Friday, May 21, 2010

One Tough 2,000 Years!

 It’s been one tough 2,000 years for the Jewish people!

Sure, we’re still here and this year celebrating six centuries of dominating the media, but it hasn’t been an easy ride. For most of that time, we’ve been surrounded by a whole lot of folks who’ve found us about as appealing as a Ben Affleck film festival.

What if Fate had taken us all down a different path?

Governor Palin,” asked Bill O'Reilly during a recent Fox News interview, “may I ask your position on school prayer?”

“Bill, my position on school prayer is unwavering,” said Palin. "I believe firmly that Zeus should never have been expelled from the classroom!”

Oh brother, I thought, here it comes! I well remember those days of forced school prayer in the 50’s: “Our Father, who art on Olympus ….”

“I have always been guided in all things,” Palin went on,” by the teachings of Zeus and his one true son, Hercules!”

Yep! The old “give us this day our daily bread and circuses ….”

“What’s your thinking about global warming?” asked O' Reilly.

“As far as I’m concerned,” Palin snapped,” the problem of global warming is limited to one person and one person only --- Icarus! I’m sorry he fell into the ocean but he shouldn’t have been flying above the ozone layer.”

I’d had enough! Why do some people act as if this were a strictly Greco-Roman nation?

I decided to take a drive into Center City. It was holiday time, and I figured there’d be lots of cool things to do.

Sure enough, when I got downtown, everywhere the city was aglow with joyous signs of the annual Winter Festival of Charybdis, Spirit of the Ocean Whirlpool. Carolers sang on every corner.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Charybdis,” sang a group of schoolchildren, looking very much like something out of a print by Currier and Ives.

“Good King Menelaus looked out on the Feast of Helen,” warbled another merry group.

This was all very lovely, but a little later as I walked down South Street, I was suddenly surrounded by a gang of ethereal-looking young people imploring me to accept leaflets they were handing out.

Prometheus freaks!” I muttered to myself in disgust. They’re always after the Jews!

I managed a quick polite “no, thank you,” and continued on my way.

“Don’t walk away, sir!” a young woman called out. “Prometheus sacrificed and suffered to give mankind a wonderful gift.”

“Yeah, I know --- Fire!” I retorted. “Well, I’ll remember him the next time I’m barbecuing a steak!”

I didn’t mean to be rude, but I’ve about had it with how the Jews are headed for Hades if they don’t climb aboard the train that’s “Prometheus Bound.” So what if back in the day he did weasel some fire out of gods for us? What’ll they claim he’s going to give us next --- eternal life?

“How did you know they were Prometheus freaks?” asked a man standing a few feet away from me.

“Most of them wear little necklaces with a pendant shaped like a half-eaten piece of liver. It’s so morbid!”

On the way home, I wondered if one day we could all just live and let live. After all, my friend Blitstein has a successful mixed marriage. He’s Jewish, she’s Dionysian. I enjoy going to their house; her family throws great parties!

Frankly I have to admit I do love secular Charybdis. I watch the Alastair Sim version of A Charybdis Carol every chance I get.

So --- one historical path or another --- I guess things are going to be all right.

And as Tiny Tim said, “Zeus bless us, every one!”


Friday, May 7, 2010

Taking a Mulligan at Life

I don't golf.  I mulligan.   

I haven’t played much golf in recent years, but whenever I happen to summon the fortitude to hit the links, I frequently make use of a uniquely efficacious contrivance known as “the mulligan.” 

A mulligan is a device whereby a golfer can negate an errant shot that goes careening into rough, lake, or trap. With a mulligan, the golfer simply wills the first shot into oblivion, tees up a second shot, and takes another chance at rendering all’s well.

 Which makes me wonder: Why aren’t there mulligans at life?

Our lives are replete with moves we’ve regretted, from spending an evening at a movie we were luke-warm about to spending a lifetime with a spouse we luke-hate. Every move we make --- no matter how half-baked, ill-conceived, or totally lacking in reason --- becomes locked into eternal permanency.

I for one have certainly pulled my share of wrong-headed moves. Oh, why be modest? If there’s such a thing as quotas on stupid-ass moves, I’ve filled mine and left you precious little room on yours!

Why is it that we can take mulligans at golf --- which is, after all, nothing more than a frivolity devised years ago to justify our ancestors’ uttering the “s” word in broad daylight --- when we cannot take a mulligan at what constitutes the very most important aspect of our very lives? That is, our very lives themselves!

A few weeks ago, I was out on the course with a friend of mine, and I hit an incredibly bad drive on the first tee. The shot went sailing into a lake on the neighboring hole. What’s worse, the lake was filled with snapping alligators --- unusual, to say the least, for a public course in the Philadelphia area.

“I can’t live with this,” I complained. “I’ve got to have a mulligan.”

I put my hand in my pocket and felt for a tee. I found one, but somehow I couldn’t make my fingers wrap around it.  Very odd.  

“Get a grip, fingers!”

 “You have a tee?” I called to my friend. He tossed me one. I seized it and tried to tee up my ball, but I couldn’t make the tee penetrate the ground.

“What the  f…...!” I said. 

Yes, golf was also developed as a convenient rationale for unleashing the “f” bomb down among the sheltering pines at all hours of the day or night prior to Happy Hour.

“I’m afraid,” my partner said, “that was a LIFE SHOT.” And there are no mulligans at LIFE.”

“But I can’t accept that miserable shot,” I whined. “What can I do?”

“The best you can do,” he replied, “is develop philosophical acceptance of the situation and move on.”

Well, philosophical acceptance may have its merits, but a nice clean do-over is a damn lot more satisfying.   So I grit (gritted?) my teeth, pounded the tee into the turf, and forged ahead.

A short while later it was time to pack up the clubs and head for the locker room. My score for 18 holes, without mulligans, was 107.

 My score at life --- 72!

Yeah, you’re right.

I took a few mulligans.