Curbside Passings
By R. D. Flavin

Sunrise doesn't last all morning
A cloudburst doesn't last all day
Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning
It's not always going to be this grey

     The day after the December 26-27, 2010 North American Blizzard, I was trudging through Beantown's foot and a half of snow, began to cross from a sidewalk onto the street, and ...way ingloriously slipped and fell down.   Upon rising, my right ankle was complaining mightily and I was convinced to make an urban weather decision, in other words, decide between taking public transportation or hailing a taxi.  After a long half-second of monetary consideration, that is, remembering how much money I had in my wallet, I stood and carefully (read: in pain) stepped back and readied myself to flag down a cab.  Several sped by with passengers and I went pro-active in my genuflection to better my hand-signaling technique.   After more than a few taxis with no apparent fares went by, combined with more ankle complaints, a tired elbow from over-extension in cold conditions, and a general and temporarily overwhelming lack of patience, I watched an empty cab approach and began to yell and wave my hand and arm urgently seeking a carpe diem (noctem, actually) recognition of requested service.  The taxi drove by without slowing down and I stared after it heartbroken.  Then, as things go, the cab swerved in the snowy street and rear-ended a car with lots of noise and damage.  Curbside passings occur and for 2011 I have to go with a middling, non-committal “it is what it is” and attempt to appreciate what was, what is, and what might be.

All things must pass
All things must pass away

     Many communities recycle curbside on the same day as trash pick-up.  Most are casual about recycling, some have strict rules and requirements, and an intrusive few have empowered garbage collectors to issue citations if potential recyclables are combined with (as opposed to not separated from) the trash.  In our querulous and litigious paranoid society (read: snitch or be snitched on), we encourage accusing our neighbors of this, that, and the other wrong thing, before we get accused in our turn.  When I lived in New York City and would visit folks in lower Midtown and the upper Village, I was considerably creeped out that, when visiting, I'd often meet their garbage before I met them.  It was too intimate (with more Chinese take-out containers than pizza boxes, unlike Boston and Chicago), though I sort of understand that city-planning didn't include many alleys, and sidewalk and curbside space is “watcha git.”  There seemed to be a lot of uneaten Chinese food in those curbside cans and I'm thinking it doesn't speak well of the quality of the “local” NYC Chinese restaurants.

     We throw and toss much to the curb nowadays.  It wasn't always so, of course, though primarily because the American English 'curb' is relatively recent.  My gut instantly wrenches and seizes upon the turn-of-the-19th-&-20th centuries practice of New Hampshire and Massachusetts towns with fair and growing budgets raiding the more-or-less abandoned Jonathan Pattee's farm-site in North Salem, New Hampshire (later, post-Pearson & Goodwin aka “Mystery Hill” and “America's Stonehenge”) to cart away previously hewn chunks of granite to install as curb-stones in such newly prosperous towns as Nashua, NH and Lowell and Haverhill, MA.  While I'm all for city improvements, doing public service by robbing another town's resources, especially when the town is in another state, seems wrong in every scenario except any that involve Zombie Virus Plague Stuff (ZVPS).  Then, in desperation and humility, and to “form a more perfect union,” we go forth by doing “it is what it is.”  Still, town-managers or whoever could have coughed up some coin to either pay for newly hewn granite or handed-over some alms to the North Salem coffers.  Just sayin'...

     People get tossed to the curb all the time.  In personal relationships, in layoffs and corporate downsizing, and, most heinously immature, people fall as prey to the Media and so-called “Public Opinion” and are destroyed through social excarnation.  We treat some as trash, though there have been a few recent examples of recycling and reclamation, to wit, the careers of Hugh Grant, Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman), and Glenn Beck (who apparently got away with raping and murdering a young girl in 1990).  With my geek sympathies extended, I'm reminded of the case of Moses Wilhelm Shapira (1830-1884), a respected antiquities dealer who acquired very old biblical manuscripts, too old for acceptance (this was several decades before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947), and was publicly vilified, named a forger and disgraced, and soon committed suicide from shame (Allegro 1965).  Going curbside happens a lot, and not just to people, but to gods as well.

Sunset doesn't last all evening
A mind can blow these clouds away
After all this, my love is up and must be leaving
It's not always going to be this grey

     Invoking old, 'old school', that is, eighth grade, I recall being curiously confused upon learning that “Freddie's Dead.” It was everywhere, yet nowhere, as I was a kid and the song was from the R-rated Superfly movie I wouldn't see until a few years later.  Kids will be kids, no excuses and only partial reasons, and “Freddie's Dead” was whispered, coughed, spoken about and yelled at odd moments as some secret, yet (extemporaneously) necessary, password to pubescent functionality.   Often, skeptics ever, folks would reply (myself included) with “Who cares?” upon learning of the death of Fred.  Curtis Mayfield knew the groove (perhaps the grove, as well), but was far from the first.

     Gods, much like comic-book superheroes, seldom die and remain dead.  One intriguing exception is the Greek god of shepherds and the pasture, Pan (Latin “Faunus”), who is thought to have mysteriously died sometime during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar (14-37 CE).  According to Plutarch (Moralia, de Defectu Oraculorum, "The Disappearance of Oracles," 17), an Egyptian pilot, Thamus, was sailing between Greece and Italy when a voice rose up and over the water commanding him, “When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead,” which he did.  As the story spread, so Plutarch informs us, Tiberius summoned Thamus for conformation.   Accepted as factual history in late ancient and medieval times, the poet and mythographer, Robert Graves, supported a modern interpretation (Van Teslaar 1921) which suggested that Plutarch's source for the story confused “Thamus” with Tammuz, the Sumerian/Akkadian god of vegetation and regeneration.  While not impossible, a better guess would be a Tiberian reaction and response to the prior Augustan decree (Dio Cassius Roman History, LVI, 1-10) that Romans should cease debauchery and concentrate on making more little Romans.  It would seem fitting for a scape-goat to be part goat, as Pan was envisioned to be.  Elsewhere, again during the reign of Tiberius, another Eastern Mediterranean shepherd (of sorts) would also die, but this one purportedly came back...

All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
None of life's strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day

     When the Greek author commonly referred to as 'Mark' wrote his euangelion tragedy set in first century Palestine featuring a Cynic philosopher, Jesus of Nazareth, unjustly condemned to crucifixion, he established verisimilitude through research of ethno-religious Jewish traditions and a few choice bits of Aramaic and Hebrew dialogue (e.g. 5:41, 7:34, 14:36, 15:34).  Mark's “risen” Jesus is likely a 'shade' (ẓlm; Isa. 14:9, 26:14, 19), a healing Rephaim (rp'm or rěpāʿîm; Isa. 53:5) or quasi-deified mediator in a Judahite mortuary cult (Bloch-Smith 1992).  The shared meal between the “risen” Jesus and his disciples (elaborated in Luke 24:41-43 and John 21:12-14) may be regarded as a banquet marzēaḥ (Jer. 16:5-9; passim L'Heureux 1974; Ackerman 1989).  The dénouement to a celestial installation at the “right hand of God,” according to the Marcan Jesus narrative, is controversial as Mark 16:9-20 doesn't exist in many early manuscripts and is probably a second century addition.

     Mark's tragedy (tragōidia or “goat song”) followed required themes, necessary to both Greek and Roman stage productions, foremost of which was an apparent conflict between a hero's explicit criminal guilt or social error and implicit innocence (e.g. Sabbath regulations and conduct, Second Temple destruction as allegory, and blatant mixed metaphorical usages of “Son,” “Lord,” and “King” of a “God” and “Kingdom of God” which has brilliantly confounded audiences then and now).  That Mark presented his Jesus as being kicked curbside may not be far from some unknowable actuality, as Cynic philosophers, teachers, and many who offered a choice to the standard corruptions of the time were offed most expeditiously by the conquering Romans and the local governments who supported them.  Jesus of Nazareth, thanks to Mark's tragedy (and, scantily, Paul's pseudo-gnostic letters before and those euangelion “gospels” that came after) has become the Peanuts' character, Charlie Brown (or vice versa).  Try as hard as He would/could, they kept yanking the football away, and good ol' Charlie (Jesus) never succeeded.  Well, there's been talk of a sequel...

     Suggesting that Jesus was kicked, at some point(s) before and near his crucifixion, to the curb shouldn't be improper, though it does (re)state the obvious.  Roman roads had curbs, with their umbones (“edge-stones”) and gomphi (larger, accented edge-stones), Bronze and Iron Age Hebrews differentiated between what was and wasn't a 'road' (derek) or a 'highway' (mĕsilâ) if it was built through united or gracious purpose and had curbs or ...a proscribed divisional, constructed border (Isa. 62:10; Har-El 1981, p. 11), and a theoretical 'historical' Jesus, as well as Mark's narrative (re)invention, likely encountered a curb with less than cosmic satisfaction.  Curbside passings are inevitable when roads and recycling come together.

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It's not always going to be this grey

     Good and bad, more and less, and dear and despised, all and everyone experience curbside passings as the old makes way for the new.  As difficult as it seems, we recognize eventuality (var. "it is what it is") and let go...  Now, exactly what we do with the trash and recyclables, the dead, and the socially excarnated, depends on how much curbside space we have.  What happens after the curb?  I'm thinking New Jersey or Iceland.

Bibliography:
Ackerman, Susan.  1989.  "A Marzēah in Ezekiel?"  The Harvard Theological Review.  82, 3: 267-281.
Allegro, John Marco.  1965.  The Shapira Affair.  New York: Doubleday.   Despite comparisons to the survival of the Dead Sea Scrolls,
  accusations of forgery persist; see: Rabinowiez, Oskar K.  1965.  “The Shapira Scroll: A Nineteenth-Century Forgery.”  The Jewish
  Quarterly Review
.  56, 1: 1-21.
Bloch-Smith, Elizabeth M.  1992.  "The Cult of the Dead in Judah: Interpreting the Material Remains."  Journal of Biblical Literature.  111,
  2: 213-224.
Har-El, Menashe.  1981.  “Jerusalem & Judea: Roads and Fortifications.”  The Biblical Archaeologist.   44, 1: 8-19.

L'Heureux, Conrad.  1974.  "The Ugaritic and Biblical Rephaim."  The Harvard Theological Review.  67, 3: 265-274. 
Van Teslaar, James S.  1921.  "The Death of Pan: A Classical Instance of Verbal Misinterpretation."  The Psychoanalytic Review.  8:
  180-183.
  For discussions, see: Irwin, W. R.  1961.  "The Survival of Pan."  PMLA (Publications of The-Modern-Language-
  Association-Of America
).  76, 3: 159-167; and Borgeaud, Philippe.  1983.  "The Death of Pan: The Problem of Interpretation."  History of
  Religions.
  22, 3: 254-283.

All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
All things must pass away
George Harrison, 1970.

looking both ways before crossing,
Rick

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