Sunday, November 19, 2006

We'll see here how well I can write in a coffee shop filled to the rafters with people here for the gala opening of Common Good Books downstairs. There's currently a jazz combo playing in a space about the size of my living room, and of course that's where I'm sitting. The combo's okay, they're certainly earnest, but they're really distracting since they are performing pretty much in my lap. I have to reach around the saxophone player to type this.

The good news about the jazz guys is that my pal Melissa Rainville fronted them for a couple of songs, including “Autumn Leaves,” a smoky, sultry, bluesy number that caused me to once again fall madly in love with Melissa. Please don't tell her though, you'll scare her to death. I routinely drink scotches older than her, or would if I could still afford them.

This post has been continued today, Sunday, because it turned out I couldn't write in a coffee shop filled to the rafters.

RECIPE FOR DISASTER: 1 small coffee shop, 200 people, 50 gallons of coffee, 1 unisex restroom.

After the third spectacular bladder explosion – not mine, thankfully – I felt it behooved me to get the hell out. Not sure where the word “behooved” comes from, but if I look it up I'll never get this finished.

Because today we're going to be following some convoluted threads. The first convolution is that, when I was googling “Autumn Leaves” to provide the helpful link above, I ran across this:

Autumn Leaves. A 'burb for those in their golden years who maintain a diary or journal on the web. Join now!”

Hmmm. Nice name. I'm in my silver years, if not golden. I maintain a diary or journal (of sorts) on the web. Maybe I'll join! Except, what do they mean by a 'burb? Do I have to move to the outskirts of Phoenix? How can you join a 'burb? Are the only people who live there old bloggers? Perhaps I should rethink this plan. However, I note in passing that if they had used the original French song title ("Les feuilles mortes"), the 'burb would be named “Dead Leaves" instead of "Autumn Leaves." This would no doubt diminish the popularity of the place with the blogging blue-hairs. Marketing is everything.

So, path followed, back to the top. Yesterday I had the foresight to plan around the Common Good Books gala open house, so I left earlier than usual for a Saturday morning blogging gig. As I was driving to the coffee shop, and after stopping to buy gas for the wood chipper, I found myself wondering about the word “gala.” It looks sort of funny. Where does it come from? So once I arrived at the coffee shop I reached around the sax player and looked it up.

Sadly, there is nothing remarkable about the etymology of “gala”. It is from Italian; the Italians swiped it from the Middle French “gale”, which meant “festivity”. In other words, “gala.” Not much there to work with.

Not one to be easily stymied, however, I decided to look up a putative synonym for “gala” in the thesaurus, “Saturnalia.” This proved to be a much richer vein to mine.

The first thing I noticed in the Wikipedia “Saturnalia” entry was that there was a cross-link to “an early sauropodomorph dinosaur, Saturnalia”. Cool, I thought. A Party Dinosaur. Who knew? Visions of dinosaur frat parties combined in my head with orgy scenes from various Fellini and Ken Russell movies. The result was a sort of X-rated cartoon thing I'm pretty sure Pixar will never produce. The less said of it here the better, I suppose.

Satunalia is a festival that is celebrated in mid-December. The Romans originated it as a feast dedicated to the god Saturn. See the Wikipedia article if you want to know more. One of the things I liked most in the Wiki Saturnalia piece was at the bottom:

The customary greeting for the occasion is a "Io, Saturnalia!" — io (pronounced "yo") being a Latin interjection related to "ho" (as in "Ho, praise to Saturn").

You know where I'm going with this. It's nice to learn that Ebonics has a Latin pedigree that I never suspected.



Done with “Saturnalia.” Back to “gala.” I have long been a fan of Salvador Dalí and I recalled that his wife was named Gala. She was the model for “The Madonna of Port Lligat,” a painting that I have always admired greatly. Plus she has a decent left breast. So back to good old Wikipedia for Gala Dalí.

Now Gala's entry is a pretty racy little article for Wikipedia. It seems that the words “chaste” and “demure” were not words that were very often used in the same sentence as “Gala.” Indeed, the article says she was accused of being a megaera. and that Salvador, my hero, was a practicer of candaulism. What the f*ck?

I quickly learned that a megaera is, basically, a jealous or spiteful woman. Hmph. The person who wrote the Wikipedia article must be related to me somehow, to use a two-dollar word where a twenty-five-center would have served as well. At least I learned something.

As all the rest of you probably already know, candaulism is the practice of exposing one's wife, or a picture of her, to other voyeuristic people. Oddly enough, this word was in use before the Internet ever existed. The pre-web candaulists must have had a relatively tough go of it back then compared to today's modern candualist. Now any jerkoff (dang, thought I added that to the spell checker dictionary) can post naked pictures of his wife where the whole world can see them. Ain't progress great?

At last we come to the end of the Gala Convolutions. I hope you found them interesting and informative. I did. I even found them useful. If I ever date again, when we have the inevitable confrontation I can shout “Io, megaera, how'd you like me to candaulize your ass? Ho won't be praising her Saturn then!” This is sure to settle things quickly, with me the obvious victor. At least until she looks the shit up on Wikipedia.

-- Hulles


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