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Three score and ten or more

Saturday, August 25, 2012

No complaints here.

A couple of nights ago, I had just finished a late filing of my income tax (even with an automatic extension) and I collapsed into bed.  I checked the tube for a brief visit with the news and found it so depressing I flipped along until I could find something interesting.  I tuned into Public Television and they were showing Gene Kelly movies in honor of his hundredth birthday.  I fell into the middle of one of my favorite films of all time, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, where I arrived just before my favorite part, the part I call the AMERICAN IN PARIS ballet.  I was caught up in, what has always seemed to me to be an almost flawless telling of a story and revealing a wide variety of emotions in dance.

Most of this ballet is actually revealed as a dream sequence, or reverie that begins with Kelly discovering that his love is committed  to marry one of his best friends.  The ballet begins when Kelly, in response to his pain, decides to take a beautiful blonde who is one of his sponsors as an artist to a wild artist costume bacchanal where he encounters his love with her fiancé and says a final goodbye.   The remainder of the scene (about twenty five or thirty minutes) is his reverie about the possibilities and failures of his love life.

I watched, enthralled, and when the film had its inevitable and somewhat illogical,  happy ending I was left in a great mood.  If not for the likelihood of assassination or at least attack by my wife (and the fact that I was totally exhausted) I would have styed awake all night to watch SINGING IN THE RAIN,  and a couple of other Kelly movies.  As I turned  of the TV,  I reflected on one of the great lessons I learned from this film.

In the early sixties, when I was teaching theatre at Rhode Island College in  Providence R.I. I spent some time in one of my classes using this film and this scene as a great example of  American movie musicals.  I had one student in particular, a very bright and artistic young man who came to my office to discuss this in more detail.  I had a shooting script for the film in my office and we went though it in detail.  He was so taken by the ideas, that he located a showing of the film (in that  pre-computer day, I have no idea how he did so) and drove an hour or so into Connecticut to see it.  He came to my office a few days later, and revealed that he had a terrible experience in the film.  He found the shifts of character and costume in the middle of the sequence jarring and ultimately alternated between boredom and irritation as he watched.   He used specific examples and specific criticisms and was very disappointed that I had set him up for this.

As I listened, I understood something that I had perceived , but never really crystalized in my mind before.  It is the ultimate explanation of the way thinking  people simply cannot believe  that other thinking people cannot understand  why their feelings about religious, political, or other important concepts are not shared .

I am conservative.  I once wrote a note to Rush Limbaugh accusing him of distorting conservatism.  I am old enough and have been conservative long enough that I remember being really angry when the Republican Party chose Eisenhower over Bob Taft.  (I know, most of you don’t know what the heck I am talking about) but I have been in theatre most of my life but most of my students, like most theatre people have become wild eyed liberals.  I can’t logically understand why or how they still support Obama and as we interact on Face Book I frequently get notes asking why in the world, I don’t think as they do.

Our interpretations of most things in our lives are colored by our paradigms.  The entire experience  of our lives colors our interpretation of almost all the important phenomena which we encounter.  That is true of my young student in Rhode Island interpreting a musical which I loved and it is true of many who support President Obama while I do not.

I’ll be honest, I am terribly worried about the fate of our country if he is re-elected and people whom I honor and love are equally worried about the nation if he is not.   Janet and I went to a movie the other day called HOPE SPRINGS, which is a movie starring Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep ( I  probably spelled that wrong)  trying, with the help of a counselor) to figure out what has happened to their thirty year marriage.  Jan and a laughed till we cried  about their adventures, and most people who have been married a long time would recognize, at least moments of their lives or those of friend.  We recommended it to most of the coots and cootesses that we know, and many of them had seen it and loved it as we did, but one lady, who had attended with her husband almost spit as she expressed her hatred of the film.  She came at it from a different paradigm than Janet and I.  As far as  “truth” is concerned, we are both right.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Home Again

Janet and I are home again after a wonderful visit with children, grandchildren and old friends.  We had a long trip out, and were hoping for a better trip home, and it was better most of the time.  Our planes were on time and all of that ran smoothly.  I have had some bad experiences with Delta in the past but things ran  smoothly this time.  I do have one complaint, not with Delta but with general event in the airports  etc.  

I am old.  Finally hit seventy eight years old with at least half of my mind functional (though I am a little panicked at the swiftness with which functionality is developing) and I have quite a bit of trouble  walking upright and I hobble a bit.  I stand pretty well, and I sit pretty well but the transition from sitting to standing is becoming a real problem..  (I seem to make a lot of vocal noise during that process.)

I have been really pleased at losing some eighty pounds, but I have discovered that as I am thinner, I look more frail. (One of my grandchildren said off hand “Grandpa, sometimes when you are walking you look like you might break”)    I sometimes need help getting my carry-on luggage up into the baggage rack, and often half to ask for help, and I am grateful to get it.  That said, one of the most irritating things in the world is when I am moving a suitcase and someone grabs it out of my hand shouting “I’ll do that.”

Unasked for help can be really intrusive.  I bought a walker while in Washington. (I have used them before, but I was having real trouble getting around with just a cane).  It is a nice little walker with four wheels and a seat so that I can turn sit and rest when necessary.  It also makes a handy little luggage cart for my “carry on” and my computer bag.  When one uses a walker in the airport, it is taken to the bottom of the ramp where you enter the plane, and they give it a “gate check” then put it with the baggage in the plane and return it as you are getting off the plane.  Some times it is necessary to get a wheel chair to go from gate to gate and you end up with the walker in your lap while the guy or gal is  pushing your chair,  but I suppose turnabout is fair play.

When suing it to transport my carryon luggage I have a process where I put the bags “just so” and they are very secure while I am in mostion/

On this trip, as I was stacking my two bags, on two occasions some attendant (or little old late) would take a bag out of my hand and with an “I’ll get that”start up the ramp with it, so the the other bag was unstable  and hard to push (my computers lit right on the concrete floor.).  When we got home to Savannah, I had the bags in place when a uniformed young female grabbed them off my walker, and I thought I was going to have to call a cop to get them back.

To anyone interested I say that to offer an old coot (or cootess) help is a kind thing and is always appreciated.  To insist on “helping” if the helpee says thank you but I have got it is really irritating , in fact it is humiliating, and the next person who tries it is going to get kicked or in other way (perhaps only verbally) attacked.  Dang it, leave my stuff alone unless I am willing to let  to take your help (and , in talking with others since our arrival, I have discover that most of those like me, agree with me.