cruz Harbour, the 1920s, dancing, Dixieland Jazz, people who want to experience history, a journey…” The images that sprouted in my mind now came bubbling out of my mouth as words.
And so it happened that my DIXIEMANIA and I had a ship, totally unexpectedly. A ship built in 1912, and now lying in the harbour of Santa Cruz.
To be continued.
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