Eight observations and experiences of the week:
1. On Tuesday morning, October 14, I heard the first Christmas music of the season in a commercial setting. For sale was some kind of music box that played Christmas tunes: “Joy to the World / The Lord has come” it proclaimed to shoppers.
2. Is it a book store or café? It’s both. The new store is placed in an old downtown building, with two long display windows leading to the front door. One window is devoted to books; the other has tables and chairs, where, I suppose, customers can sit. I am not greeted when I enter. On the right hand side is a long bar with chairs, where several people sit quietly with coffees and food items. There is a large menu in chalk on a blackboard over the bar. Opposite the bar is a table with books for sale and a couple of tables for the café. Around the walls of the store are bookcases with books for sale, none of which are attractively labeled or well-lit. At the back of the store is a grouping of chairs and a sofa around a coffee table, where three or four people sit absorbed with their electronic equipment. I buy an over-priced coffee and chat with a friend, who works there. I am not greeted when I leave. I like independent book stores, but I do not linger here. I hope many people will like this one and that it will be successful.
3. The days have been rainy, overcast, and warm, often into the high 70’s and low-to-mid 80’s. When it has not rained, the days have had high humidity. It feels hard to breathe. I will be glad of a cold or cool and sunny day. I will be glad to have sweater or jacket weather with crisp, cool air. The colors of October are here, but where are you, October temperatures?
4. At a pottery sale, I notice saki cups. The potter said that someone asked if they were pottery Dixie cups. That would be appropriate for many, yes.
5. The Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of Verdi’s Macbeth was grand. I did not know the opera, though I know the play well, and I appreciate Verdi’s adaptation. The opera emphasizes scenes of dramatic and intense feelings. The direction was aptly tense and terse. All of Lady Macbeth’s arias were virtuosic and passionate, Macduff’s lamentation of the murder of his family and his corresponding initial feelings of helplessness and grief and prayer was impressively performed in a beautiful aria. Banquo’s and Macbeth’s arias were fraught with emotion and drama. The choral works were staged and performed with excellent craft. I particularly enjoyed the chorus with the lamentation for the country under the rule of the tyrant and the witches’ choruses, with dowdy and demented women and droll choreography.
6. The Mormon service of baptism was joyous. The eleven-year-old girl was baptized by her father. They were dressed in white clothing. Family and community members gathered to photograph them. There were two songs from the primary education program, both of which emphasized the joy of the presence of God in Nature, a talk about the significance of baptism in the Mormon faith, a talk about the Holy Spirit in our lives. I asked knowledgeable elders about the process: Who would baptize me? What song are appropriate for an adult baptism? Who would give talks about baptism and the Holy Spirit in my case? (I do not plan to be baptized Mormon.) Doors parted so that we viewed the baptism, by total immersion. Food and fellowship followed the service in the gymnasium (cultural center), and I met and enjoyed chatting with several members of the community, some of which I had met previously. There was excellent banana pudding with meringue, just as my grand mother used to make it.
7. John Steinbeck’s The Wayward Bus (1947) is a good study in literary naturalism. All of the characters are controlled by base motives: power, sex, ambition. The plot is designed to show how these forces work in each character. Telling are the epigraph from the medieval play Everyman and these words from the character Camille, “You’ll have to believe this until you find it out for yourself–everybody’s a tramp some time or other. Everybody. And the worst tramps of all are the ones that call it something else.” In a cynical state of mind, I might find humor in some of the scenes.
8. Three quotations from readings of the week:
“. . . pride and a low threshold of insult which is the test of ignorance and laziness” (John Steinbeck, The Wayward Bus)
“One of those winters where the sky looms over the town like a gray roof that never changes. Old ice and blackened snow in the gutters.” (Kevin Canty, “Story, with Bird,” short story in The New Yorker, October 6, 2014)
“You can go home again, at least to a place. . . . but you cannot go back in time, except in memory, or accidental encounters with old friends, or those occasional moments of high-spirited jollity planned but not imposed. I am thinking of class reunions.” (Walter Spiegelman, “Proust Goes to the Country Club,” essay in The American Scholar, Summer, 2014.)
Thank you for reading. I hope you are enjoying October.