Great? Well…

I keep hearing it referred to as a great movie but I have not watched Some Like It Hot since the days when you could only choose which channel to watch. These days you can see almost any film at any time and it is time to see it again.

I have to double check that I am watching the right movie. It is in black and white. I also double check that I remember the year, 1959, correctly. I then check to see where Marilyn was in her career. I later learn that it was fairly big budget film and that Tony Curtis‘ and Jack Lemmon‘s makeup looked grotesque in colour.

The opening scene makes me think of the Keystone Cops. I am still distracted from my research. I am more forgiving when the context, Chicago 1929, is given.

Jack Lemmon’s lecherous jokes put me back into a critical mode. I don’t think they need the era as an excuse (I’m too old to be sure) but, regardless, I find them cheap.

I congratulate myself for catching the blues term jelly roll, knowing that I didn’t know what it meant the first time I saw the movie and knowing that most people today would not know its meaning. I groan at the salami while recognizing it would have been extremely racy for the times. I am not enjoying the innuendo—it feels adolescent.

It is when the movie moves away from the slapstick that the movie shines. Usually it is the opposite, I like Woody Allen‘s early slapstick a lot more than his critically acclaimed movies.

There is the genius of Marilyn calling herself dumb for repeating the same mistakes. The questioning of the standards when, after unwanted contact in an elevator, Jack Lemmon slips back into male-hood to say he now understands what it’s like to be on the receiving end.

More than the innuendo or Marilyn’s outfits, it is the handling of the cross-dressing that was the most daring for the times and it leads to the best scenes of the movie.  Instead of taking the easy way out and camping it up, it is played straight, with scenes like the one where Jack Lemmon is overjoyed at getting engaged. I cannot help but think that there must have been an alternate ending just in case the finale did not make it past the morality police.

Great? Well…, there are few moments when it is only good.

Location Bound

Logically it was in June of 1969 when moved into our second Vancouver home.

Logically because my memories of Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon are located there. And we had arrived in Vancouver on July 1st of 1968. And I’m fairly certain that our first home was already waiting for us, thus already rented. Guessing that we probably had one year lease on that house means that logically the most likely date for our first Canadian move was on June 1st of 1969.

Seeing as our second home was also a one year affair, I can place in time my memories from there. It was the year we started riding the city’s buses.

I remember spending the summer going to a large neighbourhood park with a community centre that organized all sorts of activities. It was the only time in my childhood when we didn’t live next to a park. The playground at the school across the street was a poor substitute so we would make our mother take us to our favourite park. Our trips were excursions with my mother packing a picnic, blankets, towels, swimsuits and three children onto a bus.

The park was large enough to have a swimming pool deep enough to swim in. It was there I learned how to to float and how to swim which I did mostly underwater because I could not figure out how to breathe without swallowing water and if I was holding my breath I might as well have an excuse.

I also remember the afternoon when drawing horses was the art activity of the day and somehow there were live horses to sketch. Having read (heard?) somewhere that artists do multiple quick sketches when capturing objects in motion, I started going through sheets of paper with one sketch after another. The monitor came over and convinced me to try to draw more slowly, to fill in the details. I liked my sketches a lot more than the drawing I attempted so I went back to the earlier sketches and started filling the details (grass, fencing, trees) until the art activity was finished.

Other than our excursions to the park, almost all of our bus trips would start in front of McGavin’s Bakeries, home to the white bread we craved but rarely had. Our mother disapproved of industrial bread and we ate roof-of-the-mouth shredding homemade bread. She did agree that, despite all their chemicals, the smell of baking bread was still mouth-wateringly good. It is still one of my favourite smells and it is usually followed, while it is still warm enough to melt butter, by a few slices.

Riding the buses became our Sunday activity. We would get the Sunday Holiday pass (the ampersand remained silent) take the bus west to a transfer stop, change bus, and ride the line to its terminus. If the line didn’t end at a concrete island in the middle of nowhere, we would get off, explore the area before doubling back. Otherwise, we would sit, reading the Buzzer, memorizing the jokes, and wait for the bus to start its ride back. Some of the lines took two transfers to get to.

At some point during that year, probably near the end of our stay in our second Canadian home, my Mother started using the buses as her babysitting service. We would choose the line to ride and I would be given the emergency coin purse with our home phone and address, dimes (for the phone booth), and a few dollars. She would purchase our day passes, ask the bus driver to keep an eye on us, and remind me of my role as the eldest son.

I know it must have been that year because I was also taking the bus alone that year and this I know because I remember scaring the shit out of my mother by showing up later than expected because, to earn myself a little extra pocket money, I walked the two miles from Jewish school. What I cannot remember is what I had planned to do with the money saved — a coke? candy bar? hockey cards?

The Panel

I: Our panel for today is Me, Myself and I. Me will be presenting the premises, Myself the counter-points and, I, as well as moderating, will also present background and commentary.

Me: Here is my first premise: This is ridiculous. Do you take yourself for Plato and Socrates all rolled up into one.

Myself: Plato isn’t the only person to have used the dialogue. Things aren’t black or white. More voices gives room to explore the shades of grey. It is handy tool for presenting a nuanced view.

Me: Lazy!

Myself: One voice is lazy!

I: I am not happy with my attempts at essays. I really dislike simplified generalizations, and the application of heuristics to the particular. This is the problem we are trying to tackle.

Me: For example?

Myself: It is tempting to turn this into comedy, a pale imitation of Who’s on First?: “I am the one who is supposed to ask the questions.”“Don’t speak for me!”“I think he is speaking to you.”“No, for myself.”

Me: You forgot: “Let me explain myself.”

Myself: Ha!

I: An example? Free will. I am fairly certain I have said it before. I don’t think it exists but you still have to act as if your choices are choices. You can’t abdicate. To requote, because I have used it before, Rush, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” You don’t have a choice but to choose.

Me: Now Zeno too. That’s one big ego.

Myself: We are a trinity.

I: And that’s our discussion for today. More questions without answers, answers that are right until they’re wrong, additions to the infinite set of paradoxes. Until next time, this was Me, Myself and I.

Mix and Match

At first, it was about the routine, getting one setup, establishing a sense of normalcy. Now I am searching for a way to add variety, change it up, make it interesting.

I came to this conclusion during my walk.

I am in good mood, the sun is shining and there is energy to my walk. I tackle the imitation hill.

There is nobody to avoid. Life feels a little normal.

I saw that the local family gardens are opening. You are allowed one hour every other day. There is a formula for odds and evens. The evens will complain if the restriction last into June.

I head towards the mini-strip mall at the foot of an apartment building. It has a grocery store and a butcher. I am scouting for additional shopping options.

I have never cooked this regularly for so long. I am pleased with the variety of meals I have managed. Very few repetitions.

It doesn’t take much effort. I have three types of pasta, brown rice, black rice, wheat, and spelt. Potatoes in various forms and varieties. Fries, mashed, boiled, baked, turned into gnocchi. White, sweet and purple. I also have a selection of breads.

And that’s just for the carbs. I haven’t even had to dig up recipes. Just mixing up the combinations of carbs, proteins and vegetables.

I am so happy with my cleverness that I come up with a new theory of my world.

Pigeon Chase

Do the pigeons have more, less or the same amount of food now?

There’s a pair of pigeons trying to create a nest on my balcony. I am obsessively chasing them away. I hear a coo and I come running. Sometimes chasing them with a broom in hand, or just opening the door suddenly, and, if they  settle on the window sill, I bang the wall with a stick. As-if removing their presence is the most important thing in my world.

From my other balcony, I see a big fat pigeon pecking at the grass. It reminds me of a chicken. I think that it would make for a good dinner.

The pigeons are stubborn. I sweep the twigs of the balcony. I am too.

There are now two fat pigeons pecking at the grass. I wonder what they are eating. Seeds? Bugs?

My planters are spiked with cut-up hangers. I still catch the pigeons perching on their sides, fertilizing the plants. The pink spring onions I have sprouted are going to stay indoors.

I notice that the big peckers have the same colouring. Unlike the pests. They are a different species. A search teaches me they are common wood pigeons.

Who is stupider, the pigeons that don’t want to understand that my balcony is not a safe place to build a nest, or the human that runs across the apartment at the slightest suspicion of a coo? I tape a picture of a hawk to the window.

I like the wood pigeons better. Much like watching fish in a tank, I like to watch them peck at the grass. Mostly, I feel the are unlikely to squat my balcony.

I start thinking the hawk is keeping the couple away. Maybe it is the picture or maybe it is me. They are now comfortably installed on the neighbour’s balcony.

I am hoping it is less food, it lowers their fertility.

I Don’t Recall

I had this story I was going to tell. It was about a lesson I had learned. I know I had the idea during a conversation with my daughter.

I am in the kitchen preparing lunch and she is sitting at the table. We talk about a documentary she had seen. It was on how unreliable memory is.

She said it was frustrating in a good way. She already knew most of the examples and studies because I had already told her about them (these are type of the things I talk about with my children [and anyone else who is willing to listen]).

The documentary had asked and answered an interesting question. If memory is so unreliable, what is its purpose?

The answer seems obvious. You cannot move forward, if you don’t remember where you have been. You cannot build, if every time you have to start from scratch.

And memories need to change to integrate lessons learned, even if that means that that memorable moment did not happen as you remember it. This is the point where I told her the story I want to retell, a lesson learned.

I remember laughing at myself because I keep on pushing the lesson back in time. “It was fifteen, twenty, maybe thirty years ago. Regardless …” And just before I start telling the tale, I realize that it must have been even earlier, when I was still a teenager. The next thing I remember is thinking I should write the story down.

The oven starts beeping. It is time to eat.

The Haven

Sneakers, canvas shoes, a stream of feet. Against the wall, two men standing stoically with their shoeshine boxes.

I’ve heard a few screenwriters tell of learning how to show from a silent movie director.

I recently saw an article about a silent movie star known for minimizing the number of title cards in his films. I think it was Buster Keaton. I try to find confirmation. I see lots of mentions of his stoic face.

I try a new tack. I search for Aki Kaurismäki and Buster Keaton hoping for an interview where he discusses his influences. The second result is an article calling him Finland’s Buster Keaton.

I should mention that the movie is his 2011 film Le Havre. The movie is deliberately slow. Chase scenes where even the younger characters run as if they were on their last legs.

The main character is in a time bubble. Everything around him is from the past while taking place in the present. I laugh when I see that his watering hole is called The Modern. I laugh yet again when the rocker sings a song with the chorus of “a long time ago.”

Very little seems to be accidental: One of the characters is reading Kafka and finishes with a line about crazy people never being tired. The camera then cuts to the other character now soundly asleep and I am thinking there is more to this. So I search for the lines and find out that it comes from a short story called Children on a Country Road. I haven’t read it, yet, but the synopsis tells me that it has many of the same themes.

Would someone who only sees the (touching) story enjoy it as much as I did? Regardless, I will be watching Aki Kaurismäki‘s other movies.