Tell me the truth. You saw the prompt, and in your head, this song was playing. No? Then … hear this.
Last night, we watched Casablanca. We watch a lot of old movies, but last night, it was Casablanca, arguably the best of breed. The greatest of the great.
There are other, more exciting movies, more thrilling movies, though I find Casablanca pretty thrilling. What Casablanca gives us is immersion into the war where the passionately dedicated French underground is fighting for freedom and the world is full of the anti-Nazi heroism of ordinary people, willing to put their lives on the line for the greater good.
“What if you killed all of us? From every corner of Europe, hundreds, thousands would rise up to take our places. Even Nazis can’t kill that fast.”
Not the way it was, but the way we wanted (maybe needed) it to be. Even now, we want the grandeur of people at their finest. Truth be damned.
And love. Undying love that lasts through war and loss, no matter what the world brings. As we watched — and we know the movie well enough to hear the line coming — Garry looked at me and I grinned back. Wait for it … wait for it … Ah, there..
“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…”
There’s the first of many great lines, There are many more. We went to the movies to see Casablanca on The Big Screen when TCM sponsored a release of the 1943 Oscar-winning classic a few years ago.
“We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.”
The filming of the movie was a crazy time. The script was written — and it’s a great script — page by page. The actors didn’t know what they’d be doing any day until the pages arrived. The set was chaotic and Ingrid Bergman wasn’t happy. Bogie was underpaid — a bad contract with Warner’s he had signed before he was a big star. Casablanca went a long way to fix that. Claude Rains earned more than Bogie — arguably worth it.
(Standing in front of the plane in the fog.) “I’m saying this because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
“…But what about us?”
However it happened, Casablanca is movie magic. Brilliant, witty script that plays even better on the big screen than it does at home.
“…When I said I would never leave you…”
“And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”
(Ilsa lowers her head and begins to cry.)
(Rick gently places his hand under her chin and raises it so their eyes meet, and he repeats–)
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Maybe it’s something about how differently we focus when we watch it in a theater than when we see it at home, with the dogs, the refrigerator, and a “pause” button. A difference in the “presence” of the film. The clarity of the visual presentation.
“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
I’m sure it was and somewhere, it still is.
The end of May through early June would normally be when the garden is at peak. Not this year. Instead of flowers, we bloomed with millions of caterpillars. They came, ate all the leaves from the maples and oaks, then disappeared. Either they are all in cocoons awaiting rebirth as moths … or — maybe — they are really gone. I have a professional coming tomorrow to look around. He should be able to tell me more.
NOTE: They were in cocoons. Since I wrote this 24 hours ago, there are a lot of moths. Lots and lots. And if we don’t do something to stop them, they will lay many eggs to make more little caterpillars … so spray we must!
Meanwhile, it is safe at last for me to go outside. I admit it. I’ve been hiding. I have serious issues with many-legged crawling things. They give me nightmares. The kind from which I wake up screaming.
So. It has taken me awhile to get past my phobias and return to the world.
My garden has grown into a riot of flowers while I completely neglected it. A month late, but this is the richest crop of flowers I’ve seen in years. An act of defiance by nature against nature?
It’s that kind of day around the house. The Tall Son is stripping and refinishing the kitchen floor. I’m waiting for the garden crew to come and remove a tree that is determined to infiltrate our well.
My job? Stay out of the way. I am, today, officially a tourist in my own home. Oddly, I don’t mind one bit. It’s rather … nice. Refreshing!
“What do you mean, you’re fracking here! In the valley? Why?” I asked.
I was horrified. Ever since “fracking” became the latest, greatest trend in assaulting the earth, I have been sure it was going to do serious harm. How can anyone believe drilling through earth’s bedrock is okay? Could be safe or sane?
What about hidden, previously dormant fault lines? Or not so dormant fault lines. The aquifer and who knows what else? And about those nukes?
The utility companies are telling the government they can’t supply enough power if they aren’t allowed to drill and drill deep into the earth. Drill down to and through the supporting stone, the spine of the planet. And … oh, by the way, they also said: “We’ll pass the costs on to consumers.”
Naturally. You are going to destroy my world and make me pay for it.
The valley already has the highest number per capita of nuclear generating plants of any region in the country. You don’t see the nukes because they hide behind trees and fences. Big fences with barbed wire on top. Not the kind of fencing you expect to see in a park. So when you do see it, you know. There’s a nuke back there. One of many. When the mills moved south, the nukes moved in. Can’t leave that river idle, can you?
Now, they’re going to do a little “harmless fracking.” Right next door to all those nuclear plants. What could possibly go wrong?
This would be the first time, but it wouldn’t be the last. Well, on second thought, maybe it will be the last. Some mistakes are final. Irrevocable.
From some disasters, there’s no coming back.
I couldn’t help it. Me and a million other English speakers saw this prompt, and instantly thought:
“Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”
The verse is extracted from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 7-part epic poem, “THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER.”
When I say epic, I’m not fooling around. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (originally The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere) is the longest major (define major, please) poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It took two years to write (1797–98) and was published in 1798. It’s long. No kidding. LONG.
Everyone who went to school where English is spoken probably knows of — or at least has heard — the “water, water, everywhere” verse … but do you know how many verses this poem has? Do you, huh?
One hundred and forty-three.
I think Coleridge wrote the poem to punish the old guy for killing an albatross. Albatross killing was a totally uncool thing to do, at least if you were aboard a ship. Really bad luck, not only for you — the albatross slayer — but for the entire ship’s crew. When The Gods punish a misdeed, they don’t go with “surgical strike.” More like general smiting to produce mass death and associated damnation. Gods want to be sure everyone got the point. And always, there’s one poor slob left alive to tell the awful (long) tale.
What? You mean … he didn’t write the poem to punish someone? Ah, I see. He wrote it to tell us the terrible tragic story that befell the mariner for his shameful destruction of an innocent bird. Maybe it was the innocent wedding guest to whom the mariner confessed his crime … all 143 verses of it …who was being punished.
I’m a better person than that. I won’t regale you with the long, sad story except to say that, in my opinion that one famous verse is the best one in the poem and if you know that one, you can fudge the rest. Also, it’s surprisingly hard to find a full text of the poem. You can find a lot of stuff about the poem. Analysis, history, context, criticism … but the whole poem? Most places just do sections. Me too.
However, for those who really need a full Coleridge experience, please feel free to click this link and go the full distance. Albatross, mariner, wedding guest, and becalmed ship upon the cruel ocean. Note: The version to which I have given you a link contains side notes so you don’t forget what’s going on while you travel through time upon the briny deep.