Saturday, March 21, 2009

Back to the Leaderboard

I was watching Good Will Hunting just now while sitting on the couch, idly going through the latest Sports Illustrated, page by page, skipping the game analyses and stopping for the off-the-beaten-path pieces, when I came to rest on a story about athletes who go broke. This isn't about that, because I haven't read it yet; I set it aside to read later. I actually want to know how someone who makes as much in a week as I'll make in the next six months, assuming I keep my job, can spend enough of his annual salary to end up broke.

So, I've seen the film before and have always said to myself that I enjoyed it and have agreed heartily how good it is when others say they love it. But as I watched, I realized I don't love it. There are a lot of scenes that make me uncomfortable, or are just boring. Psychoanalysis doesn't do it for me, because figuring things out has always been a passion of mine, and I dislike being told, through art, what I should be thinking. At least, I think that's what I don't like about it. It could be Robin Williams, who I hate to see in everything since I grew tired of his one-faced characters, excepting, for the most part, this film, in which he's excellent. Seeing him act so convincingly only reminds me of everything else, and I cringe when I see it.

Maybe that's not it either. Maybe it's because when I watch it, it makes me feel like I'm Will, that I am some kind of genius in a realm that doesn't make sense to anyone, and that I'm terrified of expressing it, except in little snatches which make me appear as if I'm bain dramaged. Don't know if I'm a genius. I do know that I'm dumber than I often say I am, and I'm pretty sure I'm smarter than I'm willing to test. And isn't everybody the same way? I wish folks would just open themselves up once in a while and show us what they're capable of.

The best parts of the film are also the worst for me to watch. It's what the plot (or is it the story? I always get them confused) is all about. It is in the scenes when the four friends are out together, riding in the car talking about sandwiches, standing on a porch sharing a beer and, the most, when after they've been drinking at a bar, they and Will's girlfriend walk outside and are standing there and I can feel it as if I'm there -- it's cool or maybe cold, they're underdressed for the outside but would have been hot inside had they worn more and they've got that warm feeling from the drink and the camaraderie and the sense of the moment that nothing else but alcohol mixed with friendship and a reluctant parting feels like. Right there, I had to turn off the TV, go to the fridge and grab a beer. Not a good beer, but something that would remind me where I was, give me the pleasure of the smell of it and the base taste, without the pleasure of the aftertaste.

I bought these beers on the way to poker one night. I went into Total Wine, which has quite a selection, unfortunately, almost none of it in cans, which I prefer because beers skunk or go stale less easily in cans for some reason -- this is the south where they wouldn't know a beer going bad if it hit them upside the face -- so, after maybe 10 minutes of perusing, I grabbed a six pack of Leaderboard Trophy Lager, made by the Top of the Hill brewery in Chapel Hill, NC, figuring, incorrectly as it turned out, that, because I'd heard of it before, it must be good and, in a moment of second-guessing, thankfully, also picked up a 12-pack of Amstel Light (in cans).

For some reason I told myself I needed to taste something not good, but still beer, to make an adjective where there is none, to force me to comprehend the experience of the film. Because the point it makes is all-too-simple and it isn't made through math or psychoanalysis or the love story or any of that -- the point is told via the best performance an actor can ever give -- give me that is, perhaps he wasn't acting at all. When Ben Affleck, who plays Matt Damon (Will)'s pal Chuckie, sits in front of the car and tells his friend that yeah, he loves to hang out and drink and get into fights and meet girls with him and he always will, he'd also love for Will to show the world who he is, to let them know what he sees in his friend to say, in effect, I think you're something special, so go show them you're special.

If I had anything in all my ramblings about the virtue of selfishness and the power of words and the value of verve -- anything at all to really say, condensed, it would be that. That there are certain people I know who I hope someday will stop looking at life as a series of nights out at the bar, as a series of good books to read, movies to reminisce over, arguments to make, publications to plan. Who will someday walk out of my life forever and show what they're made of. For better or for worse, it doesn't matter.

The movie isn't inspiring. It's torture. As it should be. I need to take my own advice, I suppose.

If you ever come to Chapel Hill, go to Top of the Hill and get one of those beers. Because you can't think about the future when you're too stuck enjoying the present.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On ice

This blog may not, as of yet, be dead, but I'm going to put it in stasis for the time being so I can blog more about life as a journalist over at Basically, it's a glorified title and format change while I continue blogging.

I may come back here eventually. I'm partial to holding onto the name of this blog.

See ya over at the o-com!


Saturday, January 19, 2008

House cooling party

Ok, here's the pix of some of the things we need to sell or give away. There are also books and other miscellaneous. The cooling party was last Saturday, the 26th. People are still welcome to arrange to come by for other items.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A friend at our back deck

I came down with a sore throat this afternoon, shortly after meeting my sister Nicki and family and a friend for Thanksgiving dinner, which we partook at Ted's Montana Grill over by the Streets of Southpoint mall in Durham. It was quite frustrating; seeing as the last time I got sick was during the last days I had off of work, also. So, as I sipped Coke and watched Chocolat with Beth, she cooked me some leftover macaroni and cheese, because I was hungry and she thought it might help more than just Coke alone.

I ate it at the table, a long, heavy, oak (I believe) table with wooden benches and end chairs. The whole time I was eating, the cat sat about a foot away from my plate, looking nonchalant, but secretly waiting for me to let up my guard enough for a bite. Or maybe she was waiting for a chance to lick the plate. We'd gotten into the habit of letting her do so after meals, which, of course, only makes her that much less responsive next time we say "NO!" in very firm words, rudely pushing her head away from our vittles. She was a bit sick yesterday, and so I told her that she wouldn't be getting any people food today.

In the film, Chocolat, a priest tells a parishioner his dog has no soul. I know that many people believe that, but I don't. At least, as far as I believe in the soul in the first place, I don't believe people have what other creatures do not. I guess I believe in some sort of life spirit, though I'm not sure of any divinity attached to it, in every living thing. Certainly, if there is such a thing as divinity in the animal world, our cat, whom we named Squeak, has something of it.

She first started coming by our back deck late last year, if I remember correctly. She was a stray that a neighbor, our retired town manager, C.L. Gobble, took in. The Gobbles gave Squeak to another neighbor to take care of. Tina lives just on the other side of the spring from us. The spring is usually dry and even when it's not, it's only about a half-foot deep. But, as we live on Tucker Drive, we refer to it as Tucker Run. Tina has one of those yappy dogs, a terrier named Grizzly. She named the cat Bear, to go along with that, and kept her outside because Tina's daughter was allergic to cats. It was a meager existence for "Bear," because she was a kitten and wanted friendship, I imagine. So she took to coming over to our place.

At the time, we didn't know she belonged to anyone. We thought she looked to well taken care of to be so, but she was around at all hours, and seemed so skinny, we weren't sure. It got very cold several times winter, so we began letting her in at night. Also, there was a feral white longhair cat that would come by our house at times and s/he was the terror of our neighborhood. The terror of other cats, I mean. She'd chase Squeak up into trees and pretty much scared the bejezus out of her.

Once we learned Squeak belonged to Tina, we began putting her out at night, of which she seemed so sad about. She'd try to run back in before we shut the door and would often stand out there in the cold watching us through the glass. We wanted to just keep her, thinking we'd do a better job taking care of her, but we figured the gift had already been given. But she kept coming by to visit, which we imagined was the best we could get.

Then, one day she stopped coming. Several days passed and we thought Tina might have finally taken her inside or given her away. Then, as Beth tells it, one night just before bed, she went outside because she thought she saw Fifi, our cat who died last year, sitting at the far end of the yard (a good 100 or so feet away), just a silhouette visible against the streetlight. When Beth went out, the shadow of a cat was gone, but there, at the foot of our back steps was Squeak, all tore up, her back legs not working properly.

We brought her in and I called Tina. Turns out the kitty had been struck by a car two and a half days before and had run off into the brush, presumably, they thought, to die. All that time, she had lain in the woods, but instead of giving up, she dragged herself all the way to our back porch, considerably further than our neighbor's. She chose us, the way we see it, so, with Tina's consent, we chose to take her to the emergency 24 hour vet in North Raleigh, to fix her up if possible. We were to keep her if he could.

He could, and did. She had a broken pelvis and a "degloving" injury, meaning the skin had been ripped from her back foot. Her other back foot was banged up as well. The doc put metal staple-stitches in where there was still fur to fix the foot, and gave us some antibiotics and instructions for her care. She got better eventually, and learned to properly use the litter box, eventually, and became a stronger, healthier, and maybe crazier cat that we now call our own.

The white terror disappeared; in probably a tragic fashion. She was a beautiful creature. And we kept Squeak inside for a very, very long time, but we do let her roam now, so long as she comes in at night and when we're away. She's a big cat now, her belly growing in size as mine has done, to the point where we both maybe ought to do something about it. It's hard now to see her as the little kitten that once appeared at our back deck begging for companionship.

Except, she never got her proper cat voice. She might purr like a tomcat, but her meow is still stuck in squeak.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Lest auld acquaintance be forgot (Part III)

The blog is a good example of how easy it is to keep in touch other than phoning or writing. My sister Gabriella does so through a Flickr page; my sister Nicki’s partner Laura does so through MySpace. My pals at work (I work in a small room with three other reporters, all younger) all have Facebook pages and keep tabs with each other that way. Because they’ve bugged me so much about it, I now have a page too, but haven’t the faintest idea what I’ll do with it. I had a MySpace page, but having to have (company founder) “Tom” as a friend irked me, even if he was there to help, as did the number of solicitations you get from people wanting to be your “friend” just long enough to sell you something. Still it’s annoying that you can’t contact other people on their MySpace pages unless you’re a member. My cousin Dave has a content-heavy page, and I was tempted to leave a comment, but didn’t feel like signing in.

Which brings me, in the most god awfully-long roundabout way possible, to the point of this entire post. I was working late one night, not too long ago, when a song came on by the band The Cure and the name of the girl who introduced me to the band, M.J. Slazak, popped into my head.

M.J. was on the staff of the yearbook with me in college. We weren’t really friends, but had nothing against each other either. She was a bit punk, or Goth, or whatever they called it then, always wearing black and such, but she struck me as a kind of conservative in nature as well. I seem to recall her smiling a lot.

So, this song comes on and I think, “Whatever happened to M.J.?” And so I did a Google search or two and her name popped up, responding to something on someone else’s blog. I dropped her a note in response, bookmarked the page and put it out of my mind.

The other day I was cleaning up my browser links at work and ran across “The stream behind the house.” It tingled in my brain that I must have bookmarked it for some reason, but I could remember why, so I clicked on it. It took me to that same post of mine, but below it was one from M.J. herself, reacting in shock and surprise to my out-of-the-blue note.

I responded with a few words and reacted to her comment that she’d have to check out my blog by figuring I’d better get back on the blog again and make some posts. Hence, this very, very, very long post which, on advice from crazyjohn, I’ve broken up over several days).

I guess if I’m to try to keep in touch with long lost friends and acquaintances, I’m going to have to make myself more Internet-visible. And a call to George and Jeff wouldn’t hurt either.