Saturday, December 3, 2011

Conditions of Bliss

Just when I feel like the biggest nerd in the world, James makes me feel better about myself.

Because on a sunny Saturday afternoon when I'm going to a lecture about Poe at St. John's Church and can't find it, he's the one I run into who leads me to the right place.

Although James' cool factor is exponentially higher than mine (he's a bartender and musician and girls trail behind him like bread crumbs), he's at practically every geeky lecture I go to.

So together we headed into St. John's Visitors' Center (two girls were waiting for James inside; I rest my case) to hear Richard Kopley tell of "My Adventures with Poe."

Turns out Kopley's been hot on the Poe trail for the last thirty years, ever since he was in graduate school.

He was full of interesting facts, like about recently discovered documents showing that Poe filed for bankruptcy in Philly, a previously unknown fact that has never been mentioned in any book about Poe.

I was intrigued to hear about Poe's literary romances wooing women with his words but keeping things non-physical.

Honestly, I'd prefer both.

When he mentioned Poe losing his Richmond job at the Southern Literary Messenger "probably because of his drinking," James turned to me and said, "That's very Richmond."

I tried to keep it silent but I laughed long and hard at that.

Kopley's habit of using finger quotes every time he quoted someone also gave me reason to smile.

But my favorite part of the lecture was when he shared Poe's four conditions of bliss; I tried to calculate how I matched up to Poe's definition of bliss as I listened.

1. Free exercise in the open air: I gave myself an A+ on this one since a day doesn't go by that I don't take my walk through the streets of RVA or wherever I happen to be.

2. The love of a woman: I'm going to presume that the pronoun changes for the females seeking bliss, meaning I am a complete failure on this one. Still seeking the love of a man, meaning I get an F here.

3. Contempt of ambition: Actually, I'm not a particularly ambitious person, always preferring to focus on life over job and material success. Several past bosses have lamented this.  Oh, well. B+

4. An object of unceasing pursuit: Does happiness count? I feel like I've always made personal happiness my objective, even when it resulted in making questionable choices, so I'll give myself a B-.

Obviously Kopley's object of pursuit had been Poe and during the Q & A period, he shared even more stories about the man who never stopped trying to vindicate the trash-talking of his beloved mother.

After the lecture, a wreath was laid on that mother's grave outside the church.

James went off down the street with two girls.

Me? I went off in unceasing pursuit of the love of a man. I'm trying to get my bliss points up.


  1. I didn't get to go to this. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts! Chaz

  2. Wow, I didn't think anyone but James and me wanted to do such a geeky thing on a Saturday afternoon.

    I can't imagine how in the world you ended up finding my post about it.

    You're quite welcome.