Journal entry: March 15, 2010 (age 40) – Ides of March
Beware the Ides of March. The seer in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar probably wasn’t warning us that a rock and roll band named the Ides of March would record a one-hit-wonder called “Vehicle” in 1970. (Although, perhaps he should have.) The day has an inescapably negative vibe.
In the Roman calendar, the “ides” refers to the 15th day in the months of March, May, July, and October. It also refers to the 13th day in all the other months, making them double whammies of bad luck. Some scholars believe the remaining, 30-odd days in the month were simply known as “Luigi.” The same scholars believe the resulting confusion led to the fall of the empire, or at least to Nero’s incendiary solo performance of Fiddler on the Roof. These scholars didn’t graduate at the top of their class in scholar school. (Recently, however, they were able to land jobs rewriting Texas schoolbooks.)
But back to actual history. Caesar’s friend, Marcus Junius Brutus, was among the 60 conspirators who stabbed and killed the emperor on the Ides of March. Brutus must have felt like something of a schmuck when the mortally wounded leader singled him out for a guilt trip. Caesar asked his traitorous friend, “Et tu, Brute?,” which roughly translates as “Really, Brutus? Really?”
But most people don’t know these facts. How can we celebrate a day if we don’t remember its history? I think it might help if we gave the day a more mnemonic moniker. A better name might be “The Homicides of March.” Or “Et tu Brute Day.” Or perhaps, to make the day more relatable for modern Americans, we could name the day “A Month Before the IRS of April,” which, in turn, would be known as “The Day We Give to Caesar What is Caesar’s.”
A more marketable name would create a boon for Hallmark, and give Americans a chance to celebrate death just before we kill millions of brain cells on the solemn feast day of St. Patrick. It’s too late to plan an office party for this year’s Ides, but we can all start planning ahead for next year. Our friends and countrymen from work will be excited to show up for a potluck lunch on Casual Toga Day. The break room, playfully rechristened the “Caesarean section,” will be filled with Little Caesar’s pizzas, Caesar salads, ramen noodles, and decapitated heads of romaine lettuce. Everyone will be encouraged to hang onto his or her plastic spork for the post-lunch “Fake Stabbing of the Boss” event. Good times.
Perhaps the best way to commemorate the Ides of March would be to avoid going to any kind of theatre. Julius Caesar was killed on his way to the Theatre of Pompey (not “Pompeii,” which would have been too obvious). An 1864 production of Julius Caesar at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York starred John Wilkes Booth, who, of course, would later sic his temper on Honest Abe at Ford’s Theatre. (Et tu, Johnny?) In order to underline my point, I looked up the worst theatrical work that I could think of, to see if it had any connection to this ill-fated day. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s train wreck, Starlight Express, opened on Broadway in 1987. March 15, 1987.