Monday, March 06, 2006

Ash Wednesday

March 1 was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I'm not normally a very good Catholic, but the guilt-ridden years of Catechism, Confirmation courses and Youth Ministry catch up with me every spring right around Girl Scout Cookie time. (Why? Why?!) All my mother has to do is mention Ash Wednesday and the next thing I know I'm standing inside a half-empty church in Van Nuys getting ashes and soot smeared across my forehead. And for the next forty (40) days, I'll be as good of a non-church-going Catholic as I possibly can be.

This year's Ash Wednesday physical challenge was to get from work (in Sherman Oaks) to church (anywhere with an English language mass) to the Walt Disney concert hall (downtown) by 8pm, without eating or cursing. The fasting portion of Ash Wednesday is always a challenge for me, but the cursing (which I have given up for every Lent since I learned what "C U Next Tuesday" meant) is close to impossible. My friends had gotten tickets to hear Salman Rushdie speak, and I figured that it was probably the only way I was ever going to learn what to do should an Islamic government issue a fatwa against me. Obviously, I had to attend.

I made it, with time to spare and only two funny looks at my forehead. As expected, it was worth it. Rushdie is a great speaker. You wouldn't (well, at least I wouldn't) think that a man who spent nine years in hiding would be funny. But he was. He was poignant and relevant and extremely entertaining. I don't know if I'd have paid $80 to see him, but I'm glad I went.

While he did discuss a myriad of topics, the two that stick out most in my mind are his views on religion, and subsequently that pesky little fatwa. I did (and still do) find it ironic that as the man went on and on about the dangers of organized religion and how it nearly killed him, I'm sitting in the audience with a massive ashen cross on my forehead. I know he was referring to extremist Islamics, but...just the same. It was funny.

Now, I didn't pick up any tips on exactly how to "live on the lam" should an oppressive regime ever make numerous attempts on my life, but I did pick up a little something that will help me get through Lent. When asked about what it was like after finding out that Iranian clerics wanted him dead, Rushdie said, "Or as we say at my house, 'when the excrement hit the ventilation system.'"

Now, to most people, that would just be funny. But to a girl with the mouth of a sailor who can't curse for forty (40) days, that's sheer brilliance. Simple, but to-the-point. Who would have thought that of all people, Salman Rushdie was going to get this little potty-mouth through Lent?

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