Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Death in the Family

Paul is dead -- again.

Loyal fans will recall that we had a plump orange koi named Paul who disappeared from our pond a few weeks back, the victim, we suspect, of a hungry heron who swooped into the yard for a late-night snack. That left us with only two fish (John and George-Ringo or the Captain and Tennille, as Moose liked to joke), so the moms went off to PetSmart to get replacements. (You know, sort of like when Ringo took over for Pete Best.) Things were going along swimmingly. The new guys seemed to be getting along well with the old guys, and Moose and I had almost figured out who was who. But then Friday evening Moose went out to check on the boys and noticed that the new Paul was. . .stiff. She went in the house to tell Goose. "Is he floating on top of the water?" asked the ever-skeptical Goose. "No," Moose replied, "but I'm sure he's dead. Come see." A careful investigation ensued. Scary red splotches were noted on Paul's skin and a certain curling of the body seemed to be taking place. The net was fetched. A eulogy was spoken, brief but heartfelt. "You were a good fish, Paul. I hope you didn't get John sick, too." A toilet was flushed. The dinner guests arrived, and it was soon learned that our favorite seven-year old knows how to spell "dead," "fish," and "toilet."

And so it goes in Roxie's World, where life and death brush shoulders as casually as strangers on a crowded street. Paul is dead. What's for dinner? In this respect at least, Roxie's World is not unlike the world of The Sopranos, which is winding toward a spectacular conclusion that is likely to find a lot of our favorite characters swimming with the fishes. Steve Van Zandt, who plays Silvio Dante on the show, has hinted that the piles of corpses are likely to get as high as those piles of asbestos-laden garbage Tony's guys have been dumping all over New Jersey lately. He recently told The New York Post, "If they were ever considering the idea of doing a ['Sopranos'] movie, let's just say it would need to be a prequel."

The moms and I noticed that last week's episode of The Sopranos took a turn for the literary. We can't explain the sudden appearance of the "Lincoln Log sandwiches" Carmela made for AJ shortly before his pathetic suicide attempt (though we are pleased to pass along NBC anchor Brian Williams' amusing explanation of the "handy, portable heart attack on a bun" he recalls from his north Jersey childhood). We can, however, weigh in on the significance of AJ sitting in on an English class in which Yeats' poem "The Second Coming" was discussed. ("The Second Coming" is also the title of the episode.) First off, the moms insist that I rant a little about the ludicrous depiction of the English prof with her carefully written lecture notes on the blackboard behind her. (What, no laptops with projectors in New Jersey?) They don't mind that the young woman playing the prof was a little sluttier-looking than most real-world English profs, despite the academic black turtleneck and blazer she wore. The moms realize that certain liberties had to be taken in order to make sure horny little AJ would pay attention. What annoyed them is that she did such a miserable job of reading the poem. No wonder AJ wanted to off himself after listening to her declare that "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity" in a thin, flat voice utterly devoid of poetry. She might as well have been reading from the phone book!

Fortunately, the scene quickly shifts to AJ reading the poem aloud to himself in bed -- curled up with his Norton Anthology of Poetry pointed right at the camera. (Excellent product placement, "Horton." Now, if your proofreaders were only as careful as your marketing department. [Follow this link if you don't get the "Horton" joke.]) AJ reads most of the poem's second stanza, including its ominous concluding question, "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, /Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" He reads in the monotone of the medicated adolescent boy he is, yet his reading compels our attention much more than that of the tone-deaf English prof. As the series moves inexorably toward its own grim ending, we are watching AJ finally grapple with the possibility of having conviction. He is troubled by the violent actions of his "friends," judgmental about his parents' materialism (yet wholly dependent on it), haunted by the injustices and inequalities he suddenly sees everywhere. At the same time, he seems paralyzed, unable to act in any meaningful way on his new beliefs. When his psychiatrist asks if he tried to stop his friends from brutally beating a young Somalian, AJ replies, "I'm one individual. What could I do?"

Don't just stand there, AJ. Read the poem again. If things fall apart, as they seem on the verge of doing in your life and family, it might be time for you to realize that you've got to grow up and do something. Otherwise, you could be the next one to find yourself swimming with the fishes.

5 comments:

  1. Interesting thoughts on Yeats, Roxie. As you know, I've been making my way through season three of the Sopranos, and I've just watched an episode featuring AJ and Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (he doesn't know how to interpret it, but Meadow spells out the death allegory for him). Hmmm. Connections?

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  2. Thanks for the reminder of AJ's previous foray into the literary, Jason. It's funny that such a slacker student is so consistently associated with poetry. I vaguely recall another episode in which AJ was reading somebody and the issue of the author's sexuality came up. Carmela was horrified at the suggestion the writer might be gay. Whitman, perhaps? I can't remember, and Moose is too lazy to google it. Perhaps AJ will straighten up and head to grad school in the finale, assuming he can ever manage to complete an undergraduate degree. I'm sure our old pals at Rutgers could pull some strings and get him into the English program. It is after all the state university of AJ's home state. ;-)

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  3. I hope when I go belly up they don't flush me!

    Bussie Kissies
    Buster

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  4. Hey Roxie,
    Nice to meet you. Sorry to hear your koi passed. We have lots of koi fishies too. BTW, we're pals of Buster the wire fox terrier. We're Butchy & Snickers, 2 wild & woolly wire fox terriers that live in Iowa. Stop by our blog sometime ok??
    Luv & Wirey Hugs!
    Butchy & Snickers

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  5. Welcome to Roxie's World, Butchy & Snickers!! And if you've got any advice on how to keep koi alive, please pass it along to my moms. We've had another death since I did this post, and we're back down to just two fish. Fortunately, my moms are more skilled at keeping dogs alive than they are w/ fish.

    xo,
    your fellow furry beasty blogger

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