The Way of Beauty'The winter of our discontent'

For most of the country, it’s been cold enough, icy, snowy, and dry enough to give a literal meaning to Shakespeare’s metaphor, “Now is the winter of our discontent,” from “Richard III.”

Judging from the reportage on radio, television, and the Internet, the weather is not just one of many news stories.  It’s the only news story that has overshadowed virtually all others.  Extremes of weather patterns, whether of drought in the western part of the country, or of sub-zero temperatures in the Midwest, or of snow in the South, East, and the Midwest – all have disrupted daily schedules, both personal and officially. Mother Nature’s harsh designs have stretched our patience, but they have also brought out the best in human nature.  Public officials at all levels, reporters and camera men have helped us cope with the severe weather.

Humor Helps

When it is impossible to change the unchangeable, laughing at the incongruous can help restore our perspective on life. The following anecdotes from the “Dear Diary” section of the New York Times are intended to do just that.

Dear Diary,

One wonders what web of deception lay behind this cell phone conversation, overheard at Prince and Greene Streets in SoHo:
“I have to go now–they’re calling my flight.”  (No airplanes were observed in the vicinity.)
. . . . .

Dear Diary,

Working at the information desk of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, we received requests for information not only about the aircraft carrier and other exhibitions in the museum complex but also about the city itself.

One day a young couple approached and asked me how to get to Greenwich Village.  Using both subway and bus maps, I gave detailed instruction, adding that not only was the Village a charming place for an evening walk, but that it also had a wide variety of wonderful, inexpensive restaurants.

They listened attentively and then asked if there was anything else they should see while they were downtown.

I asked if they had been to Chinatown, and they said that they had not.  Again using the maps, I encouraged them to go, again assuring them that they would love the sights and the abundance of excellent and inexpensive Chinese food.

They thanked me, and as they turned to go, I asked, “So where are you from?”

Their response: “Staten Island.”  (Marjorie Miller)

. . . . .

Dear Diary,

Upon entering the Brice Marden exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, I was taken aback by the rectangular canvases painted separately in hues of battleship gray, mud, and olive green. 

I walked over to the security guard and asked his impression of the art.  He replied, “I don’t look at the art.  I look at the expressions on the faces of the people.  Most of them look as though they have been dropped into a Home Depot.”  (Susan Birnbryer Madon)

More in The Way of Beauty

. . . . .

Dear Diary,

One recent afternoon, I was waiting in line at the silver counter at Tiffany.  A woman ahead of me had just purchased a bracelet and was filling out a gift card.  She looked up and asked the salesclerk, “How do you spell ‘bar mitzvah’?”  The salesclerk didn’t hear her.  I intervened.

“Bar mitzvah?”  I asked.

She smiled and nodded.

“Didn’t you buy a bracelet?” I asked.

“Why yes, I did,” she answered.

(Column continues below)

“So it’s for a girl?”

“That’s correct,” she said.

I explained: “Well, bar mitzvah is for a boy.  Bas mitzvah is for a girl.  So you should say, “‘Happy bas mitzvah.’” She thanked me. Then I asked, “Do you know if they are Sephardic or Ashkenasic?”

Her face dropped.  “Oh my, I have no idea.  Does it matter?” she asked.
I replied: “No, not for the purpose of a gift. But if they are Ashkenasic, it’s bas mitzvah, Sephardic is bat mitzvah.”

“So how do I spell it?” she asked. I told her. She smiled and said: “I’m visiting from Milwaukee. Thank you for all this information, it’s so interesting.” She looked a bit sheepish and said, “I don’t know any of this; I’m a Catholic.”

I said: “So am I.”

Surprised, she asked, “My goodness, how do you know all this information?”

I responded matter-of-factly, “I live here.” (Brian Honan)

. . . . .

Dear Diary,

I am a lyricist. My husband is a writer.  And we’re both big musical theater fans.  So you can imagine our surprise and delight when we overheard the following at our Seder table some years back when we lived in New York, about 30 minutes from Broadway:

Neighbor’s son: (seeing the empty chair and extra glass of wine): “Who are those for?”

Nick, my 8-year old (proudly): “Don’t you know?  It’s for Elijah Doolittle.”  (Susan Di Lallo)

. . . . .

Dear Diary,

On a trip to the post office in early December, I asked the clerk, a young Asian woman with a fairly heavy accent, what she had other than holiday stamps. She replied that she had flags, John Wayne, and Mozart.
Surprised but delighted, I asked for two sheets of Mozart and paid my bill.  She slipped the stamps into an envelope and slid them to my side of the window.

On my way out, I decided to see if I could discern why the United States Postal Service had decided to honor the Austrian composer with a stamp.
A peek in the envelope revealed that I had purchased two sheets of stamps dedicated to Moss Hart. (Susan Moors)
. . . . .

Dear Diary,

My son was to be confirmed at St. Joseph’s Church in the Village. For this sacrament, he was required to choose a person of the Roman Catholic faith to be his sponsor for church membership.

As time grew closer to the ceremony, I asked him whom he would like for his sponsor. His little brother had a suggestion: “How about Nike?” (Mary Ann Orbe)

. . . . .

Dear Diary,

There I was on the subway and diagonally across the car was one of those women who needed to be examined.

Clearly well into her 70s, may 80s, but fighting it tenaciously if not graciously with a screamingly conspicuous jet-black wig restrained from complete disorder by an almost iridescent blue headband.  Her face was gray as her real hair must be, drawn in grooves of gravity and gravitas, eyes dulled to nondescript, and when she cracked a small smile to the blind (really) person next to her, her teeth bore witness to a long acquaintance with Liggett & Myers.

A casual hint of makeup just didn’t deny the sadness of her futile fight with time.  I was wondering how some of us somehow keep our balance while others stumble down the slope of eventuality.

And just as I was wondering this, she looked up, caught my eye and, with a gesture, offered me her seat.

The real beauty is within.  (James Matthews)

Finally, Two Poems . . .

When we cannot change the unchangeable, savoring poetry can lift up the human spirit. 

“Roses in Winter”

Winter roses wait
Under white shroud of snowfall
For resurrection.  (Mr. or Ms. Fox)
. . . . .


Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.  (Anonymous)

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