Arts and Letters

I have a friend who is recovering from back surgery, which I imagine involves a lot of lying very, very still. That's probably false, but I am cowardly about pain and that would probably be what I would do after back surgery inasmuch as possible. I am not that bad at lying very still, but many people are. I expect that this friend does not excel at it and is very bored indeed. In light of this, I promised to try not to suck at blogging in the manner of January, such that he might have something diverting to read. This didn't totally work out in that I have continued to suck, except that now I just feel guiltier about it than I did pre-promise.  Also, you know what the world is not short of?  Diversions. Have you already read everything in the public library? Well, I guess it's time to get started on the internet then.  Knock yourself out.  Me?  I've been pretending that reading isn't a real thing and watching The Wire for hours a day for weeks now.  I no longer have any idea what's going on, but I plod joylessly toward the series conclusion as though there will be a pass/fail on my permanent record. 

I have started this bold new paragraph four times now. Here's the thing. I'm having a lousy week. I've been lonely and sad. I can't find a way to make it amusing or even interesting, so let's just take it as a given and try to think of something else to talk about.

A couple of weeks ago, I took myself to the ballet one afternoon. I very seldom go to the ballet, but it was a mixed program and I was interested in seeing a piece inspired by Magritte. Ultimately, I did not like the Magritte piece at all. (Perhaps this is because I know nothing at all about Magritte aside from hats and apples. Whoever choreographed the piece presumably knew a lot more about Magritte and none of those things was cheerful.) That's the bad news. The good news is that I liked the other two pieces very much, particularly the first one which was choreographed to Brahms and was as elegant and romantic as a ballet could hope to be. The final piece, a highly modern one, was also compelling, though I will confess that by that point, I was thinking pretty steadily about my post-show hot chocolate.  Sorry, dancers.  I am a lightweight. Also, I should have eaten before I came.

Later, post-ballet, post-chocolate (and excellent chocolate it was), I was in the Van Ness station waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the J Church  (me: do you have any theories about why the J is so delayed?  Muni booth man [looks at schedule display, laughs ruefully]: the J just has pretty bad service. I know that's not what you want to hear.) I was sitting reading the (at that time ubiquitous) Villette.  A large, somewhat untidy-looking older man sits down next to me. He looks over my shoulder and sees "Fraternity" at the top of the page.

Man: [friendly, not creepy]  I see you're reading about a fraternity.  Which fraternity?

Me: Oh. No.  It's just the name of the chapter. In this case it's fraternity as in the idea of brotherhood, not an actual organization.

Man:  Oh. Brotherhood?  Like brethren?

Me: Yes.  This is the book. [I show him the cover.] It's a sort of romantic novel by Charlotte Brontë.

Man:  I don't know her. Is she famous?

Me:  She is quite famous. She wrote a book called Jane Eyre that a lot of people have read, but she died a long time ago. [I check the back of the book] She died in 1855.

Man: [whistles amazement] I don't read a lot of books.  Some newspapers. Some magazines. Not a lot of books though.  But my friend gave me a book. He gave me Moby Dick.

Me: [incredulous hoot of laughter] Wow. I've never read that one.  If you don't read books, that seems like a tough one to start with. 

We nod in agreement.

Man:  Did you go shopping today?  You're dressed to the nines.

Me:  I went to the ballet!

We smile quite happily, both seemingly pleased that I dressed to the nines and went to the ballet.

My train arrives.