The Original “Black Friday”

The first two weeks of November were jammed with “un-often” events this year.  For starters the bright light of Halloween’s blue moon spilled into the wee hours of November 1st.  During those same wee hours most of us lost Daylight Savings Time.  The very next day (Monday) marked the official arrival of Hurricane Eta to our shores. The day after that we voted in a presidential election. A week later we staged the Masters golf tournament (it’s supposed to be in April, people).  Then we had another hurricane (Iota), the first time we’ve had two in November.  Finally, we spiked positive COVID-19 tests in record numbers after months of declines.

That’s a pile of rarities in a short amount of time.  So why not add one more to the heap?  Friday the 13th.  I missed it completely.  Maybe you missed it too (and you’d be forgiven with all those other distractions).  Last Friday – the 13th – came and went without an ounce of bad luck to blog about.  Ironically, the only story I can share brought good luck.  I placed a carry-out dinner order last Thursday night and the restaurant gave me someone else’s food.  When I went back for the right order they told me to keep both.  As a result my Friday the 13th dinner was unexpectedly “on the house”.

Are you superstitious?  I’m not – not in the least.  I have no problems with sidewalk cracks, leaning ladders, or black cats. I don’t lose sleep anticipating the third occurrence of a bad thing.  I gladly pick up a penny (it’s free money after all) but with no expectations of luck.  I’ve broken mirrors (deliberately, in remodel projects) and wishbones (on a whim, in turkeys).  I’ve even knocked on lots of wood (mostly doors) but hey, my life goes on as usual.

Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece

As for Friday the 13th’s “un-luck”, its long-ago origins are suspiciously weak.  The most common comes from the story of Jesus in the Bible: thirteen individuals at the Last Supper (Thursday) followed by Jesus’ foretold crucifixion the following day.  Other theories point to fighting gods in mythology and fighting knights in the Middle Ages.  None of these carry water in my book.  Seriously, how did misfortune come to be associated with the collision of a particular day and date?

I read up on calendar averages, thinking the 13th falling on a Friday was as uncommon as a blue moon.  Maybe the 13th favors the other days of the week instead?  Nope, try the reverse.  Over a significant number of years the 13th falls on Friday more than Saturday, Sunday, or any other day of the week.

To add a helping of confusion, look no further than Spain or Greece.  These countries have an irrational fear of Tuesday the 13th.  Italy?  Friday the 17th.  Imagine watching America’s famous horror movie franchise in any of these places and wondering, “so… why do they call it ‘Friday the 13th'”?

No matter my efforts to undermine this superstition, the effects are real.  Over 17 million Americans admit to a dread of Friday the 13th.  Some avoid airplane travel and others won’t even get out of bed.  Buildings remove the thirteenth floor from the stack (which is a lot of demolition for a superstition, isn’t it?)  Elevators conspicuously delete the “13” button.  Numbered seats in stadiums go 10, 11, 12… 14, 15, 16.

For some of you, Black Friday means bargains.  For others, Black Friday means “13”. If nothing else, I’ll give you a couple of words to describe the circumstance of the latter’s irrational fear.  If you’re afraid of the number 13 you have triskaidekaphobia.  If you’re afraid of just Friday the 13th you have paraskevidekatriaphobia.  (Me, I only have acrophobia.  At least your phobias sound more sophisticated.)

Fact check.  This post was published close to the midpoint between Black Friday (the 13th) and Black Friday (the retail binge).  Okay-y-y-y.  This post also contains exactly 666 words.  WHOO boy.

Let me repeat… I am NOT superstitious.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Pageant of the Masters

In the small but wealthy community of Laguna Beach, California, the crown jewel of the annual Festival of Arts is an event known as the Pageant of the Masters.  The Pageant is remarkable entertainment: ninety minutes of classical and contemporary art pieces, recreated one-by-one on stage in larger-than-life frames, using real people instead of their painted counterparts.  Makeup, lighting, and carefully choreographed sets complete each “painting”, resulting in a remarkably accurate depiction when the curtain sweeps aside.  Add in the accompanying music from the live orchestra and it is a nonpareil performance.  Thousands attend the Pageant each summer, as they have since its beginnings in 1932.

In the smaller but modest community of Augusta, Georgia, the sporting world was witness to another nonpareil performance last weekend – the Masters golf tournament.  Just like the Pageant, thousands attend golf’s Masters each April, as they have since its beginnings in 1934.  To me, the Masters is golf as a fine art.

39 - nonpareil 1

Whether or not you play golf – whether or not you even like golf – there is no denying the Augusta National Golf Club is a beautiful place.  The photos here do not do it justice, but most of us will have to settle for just that – photos.  Tickets to the Masters go on the market a year in advance (apply now for 2017!), and a four-day tournament badge runs upwards of $2,500.  Candidly, even a golf fan like myself – who has “visit Augusta National” on his bucket list – would rather watch the action on television.  The price of cable gets you far more camera angles and coverage than you could ever hope for in person.

Augusta National’s eighteen holes are so revered that each one has been given a name.  The first photo above is #12 “Golden Bell”, the shortest but perhaps trickiest of them all.  It’s a spectacular par-3 where the tee shot must clear water and then land on a small green protected by several sand bunkers.  This year’s tournament was lost on this hole.

39 - nonpareil 2

This photo is #15 “Firethorn”, a twisting par-5 that tempts you to go for the green in two – if you’re brave enough to tune out the creek that runs in front of and behind the green.  Firethorn also has the distinction of a hole where Masters tournaments have been won or lost.

39 - nonpareil 3

It’s easy to get lost in the pageantry of the Masters, whether it be the ceremonial opening tee shots from prior champions, the CBS theme song “Augusta”, the reverent tones of commentator Jim Nantz, or the endless camera shots of the color-burst of spring azaleas against the backdrop of bright green fairways.  But don’t ignore the play itself.  You’re witnessing one hundred of the world’s best golfers, competing on one of sport’s most difficult stages.  Watch them as they bend shots blindly around trees and over water, or curl in putts that move from left to right and then left again.  Augusta National is a true test of composure and will.  Masters champions are artists in their own right.  Like Laguna Beach, it really is a Pageant of the Masters.

Photos courtesy of the Official Program of the 2006 Masters Tournament