Thursday, February 14, 2008

Taking Back V-Day

More often than not, Valentine’s Day has been a non-event for me. Even when I’ve been in a relationship, even a positive relationship, it’s really not been too significant. And there have been plenty where the day has ground in the pathos of my eternal solitude fostered by my hideous appearance, dysfunctional personality, advanced poverty, bad hair and general lack of marketing skills. Other years I disdain it with haughty superiority and resting content that there is no human male on earth worthy of my companionship, brilliant mind and earth-shattering good looks. One year, as a particularly disastrous relationship was in its infancy, we went to see Leaving Las Vegas and then had dinner at Denny’s. Me: Chicken Caesar; him: some fried/barbecued thing that got all over his face and light-colored pants.

This year I am unusually at peace with Valentine’s Day – neither resentful of it nor feeling that it is forever out of my reach.

For some reason, the song below has always made me think about the day – a song that celebrates something very concrete but just out of reach. It shines a light on the the revelation that despite having been boiled in anger and pickled in cynicism, there is still hope and, more importantly, desire.

I first saw this show during its original run in 1970 with my incredibly hip grandmother who during the eight years she was a widow – 1967 to 1975 – took me to Manhattan where we saw almost every major show of those seasons. Company was one that most resonated with me, one of the last shows in which the music and sensibility were firmly grounded in the times. Plenty of others have since attempted to do that with missteps, but this one felt like the final line of a tradition that began after World War I and fizzled in the Nixon Administration. Plenty of shows that followed would have their share of great moments and songs, but they would never be central to the American psyche the way those were.

The 1970 production of Company had the odd casting of Dean Jones – of countless Disney movies of my childhood – in the lead role of the swinging, sometimes half naked in bed, sexually ambiguous bachelor, which was very distracting and disconcerting.

Even odder was seeing the show 36 years later in 2006 with Raúl Esparza (I just love lisping on that “z” in his name) who was born the year of the original production and was a revelation in the lead role of Bobby. Some people felt he overdid this finale. (The couple in front of me whispered, “Any more vibrato and that poor queen is going to explode!) When he literally screams "mock me with praise", the dissenters and devotees definitely split. The song resonates with me the same way it did three and a half decades ago but with nuance and freshness that he brought to it, most importantly reminding me the amount of hope and fear that I harbor and balance in equal measures today. Once upon a time, when my grandmother took me to a string show that ran from Coco to Pippin to Chicago, the sound of musicals beat close with my heart. It has grown more distant, quaint and irrelevant over the past 20 to 25 years. After five years of dealing with illness, dying parents and others and the general dread of loss, I find I am at such a radically different spot than I was in 2003 when this all began. The thought of Being Alive resonates again this year, in which I can once again embrace that heady mix of ambiguity, fear, longing and optimism, that sound makes Valentine’s Day a holiday I want to celebrate.

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At 7:22 AM, Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

What a lovely post.
Will you be my Valentine?
Just don't tell my husband!;)


At 7:36 AM, Anonymous The Angry Young Man said...

You ate at Denny's? Ever eat at Sambo's?

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Jill - Hugs and kisses to you as well. It's our little secret.

Angry - Yes, once in the early '80s, and it's the only time I didn't leave a tip.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Valentine's Day, like so many other holidays, is totally "Hallmark". I guess there should always be a reason to P-A-R-T-Y, but "forcing love", like "forcing Jesus" seems totally dumb to me.

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

JDZS - The others trying to cash in are those online dating sites. I must have received six or seven ads from them promising that they can help me find true love this week so we can go out to an expensive restaurant and stall the recession. Thanks, but I just want the risotto and a blow job, I'll pass on the soul mate for now.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Scot said...

MMM Risotto and a blow job.... That should be on a menu somewhere: is there a Little Italy in Bangcock? (pun not intendid)

My ex and I had a tradition of going to IHOP for Valentines. The first time was kind of by accident, and then me kept it up. Was kind of fun.

Anyway, for those not enjoying the day, there's a sentiment on my blog today

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Scot - Gee, are you offering that on the menu? Bring it on. I like your V Day tribute. Your approach to IHOP sounds like fun and in the right spirit. This guy, though, thought he was doing me a favor.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Scot - Gee, are you offering that on the menu? Bring it on. I like your V Day tribute. Your approach to IHOP sounds like fun and in the right spirit. This guy, though, thought he was doing me a favor.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger kimy said...

such a wonderful post and love the song.

to ambiguity, longing and optimism and most of all love! I'll exclude the fear.

happy she-wolf day, whoops I mean valentine's


At 7:33 PM, Blogger Eva the Deadbeat said...

Happy heart Day Gregg! Love this sweet post and purty song....xoxox

At 9:30 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Eva - Same to you - big hugs and hoping you have a valentine.


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