Saturday, August 22, 2009

Recidivist Movie Watching



I do so enjoy a nice prison movie. And I ask you, what's not to love?

Bad heroes who have to shiv it out in grotesque cafeterias after their heterosexuality is violated by ugly men in close quarters - j'adore! Paying the ultimate price for contraband, the sanctity of the butt hole or the last delicious cockroach, all this and an amoral center - yes please! Making weapons out of chair legs, pillow cases full of soda pop cans and shop tools sharpened into picks - Don't mind if I do! I don't care how outrageous it gets, I'm absolutely up for it. Misunderstood criminals who heal urinary tract infections with magic houseflies that swarm from the throat of a giant black man? I'm all in, as long as its set to the backdrop of solitary confinement, clanking keys, squeaky shoes, dangerous showers and abuse of power.

I've watched Paul Newman eat those hard boiled eggs a dozen times. I'll never get sick of him shakin' the bush, digging the holes, or confusing the bloodhounds. Clint Eastwood climbing behind the walls of Alcataz? Nifty! Shawshank, Papillion, Bad Boys, Brubaker, Midnight Express, Last Castle, Dead Man Walking, Great Escape - you film it, I'm your prisoner.

Even when prison looks like club med for all the boys I loved in High School, I don't mind. As long as the main character has to eat off of a compartmented metal tray, I'll believe and follow. I like 'em preachy, far-fetched or documentary style - I even like a comedy in striped pajamas -Stir Crazy, Out of Sight, The longest Yard. All deliciously incarcerated.

I don't know why. Maybe its the prison within me that yearns for the prison without. Maybe its some unexpressed desire to be shackled. I'll let my therapist figure that shit out. All I know is, when they pass out the strip searches and initiation rites behind bars, I'm passing out the popcorn and cokes in my living room.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Breakfast in Bed: An Anniversary Tale



As of yesterday I've been married to Vild for nine years.

By way of surprise, our kids made us breakfast in bed. I knew they were up to something because Lou's elbows were not embedded in my rib cage as they usually are at 7 a.m. on a given day. There was a distinct absence of cereal requests or harassment for cartoons immediately upon opening my gritty, crossed eyes.

Suddenly our bedroom door sucked open, pulling the window shades away from the glass, and there were our kids beaming in the doorway, wobbling a tray between them, approaching the bed with something that looked like two coffee cups and a banana.

Upon closer inspection,there was indeed a banana, but also two cups of wet coffee grounds, some of which had slopped over the side so that it looked very much like a trail of ants crawling up the side of the cup, which it very well could have been, our house being what it is.

Coincidentally, I've had a headache for three days. I mention this because coffee looks real purdy to a girl whose had a headache for three days. But a cup of black, gritty mash like liquid sandpaper looks slightly less good. Clearly steps were missed in the brewing process.

There's a tender balance to be struck between the woman with the bad head and desperate need for coffee and the glowing children with the bright intentions and wretched brewing skills. I wanted to be a good parent but I also very much wanted a coffee do-over.

I once presented my own mother with a ten egg omelet, scorched on the outside, running raw on the inside, its edges extending over the edge of the plate like it had fainted there. She was tender enough as she scraped it into the trash, telling me she loved me for the effort. I was mortified and angry, hurt and confused. It was an omelet, I'd made it for her, and I couldn't see what the problem could possibly be, why wouldn't she just eat it?

I went down to the kitchen with the kids. Lily mentioned, as I neared the scene, that I should prepare myself for some possible spillage that may have occurred. The coffee pot, it was explained to me, had done something wrong.

With as much tenderness and love as I could muster, six minutes after waking, I told her she'd done a beautiful thing, whatever I might find, and that I'd walk her through the coffee making steps to see what error the pot had made.

Turns out the pot had forgotten to put a paper filter in, and the plastic basket had been filled to the top with about forty dollars worth of grounds. After the 'go' button had been pressed, the scorching dribbles of well-water had nowhere to go and had run off the packed mesa of granules, both spurting from the sides under the lid and flowing back into the water reservoir, then down the sides of the machine, across the counter top, drooling down the cabinet front - a river of hot grains running to the center of the kitchen. In the process, Lily had managed to get the cups into the flow, and filled them with some of the molten run-off from the counter top Vesuvius.

I unplugged the coffee machine which hissed gratefully as I carried it over to the sink like a fallen lover. I had to dump the thing in one deft motion, to avoid burns or worse, permanent damage to the hero maker. But deftness, it turned out, was not on the breakfast menu.

The tidal wave of caffeinated slop that sloshed into the sink, did a half-pipe maneuver, washing up the side of the basin in a hot arc that not only dumped a half gallon of liquid over this other counter, but sprayed coffee grounds in a fan across the window screen above the sink, which grabbed like Velcro each individual ground and held each one perfectly, one grain per grid of screen. It was an epic display. Lily watched in disbelief. This, she informed me, was not how coffee was made. She knows how to make coffee, and if I'd just let her do it, she'd show me how. Besides, she said, I was ruining the surprise.

A mop, half a roll of paper towels and two dishtowels later the kitchen was only slightly more tidy than when I entered it. Turns out, wet coffee grounds are stubborn little fuckers. They don't go quietly.

We re-brewed with the insufficient half cup of grounds that remained dry. I talked them through the process, highlighting the benefits of the filter - enlightened "oooohhhhh"s - and we all walked the tray up to Vild who slept peacefully.

He woke on our anniversary to his weak coffee and banana and with real pride Lily told him, "Me and Lou did it all by ourself!"

Happy Anniversary Vildy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Crying Indian...still crying, and now frankly, getting a little dangerous.

Chagrin Falls.

There are in fact falls that pour through the center of our quaint little town, the torrent made from the tears of a million unfulfilled housewives.

Be that as it may, its lovely, the Chagrin River, flowing with grace through several counties, until in dumps finally into lake Erie. In downtown Chagrin it makes a dramatic descent, crashing down between The Popcorn Shop and Starbucks to the delight of residents and tourists alike who congregate on warm summer evenings to gawk and stroll, talk and eat ice cream by its sonorous cascade.

We were those gawkers last night. My family and I got our requisite ice cream cones and went to watch the river do its thing. By the banks of this town's most beloved feature, you will find a thoughtfully constructed set of wooden stairs, with several well-positioned landings and built-in benches, that descend from street level to the base of the falls, so that one might pleasantly dawdle and enjoy the scenery. The stairs are steep, the view dramatic, and there's no way not to love it.

Last night it was crowded, it being the first truly hot evening of the entire summer. Couples, families, and many, many sweet-natured dogs were out in force. My kids stroked with sticky fingers, every single dog on the way down, so a 45 second trip became a 35 minute reconnaissance - all part of the pleasure.

Most of the way down, at perhaps the best vantage point, I see a gormless teen hurl his unfinished ice cream cone, with wrapper, into the ivy. It was a flash, and I wasn't sure, maybe it was just a glob of unruly ice-cream and though gross, impermanent in its assault on nature. His mother was facing him and said nothing. No sooner had this action registered, but the dickhead teen turns around a chucks his overlarge wad of napkins onto the manicured hedgerow. Its difficult to explain without boring you, how the wad was perfectly below eye-level, like it had been laid on a platter, a perfect, plated fuck you, so that no one viewing the falls would be able not to see it. But there it was, a bleached white ball on a stage of green, and his mother said nothing.

It really got my Indian braids in a twist. So I grab the wad from the shrubs and from behind and below, shove it back into his hand. I startle him, and at first he thinks I'm handing him some napkins as a gesture of friendship, but quickly realizes its a crazy woman handing him his own nasty gob of sticky paper.

He says, "Thanks...er...HEY! I just threw that there" and he points to the hedge like I should recognize that he'd already disposed of his crap, couldn't I see that? To which I reply, "Yes, I watched you do it. That's yours and there's a trash can right there...RIGHT THERE!"

There are moments when I can actually feel my pupils dilate and its possible something might have flown from my body, spittle or something toxic, or some kind of threatening aroma, because let me tell you something, that little fucktard marched that wad the three fucking steps to the trash can in quite a hurry. His mother watched without expression or frankly comprehension.

In closing I will say, I'm starting to get it. I'm beginning to regretfully understand how broken people do this. They see something nice, something naturally beautiful, or made with love, and their brokenness compels them to leave their mark of anger and hurt on it. It cannot be left alone, because to do so would be to admit and succumb to, beauty itself. I am starting to see the formula of the damaged soul that lashes out at the resplendent.