Tag Archives: Romantic Comedy

Stop Motion

My son, Noah, has shown yet again just how innovative he . . . and technology . . . can be.

Let me start, though, by telling you how my afternoon every day this week has been spent finishing up work then getting home to a flurry of interrogatives.  Not that they’re difficult ones.  No “Train A leaves the station at 50mph and Train B leaves at 70mph going toward each other what time do they meet?”  No.  It’s usually . . . “Hey Dad, can I tell you something?!”

After the question – which I usually follow with “could I really stop you?” – said child begins talking.  And talking.  And talking.  In the middle of the story, which sometimes is really interesting but more often is the entire plot of every chapter of their latest book, the other two siblings come in.  Most times that’s “can I tell you something funny that just happened on Spongebob?”  My response to that is usually “no.”

Lately, I’ve heard Abbi’s whole story about what happened in drama class.  Last night it involved their improvisation exercises and how she “had” to kiss a guy on the stage.  She shrugged it off acting like it was no big deal but her ears were red.

So here’s the thing.  It doesn’t bother me too much . . . it nags at me.  I am thrilled she had great improvisation – which she tells me she’s not good at doing – but I also have to swallow down the male tendency to be angry she’s kissed some guy.  I’m not naive.  She had a boyfriend last year.  She had one before him.  She’s responsible and loving and I cannot be the typical Dad who cleans his gun when the date shows up to get his daughter.  I have to be both Mom and Dad.  I wasn’t much older than her when I met her mother.

It’s that she’s growing up.  This tiny little girl who stood on the top of the steps to our house and had her shadow touching the street now is old enough to make decisions and take on responsibilities.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  It certainly wasn’t supposed to happen this way, either. Not without her Mom.  I was processing this when my son, Noah came up and told me he’d made a cartoon, like the old stop motion claymation things.

On his Nintendo 3DS, there’s a way to do stop motion animation.  He spent all afternoon and most the night before dinner making it.  He took Legos and small characters from other toys and made them move, telling a story.  Now, no, it’s not Coraline or Nightmare Before Christmas but he’s also only 9.  For a 9-year-old to have this work out so damn well and have an actual story?  I’m floored.

So here I am watching them all grow up and I realize that the time I have left with them is actually pretty short.  Very short, in fact.  If I look at where the boys are now . . . I have about 8 years with them.  I’ll be 50 and the house will be empty.  The plans I had for the future could possibly still happen, but not the way I’d envisioned them 10 years ago.

It’s funny. I’m simultaneously proud and sad.  All 4 kids are growing up so quickly.

But then Sam comes up and says “I made a video too, Dad,” and shows me.  In it . . . a shot of the TV screen with Spongebob playing . . . while Sam narrates.

Maybe I have a little longer than I thought.

Nights in White Satin

Nights in White Satin (Single Edit) by the Moody Blues from the LP Days of Future Past

OK, it’s a stretch for a tie-in, I’ve just been dying to use that song for a headline.

But nights are seriously becoming less tedious for me.  I started writing due to the slow and maddeningly quiet time.  It’s a hard thing to watch your children go to bed and realize that you’ve been unable to process your own life because you’ve been  keeping yourself busy and moving forward knowing that you have them counting on you.  It’s not that I’ve suppressed a lot of feelings or grief, you’ve seen and read a lot of it.  But when your day starts really early and ends really late you don’t really think very much about your life.  It’s something triggered by smells, touch, thoughts, all of that.  It’s not something that you prepare for until you’ve realized you’re in the house and the only one awake.  You can’t relax because you are left to think about what you have and, more importantly, what you don’t have.

But this last few weeks my oldest daughter has been staying up.  I should be the dutiful Dad and force her to go to bed, even at 17.  She needs the rest, teenagers don’t think they do, they’re immortal after all, but they’d be dead wrong, too.  I had the ability to sleep until noon at that age, though I stayed up really late.  You’d think, being a man, I’d dislike the constant romantic comedies or the horribly sickening trash reality shows.  But I actually like them now.  Not for the reasons you might think, though, it’s not that they completely got under my skin.  Sure, I liked the Scottish girl on Abbi’s show America’s Next Top Model.  Like her Mom, she enjoys the romance and British romantic comedies.  I actually like the hopeful tone and the smiles my daughter gets . . . the tension she feels when the romantic leads don’t meet up.  It’s fun to watch her so hopeful.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  We don’t watch just those things.  We were enamored and tried to analyze the last episode of Steven Moffat’s Sherlock.  (How in the hell did he stage his own death and Watson didn’t figure it out?!  No possible way CBS will even get this close to right.)  We’ve seen action pictures.  We have Alien on reserve so that we can watch that before seeing Prometheus in the theaters.  It’s more the opportunity to spend some time with her, really.  That’s the big thing.

Now, you might be thinking I’m just putting off my own feelings and being selfish by spending the time with her and should be making her go to bed or doing whatever she needs to do.  School’s out for her, bear in mind, and she has those opportunities.  She asks me to go out with friends and I let her.  She asks me to go to movies, all of that.  I let her do that, too, within reason.  The odd time she forgets to tell me something or springs a last-minute redezvous with friends on me I tend to be pernicious with her and push her to remember that she’s not just taking on responsibility, she has a responsibility to tell me what she’s doing and where she’s going.

But no, I’m not using these evenings just for the company, though that’s really nice.  Not many Dads can say their kids like to spend time with them and I’m lucky enough, at least right now, to have that.  I only have another year left so I’m going to take my breaks where I can get them.  No . . . the big thing is, at least for me, that I also have the opportunity to talk with her about the very things that we’re watching.  She wants to go into drama.  A crappy, horribly written and badly acted rom-com is something we can talk about how it went wrong.  We can watch her Mom’s favorite one – Sleepless in Seattle – and even though Abbi loves Norah Ephron, talk about the fact that the leads live on opposing coasts – something that even Tom Hanks brings up in the movie.  We can talk about whether the ending is truly that happy.  Sure, it’s very hopeful, but is Meg Ryan really going to leave her job at the Baltimore Sun . . . without another gig at, say the Post Intelligencer?  Where are Meg’s friends?

Then there’s the ones that actually have a touch of reality in them.  I, personally, think that the Hollywood machine – lately in particular – have gotten out of control.  We both particularly disliked  the Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis movie . . . with the exception of how they analyze the manipulation of the audience during one romantic comedy they watch on the television.  It’s actually quite clever.  “There it is . . . a jaunty little pop song at the end to make you feel good without ever really tying in to the movie’s theme.  Why the hell is that even in there?”  (No complaints about letting my 17-year-old watch a movie about friends having sex.  At least we have a healthy enough relationship to talk about this.)

But the real movies are the ones that tend to give me more opportunity to have decent discussions.  It’s not like a book club, folks.  I don’t sit with her after the credits have started to roll and then talk about the movie in deep analysis.  It’s not Inside the Actors Studio here.  I don’t ask her favorite sounds or those three random questions from that annoying French philosopher they always end their show with.  But the chance to have a conversation here and there with her so that I can get in my thoughts and let her formulate her own are priceless.  The last few have really hit home.  We watched a cute little independent called Take Me Home that had neither lead kissing each other through the entire film.  They slowly got closer and then didn’t end up together.  In fact it wasn’t until the final scene she ended up meeting up with the man she’d fallen in love with and even then they showed the two people walking toward each other and faded to black.  That, my friends, is more reality than the spinning steady-cam roll 720 degrees in a sickeningly naseous ride while the guy tries to map his love interest’s tonsils with his tongue.

“That movie was nice.  It’s like real life,” was my intuitive daughter’s line.  Sure, it’s insanely hopeful still, but I got to at least poke at the reality bubble a little.

Then there’s When Harry Met Sally. ( I know, I know, there’s the fake orgasm scene.  Again – seventeen folks.  Do you honestly think I had never seen that when it came out?  How many Playboys do you think I hadn’t read by the time I’d reached her age?  Give it a rest.  At least it’s reality this way.)  This Rob Reiner movie written by Norah Ephron is probably closer to the dichotomy of men and women than anything I’ve ever watched with her before.  It’s enough for me to forgive the sweetness and false hope of Seattle.  During the movie my daughter says “I hate it when people say that!” when Billy Crystal says men and women can’t be “friends”, the sex gets in the way.

You’re probably going to think I’m crazy, but I agree with her.  I have a number of female friends.  I have male friends, too.  I don’t want to have sex with any of them, either.  To me the bigger, more important message of the movie – the one many people miss in the mess of emotions and “sex gets in the way” message is the fact that Harry and Sally are friends.  You see all the older couples talking about love at first sight – and I had that.  They also talk about being together and being happy.  I had that, too.  But most importantly, like the two of them in the movie, I was great friends with Andrea long before we dated.  She was part of a circle of people that I worked with, a clique of reporters and crew members that had to put the newscast together every night.  We hung out.  We joked.  She was maddening and frustrating and would fight me on every turn.  So when Billy Crystal tells Meg Ryan that “I love the fact that when you leave my clothes still have the smell of your perfume on them.”  He loves that he wants to tell her everything.  She’s the one person he wishes he could talk to when things aren’t right and while they had sex and it messed everything up, it really just opened the doorway to let them walk down that new path.

Most important, though, is the fact that she looks at him after all that and says she hates him.  You may think that’s a silly takeaway, but it’s true.  Real life isn’t “oh, that’s how you feel?  OK.  No problem.  Let’s kiss intimately in front of 100 strangers and act like the world isn’t here and not think we’re making a spectacle of ourselves.”  He was mean, awful, grumpy, and stupid.  That’s not an easy thing to forgive or to overcome.  They don’t say it can’t be done . . . but they do say it’s there.  It’s whether or not you truly love that other person – whether your truly like that person that gives you the indication if it can work.

So when John Cusak brings the boom box over his head, my daughter can sigh and get misty.  But when that same Cusack realized years later in High Fidelity that he’s being stupid by flirting with the rock mag’s cute writer and his life was far more worthwhile being with the woman he’d fought to keep . . . when his love interest, after losing her father, wants to have sex because she wants to feel something – just anything – but the pain she’s feeling . . . that’s more real.  My daughter gets small glimpses into reality.

To continue the movie metaphors . . . Reality Bites, sure.  But it’s the small details . . . the mechanisms of emotions that miraculously click into place, the fates letting the book with her phone number show up at the precise moment; the rhythm guitarist spilling a whiskey sour on your blue jeans so you have to go out with your future girlfriend and friends rather than staying and breaking down gear; the moment of cognition when you realize that you’re friends but you never want this to end, like so many friendships really do.  That’s real.

That’s what makes these nights in white satin.  (OK, not the best closing line, I had to come full circle somehow.  They can’t all be winners!)

No We Can’t Dance Together. No We Can’t Talk At All.

Years ago, when I was still climbing out of the hole I’d dug for myself, I used to tell Andrea that dancing wasn’t something she wanted to see me do.

“I make music specifically so I don’t have to dance,” was my line.  It’s not really as though I hated it, I just thought I looked reaaallllly silly doing it. I just hadn’t really taken the time to see that, unless you’d taken lessons, gone to Arthur Murray or something (look it up, I know some of you don’t know who that is) EVERYBODY looked silly dancing.

But it’s funny, there are two kinds of people that push and push me to move on.  The funny thing is, they both are just trying to make themselves feel better, and it annoys the hell out of me, it really does.  I’m not trying to offend, just educate.

The first are absolutely determined that I can’t possibly handle this.  I HAVE to get to counseling, now, immediately, quickly.  I’m insane if I don’t because the emotional anvils, boulders, shock waves will come falling down on me like so many Acme devices in Wile E. Coyote’s desert.  Why?  Because I’m taking too long.  I’m not fixed.  I’m still here, the guy that’s alone, lost his wife, annoying them with his calm daily work and refusal to be whatever the hell it is they think I should be.  Sorry folks, I didn’t conform to social criteria as a kid, what makes you think it’s happening now?

The second group are the people I like to call the “Sleepless in Seattle”-ers.  They are determined to convince me that I’m going to move on.  I use the movie because it simultaneously gets the grief part right and yet throws me toward the whole “magic” part and never remembers the ghost of Tom Hanks’ wife lingering in his life.  I get a lot of lines from these folks: “you’ll start to heal, eventually you’ll start to date, you’ll meet somebody . . . ”   Those folks are trying to be subtle, creeping the idea into my head.  Then there’s my least-favorite: “Those who have loved before are TWICE as likely to love again!”

Right.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, it was actually one of Andrea’s (OK, mine, too) favorites, but now, when I’m actually in a similar position to Tom Hanks’ character (ironically named Sam, my son’s name) it’s got a whole different feel and is very hard to watch.  The sleepless nights, the daily activity but melancholy nights . . . those are all spot-on.  But what it doesn’t really delve into is why everyone wants you to get there.  What Nora Ephron DOES get right is the beginning of the film.  The “don’t mind him, he’s just the guy who lost his wife” part.  I agree with how he feels at first, it’s hard to imagine how this would work, because as Ephron’s line puts it, “that’s fine, no problem, I’ll just grow a new heart.”

I guess that’s why getting that second chance at what they deem “Magic” seems so incongruous.  Andrea and I got together in spite of ourselves, let’s face it.  I mean, we almost never went out again.  We’d gone out, had a lot of fun, even stayed out having a couple drinks and seemed to click.  She loved to stay up, be out with friends, and I thought we might actually start going out.  A bunch of guys from my speech class in college heard I was in a band and during one of our study sessions, at 9:30 at night, decided that I should grab the ugly, Peto-Bismol colored Ibanez guitar one of them had laying on the floor and we should hit up a jam session at a nearby bar.  So in a brazen state of self-confidence, I hit the pay-phone in the front of the bar (Yes, they had those, well before cell phones, you had to have change and everything and pay physical money to make a call) and fished a piece of paper in my pocket where Andrea had scrawled her number.  I actually got through all seven digits, not hovering after six, in a panic.

I asked for Andrea, as one of her roommates answered.  When she came on the phone, I told her I’d headed out for drinks, was going to actually play guitar on-stage, would she like to join us?  Her answer . . . “oooh.  Yeah.  You see, I just washed my face and . . . geez, I don’t know, I just can’t.”

Yes, yes, I get it, women of the world.  This actually WAS a legitimate excuse.  She’d taken off all her makeup, she’d done her whole bedtime routine, it was fine.  But to 20-year-old Dave who actually took the leap and made the call . . . it sounded like the equivalent of “I’d love to, but I really need to wash my hair”.  The funny thing is, I took this guy’s ugly, awful guitar, got my spot with the band, called out the chords, and just beat the crap out of the guitar.  I played a couple Hendrix pieces, a Muddy Waters cover, and finished to see my speech buddies’ jaws hanging open.  The head of the jam session gave me his card and begged me to come to the next jam.  I, however, downed my drink, laughed as 5 guitarists tried to play “Free Bird” and wondered how this amazing woman could have given me her number, told me to call, then just blew me off.

But she hadn’t.  She must have sensed something, probably because I closed down and hid in the control room, but she did what Andrea did . . . wouldn’t let me hide from it.  She had a knack for hitting me in the head with the proverbial 2×4 to make me see reality.  I just had stewed for a few days because she had some time off.  Just when I was about to give up and chalk this up to my being . . . well, me, she tracked me down and said she’d have done it ANY other night, she just couldn’t that night.  I gave her crap about this nearly every year.  What she didn’t know was all she had to really do was flash that smile and I melted anyway.  You want that movie magic?  That’s where it was.  One flash, one twinkle of her smile and I didn’t have a care.

If you’ve been part of the magic, why would you rush back into the sludge that led up to it?

There’s just such a huge push to make sure that you move on.  You’re still sitting there, cleaning up from the day, basically dying for that second wind and the coffee to take effect so you can take on the 3rd job of the day: maid/butler/chef/laundress/sock darner/pants mender/counselor/dishwasher/repairman.  People also seem to think that because I talk about all that work that it’s simply a matter of having someone there to help you that’s making things so hard.

Get over it.

If that was all I needed, I’d find a way to just hire some person to come in and do all this stuff.  It’s not at all about the work, the activities or raising the kids. I actually like to cook.  I have always loved being with my kids.  They’re the greatest thing in my life, and quite frankly all I have left of my wife.  What I miss is just so intangible.  It’s not as simple as Tom Hanks saying “ah, babe, I miss you so much it hurts…” that’s a given!

It’s the stupid little stuff, the things that hurt and depress and aggravate you all at the same time.  It’s seeing a drawing your son did on the floor, picking it up and looking up to say “look at this” and realizing there’s nobody there.  It’s reaching over to the spot where you held her hand when the house finally went quiet and realizing you’re not going to find those fingers.  It’s wondering how you’re going to help your daughter deal with the problems unique to being a girl and realizing you are all she has.

I guess what I’m saying is what all that symbolism of marriage and relationships is about – symbols most people don’t realize are truly appropriate.  The thing that your wedding band represents isn’t just some big old rock that’s sitting on top some gold or platinum, it’s supposed to be a circle.  It’s supposed to represent one whole life, unbreakable, binding, one blending to the other.  The idea given that you no longer are two people, you are one, that’s something you don’t really realize until it’s gone.  We were still individuals, we kept our characteristics.  We had our own jobs, our own likes and dislikes.

But Andrea was ripped away from us – and that’s the appropriate descriptor, ripped.  If you’ve ever had a piece of your skin torn away, or a nail tear through your skin, it’s the emotional equivalent of that kind of pain.  It’s deep, it’s hard, it’s really, really painful and takes forever to heal.  So if you’ve been through that, if you’ve been so invested and bound to this other soul for that long, why would your first inclination be to jump directly into finding someone else?  I found the person that – forgive the cheesy analogy – completed me.  I had the circle, the combination of souls, the person who finished my thoughts.  The person who inspired me to write intense, creative words; to make music and write songs; to influence my thoughts and put them into some sort of artistic endeavor is gone.  I’ve had as many years with her as I did without her, half my life.

I cannot see the future because for decades that future included Andrea.  Now I have to come to terms with that.  I can’t say I’ll never date someone or that the spark, the magic won’t happen.  But having someone try to force me to make it happen won’t work either.

So you’ll excuse me if I’d like to think about and absorb the fact that I’m now half the man I used to be.  Maybe not that much.  She was part of me.  When the music played, she laughed, sang off key . . . and she danced, whether it looked good or not . . . and by then she didn’t care if she’d washed her face or not.

But now, if Donald Fagen will forgive the reference:

“…we can’t dance together.  No we can’t talk at all.”