Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Why Don't You...

... Spend a few hours on this lovely Independence Day learning at the feet of that unlikely domestic goddess, Miss Joan Crawford? Here she is, reading from her 1971 magnum opus, My Way of Life. She's a complicated lady, Joan, and the book is alternately great fun and totally bonkers - sometimes in the course of a single sentence.

She's a very American phenomenon, when you stop to think about it: self made, iron-willed, stubborn, lovely, foolish, sad, and, in her own way, magnificent. About three hours and 15 minutes in, without much in the way of preamble, she launches into Max Ehrmann's old chestnut, "Desiderata," and she actually makes it something rather marvelous. The end seems particular apt at the moment:

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, 
It is still a beautiful world. 
Be cheerful. 
Strive to be happy.

And then she launches into her chapter on fashion advice, so there's that, too...

Beyond absorbing all this wisdom, we're not up to all that much this July 4th. Mr. Muscato is working, and I finally broke down and went out and got some summer shoes and a couple of pairs of shorts. Hit the gym, too (my goal this summer is a ten-minute mile - we shall see), and spent some time cossetting the dog. Tonight we'll sit on the terrace and have a good supper and maybe a glass of something bubbly. Not a bad day at all, really. Boudi, foolish as he is, is entirely unfazed by fireworks, which is a mercy, as we have a lot of freelance pyrotechnicians in the neighborhood. As for me, as a child I loathed fireworks, not so much for the bangs as for the flashes - they unnerved me. Now, if anything, all the hoopla reminds me of several bad days back when we lived in Africa and it seemed a coup was in the offing.

I remember one lovely summer day when we had breakfast on our bungalow's comfortable front porch. After a while, in the distance, we could hear some commotion. Then, a little closer, something that seemed like - but suddenly wasn't - thunder. The the crowd surged up toward the nearest big street, and we heard the shouting and the sirens. Only when we actually heard some ominous sharp pings on the house's metal roof did we retire indoors, pulling down the storm shutters and finishing breakfast on the kitchen floor. The next morning the little shops down the street from us had been looted, as had a house rumored to belong to a minister or some official. Just another day in East Africa in a struggling and highly imperfect new democracy...

But that was long ago and far away. Today we'll think about own politics, not quite as vivid as those days but troubling nonetheless. "It can't happen here" is a delusion one can't afford, I think; making sure it doesn't is emerging as the great task of 2017. Our way of life - if not Miss Crawford's, although I'd like to think that, with her distaste for sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, she'd be on the right side of things - depends upon it.


  1. it's better writing than I expected and Joan's voice is actually very good for this sort of thing. Such a Great Lady. One wonders how she squeezed in time for a vodka induced black out.

    1. Unlike her Jane Ardmore-penned "autobiography," it really does largely seem to be her own (written) voice, and her own (spoken) voice really is effective - it somehow has the effect of making it all seem less bonkers.

  2. My gran had Desiderata framed on the wall, along with that poem about walking along the beach with God. They've both been sources of comfort and information.