David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 210: Joe Bonamassa (The Last Matador Of Bayonne)

December 20, 2024

While in graduate school at Indiana University, I participated in a Strat-O-Matic baseball league where a bunch of us played the table top baseball game by creating fictional teams, drafting players, and playing out full seasons (and obsessing over stats, but that's probably predictable). This might help explain why it took me seven years to finish my Ph.D. I even continued in a mail version of the league for a year or two after graduate school, but eventually gave it up to adult.

Part of the fun of the league came from teams we made up, often based upon real towns or cities. My Paw Paw Cool Cats (named after the Squeeze song "Cool For Cats") were my favorite. Paw Paw is a little town in West Virginia, and so I chuckled at them having a big league team with Jeff Bagwell on it. Little did I know there was a Paw Paw Township near Wabash, Indiana; certainly I would have been shocked to know that in my 50s and 60s that I would live about a half hour away from Paw Paw, Michigan. Somebody's paws sure got all over this country.

One guy's team was the Bayonne Black Knights (at least I think I remember the nickname correctly). They "played" out of Bayonne, New Jersey, which, looking at a map is the Exit 14, to answer the old joke about New Jersey. I always wanted to ask, "how French is Bayonne, New Jersey?" I could add it to list of questions about how Peruvian is Lima, Ohio; how Soviet (at the time) is Moscow, Idaho; and how Greek is Athens, Georgia.

Knights roaming around Bayonne, New Jersey, is humorous enough, but why not bullfighters?

In the late 1980s, I wouldn't have known bullfighting was a predominant feature of Bayonne, France. Hell, I didn't even know it was a feature common to France, just Spain. Of course, Bayonne, France, would be Exit 4 to any European joke about what exit from Spain is anywhere in France.

Thanks to rock 'n roll, an old dog can learn new facts. Only through blues rocker Joe Bonamassa do I figure out Bayonne, France, is a bullfighter's mecca. All of this occurred because my sister gave me Bonamassa's CD Dust Bowl sometime in the last few years.

Stuck in the middle of Dust Bowl is "The Last Matador Of Bayonne," a cool bluesy (o.k. so that word is redundant for Bonamassa) song featuring exquisite, minimal instrumentation, save Bonamassa's incendiary guitar solos. Drum brushes flicker, sustained organ notes swell, and a lone trumpet cries in the background, providing a Sergio Leone kind of atmosphere. It's the story of a last gunfighter, if the gunfighter was armed with an Estoques de Torero and not a revolver, facing down an unwilling Bos as opposed to a unrelenting Homo Sapiens.

The sobering song tells a painful tale of a dying tradition, right from the opening lines: "I hold out hope, but it stalls/Soon the last curtain falls/A hundred years of past has spoken." "I fight on/I fight on," sings Bonamassa in the chorus, "I'm the last matador of Bayonne/For tomorrow this place falls into silence." Based upon the little bit I have now read about Bayonne's bullfights, the tradition is continuing, so Bonamassa must be employing some hyperbole regarding the dwindling predominance of the matador in modern society.

So, from table-top baseball in Bloomington, Indiana, through Bayonne, New Jersey, I end up in Bayonne, France, today lamenting a dying profession.  Lest you think all of this is still just the rambling thoughts of an old man, I sometimes wonder if I will be "The Last Provost of Anywhere." My colleagues are dropping like flies and the trend, as Cabrini University recently announced, is to go Provost-less. I have now versified about it, prosed about it, and analogized about it.

Where's my bluesy guitar solo, Joe?

Bonamassa, Joe. "The Last Matador of Bayonne." Dust Bowl. J & R Adventures, 2011.  Link here.

Day 209: The Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog"

Day 211: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts "Little Drummer Boy"

See complete list here.