Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Amphigory, Aldo and Super Chicken

With Easter coming up, I often think about the strange and wonderful Easter customs in my family.
I love the Easter holidays in general but I never enjoyed Easter Monday. All the preparations that precede that day were fun - decorating our home, painting eggs, baking the special Easter bun or the Easter lamb... but then came Easter Monday to ruin it all. I always tried to hide but somehow they always found me. Where my Dads family were from, the boys not only run around to whip you and get an egg or if they are older a shot of home-made brandy - as they do in Bohemia - they come and throw you in a stream, or put your head under a water pipe to be sure to give you a good shower... and NOT just once. It's only when you're in a town that you're lucky there's no stream around and the worst they can do is give you a shower or a swirly in the toilet in your own bathroom. But as if that weren't enough, they spray you with perfume, too, if it were something-anything- from Guerlain, I would not mind a bit, but it was usually Avon's vile elixir (that I am sure caused as many birth defects as Thalidomide) called "Roses, Roses, Roses" that was the weapon of choice. Even though I was/am a boy, I always was the target of the males in my family as there was not a "Girl" - pardon the expression- to be had in the immediate family, save my Mom or my mammy Aida.
Other customs included my getting the first slice of the Simnel Cake since I was the youngest, (The Simnel cake is a rich fruitcake covered with a thick layer of almond paste (marzipan). A layer of marzipan is also traditionally baked into the middle of the cake) not to mention the odd presents I received over the years- usually from my Grandmother "Miz Hyacinth".
On every Easter I would get a basket with the usual fare, the chocolate eggs and bunnies (that I would immediately bite the ears off of, then wander around the house holding it's slowly melting body in my hot little hands saying, "What? What? I can't hear you!") but Mis Hyacinth would always add a few touches of the macabre to this basket-o-sugar.
On more than a few Easter mornings over the years I received the ubiquitous "Lucky Rabbits Foot" key chains, (Not so lucky for the rabbit) a hand mirror with a portrait of Mussolini painted on the back, a Netsuke carving of two Asian people mid coitus, invitations to join the "Daughters of the American Revolution" and "The Sons of Italy", a potted plant (dieffenbachia), a bad imitation Faberge egg and on seven consecutive years, I was gifted with the following Edward Gorey classics-
Age six:
The Bug Book
The Fatal Lozenge: An Alphabet
The Curious Sofa: A Pornographic Tale by Ogdred Weary
The Hapless Child
The Willowdale Handcar: Or, the Return of the Black Doll
Age seven:
The Beastly Baby
The Vinegar Works: Three Volumes of Moral Instruction
The Gashlycrumb Tinies
The Insect God
The West Wing
Age Eight:
The Wuggly Ump
The Nursery Frieze
The Sinking Spell
The Remembered Visit: A Story Taken From Life
Age nine:
The Evil Garden
The Inanimate Tragedy
The Pious Infant

Age ten:
The Gilded Bat, Cape
The Utter Zoo
The Other Statue
The Blue Aspic
The Epiplectic Bicycle

Age eleven:
The Iron Tonic: Or, A Winter Afternoon in Lonely Valley
The Chinese Obelisks: Fourth Alphabet
Donald Has A Difficulty
The Osbick Bird
The Sopping Thursday

Age twelve:
The Deranged Cousins
The Eleventh Episode
The Untitled Book
The Awdrey-Gore Legacy
Leaves From A Mislaid Album
The Abandoned Sock
A Limerick
The Lost Lions

After these, I received The Glorious Nosebleed: Fifth Alphabet when I was 14, and The Fraught Settee when I was 28, strange that, huh? I really must complete my library one day...
I totally learned at an early age to appreciate Gorey's way of thinking.
In his own words- "Ideally, if anything [was] any good, it would be indescribable."
Gorey classified his own work as literary nonsense, the genre made most famous by Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. Gorey seemed to love the precision involved in this genre, and, in response to the accusation of being Gothic, he stated, "If you're doing nonsense it has to be rather awful, because there'd be no point. I'm trying to think if there's sunny nonsense. Sunny, funny nonsense for children—oh, how boring, boring, boring. As Schubert said, there is no happy music. And that's true, there really isn't. And there's probably no happy nonsense, either."
I concur.
Another strange custom was a song my mammy used to sing to me. Its called "Aldo The Easter Bunny", I am not sure if this was a real song or something she made up... All I know is Aldo is a kind of Italian name for the Easter Bunny...

Al-do The Ea-ster Bun-ny, running on his springy rubber legs,
Aldo The Easter Bunny, bringing kids their Easter Eggs.
One Easter he was running, They say he slipped and fell.
But He didn't break a single egg or even crack a shell.
Then- Hop, hop, hop, Jump, jump, jump, poor Aldo couldn't run!
Hop, hop, hop Jump, jump, jump, around to every-one.
When the children woke that Easter morn, their Easter eggs were there,
But no one knew poor Aldo was a little crippled hare.
Aldo the easter Bunny, had to hop the whole day through,
He couldn't run from hunters like other bunnies do,
Aldo the easter Bunny would hide in bright day light,
He'd gather all his easter eggs and color them at night,
Then Ding, ding, ding, dong, dong, dong, went the Easter bell,
Then- Run, run, run, rush, rush, rush, Aldos knee was well,
When the children woke that Easter morn, their Easter eggs were there,
And Aldo the Easter Bunny, is a happy little hare!

(and they wonder why I drink)

The Crippled Deaf Chocolate Bunny
2 oz dark creme de cacao
2 oz vodka
2 tsp chocolate syrup
2 tsp cherry brandy
Shake creme de cacao and vodka with ice. Strain over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Float chocolate syrup and cherry brandy. Supersauce...

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zeitgeist, particular friend, perky libertine, animated trickster, iconoclast, rabble-rouser, object of worship, provocateur, capricious damp enchantress, idiosyncratic beloved reptile, whimsical saucy booze hound, bellwether, luminary, stoic, pensive illicit paramour, aloof, engaged, intuitive, curious, perplexing deranged mastermind, passionate, lasciviously adored offspring, amorous, sultry flamboyant charioteer, scholar, scribe, exalted thespian, voracious, considerable chieftain, impaired, cynical colleague, dreamer, procrastinator, loathsome glutton, artist, oppressed peasant, dainty heathen, narcissist, self-loathing...renaissance man