Friday, October 16, 2009

The Body is the Garden of the Soul

Golden Gate--
my photo

Though New York City is the setting of most of the play Angels in America, San Francisco is its heaven. Described poetically by Belize to Roy Cohn,

"Belize: Hell or heaven?

[Roy indicates "Heaven" through a glance]

Belize: Like San Francisco.

Roy Cohn: A city. Good. I was worried... it'd be a garden. I hate that shit.

Belize: Mmmm. Big city. Overgrown with weeds, but flowering weeds. On every corner a wrecking crew and something new and crooked going up catty corner to that. Windows missing in every edifice like broken teeth, fierce gusts of gritty wind, and a gray high sky full of ravens.

Roy Cohn: Isaiah.

Belize: Prophet birds, Roy. Piles of trash, but lapidary like rubies and obsidian, and diamond-colored cowspit streamers in the wind. And voting booths.

Roy Cohn: And a dragon atop a golden horde.

Belize: And everyone in Balencia gowns with red corsages, and big dance palaces full of music and lights and racial impurity and gender confusion. And all the deities are creole, mulatto, brown as the mouths of rivers. Race, taste and history finally overcome. And you ain't there.

Roy Cohn: And Heaven?

Belize: That was Heaven, Roy."

Tony Kushner

If the body is the garden of the soul, as the angel first tells Prior and then Hannah, Mormon mother of, as Prior says, his ex-lover's lover, the angel that gives them both orgasm with revelation, then, despite Roy Cohn's abhorrence of gardens, San Francisco is the city in which to tend the garden. Every single character in Angels is a revelation. In the end all are forgiven (or in the case of Roy Cohn, given Kaddish)-- blessed as Prior is blessed, as Prior blesses us at the play's end. Only Harper flies to San Francisco, freed at last from Joe, Roy's butt boy. But-- they all partake of the higher consciousness San Francisco represents. Is the final scene with Prior, Louis, Belize, and Hannah sitting by the Bethesda Fountain, guarded by the Angel of Bethesda, too optimistic?

My husband resides in San Francisco now. The city has been my Grail Castle since I first saw it in 1976 with Julian. It is a magical place full of the angels in America, fallen and risen alike.


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