These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Once Upon a Midnight Dreary…

Posted on February 3, 2013 by Naomi Bilmes

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From my blog:

It’s Saturday night in Israel. You know what that means: Put your head on the pillow by 9pm because tomorrow is a work day, which is fine, because who needs Sunday anyway? Sunday is a totally over-rated day of the week: people just use them to do chores, which you could do just as well on Friday afternoon in the thirty minutes before the sun sets. And thirty minutes is really all the time a person needs to spend on chores during week, because more than that is just self-indulgent, don’t you think so?

Right. Saturday night. Despite the above rant about chores, Saturday evenings here are not as humdrum as you might think.They often involve:

  1. chShowers
  2. Facebook
  3. Leftover cholent (yes, I’m cringing, too, but it happens)
  4. Juggling
  5. Dish-washing
  6. Laundry
  7. Going over your class notes from soooo long ago… oh wait, that was only Thursday

See? Totally not humdrum. In fact, it’s murdmuh! (and you thought it wasn’t a palindrome. Ha). But tonight was especially eventful. In addition to all of the above, this evening involved football and poetry.

An odd pairing, you say? Not so, not so. Especially when an English major, a linguistically-focused Wikipedian, and a blue-and-pink-sweatpant-wearing engineer are in the same room. (Please try this at home. Anything can happen.)

As you all know, the Super Bowl is on February 3rd, which just happens to be…very soon. Impressively, I know which teams are playing, what time the game is, the blood-relationship of the two coaches, and who will be singing at half-time with Blue Ivy strapped into her Babybjorn. I owe my new-found knowledge to one of my flatmates, who was born with a mutation on chromosome 14, causing him to be an overly-avid Ravens fan since his conception.

Yup – gene mutation.

To get us “pumped up” for the big game (which I will not be watching, considering it begins at 1:30 am Israel time), we watched a few Ravens highlight videos, complete with tense music from Lord of the Rings (well, not really, but I could totally see Smeagol falling into Mordor right behind that guy catching a touchdown pass). After the second video, my flatmate asked,

“So, which one did you like better?”

“The second one,” I replied.

“Oh right, ‘cuz you knew the poem.”

“Duh! The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe! Such a good poem! It’s so cool that they used it!”

“Umm…the Ravens are actually named for that poem.”

(I burst out laughing. My roommate plows ahead with his ridiculous theory):

“Yeah, Edgar Allan Poe is from Baltimore.”

(In my head: Hahahahaha bollox, that’s a laugh. Everyone knows Poe was born in Boston, moved to Richmond, fell in love with his cousin Virginia, went to Westpoint, then shaved his head and became macabre, writing stories about hearts in walls and ushers, thus starting what we now call the Goth movement. No way is a football team named after him.)

“That’s ridiculous,” I replied. “Prove it.”

The internet provided our answer. It turns out that, as of 1996, the people of Baltimore participated in a poll to pick the name of their new football team. In honor of Poe, who lived in Baltimore from 1831 to 1835, and whose poem The Raven is one of the best-known in history, the Baltimorians chose “Ravens.”

I was astounded. Could it be that chest-pounding, body-smacking, wing-eating football fans have a taste for the literary? Gulp. My perception of the world was crumbling around me.

But I rallied. I insisted that we now find the poem online and read it out loud. Eight minutes later, after taking turns reading Poe’s foreboding words in deep, foreboding voices, we were all entranced with

the raven on his chamber door
that came from Plutonius’ deathly shore
from which the lovely, lady Lenore,
shall return – nevermore.

And thus we were stunned into silence. My football-loving roommate admitted that the poem was kind of awesome, and I admitted that there might be one small redeeming thing about football. And peace was made between two worlds – at least for tonight.

And the poem, panic-stricken, still is written, still is written,
On the parchment piece of sheepskin just above my chamber door;
And her eyes are plainly keening, at the candle hotly beaming
Football fire, shooting, streaming throwing licks up to the door;
But their souls from out that mire float and twine into a core
With a hand-shake that was never, in all history, seen before
And shall not cease – forevermore!