The other day, Anne and I toured the Monterey waterfront. We started at Fisherman’s wharf and walked to Lover’s Point and back. We saw the San Salvador, which had just docked that day. I missed the Spanish galleon that was part of this year’s Great Lakes tall ships tour, so it was good to see this vessel. We were originally planning on seeing the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but our slow sojourn along the coast, ate up all of our time. We took our time and observed the abundant marine life, including this otter. Later, we observed two marine biologists who were also watching the otters.
Anne and I went to church with Dad. We first visited Mom’s grave. He attends San Carlos, the oldest and smallest cathedral in California. Presiding over Mass was the retired bishop. His homily was a riff on the day’s gospel, Luke’s story of the rich man and Lazarus. In this story, Lazarus the beggar is turned away from the rich man’s house. Eventually, they both die and have to face judgment. Lazarus is admitted into heaven, but the rich man is denied. The rich man first pleads to Lazarus for relief, but is again denied by God. He then pleads on the behalf of his five brothers and is again denied.
In his homily, the bishop told a personal story. He had just lost his iPhone while golfing. It had fallen out of his pocket on the course. Here he digressed and talked about the quarterly solicitations to Catholic charities. He had just given, when yet another solicitation had arrived. Returning to the clubhouse, he again noticed the young men, mostly Hispanic, waiting to caddy. It turns out that one of these men had already turned in the phone. The bishop decided to then and there make another donation in the name of his sixth brother.
Overheard on the front steps of Montréal’s Notre Dame Cathedral, “Try not to be such a heathen.” This was said by a mother to her son, who had just expressed his opinion that the holy water was gross. We decided to stay another night in Montréal and took full advantage of the layover. This morning, we bicycled downtown into the old quarter, beating the crowd. It was much cooler today than it was yesterday. We toured the cathedral and lit a candle for Mom. Afterwards, we checked out the upscale art galleries in the quarter. I didn’t break anything, so I didn’t have to buy anything, as if I could afford any of it. We had a light lunch and then launch out away from the ever swelling and always maddening crowd of fellow tourists. Across Montréal’s harbor and in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River sit two islands, Sainte Hélène and Notre Dame that were the site of Montréal’s Expo. They are connected to the city through bridges with separate bike paths. We rode out to them and then along the Formula 1 racetrack that was not then in use. Vestiges of the expo survive. The most famous of these is the huge geodesic dome that was a landmark for the event. Our tour of these island parks would have been idyllic, if not for the sound from the heavy metal concert that was being held there too. We tried to avoid the concert venue, but all roads seemed to lead towards it. Eventually, we bailed and headed back to the mainland, which was even more crowded than when we left it. Somehow, we made it back to the hotel. After freshening-up, we headed out to dinner. We headed up to Duluth Avenue, which we had perused on an earlier night and ended up at Areqera, a Venezuelan restaurant. The food was good. Tomorrow, it’s on to Quebec City.
It has been over a week since we saw the play at the Rep, but I still haven’t written about it. I guess, I’ve been having trouble understanding it and have been procrastinating because of that. I’m speaking about Ayad Akhtar’s 2012 Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Disgraced”. Set in contemporary New York City, the play is the tale of the tragic fate of Amir, a Wall Street lawyer of South Asian descent, who seemingly has it all, but as this short, ninety-minute story tells, he has nothing and will soon lose everything. He has denied his heritage and himself, to reach the pinnacle of his success: a tony Manhattan address, a partnership in the offing and a lovely American wife. In the opening scene Amir is seen posing before his artist wife for his portrait, where he stands rampant in suit and tie, but without pants. Costuming that telegraphs the message that the emperor has no clothes. His sitting is interrupted, when his nephew arrives and asks him just to meet with a Muslim cleric being held on terrorism charges. At the combined urgings of his wife and nephew and against his better judgement, he meets with the cleric and so begins his downfall. In the end, he left homeless, unemployed and estranged. He has been disgraced.
In classical literature, Amir has committed the greatest sin that a protagonist can commit, denial of self. That may be true in literature, but this is America, the land of the free, where anyone can make of themselves what they want. Amir has seemingly made a good life for himself, but it all turns out to be a lie. Is it really Amir’s lie though or is it more ours. He had bought into the American dream, but when his past was revealed that dream turned on him and crushed him. His sin was simply to hide the accident of his birth, which was forced upon him to succeed. In Amir’s downfall, I see America as the one disgraced. It is America that is living the lie, the lie that here all men are created equal and that this really is the land of the free.