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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Show, don't tell. By John von Daler

                 In my travels on concert tours I have received many different invitations, mostly to events that take place late at night. You get used to people coming backstage with their cards in hand: How about supper and a beer at our place? We are going down to a little pub, wanna come? Let's get a cup of coffee and talk about the concert...

                In a small town in Jutland in the late 1980's on a Saturday night we got invitations to visit a discotheque. Now the old flashing silver ball, loud, loud music and people with glazed eyes are not really my thing, but it can be enormously boring to go back to your hotel room at 11:45 p.m. and sit on the edge of the bed.
                We said yes and were given free passes to the local hot spot. Our front singer got whisked away right at the entranceway, so the rest of the band and I wandered in towards the back of a huge crowd of men all leaning forward, like the start of a marathon for heavy-set twenty-year-olds.
                There was hardly any room left for us to get in and see what they all were so eagerly pointed towards, so we took turns standing up on a bench in the back. As the other musicians sat down, one of us would stretch out on tiptoes and lean over the broad and sweaty backs of the crowd.
                It turns out that a hard-working young woman was doing what I felt I should have been doing back in my hotel room: she was taking off her clothes. So for a few minutes, one of us would describe her movements while the others staired into the back wall. Soon we got disgusted and went home.
                But I learned one thing that night: it sure was more fun to hear the descriptions than it was to see the "exotic" dance. What that poor, lonely woman did for a living sounded a lot more exciting than it looked, coming as it did out of the mouth of a colleague doing his best to fill out the event with color and drama: Her right hand reaches down along the side of her stomach towards the edge of the lace string holding up her silk stockings. The hand slips easily along her smooth skin glistening with sweat from her exertions. Her face, colored in the ancient and enticing manner of Salome, beckons the eager men, even while her eyes, half-closed in a kind of furious ecstasy, flash warnings, "Hands off! Stay away!" This is the stop and start, the yes and no, the beauty and the beast of our common heritage. The crowd breathes as if with one breath...
                Why am I telling you this at all? Just to ask, Why would one ever want to show rather than to tell?


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