Monday, February 20, 2012

Hard, hard, hard

This popped into my head for the first time in years as I had a phone conversation with a dear friend tonight. It seems we are both wrestling with similar things. It has become apparent to us how much easier it is (for some people) to be "benevolent", "socially conscious", sensitive to world issues and the "bleeding crowd", than it is to be vulnerable and caring and human on the level of one heart to one heart.

Easy to be hard.

This is the original cast version from Hair, sung by Lynn Kellog, and I used to listen to it obsessively in 1968 (OK, I hereby date myself as an ageing flower child). I had no idea how great her voice was because back then it all sort of washed over me in a pot-induced haze.

She sings it simply in a great contralto voice, but the emotion is tremendous and the lyric is delivered with devastating impact. Do you only care about the bleeding crowd? How about a needing friend?

I need a friend.

Tom Robbins on February: you may be little, but you're small!

They say that February is the shortest month, but you know they could be wrong.

Compared, calendar page against calendar page, it looks to be the shortest, all right. Spread between January and March like lard on bread, it fails to reach the crust on either slice. In its galoshes – and you’ll never catch February in stocking feet – it’s a full head shorter than December, although in leap years, when it has growth spurts, it comes up to April’s nose.

However more abbreviated than its cousins it may look, February feels longer than any of them. It is the meanest moon of winter, all the more cruel because it will masquerade as spring, occasionally for hours at a time, only to rip off its mask with a sadistic laugh and spit icicles into every gullible face, behaviour that grows quickly old.

February is pitiless, and it is boring. That parade of red numerals on its page adds up to zero: birthdays of politicians, a holiday reserved for rodents, what kind of celebrations are those? The only bubble in the flat champagne of February is Valentine’s Day. It was no accident that our ancestors pinned Valentine’s Day on February’s shirt: he or she lucky enough to have a lover in frigid, antsy February has cause for celebration, indeed.

Except to the extent that it “tints the buds and swells the leaves within,” February is as useless as the extra r in its name. It behaves like an obstacle, a wedge of slush and mud and ennui, holding both progress and contentment at bay.

James Joyce was born in February, as was Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo, which goes to show that writers are poor at beginnings, although worse at knowing when to stop.

If February is the colour of lard on rye, its aroma is that of wet wool trousers. As for sound, it is an abstract melody played on a squeaky violin, the petty whine of a shrew with cabin fever. O February, you may be little but you’re small! Were you twice your tiresome length, few of us would survive to greet the merry month of May.

Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume