Monday, January 18, 2010


There's a steady rain outside my window this Monday morning in Los Angeles. A weekend of bewildering contrasts, which seems only highlighted by the arrival of the series of storms we expect to last for this entire week.

The news from Haiti continues to be heart-breaking, and those few glimmers of hope, when one live person is found beneath the rubble feel like little tidbits offered by the media to relieve the flow of dreadful news in their reports. The suffering is unimaginable--not only in the survivors' desperate need for food, water and shelter, but also in their loss of many loved ones and their uncertainty about many more. Sitting here in earthquake country, where what we refer to nervously as the Big One could come at any moment, there is also a sharpened consciousness of our own vulnerability--and what I personally experience as a low-grade but persistent fear. Scarcely a day passes without my giving at least a passing thought to the possibility.

And then there's Massachusetts. Were it not for Haiti, the situation there would be foremost in that part of my mind that dwells on worries for the future. The mere possibility of the election going to a Republican who could single-handedly scuttle the minimal health care package that has survived the political soap operas in the US Congress is cause for distress and alarm. It's almost inconceivable that this state, of all states, could turn its back on years of (moderately) liberal tradition and betray the cause for which their late, great senator fought for so many years. And yet that possibility seems real, at least if we're to believe the media reports.

Contrasting with these depressing spectacles was the over-the-top celebration of the Golden Globe Awards, the glitz and glamor of Hollywood on display--its generous and humane side, be it added, as well as its giddy self-congratulation. Not having seen "Avatar" yet--I plan to--I have no way of knowing whether its success was deserved. Nor have I seen the Jeff Bridges movie, though I want to. Meryl Streep, I agree, was a magnificent Julia Child. As for the TV awards, I hadn't the first idea who was who and what was what. I had never seen any of the shows.

The other wonderful and welcome contrast was the Cirque du Soleil. I had booked seats for the Irvine performance of "Koozo" a couple of months ago, as a not-quite birthday surprise for Ellie. I had invited our good friends in Laguna to join us, and between us we managed to keep the secret pretty much until the last moment, when the waitress at the restaurant blurted it out as she brought the check. Heaven knows how she knew.

In any event, the event was a delight. We first saw the Cirque back in 1994, its first performance in the US at the time of the Los Angeles Olympics, and have seen it since then a couple of times in Las Vegas. And once again we were thrilled, delighted, inspired by the drama of it all, the clowns and the acrobats and the contortionists, the extraordinary feats of strength and breath-taking daring; and by the movement, the color, the choreography, the music... They have the performance timed to absolute perfection, so that at the end you're sitting there--well, standing, cheering--wonderfully satisfied, and yet wanting more.

All of which brings me to reflect on the ephemeral nature of experience. When I get caught in the low cycle of events, the tens of thousands dead in Haiti, the (to me!) incomprehensible stupidity of the American electorate, it behooves me to recall the ecstasy of a night at the circus; and, of course, vice versa. The trick is not to get attached to either one, but it's a trick that's often easier to conceptualize than to actualize. Now, about that rain...


robin andrea said...

It's hard not to see ourselves in the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake. In fact, I think Haiti could easily be a horrible harbinger of things to come. Yes, they were without much of an infrastructure, but I suspect it won't take much to reveal how precarious our own infrastructures are here. There but for fortune go you and I (Phil Ochs said that!). But probably not for long.

Rain here too, and lots more to come. The news out of Mass is so distressing it has completely blown my mind. Poor Ted Kennedy and his lifelong work. What's become of our country?

PeterAtLarge said...

Poor Teddy, indeed. He must be turning in his still-fresh grave...

Anonymous said...

I was interested, but not surprised, in one news show praising the Israeli medical team, their organization and methods. My second thought was, "Well, there's another area in which we're falling behind." Unfortunately, over the years we have come to believe our own press (and remained uninformed of the rest of the world) and believe that we are the best in everything; where, in reality, we are falling so far behind much of the world in many areas......sad.

I can't even contemplate Mass! I'll be on pins and needles until it's over.