Dooms Day

La Mort de César (ca. 1859–1867) by Jean-Léon Gérôme


Who is it in the press that calls on me?

I hear a tongue shriller than all the music

Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Beware the ides of March.

What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19
Today is bad omen day, or “I told you so” day. Julius Caesare apparently was warned of the treachery that awaited him at the Senate–many times and ways–yet he remained in denial, denying even his own gut feeling that the nasty-liver-missing-heartless entrails of a dozen or more sacrificed beasts did not bode well.
According to UK’s The Telegraph, The Ides of March: The assassination of Julius Caesar and how it changed the world, Caesar was warned by an entrails reader that ill fortune awaited him. According to this account, Caesar actually died with an unopened scroll in his hands, given to him by a messenger warning him of the treachery. But nooooo, he had to go to show good appearances, at the beckoning of his so-called friends and countrymen.
For drama’s sake, Shakespeare spiced up Caesar’s departure with parting words, “Et tu, Brute?” and anyone who knows anything popularly about Caesar’s death, probably knows it through Shakespeare’s play, required reading in many high schools and undergraduate college courses.
In the English-speaking world, we know a slightly different story, thanks to Shakespeare. He lifted Caesar’s dramatic dying words, “Et tu, Brute?” from an earlier play by Richard Edes, and made them a part of the assassination mythology. In reality, most Roman writers state that Caesar said nothing, but merely pulled his toga up over his face. They do note, however, that some people were spreading the story that Caesar had gasped, “καὶ σὺ, τέκνον?/You too, my child?” to Brutus. (Many Romans of all classes were bilingual, with the more educated frequently preferring to speak Greek.)
Most famously, however, Shakespeare does away with Spurinna, the venerable entrails-gazer, and instead invents a soothsayer in a crowd, who shouts the famous prophetic warning to Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March!” It is, perhaps, one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines and, as a direct result, “the Ides” has come to mean a date of doom.
Doomsday. I hope not. My father has a doctor’s appointment today in preparation for surgery. The innards of my breakfast cereal looked okay this morning, however. I think it’ll be all right.

Happy New Year! What Else Could I Write?

Happy arbitrarily chosen day to start counting all over again and feeling resolved to do things differently! Thank you, Caesar for setting this day in 46 B.C. of all days to start the new year, and not the logical one, which would be and was before him the vernal equinox, the official start of spring in late March. Just goes to show you, it’s good to be the king.

Resolving to make changes, do things right, and avoiding mistakes of the past is inspiriting. It’s the ultimate Mulligan. Who doesn’t love second chances (and third, fourth and fifth chances)? More importantly, who doesn’t love to be self-deluding? Not to be too cynical, but most of us make resolutions that stretch far into fantasy land of what I want to be when I grow up: thinner, stronger, healthier, wealthier, and a host more of -ers.

Truth is, those big resolutions that require the maker to do something avoided the previous twelve months are not going to magically happen with a declaration that it be so. Most understand that, so why make resolutions? Because it feels good to be resolved. It’s like any shot in the arm that gives a little boost from the limbic brain, like feeling sexy or getting out of the cold into a warm house. It just feels good.

A day for reflection, however chosen, is also a good thing, particularly because humans, Americans especially, seem to need to be told what to do when. That’s why we get a select few calendared holidays strictly enforced by the day off with stores closed and Hallmark greeting cards that remind us how we are supposed to feel. Think about how hard it is on Christmas day to be housebound because there is nothing open for distraction. Okay, except Starbucks…and the movie theaters. Just last week I surrendered to the deep desire to stay in pj’s all day and watch endless movies on Christmas day with the all-right-in-the-world justification of knowing that that is what my country wants me to do. Why else would I have the day off with almost everyone else?

Besides, the recovery from an after calamitous Christmas shopping for days on end hangover was much needed. So Christmas day is for recovery of one sort and New Years day is recovery of another–the obligatory drinking. How else does one know one is truly happy and celebratory if not drunk? I must admit the dry years and the wet years made the difference between boredom and enthusiasm vis a vis heralding in the new year. Oddly or maybe not so oddly enough, in the sober year ends, I never saw midnight except in the visions dancing before closed lids.

This evening, I will imbibe a bit, but probably just enough to keep me warm not sleepy. I don’t want to miss the stroke of midnight good cheer with the clinking of glasses and kissing of cheeks, some with loving embrace. The ritual synchronizes me. All is right in the world when I follow the rules of new years eve obligatory good feeling and hope.

Even though the rituals have changed throughout the years–from waking the kids up for pots and pans banging when they were little, to poppers and noise makers when they were a little older, to trying to stay awake til they got home safely–they still are important for setting the rhythm of days: wiping my hands clean of the old to roll up my sleeves and dig into the new.


Two feet on either side, straddling the old year and the new, I step into the new year at 12:00 a.m. just as the last possible touch of the toe tip of my high-heeled boot lifts from the pavement of the old year to meet its mate in the new. This is the constant: keep on walking.

And don’t look back. Every year I resolve not to resolve but to keep up the good work of living. Like every year, it was the worst of times and the best of times–more or less. I had the good fortune of testing my mettle to its very painful depths in hardship and loss this year and found that I am stronger than I know and have so many who love me more than I shamefacedly have realized. I had the misfortune of resting in half sleep for days on end in the contentment that comes with ease and comfort. And the new year will bring more of the same.

I wish all of you who I am so grateful for and have enjoyed in my slapdash, sometimes frenetic attempt at a meaningful sharing of the fragments of my memory, thought and pleasures in this blog, a happily, merry, loving evening. See you tomorrow (I will tap softly on the keyboards in deference to your sensitive state in the morning ;))

The gaze