The Oscars

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I sat down and watched the Oscars all the way through. I’ll check in on it periodically throughout the night, but I no longer have the patience to sit there for 3+ hours, especially when I haven’t been a fan of many of the movies that have been nominated in recent years. Last year’s Best Picture winner, Parasite, was a surprising choice and a deserving one at that. Before last year, though, I’d probably have to go back to Argo in 2012 to find a Best Picture winner that I actually enjoyed and that didn’t feel like a slog to get through or that I was watching it for homework rather than enjoyment.

I always remember a friend of mine way back in 2000 once said, “I enjoyed Deuce Bigelow more than any of those Oscar movies,” and while I wouldn’t go that far, I’ve grown to understand his point more and more in recent years.

So, since the Oscars are being given out tomorrow, rather than go through the nominees and pick who I think will/should win, I’ll just do a quick run through of some of the films that racked up nominations and give a few brief thoughts.

Sound of Metal – full disclosure: I used to be a drummer, so I’m generally biased to any movie that has a drummer as the main character (I still say Whiplash was the best movie of 2014; prove me wrong–oh, no, you can’t!), so it should come as no surprise when I list this as my favorite movie of this whole bunch. Riz Ahmed is excellent as is Paul Raci as his counselor. The sound design was incredible as well. I wish I could’ve heard it through theater sound, but it still had its intended effect on my home TV speakers.

Mank – it’s one of those movies that has a lot going for it but never quite gels into something great. Fincher is on his game as always, and Gary Oldman is quite good as the co-screenwriter of Citizen Kane. Amanda Seyfried gives a performance that proves she has more range than some of her previous roles would suggest. The story itself is interesting, but I felt like it never fully grabbed me. It could’ve been more engrossing.

Judas and the Black Messiah – Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield are excellent in this. Unfortunately, the movie around them is rather pedestrian and unexciting. I kept thinking of Donnie Brasco while watching it and thinking that Brasco had a bit more heart than this movie does. Good, but could’ve been so much better.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Once again, good but not great. It has a crackerjack cast and solid script and direction from Aaron Sorkin, but I never felt fully engrossed by it. Sacha Baron Cohen definitely earned his Oscar nomination (more on him later) but the whole cast did very well in this. Despite the breakneck editing, this still felt overlong and could’ve been more judicially edited.

One Night In Miami… – Another one for the “Good, not great” category. Strong performances by the leads and an interesting story, but I felt my attention wandering during some of the more dialogue-heavy scenes. Good first directing effort by Regina King. I’m definitely interested to see what she directs next.

Nomadland – Okay, I’ll be as fair as I can here. It has some beautiful cinematography and a few nice moments. But overall, it is boring. BORING. Almost nothing happens in this movie. And, Frances McDormand, I love her, I always will, but she was not very good in this movie. Her performance is very one-note, just a lot of moping around. For my money, this is the weakest of the bunch and, go figure, is heavily favored to take the top awards.

Borat Subsequent Movie Film – Let’s end on an up note. I actively avoided the first Borat for many years. I saw two episode of Da Ali G Show and thought they were horrendous. Not funny in the slightest. And, to me, Sacha Baron Cohen was the weakest link in just about everything he did, save for Talladega Nights, where I actually enjoyed his performance. Right before Subsequent Movie Film came out, I decided to finally give Borat a shot and, lo and behold, I thought it was really funny. A bit mean-spirited at times, but still enjoyable, and it won me over to Cohen finally. Subsequent Movie Film is along the same lines, but it has Maria Bakalova stealing the film from Cohen. She’s a gem. I do hope she wins for Best Supporting Actress, because she gave one of the funniest and most heartfelt performances in any movie this year.

Now that I have both of my Pfizer vaccine shots in me, I’m hoping it won’t be much longer until it becomes safe to go to the movie theaters again. It probably is now, but I’m not ready yet. Maybe by the end of this year, I hope. Don’t get me wrong, the ease of streaming makes movie watching very convenient, but I miss the thrill of sitting in a darkened movie theater and having a big action movie or uproarious comedy playing in front of me.

I’m sure I’ll get back there. Just need to be patient a little longer.

2020: The Wrap-Up

I’ve been meaning to write some sort of wrap-up for 2020, but how do you tackle such a task when 2020 packed several years’ worth of events all into one span of 365 days? Well, I’ll do the best that I can, and if I forget anything, so be it.

The big event for 2020 for me was publishing my latest novel, Take the Long Way. I started writing it in 2018 but it didn’t really catch fire until midway through 2019, wrapping up the first draft around Thanksgiving. Editing it went quicker than expected, and I had it out in July 2020. So far, the response has been very positive, so I’m glad people have enjoyed it. Some day soon, I’ll settle down and produce a digital version of it (I keep meaning to do it but then I get sidetracked and oh here comes one of my dogs and I could really go for some Doritos and…)

Speaking of dogs, my wife and I adopted a new greyhound boy named Truman. He’s a tall brindle who’s as sweet as can be and has a fun and lovable personality. He’s still getting acclimated to living in a house, but Izzy and Hazel are showing him the ropes. I think he’ll eventually settle in and become a very much loved member of the family.

I did a lot of TV watching this year. Like everyone else, I binged Schitt’s Creek, which was a wonderful show for many reasons (unlike everyone else, I steered far away from Tiger King). I also ran through all 205 episodes of How I Met Your Mother. I really enjoyed that show. It could be riotously funny and incredibly touching all in the same episode. The Kominsky Method was also an enjoyable show. Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin made a great, comedically acerbic team. I just started on the British comedy The IT Crowd, which is hilarious. I’m also midway through season 4 of Parks and Recreation, which is funny but not quite as amazing as people made it out to be. And, of course, it should go without saying that The Mandalorian was spectacular.

I also watched a lot of movies this year. I won’t even try to tally up all the movie watching I did (since it included a lot of films that came out before 2020), so I’ll do a quick recap: Palm Springs was insanely entertaining, and that’s saying something since I’ve never been a fan of Andy Samberg, but he’s great in this along with Cristin Milioti; Bill and Ted Face the Music isn’t perfect, but I still enjoyed it and loved seeing those characters again; Da 5 Bloods features a great performance by Delroy Lindo and, despite its length, doesn’t get bogged down in some of the excesses that sometimes mars Spike Lee’s work (he directed this with a steady hand, and it turned out to be pretty satisfying); The Vast of Night was a spooky, well-done micro-indie; The Happiest Season was fairly enjoyable, not something that will blow you away but a pleasant way to spend 105 minutes; Yes God Yes was “eh,” an okay lead performance by whatsername from Stranger Things but otherwise, was an instantly forgettable attempt at satire; The Invisible Man was a well-done reinvention of the classic tale.

Music was definitely key to getting through this year, and thankfully there was a lot of good tunes out there. Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters was stunning album, though one that I’ve found it difficult to give repeat listens to following playing it on a near-daily basis back when it came out. Hayley Williams’s Petals For Armor was a solid and confident first solo foray for the Paramore lead singer, with danceable tunes along with lyrics that cut deep. The Strokes’ The New Abnormal brought some much needed New York style rock to the world, and it was nice to see them return to form after being gone so long. Bruce Springsteen’s Letter To You was also a welcome return from a rock pioneer, showing he’s still got a lot of life in his weathered voice. I didn’t really care for Pearl Jam’s Gigaton, which had a few notable songs but was largely forgettable, like most of their recent output. Hush by Maya Hawke was an interesting first effort from her but a little too dreamily paced for my liking.

I read a lot this year as well, but most were older novels. The only book released in 2020 that I read was Alex Trebek’s autobiography. There’s nothing controversial or headline-grabbing in it, but that’s okay. That’s not what I was looking for in this book. It felt like a long, warm conversation with an old friend, and since Trebek has been a daily part of my life since at least 1987, that was just fine by me.

As I write this, it’s now a little over 3 hours until 2020 ends. Only time will tell what some of the enduring memories and images from this year will be. Hopefully, 2021, as it goes on, will find us all a little better and a little wiser for having lived through it.

Happy New Year!

I Think We’re Alone Now

Despite having an account and going to the site at least once a day, I hate Twitter. It’s full of people who think they’re comedians but are massively unfunny, as well as people who can’t tolerate or even understand people who have different opinions than them. Bizarre things will start trending on there, and while I used to try and look up why they were trending, I’ve given up because it’s usually pretty brain dead (“Demon sperm” was trending this week, and frankly, I don’t care to know why).

However, a Twitter user posed a question that got me thinking: “What was the least attended movie you’ve ever been to?”

That’s an easy answer for me: Day before Thanksgiving, 2006, AMC Woodhaven 10, 12:30pm showing of The Departed. I was the only one in the theater.

Since reading that original post, I’ve been thinking about the times where I found myself in very sparsely attended showings. The farthest back I can go is seeing Turner & Hooch with my aunt in 1989. There were only 2 other people in the theater for a Sunday matinee.

Back when AMC Theaters still did the Twi-Lite Show bargains (shows between 4 and 6pm were discounted), a friend of mine and I went to see a 5:15 showing of Cool World in the summer of 1992. There was another couple of guys in the theater but they left midway through. I still say that was one of the strangest movies to ever get a wide summer release.

Another friend of mine and I saw a late-in-its-original-run showing of The Lion King in 1994. There was an elderly woman and middle-aged guy in the theater with us, but that’s it.

For some reason, I went to see the Chris O’Donnell-Drew Barrymore film Mad Love in 1995, and it was only me and another guy in the theater.

In 1997, I saw a weekday matinee of Chasing Amy. The only other people in the theater were an elderly woman, a guy who looked like a construction worker, and a middle-aged woman with a crew cut. I’m guessing I was the only one in the theater that day who’d seen Clerks and Mallrats because I was the only one who’d laughed at the jokes and previous-film references.

In 1999, my wife (then girlfriend) planned on seeing Mickey Blue Eyes, but we showed up too late for the showing, and when we considered what else to see, we ended up settling on a movie called Dog Park. There was another young couple in the theater but they bailed 20 minutes in. I didn’t think the movie was bad; the leads were extremely bland but the supporting cast was good. And the dogs in it were cute.

In 2002, while unemployed and in desperate need of entertainment, I saw Nicole Kidman in Birthday Girl. I was the first one in the theater. Then three other people came in, and they all sat either next to or around me. Midway through, I moved myself to another part of the theater.

In 2008, my wife and I went to a Sunday night 8pm showing of Frost/Nixon, and there were only 4 other people in the theater, and 2 left midway through. Honestly, I’ve never understood the practice of walking out of movies. Yes, I’ve seen plenty of stinkers in the theater, but I’ve never felt the desire to bolt before the end credits.

In 2019, I saw Once Upon A Time In Hollywood on a Wednesday afternoon in late August, and there were three other people in the theater. At the end, a guy sitting at the far end of the theater stood up, clapped, and yelled “Tarantino!”

So, dear reader, any experiences at sparsely attended movie screenings?

An Excerpt from “Take the Long Way”

Wednesday, August 21, 1996: On the day before Ethan Hudson is set to leave his Northeast Philly home for college in another state, he takes his father’s 1967 Ford Mustang convertible out for a joyride. He drives down to Center City and rides through the streets, and then goes back up to the Northeast to offer his ex-girlfriend a ride in the classic car. Unfortunately, she’s not at home, so Ethan ponders on where else to go to in the Mustang, and then it hits him: Atlantic City.

A guy who sat next to me during homeroom all four years of high school told me and everyone around us about how, right after getting his license, he drove to Atlantic City, used a fake I.D. to get into a casino, sat down at a poker table, and won over a thousand dollars. His story was incredibly detailed, and he even showed us a $100 bill that he had in his wallet from his winnings. Many including myself called B.S. on the story, so he invited us all along for his next trip, which he planned on taking that weekend. I didn’t go and I don’t know if anyone else did, but to me, that’s the type of trip that just reeks of certain doom, and I didn’t feel like going all that way out to AC just to get busted by casino security guards or pit bosses not ten seconds after setting foot inside the building, assuming we’d even make it that far and assuming that his story wasn’t complete crap.

            However, the main thing I filed away in my brain about that story was the route he took to get to Atlantic City: over the Tacony Palmyra Bridge, down Route 73, connect to Route 30 at some point, and ride it out till you hit AC. It seemed easy enough. I’d driven over the Tacony and onto 73 several times, mostly to take Jocelyn to the Cherry Hill Mall since it had some clothing outlets that she preferred over the ones located in the malls in Philly. I had confidence that I could make the journey, especially since I had a stylish and well-tuned machine to take me there.

            I made it over the Tacony without a problem. Traffic was light during that time of day, and there were no bridge openings, so I made it into New Jersey with ease. I drove along 73, passing by the various roadside car dealerships, restaurants, and liquor stores that lined the sides of the roadway. I noticed some cars on both sides of the road slowing down just to get a glimpse of my vehicle in motion and I relished the attention, but I didn’t get cocky. I kept moving at the speed limit. The last thing I needed was to get pulled over by a New Jersey State Trooper and receive a ticket or—worst case scenario—the car gets impounded and the authorities call my father. Not the way I wanted to spend my last day of freedom.

I moved along 73 at an even clip and thought I’d have smooth sailing until I had to catch Route 30. However, just after I passed over the New Jersey Turnpike, I found my lanes of 73 blocked off by police activity. A bad accident had occurred, and cop cars sat on the roadway preventing any vehicles from going any farther. I turned onto Church Road East and thought I’d eventually find my way back onto 73, past the traffic stoppage.

At first, I stuck to main roads, or at least what I thought were main roads, but after about a half-hour or so of driving, I realized that I probably wasn’t going to make it back to 73 any time soon. However, I didn’t let it dampen my spirits. I figured, if nothing else, I could eventually stop in a gas station or some roadside greasy spoon establishment and get directions back to Philly, so I kept Appetite For Destruction blasting from the stereo as I weaved my way through numerous back roads with small houses, well-tended lawns, and fields of crops.

I started getting hungry. It was well past noon and my stomach was growling. I wanted pizza. I passed a sign that said, “Welcome to Corkesville, NJ, Est. 1837,” and figured I’d drive around this town and look for a pizza place. Corkesville looked like your typical rural small town, with a Main Street and a General Store. I saw both as I entered the town and I drove slowly along the road, looking for anyone who might help me in my quest for tomato-and-cheese sustenance. A few people passed by, but none of them paid me any mind, and I didn’t want to disturb them. Frankly, I found it odd that no one stopped to admire the Mustang. This was the first time all day that it hadn’t gotten any attention from passersby. I came to a red light and thought about what my next move should be, if I should keep on driving around this little town or get out and try the next town over.

That’s when I looked over and saw a girl riding a skate-board on the sidewalk, stopping at the corner right next to me. She looked around my age, maybe younger, with reddish brunette hair with streaks of purple in it. She wore a light blue tank top with black bra straps sticking out from underneath. She also wore ripped denim shorts that stopped just above her knees. She wore a black helmet and blue elbow pads and knee pads, along with a well-worn dark blue Jansport backpack strapped around her shoulders. She was also barefoot, a beaded anklet around her left ankle and a shiny toe ring on the second toe of her right foot. Her toenails had fading patches of the red polish she’d put on at some point but hadn’t retouched. She rested one foot on her board and another on the sidewalk. She pulled a water bottle out of her backpack and took a long swig from it.

Then she turned and looked at me. I turned away quickly, hoping she hadn’t noticed me staring, and at first, I thought I’d gotten away with it, but then she jumped down onto the street and approached my passenger side door.

“Hey man,” she said, her voice deeper than your average teenage girl’s but not husky. “Cool car. Is it yours?”

I thought about telling her that it was a graduation present from my parents, but I had a feeling she’d see right through it, so I said, “Nah, it’s my father’s. I’m borrowing it for the day.”

“Oh yeah? Does he know?”

“No.”

She smiled and bopped her head. “Springin’ the Mustang loose without the parental units knowing. Cool. This is a ’67, right?”

I smiled back at her and removed my sunglasses. “Yes, exactly. Are you a car fan?”

“A bit. I remember this was my dad’s dream car. He always wanted one. Never could afford one, though. And then he died of a heart attack two years ago so that dream will never be fulfilled.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

She showed no signs of sadness. “It’s cool. So, what are you doing here? I doubt you came here on purpose. No one does. I bet you’re on your way to a shore town or something.”

“Atlantic City, actually, but 73 was closed off because of an accident so I got detoured. Honestly, at this point, any shore town will do.”

“Well, if you keep driving down this road, you’ll eventually see signs directing you to the Garden State Parkway. You’ll still need to drive down, like, two more roads before you get to the Parkway, but once you’re on it, all you have to do is pick a direction and you’ll eventually find a shore town.”

“Cool, thanks.”

She moved back to the sidewalk and mounted her board again.

“Well, it was nice talking to you,” she said, ready to take off. “Enjoy your ride. Looks like it handles awesomely.”

“It does.”

“Cool. Well, see ya.”

I didn’t want her to go, so I quickly yelled out, “Hey!” She looked at me. “I’m gettin’ kinda hungry. Are there any good pizza places around here?”

She smiled at me, stepped off her board, and bounded to the passenger side door again. “Oh yeah, there’re a few good ones.”
“Which one’s your favorite?”

She thought, making a cute contemplative face. “Eugenio’s, on Cedarwood Street. They have indoor eating as well as an outdoor deck”

“Can you tell me how to get there? Or, maybe, I could follow you there.”

“Tell you what: let me ride shotgun and I’ll direct you to wherever you want to go.”

“Deal.”

To learn more about the day that Ethan and Sally spent together, pick up Take the Long Way on Amazon.com today!

“Dat Corona Jawn”

That’s how you know you live in Philly: someone refers to it as “dat Corona jawn.”

This has definitely been an interesting few weeks.  I’ve been working from home for the past 2 weeks, and that’s been a bit of an adjustment.  I definitely like not being distracted by all the usual goings-on in an office, and it’s nice to have my dogs come visit me during the middle of the day.  There’s also a downside: I do miss the in-person interaction with my coworkers, and my connection to my office VPN tends to get rather slow in the middle of the day, meaning that tasks may take longer for me to complete while I wait for programs to load or files to save.  It’s all an adjustment, but I’ve been working with it, and it’s going down easier than I thought.

I went food shopping for the first time in three weeks.  We were starting to run dangerously low on certain items, so I had to venture out into the wilds of the supermarket.  Thankfully, my mother-in-law made masks for me and my wife to wear, so I went into battle armed with that plus rubber gloves.  I don’t fall into any of the high-risk categories, but I also want to act like I have the virus and don’t want to spread it.  For me, that’s the scariest aspect of this whole ting: the asymptomatic part of it.  It’d be one thing if you could look at someone who’s coughing or sneezing or just generally looks ill and say, “Damn, I’m cutting a wide swath around them,” but then there are people out there who apparently have it and don’t know it and may never know they had it.  That’s the truly scary part about this.

Everyone in my immediate family appears safe from this so far.  I did recently learn of two people I went to high school with who contracted it and are on the mend.  There was also word last night that a family member of one of my longtime friends may have it, so we’ll see how that turns out.

I do wonder if this will provide fodder for future novels or movies.  I can just see the makings of a story in which a character is living with the guilt of not having taken the warnings seriously and got infected but recovered only for a loved one or even their child to get sick and die from it because of them.  Another character idea would be a healthcare worker dealing with the fallout from all of this once it passes, kinda like dealing with PTSD for soldiers.  It’ll be interesting to see the effect all of this has on art in the coming decade.

Speaking of which, I’ve had a little bit more time to do some catching up on movies and TV shows that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet.  Here’s a quick rundown of some movies that I watched: Megan Leavey (unexpectedly affecting story about a woman’s journey through the military and her bond with her bomb-sniffing dog partner); A Most Wanted Man (stilted but effective thriller, with a very good performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman); Lars and the Real Girl (not sure why I sat on this for so long, but it was bizarrely enjoyable and a nice performance by Ryan Gosling); Hearts Beat Loud (not a groundbreaking movie, but I really loved this–Nick Offerman was very good in this, and I may need to pick up the soundtrack, since the songs from it are still stuck in my head); and The Family (fun smut, with Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer looking like they had a blast making this over-the-top mobster picture with a French sensibility).

I also saw Clue for the first time.  I have a vague remembrance of my parents renting it back when it came out on VHS and not liking it.  Over the years, I’d always heard that it was a classic example of why board games shouldn’t be movies and it was often mocked.  Then I started coming across a sub-section of movie fans who adored it and watched it regularly.  It came up on Amazon Prime for free, so I gave it a watch, and I’ll be damned: I enjoyed the hell out of that movie.  Tim Curry’s scenery-chewing performance alone is enough, but Michael McKean and Madeline Kahn (among others) were great as well.

As for TV shows, I’m very close to finishing The Office.  I’m not sure why I didn’t watch it when it first on, but back in 2016, I was at a flea market and found someone selling Season 1 for $3, so I picked it up.  I didn’t watch it until early 2017, but when, in the first episode, Dwight finds his stapler and other items encased in Jell-O, I knew I was hooked.  I’m not good at binge-watching, so it took me until now to get through all 9 seasons, but I’m now down to the final two episodes, and I’m actually sad for it to end.  I really enjoyed all the time I got to spend with these characters.  There were very few duds amongst the 100+ episodes of the show, which is a credit to the writing staff and the cast.  A revisit of this series may happen sooner rather than later.

As for books, I recently finished rereading Neuromancer by William Gibson.  I read it in high school, inspired by movies like Johnny Mnemonic and Hackers to delve more into cyberspace, but I don’t think I quite got it.  Much of it went over my head.  Upon rereading it, I think it’s an interesting curio of where the whole cyberspace/cyberpunk thing began, and it delves into ideas that have been well trod within sci-fi since then.  Gibson kept the story moving along briskly, and I liked it more this time than I did previously.  Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive continue the story of Neuromancer, and I have them downloaded and ready for reading, but I have other books to get to at the moment, so I’ll return to those two at a later time.

I’ve also been able to get a lot of work done on my new novel, Take the Long Way.  I’d say it’s about 60% complete now, and I’m still on track for releasing it by late summer (still hoping so, at least).  I really like how it’s shaping up and it feels deeper and more personal than anything else I’ve written thus far.  I may make the first chapter available on here for everyone to read, as a way to whet people’s appetites for something new.  I’m really proud of what I’ve written in this novel, and I think people will really enjoy it.

Stay safe, everyone.  I’m sure better days are ahead.  We just have to get through all of this first, and I’m sure we will.

Checking in

I only just now remembered that the title of my last post was “Down with the Sickness.”  Given what’s going on right now, I feel I should check in with the few people who follow this and let you know that I’m doing fine.  I made a full recovery from that illness, which was just a common cold, and I’m doing well.  My allergies are acting up a bit, since Freda and I took our dogs on a play date with other greyhounds yesterday.  Dirt + Dust + Dogs + Dry air = allergies.  Watery eyes and scratchy throat are the main symptoms of this, though thankfully, not as bad as I’ve had them before.  I remember once being completely laid up following a particularly strong pollen season one spring a few years ago.  So, all in all, I’m good.

I braved the supermarkets today and didn’t have an issue.  As far as I know, I’m still expected at work tomorrow, despite my office being located in a county that has ordered all non-essential businesses closed.  I may see how it all goes tomorrow and decide what I’m doing after that.

Lastly, I’ll reveal that I’m in the midst of revising my new novel.  Yes, my first full-length novel since 2010’s “October and Everything After.”  Right now, the novel is called “Take the Long Way,” and it takes place in both 1996 and 2016.  I’m really happy with how it’s working out and I’m excited to get this out to everyone.

Stay safe, everyone.   Wash those hands.  Cover those mouths.  Stay home if you can.  Smoke if you got ’em.

Down with the Sickness

Yesterday, I started feeling the first inklings of a cold.  They rapidly increased as the day went on, so I devoted as much of the second part of my day as I could to finishing anything deadline-oriented.  Anything else could wait.  I left work, came home, and relaxed as much as I could.  This morning, when I woke up, the cold had fully taken me over, and I knew I wasn’t going in to work, so I called out.

And yet, I felt bad about it.  Like, I should just power through it and go to work and relax over the weekend.  That’s what I might’ve done when I was young, but now that I’m on the other side of 40, I look at things a little differently.  I’ve known people who never take off work, even when they are clearly sick to a distracting point.  I used to shrug that off but as of late, I find that mindset annoying.  If you’re stick, stay home.  Don’t come in and possibly infect other people in the office.  One coworker of mine once said that, with his wife and kids at home, he actually prefers being at work when he’s sick than at home.  Once again, a mindset I don’t get.

I guess what I’m saying is that there’s a mindset in this country that I’d like to see changed: putting work over yourself.  Someone once told me to be loyal to people, not to companies, because companies will screw you over at the drop of a hat.  I consider myself loyal to my fellow employees, specifically those who sit around me, so I stayed home today.  Whatever I have should be gone by Monday, at which point I can catch up on any missed work while feeling much better than I do now.

Not sure if any of this makes sense.  Time for another dose of Dayquil.

A Weekend of Goodbyes

On Saturday, I went to the Ritz at the Bourse.  For those who don’t know, it’s one of three (four, if you count the Roxy) art house theaters in Center City Philadelphia, where you could go to see movies that wouldn’t normally play at multiplexes or neighborhood theaters.  The others are the Ritz Five, which has been around for eons, as far as I’m concerned, and the Ritz East, which opened in 1999.  I remember that because I almost saw Magnolia there when it opened in early 2000, and the theater had already been open a few months at that time.  From what I’ve read, the Ritz at the Bourse opened in 1990 (I couldn’t remember exactly, so I looked it up) and came along just in time for the indie film boom of the 90s.

I didn’t make my first visit there until 1996, when me and my oldest brother Mike saw I Shot Andy Warhol there on a warm June afternoon.  A month or so later, both of us went back to see Trainspotting.  I’ll always remember one of the patrons walking out in a huff during the “diving into the toilet” scene.  Some other movies I remember seeing there were All Over Me, subUrbia, Run Lola Run, Being John Malkovich, Edge City, State and Main, Waking Life, The Business of Others, and Before Sunset in 2004, the last time I’d visited that theater until this past weekend.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to see.  I’d already seen The Irishman, though the prospect of seeing it on the big screen was almost too enticing.  I passed on A Hidden Life since I’m not a Terrence Malick fan (I tried, really I did, but The Tree of Life bored the hell out of me, and I still haven’t forgiven him for that pointless, long-winded exercise in plotlessness).  I had some curiosity about seeing the Pauline Kael documentary, as well as Pain and Glory and Honey Boy.  However, I chose A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  I enjoyed it, and Tom Hanks’ performance, in any other year, would be Oscar-worthy (this is Brad Pitt’s year, I feel, so that third Oscar will have to wait).  The vintage clips of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood brought back a lot of childhood memories for me, in the same way that visiting that theater for the last time brought back memories of when I was younger and more optimistic and ambitious about my place in the world.  I feel I gave the theater a nice goodbye.

Then, today, while I was out food shopping, my phone started blowing up with news alerts.  I ignored them at first.  Then I checked Facebook, since there was a picture posted on there from a friend that I wanted to show my mom when I stopped to visit her today, and that’s when I first saw the news about Kobe Bryant passing.

He’s the same age as me.  Accomplished a helluva lot more than me, but we both share “1978” as our birth year.  I remember being a senior in high school and watching all the news reports about his historic run in high school basketball and also the picture on the cover of the Daily News of him taking Brandy (the singer and actress) to his prom.  I never seriously followed basketball, except for the Sixers’ run in the 2000-2001 season, during which they made it to the Finals only to lose to the hated Lakers, featuring Shaq and Kobe.  However, I always tried to follow his career, and it seemed like he had a hard working ethic along with the respect of those he played with.  True, he ran into some legal and PR issues here and there, but all of that faded away, and after he retired, he seemed poised to have a nice second life after basketball.

Which makes it all the more tragic that he passed the way he did.  Not only that, but according to news reports, his 13-year-old daughter died with him.  For their remaining family, what they must now face from this day forward is unimaginable to me.  My father passed of a sudden stroke one Sunday morning in November 2003, and I thought that was difficult to move on from.  This—what happened to Kobe and his daughter—is epic in the worst possible way.

So, I guess this weekend is yet another reminder of how nothing lasts forever, things can change in an instant, people can be gone in a snap, and don’t take any of it for granted.  I’ll do my best to keep that mindset moving forward.

“Gotta keep dancing when the lights go out…”

I forgot to include Coldplay’s Everyday Life with the music I dug in 2019.  It’s a much different album than what they had previously put out, but it’s also beautiful and relevant.  The last song–the title track–has been in my head ever since the first time I heard the album all the way through, and that line–“Gotta keep dancing when the lights go out…”–has stuck with me.  What it means to me, I’m not sure, but it’s hit me particularly hard.

Saturday Night

During the summer of last year, my wife and I made the decision that in 2020, we’re going to try to move out of our neighborhood.  It’s gone downhill fast, and we’re having an issue with one of our neighbors, and also, the majority of the people that we were friendly with have all moved away, so it’s time to get out.

As part of getting ready to move out, one thing I’m going to focus on is decluttering.  One of the ways in which I plan to declutter is to scan in any stray documents I have laying around that aren’t already saved somewhere.  Today, I scanned in all 98 pages of the first screenplay I ever wrote: “Saturday Night.”

I wrote the original draft of it near the end of 1995.  This was after I bought the screenplay book for “Pulp Fiction” and finally got to see what a screenplay looks like.  Of course, I also learned that proper screenplay format is keeping directions and descriptions as brief as possible, whereas Tarantino, in all of his scripts, writes them almost like novels.

“Saturday Night” focuses on three best friends: Lou, T.J., and Nixon.  All 20-something Gen-Xers (remember, this was 1995).  They meet at the Mayfair Diner, an all-night diner in Northeast Philly, and discuss the Saturday night that they’d all had, going on separate adventures.  Lou convinces his longtime girlfriend Gina to have sex with him but it doesn’t go as he hoped and they nearly break up but stay together in the end.  T.J. breaks up with his current girlfriend only to end up in bed with a prostitute.  Nixon spends the night hanging out with his boss’s sister and falling in love with her.

I tried not to read it as I was scanning it in, for fear of what I’d find in this very early attempt at writing.  However, I ended up scanning pages here and there and…well, there were germs of later ideas that showed up in better stories, and every so often, there was a good line of dialogue.  However, it was also overrun by pop culture references from its time, and it also read very clearly like it was written by an 18-year-old without much life experience at the time.  I probably should’ve tossed it and forgotten about it altogether, but since it’s the first thing I ever completed of that nature, I can’t bring myself to simply discard it.  I need it as a record of how I started and how far I’ve come since then.

There’s no telling what else I find when I continue digging into my loose documents, but I did enjoy that trip down memory lane today.