Ancient Metaphor

Ancient Metaphor VIII, Dick Jemison, 1984

It is cold this new year, very cold, like 13 ºF cold. Last month, last year the weather was unseasonably warm. So, this month’s cold snap hits you in the face like a slap across the face. Yesterday, we got a dusting of ice and snow. All of the RAV4’s doors and windows were jammed by ice. Saint Louis is notorious for its ice storms. I got the driver’s door open without much difficulty, fired up the engine and hit the defroster to clear the windshield. The wipers were locked in ice. I tried to get the scraper, but the rear door was ice locked and wouldn’t open. I ended up having to go back into the house and grab a spatula to free the wipers from their icy grip. Winter isn’t coming, it is already here.

Dave and Maren left town last week and are now back in Boston. Dan and Britt are still here but leave tomorrow. Tonight, the four of us will be going out to dinner, risking Omicron. Frankly, knock-on-wood I’m surprised that no one has gotten sick this holiday season. Either we have all been lucky or being triple vaxxed really does make a difference. With their departure, we’ll begin putting the holidays behind us and get on with the new year.

This time of year, critics produce their annual best of lists. Several best movie lists of 2021 had CODA (Apple TV) among their picks. CODA is an acronym that stands for children of deaf adults. Set in Gloucester, Massachusetts, this coming-of-age drama centers on Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), a high school student and the only hearing member of her family. In addition to her parents, her older brother is also deaf. They are all fisherman by trade, working alone together, every day out on the water, just trying to get by. The family members communicate with each other using sign language, but being the only hearing member of her family, places the burden of translator with the rest of the world on Ruby. Ruby likes to sing. Out on the boat she sings only for herself, and Ms. Jones has a great set of pipes. On a lark, Ruby signs up for the school choir. Her parents think that this is a silly idea, all the while being supportive of her brother’s Tinder habit, “because it is something that we can all do as a family.”

The movie is rather formulaic, but because it is so beautifully performed that is easily overlooked. It is also a remake of an original French film (La Famille Bélier) and was brought to America by some of that show’s French crew. One important difference between the two movies is that in CODA the deaf characters are performed by deaf actors. Most famously by Marlee Matlin as the mother. This casting choice gives the movie an authenticity that allows it to rise above its melodramatic plot. The climax comes when Ruby must make a choice, stay and support her family’s struggling fishing business or strikeout, live her own life and audition to the Berklee music school.

The Gradient

The Gradient – Northern Lights Style

The new movie version of Dune dropped yesterday and I managed to watch about an hour of it before it was off to the theater with Anne. What I did see was as good as I had hoped for. Vax cards in hand and masks in place we ventured out to COCA’s Catherine B. Berges Theatre (a marvelous new venue in U-City) to see the Reps new production, The Gradient—a world premier satirical look at toxic masculinity, which also manages to poke fun at tech startups and bad bosses in general. The Gradient is a new facility that promises to take men accused of sexual misconduct and rehabilitate them into responsible citizens. Born of the #MeToo movement and fueled by the likes of Donald Trump, R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein, this play is set in the not-too-distant future and portrays an organization that employs an algorithm, which mathematically and scientifically evaluates candidate men and then delivers an individualized treatment regimen to rehabilitate them. We follow new-hire Tess, as she wrestles with her often less than truly forthcoming patients and a sarcastic boss who is also too often less than helpful. In physics, a gradient is an increase or decrease in the magnitude of a property observed in passing from one point or moment to another. Here the property is toxic masculinity and much to Tess’s surprise, The Gradient doesn’t always lead to its decrease.

In other news, Anne and I went to Target to look at lawn furniture and get our Covid booster shots. Yesterday, the CDC approved mix-and-match boosters. Our original vaccination was the one-and-done J&J shot, which while it was the first one available to us, it also now seems to be the least effective of the three brands that have been approved. At Anne’s behest, I shopped around for Moderna shots, which she has determined to now be the best of the three. I got us appointments for this afternoon with CVS, at their local in-store pharmacy. Here’s to sticking it to the man and the woman—besides my microchip’s battery had died.

Route 66

Route 66 Kitsch

We got up early this morning and headed back to Petroglyphs National Monument. This time we tried a different part of the park. We were rewarded with many more glyphs than yesterday. This section featured three pretty short trails, but one of them was pretty steep, a scramble to the top of the mesa and then back down the 70% incline. We did all three trails and got back to the hotel in plenty of time for checkout. Heading west out of Albuquerque, we passed a horrendous traffic jam headed east. An accident at a construction site caused the ten mile backup. There are a lot of trucks on I-40. We stopped in Grant for lunch and the pictured photo-op. We’re overnighting in Gallup, New Mexico, near the Arizona state line. Got here early, checked in and then walked around town, ate in the hotel and now I’m doing laundry. We’re staying in El Rancho Hotel. Founded in 1936, it has been New Mexico’s HQ for the stars. Built by the brother of Hollywood mogul DW Griffin, it has hosted dozens of movie stars over the years. Each room is labeled with the name of an actor that slept there. Our room was Irene Manning’s while she was shooting Desert Song, a WWII era musical that had been remade before and after.


Oscar for Dawn Patrol, Best Original Screenplay, John Monk Saunders, 1931

NY Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, devoted her Sunday opinion piece to some hating on the Oscars, which will occur Sunday night. She trotted out Norma Desmond’s famous line, “It’s the pictures that got small!” to make her point that for movies in general and the Oscars in particular 2020 was not a very good year. The pandemic shuttered theaters, forcing new releases to either delay their openings or stream on the small screen for much less money. Generally, it was the big box office shows that chose to delay, making way this year for smaller more independent films to shine. One side benefit of these trends is that this year’s Oscars will be more diverse than previous ones. No need for hashtags this year. Dowd’s complaint was that these indie films were too dour, too heavy on message and too light on entertainment. She felt that since we were all suffering, why not present something happy and gay to distract us from our plight, like they did during the Great Depression. The problem with this thought is it doesn’t take into account that Hollywood cannot move that fast. The Depression lasted for years, which gave movies time to adapt. Covid came on us out of the blue, we never saw it coming, until it was too late. It takes years to create a movie. It has been a little over a year since the first lockdown. Maybe in a couple of years we could see movies that reflect our 2020 experience or distract us from reality.

5 Flights Up

View From Dan and Britt’s New Apartment

Earlier this week, I had republished a photo of one of the stainless-steel eagles that adorn the Chrysler Building. Coincidently, Dan texted us the above photo that shows the view from his and Britt’s new East Williamsburg apartment. It sits atop a five-floor walkup, the penthouse sort-of-speak, in a building without any taller neighbors nearby. In the picture you can see the Chrysler Building sticking up in the distance. In 1930, at over a thousand feet, it was the tallest building in the world, but by 1931 that title transferred to the Empire State Building. The much taller building in the photograph is One Vanderbilt (1400’), which only opened last fall. I bet its owners are scrambling to fill the place. Dan and Britt are going to take the month of April to move into their new place and hire movers to haul the heavy stuff up those five flights of stairs.

In their new accommodations I am reminded of a movie that I once watched called 5 Flights Up, now on Netflix. Starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman as an elderly Brooklyn couple, who are some 40 years into a loving and happy marriage. The movie’s premise it that they have decided that they are getting too old to climb those stairs. This decision plunges this couple into the dog-eat-dog world of NYC real estate, with its cast of annoying characters. In the end they decide they’re not too old yet and do not sell their apartment after all, which pisses everyone else off, but at least they’re happy.