Last year for Halloween I was Bip the Clown, a famous creation of the then recently passed master of mime, Marcel Marceau. I thought it would be good to go an entire day without talking, yet it seemed to arouse violent annoyance in as many people as liked it.
Mime has its roots in ancient Greece but most conventions of modern mime were developed by the Bohemian mime, Jean-Gaspard Deburau, who adapted aspects of the commedia dell'arte for nineteenth century French actors. His most famous character was Pierrot, the moonstruck, dumb romantic in white face and poofy threads. He was portrayed in Marcel Carné's Les Enfants du Paradis.
In the 1920s, Étienne Decroux created a highly original take on mime, focusing on statuary poses, a technique known as corporeal mime.
Tuesday was tough. I woke up early, voted without having to wait in line (my polling place has always been quiet) and spent the bulk of the day thereafter feeling like I had been physically rendered into ragged shreds of mixed emotions that mainly resembled a patchwork of grief. Being confined to the registers at work, restless, while polls across the country closed at their designated times, the ague that wracked my body and mind increased as the day sank heavily into night. On my dinner break things started looking up; I spent the hour with a politically like-minded coworker (and dear friend) at a local sports bar so decorated with festive balloons, streamers and flat-screen televisions that the effort needed to focus on what might really constitute "news" distracted my mind away from any results I didn't want to see, but nevertheless felt somewhat prepared to receive. When it was projected that my home state of Virginia was going to "go red," as red as a Virginia cardinal, my nerves slackened into an uncomfortable numbness.
Given the option to leave work early, I fled and hopped a bus to meet up with some friends at a bar I'd never been to or heard of. Trying to find a place unknown on such a night was absolutely frustrating and just when I was knitting my brow in consternation, bent over my cellphone feverishly texting queries to inebriated friends, a girl at the front of the bus began to squeal like a steam leak. Suddenly strangers were hugging, kissing and high-fiving me, dancing and falling all over each other on a crowded, careening Haight street bus with a horn-happy driver at the wheel. Images alike to those photos taken during the block parties that erupted at the end of World War II flashed to life in front of me and, maybe for the first time in my life, I felt the news. Everyone here would remember this night, the night the streets of San Francisco went wild for Barack Obama's victory and the end of eight years of George W. Bush.
I just finished reading Suze Rotolo's A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties. Rotolo is most famous for having had a complicated and inspiring relationship with Bob Dylan early in his career and for appearing with him arm in arm on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.
Her autobiography is an easy read, and she chronicles not only her time in the Village in the early 60s, but also the trials of growing up the child of two communists in the era of blacklisting, and her post-Dylan trip to then-recently Communist Cuba for several months in 1964. It's interesting to read about a woman's life in the early 60s (I was glad to have recently experienced a visual touchstone of the early 60s in Mad Men) and the limitations that were part and parcel of daily life back then that are now in many ways foreign to us gals. When Suze was with Dylan, everyone expected she would merely be his shadow and have no career or creative pursuit of her own, and, among other things, she was subjected to his own rigid expectations of her looks and her second-class status.
While the book was mainly enjoyable to read, I'm not sure if I was expecting too much, but it was not heavy on details, in my opinion. I respect Rotolo's right to keep some things private, of course, but I also wondered at times why she was compelled to write a book if she wanted to keep so much to herself. Still, the book does give an outline of The Village as an exciting, creative place and also of Dylan as a charismatic but manipulative charmer. She also gives an interesting take on the corrosive effects of fame on individuals, those around them, and their relationships.
If you're trying to escape the inevitable -- late fall's chill in the air -- then slip into an easy sense of denial by listening to Bobby Charles' self titled 1972 album.
The album is bursting with the organic sound of Bearsville, NY in the early 70s crossed with a dash of Cajun spice and that simple, ephemeral combination will warm you right up again.
Bobby Charles is an idiosyncratic songwriter from Louisiana who wrote "See You Later Alligator," known mainly as covered by Bill Haley and His Comets. Charles wasn't one for fame, and hid behind artists like Muddy Waters who covered his work, allowing him to pay the bills. I'm not sure why exactly, but somehow in the early 70s he ended up in Bearsville, New York, hanging out with the likes of Bob Dylan and The Band. That friendship is reflected in the album's sound as well as its production, which is by Rick Danko and John Simon (who also put out at least one excellent solo album). Members of The Band no doubt also contributed musically to this album, though with the exception of a songwriting credit for Danko, they are uncredited.
The album's songs are instantly pleasing through and through. They alternatively ramble along and bound forward energetically, but all the tracks glow with an animated heat that will take that chill right out of you: quite the accomplishment for such a hermetic kind of guy! There's also some sweet, sunshiney love songs on this album that'll have you feeling the sun on your shoulders again and make the return of spring seem not so far away anymore. It's all very bucolic and idyllic, as you shall see.