Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Firefly Never Forgets

I had a new recruit today, but not in the war between Freedonia and Sylvania.

Okay, not so much a recruit, per se, but a friend who'd been trying to schedule a walk with me for months, maybe even over a year by now. Problem was she broke her foot and that took a while to mend and then the fellowship that spawned a video filmed at the Bay of Fundy opened at the ICA and then another film project debuted at the get the picture.

It was beginning to feel like it was never going to happen and then she reached out and we had compatible mornings free and we finally walked together. And on a gloriously cool June morning, too.

Naturally, I led her right down to the river, knowing full well that our chances of getting on the pipeline were nil. Two days ago, the only way I'd been able to get on it from the Brown's Island side had been by scrambling over a boulder and then propelling myself forward onto the pipeline and we'd had even more rain since then. It was much worse today with the entire western end under rushing water, but I wanted her to see it anyway.

We compensated by backtracking, taking the canal walk and picking up the pipeline walkway from the eastern end. I knew she "got" it when she marveled, "It's like walking on water."

Yes, indeed, that's exactly what it's like.

Since she'd already taken a yoga class before she met me, by the time we came off the pipeline, she admitted that her legs were feeling the walk. I've no doubt they felt it even more on the next part, which is a series of hills back up to Broad Street. Rest assured, since this was our first shared walk, I made sure to point out interesting things urban, historical, artistic and natural (she was thrilled that we saw two great blue herons) along the way as a distraction.

"You're part trainer, part field guide," she marveled. I'd call that one of my more unique compliments.

And if I was cheating on Mac walking with another woman, I made it up by meeting her at the Byrd to watch four Jews trying to get a laugh. And lest you think I said that, I can assure you that was Groucho Marx's response to those who questioned the political significance of "Duck Soup."

And while he denied it, Mussolini banned the film from showing in Italy because he thought it was an attack on him. I have to say, the anti-Fascist message came across as pretty timely in 2019 as well. Sadly.

Waiting outside for Mac to arrive, I saw guy after guy approach the box office to get a single ticket. One guy cracked wise, requesting, "One for the soup du jour, please." Clearly the Marx Brothers are big with the Y-chromosome set.

Mac and I had barely settled into our seats when a very tall man sat down in front of us, scrunched waaay down in his eat and turned to ask us if he was blocking our views. We politely said no, all the while wondering why he didn't sit somewhere he didn't have to scrunch. I mean, his legs were almost under his chin. When Mac returned with popcorn and Milk Duds, he began making crazy motions with his hand, then got up and left, never to be seen again.

You can always count on a little weirdness at the Byrd.

Manager Todd began the evening by asking if seeing "Duck Soup" tonight would be anyone's first Marx Brothers movie and, amazingly, about a dozen people raised their hands.  When he asked who was a Marx Brothers fan, easily half the large crowd roared back in affirmation.

One fun fact he shared was that "duck soup" used to be slang for something easy to do, news to me.

The movie began with a screen reading, "NRA Member. We do our part," followed by the Paramount logo. Kind of disturbing, but maybe not so much in 1933.

I've got no idea when I last saw "Duck Soup" but my best guess would be in college. Back then, my boyfriend and I were very into Woody Allen and it was common knowledge what a huge Marx Brothers fan he was. So I had no memory of what the film was about, although it came back to me as the film progressed.

Interestingly, one of the seminal scenes, which Todd had mentioned, was the mirror scene where Groucho and Harpo mime each other as if they're looking in a mirror. Long before I ever saw "Duck Soup," I'd seen the "I Love Lucy" episode where Lucy does the same thing with Harpo even though it took until college to understand the reference.

Okay, so Lucy and Harpo weren't the first to do it.

One of the most charming parts of watching the movie unfold was the reaction of the children in the audience, who laughed uproariously at so much of it. The scenes of Chico and Harpo taunting the lemonade stand guy - setting his hats on fire, putting their feet in his vat of lemonade - sent them into fits of giggles you could hear throughout the theater.

As a trainer and field guide, it was the puns and word nerd humor that set me off.

Mrs. T: Notables from every country are gathered here in your honor. This is a gala day for you.
Groucho: Well, a gal a day is enough for me. I don't think I could handle any more.

Let's face it, laughing at the Marx Brothers is duck soup.


  1. The NRA reference is to The National Recovery Act of 1933:

  2. Fascinating! I'm just reading about it now. What I'm finding interesting is that while it was enacted in 1933 (the year of the film) and widely hailed by businesses, by 1934 they'd already soured on it and historians now consider it a failure.
    Thanks Professor for the morning history lesson!

  3. I learned about it when I found this sticker
    on the back of a print I had bought:

  4. How cool is that?
    Now that I think about it, I should have looked up why it showed up before the Paramount logo. Duh!