Saturday, February 20, 2010

Six Quick Takes from a Winter of Discontent

1.  I have noticed that this is the sixtieth anniversary of Dunkin Donuts's existence.  This is by no means an occasion I think worth celebrating, since I find their coffee to be both bitter and weak, and, on the whole, virtually undrinkable.  But then, I find most coffee undrinkable these days.  I used to only be able to drink coffee brewed in my own Neapolitan coffee maker on my own stovetop, but now even that is undrinkable to me.  The coffee hath lost its savor, in spite of the fact that the idea of coffee is almost always somewhere in the nimbus around my conscious mind.  (Incidentally, as much as true coffee snobs claim to hate Starbucks, those who know cannot deny that Starbucks did New York City a great public service when they came to the city in the 1990s by uniformly lifting all New York coffee to a higher level.)

2.  I'm listening to the live broadcast of Ariadne auf Naxos from the Metropolitan Opera, and reminiscing about seeing the same production around the time that Starbucks first came to town.  It almost never happens, at least in my experience, that the tenor who sings the role of Theseus sings it well, but perhaps I'll be surprised today (or maybe not, since my son just said, "I want that song to be turned off," and I can't say that I blame him, because, although Richard Strauss may have been one of the greatest composers who ever lived, especially in the way he wrote for orchestra, I find his music creepy, unsettling, even, if amorality can be said to have a sound, amoral.  I do love Zerbinetta's aria, though).  When I went to the Met's Ariadne in the mid-1990s, the Theseus was so bad that, after his aria, my then-husband called out, "Go for it, brother!" from his seat next to mine in Family Circle, and I nearly died of exaggeratedly-virtuous embarrassment.

3.  I don't know if such mortifying prickings of memory and conscience are Lenten in origin or not, but I have just remembered that I borrowed money from a Columbia boy I dated during the summer I was twenty and never paid him back.  The circumstances under which I borrowed the money were unhappily clouded, as I recall, by my sense that, because he was rich and I was poor (and since we were sleeping together), the loan wouldn't, or shouldn't, be a problem for him.  Thank God for the internet, and for the fact that I have some concert gigs coming up.  As soon as I remembered his last name, I was able to find out where he now works, and as soon as I get paid I am going to send him a money order.  And thank God for conversion, too.

4.  Speaking of Kurt Weill, I also recently remembered one of the worst experiences of my life, which happened when I had a club date with an avant-garde outfit called the Imploding Head Orchestra.  Believe it or not, I sang this song, as well as the "Youkali Tango," and the man whom I loved desperately arrived, while I was singing, with the woman whom he loved desperately.  Because I was the sort of person who did things like that referenced in number 3, above, it wasn't all that much longer before we were married, but not before we'd sacrificed our unborn child on the altar of our desperation.

5.  At the library today, I saw a family of young women who I assumed, based on their style of dress, were Christian, perhaps even trad Catholic, homeschoolers.  If you were from New York, you might at first have thought that they were Orthodox Jews (just as, if you are from New York and you see an Amish man in these parts, you at first think he's an ultra-Orthodox Jewish patriarch, and your heart longs for home).  But if you put a family of Christian homeschooling girls next to a group of Orthodox Jewish girls, you'd notice at second glance that, although the Jewish girls also have skirts down to their feet and sleeves down to their wrists, they are ineffably more elegant and fashionable and, I might add, prettier than the Christian homeschoolers.

6.  I hope and pray that God will use my sense of exile from my city and all that I once knew, my remorse for my misdeeds, and my confusion for His glory and honor and for the help of someone else who, like me, is stumbling brokenly through the Lenten desert.

18 comments:

berenike said...

ad 5: heehee. I pointed this out five and a half years ago :)

Pentimento said...

Sheesh, Berenike, now I don't feel quite so catty! :)

You are so right.

GretchenJoanna said...

God is good! Certainly it is He who has given you grace to make lenten use of your exile. It makes me remember that we are all exiles. Not only are we waiting for Easter, but here we have NO continuing city, as I think the writer of Hebrews tells us.

Fallen Sparrow said...

P - beautiful and tough words. Your writing gets better all the time.

I'm glad to have you as my co-stumbler. Prayers for a grace-filled Lent.

Pentimento said...

Thanks, GretchenJoanna and Fallen. Praying for you also, and for all my online friends.

Julie D. said...

But what about the Donuts? Which I always considered to be the main point of Dunkin Donuts since I was introduced to them when a tyke and therefore coffee was not a point of interest.

Pentimento said...

I have no complaint at all about the donuts, to be frank.

Julie D. said...

So then we may celebrate half of their anniversary! :-D

Rebekka said...

Re nr. 5: Having never been to the East Coast, why is it so?

Pentimento said...

Do you mean why are Orthodox Jewish girls so much more stylish and attractive than Christian homeschoolers? Hmmm. That's a good question, and I'm not entirely sure what the answer is, but I'll venture a couple of guesses. The first is genetics (to explain innate physical beauty). The second is the millennia-old reality that in crowded urban areas, people are much more exposed to one another and therefore more self-conscious, and thus, it seems to follow, care more about how they present themselves. It's certainly true across creeds that people dress better in big cities than they do in, say, Appalachia. And there may be a Halakhic injunction to look as good as you can, too, which Jesus may have been referring to in Matthew 6:17 ("When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face").

I know that before motherhood -- and even after, when I was teaching at City University of New York -- I always tried to represent. I felt it was important to show respect for myself, my professors, my students, my colleagues, and my profession, and the wonderful pursuit of the study of music itself by dressing well at the university. Come to think of it, it would be nice if Catholics everywhere took as much care with their dress on Sundays as Orthodox Jewish women do every day . . .

goblinmama said...

Another point to #5 may be the UNCUT HAIR of some conservative Christians? However, I'm not familiar with Orthodox Jewish customs regarding women's hair. The ultra-conservative Pentacostal women in our area (West TX) also eschew makeup, esp. eye makeup. They sometimes pile their yard-long hair into Gibson Girl buns, (without the obvious glamour) since it is so long in some cases that little else will contain it. And of course, they LOVE Bumpits! But who am I to judge? I have copied Joan of Arc for years--not Bergman's Joan, either. More like Falconetti's!

Pentimento said...

Hmmm . . . what are Bumpits?

mrsdarwin said...

I think the difference between the Orthodox Jewish girls and the prairie homeschooler look is that for the Jewish girls there really is a religious reason to dress like so, whereas for the homeschoolers (and yes, I was a homeschooler, and no, I never dressed like so) there's no real compelling reason or tradition, so people just kind of make it up. And since Little House on the Prairie is so popular in homeschooling circles, parents who feel compelled to make their families different in regards to fashion simply reach back to the last era when everything was "modest". This, of course, totally sets aside how the women of the 1870s strove for beauty as well (and how fitted their dresses were, with them corsets -- ever seen a prairie-style homeschooler in a prairie dress?).

Another difference is that the Jewish girls are trying to make themselves beautiful given the restrictions they're working with, and the homeschooler types have picked this look precisely because it is not considered beautiful or glamorous, but "modest".

Pentimento said...

I didn't know that, Mrs. Darwin. So perhaps homeschooling fashions are an example of life imitating art?

The idea of striving for modesty contra beauty has got to be a legacy of Calvinism/Jansenism. There's no need, in my opinion, to use modesty to hide beauty, as the Orthodox Jewish girls demonstrate.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Hey, Bumpits are cool!

http://www.google.com.ph/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&ved=0CAYQFjAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bumpits.com%2F&rct=j&q=bumpits&ei=ucmDS8nzJIe_rAfOxPyjAw&usg=AFQjCNGjd0gJhjtB4FRP2zLsioMBeNpVTA

(Pardon me, Pentimento. I don't mean to sound like an advertisement!)

Pentimento said...

Ha ha! I had no idea that prairie homeschoolers incorporated elements of Long Island fashion into their look . . . thanks for the link, E!

mrsdarwin said...

Agh, meant to say "ever seen a prairie-style homeschooler in a FITTED dress?" And I never have.

Don't take my analysis as gospel! I don't have any compelling documentation to back it up, just observation and connecting the dots.

I don't know why people should have settled on 1870s-style fashion as what's modest and not early Victorian or Civil-War dress or the sailor outfits from the 1910s -- except that perhaps it's much easier to sew a prairie sack at home than some of these other fashions.

Pentimento said...

Well, not for nothing, but even those scary communal-marriage Mormons in Texas who had all their children taken away a couple of years ago had *some* sense of style. I mean they didn't just wear sacks; they wore sacks with gusseted sleeves (though they did do the Gibson Girl thing with their hair, too).