Monday, November 23, 2009

I've Loved You So Long

This weekend I watched I've Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime), a 2008 French film in which Kristin Scott Thomas stars as a woman recently released from prison after a fifteen year sentence for murdering her six year old son.

The film presents a jarringly compassionate portrait of an infanticide, her strugglings to regain her footing in life following release, her reintegration into her family, and her inability to forgive herself for her past.

Both the relatively lenient sentence (by American standards) and the generosity with which the character is generally treated, both by the film itself and the other characters in the film, made the film seem truly foreign in sensibility.

I have posted here previously about my concerns about a general lack of forgiveness in American society for those who have strayed from the path and the remarkably different approach that seems to animate criminal justice in Europe.

A comment by one of the characters, when he found out that Kristin Scott Thomas's character had been in prison for murder, struck a chord with me, reminding me of one of my favorite lines from Capote - "It's like Perry and I grew up in the same house, and one day he went out the back door and I went out the front" - though without the solipsism.

The character, a professor who befriends the woman, tries to comfort her when others discovery her secret:
I spent ten years teaching in prison. I never mention it. I went there three times a week. And I got out three times a week. Nothing was the same after. I saw everything differently. Other people . . . The sky . . . The passing of time . . . I realized that people in prison were like me. They could have been me, or I them. It's such a fine line sometimes.
I have spent the last decade meeting with men in prisons - mostly men facing the death penalty for murder - and I have never walked through the gates without a sense of gratitude and good fortune because that fine, and often well out of our control, line between praise and blame is no where more obvious.

* Here's the trailer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Peacemaker

Mahony's Po-Boy Shop is my favorite place to get a po-boy. While I want to prefer the old school joint in my neighborhood, Parasol's, I find myself drawn to Mahony's, a relative new comer to the city's po-boy scene, because, not withstanding my partiality to things old and slightly beat up, I like its po-boys better. I prefer its roast beef and I write this regretfully and with some sense of betrayal as I know that Parasol's roast beef po-boy is a great sandwich. Maybe the greatest if not for Mahony's.

My true feelings for Mahony's became clear to me on a recent Monday night after a long day, when all I wanted to do was po-boy the grief and stress of work away. One word rang in my ears. Peacemaker.

I longed for the peace, the serenity, of consuming another signature Mahony's po-boy, a classic, I am told, that I haven't seen anywhere else. Fried oysters, cheddar, and bacon, dressed with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, on French bread. Peacemaker. Made me peaceful.

May peace be with you.

You will know even more peace if you order it with gravy fries, Mahony's homemade fries covered with roast beef and gravy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stealing Fruit

I got home from work on Monday after a long day of work, eager to hold Baby Rose and to forget about the day. In my driveway, I looked over at my satsuma tree, the source of so much pride and happiness this weekend, and realized that a bunch of fruit had been pulled off the tree, evinced by the white rinds beneath the tops of satsuma skins still attached to the tree.

I became really angry, imagining what I would have done if I had come across someone looting my tree and abusing the fruit.

I went inside the house and Nikki told me that she had thought she had heard someone out there.

I became even angrier.

As I laid in bed that night, my mind full of buckshot blasts, I remembered St. Augustine and his pear tree.

In his Confession, Augustine wrote:

There was a pear tree close to our own vineyard, heavily laden with fruit, which was not tempting either for its color or for its flavor. Late one night--having prolonged our games in the streets until then, as our bad habit was--a group of young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree. We carried off a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs, after barely tasting some of them ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden. Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart--which thou didst pity even in that bottomless pit. Behold, now let my heart confess to thee what it was seeking there, when I was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my error--not that for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself.

Upon remembering that I, myself, am a would be stealer of pears, I felt a lot better and stopped worrying about shooting the poor thief. Let him have his vices. And my satsumas.