Monday, June 15, 2009

I Was a Dante Zombie

The most unusual way to celebrate a birthday has to be by sitting in a theater watching Roberto Benigni discuss the importance of The Divine Comedy. What the? First he races onto the stage and does the trademark spastic goofball routine, then he makes some of the foreign man in big American city jokes, then he discusses current politics and news items, domestic and imported, and then, oddly, he shifts to a serious talk on Canto Five of the Inferno, line by fucking line. It is, to say the least, dull.

Dull, you ask? Yes, dull. The accent and broken English, which is supposed to be charming when he’s accepting an Oscar or featured in a Jim Jarmusch film, is not very easy to endure when he’s remarking on the genius of Dante. I saw the link he was trying to make, and the point is clear: Dante saw fit to list his contemporaries in his vision of the afterlife. Right, I knew that… so I guess comedians or protest singers or anyone else using Blago as fodder for their art—comedic or serious—owes a debt to Dante. Okay, fine. But again, I knew that already and I didn’t need a clownish man prancing around to remind me.

Cassandra fell asleep, so I wasn’t alone in my boredom, but others seemed to like it. The Italians cheered and some woman told her boyfriend that the show was “brilliant.” Benigni got a standing ovation, which is sort of like “two thumbs up” these days, i.e. automatic and meaningless.

Anyway, it wasn’t the worst way to spend a birthday, and I am grateful for the gift, the effort and the meal that preceded it, but it was certainly surreal. And then I got a dog, which is even more surreal (and adorable). 38, I proclaim, is the year of the strange.