Tuesday, May 5, 2009


A week ago I had two strange coincidences that occured almost back to back. The first took place the day after I watched the movie Milk, a biography featuring Sean Penn as the first gay man to hold political office. During the film, we see his transition from an orderly insurance worker in New York City, to a bearded, pot-smoking hippie in San Fransisco, and then back to a clean shaven politician looking similar to what we saw at the beginning of the picture, only now more flamboyant and colorful.

One of the main antagonists in the film was Anita Bryant, a singer/Florida Citrus spokesperson turned activist, who campaigned against a local law that prohibited discrimination against homosexuals. During her political crusade she compared gays to "prostitues and people who sleep with St. Bernards," infuriating the gay community in her state. They struck back by boycotting Florida Citrus orange juice, and bars across the nation replaced it with apple juice in their Screwdrivers, dubbing it the "Anita Bryant". In one scene of the film, you can see one of Milk's campaign members wearing a shirt that says "Anita the Hun", a reference to the 4th century tyrant.

Another politician featured in the movie was John Briggs, who pushed Proposition 6, which made it illegal for homosexuals to teach in schools. Briggs and fellow gay-hater Anita thought it unethical that these people should be around their children all day, teaching them and influencing their ways. This is where my coincidence takes place:

The next day I was reading Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris, and the 4th from last short story ("Chicken in the Henhouse") sounded strikingly familiar. In the story, the author watches the news in his hotel room, which broadcast the same topics I earlier discussed. I might as well have been reading from the script of the movie: the same accusations against homosexual teachers are made, and the author, being openly gay himself, gives his own views on the topic. The main plot of the story involved the author helping a young boy carry coffee to his parents room, the whole time imagining how bad it probably looked. This took place i'm guessing in either the '80's or '90's, which shows how decades later the same issues are still being debated upon.

The second coincidence had to do with another David Sedaris story, and a tragic accident involving a lightning strike. A few days ago, my History teacher was telling the class about the 2009 HotDocs Film Festival being held in Toronto April 30th through May 10th. One particular documentary premiering at the event, was Act of God, which profiled lightning-strike victims and their different outlooks on life after the accident. Some believed that their lives had been spared in order to accomplish something great in the future, while others interpreted it as punishment for their sins.

While on the topic of lightning strikes, someone mentioned a freak accident that happend in Fredericson, New Brunswick, where a girl was completely vaporized by lightning during a softball game. Though I still wasn't sure wether I believed it or not, what shocked me the most was the randomness of the accident, and how it could occur to anyone. One minute you're watching your daughter/sister/girlfriend step up to bat, and then after a deafening clash of thunder, she's gone. As everyone recovers from the shock and makes sure they're okay, you're loved one is nowhere to be seen.

A few hours later when I was at home reading, I came across another David Sedaris essay (this time in When You Are Engulfed in Flames) that practicly summarized my thought from earlier that day. The story is called "The Monster Mash", and chronicles a series of visits the author made to a medical examiners office. There he witnesses severed victims from numerous freak accidents, such as random shootings at a hot dog stand, a woman crushed by a car that drove through her living room wall, and old people falling off ladders while replacing light bulbs. Once again, the uncertainty of these events crept into my head, and I experienced the same feeling of danger and insecurity as I did earlier when hearing about the the girl who was vaporized. One particular thought that was running in my mind was captured almost perfectly in this passage:

"No one is safe. The world is not manageable. The trick-or-treater may not be struck down on Halloween, but sooner or later he is going to get it, as am I, and everyone I have cared about."

Though odd and disturbing at times, my favorite aspect of his stories are the little random facts and sighting he mentions throughout his books. These may include a dog with a peg leg, a drug dealer's wife who refers to the remote as "the nigger", and other strange encounters and experiences. Having since finished both books, I hope maybe the next Sedaris book I read may bring forth more strange coincidences to ponder over.

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