Birds, Wine, and Life

Monday Morning Musings:

 “In all the universe nothing remains permanent and unchanged but the spirit.”

Anton Chekhov, The Seagull

“There is only one really serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.”

–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage If no one is thinking of firing it.”

Anton Chekhov, Letter to A. S. Lazarev-Gruzinsky, November 1, 1889.

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.” John Keats, Letter to his sister, Fanny Keats, 28 August 1819

 

On a beautiful day in early fall

we go to see a play,

a play about love and loss.

of life and death and sorrow and hope,

a play that discusses not only whether

life is worth living,

but how,

and can one enjoy life

without actually being happy,

or happy, but not very happy,

a play that breaks the fourth wall

and invites the audience to participate

(Perhaps with a little prompting–

because that seagull does need to make an appearance)

with characters who know they are fictional,

but are nevertheless real.

For all its existential angst

the play is funny

though of course, a gun on the stage must be used,

or must it?

And balloons that appear

will be popped,

it’s a question of when,

I suppose that is like life, too.

(Though being me,

I wonder how many people hear “Chekhov”

and think of the Star Trek character

and how sad is it that Anton Yelchin who played

Chekhov in the movies died in such a freak accident?

It seems more Twilight Zone than Star Trek, doesn’t it?

In a Star Trek world, there would be a way to bring him

back. And so this has me pondering a whole different set of philosophical questions about life and death. But not during the play, you understand,

only after.)

(But really that whole killing a seagull thing. Isn’t that seriously psycho behavior?)

My husband and I have a lot to talk about after this play—

which we enjoyed, by the way, in case you couldn’t tell,

great acting, some funny songs, and a well-designed set.

It is a beautiful day,

and we sit outside drinking coffee,

a little cobble-stoned Philadelphia street.

People walk their dogs.

there is the man with three—

like Papa Bear, Momma Bear, and Baby Bear

They have smiling doggy faces amidst tufts of hair

that attract a gaggle of women.

We look at the buildings around us

and the birds hunting for crumbs,

we walk back to our car

observing the people,

the coffee crowd morphing into the Saturday

night drinking crowd

(two women talk about where to get moonshine

is that a thing now?)

and the police officers on their horses,

watch the people,

one horse, unconcerned, gives herself a bath

 

 

A character in the play asks what is the point of creating

and producing more stories and art

when so much exists already?

The answer, of course, is that we have a need to create.

Since prehistory, humans have created

cave paintings

multi-breasted earth mothers–

to go with the stories we create

to explain our existence.

Music, art, poetry,

to express and honor beauty.

We imitate and create

old and new

invented and inventive

plastic

ever changing

and static.

We are complex creatures,

but also simple

 

We go to a wine festival the next day,

wine also a human creation,

though perhaps its existence came about by accident,

grapes left to ferment,

and we eat cheese

perhaps also an accidental creation–

because we learn by experiment—

Eat it, drink it, and see what happens.

And I think of ancient humans discovering that food

can be cooked, spices added,

the appreciation of complex flavors and aromas

and that food and wine

become even more pleasurable when shared with loved ones.

And so we do just that at this wine festival.

 

I think of the stupid fucking bird,

the seagull

that stole my daughter’s sandwich right from her hand

at the beach this summer.

It is funny now, a story

I can share with you, Reader,

in verse here that I feel the need to create.

My spirit flies high like birds

though sometimes I may be stupid,

well, human.

I may stumble a bit

(well, there was that wine)

But still,

life is worth living,

life is good.

 

Thanks to Elusive Trope for the Camus quote. (And for the philosophical explanations.)

We saw Stupid F**king Bird by Aaron Posner at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia.

We went to Old City Coffee

And the Heritage Wine Festival in Mullica Hill, NJ.

The Comedy of Life

Monday Morning Musings:

“It really seems to me that in the midst of great tragedy, there is always the horrible possibility that something terribly funny will happen. Then there is also the opposite, that in the middle of great humor, that something terrible will happen.”

― Philip K. Dick “So I Don’t Write About Heroes: An Interview with Philip K. Dick,” 1996.

“Life doesn’t make any sense, and we all pretend it does. Comedy’s job is to point out that it doesn’t make sense, and that it doesn’t make much difference anyway.”

–Eric Idle

“The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays the part.”

–Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

The play was Funnyman,

A world premiere by Bruce Graham.

An elegantly simple set and lighting

Transformed the bare stage into different rooms,

And the actors transported us to 1959,

New York City.

 

It was about a comic, Chic Sherman,

Based loosely on Bert Lahr—

Remember him as the Cowardly Lion?

He later played Estragon in Waiting for Godot,

Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play,

Which is frequently funny,

Although nothing happens.

A critic called Lahr’s performance “noble” and said

He “transfigured” the play.

 

Funnyman was not a comedy,

Except perhaps in the sense that it is about life,

Which like an absurdist play is frequently funny,

And the leads were all alive at the end,

So it can’t be a tragedy, can it?

But comedy is serious stuff.

For Chic Sherman, laughter is a matter of life or death,

Quite literally–

Because when he was a child, his comic ability

Meant his family had food to eat,

But no laughs brought beatings from his parents.

When his adult life turned tragic,

He immersed himself in more work

In more of making people laugh,

Yet, he is a sad man with a secret,

And a grown daughter he doesn’t talk to.

 

The play is filled with funny moments and sad ones.

In life, too, comedy and tragedy sometimes occur at the same time

Like laughter after a funeral

When all are grieving

Then someone tells a joke

Or slips on the banana peel

And you can’t help but laugh

Because it’s funny

And life goes on.

Just like the show must

Even if an actor is sick

Or the power goes out

Or a theater is being bombed.

The Windmill Theatre in London

Boasted that it never closed during WWII,

Although “closed” was sometimes

Changed to “clothed.”

Wink, wink.

And so it goes.

The show and life go on,

The players clad in splendid costumes, threadbare rags,

Or nothing at all,

(Flashback to teenage me seeing “Hair” with my family—

and boyfriend—comedy of life.)

They move, speak, perform

Until the show ends

Until the actors take a final bow,

And the curtain closes.

An actor has to work with the lines he or she

Is given,

But good performers can make the mundane sublime.

Despite the quality of the play,

Most of us hope for a long run with a full house–

And great reviews, of course.

Even if it is absurd

And no one knows what it’s about.

***

After the play, we bought chocolate at Shane Confectionery

Because life is improved with chocolate.

And perhaps a glass of wine.

 

10675551_10205613028028630_2522314575377266496_n

Enjoying My Wine at Heritage Vineyards in December.

 

 

 

 

Passion: Part Two–A Bit More Chill

Monday Morning Musings–Part 2

My first post this morning might have been a bit too intense—too passionate?—, so I’ll chill a little by talking about ice cream.

My dad loved ice cream. My dad loved food. He loved eating and he liked socializing around a table. But for many years, his vice of choice was ice cream. When my younger sister and I were little, he would buy several pints, perhaps 8 or maybe more, of hand-packed ice cream in the freezer—you know the type you get from an ice cream store or fountain, not the supermarket freezer section?

I don’t share his passion for ice cream, but I do like ice cream. OK. Sometimes I love it.

After seeing Passion at the Arden, (see previous post) my husband and I walked to Spruce Street Harbor Park. This is the second summer for this popup venture. There is a shady area with trees and flowers, hammocks hang from the trees, and there is a wading pool and fountain.

These ornaments hanging from the trees change color. Spruce Street Harbor Park

These ornaments hanging from the trees change color.
Spruce Street Harbor Park

IMG_2359

Along the river, there is a boardwalk with shuffleboard, ping pong, a café/beer garden, a food trucks—including a Franklin Fountain truck.

“Let’s have ice cream,” I said to my husband. “We can have ice cream for dinner tonight.” He agreed.

And so we did.

I had chocolate; he had strawberry. Sometimes we’re so predictable.

Not sorry. It was delicious.

Husband eating strawberry ice cream.

Husband eating strawberry ice cream.

Me enjoying chocolate ice cream.

Me enjoying chocolate ice cream.

Sometimes we're cute eating ice cream in a park.

Sometimes we’re cute eating ice cream in a park.

Passion: Love and a Bit of a Rant

Monday Morning Musings

“Just another love story, that’s what they would claim.
Another simple love story – aren’t all of them the same?”

“Loving you is not a choice, it’s who I am.”

–Stephen Sondheim, Passion

On Saturday, we saw Passion, a musical by Stephen Sondheim that explores what it means to love and be loved. What is romantic love? What is passion? What is obsession? How and why do dreams and desires change? These are questions that Sondheim explores in the story of the nineteenth-century Italian army officer Giorgio who is having an affair with a married woman, Clara. The show opens with the lovers in bed singing of their happiness, but then Giorgio reveals that he has received a transfer to a remote military outpost. Shortly after his arrival there, Giorgio learns of Fosca, his commanding officer’s sister whose place is set at the table, but who seldom appears there. Before long, Fosca, declares her love to Giorgio, a man she barely knows. In fact Fosca, who suffers from a vague and debilitating illness, is obsessed with Giorgio. This production at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia had a cast with wonderful voices, but it also featured a great set and lighting design: Clara was lovely and beguiling in pink-hued gowns, and bathed in golden sunshine whenever the shutters in their Milan hotel room were opened. (The lovers could only meet in the afternoon because of her husband.) Clara loves Giorgio, but perhaps her love is a diversion from her humdrum life. Fosca appears in drab gowns with the gray and dreary view of the outpost in the background. Fosca suffers from a disease of the mind and spirit, as well as her physical ailments. Or perhaps they are all one and the same. They consume her, and her obsession consumes Giorgio.

The show is based on the novel Fosca, by Ignio Ugo Tarchetti. Tarchetti was dying of tuberculosis–also called consumption–as he wrote the book, which was inspired by events in his own life. The book was turned into a movie, Passione d’Amore (1983).

What does passion mean? Passion is an intense feeling. Long ago it was associated with pain and suffering, as in the passion of Christ, or the suffering endured by martyrs who were tortured for their beliefs. Passion is often seen as an emotion that is barely controllable because of its intensity. People are often depicted as crazed with passion. Passionate love then can be both good and bad. One can have a passion for a cause that is admirable, or that becomes obsessive.

I’ve been thinking about all this because of events in the news. There is a couple in Australia, Nick and Sarah Jensen, who have vowed to divorce if a gay marriage law is passed there. (See this article.) They are entitled to their beliefs, but I don’t understand how the marriages of same sex couples affect their own union at all. And just as a matter of logic, I don’t understand why if they reject the state’s definition of marriage—if the law passes—they then believe the state has the power to grant them a divorce. I guess it’s passion, and not logic that is in play here.

In the US, evangelist Franklin Graham, called for a boycott of Wells Fargo Bank after the bank began airing a TV advertisement that featured a lesbian couple adopting a child. (The commercial is incredibly sweet.) Well, economic boycotts have a long tradition in the US. My inclinations would be not to support a business that discriminates against a group rather than one that is supporting diversity. Again, Graham has the right to his own beliefs, and he does say businesses should be “gay friendly.” However, he also apparently believes that an organization should not support a position that he feels is contrary to his views–which are based on his interpretation of the bible. Do no harm to others–just don’t allow them all the same rights, I guess. Fortunately, we do not live in a theocracy. (See this.)

Neither Graham nor the Jensens advocate violence. But there are true haters, people passionate in their hatred of others. I saw this article yesterday about a young man who has been beaten and tortured—ostensibly because he is gay. His family and their business have also suffered.

You know what? Sondheim was right that every love story is the same–and every love story is different. But I believe in love. Love is love. I believe love is good. I believe love is good for families and nations. When two people who are in love—consenting adults–want to get married, it does not harm society, even if they are gay, and even if they want to have a family. “Gay marriage” is no different from straight marriage in terms of love and commitment. Couples love and share passion. This is not immoral.

You know what is immoral?

People living in extreme poverty.

People starving.

Women—and children—kidnapped and raped as tools of war.

Slavery.

Sex trafficking.

Depriving people of medical care and education.

It seems to me that if people are truly concerned with the wellbeing of their societies, those are just a few things they might focus on—not who people love. But hey, that’s just me.

As far as those filled with hate for others, I don’t know. I don’t think a hate-filled mind can love, although it can be filled with passion.