Monday, March 19, 2012

Meet You at the Diner

I read Vanity Fair and enjoy the annual Hollywood issue. This year's issue had an article about the 1982 movie Diner. Apparently it's the 30th anniversary of the movie. If I weren't feeling old before, I really feel 'creaky' now! After reading the article I had to borrow the DVD I gave mom one Christmas to watch again. Diner is one movie mom and I usually watch during the Christmas holiday. I bet I've watched every year it's been out. It's set at Christmas in 1959 in Baltimore. When it first came out, I had just moved to DC, and later, by 1990, just outside of Baltimore. In fact, the scenes where 'Boogie' and 'Jane Chisholm' are horseback riding are just down the road from the Hunt Cup fields and from where Excy and I lived. We even ate at the 'diner' still situated (then) at Fells Point.

Not only do I cherish the memories of watching this movie with mom, but I fell in love with Diner from the first. The VF article argued it was the first movie that celebrated being 'about nothing,' and I guess that's right -- the movie is quiet; the guys are long-time friends, they hang at the Diner, one is getting married and gives his bride-to-be a football quiz she must pass before they marry, one has gambling problems he is trying to resolve...but I don't really see it that way...I see young men who are trying to grapple their way into adult hood and have one foot poised towards their future and another planted back with their memories and boyhood friends where it's 'safe.'

The movie made stars out of the leading actors: Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, Steve was the first film for Tim Daly and Paul Reiser...all fine is a lovely film that resonates as much today as back in the day. One of those movies that when I first saw it, I knew it would become a classic. And it has...typically, the studio executives didn't know what to make of it and hadn't even decided to release it, when a copy was slipped to the movie critic Pauline Kael, who wrote a review for The New Yorker. From there it was picked as a darling by other critics, so the studio had to release it or they'd look like idiots. (Imagine that).

The other movies released that year that were 'hot' included the top-money ranking films Blade Runner (at number 1), The Thing (2), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (3), ET, Gandi, Poltergist, Tron, and Sophie's Choice. Far down the rank at Tootsie, An Officer and a Gentlemen, and, at 37th, Diner. Well, some of those are excellent films, some classics. But as far as watching and re-watching? Diner has them all beat, for me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Cat Who Fell to Earth

On our property across the street is a 60 ft. high, dead tree, that I call the 'Woodpecker Condo.' I will try to take a good photograph of it, because it literally has more a dozen holes in varying sizes running up one side from all the different woodpeckers who live in it.

Our 'neighbors' who live on that side are a semi-retired couple who roam the property and have always been so nice over the years. One day, J. came over while we were hanging out at the fire-pit by the pond and told us this story. His wife's favorite cat, a calico manx, had been missing for three days, but every now and then G. would think she could hear it meowing from a distance. (Their house is a fourth of a mile away from our property.)

The third day the cat was missing, G. again thought she heard something, so J. let himself in the gate and onto the property and started to walk around. And spied the cat at the very top of the 60 ft. tree. I'm pretty sure the mustangs didn't frighten the cat up there. I think it was interested in the birds. But the question became how to get the cat out of the tree. A ladder, even the ladder from the fire truck, wouldn't be long enough. J. walked back and had G. come out to see in the hopes she could coax the cat to make it's way further down the tree so J. might be able to reach him with a ladder. The tree, unfortunately, is so dead it no longer has branches and is more like a big stob.

Well, the cat saw G coming and proceeded to meow and act miserable, which it no doubt was, having been stuck in a high tree for three days and two nights..and no sooner had G. walked to the tree and looked up, but the cat leaped from the top of the tree and sort of airplaned/lunged to the ground -- flattened out like a flying squirrel does when it hydroplanes.

J. and G. were horrified to see their dear cat companion hurl itself into the air and then slam onto the hard ground before them.* Several minutes later, the stunned cat began to breathe again, came to, seemed to shake itself together, and let G. scoop it into her arms and take him home!

* If it had been me, I would have been staggering around with my arms outreached trying to catch the cat.

United we Fall

The visit to NIH was good, overall. The cancer in the kidney remnant hasn't spread and the drs said that at this point, the remnant would fail before I would need it out because of the cancer, so we can schedule the surgery and transplant at our convenience this summer. I haven't talked with Emory but most likely we will wait until July. The fistula isn't forming, but there is still a chance it will if I use stress balls 24/7-- giving it more time is a priority. Another ultrasound is scheduled for June. Unless the remnant fails, it isn't an emergency operation, and that's good news. It is miraculous to me how long it's lasted. The drs warned me it would only work a year or two because it would have to work so hard to compensate for the whole body, and five years later, it's still plugging along.

That's the diagnosis in a nutshell; I don't really feel like going into it too much.

Given this news, it seems odd I'm going to complain about something as mundane as air travel, but it's imminently more relatable; humans being who they are, it seems our nature to bitch about trivial inconveniences, regardless of circumstances in their life.

Because of having to buy government tickets due to the NIH stipend (which, believe me, we are grateful for, do not get me wrong), we are at the mercy of the cheapest airfares. Of course, there is the option of upgrading, but with a kidney surgery to pay for and meds that will cost between $4000 to $6000 a month, swinging for an upgrade or a direct flight on a different airline just wasn't in the cards, so we found ourselves, unhappily, booked on United.

The first leg we flew to Chicago, and then switched planes and went onto the tarmac onto a tiny commuter. To my mind, United is now tied with Skyways as the worst airline in the country. (Although United did manage to deliver our bag, which is more than Skyways ever did in the four times we were forced to endure their 'service.' They are nothing if not consistent, to lose our bag every single time, and once delivered it sopping wet after it sat on the runway in the rain for hours.) That said, everything about United sucks. I told Excy taking Greyhound would be preferable if there is ever a next time. Every employee, from the baggage check to the phone-it-in airline assistants, made it plain their customers were a pain in their ass, to be cattle-prod on and off the plane, and that the less they interacted with us all, the better. To add insult to injury, no wheelchair transfers were ever set up. In Chicago, we narrowly missed a connecting flight we had an hour to make, because we had to wait so long for a chair. I did not realize that Chicago O'Hare has one wheelchair, and thus it gets a lot of use.

The planes were packed to the gills, and they should have distributed packets of oil to slather ourselves with, so we could wedge into the tight aisles and tiny seats that only folks under 4 feet and 80 pounds would be comfortable in. I am not a 'big gal,' but even I had to practically be air-lifted in and out of my seat by Excy, and could only make it with the seat arm lifted out of the way. When the woman in front of me leaned her seat back, I remembered a friend describing an ill-fated airline trip he had taken where he felt he should be shampooing the person's hair in the seat in front of him, the guy was so in his lap. I literally could not use my drink table. But no matter, no snacks were distributed, and I could always hold the plastic cup in one hand and use the other to hold my book...

There were delays on all flights, due to people cramming their luggage in the overhead bins in sometimes vain attempts to avoid the $25 fee. Several squabbles broke out on planes between disgruntled passengers claiming 'their' turf from others, or even between the airline assistants and passengers about too-heavy was a quite interesting sociological experience, if I weren't so tired and scared that someone would be whipping out pepper spray. On one flight we sat on the ground forever waiting for the pilot to make an appearance. That was the same flight I had to be wheeled on the tarmac in freezing rain and then slowly climb the steep stairs. That was an especially miserable experience.

All in all, it was such crowded, cramped torture, it took two days both ways for the swelling in my ankle and foot to go down, and Excy felt a bit A-fib from sitting for hours in the origami positions we had to be folded into. As I said -- never again. I will find some other way to get us back on our beloved, direct flight by Southwest. Home never looked so good to me...