20 September 2013
One weekend during this past summer I took a much needed break from composing the first (and hopefully only) draft of THE GHOST, and journeyed with Dear Husband to the university town of Dear Daughter-Scholar. We were assisting her in enjoying a respite from her typically accelerated summer course. It was mid-July and the heat wave that, in my opinion, began during the early (chokingly) dry spring of March had really not taken much of a break. The pollen counts were not giving me a break either. But I dearly missed my sweet scholar and I was determined to brave the agricultural landscape (wasteland) surrounding the town which has become the home-away-from-home for Dear Daughter. We needed to catch up on our creative pursuits. By email we’d been comparing our separate experiences of what seemed ostensibly the same play, but from different eras and vastly different authors: Hippolytus, the Greek play by Euripides; and Phèdre, the play by Racine that I’d been reading aloud. (Ah! The elegant rhythms of those lyrical alexandrines!) For the record, Dear Daughter thinks that the French really messed with the plot, making it very sordid.
I countered that the French do go for the LOVE triangle, although, in my limited opinion, Phaedra was, ahem, a bit debauched. (Phèdre is simply a nutcase.) Because of the displeased audience, Euripides was forced to “revise” his play. I am not yet sure if Hippolytus, the Stepson, whom Husband calls “Hippopotamus,” will be much lamented. (There are the same ancient Greek roots: hippo, for “horse”; and potamus, for “river,” i.e. Potomac.) I do admire the brevity of the man in telling Phèdre that he does not at all share her low “sentiments.” Evidently, Phèdre was such a bomb with audiences that after this overwrought theatrical work, Racine quit writing plays with non-religious themes. (This play turned out to be such a bomb with me that I stopped reading it after Scene I, Act III! I have since moved on to re-visiting Molière.) That afternoon, we ate lunch in one of the few remaining sources of true pizza, a pizza palace of sorts that any college town offers to the hungry and increasingly destitute parents and students. It was while eating a slice of pizza that I became aware of a massive error in the draft “chapter” I’d just written the previous week.
The pizza, I must note, was good, but Dear Daughter and I were commenting on the plethora of artichoke hearts that I’d requested. The pizza was smothered in them, while the olives we’d also ordered had somehow been turned into mushrooms. Dear Husband was quietly eating his pizza, a pig pile special - Canadian bacon and sausage. Dear Daughter opined, while she delicately but pointedly picked off several artichoke hearts, that the kitchen must have an excess of artichoke hearts to get rid of. I informed her that in any restaurant the Friday Soup of the Day is usually a puréed combo or broth of the soups that did not sell out from Monday through Thursday. Maybe Chef would make artichoke heart soup! Speaking of hearts, Dear Scholar asked me if I’d written about the Scottish Wars of Independence. Yes, and I stated that William Wallace, or the Braveheart, was one of two leaders of the rebellion. Dear Scholar looked straight at me and pronounced that he was not Braveheart. In her course on Chivalry -- yes! There is a class somewhere on the lost art! -- it was only that past week that she’d been treated to segments (as in severed limbs) of the gory story, Braveheart, starring Gibson the Short. Not only was Wallace not Braveheart, he was not short: the guy was 6 feet, 5 inches!
In class, the students were informed by the male professor that when the modern nation of Scotland was sent a statue of William Wallace in the likeness of Gibson the Short (can you imagine the nerve of anyone, least of all, Hollywood, sending such a thing to the nation of Scotland?) -- the cursed statue was sent back whence it came! I’m surprised the broadswords didn’t come out, but it was the 20th century, after all. (I’ll bet though that Sean Connery probably popped a haggis.) I explained that the Scotsman is typically either very tall or rather short. And then I asked about the identity of the true Braveheart. With emphatic indignation Dear Scholar said, “Robert the Bruce.” “Oh, dear.” As the artichoke hearts turned in my stomach, I pictured the amount of revising that was going to be necessary later that day. Dear Daughter undoubtedly did too. We finished our portion of the pizza; the leftovers belonged to the student for a future breakfast. I did indeed revise most of that chapter with the sweeping, compelling history of Robert the Bruce. The work only took about 4 hours. That night, I informed the Resource Assistant by email about the revisions -- “saved my bacon” was my term; and we probably thought of the un-artichoked pizza that Dear Dad happily ate that blasted hot day. The scholar said that she was most happy to have helped, and I made sure to tell her that a retail reward for the fall wardrobe was in the works! I’ve not seen the film, Braveheart, nor do I intend to see it. My reasons are now because of the historical inaccuracies, and not because of the bloody fare. And it will be a long time before I heartily order artichoke hearts on pizza again.