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Fare Schwag

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I was driving my customer to the Trapp Family Lodge, one beauty of a fare in the heart of the foliage season. It was early afternoon and, after three straight days of gray overcoat skies, the sun had broken through like water through a broken dam.

As we approached the Stowe exit, the Hunger Mountain range was bathed in lemony light. For the past half-hour, my customer had been on a cel call with his home office in Manhattan, something about The Sound of Music and a project involving the Trapp family members, most of whom still live in Vermont.The guy was short, bald and well-dressed, and he spoke calmly but with evident enthusiasm for his work.

Me, I was feeling voluble. I wanted to know this guy's story, so I hoped he was too.

"So," I got he ball rolling 20 seconds after his phone call ended, "you're producing some sort of DVD?"

"That's exactly what I'm doing," he replied, the enthusiasm still in his voice now talking to his cabbie. "I work for the Rodgers & Hammerstein organization, the company formed by the decedents of the song-writing team to manage the performance rights for their songs and plays. We're producing a 40-year anniversary DVD for The Sound of Music, and we want to include interviews with the Trapp children who are still alive."

"That is fantastic," I said. "I'm a big musical comedy guy. My favorite from that era was Flower Drum Song. You don't really hear about that one too much anymore, because, I guess, it's now considered somewhat politically incorrect. I don't see why, though. I always thought it was a beautiful tribute to the Chinese immigrant culture."

"Well, you won't get any argument from me on that one," the man replied with a smile. "You know, we recently released a special edition of the movie version, including commentary with Nancy Kwan."

"Oh my God - how sexy was she in that movie? She stirred my 13 year-old heart, let me tell you." I paused to picture her solo number, "I Enjoy Being a Girl," during which she wears only a white towel. "I guess she stirred more than my heart," I added.

For the remainder of the ride, we talked musicals, from Oklahoma to Rent. I felt transported back to my childhood, when I used to lie on the living room floor and listen to my parent's LP cast albums, dreaming about the stories the songs were telling.

When we arrived at the Lodge we traded business cards and shook hands. We had connected in our mutual love of this uniquely American art form.

One week later, a puffy manila envelope showed up in the mailbox. When I saw the return address, I knew exactly what it was, and, tearing it open, my guess was right:  the special edition DVD of Roger's & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song, my best tip, after-the-fact, from a generous taxi customer.

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