Monday, April 18, 2005


April 14 was the 13th anniversary Gloria's and my marriage. It was also the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Anything further I might say of a humorous nature regarding this coincidence would not only make me feel like Alan King or Jackie Mason, or even worse, Jay Leno, it would also be irrelevant, given that my point has nothing to do with any similarity between my marriage and a disaster that would cost the lives of over 1,500 people.

My marriage has killed 300 people, tops, most of them unimportant.

Okay, maybe 500 people, but only one of them an Archbishop.

The thing is, I learned of this coincidence because Gloria and I were celebrating with a couple of nights at a very nice lodging in Carmel that (1) has a heated pool and (2) takes dogs, the two qualities that, among world travelers the globe around, separate accommodations fit for a caliph from squalor scarcely distinguishable from Indonesian prisons.

And on one of the mornings of our stay, I was up early, as is our habit on the road, we being inclined to hit the highway before the motel management has run our credit card through the American Hoteliers Skipper Check List and found to its dismay that our last name is not in fact Framsylwagensvoldt, and I was watching "What A Great Goddam Morning!" or whatever ABC or NBC calls their grievous wake-the-poor-slavish-bastards-in-the-American-workforce-to-your-advertisers programming.

I'll let you catch your breath deciphering that.

And they mentioned on the AM TV show that April 14 was the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and then they offered what I gather--because I am not ordinarily a viewer of this crap in the morning--is a regular feature, a little daily-topic trivia question.

Which was, in this case, "What year did the Titanic sink: 1912, 1922, or 1932?"
Well I, of course, immediately wanted to call whoever was doing the polling and cast my lot with 1967.

But it struck me that the sinking of the Titanic, which occurred in 1912, was a story of epic proportions, some 1,500 dead, many of them renowned personages, such as John Jacob Astor, an industrialist on a par with Bill Gates at the time, and Benjamin Guggenheim, of whose museum you may have heard, and Major Archie Butt, a luminary in the War Department back when they called a spade and spade and not a Defense Department, and Isidor Straus, and others of America's brightest and best-heeled, not to mention members of British royalty.

It was, both figuratively and for all practical purposes, the 9/11 event of its time. A HUGE deal, worldwide. But a deal whose time of hugeness has clearly passed.

And reflecting on this caused me to wonder, Will they be tossing out a similar trivia question some 80 or so years from now, along the lines of, "Did the terrorist attack known as 9/11 take place in 2001, 2007, or 2011?" I also wonder what percentage of the American public will know the answer. I'm thinking it won't be a prodigious number.

In the humor trade, there is the saying that Tragedy plus time equals comedy. But there is evidently a shelf-life factor at work there. Tragedy plus some time may equal comedy, but it seems that Tragedy plus a lot of time just equals trivia.


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