Sunday, August 25, 2013

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 25

Today's happiness is "another good stage reached." So read the update to an online journal about Carol, a woman I know who had a massive heart attack on June 30. It wasn't that long ago that Carol was being kept alive by machines, and now she's about to begin physical therapy! A miracle!

Maybe it was the movie, maybe it was the anniversary

I began this morning watching a special rerun of Meet the Press -- Dr. King appearing on that program on August 25, 1963 ... just days before the March on Washington and his "I Have a Dream" speech. I wasn't aware of how frightened the white establishment was, how many predicted violence, for the mall that day. But there it was. Newsmen were asking King and the NAACP's Roy Wilkins questions about violence right there, in real time.

One interviewer then even asked King if "Negroes" have been "pushing too hard and too fast."

Because the March is so often referred to as a great moment in American history, I don't ever consider how it was thought of before it happened. And Meet the Press was a sobering time capsule.

It was with that still ringing in my ears that I saw The Butler. It's the story of Cecil Gaines, a fictionalized black man who served in The White House as butler from the Eisenhower through Reagan administrations, and who got to meet President Barack Obama.

Therefore, it's the story of all of us. Unlike The Help, it's told exclusively from a black character's POV, and is more sophisticated about how it addresses race. Dr. King vs. Malcolm X ... an interesting observation about domestics as "subversive" rather than "subservient" ... and that pesky accusation about "Negros pushing too hard and too fast."

It left me tired, and weepy.

I was thinking of my mother. She was 70 years old when she voted for Barack Obama and was proud and moved by casting that ballot in ways she couldn't articulate and I didn't understand.

I was thinking of Trayvon Martin, and how young black men still have to be careful about living in the white world. And how today many white people still don't even want to acknowledge that this is true, much less talk about making it better.

I was thinking of that other 50-year anniversary coming up, of JFK's assassination. His real voice is one that's heard over the closing credits. It was his June 1963 address that framed civil rights as not a legal issue but a moral one. "Now the time has come for the Nation to fulfill its promise." (To be honest, I don't know if that sentence is actually heard on the soundtrack. I was on my way to the exit as soon as I heard his voice and recognized the speech. I don't like to cry in public so I had to get out of there.)

It was a dizzying mix of emotion. Disgust at our history and pride in how a movie like this could be made and literally applauded by a theater full of people. I mean, hey, Edward Snowden, a movie like this about and by Russians simply isn't possible.

So it's hard for me to think of this movie as just a movie. But the movie lover in me was able to make these observations: Yes, Oprah can act. She's in the movie a lot and after a while, she disappears into her character … Yes, that really is Mariah Carey at the beginning … The filmmakers should be applauded for their attention to detail: Jackie Kennedy is shown smoking and they got HR Haldeman's haircut right … LBJ still suffers, in movie terms, by following JFK. There are some cheap (accurate but unnecessary) observations about him that diminished him and I'm not sure belonged in the movie … Nancy Reagan should feel very good about the controversial casting of Jane Fonda.

So see it. Definitely see The Butler. But bring a tissue. The fact that we are willing to watch ourselves at our worst IS us at our best. So you'll leave the theater feeling patriotic.

Sunday Stealing

Young at Heart

1. Are you a young heart or an old soul? The older I get, the younger I feel. I'm not kidding -- my soul felt far heavier when I was 16 than it does today.

2. What makes someone a best friend? Accepting you as you are, and a willingness to invest the time required.

3. What Christmas present do you remember the most? Blaze, brought to me by Santa the Christmas after I'd just turned four. First I saw the TV commercials, then I saw him in the Sears Christmas Catalog, then I met him in the toy department of the Sears store, and I knew we destined to be together. Blaze is all I asked Santa for that year. I will always remember coming down the hall and seeing him beside the Christmas Tree.

4. Tell me a movie/song/TV show/playbook that has changed your life. Saving Graces by Elizabeth Edwards. The subtitle is, "finding solace and strength from friends and strangers." She talks about how the kindnesses of those around her have sustained her through political losses, breast cancer and most wrenchingly, the death of her teenage son, Wade. Until I read this book, my response when friends offered help was always, "No, that's OK." Now I understand that we are meant to help one another, that it should and must go both ways.

5. Name one physical feature that you like about yourself and one that you dislike. I like my green eyes. I don't like my fat ass.

6. Can money buy happiness? Happiness? No. Security? Certainly.

7. What’s more important in a relationship: physical attraction or emotional connection? Yes. (I'm greedy -- I want both!)

8. Is there anyone close to you that you know you can’t trust? My older sister is a beast. She's made every aspect of dealing with our mother's passing more difficult. I cannot wait until I no longer have to deal with her.

9. Where was your favorite place to go when you were a little kid? The movies. The first movie I saw at the theater was Mary Poppins, and I still remember that moment when the big red curtains opened and I saw the rooftops of London. The movies remain my favorite place to go.

10. Have you spent a night in the hospital? I had surgery two years ago.

11. Do you enjoy being only with 1-2 friends or with a large group of people? 1-2

12. Have you ever been bullied? Remember the sister I mentioned in #8? She's been trying to bully me since my birth.

13. If your partner wanted to wait until marriage until having sex, would you stay in that relationship? Wow. Never been in that position. I think I'd prefer to drive the car around the block before I buy it.

14. Do you believe in God? Yes

15. Out of all the social networks in the world why use a blog? I like the longer form of communication.

16. What is your quirkiest habit? I happen to know that the toilet paper is supposed to come OVER the roll, not under. I have been known to correct the situation wherever I find it.

17. What is normal? Are you normal? As my best friend likes to say, "I don't even know what 'normal' looks like."

18. Someone close to you is dying! You have the choice to let this person live for 10 more years but if you do you cause the death of 10 strangers.  I don't see a question here. Did I miss something when I cut and pasted?

19. What is one thing you could never forgive? I have a hard time when someone intentionally hurts me.

20. When you’re alone in your own home, do you talk out loud to yourself? Yes

21. Who is your favorite super hero? Batman. And that would be Adam West as Batman. I accept
no substitutes.

22. Could you be in a long distance relationship? I was. We talked every day and saw each other every month. It suited me quite nicely.

23. Do you know what makes you happy? In the moment, yes.

24. Who was your first crush? Our next door neighbor's son. He was in his 20s, I was in kindergarten. I used to visit with him when he'd come over to wash his car in his parents' driveway and he promised to marry me. I was really pissed when I learned he not only wasn't really waiting for me, he was already engaged. AND MY PARENTS MADE ME GO WITH THEM TO THE WEDDING! Her name was Sandy and she wore so much hairspray I could smell it! Unfortunately, he had an undiagnosed heart problem and died before he was 30.

25. Where is your favorite place to go out and eat? My new favorite is Pizano's. Love their deep dish pizza.

26. Are you an early bird or night owl? Night owl.

27. Give me an unpopular opinion you have. We should reinstate the draft. I think parents would view our adventures in foreign lands differently if their children would have to do the fighting.

28. Do you believe in giving kids medals and trophies for participation? I'm sorry, but I don't really care.

29. What song best describes your life right now? "Don't Rain on My Parade"

30. How do you express your creativity? I'm a writer by trade.

31. Describe your neighborhood. Ethnically diverse and easily walkable.

32. Give me the story of your life in 6 words. Good friend. Good writer. Animal lover.

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 24

Today's happiness: rib-eye steak. It's by far my favorite dinner, and I thoroughly enjoyed it Saturday night.