A shot I took back in photography class. ♦
I love to go to the movies by myself on occasion with a large coffee loaded with copious amounts of creamer. Mind you, I’m often a tea girl everywhere else, at least that’s what I still like to tell myself, though, a welcome wave of Starbuckian need frequently takes hold. Last February, on a grey and blustering day, Factory Girl was calling my name. A film telling the story of Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol’s “it” girl, his friend of all friends, and the closest to love as fascination will allow for a man of the homosexual persuasion. As an artist and personality he’s a bit over exposed, but I still manage to enjoy him immensely due to the rousing stories told in class by a former teacher who claims to have regularly hung with him in NYC back in the day. In an interview with Andy looking back on his life, he’s asked questions concerning that of love and his friendship with Edie. His response:
” … I just think people forget what emotions are supposed to be, I mean, it’s too hard to care. I mean, you know, I still care, but it would be just so much nicer not to care. It’s just easier being detached.”
Interviewer: “What about Edie?“
Andy: “You know, I mean, it was just so long ago, I mean, I hardly knew her at all …”
Back in school, I spent many an hour with my fellow designerly friends.
Being in the public eye, Andy’s answers could very well have been a cover or brush off to deflect the nosy barrage of questions so often posed by the media. Still, such answers speak to a problem I’ve begun to encounter over the last several years. That of what has been deemed the “emotionally unavailable male.” This is a phrase I’ve heard uttered quite often on TV, in movies, and occasionally from a disgruntled female friend here and there. I scoffed at the phrase at first having never met one, presuming it was just another stereotype. But now I’m beginning to wonder. Back in school, I spent many an hour with my fellow designerly friends. Concerning the guys, having taken in account their tendencies to be talkers vs. listeners, outgoing vs. a wallflower, a good day/mood vs. a bad one and such, it appeared that the younger the guy, the more open, friendly, receptive and generally tuned in they were. The older the guy (observations apply to singles only), the more inward, closed off, and inexpressive they were.
They may be on to something. “… easier being detached,” Andy said.
Words I’m tempted to revisit in practice. Nowadays, I live my life connected on many levels. I stuffed one particular level down so very, very far, though, long ago. Self-medicated it into a quiet little corner. I know better. Stopped the unnamed ( this is called building “intrigue” ;) ) self-medicating last August and it opened up a torrent of pain. Raw. RAAAAAW. Ouch. I suspect there’s more to come. Layers yet to fall away in this waking from a fog. I walked myself into this mess and undoing it leaves me bare, feeling exposed, vulnerable, longing for a moment to cease feeling, be numb. “Easier being detached.” Then, I remember, I’m not about easy. If by chance, ease is part of it, count me blessed. I’m gonna feel every hellish moment as a reminder to not go down this way again. Will not retreat. The only way is through, no more skirting around it in avoidance pretending it’s not there or that it’ll remedy itself if enough time passes. It won’t. It will not dissipate, it will only lurk, festering, deepening its roots if anything, becoming entrenched, never loosening its hold.
Ultimately, this “emotionally unavailable” business must be flung out the second story window versus my even entertaining the idea. It would only serve as yet another way of escape from potential pain. A swapping of vice (AKA the self-medicating.) It’s such a waste! Of a risk. Of a heart. Any seeming protection from pain it does offer is a lie, as it’s gonna be hard at times in life no matter what, detached or not. So, if that’s true, why not live being present, tuned in, connected, available at every capacity, on every level, emotionally and otherwise, as the joy to be had that balances out any accompanying pain is certainly worth it! Acknowledging this is one thing, having the strength to follow through and keep at it is another, yes? Still, I ask myself “If I don’t take action now, what will it someday cost me?” The answer is enough to keep me moving in the right direction. ♦
Oh, yes. A declaration and a promise. I was so sure that There Will Be Blood would be my definite pick from those in this year’s Oscar’s Best Picture selection after having been completely taken with the previews displaying images of an impassioned Paul Dano and fueled by an intense segment of the film’s engaging score. Not so afterall. A movie I had absolutely no interest in to begin with has won out in the end. The Oscars are but a day away. Big yay! Here lie my musings on this year’s offerings …
There’s no curtain of the psyche pulled back to reveal the depth required to possess such anger and its source.
In viewing There Will Be Blood, I was struck by the score immediately. It made me look at the vast, sprawling cinematic camera shots of barren land with great expectancy. Music to keep one on their toes, alert. A main draw in the film, much ballyhooed, is Daniel Day-Lewis’s topnotch (and nominated) performance. He portrays a driven, ambitious man in search of wealth, an “oil man” as he fondly and repeatedly refers to himself, but a man who never quite gets it. “It” being life’s great connection to others, instead he systematically drives away and/or disposes of the few close to him. Day-Lewis is excellent, his face so lively, his voice almost roaring in line delivery at times. As I like to find the meaning in things, often to a fault, the film left me generally unsatisfied. And not in the good way in which one is left wanting more after just a taste, no. Ambiguous, it all was. The man had tremendous anger, though, no explanation is even hinted at as to why. No reason. No motive. The payoff lies in the “why,” don’t they know? There’s no curtain of the psyche pulled back to reveal the depth required to possess such anger and its source. Count me ultimately disengaged and wondering at the intent of the director in so telling the story.
Among the men …
Every little bit of me screams for Johnny, Johnny DEPP!! Go, fight, win! An Oscar, yes! But, for his role as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street? Nooooooo! Overlooked for many a fine performance over the years only to land a third nomination for Sweeney Todd. Say it ain’t so. A movie I thought I’d absolutely love due to its gruesome take on meat pie filling, monstrously funny, and a musical at that, lost my affection with its focus purely on revenge rather than on redemption. A bang up job he did, all the same, the man can emote in glorious pallor, thus he must remain my top pick for Lead Actor. I am so championing for Casey Affleck to win for Supporting Actor in the The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (quite the mouthful). I swear I could see actual love and admiration, the real deal, pouring out from his eyes as Robert Ford in a discussion with Jesse James played by Brad Pitt. Viggo Mortensen, Viggo is nominated solely for having displayed his pretty pink parts on screen for all to see. During a fight seen in a bathhouse, no less. In his turn as Nikolai, a driver for one of London’s most notorious organized crime families of Russian descent in Eastern Promises, his accent is kept wonderfully consistent, but an inadequate show of emotional range fails to convince me of his Oscar deservedness. FYI, I’m apparently a fan of Russian criminal tattoos, who knew?
What’s the deal with Clooney? Why does the academy again deem him worthy of an Oscar acting accolade? Nevermind the actual movie, Michael Clayton, for which he’s nominated capturing a Best Picture nod (and even Original Screenplay). Clooney plays the fixer for a high-power law firm whose client, an agrichemical industry giant, is wreaking untold havoc on their consumers’ health. Tilda Swinton, nominated for Supporting Actress, plays chief counsel for said industry giant. I so thoroughly abhorred her, more that of what she represents- the money-grubbing corporate mongers who check any scruples at the door in exchange for a sizable expense account and a noteworthy entry on their resume only to live out the existence of a soulless stooge. Michael Clayton plays like a grimmer version of the movie Erin Brockovich, though, Mr. Clayton must be dragged to his duty whereas Ms. Brokovich led the crusade. Michael Clayton is a slow build to a resolute, but disappointing end, seemingly aimed at providing Clooney with fodder with which to shoot for an Oscar. I’m prepared to birth a small baby cow if Michael Clayton takes it. Or Clooney for that matter. Moo.
Let’s talk women …
Juno. Oh, Juno. I really, really didn’t wanna see this film. Despite immensely enjoying the quirky Napoleon Dynamite-ish style seen in the trailer and on the poster that all called my name, I was completely turned off by that Ellen Page, Juno, with her harsh, smug line delivery. Juno is 16 and pregnant, obvious dilemma therein. Rolled my eyes and let out a groan when it was announced she was nominated, as well as the movie. FINE. Off I drove to see it in my pursuit of an informed opinion over that of stubborn bias. Not even five minutes in, and I was lovin’ it! Abandoned my disdain for her character entirely. Was won over by her, rooting for her, and genuinely adding her to the “Most Admirable Characters” list. Also nominated for Original Screenplay (take that, Michael Clayton!) it contains the pleasurably sardonic nature of Diablo Cody’s (clearly a pseudo name) writing, just as in her published memoirs. My personal choice is for that of the most lovely Cate Blanchett. Whether she wins for her title role in Elizabeth: The Golden Age or for her portrayal of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There for Supporting Actress, no matter. She’s power. She’s strength. She’s soft. She’s tender. Diverse, malleable, a true chameleon. When she bellows the words “I, too, can command the wind, sir! I have a hurricane in me that will strip Spain bare when you dare to try me!” as Queen Elizabeth, my spirit rises up to match hers and I feel I could conquer the world. As for who should win, the radiant Julie Christie captures all the multifacets to be found in the slipping away through Alzheimer’s dementia with poignancy and grace in Away From Her.
The moment cannot pass without mention of the beauty that is the film Atonement aptly nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Film Score. I have not read the book from which it was adapted, though, in watching it I felt very much as though I were reading some delicious unfolding of languorous description. It is a ravishing romance set in 1935 with a decided undertone of carnal tension. As the credits rolled, Bean asked what I thought of it, to which I said it was one of those films that I needed a little space from to see if it grew on or away from me. A definite case of absence growing the heart fonder, it burned in my mind, and I returned a second time to experience its haunting mood. The music was integral, the score responsible for sweeping me further in. As the There Will Be Blood score was not nominated due to a missed technical requirement, the Atonement score simply MUST win! The pressing repetition of one piano key played again and again heightening each moment on screen before taking off, coupling with a frenzied string accompaniment, soaring high then sweeping low. The addition of the sound of typewriter keys, interwoven here and there, appropo as the plot hinges on that of a misinterpreted typed letter.
A sucker for a good bad guy, I am, strictly on screen, that is. My personal choice for Best Picture edges out Atonement by a smidge: No Country for Old Men. Wasn’t moved one bit by the trailers I’d seen leading up to its release. Sometime afterward, I heard somewhere that Javier Bardem’s character was being compared to Hannibal Lecter. Interest peaked and with the announcement of a Best Picture nomination, off I went to watch. Out wandering the wide open land of a Texas border town in hunt of antelope, Josh Brolin’s character, Llewelyn, comes across a massacre, a drug deal gone horribly wrong. A case of $2 million in cash left there for the taking. And take he does. Soon found out, he finds Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, in hot and ruthless pursuit. Bardem’s highly intense. To a most enjoyably mental degree. His weapon of choice: An unlikely cattle gun. The pacing in this film is right on, keeping the viewer from any ease as Llewelyn, an “everyman” easy to root for, makes seemingly plausible move after plausible move in order to shake the trail of Chigurh, but to no avail as he’s continually caught up with. I felt sure the calm, calculating, perversely humorous Chigurh would walk up the aisle of the theatre at any moment and plug me with that rotten cattle gun. The ending seems to simply drop off out of nowhere, though, it’s supposed to be true to the book it’s taken from, so hooray for that, I suppose.
There is a similar theme amidst many of the nominated works this year. That of bleakness, a dispiritedness. Some are outright tragic. Many appear a slam against America. From society’s tendency to seek out a quick fix, the want of something for nothing, to the end all, be all of money as God, greed replacing any remaining integrity as the big business modis operandi. Catered to the realist and not the idealist. One must certainly acknowledge realism, begin there, but never, never stop there, always shooting, aiming high, for idealism. One doesn’t work without the other and I look forward to a new batch of films in the coming year trained maybe a bit more towards that of said idealism, that of hope. ♦
Sometime in the months to come I anticipated writing up a glowing report of victory to be posted here for the reading and celebrating. One in which my friend Cliff received his kidney transplant and settled into a lengthened lease on life filled with renewed energy. A much deserved reward for too much time spent feeling physically weary and haggard in his past year and a half of living. Last night I found a message waiting on my cell from Cliff’s mom, Susan. Her voice wavered at the end of her request for me to call her back as soon as possible. Suddenly, the various knick knacks I was perusing in the kitchen portion of a local store held no meaning. I inhaled and don’t remember exhaling as I made my way out to the car where I anxiously waited for an answer on the other end of my returned call. Jim, the stepdad, answered and recognizing my voice told me he had some really bad news. Cliff had passed away at home some time during the day. A determination as of to specifically why was under way. I lost it. The phone was then handed off to Susan where I tried to pull myself together in order to offer some sort of comfort and understanding to her.
I write now, not to make anyone uncomfortable, as such disclosures often do. I write to share the inner strength I witnessed in him despite his physical hardships. Encouragement in his memory, as part of his legacy.
It was my very first day back to school in what was to be my college sequel.
It was my very first day back to school in what was to be my college sequel. During one of the classes, the program advisor, Gary, walked by and recognizing me from our meeting together just weeks prior, stopped to say “hi.” Cliff happened to be sitting next to me. Gary turned to him and with a wink and a nod, said, “Young man, stick with this one, she’s sure to take care of you.” With that, began our friendship, one of ease and common interests built on a love of VW Beetles, classic cars in general, Macs – his knowledge and my awe and wonder, and music, the more, the better.
Cliff often worked two and three jobs off and on so that he could afford the latest and greatest in gadgets and clothing, by no means caught up and ruled by them, though, as some are. One of the best dressed guys I knew, his want of comely aesthetics extended to his home. I remember the first visit over to the condo he’d recently purchased before all the physical trauma occurred. Walking in, he had a large sander sitting in the corner waiting for a time to smooth the textured surfaces of the ceilings. There were painted charcoal grey walls, a few large sculptures he’d created adhered in various places, and the kitchen cabinets partially stripped soon to have their own turn with the charcoal paint. Touches of his favorite deep cerulean blue were here and there. A work in progress. From birth, Cliff lived with diabetes, it affecting his growth so that he appeared to be in his early to mid-teens, though, recently turning 25. Still, he was quite the ladies’ man, but never in the piggish sense. Girls found him adorable and seemed to flock to let him know that at times. He was amiable, thoughtful. Between his natural tendency to open up to others and his multiple jobs, he had many the connection. If one had a problem, he always had a potential solution to offer up with a phone number to accompany it. He totally got that life is what you make it and he embraced that. I remember his telling of his solo trip down to California because he simply had to experience Disneyland in their 50th year anniversary celebration, companion or no. How on one night of his trip, after another day spent at the happiest place on earth, he somehow found himself in a very sticky situation at a Hispanic tattoo parlor. Always creating adventure!
He deserved the many who called themselves friends and acquaintances to be there for him when he needed them.
This past summer, he was checked into the ICU for several weeks. Walking into that room, it felt cold and clinical. There was a man in the room who could be no other than Cliff’s biological father. He had that face, Cliff’s face, and the way he stood. I remembered a few years back, Cliff telling me the relationship with his dad was nonexistent. Since his physical ailment befell him, that completely changed. His dad calls him every day and makes regular trips over from Spokane where he resides. His mom, also there, introduced us and his dad teared up, asking, “You’re Deborah?” and hugged me intensely, as if the hug would convey feelings words could not. He proceeded to thank me profusely for being there for his son almost as though it were a duty. I reminded him it was a privilege, and again found I had to let go of the disgust I felt for all those who’d dwindled away. Cliff deserved more. He deserved the many who called themselves friends and acquaintances to be there for him when he needed them. He felt abandoned this past year as the calls lessened, the visits ceased. I more than understand the uncomfort in seeing one cared about as a mere shell of what they were. One doesn’t know what to say. Often activities are too much for the person to engage in and that puts all the more focus on the lack of something to say. It reminds us we’re mortal. And, it just plain hurts. Push past the uncomfort, though, push through it. Risk the uncomfort and pain. Just on the other side, is the friend you knew.
Cliff would try to draw still, as it was a huge part of his life pre-troubles, only to find the coma he came out of that began all these atrocities over a year ago caused his brain to function differently lessening the creativity that once flowed freely.
A side effect of his combined diabetes and kidney failure was that he lost his sight almost completely.
He could no longer drive, the activity he always turned to for peace of mind.
His car, driveway bound, was broken into and his DVD player, CD player and speakers were all ripped off.
In an attempt to extract his huge downloaded collection of music from his laptop with what little sight he did have, he accidentally deleted the entire collection.
His voice thickened and became gravely.
His already thin body grew frail and his face puffed up unnaturally.
He found he could no longer sleep at night, though, tired the whole day through, the lack of regular activity didn’t quite tire him out enough to give him the relief and rest that sleep brings.
This last month, congestive heart failure set in where he said he felt like he was drowning internally as fluid threatened to fill his lungs permanently.
He sat for four hours at a time three days a week for over a year on dialysis.
I list his troubles only to contrast his positive outlook.
He never, ever stopped in moving forward with the most amazing attitude amidst his struggles.
He’d say that he was just glad to be alive to breathe another moment, to share what was left in life: Family, my friendship, a simple car ride, a good song, even just waiting for a booth out amongst people at a busy restaurant.
He didn’t want to waste even a moment on thinking about what he could no longer do, only what he could.
He set lofty new goals for himself to replace the ones he had to let go.
I’d tell him it was okay if he was down and needed to talk, I’d understand, it’s just part of being human.
He said he certainly felt down at times, but it vanished each time he got to get out and about again.
He saw death and it made life precious to him and I could sense that when around him.
The weaker he became physically, the stronger he seemed to get in spirit.
We won’t be going to dinner and a movie with Bean and her friends tonight. How I wish I’d called him one last time instead of waiting until today, it’s too late. I will tell myself that all that strength he had finally just outgrew his body. Maybe it’s true … ♦