Friday, April 28, 2006

Two Echoes from My Past

I'm being a little nostalgic I suppose. There are two pieces in this week's New Yorker that were particularly resonant.

The first is reading Bill Buford's piece "Carnal Knowledge" in the New Yorker, about his learning traditional Italian butcher techniques and subsequently butchering a pig from the Union Square greenmarket.

Besides its intriguing perspective on the tension between traditional crafts/skills in a modern age, there was this great quip:
"We had many meals, four hundred and fifty of them, or what worked out to less than fifty cents a plate as we ate from the snout (which went into the sausages) to the tail (which I added to the ragu). But the lesson wasn't in the animal's economy. This pig, we knew precisely, had been slaughtered for our table, and we ended up feeling an affection for it that surprised us."
My fellow Larsonites may identify with this passage as well, as it reminds me of Pig Roast, a spring tradition of my college dorm (Larson). Pig Roast was one instance that brought me out from my vegetarianism precisely because of Buford's sentiment.

We got the pig from a local farmer. We kept it on ice the night before in our friends' Tim & Howie's bathtub (he was the dorm manager). Then very early, I helped light the coals, and put the spit in the cooker, and blessed the pig with a poem. Ben Coltvet made an audio diary of the day, which I've listened to occasionally. Really, more than the idea of pulled pork sandwiches (which were delicious), I got swept up in the communal feel of the experience, and the localness of the meat. My vegetarianism at the time was based on the feeling of disconnect with where our meat was coming from.

This ties in nicely too with previous thoughts on consumption, food and morality/theology.


The other thread has to do with the film United 93. I've been dreading its release, admitting to myself that it is one aspect of 9/11 that I am not quite ready to experience. But reading David Denby's review in the New Yorker, I was reminded of similar theatrical experience that was very powerful, Collective Unconscious' Charlie Victor Romeo (CVR), a theatre piece based on the cockpit voice recordings of plane crashes or near crashes. It was gripping to see several scenes begin with the mundane, move to tense, and end in tragedy or relief. The sound in the show was deep and powerful, further pushing the visceral feeling of the piece.

In my most defensive frame of mind with United 93, I'd chalk up my interest in CVR as morbid fascination. But when I actually think of what it was like in the audience, there was much more going on. I can't say that led to some understanding of life, but it was one of the most powerful experiences of theatre or art. So, maybe I'll go.


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