Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Willie Nelson story

It just occurred to me that I've never posted my Willie Nelson story; the story I tell everyone I meet who even mentions his name. And since Paul Giamatti (via unconquerable gladness) would like to try out his soul for a day (great choice!) and I'll be seeing him next week with Bob Dylan, I thought now was as good a time as any.

When I was in college I had a work study job in the Admissions office and got to know Barbara and Richard, a married couple from south Jersey. I worked for Barbara all four years, mailing out applications and school bulletins to prospective students. I really hit it off with Richard when he learned I was a country music fan. As a graduation gift, Barbara and Richard gave me a ticket to see Willie Nelson with them at Radio City Music Hall. Over the years after graduating, we kept in touch and occasionally would get together (they lived very close to my aunt and uncle in Forked River, NJ). Several years later I learned that Barbara was seriously ill. The doctors weren't sure what was wrong at first. One thought it might be Mad Cow Disease, one thought it was Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. After a prolonged and agonizing process, it was finally determined that she had had a stroke and eventually she had to be admitted to a nursing home. While she was in the nursing home, a friend of Richard's who knew Willie Nelson invited him to meet Willie before a show at Great Adventure in NJ. While they were sharing a Lone Star Beer (Richard didn't smoke weed) and talking in Willie's tour bus, Richard mentioned that his wife was in a nursing home. Willie immediately asked him if he could make arrangements for a visit after the show. When Richard called, the nurse who answered the phone didn't believe him (Richard had a reputation as a joker). "Sure, Richard, bring him down," she said sarcastically. So, after the show they drove down to the nursing home. "Where's Willie?" the nurse asked just before she caught sight of the Red Headed Stranger coming around a corner and dropped her coffee. Willie played a couple songs for Barbara and the other patients and staff and probably made a few new fans for life. Although she was unable speak, Richard could tell by the look in her eyes how happy the visit had made Barbara. I wasn't there, but it's an image of Barbara, who died not long after, that I'll never forget.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

3 helicopters, 3 boats, 1 dipshit

I caught the tail end of a rescue mission in the Hudson River yesterday while taking my daily walk after work. Some asshole had jumped into the river, got caught in the current, and began yelling for help. To make matters worse, he refused to grab hold of the life preservers thrown to him from the NYC Police boat that showed up to fish him out (the Jersey City and Hoboken fire departments had also dispatched boats). In order to get him out from under the Frank Sinatra Park pier where he had taken refuge, the police had to lower a raft into the water to go in after him. By this time three helicopters were hovering overhead and about a hundred spectators, including myself, were watching the proceedings over the railing of the pier. A guy next to me, who had been there earlier, informed me that the same guy had pulled an identical stunt a few weeks ago. Observing all the effort being put into the rescue, this really pissed me off. When they finally dragged his ass out from under the pier and onto the boat and the idiot began to wave to the crowd he had attracted (most likely the reason he did it in the first place), I tried to get a chant going: "Throw him back! Throw him back! Throw him back!" I was happy to see that The Jersey Journal didn't even mention the incident this morning, depriving this guy of the attention he so desperately craved.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Another reason to despise cell phones

One of the downsides of getting a flat screen, high definition television is that you can now see with perfect clarity every moron with a cell phone, sitting behind home plate during baseball games, carrying on like fools because someone can see them on TV. It's annoying to the point of distraction.

The shaving cream clown

Every morning, just before I begin shaving, I see myself for a brief moment as a clown in his make-up and am tempted to leave my face as is and greet the world as The Shaving Cream Clown.

Fecal Times

Waking up this morning, I misheard a radio ad for Medieval Times as Fecal Times. Disgusting. After realizing my mistake, I began to wonder if that was intentional, if what I heard was one of those sinister, Freudian, subliminal ads. Then I began to think. Who's to say that in eight or nine hundred years there won't be theme restaurants featuring jousting bouts between Madonna and Michael Jackson and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Osama bin Laden?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Cool mourning

Watching clips from the Michael Jackson memorial yesterday, I was reminded of a trend I've always disliked: sunglasses as a mourning accessory. What's the point of wearing sunglasses at a wake or a funeral? To shield the world from the fact that you're sad and may have been crying? You're at a funeral, who's going to be offended if you shed a tear or two? It's always struck me as being a bit immature and self-absorbed ("I'm not happy to be here, but at least I can look really, really cool").

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hollywood horseshit

I didn't have high hopes going into Public Enemies. I had seen some ridiculous quotes from Johnny Depp saying John Dillinger was a personal "hero" of his and the commercials suggested the stylized, glamorized treatment you would expect from Michael Mann. But I had enjoyed the book it was based on and hoped that the well-researched subject matter would prevail. What the hell was I thinking? I should have known that once the material was filtered through the Hollywood dumbing down process that what ended up on the screen would only approximate the facts as presented in the book. A couple scenes were pure fiction: the scene where the FBI physically tortures Dillinger's girlfriend after her arrest (one agent is shown whacking her across the face with a phone book!) and the scene where the agent who has just killed Dillinger kneels down to listen for his last words (there were no last intelligible words; the bullet that killed him had severed his spinal cord and exited above his eye; he died almost instantly). The final scene (also complete fiction) where the agent visits Dillinger's girlfriend in jail to deliver Dillinger's supposedly romantic fictional last words is like a bow placed on a giant pile of shit.

I had avoided seeing Revolutionary Road when it was in theaters because I had expected to be similarly disappointed. I didn't think the movie could live up to the excellent Richard Yates' novel it was based on. I was wrong. It's one of those rare occasions where the filmmaker actually respects the original material and does his best to bring it to the screen. A nice surprise.

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