Homo homini rodentius est

Losing my religion

Busted! Martha and Co. strolling away from the knishery on Thanksgiving afternoon. And, no, she doesn’t have the power to melt faces. I did that…

I like to flatter myself that I’m a savvy little rat — after all, I was a mere stripling when I gave God himself the heave ho — no small accomplishment in a house full of Irish Catholics. And, yet, I am occasionally surprisingly susceptible to matters of faith in more prosaic matters. Like most people, I tend to believe what I’m told — even by people I don’t personally know, at all. Especially when they live in my television.

Artist’s rendering.

I had my faith thrown in my face on Thanksgiving Day. I stayed in the city this year and my friend Frank and I made plans to see a movie and eat Chinese. Around four in the afternoon I made my way to the Sunshine cinema on the Lower East Side and, arriving ahead of my friend, decided to stop into Yonah Shimmel’s Knishery next door to the theater to get a cup of borscht. I walked into the small restaurant and was immediately met with the image of Martha Stewart sitting at a table with her daughter Alexis and some guy. It was surprising enough seeing her in such a place but seeing her there at dinner time on Thanksgiving Day was nothing less than stunning. It was like running into Santa Claus at the movies on Christmas Eve. My first impulse was to whip out my camera and document it but thought better of pissing her off (she has done time in the slammer, after all). So I quietly paid for my soup and posted myself outside the restaurant where I snapped the shot of her walking away that appears above.

Read the rest of this entry »

The girl who dreamed someone to death

Maggie and Nana

Perhaps it was because my family was made up of Irish immigrants and still very much immersed in the myths and folklore of that ancient culture, but for me and my sister as children the veil that separated the real world from the supernatural was not entirely distinct and we felt that it was possible to push it aside and be touched by extraordinary events. As evidence, my aunt’s haunted house that [I’ve written of] previously. But there was another event that occurred a few years after the adventure involving the haunted house that had a more poignant and profound impact on us and that convinced me forever that the distinction between nature and supernature is itself wholly inadequate as a description of reality.

From the time she was tiny, my sister Maggie had been the favorite of our grandmother. Never an easy woman, Nana was often brusque with the children in the family. She had been raised in a strict culture where children knew their place and that place was usually at the end of the table and silent — she had little patience for the liberal upbringing practices her own children and many of the grandchildren (myself included) knew her withering rebukes if we got out of line. But Maggie was doted upon and even her non-stop chattering (she’d been “vaccinated with a phonograph needle” my mother used to say) never seemed to bother Nana. In return, Maggie loved Nana unconditionally and warmly — something the rest of us could never quite manage. Maggie would spend every summer with my grandmother learning how to cook and garden and do needlework. Their relationship was more like a deep friendship reaching across generations. Extraordinary and lovely. The photo accompanying this post shows Maggie aged nine during one of those summers with Nana, who was then in her 70s.

Read the rest of this entry »

Brideshead Regurgitated

Brideshead Revisited
Catholicism on the Cheap Charles (Matthew Goode), Sebastian (Ben Whishaw) and Julia (Hayley Atwell), surrounded by similarly gaudy decoration

We’ve been spoiled. For years, Merchant Ivory and Granada produced lush period productions of classic English novels that were feasts for the eyes and the intellect and that forever set a standard — and expectations — for the kind of historical drama that we could expect from British cinema. What an unpleasant surprise then to witness the remake of Brideshead Revisited that is currently in release. We can never again assume artfulness on the part of British filmmakers — even when it comes to handling their national treasures. The new film, cobbled together by screenwriters Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies and directed by Julian Jarrold, turns the passionate story of Charles Ryder’s religious redemption into a period potboiler about a love triangle gone wrong.

Read the rest of this entry »

50 Years On the Road

Jack Kerouac didn’t make it to 50 — he died in 1969 at the age of 47 from a gastric hemorrhage following decades of alcohol abuse. Wednesday September 5th marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road. I wonder if he’d be happy that after all these years the book is not only still in print, but selling 100,000 copies a year. Maybe not, considering that by the end of his life he’d turned his back on a lot of the passions of his youth. Drunk, bitter and lonely, he ended up being the antithesis of the free-wheeling angelheaded hipster he’d aspired to be once — cloistered away in his mother’s bungalow with a bottle, about as far from the open road as he could get.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jerry Falwell faces judgment. Finally.

As a charter member, along with [Tinky Winky], of the cabal that — according to Jerry Falwell — brought you [9/11] and any number of other disasters both natural and unnatural, I can’t say I’m sorry to see him go. But I’ll try to be gracious and not speak ill of the dead.

All I will say is that I find it interesting that God’s servant on Earth was taken at age 73, when my chain-smoking, hard-drinking, divorced parents made it to 74 and 76 respectively. Probably doesn’t mean a thing. I’m just sayin’…

« Previous Entries