July 30, 2006

Various & Sundry

“Tell me,” she said quietly. “If that [happiness] machine is like you say, has it got an answer to making babies in it somewhere? Can that machine make seventy-year old people twenty? Also, how does death look when you hide in there with all that happiness?”


- Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine”
He left four young boys and a wife for another woman. We were all shocked, jaw-drop shocked, as he’d given no indication of anything other than being a great husband & father.

“Mom,” he explained, “I wasn’t happy.”

“Who is happy?” she cried incredulously.

The mother was born in the early 1930s. The son in the early 1960s. One is a member of the greatest generation and the other the Baby Boom generation. Is that the difference in a nutshell?

I’ve been thinking about this in connection with Ronald Dworkin’s “Artificial Intelligence” and how he laments the over the over-prescription of Prozac. He argues that too many people are staying in bad jobs or bad marriages via the artificial prop of Prozac, or through over-exercise. But who doesn’t use props? Can one draw such a clear line between the “evil” of Prozac versus the millions of activities that folks use to make life more pleasant and “offset” work? You’d have to ban crossword puzzles, forest walks, alcohol, reading, sunlight, bingo, cigarettes, cross-stich.. Any or all of these and so many other activities can be used in a way to “cloud our vision”.

Upcrops of quaint sea houses, like sea horses in an azure sea-sky, alight and airily rest in the breeze and I cannot hold them, they seem too pretty to be real, like gingerbread houses. The perfect white siding, the red shutters - I think back with sweetness to the lyricisms of suns past, like on New Smryna Beach and this past July 4th.

Today we carried statues of our patronal saints in procession after Mass, a mile or two down the road past large yards with grape vines to the finish at a automobile garage. We carried Joseph, two Margarets (Cortona & Antioch), Mary Magedalen I believe and St. Anthony. This was my first year doing it and it felt a bit self-consciously “old school”, with Father decked out P.O.D-ily with a long black coat and red, monsignoric markings while “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” issued from a tape player and a bullhorn. There was much beauty and pageantry in the large upraised statues and banners in the procession.

It’s an Italian parish and they self-identify with this procession, it going back a century and, via their European ancestors, centuries more. I can do so at one remove, not being Italian; every Catholic can identify and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day but I suppose the Irish have a leg up. As the Italian blood thins in this parish it’s incumbent upon those with foreign blood to carry on the tradition.

I thought about heading to the crowd around St. Anthony’s statue, a childhood favorite who did me many favors, but it seemed ungentlemanly and ungallant to let our fair Madchens, our Margarets and Mary, suffer neglect. Mary it was. The statue was surprisingly heavy even with four guys. Everyone but me had brought a towel to absorb the pressure of the wood platform on their shoulder, but I was glad not to have one and glad for the surreal heat. I considered it a mini way of the Cross and delusions of grandeur keep me going, to borrow from Bill Luse. The real test is doing it year after year, after the beauty and paegeantry have worn off.

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