Friday, February 13, 2009

Rambling Through Friday the 13th

Ah, Friday the Thirteenth. I find it remarkable that there is an actual phobia name for fear of this day: paraskavedekatriaphobia. It’s kind of an Italian superstition that Friday is an unlucky day and that 13 is an unlucky number. Put them together and it’s a double-whammy. My favorite myth for this superstition comes from the old Norse. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

“The actual origin of the superstition, though, appears also to be a tale in Norse mythology. Friday is named for Frigga, the free-spirited goddess of love and fertility. When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished in shame to a mountaintop and labeled a witch. It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil - a gathering of thirteen - and plotted ill turns of fate for the coming week. For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was known as "Witches' Sabbath."”

Personally, I’ve always liked memories of free-spirited goddesses of love and fertility. They remind me of my youth. But Friday falls on the thirteenth of the month three times this year: today, coming again next month, and then in November. I cannot recall any grim incidents in my life that landed on a Friday the 13th, but maybe my memory has become selective. I can’t say one way or the other. I do remember that during my sailing days, we never initiated a long trip on a Friday. Sailors are notoriously superstitious and I guess we were no exception.

We went and saw a play last night at the Artist’s Repertory Theater: “The Seafarer.” (How’s that for a segue?) An ensemble cast created an Irish working-class drama with some nice comedy relief. It had quite a few hallmarks of that world. The devil himself was a character. He’d come to collect the soul of another character. It was also a play about alcoholics. Every character was a drunk. In that sense it was very bleak, but the overall slice-of-life look at humanity offered some hope and the devil became, almost, a sympathetic character. God was definitely in control and his love for us “insects” came through on that Christmas morning.

The cast was good. I thought that the first act was a little stiff, but they really got the rhythm right in Act II. I was able to completely suspend my disbelief for almost the entire second act. I mean, it was all good, but those guys really nailed it in the second half. Not that I really know anything at all about play-acting, but I was impressed.

In the last eight months I’ve seen three plays: “Sometimes a Great Notion” (with a couple of the same actors from last night), “Bucky” (about Buckminster Fuller), and “The Seafarer.” I’m very open to seeing more. I think I like plays better than I like movies. That’s a general statement, really. There are movies I will really enjoy, but I don’t go just out-of-hand. The hype has to capture my imagination. I really enjoyed the Tolkien adaptations, once I convinced myself to let go of the books and keep them completely separate from the cinema experience. I loved Will Smith in “Ali.” And I will certainly go see “In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead” It’s an adaptation of the very first James Lee Burke novel I read. Since then, I’ve read everything by Mr. Burke that I can get my hands on. He is the best writer of Place that I’ve ever encountered. His Dave Robicheaux novels are living entities. You can smell that Bayou Teche country. His recent novel “The Tin Roof Blowdown,” is a visceral account of what happened to that country when the double-shotgun blast of Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast.

I’m very interested in who’s been cast to play Dave’s best pal Clete Purcel, who is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. Tommy Lee Jones has been cast to play Dave, which works for me. But the only guy we can come up with to play Clete is John Goodman and that’s not exactly right. I don’t know. If I was an actor, I would eat broken glass to get to play Clete Purcel. Both Clete and Dave are guys whose lives are redemption-in-progress affairs. They are two people whom I would very much like to have on my side in any kind of trouble. Every James Lee Burke novel I’ve read has been a moveable feast. I’m just really glad that he continues to write. He’s taken the Hard-Boiled genre and created literature with it. It makes me very glad, indeed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Changing My Focus

I have decided that I will no longer write about Wall Street, or Banking, or the Economic Downturn. When I think about the unbelievable untrustworthiness and glorified greed that has been evident in those circles I just want to go stand in the shower and scrub myself until I’m raw. I’m going to avoid politics too. I’m pretty sick of that after a two-year campaign, a contentious election, and a fat bi-polar misogynistic pill freak selling advertising. There have been stirring moments of hope, yes. Those moments have buoyed the moments of fear and despair nicely. But now we’re back to day-to-day spin management, obfuscation, and bluster. Business as usual, I reckon.

Will I continue to pay attention? Yes, it’s my nature. I will monitor my perceptions, seek counsel when I’m confused, and if something egregious happens I’ll have to break with my intent and write about it. I suppose something really good could inspire me too, like Cheney shooting his lawyer. So, until it becomes necessary to regress, I will write about fun and interesting stuff, like colonoscopies, bags under my eyes, golf, baseball, maybe hockey, managing my girth, and maybe even sex. That would really creep out my kids.

I feel terrible for Michael Phelps and his family. I think all of the people who have written diatribes about how he’s “defiled” America should go stand under the next booster that launches a space shuttle. Come on, people. Were you ever twenty-three? The same people who wrote despicable things about Michael probably went home and muttered into their cocktails about their kids being on Ritalin. That is the epitome of hypocrisy. For those of you so inclined, go read Terry Southern’s “Red Dirt Marijuana” to get an idea of why powerful elements in our society are dead-set against smoking the weed. It has nothing to do with taxes, morals, or health.

A really bright (or as a good friend would say, “shiny”) spot during the past month is the seemingly miraculous ditching of US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River. I’m glad the media have picked this up and run with it, but I feel for the crew who would love to just fade back into the mainstream and get on with their lives. They were, in fact, just “doing their jobs to the best of their abilities” and I salute them for their professionalism, their bravery under duress, and their quiet acknowledgment of the outpouring of interest and affection by a grateful world population. They are truly role models. We’ve had little to cheer about that isn’t partisan and this story has been a blessing. But, as usual, the media will beat this horse long after it has ceased to breathe.

Time to get on with the rest of my day. I’ll be back.