Wednesday, June 30, 2010

All Suffering Soon to End!

RECENTLY I was handed a small pamphlet, folded in triplicate, with a full color front page. I was with two British expat buddies, manning a table of assorted discards from our lives as part of an annual street sale in Greenwich Village.
Our goal was to clean out our closets, make a few bucks and enjoy ourselves under the broiling June sun, if possible. Suffering (on this day, anyway) was far from our minds.

Indeed, as the designer togs (a snappy Ralph Lauren military-style jacket, size 6), little porcelain pill boxes and brass candlestick holders changed hands, we grew more and more elated. This venture might actually be working. A quilted jacket I never wore (too boxy) was going to be a present for someone in the hospital; Gay's collection of lovingly broken-in Chanel heels was just the right size for a nurse from Queens. Maggie's odds and ends were being snapped up by other expat Brits only too happy to stop and chat with a live human being.

Out, out, past life!
Good-bye, crazy ex-husband!

And then: the Pamphlet, slipped into my hands by a shy woman who quickly melted into the crowd. I accepted it politely and only really looked at when I got home that night, bearing the Victorian card table I had purchased from Gay when I saw she wasn't going to get a decent offer. (Never mind that I used up essentially all my day's proceeds on it.) Admiring my find, I brushed off the only slightly damaged green felt surface and set it up to accomodate an overflow of books and papers in my little studio sublet.

Emptying my pockets, I found .....the Pamphlet.

ALL SUFFERING SOON TO END! the cover illustration proclaims in large black typeface, over a rendering of an attractive caramel-colored couple in their early 30's, sitting in the middle of a field of yellowing grass, on which a male and female moose are grazing just a few yards away. A large log cabin in the background is partially obscured by pine trees, and snow-covered mountains march into the far distance. On close inspection, on the right-hand side of the scene, a woman with long blonde hair on a white horse is galloping towards the couple, who are calmly smiling at me, showing off their perfect teeth. (Perhaps the blonde is going to warn them they are sitting dangerously close to the huge male moose? Or, Sara-Palin-esquely tell them to get the hell off her farm? Is that a rifle strapped to her saddle?)

Maple trees framing the scene have burst into flaming scarlet, and there are baskets of pumpkins and apples in the foreground. It seems to be October in a bizarre Vermont, except that the couple are wearing light summer clothes, and look too happy for people soon to be expecting winter frosts. (Not to mention the dearth of Hale Berry and Harry Belafonte look-alikes in Vermont.) I turn the document to the back page, and yes, if I need more information I can write to the Jehovah's Witnesses at the following locations: Australia, Barbados, Britain, Canada, Ghana, Hawaii, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, Rep of, South Africa, Trinidad AND Tobago, Rep. of, and also the USA (in Brooklyn!).

My guess is that the Jehovah's Witnesses in these locations know a smidge about suffering. (They don't seem to have an office in Paris, for example.)

And so I realize that the surrealistic Paradise depicted in such quirky detail is an all-purpose one, designed to elicit longings and emotion from denizens around the globe. A wise use of limited marketing funds.

And it's good news, for sure. I'm in. There seems to me absolutely no downside to the end of suffering. The sooner the better, I say.

Bring It On.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Marry Me Rat

Sometimes you chance upon a random morsel whose concise perfection leaves you almost breathless. So complete in its implications you must bow in respect.

This afternoon, taking in the first warm March sunshine on a brief escape to St. Petersburg, Florida, I left the scenic harbor pathways and was traversing the more gritty environs closer to where I was staying. My foot paused just I was about to step on a large heart scratched into the cement sidewalk, and I read the heartfelt command inscribed therein:

Marry Me Rat.

Which of us has not been there? And why do we instantly know the scrawler is female?

And why do we hope that the union did not take place? That she is now a sophomore somewhere, sitting up late into the night, reading Emily Dickinson or Dave Eggars, or inventing a solar battery that will fly 747's on perfume and air?

Alas, I fear not.

Did you Marry Her, Rat?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Everything U Always Wanted to Know About Sex (on the L train)

So it's a few days before Valentine's Day and I am riding on the L train on the way home, minding my own business (not really, I am eavesdropping as usual....Note to Self: look up origin of "eavesdropping") when I spy a young woman across the aisle from me, sitting down, with a HUGE stuffed animal on her lap. I am talking the size of a St. Bernard puppy.....and she is ostentatiously reading a hardback copy (with torn dust jacket, circa 1971) of Dr. David Reuben's best seller, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (but were afraid to ask)". Now, she looks at first glance about 12, and I am thinking she swiped this book from her grandmother's library of dusty tomes from the Seventies. But she is wearing eye make-up, and chipped black nail polish. On second glance she looks closer to 30. An unkempt 30, to be sure.

Everyone once in a while she snickers, or grins or laughs out loud. She catches me staring, and flashes a bemused smile. I suddenly think that maybe she is a Brooklyn performance artist, testing out the reaction of numbed subway riders to her whole Gestalt. I mean, her peers are Tweeting and texting and hooking up, and she's reading a hard-back copy of Dr. Reuben? And that stuffed animal essentially takes up three seats, it's on her lap, but it poofs out on both sides of her and practically hides her face.
When I get home, I check out Dr. Reuben on Amazon. The last person who viewed his book also viewed "Contact" by Carl Sagan, about the possibilities of extraterrestrial get the picture. Not the hippest fanbase.
But we probably all owe Dr. Reuben an effusive thank you for writing the right book at the right time....... (Maybe even our very existences....) So. Thank you.
But, really, thank YOU, Stuffed Animal Girl, for adding mystery and humor to my soggy, day-after-the-almost-blizzard-of-2010 subway ride on a late February afternoon. I hope you get an agent.