Tuesday, August 18, 2015

These Are a Few of Your Favorite Things

When you were quite a bit younger, small objects, more often found than purchased, seemed more precious and magical than small objects, more often purchased than found.  

You not only had your share of such things--stubs of #2 Dixon Ticonderoga pencils, marbles, certain bottle caps from soft drinks, playing cards with unusual decorative designs, fish hooks, pieces of string, and the one set of things you'd actually bought, a Duncan yo-yo and an envelope containing two spare yo-yo strings, pieces of colored chalk, and a plastic magnifying glass which came as a prize in a box of Cracker-Jacks--you had a satisfying way of keeping these treasures in some order.

The satisfaction resided in the fact of your father, a serious cigar smoker, was a constant source of storage opportunities; he was good for enough boxes to keep you and your sister supplied.  His own eclectic tastes pushed you along the way to a serious consideration of becoming a collector of cigar boxes.

You are your father's son in the sense of being able to locate three cigar boxes, all made of cedar, in which you store an eclectic assortment of fountain peens, ranging from ancient Esterbrooks to your absolute favorite, an Ancora with mother-of-pearl sides.  

Other things you collect tend to vary from your old tastes.  These, being more the sort of things you can write in notebooks, no longer require cigar boxes.  Uppermost among these later collections are characters.  There is at least one notebook somewhere about the studio in which you have begun to collect individuals based on their name or some interesting trait or some way these creations have of earning their living that impresses you.

Even the most cursory skim reading of these blog-related reflections will show a growing preoccupation with Sisyphus, who, at your last notes on him, had been doing so well with the task assigned him by Zeus that he'd been hard pressed to get his work done because scores of individuals had become interested in watching him work.

Your comments on that splendid cartoon character, Wile E. Coyote occupy several of these three thousand odd blog essays, and, highly focused and motivated as he is, he has found his way into a recent book of yours.  The context for your admiration and use of him will become apparent with your reminder that he  deserves consideration as the patron saint of characters.

If memory serves, your latest addition to your panoply of characters who are not of your own creation--those present an entirely different challenge--was the daughter of King Oedipus and niece of King Creon, a man who went well out of his way to become her oppressor.  

This character of high principal and even higher purposeful focus is Antigone.  Not presented as an especially religious individual, certainly no prototype for that young girl from Orleans, Joan, Antigone became painted into the ethical corner of preferring death to allowing the body of her recently dead brother.  In the culture Antigone was raised in, one had to be buried, or no Underworld.

Spending time with Antigone as she learns of the causes of and for her brother's death and the implications of his not being allowed a proper burial, we of the twenty-first century can still find it within ourselves to sympathize with her stubborn refusal to back off and play by the cultural rules of the time.

Your urgent candidate for another individual to be stored away in the growing list of memorable characters is Cassandra, daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy.  Before her real problems started, her biggest handicap was her beauty and intelligence.  These came to the attention of Apollo, who, among other things, was the go-to individual where matters of prophecy were concerned.

Apollo wanted Cassandra for his boo, which in principal did not seem to trouble her.  Nevertheless, she thought it might be a good idea to have from Apollo the gift of prophecy.  Thinking things over, he agreed, at which point you have to wonder how, with the gift of prophecy a fait accompli, Cassandra could not see the consequences when she spurned Apollo's advances.

Even now, you can hear Apollo saying, "What do you mean, no?  You forgetting who I am?"

"Maybe we could keep it as friends?"

And Apollo, from what you hear, not exactly bubbling with empathy, saying, "Friends?  Are you fucking kidding me?  I was thinking of us as a, you know, couple.  A little pasta, some Mediterranean salad, a little nookie now and then, some Chianti--"

"I've changed my mind."

The gift of prophecy, once given, cannot be retracted.  But Apollo was not to be trifled with, not in so abrupt a manner.  He promptly arranged for Cassandra's prophecies to be quite accurate, but not believed by anyone who heard them.

In ways of remarkable dramatic potential, Cassandra's circumstances join those of the other characters you mention.  She transcends potential.  Cassandra no longer suggests story,  she becomes story.

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