OK, I admit it - I'm a cultural nincompoop.
The other day, I watched "Fiddler on the Roof" for the first time. This in itself shows how uncultured I am, having lived the last 40 years without catching a single glimpse of the thing.
Personally, I don't consider that such a bad thing. I've never seen any "Twilight" installment, either, and cannot muster up a single regret, remorse or repentance for it.
Anyway, Terry and I visited friends. Popcorn was popped, cola was poured, and we settled in to watch a DVD of "Fiddler," the Academy Award-winning 1971 film based on the smash 1964 Broadway musical. They assured me that I was in for one fine treat.
When the video ended, I sat dazed.
Hope for my redemption brimming in her eyes, my wife asked, "Well, what did you think?"
I blinked. "What happened?''
I stared at the now-blank screen, the first thing I understood all night. ''Seriously. What was that about? There was no story."
''Of course there was a story," Terry blustered.
"'Rambo' has a story - blow away the bad guys and rescue the prisoners. 'Batman' has a story - the brooding dark knight knocks out freaky bad guys and saves Gotham City. Even 'Finding Nemo' has a story - a wimpy fish dad musters the courage to face down sharks and whales and ravenous birds to rescue his son.
''But this, this was a bunch of people singing and dancing for no apparent reason for three hours - three hours! Then the movie ends. They all trudged away. Where? Why? Who knows! Nothing happened."
A bit of hope had glimmered when Starsky - or possibly Hutch - showed up, but he brought neither the red Gran Torino for car chases nor any guns or badges for shootouts and arresting bad guys. He could have taken out that creepy fiddler.
Instead, he grabbed some girl by the hands and danced until she promised to marry him. She probably said yes so he'd stop twirling her around.
Terry and our friends tried for an hour to explain "Fiddler" to me. Apparently, metaphors, symbolism, allegories and other pests litter the thing, portraying life and faith and trials and pain. I missed every one of those critters while searching for a plot - any plot - through a muddle of singing and dancing.
"Culture shock," Daryl diagnosed. "Did you ever see 'The Sound of Music'?''
Not on purpose. How is "A Few of My Favorite Things" a Christmas song? Maybe I should have paid attention instead of letting my feet say goodbye.
"I guess I just don't get musicals," I said. "Nor operas, except 'Phantom of the Opera.' I saw that staged twice."
"That wasn't an opera. It was a musical."
"Oh. Well, it had murders and kidnappings and chases through spooky underground lairs. And a really cool bass line."
Terry shrugged at our friends. "All we can do is keep trying. With patience and perseverance, we can culture him yet."
A thought struck me. "Hey, got any Three Stooges?"
"The Three --," Terry spluttered. "Those things have no plots, no value and nothing of quality anywhere in them. They're just stupid!"
"Yeah," I sighed. My kind of culture.
---- Sing to Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or dance over to the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.