Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Forbidden Fruit

Already it's difficult to remember what life was like before January 20.

Oh, sure, plenty of us were upset and worried about what the new presidency would mean in terms of everyday life, but the past ten days have established a terrifying new reality that delivers fresh worst case scenarios daily.

It's exhausting and terrifying.

Something as relatively simple as keeping up with the latest facts has become a much more time-consuming and labor-intensive responsibility than at any other period in my not insignificant years given that we've now got the equivalent of an ADHD 12-year old controlled by a xenophobic and misogynist lunatic bent on plunging us into war.

And speaking of, now that thousands of Virginia Tech students, faculty, alumni and graduates have called on the clueless commander-in chief to dismiss their graduate, the evil Bannon, my suggestion would be for Benedictine students, faculty, alumni and graduates to do the same to their alum.

Come on, Richmond, represent.

Like most of my friends, just about everyone I know is of the same mind set about the craziness emanating from on high, yet one friend, a daily correspondent, never refrains from expressing his amazement.

Hard - but possible - to imagine a worse A-1 of the Post than today. Okay, we have Muslim extremists trying to kill us here and there, so we should, for no good reason at all, just poke a stick in their eye? Jeeeez....

The problem is that once the work of the day is over, the news of the day still hangs like a pall over my mood. An evening's entertainment now becomes a much-needed distraction from reality rather than just a source of enjoyment and socializing.

Le sigh.

So it was that I went to Movieland tonight to see August Wilson's "Fences," not because of its Oscar nominations (through well-deserved) but because a year and a half ago, I'd gone to TheatreLAB to see snippets of all ten of Wilson's "century plays" (one for each decade of the 20th century) performed.

Ever since, I've been determined to see full productions of as many as I could.

"Fences" is his 1950s play so it deals with the changing role of blacks in this country (Denzel Washington's Troy character gets promoted from garbage collector to garbage truck driver, previously a whites-only job), along with family issues and race relations.

I've no doubt that non-theater lovers would find the film a bit stage-y, but it wasn't an issue for me, especially with top notch acting from Denzel and Viola Davis who'd both won Tonys for playing those roles on Broadway in 2010.

Those with limited attention spans (like the couple next to me) might find the play too long - 2 hours, 10 minutes - but honestly, I was too engrossed in the story to notice the time passing. Besides, if I'm watching a story of black life in lower class Pittsburgh, I'm not thinking about the current state of the union and that was the goal in the first place.

My final distraction of the evening was finishing the book Pru had given me for Christmas, a 1989 reprint of Guy de Maupassant's late 19th century "Tales of French Love and Passion," with its already-yellowing pages.

A master of the short story, the 4 and 5 page stories of romance, seduction, wooing and infidelity were delightful reads for how utterly realistically people were portrayed, but also a stark reminder of how very constrained gender roles were, especially for women.

Everyone seemed to have lovers but men didn't have to resort to a fraction of the subterfuge women did.

The story titles - Caught, The Wedding Night, A Wife's Confession, Room No. 11 - provide a glimpse at the juicy subject matter back when women were described as "having grace and freshness" or as "elegant and very coquettish," with my favorite being, "She rejoiced in a fantastic, baffling brain, through which the most unheard of caprices passed, in which ideas danced and jostled against each other."

I'm willing to bet that most of the caprices are standard now.

What was most charming about the book once I finished it was that the final four pages of it were blank, with the word "Notes" at the top of each, as if a reader might want to jot down lessons learned from these little tales.

And while I didn't, I could have:

A man will marry a woman out of guilt if she jumps out a window distraught because he doesn't love her.

Asking your male lover to cross dress so he can meet you without suspicion may backfire if your husband falls for him as a woman.

The best way to reinvigorate a marriage is to have your husband take you to the cheap dive where he usually picks up mistresses.

Given the present-day state of the country, though, the line I found most relevant in any of the stories didn't concern love, but peace.

From that time forward, the terms on which the young married couple lived together assumed the character of that everlasting peace which President Grant once promised the whole world in his message to all nations.

At the moment, it's impossible to imagine our president ever wanting, much less promising, anything half so noble.

Right, and de Maupassant thought women had baffling brains. At least they had them.

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