Stop! In the name of love…
Let’s face it: Valentine’s Day can be rough, and not just for the single folks out there. If one is in a committed relationship of any kind, there’s an inherent expectation of flowers, candy and jewelry sparkling in the candlelight of romantic dinners being held all over the world on February 14th. Each year, I hear folks cursing a certain company (rhymes with ballpark) for “inventing” a holiday just to sell cards, but truth be told, this particular celebration goes wayyyy back. As I mentally prepared to take part in a “Yarnslingers” story-telling event last week, I dug up a bit of info regarding the history of Valentine’s Day, determined to put to rest the rumor that Kansas City, MO’s Hall family conspired to bilk the American public out of billions of dollars by creating the holiday out of thin air in the early 1900s.
Ramona Jan’s writers group, “Yarnslingers,” (like ‘em on Facebook) has been around for years, but it’s been a while since a public reading. Love was in the air as folks filled the café (www.adelladori. net) in Callicoon, NY for an afternoon of Stop! In the name of love… original short stories based on a common theme: “Mother.” Isabel Braverman, Evan Eisenberg, Helena Clare Pittman and Paola Tawa joined Jan, me and Kazzrie Jaxen in loving celebration of Jaxen’s mother Mary Gorill, who spent the last years of her life with Kazzrie in Callicoon before passing away last December at the age of 101. As usual, the authors provided pieces that were happy, sad, tragic and glad. The audience response was so enthusiastic that Café Adella Dori owner Eva Barnett has asked the Yarnslingers to return in May. In fact, Barnett, who named the place after her own mother and grandmother, has expressed a desire to make the café the “new home” for the story-telling group, so stay tuned.
Arriving at my own home that afternoon, I was reminded that a different sort of love was in the air as the Wonder Dog and I got a whiff of skunk wafting through the barren trees, which gave me pause. February is for lovers of all kinds, including the adorable striped creatures who begin their mating ritual at this time of year. Why they are so drawn to crossing the road in pursuit of a mate is anybody’s guess, but love makes us all do crazy things. Where was I? Oh, right, the greeting-card fiasco. Author Arnie Seipel wrote a great (IMHO) piece on the subject for National Public Radio (NPR) in 2011, delineating the history of the holiday, which began a bit bloody. “In ancient Rome,” he writes, “men sacrificed a goat and a dog (don’t tell Dharma!) and then whipped women with the hides of the slain animals.
The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew names of women from a jar, and (according to Seipel’s research) the ladies “lined up” for the event—which sounds short-sighted to me, but then again… I’m single. The ancient Romans also executed two men, both named Valentine, on February 14th of different years in the third century, making it clear that the Halls merely capitalized on a theme romanticized by many—including William Shakespeare, whose writing contributed greatly to the popularity of Valentine’s Day as we now know it.
“You’ve never heard of Shlomo Franklin?” I asked a friend, after running into her at the market. “Oh, you’re going to love him!” I enthused, while informing her that Franklin and his band were slated to perform in Parksville (www. cabernetfranks.com) last Saturday night. “And the food is swell, too!” The singer/songwriter’s website (www. shlomofranklin.com) provides some biographical info, including the fact that Franklin “grew up on a farm milking cows in Bethel, NY, where he developed his own style of music inspired by the neighboring grounds of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival and fellow musicians Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.” There were Franklin aficionados in the house, mixed with newbies just discovering the Parksville hot spot, and everyone had a blast showering Shlomo and Co. with love.
Spying Shlomo holding hands with his girlfriend, I reminded him that Valentine’s Day was fast approaching. “Oh, c’mon” Franklin whispered. “That’s just a holiday made up in order to sell flowers,” he said. “It’s just crass commercialization.” While the market research firm IBIS World indicates that the “Hallmark Holiday” is expected to generate sales in excess of $18 billion this year. I shared some of my newfound knowledge with Shlomo. “Not really,” I said. “It’s been around for a while. Aside from that, I agree with Helen Fisher [a sociologist at Rutgers University], who said, “This isn’t a command performance.” Fisher continued, “If people didn’t want to buy Hallmark cards, they wouldn’t be bought,” echoing my sentiments. Still feel like complaining? Stop! In the name of love.