Him, Claudius

Monday means BARTing into the city to work at Black Sheets, and as I walked to the train, there was an… interesting sight on the patch of green between sidewalk and street — a man and woman were tangled together, rolling in the grass and enjoying an extended horizontal kiss like From Here to Eternity.

Nothing illegal, mind you, or even immoral, but it looked like fun. They were obviously horny, and only slightly distracted by their children, who were climbing atop the pile of parents. Mommy laughed, Daddy laughed, the kids laughed, and even I laughed.

I prefer kissing behind closed doors when I get the chance, which is never, but it was a sweet scene. It looked like genuine family values, as opposed to the Republican kind. Those two are always opposed.

♦ ♦ ♦  

I'd accepted another invitation from my new pals, Jacque and Lori, so after Black Sheets I BARTed to Berkeley, and there I was, banging on the door of the big brown house they share with so many other people.

This time nobody answered, but the door was unlocked so after a respectful pause I let myself in, walked down to the basement, and knocked on the next door.

Dinner was great. Lori had made Chinese noodles with oodles of vegetables. And the conversation was better than last time.

Not only did we not talk about politics, but I discovered that Jacque has adopted baseball as his passion. That's kooky because he's a French immigrant, and says he never understood the game before coming here, so we talked about the Giants and A's prospects, and Lori wasn't left out because she's a fan, too.

And wow, she sure is pregnant. Their kid's gonna be late for kindergarten if it doesn't pop out soon. I asked when she's going to burst, and she said a week from tomorrow, but I didn't know what else to ask except how are you going to raise a child in this one room that's already full? And that's not a question for me to ask.

After dinner, I helped Lori carry the dishes to the dresser (their system is complicated, but that's where dishes wait to be washed).

Jacque had promised a noir double feature, but instead he said, "I've been having an itch for I, Claudius."

"Oh?" I said flatly. 

"Yeah, it's great," he said. "Have you ever seen it?"

"It's an old TV show, right? PBS?" 

"Yes, Masterpiece Theatre, and it's wonderful," he promised, but I was skeptical. "I have all 13 episodes on tape, and I've seen them four times. That's how good it is. But it's been a few years, and Lori has never seen it, can you believe it?"

"Neither have I," I said, as disinterested as possible without seeming simply rude. Never seen it, never wanted to, and I remember being bored even hearing about it in the 1970s, when everyone was talking about that show.

"Well, you're both in for a treat," he said, and with that Jacque reached for a cassette, and stuffy old Alistair Cooke started telling us what we were about to see — something I object to, on principle. A drama should stand on its own, without needing an introduction.

And then, I, Claudius, and I, bored silly. I have a severe lack of giveadamnitude about the lives of powerful men and women, from Robin Leach to Stacy Keach, and a soap opera about long-dead slave-owners and rulers and wanna-be gods is not something I'm naturally inclined toward. I slept through the Roman Empire in high school (slept through all of high school, actually, before dropping out).

But Jacque had been kind enough to invite me and Lori kind enough to feed me, so I thought I could give this silly show half an hour's try, just to be polite. When it became unbearably dull I could start an argument with Jacque and stomp out, or feign stomach cramps or something.

After ten minutes of palace intrigue, Lori flashed me a stage yawn when Jacque wasn't looking, and I laughed out loud and then lied about why I'd laughed.

After twenty minutes, the names and complicated inter-relationships were still eluding me, and Jacque pause it to tutor me through who was who's mother and who's wife and who's lover, rewinding and freeze-framing to sort out the cast of characters.

Half an hour into it, I was hooked. The political backstabbing makes for grand fun, and when someone professes love and loyalty, when two people embrace and swear eternal brotherhood, the next scene reveals every word of it to be a lie, just like most 'friendships' here in the real world. To my surprise, I, Claudius is fascinating, funny, and intelligent, at least so far.

There wasn't much time for talking between episodes, and after the fourth hour I wanted a fifth but felt I'd overstayed my welcome, so I said my thank youse for dinner, good company, good times.

Instead of a handshake I gave Jacque & Lori a big hug on my way out. I've decided they're two true friends forever, through thick and thin and whatever may come, at least until I've seen all 13 episodes.

From Pathetic Life #22
Monday, March 25, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. I don't remember reading about them in your present-day posts. Did you keep in contact with them?

    1. I don't much keep in contact with anyone, barely even family. I know nothing of the present-day whereabouts of Jacque and Lori, nor for that matter anyone mentioned in Pathetic Life except my Mom and siblings.

      Maybe you're Jacque?

    2. My name starts with a J but sadly I'm not him.


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