STILL MINE . . . a Nearly Perfect Motion Picture

 

1B

When I get home at night after a pretty long and hard day at work, sometimes I’m not in all that great a mood. Hurting and sore, the first thing I want to do is head off to the shower. Then perhaps a snack, and some quality time on the computer–either Facebooking, writing a new blog post, or working on the latest novel.

About the last thing I want to do is watch the TV. So when my lovely wife Nadene tells me she has a movie she’d like me to see with her, I have mixed emotions.

One side of me wants to curl up in front of the word processor, and do some pretty mindless stuff. The other side says, “Wait–every single time she has something for you to see–it’s ALWAYS good.”

And it’s true. It is always good. Every single time. And this time was no exception. The movie was called Still Mine, starring James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold.

It is a nearly perfect motion picture and a tour de force, and I was both captivated and entranced from the opening scene, until the end of the closing credits.

I can sum it up no better that Rotten Tomatoes did with their review of it in July of 2013.

“In his first lead role after decades of playing supporting characters, James Cromwell gives a tour de force performance in STILL MINE, an exquisitely crafted and deeply affecting love story about a couple in their twilight years. Based on true events and laced with wry humor, STILL MINE tells the heartfelt tale of Craig Morrison (Academy Award (R) nominee Cromwell), who comes up against the system when he sets out to build a more suitable house for his ailing wife Irene (Academy Award (R) nominee Geneviève Bujold). Although Morrison uses the same methods his father, an accomplished shipbuilder, taught him, times have changed. He quickly gets blindsided by local building codes and bureaucratic officials. As Irene becomes increasingly ill – and amidst a series of stop-work orders – Craig races to finish the house. Hauled into court and facing jail, Craig takes a final stance against all odds in a truly inspirational story.”                       (c) Samuel Goldwyn

 

2B

All I can add to this is that Still Mine is without question the best film I have ever seen on the subject of aging, and the finest performance ever from veteran actorJames Cromwell. Likewise, Ms. Bujold, who at age 72, has yet to give a bad performance before a camera, also shines.

In one particularly  poignant scene, Craig and Irene sit in their pickup truck discussing their impending deaths. Irene says that she doesn’t understand a thing more now about “the great mystery” than she did when she was ten years old, but she better figure it out pretty soon, as there isn’t a lot of time left. Craig smiles and tells her to “speak for herself.” At age eighty-seven, he explains, he intends to “beat the odds.”

It’s meant as a joke . . . but think about it. Don’t we all, at some deep level of our thinking, believe that we are going to be the one to somehow beat the odds? Don’t we all secretly believe we are going to live forever?

This is a film that will make you think. And make you reconsider. As you do–you might just feel that goose, walking across your grave. It is not a cheery feeling.

Give it a look. It is both on Netflix streaming, and available for sale from Amazon movies. I can guarantee you that this will be an hour and forty-five minutes of your life that you will not regret spending in front of the television.

And thanks again Honey, for the great movie choice. Once more, you were absolutely correct in identifying quality.

 

3B

Here’s hoping everyone had a great Thanksgiving. See you all in a day or two.

Goodnight.

Wheels a Rumbling Through the Floor – The Music of Johnny Cash

 

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Singer, Songwriter, Actor, Author, or The Man in Black. Whatever he was called, he was one of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century.

He had a face that looked like it had been blasted out of granite quarry, eyes that seemed to have looked out over the edge of the world, and music that sounded like the wheels of a freight train . . . rumbling through the floor.

Born in Kingsland, Arkansas, February 26, 1932, he came to earth in tough times. He had a hard father and a rough life. Johnny lost his brother Jack to a milling accident. The boy was cut nearly in half by a saw blade, and lived for nearly a week before passing. He was just fifteen years old.

Johnny Cash was a God-fearin’ man. He often spoke of looking forward to seeing his brother Jack again in Heaven.

The plight of Johnny’s family during the depression became the stuff of many of his greatest songs. He was much inspired by gospel music, and significantly influenced by traditional Irish music.

Cash had a bad-boy image and an outlaws persona. Oddly, he never spent a day in prison . . . except to perform.

Much of what he wrote, particularly in his later years, were themed in sorrow, moral tribulation and redemption. Among the best were I Walk the Line, Folsom Prison Blues, Ring of Fire, and Man in Black.

Cash’s marriage to June Carter on March 1, 1968, became the stuff of legends. They worked together for thirty-five years, until her death in May of 2003. Just four months later, Johnny would follow the woman he loved into eternity.

In 1971, he wrote what might be his own most fitting epitaph.

We’re doing mighty fine, I do suppose,  In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes. But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back . . . Up front there ought to be, a man in black.  (From Man in Black)

He said he would wear black until the World was at peace. He was buried in it.

In 2005. a biographical film, Walk the Line, hit the big screen. It starred Joaquin Phoenix as Cash, Reese Witherspoon as June Carter, and included Robert Patrick as Ray Cash, Johnny’s father.

It was a fine film, with terrific performances by all, and an absolutely astounding sound track including some of Johnny Cash’s best work. Phoenix received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and the film received four more nominations. The actors sang their own songs, and they were amazingly good.

The film focuses on Cash’s early life, his romance with June Carter, his rise to fame in the country music industry, and his decline into drugs.

It is not a gloss-over. It shows the bad stuff. And the bad times.

It also shows the redemption, and it is definitely worth a watch. If you love country music, love Johnny Cash, the sound of freight-trains, and wheels a rumbling through the floor, then . . . this film’s for you.

Five stars any day of the week, and a big “thumbs-up,” in loving memory of Gene and Roger.

Take care tomorrow everyone. Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving.

And don’t get squished on Black Friday.

Cash 2

Goodnight all.

 

 

 

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

 

CBTG 1

It came around in 1973. It was an instant classic, and became an annual tradition in millions of homes across America.

Our Home was one of those. I was just twenty-four years old. Way too old to like cartoons. But then, The Peanuts Gang has never really been a cartoon. More like a tiny slice of life.

It was the tenth prime-time animated TV special based on the popular comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schultz.

Originally aired on CBS on November 20, 1973, it won an Emmy Award the following year. It has aired every year since on prime-time television, currently on ABC. It never seems to get old. But then, the gang never ages either.

If only I could have learned that trick.

It opens with Lucy once again holding the football for Charlie to kick. And once again promising to not pull it away. She couldn’t anyway, she explains, because football on Thanksgiving Day is a sacred tradition. It would be a violation of that sacredness to pull it away. Charlie takes it all in, of course–hook, line and sinker. He charges the ball, absolutely secure in the knowledge that at least this once, on this day, he is going to be able to kick that ball.

Of course, at the last instant, Lucy pulls it away, and Charlie ends up on his back once more.

It’s kind of nice to know that some things never change.

It goes on to a “wonderful” Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Charlie and the gang, and conducted by Snoopy. It’s on a Ping-Pong table, and set-up in the backyard, oddly reminiscent of that first celebration, so many centuries ago.

Different from the Pilgrim feast however, is the menu fare. Charlie’s consists of Buttered toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn, and jelly beans.

CBTG 2

Peppermint Patty takes exception, much to the embarrassment of Charlie.

They all take off  to grandma’s house, where of course, in typical Peanuts Gang style, everyone is fed, and everything turns out all right.

The credits roll at the end over an image of those two greatest friends of all time, Snoopy and Woodstock, devouring a large piece of pumpkin pie.

Set to the jazz music of Vince Guaraldi, he even contributes a very rare vocal track during the “Little Birdie” scene.

It’s thirty minutes (less on DVD, sans the commercials) guaranteed to warm your heart.

It certainly did at our house, way back in ’73. And it did it for many years more, a must-watch, in the several preceding days before the big celebration–It’s warmth adding to the glow of family, friends, and spiced desserts.

It continues to do the same today. After all, as I noted, the gang never ages.

And neither do family memories, friends, love, tradition and quality. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving still packs the emotion wallop and retains the same magnificent quality as it did on that first night, way back when, that autumn evening, forty-one years ago.

Give it a watch. I’m sure you will agree.

See you all after Turkey Day. Then . . . we begin our countdown to CHRISTMAS.

CBTG 3

The First Thanksgiving – Origins of a Feastday, and a Fantasy

 

TG 1

We’ve all seen the clip art. Smiling Pilgrims, Indians and happy turkeys. We’ve seen the detailed oil painting from the era as well. Currier and Ives stuff. They warm the heart. They make us feel as though we really know what transpired on that day (actually three days) so long ago. We feel that we understand the events leading up to it. We feel connected. Art, become history.

But what do we really know?

Turns out . . . not much. Most of the historical information is pretty sketchy. Some things, however–we do know.

(From the Huffington Post – 11/21/11)

“If you happen to spend Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts this year, you can choose between two public commemorations. You can watch the official parade, in which townspeople dressed like Pilgrims march to Plymouth Rock bearing blunderbusses and beating drums. Or you can stand on top of Coles Hill with indigenous people and their supporters, and fast, in observance of what they call a ‘National day of mourning’ in remembrance if the destruction of Native American culture and peoples.”

“In fact, the end times began for Massachusetts Indians several years earlier, when British slaving crews inadvertently introduced smallpox–carried by their infected cattle–to coastal New England killing over ninety percent of local populations, who lacked antibodies to fight the disease.”

“This was a rather astonishing figure compared to the 30 percent death rates at the height of the European Black Plague.”

Apparently, it wasn’t all warmth and fuzziness back then in the colonies.

Modern day stories tell of compassionate Indians taking pity on the white colonialists, and bringing corn and other foodstuffs to see them through that first disastrous winter.

The corn, or maize, as it was then called, was far more likely stolen from the Indians. And were the Indians invited to the celebratory dinner? Well, probably not. Seems the whites may have been shooting off guns in celebration of the harvest, and the Indians, simply curious about what was going on–crashed the party.

There were probably far too many for the Pilgrims to politely ask to leave the festivities.

And if the Indians were being compassionate, it was probably pretty short-sighted of them, as not too long after this first Thanksgiving, the whites fanned out west across the continent, exterminating as many Indians as possible–and in as short a time as the then modern technology would allow.

The Gatling Gun soon replaced the Blunderbuss.

At any rate, it all became part of our folklore– part of our shared national memory. And if the truth is a little blurred and frayed around the edges? Well, what the matter? It never is a good idea to let the facts stand in the way of a good story anyhow.

An awful lot of turkeys have paid the price since then.

cornucopia for autumn
cornucopia for autumn

What was really on the menu? Sad news for the modern day birds, it seems turkey was not one of the items. More likely wild fowl of some kind, most probably ducks and geese–along with venison, corn mush, stewed pumpkin, or traditional Indian succotash.

No cranberry sauce or green olives in sight, and definitely no afternoon football either.

It is a wonder that the tradition survived, but survive it did. That translates to some pretty bad news for about forty-six million turkeys per year. That’s Thanksgiving day alone, with many more on Christmas, New Years Day, and even Easter.

America is a tough place to be a Turkey. Apparently the only safe ones are in Congress.

I’d like to take a moment to wish all of you, my loyal readers, a most Happy Thanksgiving Day, and a wonderful Christmas to follow as well.

As the Pilgrims gave thanks to the man up above for deliverance from that first hard winter, and for the bountiful harvest that followed the next Fall–let us be ever thankful for good friends, good health, wonderful family, and all our many other blessing.

May the grace of God be with you all, on this day, and always.

 

Until the next time .  .  . Good Night.

TG3

Just Ain’t No Cure For Stupid

 

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Sometimes . . . there just ain’t no cure for stupid.

There’s nothing quite like the retail life (and just before the Holidays at that) to really bring out the stupid in a person.

I moved from Tucson, Arizona to Bellevue, Washington in January of 2007. With that move went any hope of retirement and an easy life. Western Washington is one of the most expensive places to live in the entire country. Social Security and a tiny pension from a private-sector employer didn’t even begin to cover the budget. My late-life writing career is just getting off the ground. But what the hey–we were near the grandchildren, so it was all worth it–right?

Anyway, Grampie Dumb-Dumb Larry went back to work, a full-load forty hours in what I like to call The Temple of Doom (or of food retailing, which is the same thing) a mega death-star sized big-box food and stuff store on 148th St. It’s heck to work there on a good day, the managers apparently believing that any staff is way too much staff. Come the holidays, it not heck any more–it’s HELL ON STEROIDS.

I work in the meat and seafood department. Behind a counter. During the rush periods, it becomes sort of like the ramparts of the Alamo on the thirteenth and final day.  As in OVERRUN with humanity. I have about the same odds as the Texan defenders of coming out on top in that little battle–absolutely zero.

I want to say this right up front. I love a lot of my customers. There are maybe a dozen or so that I look forward to seeing on a regular basis. They have become dear friends. Smiling faces that cheer me up, even on a busy day.  Ninety-seven year old John tops the list. Now a widower, he used to come in with his darling wife. They were the cutest couple on earth, and I loved to see them. One morning she just didn’t wake up anymore, and now he comes alone. I have shed a tear or two with customers. John was one of those.

There are hundreds more that make their way to my counter that I have little feeling for, either positive or negative. They are simply faces in the crowd. I say good morning, or good afternoon–hand them their packages of whatever, thank them, and off they go–forgotten until the next time. These are just basically good and nice folks.

Some are unintentionally funny. That’s the third type.

It was my second day on the job.

Lady Customer: (as flat-chested as a fourteen year old boy. She’s looking into the meat-case. At the chicken. I have walked over to help her. The meat manager is by my side). “What I need most is a couple of really nice breasts,” she says. The meat manager turns away, gagging as he holds in his laughter–leaving me to try to keep a straight face.

Which somehow I did.

Then there is the fourth type.

The type that can appear on any given day, but just LOVE the holidays. When the poor clerks are really rushed–and really frazzeled.  It’s like blood in the water to a school of hungry Great-White Sharks.

Some of their questions:  Customer: “Do you have Tuna Steaks?” Me: “Yes, I have them in the freezer.” Customer: “Are those frozen?” Me: “Yes, last time I looked. I’ll have to check again to re-confirm.”

Customer: “How many of the 26 to 30 count shrimp do I get in a pound?” Me: “I’m thinking–maybe 26 to 30. Just sayin’ . . . “

Customer:Do you have any fish without bones?” Me: “The only fish I know of without bones is the Jellyfish.Customer: “Do you have any Jellyfish today?” Me: “No, we’re completely out of Jellyfish today. Maybe we could order some for you.” Customer: “How do you prepare your Jellyfish?” Me: “Well, sometimes if I am in a hurry, I don’t always prepare it. Sometimes I just have a peanut-butter and Jellyfish sandwich.” Customer: “Now you’re joking with me, right?”(Not much gets by this gal).

Customer:What is the difference between the pepper-bacon and the plain bacon?” Me:The pepper-bacon has pepper on it and the plain bacon doesn’t have pepper on it.”  Customer:Oh.” (As though that explained anything).

One evening a rather elderly lady approached the counter. If she were a day under ninety it would have been a miracle. Heavy old-fashioned hearing aids. The kind that are on the outside of the ear–as in heavy duty. She wanted a whole salmon, and she wanted it filleted.

I said fine, just give me four or five minutes. She shot me a dirty look, but didn’t say anything, and I went to work on the salmon.

She didn’t come back in the four or five minutes. She didn’t come back in half an hour either. Finally I gave up on her and put the fish in the cooler.

A little while later, there she was, looking more irritated than ever. I handed off the fish and thanked her. She replied, “Well, I suppose you’re welcomed young man, but I still don’t understand why it would take forty-five minutes just to fillet one fish!”

I explained the mis-communication and we both had a good laugh. She is a regular customer now, and comes to the counter to this day.

Then there are the surly ones. I have to preface this one by telling you that most grocery stores have about 40,000 different items. We have a little over a quarter of a million (250,000). The prices change once or twice a week sometimes.

Customer: “I want to know if you have any more of the Ad Mayonnaise on Aisle 12. (which is halfway across the store).” Me: “I’m not sure on that one. I’ll have to call a grocery clerk to find out.” Customer: “Do you know the price?” Me: “No, I’m sorry, I don’t. I’ll have to check on that too.” Customer:(sticking her nose in the air and walking away) “Oh, pardon me. I thought I was talking to an employee of the store.”

One rather elderly gentleman told me that as an employee of the store, it was my duty and responsibility to know the price and specifications of every single item under the roof.

Some days I have trouble remembering my full name.

And then there was my all-time favorite.

Customer: (visibly agitated) “Where do you have the sliced ham?” Me: “Sorry, we don’t carry sliced ham here in the meat and seafood department. That would be in the deli.” (pointing in the right direction). Customer: (his voice rising in anger) “No. Not the damned deli. They don’t know anything. They sent me here, You know, sliced ham.” (making slicing motions with his hand). Me: “Sorry, the only sliced ham I know of is in the deli. Hold on a second and I’ll call the grocery manager for you.” Customer: “I don’t want you to call the damned grocery manager. I want you to do your (insert bad word here) job, and tell me where the (ditto) the sliced ham is.” Me: “Sorry. Don’t know.” (finally giving up).

The customer stalks off, waves of heat and smoke visibly pouring off him. In five minutes he’s back again, and slams a package down on the top of the counter as hard as he can (which was hard), Customer: “Just what the hell do you call that, you moron?” Me: “Lunch meat. Aisle four,” I answered.

He left again at this point, spewing language at me I wouldn’t repeat in Sunday School. I never did see him again, but I did see the grocery manager in about two minutes. After he listened to the story, he just wordlessly walked away, slowly shaking his head.

Which brings me to the end of this blog. And to the aforementioned title. You see, when I started this job all those long-gone many years ago, way back in May of 2007 . . . I promised myself that it would only be for a year. Maybe two. But then the recession of 2008 hit, and it wasn’t all that easy to find another job anymore–especially at my age. So I stayed, promising myself that after just this next holiday season, I would be gone. I promised myself that I would never do another. Never ever again.

But here it is . . . Holiday Season 2014. And here I am, once more . . . doing it again. Christmas number eight.

Which only goes to show . . .

Sometimes–there just ain’t no cure for stupid.

 

Next up . . . The Origins of Thanksgiving.

Goodnight all.