Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia’

Hey you, it’s me! I mean it’s us. That’s right – I’m your future self at age 50. Can you believe it? Just for the record, we can totally pass for 48- so there’s that to look forward to. I just wanted to pop in and give you a little preview of your future life because I know this is a tough year for us and I want to help us get through it. Now I’m sure you have all sorts of questions about what we’ve accomplished and where we’ve ended up – like did we become a rock star? Are we married to Rick Springfield as planned? Well before I answer any of those questions there are a couple of things I want to show you.

eggo waffles

A convenient breakfast and $6.00 off a movie ticket! Who needs flying cars?

First there’s this. That’s right, it’s a box of Eggo Waffles. Check it out; you can get $6.00 off a movie ticket through a special offer on this box of waffles! Crazy, right? What I really want you to know is that where I’m from $6.00 does not even begin to cover the full cost of a movie ticket. And if you want to buy the D-Box seats that shake and move to enhance your viewing experience, you’re looking at $20 a pop. I know that’s a lot to think about all by itself, but trust me, the D-Box experience is absolutely necessary just to get through the latest Star Wars films . . . Oh yeah, they are still making Star Wars films, but I can’t get into that right now. That’s a whole other visit . . . My point here is, we may want to rethink that English degree we end up with after failing out of the recording engineering program. Oh, and don’t feel bad about failing out the recording engineering program. Two words on that one: home studios. Anyway – maybe look into computer science and  programming? Just a suggestion.

dbox

It’s like having someone kick the back of your seat, but only when there’s fighting and stuff.

 

webcam-toy-photo10

No matter how our life has turned out, it’s not too late to waste the rest of it staring at one of these babies!

Moving on – look at this. It’s a phone!! Seriously it’s my own personal phone. You know how right now our house has a phone number? Well in the future every single person has a phone number! And you just, like, carry it in your pocket wherever you go. Also . . . get this . . . you don’t actually use it to call anyone. And if it rings you ignore it – really that’s the best thing to do. Because no one you actually know wants to talk to you on the phone. Nope, it’s so much better than that – you just type little notes to each other. They’re called texts, but the word text is also a verb now – text, texting, texted. Don’t think too hard about it. But check it out – this phone is also a camera and a video recorder and a tape recorder! Now how much would you pay?  Heh.  That’s totally rhetorical; you can’t even imagine how much I paid for this. But, but . . . I can watch movies on it too! Seriously, real movies. Not here of course because cell service hasn’t even been invented yet.  What do you think of that, huh? You’ll have one of these in the future. Cool, right? Oh yeah, the screen is cracked. It’s fine. Really, it’s fine. I can’t afford to get it fixed at the moment. . .

So um – that whole rock star / Rick Springfield thing . . . I can tell you that you do move to California. We live near the ocean. It’s really cool and downright cold, occasionally. We’re in Northern California. It’s like 64 degrees and windy every day of the year. I think I’ve worn a bathing suit to the beach twice in the 20 years I’ve been here.

img_1630

Within driving distance and better than Wildwood, NJ!

So Rick Springfield? Yeah, we meet him a couple of times, and his mom and his wife, too. Guess I just gave that answer away.

But we never, ever give up on music despite our best judgment. And we play lots of live shows – so many. You will be so sick of lugging all that equipment everywhere, I mean I am most of the time,  but we keep going . . . In fact you’ll be on stage at midnight the night you turn 50. It will just be a small club in San Francisco, but . . . the important thing is we never, ever give up on music.

There’s a lot more – more than you can imagine, but I’ll let that stay a mystery. Can’t ruin everything, can I? But really, take some computer classes . . . and you’re totally gonna love this phone.

Christmas-Cards-05I remember my mother writing out her Christmas cards each year; she was so organized. Her address list was neatly handwritten on a legal pad, updated each year to ensure the addressees received her holiday greeting. Everyone on her list received a short personal note jotted out on Five and Dime Store bought stationery which was then smartly folded and inserted in a tasteful card that was hand addressed and posted with an official Christmas stamp. Also included in was the latest school picture of me in wallet size – my name, age, grade and the current year printed on the back.

My mother also received many such pictures in Christmas cards, some of children I recognized, but many I did not. For instance, my mother had a cousin Stanley who lived in Texas and as far as I could tell Stanley and his wife had about 15 kids. I think I met part of clan once when Stanley put the younger ones and the missus in a RV and drove to Pennsylvania, but if I recall correctly (and I’m not sure I do) by then even the younger ones were much older than me.

Because the Christmas card was such a solid, time-honored institution to my mother, never to be questioned or taken lightly, she continued to sign my name to her cards for a couple of years after I had moved out of the house. She would not have such an impertinent daughter who cared not one whit for a tradition that, in my mind, seemed to only favor the post office and card companies. When I married she began passing along addresses of people to whom I was obliged to send Christmas cards. I bristled at the rigorous act of sending so card to so many – aunts, great aunts, cousins, second cousins and lifelong friends of my mother. Also I was horribly lazy and disorganized and after a few moves, the final one being to San Francisco, I lost many of the addresses. I also patently refused to address the cards properly. It seemed too patriarchal to include only the husband’s first name, so instead I included everyone’s first name and left off the titles that denoted matrimony.

Once in San Francisco I realized that I did not have to send out traditional Christmas cards at all. The card itself could be a hint at my feelings towards this ridiculous tradition. Haight Street, my neighborhood, was full of kitschy shops that stocked cards that ranged from traditional to downright raunchy. I never had the gall to offend my relatives, who without reservation celebrated Christmas as a Christian holiday, but I did seek out and cards that were completely non-committal to the spirit in which the card was sent. Also I had acquired some Jewish and Pagan friends so it just made sense to be as inclusive as possible with my season’s greetings.

When my first son was born it became clear that a portion of my Christmas card list wanted photos. I confess to being pretty inconsistent with sending out photos through the years. Usually I would grossly misjudge the number of people who should be receiving photos and order what I thought was a reasonable amount. Plus I’m pretty cheap when it comes to buying anything other than musical equipment, and photos cost money.

My mother died on December 17, 2007, just four months after my second son was born. She never had a chance to reprimand me for not sending a photo of my new son to Mrs. So-and-So. She never had a chance to tell me Aunt So-and-So thought her second grandson was the most adorable baby ever. She spent her last holiday season in hospice in a nursing home and I don’t recall many Christmas cards my mother would have loved to see, reaching her. I don’t doubt that the idea of getting her cards out was on her mind when she had a lucid moment.

This year. This year I got it together. I thought about who would get school photos in their Christmas cards and I ordered generously. Then I sat down with my Christmas list spreadsheet, not updated since 2012 and began to edit. I have but one aunt left. One of my favorite aunt’s passed away just a month ago. I hadn’t been in touch with her in the past few years other than our yearly Christmas card exchange, although I had been meaning to call or write. . . My mother’s lifelong friend, who I had continued to correspond with out of a sense of a shared connection with my mother, has been moved to a nursing home. The great aunts all long gone, the addresses of the second cousins long lost, but I do wonder where they are and what has become of them. I have enough pictures of my kids,  but there are fewer people to receive the photos. And when it comes to addressing the cards I find myself reverting back to the traditional Mr. & Mrs. Still Married Couple, because when I get to the friends on my list who are separated or divorced or never took their husband’s name in the first place, I’m a little stymied. Did she go back to her maiden name? Did the children keep their father’s last name? Frankly I’m back to writing just the first names on the envelope. If I have the extended zip code I know it will get there.

When I moved my mother out of her house for good I came across a nightstand that appeared to have every greeting card she had ever received crammed in its drawers. Clearly those cards meant something to her. They were proof of a connection, somewhere someone cared. It was a brief, brightly colored nod and wave across distance and time that said “We share history. I know you and remember you even if we don’t see each other very often. I want you to know I still think of you and I want you to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. (Because who knows how many years any of us have left.)”

Finally I get it, mom.

An ode to independent film, San Francisco in the 90’s and my inexplicable obsession with an actor who had a role in War Horse.

I have hit rock bottom.

There’s a red Netflix envelope sitting on my kitchen table.  I meant to mail it yesterday but somehow didn’t find the time.  Today my kids and I are sick, hacking and coughing and generally just being miserable; in short, housebound.  Tomorrow my husband returns from his business trip.  If I haven’t gotten that movie off in the mail by then he will notice it for sure and ask, “Which movie is that?”warhorse

“Oh, just a movie, a movie you don’t want to see.”

“Really?” he’ll ask.  “Which movie I don’t want to see?”

“Oh you know – a movie. There are a lot of movies you don’t want to see, I can’t even remember all the titles.”

“But which one is that?” he’ll ask.

Finally, unable to bear the shame any longer I will exclaim, “War Horse. I’ve watched War Horse!”

How did I get here?

Just two Christmases ago I recall sitting in my in-law’s living room listening to an aunt gush about this amazing movie she’d just seen – Spielberg, horses, war. Epic!  I shot my husband a bemused look.  The amount of overblown, emotionally manipulative tripe contained in just the trailer was enough to cause my past self, a community college film school dropout, to rush outside for a clove cigarette and a snide, Gen-X patented rant on all that is wrong with mainstream movies. War Horse! Really?

I haven’t always been a mainstream movie snob.   My mother loved the movies; musicals were her favorite and she passed that love on to me.  I grew up watching late night TV showings of Gigi and Brigadoon and Singin’ in the Rain.  Movies were beautiful and fun and uplifting.  Never mind that usually after the main feature was over, my mom would change the channel to catch The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery. (Submitted for your approval: The Nightmares of my Childhood.  Demonic dolls in a lavish musical production, singing and dancing their way up my basement stairs to carry me off to the grave!)

When the home video industry began to take off in the 1980’s my mom was ready to lay out some cash to watch the movies she wanted to see when she wanted to see them.  There were a lot of flavors of home video  on the market at first and a particularly loquacious sales person at our local appliance shop convinced my mother that the RCA Video Disc players were the wave of the future.  They had an eclectic, but limited (probably because RCA Video Discs were not the wave of the future), rental section and my mom never vetted my choices.   By the time I had graduated high school I had watched The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia, Pink Floyd The Wall,  and Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange – those are just the films I felt I “got away with”.  There were plenty more that weren’t as gratuitous with the sex and violence and occasional rock and roll, but those three things summed up my favorite flavors of cinema. 

Once in college I sought out more underground films, but it was Central Pennsylvania in the late 80’s and art house theaters wouldn’t be popular for another 20 years.  I watched a lot of movies on VHS– Sid and Nancy (not really underground, but it had no theatrical release in my hometown), Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, Suburbia.    I still recall taking my boyfriend/future husband to see Dogs in Space, a film about the Australian punk scene starring Michael Hutchence.  As she handed over our tickets, the theater cashier looked at my husband-to-be and asked earnestly, “Now you know this movie isn’t about dogs or space, right?”  He looked at me for guidance.  I nodded reassuringly.  Did I seem like someone who wanted to see a movie about dogs and space? Did I seem like someone who would grow into middle age and want to see, War Horse, a movie that is actually about war and a horse?

I moved to San Francisco in the 90’s and discovered indie films, art house films, repertory film houses and the Film Arts Foundation.  There was so much to watch!  By this time my husband had decided he could only handle a small portion of the films I found important, so I went to the theater alone quite often.  We lived in the Haight, the famed hippie neighborhood of the 60’s, and just a few blocks away was The Red Vic, a cooperatively owned repertory house where I watched Jan Svankmajer’s Alice for the first time.  The Embarcadero, The Opera Plaza, and The Clay were all owned by Landmark, and showed only independent and foreign films.  In those theaters I discovered Jane Campion, Todd Haynes, and Mike Leigh. Over in the Mission was The Roxie, which showed first-run independent films and repertory films.  It also hosted a lot of film festivals and I had the pleasure of watching two of my own movies on the big screen there.  For everything else there was video rental – Leather Tongue in the Mission; Into Video, my local video store on Haight Street; Le Video over on the avenues.  Le Video is the only rental store that still exists from that list while  The Red Vic is the only theater mentioned here that is closed.

But back to War Horse, and my desperate attempt to illustrate why I am too savvy a film goer to be sitting home alone watching it on DVD.  First, obviously I am not because I did. Second, you can’t really diss Spielberg. He is a master at what he does (But, really?  Did the boy have to return home at sunset?   Did no one in the screening room laugh out loud and say, “You’ve got to be kidding!  He literally rides into the sunset?!?!  That’s so trite, even my grandmother would be insulted”. Perhaps not.  Perhaps you don’t say that if hope to keep your seat in a screening room with Spielberg.)  Even though the movie is clichéd (it is after all based on a children’s book) it hits all the emotional marks at the right time.  I can hate it for that, but I still cried out when it reached its darkest tone and things weren’t looking good for the horse.

But the true reason – well, there’s this actor . . .

Celebrity crushes are embarrassing, particularly at my age, but following an actor’s career, that’s different, right?  Even though I first came across the actor in a Hollywood Superhero Blockbuster movie, this particular Hollywood Superhero Blockbuster movie was written and directed by Joss Whedon and I can’t say anything bad about Joss Whedon.  I named my first born after a character he created for a TV show (no, I don’t have a daughter named Buffy), that connection alone makes Joss practically family.  So I was just being supportive by watching his Hollywood Superhero Blockbuster movie.   Of course after that I had to  watch another Hollywood Superhero Blockbuster movie, just to make sense of the storyline of the first Hollywood Superhero Blockbuster movie.

The second one was directed by Kenneth Brannagh.  Dead Again is a very good film and hasn’t Brannagh done his share of Shakespeare?  This kind of cred made it perfectly fine to be enjoying mindless, mainstream schlock because it was in fact very entertaining and I was certain it was a higher quality schlock than the usual blockbuster schlock. In the meantime I decided my attraction was for a character not the actor himself.

Then I came across a blurb about said actor having played a vampire in a film by Jim Jarmusch. Jim Jarmusch.  I confess I have not seen Stranger Than Paradise in its entirety, but at some point in every film class I’ve ever taken, the instructor has rolled a media cart to the front of the room and  shown us a scene from this film  as  perfect example of whatever they were trying to teach.  What I do know about Stranger than Paradise is that it features Eszter Balint, and she went on to play in The Linguine Incident alongside Rosanna Arquette and David Bowie. Bowie of course has just recently released a new album, The Next Day, and one of the accompanying music videos features Tilda Swinton who is also in the Jim Jarmusch vampire film with my actor obsession.  (All this in my brain and I can’t remember to pick up cooking spray at the grocery store, not one, not two, but three weeks in a row.)

Suddenly my interest went beyond the character and to the actor.  Suddenly it seemed perfectly reasonable to seek out this actor’s body of work.  I couldn’t let my husband know of course, because he wouldn’t understand, and was already privy to my secret The Avengers viewing habit.  But I had already decided: Let the Tom Hiddleston film viewing frenzy begin!Deep Blue Sea

I started with low hanging fruit, The Deep Blue Sea, a watch-it-now selection on Netflix. I waited until my husband went to bed and then eagerly turned on this post-WWII period piece about a woman who leaves her husband for a younger man.   A promising premise, but the story seemed as inane and lifeless as the main character, a beautiful woman named Hester (a classic name for an adulterous woman) who leaves her stodgy older husband for Tom Hiddleston(‘s character) and then remains mired in indecision and depression.  The lack of any substantial movement or character motivation was the most impressive feature of this film.  I later discovered it was originally a stage play written in the 1950’s, which would explain the spot-on dialogue of the era.  Ultimately there’s no real payoff other than the final visual of a bombed out building suggesting perhaps that Hester’s affair and emotional aftermath are just one small part of the devastation created by the war.

In the morning my husband asked me what I had watched and I told him.  He had the title up on IMDB in less than five minutes.

“Just as I thought,” he teased. “Loki.”

The next movie was Midnight in Paris, which I actually had to add to my Netflix queue, return a Pokemon movie and then wait for it to arrive in the mail.  This was a little more work than I had anticipated and made the whole obsession seem – well obsessive.  However, slipping this movie past my husband was easy.

“Hey, you want to stay up and watch a Woody Allen movie with me?”

“No.”

It was that easy.midnight in paris

For the most part I have enjoyed every Woody Allen film I have seen and Midnight in Paris is no exception. Owen Wilson plays the lead, Gil, a screenwriter with artistic aspirations beyond Hollywood who feels he is living in the wrong time. He’s about to marry Rachel McAdams’ Inez, a shallow woman who cares more about appearances and social standing than supporting his creative endeavors.  Naturally only sensitive writer males are searching for more meaningful work in life while females are simply looking for shopping bargains. If women are not shallow then they are hollow, a beautiful vessel in which to store the sensitive male writer’s hopes and aspirations, a muse like Adrianna, the woman Wilson’s character meets when he mysteriously travels back in time to Paris of the 1920’s.

It’s in the Paris of the past where Gil meets the literary greats – Hemmingway, TS Elliot and of course F. Scott Fitzgerald played by Tom Hiddleston.  Fitzgerald, who in real life only thrived financially by writing for Hollywood in the 30’s, but also found the work disheartening, would seem like  a natural sounding board for Gil’s character, but instead we only get a couple of scenes with him.   That’s okay, because once we get to Paris of the 20’s it’s all about Adrianna, and cramming in as many Jazz age cameos as possible.

After Midnight in Paris I checked into IMDB for other titles and decided I had tracked down all that were easily obtainable.  Sure there was still War Horse, but I was not going to watch that on principle, not in a million years, even if someone paid me.  I figured I was done.  I’d wait for the new Thor movie and keep an eye out for the opening of Only Lovers Left Alive and hopefully by that time my interest would have passed.

A day or so later I found out that The Hollow Crown was going to be broadcast on the local PBS station.

With my husband still wide awake and playing a video game on his computer in the kitchen  I nonchalantly turned on the TV and kept the sound down as to not draw attention to myself, but all I could hear was my husband’s Diablo III warrior wench yelling “I require aid!” and “I am overburdened!”.  For heaven’s sake, I thought, get thee to an auction house and pay the necessary gold to properly armor that girl and buy her a few more bags for loot.  While you’re at it, would it kill you to get her some pants. What? The auction house wants real money?  Fine, I’ll turn up the sound!  Catching only every third word of dialogue in Shakespeare is a special kind of hell onto itself.  So up went the sound.  Within moments my husband’s head snapped in my direction.

“What are you watching?” he asked.

“Shakespeare, on PBS,” I replied smugly, feeling all kinds of cultured.

He paused a moment and listened.

“I know that voice!”hollow crown_

Busted.  He did end up watching the final two parts with me and admitted that Loki could really deliver a Shakespearean speech.

You can’t criticize Shakespeare.  I tried once when I was an English major at a liberal arts college (before I was a community college film school dropout) and the professor gave me such a tongue lashing in addition to a C on my finished paper that I learned never to speak badly of the Bard again.  That said, The Hollow Crown, a BBC production of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V, is excellent!  Shakespeare presented with the production value of Game of Thrones, plus Jeremy Irons?  What’s not to love?

I had reached the end of my viewing list.  There were plenty of interviews and such on the internet but I only care about movies. I wanted the damn vampire movie, but the release date seems to be up in the air.

Then my husband was unexpectedly sent out of town on business.  I could watch whatever I wanted in the evenings after the kids had gone to bed.  I could even watch . . . War Horse.

It arrived on a Wednesday, smack dab in the middle of my husband’s leave.  It was in my DVD player by 9 pm that evening, right after the final goodnight to my oldest son.  Tom Hiddleston’s character, Captain Nicholls, shows up early enough.  Just like King Henry in Henry V, he gets sent to fight a war on England’s behalf in France.  However, Captain Nicholls isn’t nearly as lucky as Henry V (although I suppose dying of dysentery at age 35 isn’t particularly lucky either . . .) Without giving too much away, in case you haven’t watched War Horse (and I don’t recommend it)  – he dies, as do a lot of other characters who come in contact with the horse.  War Horse of Death would have been a more apt title.

Here comes the part I have had hard time admitting -even though Tom Hiddleston’s character was clearly out of the picture, I kept watching.  I watched all the way through to the garish, golden-lit sunset ending when the boy, now a soldier who has gallantly faced the horrors of war, rides that damn horse, the only thing he really wanted for the entire picture, up to the gates of his parent’s farm house, proving you can go home again.

And who doesn’t want to go home again?

I myself would  feel at home again sitting in a darkened theater at the Opera Plaza  watching a movie about a depressed rock star vampire (one who is not named Lestat) ; for the duration of the film I could pretend that outside the theater it is still 1995. Why 1995?  Because a film about vampires by Jim Jarmusch starring Tilda Swinton sounds so very 1995 to me.   Because in my San Francisco of 1995 all of my friends are still alive and healthy and hopeful.   The Film Arts Foundation is still the backbone of the local film community and YouTube has yet to arrive.   San Francisco has yet to be remade by the dot com boom and it is still  affordable to all who find themselves drawn to the city. Don’t get me wrong,  I wouldn’t consider abandoning my present,  like Gil from Midnight in Paris.   I love my family, my house by the ocean and all the people who have come into my life since I left San Francisco in 2000.  But an afternoon of brief, inconsequential time travel would be lovely.

Especially if it takes me back to a time and place before I watched War Horse.