Sunday, December 20, 2009

Beyond bizarre

Do you know Eugene Ionesco's play "The Bald Soprano" ("La Cantatrice Chauve")? I saw a production of it at Highlands University in Las Vegas, NM in 1983 or 1984 which I've never forgotten. There's a scene in which (at least as I remember it) two strangers meet in a train and make small talk. To their surprise, they discover that they live in the same city. C'est bizarre, quelle coincidence, both duly exclaim. Probing a bit further, they find they live in the same part of town. Quelle coincidence! The same street. Bizarre! The same building, the same floor. Quelle coincidence! And it goes on: same apartment, which they share with their spouse. C'est bizarre! They sleep in the same room - quelle coincidence - and even in the same bed. Bizarre! The absurdity of the scene is not just that these people were, as it emerged, a married couple, but that the characters register no more surprise at the first mildly disengaged c'est bizarre! than at the last.

I had an experience almost like that this evening at a holiday party at my friend J's. Earlier in the evening another friend had told me he was flying out of JFK tomorrow, too, but while he's leaving in the morning, my flight is at 4:30. J's husband overheard that conversation, and remembered it later, while talking to another person, S, whose flight was also, it turns out leaving at 4:30. Quelle coincidence! It turns out it's the same JetBlue flight to San Diego. C'est bizarre! Both going to visit our parents. Quelle coincidence. We both grew up in San Diego, it turns out; indeed - c'est bizarre - in the same part of it, Del Mar, indeed both off a street named Crest. After a few predictable differences (she's a bit older than me, and rode horses and dated surfers) and some pleasingly ordinary coincidences (she knew the older brother of one of my friends, and babysat my sister's best friend) it was back to Ionescoland. In some connection I mentioned that we used to go to Europe every other year, and often had relatives visiting, since my mother's German. So is mine, says S - indeed both her parents are. Beyond bizarre! And where in Germany? Nordrheinwestfalen, I reply. Really! Münsterland, I added, sure this would be the end. But no, her parents are from Münster! Quelle coincidence. This was too weird. We're continuing our conversation at the terminal tomorrow. But if we end up sitting in the same row in the plane, we're not sure what we'll do.

(The pictures - unrelated, but I took them today, too - are of the brilliant Christmas tree at the Chelsea Market, which offers a dazzling break with prerecorded Christmas tradition - literally: it's made of broken CDs on a bed of unspooled videotape!)

1 comment:

mark said...

Row 15 and Row 22. Close brush with literary incarceration, though!