Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why I'm Reading “Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit” in Rittenhouse Square

The simple reason, and the glib one, is I'm doing it to do it. Look to the anarchists and Situationists for that logic: the purpose of the act is the act itself; all other goals are incidental and impossible to predict. There is a larger reason, but it doesn't touch on politics or art. The core purpose remains, and always will remain, to do this because I think it'll be fun.

I could say the root of the idea goes back to college when I wanted to prank the street corner preachers by shouting from Green Eggs and Ham from the opposite corner, but the real root came from Occupy Philly. Their encampment at City Hall had a kids' corner and the occupation was happening during October. The natural thing seemed to be to read Bunnicula out loud to those kids. I never made it happen though. It just remained another one of those ideas that I never followed through on.

Only this idea stayed with me. If not at Occupy, then in Rittenhouse Square, the next most public gathering place in Philly. The text changed as well. Bunnicula is only compelling in the run-up to Halloween. I thought about reading a Wodehouse book all the way through, doing a new one every weekend in fact. Become a strange fixture in the park, performing but never asking for money, arriving, reading, then leaving all without comment. Keep it strange.

I'm a big fan of keep it strange. Philebrity has “keep Philly weird” as their slogan and I appreciate that sentiment. As quiet and middle-class as I am (and existing in every state of privilege that one can), I've never been a fan of suburban normalcy; I've always felt like the freak and I've always felt like I've been getting everything wrong. I do mean “everything:” how to be a man, how to be an adult, what I'm supposed to enjoy, what life I'm supposed to live, what, ultimately, dreams are okay to have and which ones aren't. That's what this really comes down to, insisting that different ways of dreaming are okay.

Reading a Wodehouse story out loud is not a radical act and no amount of intellectual gymnastics can make it one. However it does represent an opening of possibilities. This act, any act, asserts that this is a world where these things can happen and if these things, why not others? I want to create moments for people where they wonder later if that really happened, if they understood what was going on, if there's anyone else who can confirm it for them. I want a world with moments of inexplicable beauty and I don't want that in some eye-rollingly cliched hippy sense. Thinking about doing this makes me giddy because I know I'm going to be really self-conscious while doing it, that probably no one will pay attention, that I might even get in trouble because if you do anything that steps even slightly outside of what's expected, people get snippy. But I want that.

I'm 33 and want the world to still make me giddy so I'm going to read in Rittenhouse Square.