Little Virtues

So reassuring that people do their own thing, even if sometimes it means doing it solo. I went to a play in the middle of the week, and the play was sold out, with a dozen rush tickets to be sold half an hour before the performance. First come, first serve. A small lineup started a couple of hours in advance. The venue was in a renovated industrial district dating back to the Victorian era, tucked away from the financial district, close to the lake. Cobblestone walkways and beer bistro types of places, not very enticing. Somehow the place reminded me of steampunk, except it didn’t really have the irreverent fun that steampunk has. It wasn’t full of people, seemed deserted in fact, except for the packed theatre.

The rush line had a few groupings of friends, and singletons, mostly older. A man sat next to me and after he asked me about the logistics of the rush line, filled me in on his history: grew up here, went to high school here, ran one marathon and that was enough (he placed fourth or fifth). Lives all year around in cottage country, is 80 years old and drove for an hour to see a play. His wife stayed home. He didn’t hold back any opinions, was ornery and totally alive.

The rush line is a temporary community. You may never see these people again, but for that moment you have a common purpose and interest.

I’m reading Natalia Ginzburg’s “The Little Virtues”. I met my friend for lunch and we exchanged books. It’s a wonderful translation from Italian. She writes about her winter in the countryside during wartime, her impressions of England (she didn’t care for it, found it melancholy and unimaginative, food dismal). She writes: “Perhaps the English hatred for food is the sole cause of that obscure sadness which pervades every place where food is sold or served.”

I like the way she writes about parents and children. “If it seems they are wasting the best of their energies and skills lying on the sofa reading ridiculous novels or charging around a football pitch, then again we cannot know whether this is really a waste of energy and skill or whether tomorrow this too will bear fruit in some way that we have not yet suspected. Because there are an infinite number of possibilities open to the spirit.”

Today I read in the New York Times that “Death Cafes” have sprung up across the US. People get together to talk philosophically (most of the time) about death – fear of, speculation, impact on how we live. Salons, maybe macabre, or symptomatic of a society preoccupied with longevity. Not sure that I would want to spend my time in this salon.


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