Penny: A Few Friday Laughs

13 02 2009

It’s been a long and strange week and this Friday I’m in need of a few of Annie Dillard’s proverbial pennies to pick up my spirits. A few that I’ve found: book group, hot tea, my new photo wall (I’ve covered part of my enormous walls with a collage of some of my favorite travel moments and am very proud of how it turned out), and…

New York Magazine. Every week, this little collection of paper gives me a reason to look forward to Mondays, when it will arrive in my mailbox, and even more so to Tuesdays, when it is my subway reading. While John Heilmann‘s column is always a highlight for its great perspective and ability to keep me more politically aware, this week it was two other columns that thrilled me.

First was a review of Will Ferrell’s short turn on Broadway as good ol’ Dubbya in You’re Welcome America. A Final Night With George W. Bush. Will Ferrell poking fun at George W. as a final goodbye. On Broadway. I don’t think much more needs to be said about that. It simply brings a smile to the face.

Second is the cover story on Demetri Martin, comedic genius of the new comedic era. I discovered Martin months ago when a friend sent me a video of him doing flip art comedy (which I just discovered is no longer available: tear), and I must have watched the thing 50 times, never getting sick of his simple, but brilliant jokes. The fact that he now has a show, Important Things With Demetri Martin, which is being produced by John Stewart and will soon air on Comedy Central is enough to make this book lover/online television enthusiast want to go out and purchase a TV, and cable. And after reading the article, I love him even more. I’ll say nothing else. The article speaks for itself, and so does this:

Pennies from Manhattan

13 10 2008

When I was a freshman in high school (a long time ago), we were given a chapter of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to read in my English class. The chapter, entitled “Seeing” is a meditation on what we see and how we see it. In it, the child Dillard enjoyed hiding pennies, and thrilled at the thought of a lucky passerby finding “a free gift from the universe.” The adult Dillard wonders who really gets excited by a penny, given that any small enjoyment or happy experience counts as a penny.

We only read the first few paragraphs for class, and I have yet to read the rest of it. And yet (being the nerd that I am) I perused those first two paragraphs so thoroughly and so often that to this day I can recite them from memory, almost verbatim. Yesterday I slowed down my fast-paced New York life for a bit, and Dillard’s words returned to me: “It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.” Simple. Lovely. True.

And so, because in my actual struggling author poverty I too often forget to cultivate my figurative poverty, some pennies:

1) Fall days. I know I pull the California girl and have a tendency to be whiny and annoying when winter rolls around. But despite the fact that it’s the season before winter, fall is fabulous. Yesterday was one of those perfect days that sets all the city into a buzz of activity: warm but not sticky, with a light fresh breeze and that great crisp scent that can only really be had in a place with seasons (sorry California).

2) Bethesda Terrace. Dominated by Bethesda Fountain, this area overlooks the lake, where city slickers can (gasp!) row boats, and can be entered or exited through the stunning, tiled arcade that’s more reminiscent of ancient Rome than modern New York (at least to this New Yorker).

Can you say picturesque?

Can you say picturesque?

3) Eccentricities. While lost in the park I came upon many of these, but two were particularly notable. The first was an elderly man with a bushy beard dyed green and orange, dressed in a frilly lace dress and a gold hat with a bird on it, and dancing to rhythmic drums to the delight of a crowd of onlookers. The second was a tiny (and by tiny I mean about eight years old) street performer who silently and adeptly performed a series of circus tricks, adroitly juggling rings, then balls before moving on to a unicycle. Amazingly enough, less people stopped to watch him.

And I end, these being just a sampling of the pennies I picked up in the course of my Sunday. Perhaps one day does a millionaire make.