Sunday, July 13, 2008

Misleading Headlines

A new headline on CNN that is somewhat obscure...

In recent days there has been a story on CNN regarding a church in Kentucky (insert your own redneck joke here - I'm too polite) which is one of those snake-handling places. The authorities were (understandably) getting rather upset because A. people were getting bitten, and B. having all those undocumented rattlers and cottonmouths is illegal anyway. So they decided to raid the church and get rid of the snakes.

Leaving aside all thoughts about religious freedom - my feeling is that if people honestly think playing with poisonous snakes is good for them, it's their problem - the headline is still somewhat ambiguous. It says, "100 snakes seized, pastor arrested."

Somehow I thought that seizing snakes was precisely what they were trying to prevent.

Last night I went off to the first event of my fun filled next few days, except that as the event happened to be a production of O'Neill's Anna Christie, it wasn't precisely - um - jolly. Eugene O'Neill doesn't really do jolly. And the production was notable, I must say. My pal Tom and I are horrendously sharp critics, and we were fascinated by the accents in this effort.

My pal John was playing an Irish bartender (I love him dearly) with a slightly slippery grasp on his accent. The guy playing Chris, the old drunken Swedish seaman who is Anna Christie's father, was extremely Swedish about every sixth word. But the gal playing Anna was the capper - she sounded exactly like Anybodys in West Side Story. Given that according to the script, she was raised on a farm in Minnesota and then worked as a whore in St. Paul, this was interesting. Also weird.

And of course, we're dealing with O'Neill at his most turgid here. By the end of the show, if I heard the words "Dat ole debbil sea" one more time, I was going to scream. Not to mention the fact that O'Neill evidently felt that none of his characters should ever do anything but talk - and that's what they do. Unless you've got a very clever director (and my pal Ted on this one did his best), what you get is endless hours of people standing up or sitting down and talking at each other - interminably. As far as I'm concerned (and I assure you I'm allowed an opinion here because Eugene O'Neill is my second cousin - yeah, for real), the man either bores you to extinction (don't ever, ever, if you value your sanity, go near any of the early one act plays - Dynamo comes to mind here) or rips your heart right out - as in Long Day's Journey Into Night (I grew up in exactly that family - you think I'm kidding, but my aunts and my mother all said the same thing) or Moon for the Misbegotten. Other than that, my loves, you may have Cousin Gene on a platter.

However, there was one lovely thing that had absolutely nothing to do with the play. The couple sitting in front of me and Tom were necking. Now this is a tiny, tiny theatre. These two were sitting almost onstage in the front row, and they were necking, and nibbling each other's ears, and holding hands. I fail utterly to understand several things about this. 1. Were they perhaps under the impression that they were at the movies? 2. Were they entirely unaware that the "action" (see above) on stage often came to within two feet of their seats? 3. Were they (this is the best explanation) merely trying to alleviate the unrelieved O'Neill gloom? And 4. if this was what they wanted to do, why on earth didn't they just go the hell home and go to bed together? Call me confused.

So, on the next leg of my jolly social explosion here (which I have every intention of enjoying to its fullest, since God knows when I'm going to have anything to do but the laundry for the next million years), there's swing dancing on the pier at 14th Street tonight! Yay! If you can think of anything better than dancing on the edge of the Hudson River on a summer's night, I can't. I'm going to wear a nice full can't swing dance in jeans. Oh, all right. I can't swing dance in jeans. It's just wrong, somehow. I was probably scarred for life by all those Fred Astaire movies.

I used to date a wonderful man in Chicago back in the 60s (God, I think it was before I married my first husband, which would put it somewhere in the Pleistocene Age) (I think I actually spelled that right - or else spell check has no damn idea what I was trying to say and will probably suggest plasticine or peroration for a substitute). This gent was a newspaperman who had gone to Groton and Harvard and been on the Chicago Sun-Times Paris desk - very, VERY chic (he later won a Pulitzer prize, which means I've dated two Pulitzer Prize winners and am a friend of a third - this guy, Roger Ebert whom I briefly dated, and John Patrick Shanley, a great drinking buddy - aren't I cool as hell?).

Anyway (digression is my middle name - Wendy Digression Booz), dancing brought David to mind. Our dates used to follow an absolutely lovely pattern. Drinks at Riccardo's, an upscale newsman's bar, dinner in whatever French restaurant David had found (invariably one run entirely by French people, which has a lot to do with why I love Tout Va Bien so much - reminds me of those dinners with David), then on to the coffee and brandy and dancing at the Pump Room. With me wearing my nicest cocktail dress. Ah, those were the days.

I shall now take a nap and prepare for the evening's jollification.

Love, Wendy

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