Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Aimless Reading: The P's, Part 31 (Pindar)

The Odes of Pindar
Pindar
The Odes of Pindar

I am pretty sure I bought this in New York, but not of much else. A good bet would be the now-defunct 7th St. Books. On the other hand, it looks as if a price sticker has been torn from the upper righthand corner of the cover. This might indicate that I bought it at The Strand, possibly off the dollar racks on the sidewalk. No way of knowing, really.

Today is the 15th anniversary of my father's death. You may have noted that it is also the 48th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I can't say that I always take note of my father's death on the anniversary.

Part of this has to do with not wanting to deal with the emotions that come with mourning. I think it has more to do with the fact that the anniversary always comes around Thanksgiving, which means we are often so busy traveling and stuffing our gullets with food that there is little time to actually take a minute to remember.

There's something kind of morbid about his sharing the anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. If I forget, I am almost sure to be reminded by the endless repetition of the Zapruder film on TV and the Internet. The two events have started to meld together in my mind. I'll turn on the TV and watch JFK's head explode and suddenly remember that it's the anniversary of my father's death -- a strange sensation.

This year's a little different, though, as I am writing with my 9.5 week-old daughter sleeping next to my desk, thinking about fatherhood, what kind of father I'd like to be, comparing myself to him, trying to take the best of him without repeating all the mistakes he made.

I am reminded again of the anniversary thanks to a little video by Errol Morris called 'Umbrella Man,' which appeared on the NY Times site today. In it, Morris interviews the author of a book on the Kennedy assassination called something like Six Minutes in Dallas. He talks about noticing in the Zapruder and other films that at just the moment Kennedy is shot, a man standing by the side of the road opens a black umbrella.

Given that it is a warm, sunny day in Dallas, this struck him as odd. People propounded conspiracy theories suggesting everything from the umbrella serving as a marker for Oswald to its being a stealth weapon that took part in the actual shooting. The author challenged the umbrella man to come forward and explain himself.

He did, going all the way to congress to testify, even bringing with him the umbrella in question to show that it was not in fact a weapon. Turned out he did it as a silent protest against Kennedy's father, Joseph, who the man believed was responsible for appeasing Hitler when he was ambassador to the UK. The umbrella, apparently, represented Neville Chamberlain.

In the background, Morris plays Für Alina by Arvo Pärt, a lovely, minimalist piece for piano and violin that can instantly induce nostalgia, melancholy and depression. It's still ringing in the back of my mind as I remember the complex being that was my father.

from The Odes of Pindar

Rejoice in my songs, and in friendliness
Guide still their ancestral fields
For the generations to come.
Of what has been done
In right or against right
Not even Time, father of everything,
Can undo the accomplishment;
In good luck and fortune
Forgetfulness will come;
For in noble delights sorrow perishes
Angry but overwhelmed,
When God's fate tips the scale of happiness high.

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