Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Buddha and His Cough Drop

The Buddha and His Cough Drop
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Is it possible that Buddha stepped in and saved me from getting a cold? A few weeks ago, B placed this Ricola lozenge in front of the little Buddha statue on his dresser as some sort of offering, I guess. Not being in the least bit religious or spiritual, I’m not sure how these things work, but I can tell you that as of Tuesday afternoon, I definitely had all the symptoms of a cold. I started hammering down Airborne fizzy tablets immediately and thanks to them or the Buddha or both, I am today right as rain.

The Ricola offering to the Buddha amused me quite a bit. I think proper offerings are supposed to be things like coconut halves. But maybe that’s a Hindu thing. Maybe you’re not even supposed to offer things to Buddha. That’s how much I do not know about B’s religion. He’s been a Buddhist since long before I met him, and I’m always walking into the bedroom to find him sitting in half-lotus position meditating. Oops! There are Buddhist books, tapes, and CDs here and there all around the house. It probably doesn’t reflect that well on me that I’ve never shown more than cursory interest in B’s spiritual life (he likes the Dalai Lama a lot—I know that) or that I’ve never had much interest in cultivating one of my own.

Maybe it’s because I had religion forced down my throat when I was a kid. My mom saw to it that we never missed a single opportunity to go to church. Every Sunday at 8:00 AM, I could be found—yawning and resentful—kneeling in a pew and repeating the exact same lines from the Book of Common Prayer week after tiresome week. I’d sneak a peek at the second hand of my Cinderella watch, close my eyes, and count to 60 (1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi...), and then open my eyes to check my watch to see if—yay!—one more minute of church had passed and was gone forever. Sometimes I’d force myself to keep my eyes closed and count to 60 five times—just to experience the elation of seeing that five whole minutes had elapsed and that I was five minutes closer to freedom.

Actually, all I was closer to was a temporary respite from church. After the church service was over, we’d go back home for about an hour and a half, watch a few sanctioned cartoons, and eat a “serving” of Cheez-Its or Ding-Dongs.* Then I'd have to plod back to church (conveniently located just a few blocks from our house) and sit through a hour of “church school.” I don’t know why our church didn’t call it “Sunday School” like everyone else did. I remember very little about church school except that the parish house where the classes were held was hot and smelly and the classes were very sparsely attended. I think the teacher read Bible stories to us, mostly. I did not want to be there and neither did the three or four other sullen kids in the class. T-E-D-I-O-U-S.

But get this. Wouldn’t you think that when I got to college—when my mom wasn’t there to enforce church attendance—that I’d rejoice and never go to church again? Wrong! I dutifully got up early every Sunday morning, made my way across the campus quad to St. John’s Episcopal Church, and sat through Mass (virtuously refraining from resorting to the old second-hand-on-the-watch trick). I took communion and everything. As soon as the service was over, however, I skedaddled out of there to avoid getting buttonholed by the priest who was probably eager (I assumed) to shanghai me into some gruesome young person’s group. No way in hell did I want that to happen. I really don’t know why I went to church in college. It had something to do with my being a freakin’ goody-two shoes. But I also believed that my mom would expect me not to go to church now that I didn't have to. And for some screwed-up reason, I wanted to prove her wrong on that count. I made many pointed references to my church attendance when I was home on breaks.

I went to church for my entire freshman year, or, maybe, I only hung in there for the first semester before I realized that whatever point I was trying to prove really had no meaning for me and that I could use the extra sleep.

I’ve rarely set foot in a house of worship since. Not because I have any strong, well-thought-out convictions against organized religion (I do have major reservations about certain ways in which religion is used as a justification for reprehensible activities), but because my experience with it was one of mind-numbing boredom. Call me shallow and unthoughtful or what you will.

Hmmmm. This blog entry was actually going to be about something totally different (but still shallow) and much shorter (ha!). I was going to write about the worst movie sequel ever made, which—according to Entertainment Weekly (EW)—is Staying Alive (1983), the sequel to Saturday Night Fever (1977).

You need do nothing more than look at this photo of a greased-up John Travolta in horrifying ‘80s dance skivvies (complete with matching dance belt, no doubt) to know that EW is 100% right about it being the worst sequel ever! Look at that headband! But if you have any doubts, ponder this: The movie was directed by Sylvester Stallone and the music was by his brother Frank Stallone. As the EW writer points out, that is just way too much Stallone. And throw Travolta into the mix? A nearly fatal combo. Here’s the EW writer's snarky synopsis of the plot:

Picking up several years after Saturday Night Fever, Travolta's Brooklyn disco Casanova Tony Manero is now a struggling Broadway dancer. Rejection has hardened his charm into a cocky, misogynistic swagger. After a one-night stand with a snooty dance star (General Hospital's Finola Hughes), he lands a part in Satan's Alley — a show so cheesy it looks like Bob Mackie throwing up on the Starlight Express. The bitchy director describes the musical as ''a journey through hell that ends with an ascent to heaven.'' We get the ''journey through hell'' part; where's the ascent?

I actually saw this movie when it came out. At the time, I’d not seen a lot of movies in my life and, shall we say, my tastes were less discerning and sophisticated than they are now. Plus, I was really into dance myself, having taken ballet for a number of years. So, I thought, “A dance movie? Great!” (I fell into the same trap with Flashdance a few years later.)

I was not deterred by the fact that no one wanted to go see Staying Alive with me. And you know what? I kind of liked the movie. I remember being pretty impressed with John Travolta’s dancing but thinking that he lived in a real shithole of an apartment. He didn’t even have his own phone! (Unthinkable to a person such as myself who had grown up in a suburb.) Everyone in the shithole apartment building used this pay phone in the hall, which made it touch-and-go when Tony was waiting for a callback on an audition. Oh the grit and hardship of Tony Manero’s life! I really should rent the movie now and see if I still think it’s pretty good. I’m going to guess that I’ll be laughing my ass off. Thank you, Entertainment Weekly, for bringing the awfulness of this movie to my attention.

*A serving of Cheez-Its is one ounce, in case you didn’t know. A serving of Ding-Dongs is one Ding-Dong. Why we were allowed one serving of junk food on Sunday mornings (when we were allowed zero servings of junk food every other day of the week), I no longer recall. Maybe it was a sort of a reward for all that church-going we had to do? Or perhaps a bribe?


Post a Comment

<< Home