Lent in Casablanca: Two Years Later

It’s late on a Lenten Monday night, and I’m watching “Casablanca” for what must be at least the 100th time. Two years ago during Lent, I watched it 46 consecutive nights, and I’m sure I’ve seen it at least 54 other times over the decades. I can’t think of any other movie I have seen this many times–and know so well–that I can still watch just for the sheer enjoyment of it.

There are a few things that are wrong in “Casablanca” (the film, not the world). In the marketplace just a few minutes in, there are two foibles. First, one of the men forlornly watching the plane come in for a landing had just been loaded onto the paddy wagon 20 seconds before as one of “the usual suspects.” Second, young newlywed refugee Annina looks wistfully up at the plane, as she tells her husband, “Tomorrow maybe we’ll be on the plane.”

That plane was a Nazi personnel transport carrying Major Strasser  (the Swastikas are a dead giveaway), so Annina had better hope and pray she and hubby are NOT on that plane tomorrow.

Speaking of Major Strasser, there’s a scene where his assistant refers to him as “Herr Major” (pronounced herr my-YOR). It always bothered me, because the German equivalent of Major, back in the day, was “Sturmbannführer.” (Thank you, “Inglourious Basterds” for that scrap of complete irrelevance)  HOWEVER, Major Strasser is a Luftwaffe officer, and the Luftwaffe used the term “Major,” unlike the SS or Gestapo. So once again, “Casablanca” proves itself historically accurate. (“Basterds” was right, too: their “Sturmbannführers” were Gestapo and SS. (Schnapps for everyone))

Also, “Casablanca” was #1 on the AFI’s “100 Years…100 Passions” list for Rick & Ilsa’s undying love, but the best chemistry in the film is between Bogie and Claude Rains. Not even close.

“Casablanca” is a movie I put on when I want to think. It’s a Zen thing, almost.

My Monday could have been better. It wasn’t empirically BAD, I suppose–I didn’t lose blood, fracture bones, or become incarcerated–but there were way too many things nagging at me. I had brunch with Nicole, and the random thought popped into my brain that in a parallel universe, she and I hooked-up–our temperaments are compatible, and my insanity gets off on her insanity. In a parallel universe, my brain didn’t explode a year ago. In a parallel universe, I could actually write what I’m feeling tonight, without having to fight like hell to form halfway-coherent sentences. It’s like I’m writing through a dozen thick, wet pairs of mittens, and ten or twelve lithium tablets.

The flip-side, of course, is that there’s also a parallel universe where I didn’t make it to “that special resort,” and one where I got to the hospital a day too late five years ago, and the Fournier’s won. God knows how many parallel universes had me looking the other way when a car slammed on its brakes in front of me, and I smashed into an overpass piling, or when chasing a handful of Vicodin with several beers and a pint of Jim Beam pushed the needle a smidge too far. I wonder if any of those outcomes would really bother me.

That sounds worse than I meant it to. I’ve never had a death wish or suicidal ideation, but I’ve also never been afraid of dying either. Especially after I was thisfuckingclose with the Fournier’s.

That’s where my brain is tonight, a giant glowing ball of “what if”s.

I try not to play that game. It’s essentially a waste of time, right? “What if I’d…” The point is, I didn’t. I made the choices I made, and the shit that’s happened to me really and truly happened to me. Neither pondering nor rumination–nor watching “Casablanca” for the hundredth time–will change anything.

In “Casablanca,” the same things always happen to the same people. No matter what I wrote two years ago, Annie the Soapmaker doesn’t really rule there, nor does Lisbeth Salander play chess with Rick, or make sweet Sapphic love to Hermione Granger. (These things should be in “Casablanca,” of course, but they just aren’t) Sadly, Testarossa Ferrari never really existed outside this blog, and was only even visualized by the six or so people who read it. (Sorry, but I really liked ‘Rossa being Signor Ferrari’s elder daughter, and Annie the Soapmaker’s BFF)

This is a Ferrari Testarossa, in case you missed the joke:

The one in my story was just as sexy.

The one in my story was just as sexy.

A nice character, but her name was a cheap pun. Now I feel bad for her, although she couldn’t have been named after a much sexier machine than this one (and “F40 Ferrari” just doesn’t sound very feminine)

I’ll make it through another day. Today is over. I’ve taken my night meds, and I’ll be asleep soon enough. My weekend was a freakin’ blink, and now I have to be at work in 12.5 hours. Another week in the salt mines.

There are going to be days like this. There are going to be days where I think every rope I’ve used to pull myself out of this past year is unraveling, where I’m not feeling the joie de vivre. This is okay. I need to keep telling myself that: it’s only one day, and it will be okay. Just hang on till bedtime.

And as Jackson Browne sang, “And when the morning light comes streaming in, I’ll get up and do it again. Amen.”




3 Responses to “Lent in Casablanca: Two Years Later”

  1. *Hugs*
    I am sorry your brain asploded.
    But, you still got it, dude.
    I’m off to work singing. “get up and do it again, amen.”

  2. Oh, tom. I wish I could send you a little light—not brilliant sunshine, but more like the pole star on a winter’s night.

    When I’m feeling down I like going outdoors and looking at the night sky. I look for the north star, provided the damn street lights haven’t obliterated all the star light. Then I’ll go back in and finish the housework or whatever, then come back out again to look for it. And it’s always there, sometimes dim and shrouded over, sometimes looking a bit puny. I think happiness is like that too sometimes. It’s there, but it’s fogged over and puny from where I’m standing.


    • It’s funny you mention the north star. When I was, er, “vacationing at that really expensive, exclusive resort,” and I was still scared the first few nights, I did the same thing with Orion. As long as I could find that giant sonofabitch in the night sky, I felt like I’d be okay. And I was. 🙂

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