Odysseus was quite the player. Throughout his travels around the Aegean Sea, he was seduced by a number of divine women, or so he claims. After all, he was married so he’d have to claim that his acts of infidelity were coerced.
Yet there was one women with whom he stayed willingly and couldn’t cop any excuses about. That was Circe, another daughter of the sun god, Helios, and an oceanid, a kind of sea nymph. Her specialty was turning men into animals by tricking them into taking potions. As usual, Odysseus was able to avoid this fate, but his men were, again, less fortunate. They ate her food and turned into pigs. Odysseus stayed for a year, long after talking her into turning his men back into humans. She even gave birth to their son, then eventually gave him advice and directions on how to get back home.
Circe is often described as treacherous, but really she was just doing what all the other gods did, which was screw around with mortals for their entertainment. Otherwise, she was a generous hostess. Circe was Odysseus’ final dignified send-off back home. She was delicious bad luck, and slightly rancid good luck all rolled into one. And that’s really the best way to describe the end of my trip through the US.
Receding into the Background
The last two days in America were a blur of bad luck. We went down to Santa Cruz to visit my friend, Natascha, and hang out at my sister’s home. On the drive down we got a call that Natascha was in the emergency room.
The next day we decided to go to the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. We were pleased as plums to get a sweet parking space right across the street from the museum, only to come out later to find that the car had been towed. We had to pay for the tow, the processing charge, as well as the parking ticket. You’d think that with all the money they make from parking violations, the great city of San Francisco could fix some of its pothole infested roads.
Later that evening we realized that we had lost one of our cameras and most of our pictures from the redwoods, as well as some sweet photos of us with some Stormtroopers and the Incredible Hulk. Dang.
It was a hell of a way to end the trip and I was truly bummed out. On the other hand, the small morsels of delightful moments tipped it all back into something good.
For instance, we got to spend more time with Natascha than we would have if we just had lunch. We hung out in the emergency room as we waited for test results, while a steady stream of cheerful nurses and down-to-earth doctors came and went. And finally, the tests showed that there was nothing life-threatening. As one of my oldest and dearest friends, this was one of my most favorite reunions.
Then while in Santa Cruz we got to spend more time with my sister’s family, going to my nephew’s swim lesson, eating at a swanky Mexican restaurant in a historic ballroom, perusing through a bookstore (I actually just stood in one place the whole time reading a book about how nature would take back the world after humans disappeared), and then watching a late night movie (the gloomy Dark Knight).
Then T, my sister, and I got to spend quality time in SFMOMA, looking at the works of Frida Kahlo. She was like Circe that kept us longer than we had planned and which led to the car being towed. She was also a reminder that her life was much more tragic than a towed car could ever be, and still she came out of it fabulously creative and radiant.
And if these last days were a Frida Kahlo painting, and I were an art critic, the symbolism would be interpreted thus:
The emergency room is like a healing process that requires connecting with friends.
The art exhibit narrates that every journey must end with art.
The towed car represents the end of car culture.
The lost camera challenges the viewer to create memories without photographs.
The bad luck seems to fade into the background, while the foreground is punctuated with bright colors and unexpected shapes.