The whole plot of Oedipus Rex relies on a banal and crude case of road rage: when in the fateful Y-shaped crossroads, Oedipus will not yield the right of way to the king of Thebes, his unknown father. When told to, he says that he ‘struck the charioteer in anger’ and that he then went on to ‘kill them all’. This is what sets the whole plot in motion: neither Fate, nor the Gods, but temper.
Last time I was walking in London, Orbital’s The Box was playing in my head no more.
Last night we went to see Dreamgirls. We made the critical error (but see below) of going to the local cineplex for the 19:35 showing. The place was crammed with teenagers. Teens are, of course, a pest in cinemas everywhere, but even more so in the Outpost: here they are (even more) antisocial and spoiled in extremis, as a lot of them grow up with grandparents, who can work wonders with spoiling children. The film started and three 13-year olds were still chatting and exchanging text messages right behind me. I turned around and politely asked them to hush. One of them answered something back, I could not understand what (remember that I don’t speak the language). We moved to other seats, but there was a generalised brouhaha around us anyway. I right then remembered stories from working class cinemas of yesteryear: how people would chat and jeer and join in. For instance, my father once told me that in the fifties it was not a good idea to sit below the edge of the balcony in a cinema, as spectators might wish to spit or throw snacks at the villain… In the meantime, the film quickly evolved into the modern equivalent of a Mozart opera: elementary plot, great acting, even better singing (some dancing, too) and a lot of songs. A lot. Plenty of them: songs the characters sing because they are singers and songs they sing because they won’t do dialogue or the odd monologue. After the Oscar winner sang her determination not to be sacked from the band (she gets sacked anyway), the teenage crowd broke out in spontaneous applause. From this point on, it was all African-American congregation-style participation, albeit in an Outpost cinema. More applause; “Die!” the villain would be shouted at. “Oh no!” would be exclaimed when a third song in a row would start (I remembered the gay musical-addict prince from Monty Python and the Holy Grail). We had a great time and we definitely enjoyed the particular film much more than we would in a solemn and ‘appropriate’ environment. A refreshing experience, but one we will not repeat with, say, serious films. 😉 And Beyoncé Knowles is heartstoppingly stunning. But you already know that.
Flying back from London. The Outposter guy in the seat next to me takes a good look at me and my books in English, then does sudoku puzzles, then dozes off. I take my shoes off (yes, before you ask, I am a personal hygiene freak: I’d rather not do that than have the slightest whiff of suspicion). He wakes up before landing. I put my shoes back on but do not tie my shoelaces. Not a single word exchanged between us: I avoid speaking to strangers anyway, my roaring timidness masked under apparent aloofness is to blame. We get off the plane and into the terminal bus. I crouch down to tie my shoelaces, so that I do not get killed in the stampede to passport control once in the terminal. The guy, without making any eye contact, says very loudly:
“You take your shoes out, huh? You take your shoes out.”
Then nothing at all. I pretend I do not understand he is talking to me. The bus stops. I get off.
I went back to Macdonalds for lunch last Thursday. What a sad place — both meanings of the word apply here: obese kids with mobiles, stressed-out overworked line staff, loads of unnecessary packaging, ghastly decor, food making your stomach feel like crap until you go to bed (and I had the Lenten option, mind you).
Between the crudeness, tedium and ugliness of here and the musty sadness and squiffy misery and substandard overpriced homes of there, what do I choose? I choose here, I know people here. I also have a job to do here.