Sunday, December 31, 2017

Someone Get The Lights

I've said goodbye to 2017 already. I did so last Friday, when I said goodbye to my beautiful niece, my brother and my sister-in-law. I later said goodbye to my kids and my new co-workers, leaving last, grasping on to it, as I did my niece earlier in the afternoon.

I promised her it would not be another 365 days before our next encounter. A promise I do not know if I'll keep, but it's something to strive for. She brings out a happiness in me. One that has been trapped. Her childish indifference towards me, often ignoring my silly face, to study the paper on which she draws, is refreshing. I do not control that situation, but should I look away, her calls; my name, bring a warmth that I can not describe. Her goodbye touched me, but it wasn't sadness, but an immediate feeling of excited anticipation. I didn't feel that last time, because I couldn't.

Last year, New Year's Eve, I was living, not staying, but living in a motel room. Daily sexual encounters to the left of me and angry heroin deals to the right. In the middle, somewhere in the middle of everything was me, a cat, a laptop and a few hundred dollars. On that evening, I was ten days from moving to Tuscon, Arizona. I was in a bad place and I feared, I was heading somewhere worse.

The very next week, I had a potential place to live nearby. Almost a year later, here I am. Set to move again, but maintaining some of the familiar surroundings. My landlords, despite my complaints about their lack of "land lording," are good people. They love their families and they appreciate me. I appreciate them. I forget that sometimes, but then again, I don't think every day about the good in life as often as the bad. There's a fairly good reason for that and no philosophical debate is necessary. It's my life.

2017 was a good one in comparison to 2016, but it was an extremely emotional one. I lost a few friends who I considered to be great friends. Two important people in my life. Not just the friends we say hello and goodbye to. One was a close confidant in those high school years when fitting in wasn't so easy. Our relationship had lulls and was basically an Internet one at the end, but we appreciated and valued our friendship and the past we shared. I will miss Susan more now, simply knowing the world is a little less bright. The other was a friend who I could go a year without speaking to and then speak for three days straight and pick up where we left off the last time. He was my movie friend, my book friend, my drinking buddy and at times my mirror. Albeit a much thinner reflection. He was one of, if not the smartest friend I had. He was, like I am (so we were told), underachievers. We were called lazy, unmotivated and content with the bare minimum life had to offer. I'd beg to differ. I feel we were bored with others mundane existence, we were looking for more and that didn't always come from the beautiful wife, the great job or the house and kids. He could sit in a boat or on a rock, with a book, a beer and a fishing rod and be content, each and every day. I envied that. We'd chat for hours and despite similar views, it was our differences that made us close. I will miss Shane as much as I will miss anyone that has passed since my mother. It took me days for it to sink in and each new film I love, I wish he could see it, or tell me he had.

I did have some ups over the past year. Reconnecting with friends and even having two visit, one more than once and helping me to my surgery and after. Oh yeah, and my surgery. A hip replacement at 46 allowed 47 to be the most comfortable year I've had in my 40's. The relief of pain, coupled with medicine that has mostly cleared my rosacea, has given me a new found confidence. This led to a job and while it's not enough to live off of, it's helping and it's bringing me back to where I was. I need more and that's my goal for 2018. It's not a resolution, because it's a necessity. I'd like to have more confidence, but the last few years, ha, decade and a half, have weakened me. Life is a little more complicated than simply quoting a Gloria Gaynor song and posting it to social media. I'll try to survive, but I make no promises.

I have motivation in a fourteen pound, four-legged, fur ball. As I type this, he has positioned himself against my knee and shin. He is purring and has taken to sleeping against me at night. He knows my moods and positions himself accordingly. During my recent illness, he stayed by my feet, moving closer as I healed. He seems to know before I do, so let's hope his recent lack of daytime affection is simply a sign that he knows I'm going to be busy. It's a word I hate to use, because I correlate it with all the people who haven't had time for me when I needed it most. I'll never be that kind of busy, but I need to be preoccupied with positives. Again, not resolutions. Necessities.

As I said at the beginning. I've left 2017 behind already. For those still enjoying or fleeing this year, I'll be waiting. Just someone get the lights.

Here's to 2018! If it's better for me and not for you. I don't think that's good enough. If it's better for you and not for me, I'll accept it. If it's better for us both, let's make a promise to share its farewell together. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

First Time Sick In Five Years

Doubt. Skepticism. Disbelief.

I realize for many, the title sparks the above words feelings, but it's true. Aside from some sneezing due to pollen, mold or dust, it's been over five years since I've had an actual cold. Whether it's due to being back around children, chronically sick housemates or under-the-weather family visitors, I do not know, but I am definitely ill. A slight cough, that I managed to fend off, has returned and become harsh. The congestion was not present early on, but now it is here. I have so far avoided any fever, but I sense, as my body amps up the fight, it will be here soon. Sickness during a break from work. It seems like a visit from an old friend. 

When I first started working with children, my immune system would fight and kept me healthy, right up until the holidays and then, the simple act of relaxing, would bring on colds like I never knew. I'd usually be in bed for three, maybe four days, and then it was gone. Gone again until the next winter. I'd usually miss a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, or at the very least, not enjoy it as I should. It became expected and then one year it stopped. I stopped getting my festive flu (never had the flu that I know of) and oddly, despite not taking care of myself, I stayed relatively healthy when it came to my internal self. As the outside began to crumble, I changed my ways and the inner health stayed, but the body broke down. This year, despite being in the best health of the past eight years, both outside and in, I have succumbed to sickness. Once again, it has taken away any joy of holiday. No smell. No taste. No energy. 

The irony of this year, is I actually had to opportunity to possibly enjoy it. I did get to see my niece, but did not get the joys of her attention beneath a tree. I did not get to wake to the sounds of her tiny feet and feel her gentle kisses on my cheek. I got to spend it with my landlords and their family and while I didn't take part in breaking bread, I did exchange presents with their grandchildren and while I keep the instances private, they reciprocated with meaningful gifts for me and my furry companion. It was quite enjoyable for a few moments and then, I drifted off into a bit of a slumber. 

I'm not a good patient. I pride myself on hiding my physical pain, but the common cold does more damage to me than I care to deal with. I don't follow dosages and avoid doctors, knowing all colds eventually go away. I drink tea and it dawned on my last night, my disdain for tea is all due to the connection I've made with drinking it and feeling as if I am on Death's door. I will heal in time, because that's how time works. The odd thing about my infrequent sickness over the years is how much it has taken away. Simple moments that I hear about, often seeing in photographs, are lost on me. So many holidays spent alone, recuperating, avoiding spreading what ails me, but then I think of the last five years, in good health, but lacking wealth, spent alone, not wanting to spread what ails me. 

Maybe next year, right?

Monday, December 18, 2017

For Those Who Celebrate

"Happy......., For those who celebrate"

One of the most sincere and unintentionally cringe-worthy phrases in the English language. Yes, even more so than the embraced War on Christmas's Happy Holidays. It is never said with any malcontent, but it immediately divides us. Why, if we celebrate, wouldn't we want others to share in our happiness? Why, if we don't, wouldn't we desire to share in the happiness of others?

Forget the religious aspect of Christmas and think about this time next week. Children, awaken to the dark sky. Lingering in bed for an appropriate amount of time, until they can wake their parents or expect festivities. The coffee pot or the aroma of its contents is a good sign. The pitter-patter of tiny feet, scurry across the floor. Still in pajama, they embrace their parent(s) and any other loved ones present. Their widen eyes, fluttering heartbeats and excited minds, racing. They wait for the first gift, then another, and another. They receive things they expected and some are surprises. Parents, most likely spending much more than they can afford for that cherished moment.

So what god loving or humane person doesn't wish this for all? What person doesn't like thinking, somewhere out there, there is child with a smile? Who doesn't, for even a moment, wish it was every child? Would Jesus, Mohammad, Moses, Buddha or any other divine figure, including God herself, wish anything, but love and joy for all? Has nobody thought of the irony that we spend more than we have to give gifts on someone else's birthday? One who teaches to give up material desires? Or the idea, that a miracle of oil for one night lasting eight, inspires us to light 44 candles over the course of eight days?

In almost all religions, there is a bit of sacrifice, followed by a feast and often gift giving. Receipt of these things is what makes us humble, so why wouldn't the normal, acceptable form of greetings, for all religions, be to wish those who may not celebrate a happy time? To include them in our own joy and to embrace their differences and let them know, that while we may not take part in their traditions, we're celebrating their happiness.

For those of you who share this space, we call Earth, regardless of your belief system, enjoy, love and be happy, not just because of a notation on the calendar, but for every day. And for those kids, whose parents have chosen their beliefs for them, embrace them and be thankful, it will soon be your turn to return the favor.

Happy Days, holy and otherwise!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

October & November Movies

As the year speeds to an end, it has become abundantly clear that this year, in terms of volume, will be a failure in terms of movies. I'm currently at under sixty percent of my normal 300-325 movies per year. That being said, I've seen some great ones this year. Here's the last two months. October's list is embarrassingly small.

  1. Top Of The Lake: China Girl - Impossible to top the original series and doesn't come close.
  2. Split - Shymalan's vision comes to life thanks to McAvoy, Buckley and Taylor-Joy!
  3. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter - More of the same starts to fade, but loved the conclusion.
  4. Woman In The Dunes - Beautiful, haunting and erotic. A film that lingers inside you. 
  5. Peur(s) Du Noir - B&W Animated vignette. Stories are good, but animation is the draw.
  6. Rififi - Sadly, the DVD wouldn't let me finish the movie, but at that point, I stopped caring.
  7. Cria Cuervos - Wonderful acting, but this anti-Franco allegory didn't work for me.
  8. It Comes At Night - Horror fans will hate it, but it's as complex and layered as it gets.
  9. The Babysitter - Samara Weaving is beautiful, but this film struggles with what it wants to be.
  10. Arrival - Amy Adams not being nominated for an Oscar will go down as an all-time snub.
  11. The Steamroller And The Violin - Early Tarkovsky with hints of the classic, The Red Balloon.
  12. Alien: Covenant - It's as bad as you've heard. One of the worst scripts of all-time.
  13. Stranger Things 2 - Worth the binge watch, but pales in comparison to season 1. Still solid.
  14. Letter Never Sent - Surguy Urusevsky's cinematography makes up for dull plot.
  15. Samurai I - Inagaki trilogy begins. Mifune is wonderful, but the story drags.
  16. Samurai II - Slightly better than original, but mostly due to enhanced cinematography.
  17. Samurai III - My favorite of the trilogy. While hardly great, these film's impact is irrefutable.
  18. Patton Oswalt: Annihilation - Tight routine, with poignant and hilarious segment about loss.
  19. Get Out - Starts strong, but disjointed writing, odd shift in tone and horrible ending fails.
  20. War for the Planet of the Apes - The best since the original 1968 film. Sans ending, better.
  21. Capture Kill Release - Decent found footage, completely running on lead actress's insanity.
  22. I Live In Fear - Not one of Kurosawa's best, but timely, then and now. Mifune is stellar.
  23. The Other Side Of The Door - Tension builds and builds...and builds. Ends up being a bore.
  24. One Wonderful Sunday - Early Kurosawa, feels like other's great films. Depressing, but bold.
  25. The Exorcist III: Legion - Re-watched after 27 years. Still better than the original Exorcist.
  26. The Prodigal Son - Martial arts and humor, with more of the latter. A pleasant distraction.
  27. Kristy - Formulaic horror, but is better than average due to realism and strong lead.
  28. Rosa - Strikingly beautiful animated short. Interesting, but needed more. Want more.
  29. Youth of the Beast - Early Seijun Suzuki is more style than substance, but so much style.
  30. Atomic Blonde - Easily Theron and McAvoy's worst roles. So absolutely terrible.
Top Three: Woman in the Dunes, Arrival, It Comes at Night
Bottom Three: Atomic Blonde, The Other Side of the Door, Get Out
Biggest Surprise: War for the Planet of the Apes
Biggest Letdown: Get Out

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Final Month

Rabbit, Rabbit

Needed good luck and good cheer. Silly childhood sayings, myths and fables. This year winds down, and like all, since turning 40 (or was it 30), the years seem to flash by. Days drag, at times, even weeks, but the years are a blur.

As kids we measure time by holidays. In school or out. Our Sunday Best, fireworks, costumes and presents. As young adults, we waited for our weekends away with friends, maybe even spring break for the post-college crowd. In my 30's, it was watching other's kids grow and it was pleasant, but age creeps up and in our 40's, time and years are marked by those we've lost.

December. another Christmas and Hanukkah without my mother. Next yea will be my 15th holiday season without her. It shows. It's been years since I gave or received a gift. I don't want for anything, so I often think others need to feel as I. Selfish, I know, but I look back on the massive amounts of time and money I've spent, searching the aisles or sites for the perfect gift. A smile, a hug, a kiss...gratitude. Trinkets, knick knacks and bric-a-brac, often sitting in the box for months, some never opened. Worn once and hung on a hook or a hanger. Forgotten. On to the next.

New Year's will be upon us sooner than we know. Resolutions will be made, often resembling those of the year before. Lose weight. Start exercising. Save money. Write a book. Call Brett. But why? Why does the calendar dictate that we look down on ourselves. Why not enjoy our bodies and what we put into. Exercise our minds, through a weekly, monthly for those too busy, trip to the library or a museum. Prioritize what we need to be happy and don't feel pressure to spend money to make other's feel as such. Create something; anything. Call a friend. Laugh, cry and think.

Make a resolution to look up and look out more. The sun, moon and stars are gifts that can be unwrapped daily. Enjoy the company of others and look them in the eye when they need and listen always. Spend less time thinking of your response and more about what they are saying and where it is coming from. Especially with children. The next time you're impatient, think of all the time you spend watching TV, sitting in traffic, or browsing the Internet and breathe for a second. Realize the time you choose to waste and then realize these brief moments of frustration are paltry in comparison. Listen to children and learn from them. Do the same with the elderly and realize their repetitiveness has value. The same story over and over, told exactly the same way means it's important. Realize that tiny insignificant moment stayed with them forever. Take time out of your hectic life not to miss your tiny moments.

December is the final month. Most of us will never know when our final year is. So enjoy the insanity of the holidays, but don't add to it  There's nothing wrong with giving of yourself if it's all you can afford, either financially or emotionally. Realize not everyone is festive, but it doesn't mean they don't want to be included. They just may choose to attend from afar or send wishes and embrace their solitude. Look for the signs and take those who need company in, even for a cup of a coffee or a beer. Thirty-one days and the finality of one year gives way to the rebirth of another. Us older folks realize it will simply be Sunday becoming Monday, but with a day off for most. Enjoy that day and spend time building on your year first. Your happiness will show unto others. Trust me. I've been around the opposite and probably was the opposite for long enough.

Happy December and the Holidays, no matter what you do or do not recognize.