There was a period in my life when I flew back and forth between France and the United States several times a year. Rubbing shoulders with celebrities was a possibility, even if not always a probability. Business Class was the best I could ever manage and the big names would be up in First, drinking champagne.
But once . . . I was on an overnight flight out of JFK to Paris. The plane was full, but not uncomfortably so. Two black men were seated in front of me, obviously frequent flyers like myself. As soon as the meal was finished, I and everyone around me settled down to sleep until breakfast.
In the morning a young black passenger came down the aisle. He stopped at the seat in front of me and said,
"Hey, Man! My name is Assam. I'm an exchange student from Ethiopia. Where are you dudes from?"
The tall man in the aisle seat blew him off in a quiet, polite way.
Soon after that the hostess passed out the landing cards. Intrigued by my neighbor, I stood up to get something out of the overhead compartment while he was filling out his card. I looked down and read his name (M. Davis) and occupation (Musician).
Once the plane was on the ground and we were all in the aisle, waiting to disembark, a short, roly-poly woman with a big, flowered hat, obviously one of his party, asked my neighbor,
"How are we ever going to get all that luggage in a cab?"
Again a quiet reply: "Don't worry about it, Auntie, there will probably be someone there to help us."
Several years later I was in France when Miles Davis died. As is usual with the death of a well-known person, French television broadcast several documentaries on his life and work.
To my surprise I learned that Miles Davis had had a second life in France. He was well-known and loved in the world of musicians. He also had a long-time companion, a blond French woman of humble origins who spoke eloquently of her years with the musician.
Today, more than a dozen years after his death, his cool blue jazz is still being played and revered in a country he had adopted as his second home.